veen on the road: back to the smokies.

in early october jen sent lauren and me a message: what were we doing halloween weekend and did we want to go on a road trip to the smokies with her?

honestly, i’m kind of insulted she even had to ask.

turns out, jen’s mother had some timeshare points that needed to be used before they expired, and their timeshare company has a property in sevierville, a town in east tennessee near the entrance to great smoky mountains national park.

by some miracle, both lauren and i were free that weekend, so we piled into my car and hit the road. we packed a mountain of snacks, brought along plenty of board games, and loaded up all the 80s and 90s spotify playlists you could dream of.

on saturday we walked the upland trail outer loop trail, which gave us exactly what we wanted: a nice walk outside with views of the mountains but not anything too strenuous. we enjoyed a little picnic after our walk and had a great time people watching; our trail intersected with about 3 others at one point and was also in a birding park, so we got to see a wide range of people.

on sunday we drove into the park, stopping first at clingman’s dome*. i had missed out on the dome when i visited in august because the parking lot was overwhelmingly full, but we lucked out and managed to snag a spot. jen and i walked up to the dome and lapped up the views from the top [fun fact: clingman’s dome is the highest point in the entire park] and also had some fun pretending we had actually hiked the appalachian trail to get there. at least we keep ourselves entertained.

after a roadside picnic we then proceeded to take a leisurely drive through the park, stopping whenever the urge struck us. once it was for a nice viewpoint. another time we saw a creek that looked pretty. the beauty of having no agenda meant we could stop if we wished or we could keep driving.

at one point i saw a sign for the blue ridge parkway, so i made the executive decision [perk of being the driver] that we should drive along it for a while. it turns out the blue ridge parkway begins in the smokies [things i never knew], so we drove along the first 20 or so miles of it before detouring back into the park.

as we were passing through cherokee, north carolina, lauren saw a gem mining attraction and insisted we stop, so we pulled over and went panning for gems. lauren found some emeralds, and jen and i would up with various handfuls of amethyst and citrine. it was an entertaining little endeavor, and just the cap on our weekend that we needed.

on our drive back we stopped at newfound gap to marvel at the views and catch the beginning of the sunset. it’s also the tennessee-north carolina border and part of the appalachian trail, which is pretty cool.

apart from some large crowds and people not wearing masks when they really should have been, it was a fantastic weekend. we had an awesome, spacious apartment where we could lounge, we had only ourselves to answer to, and we managed to escape the real world for a few days [and right before the election. priceless].

thank you, mama mcgrath, for generously donating your points to us, and thank you to lauren and jen for being such fun road trip companions!


*an fyi for clingman’s dome: the road up to the point is closed from december 31 – march 31

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