Rivers, Mountains & Mudslides

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Hey guys! Okay so, obviously we’re back and obviously this post is a bit delayed but I’ve been really looking forward to writing this one. We had an absolute BLAST. I pretended I was Pocahontas ALL WEEK. It was great. We did everything that was on our list to do, plus some.

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We left around 6 am on a Friday. (I love leaving for trips in the wee hours of the morning.) With all the stops we made (Dunkin’ Donuts coffee for Josh and Chick-fil-a for me) it took us 10 or 11 hours to get to our cabin. The second we got in we busted out the mudslides. I’m talking dueling blenders because… that’s how we roll. We were all pretty tired but we decided to go out to get something to eat and chose O’charley’s. I really wish we still had those down here in Florida because it was really tasty! After dinner we ran to the Kroger to get some groceries for the week. I finally got to try Ben & Jerry’s Boom Chocolatta. It was wonderful!

On Saturday morning, we had our first breakfast in the cabin. There are very few things I love more than waking up to the smell of brewing coffee, bacon, eggs and cinnamon buns in the oven, in a cabin, on a mountain. We decided to have the cinnamon buns the morning of our hike so we’d have an opportunity to burn em’ 2 breakfast We went on a hike to Abrams Falls in Cades Cove. Cades Cove is a beautiful winding gravel road through the heart of the Smokies. It’s about (11?) miles long, but it’s one way, so once you’re in it, you’re IN it. It usually takes about an hour to drive through because everyone goes like 10 miles per hour. Understandably, we all began to panic a bit when Susie Satellite (our GPS) sent us right into the loop. Fortunately, it turned out that the Abrams Falls trailhead was 6 miles into the loop, so atleast we had the right directions. Abrams Falls signWe spent the first half hour making fun of the sign that said it was “moderately strenuous”, until we realized it was going to be uphill both ways, literally. People from Florida have a hard time grasping the idea of multiple hills in a row. Heck, it’s a rarity to even have one hill. When a trail is laid out like a camel’s back, it is literally making you go uphill both ways. It was a pretty strenuous 5 miles but the Falls were totally worth it. It was a scene from a painting. Just beautiful. I’d highly recommend it if you’re ever in Cades Cove. Mike went swimming but I opted to stay on the bank.  That night we went to No Way Jose’s Cantina in Gatlinburg. I got nachos. They were INCREDIBLE, as always. After dinner we walked to the Ole’ Smoky Moonshine Distillery. We should have known that place would be CRAY on a Saturday night. It was way too busy to try any samples so we got our moonshine cherries and bolted. Since we didn’t get to try any of the moonshine samples, we got Kilwin’s instead. If you don’t know what that is… it’s the best ice cream and waffle cones on the planet.

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On Sunday, I woke up to a clanking sound. I wandered up the stairs to the family room where I found Josh working out with the weights we had brought with us. I jumped on that and ended up getting a pretty good shoulder and chest workout! That day we ventured into the national forest and found a swimming hole in the middle of the Smoky Mountains where the river split. There was a grassy knoll, a beach and plenty of space to lay out a blanket and get some sun. We spent hours swimming and walking in the water. Mike and I built a rock tower and then I found my mom upstream building a mini dam. I found a big, flat rock smack dab in the middle of the river that I claimed as my own. The water was pretty cold and the rock was nice and hot from the sun so it felt fantastic to lay on! I did NOT want to leave that spot. I might even go so far to say that this day was my favorite.

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Sunday night we went to Calhoun’s, another one of my favorites. Mike sneak attacked the waiter while we weren’t paying attention and paid for our dinner. Thanks Goose! Calhoun's dinnerAfter dinner, we did a ghost tour in Gatlinburg. Now I’m all about the spooky stories, but this tour was just… lacking. I’m pretty sure that the tour guide was high on something other than life… Tour guides can make or break an experience and she just didn’t do it for me. I had already made up my mind that she was a crackhead (I know, I know, I’m not supposed to judge) but when we made it up to the top of the hill where the cemetery was and there were like 4 police cars waiting for us, I was positive we were about to witness a drug bust. Her boyfriend had been waiting up by the cemetery in his car to drop off the “ghost hunting equipment” and they had him off to the side while they searched his car and the ground all around him. The cops knew both our guide and her boyfriend by name. I’ll let you decide why… It was fun though, even if I didn’t see any ghosties.

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Monday we got up with the plan to go have breakfast at Paula Deen’s restaurant in Pigeon Forge. I made everyone get up at like 7 am so we could be there by 8 when they opened. LOL. This was like, the number one thing I wanted NEEDED to do while we were there and HOLY CRAP GUYS. Best. Breakfast. Ever. The chicken and waffles were even better than I expected. The pancakes and honey glaze that came with them were phenomenal. They also brought out these huge cinnamon raisin rolls out as a starter, let’s just say I could have just eaten one of those for breakfast and been completely content.. but who am I kidding. I shoveled it in, just in time to go tubing with River Rat in Townsend, Tennessee!

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That was a blast and the perfect choice after a huge breakfast. As I sat in my big yellow tube, floating down the river I was close to a sugar coma. I don’t remember the last time my stomach was that content. It’s actually a really good thing Paula Deen hasn’t made her way to Tampa yet, because I’d gain weight FAST.

river rat buildingThe tubing was so much fun. It was really relaxing. The rapids were fun to cruise down. We came across a rope swing that everyone seemed to be passing by. How the heck do you skip the rope swing?! I was out of my tube and up those rocks SO fast. The water was a little shallow but at that point, breaking my leg seemed totally worth it. As expected, it WAS totally worth it, and luckily for me I didn’t even have to break any bones! It took about 3 or 4 hours to get to the end of the river. On our way back to the cabin we stopped at the liquor store for more mudslide! I think we went through a bottle a night. Mike and I jumped in the hot tub for a little bit. The river had been so cold that the warm water felt fantastic. After that, we played pool and Foosball until we headed to dinner.

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There’s a little Italian restaurant in Gatlinburg that we’ve been going to for years. They have excellent pizza and calzones. It’s Josh’s favorite place so we went there for dinner Monday night. Even though I thought that I’d never be hungry again after eating such a large breakfast, I managed to put away half a cheese calzone. After dinner, we walked around Gatlinburg.

Tuesday morning we had arranged to go white water rafting. I had never done that before. It was fun, but I liked tubing way more. We chose the class 3 and 4 rapids trip and I’m glad we did because 1 and 2 would have been SO BORING. Our guide was named Sam. She reminded me of Ice Box from Little Giants. Did you ever see that movie? Mannnn I used to have such a crush on Devon Sawa. It got a little sketchy at times. I really had to anchor my foot in there. It all went pretty well. We got stuck on a rock for like the longest 10 seconds of my life. The water started rushing in the boat. We all had to do a scooting motion to force ourselves off. I was glad Sam stayed calm under pressure because I was convinced we were going in! The whole trip was maybe 90 minutes to 2 hours.

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We had gone pretty early so it was only around 2 or 3 when we got back to the cabin. I brought along Cards Against Humanity, just in case we had down time and I’m glad I did because this was the perfect afternoon to play it. I was a little weary to play that game with my parents, because well, if you’ve ever played it you know how downright raunchy and disgustingly hilarious some of those cards can be. I decided it was ok because I knew we’d all be drinking. (Don’t act like you’re so surprised…) It ended up being a blast. There were a few things my mom had to look up on my iPad because she wasn’t sure what it was. I’m pretty sure she ended up winning the game… On a funny side note, this was like my DRUNNNK night. So, there were things that I didn’t really remember, like her googling definitions of… things. Imagine my surprise a few days later when I went to google something and I notice really strange words popping up in my history. I was really confused until I remembered Cards Against Humanity. It was pretty funny.

Tuesday night we went to JT Hannah’s in Pigeon Forge. We’ve been there before and they have really great food. Too bad I don’t remember a thing. LOL. We went back that night and I passed out.

Wednesday was our last day in Tennessee. We had really done everything we had planned, so we spent that day doing some random things. We visited Clingman’s Dome. We had been there several times but it’s always a good little workout climbing up that hill. You get some pretty rewarding views once you reach the top too. You can see Tennessee, North Carolina, Mount Leconte and a bunch of other beautiful views.

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After that, we went down into Gatlinburg to do some shopping. I found a Wonder Woman plate, bowl and cup set which I’ve been eating off of consistently since I’ve gotten home (pretty sure it’s making me stronger…). I also bought a locally handcrafted coffee mug from the Donut Friar as well as a jar of peanut butter marshmallow spread that is to die for and it’s only 60 calories in a tablespoon! After shopping, Mike had been dying to try the “Mountain Coaster”. We went to check it out and ended up doing it. It was like a manual personal coaster that fit 2 people in each car. They dragged you up the hill with a pulley system. Once you got to the top they’d basically let you go. I couldn’t tell you the exact speed but it went fast! The track wound through the trees. I think it lasted about 2 minutes. Once you got close to the bottom and saw the checkered flags you had to yank on your hand brake and pray to God you’d stop in time. It was a lot of fun and something I’d recommend trying but it’s probably something you only need to do once because it was a bit pricey. After the coaster, we headed back to the cabin for one last night of… you guessed it… mudslides!photo 2 (4) We figured since we hadn’t gotten to go to the Old Mill restaurant for breakfast, we’d try it out for dinner. I think we all ordered the fried chicken. They seriously gave each person 3 whole chicken breasts. It was way too much food. After dinner, my mom had wanted to go check out the new “Island” in Pigeon Forge. It was like a tropical escape right in the middle of the mountains (I felt like I was back at home). There was a Margaritaville, with it’s own Margaritaville hotel attached, a bunch of shops and restaurants and a big freaking ferris wheel. My mom had been talking about the ferris wheel all week, so we knew we’d be getting on it. Mike, my mom and I were all okay, but Josh and my dad were freaking out a little. If you ever want to hear my 26 year old brother scream like a 4 year old girl, stick him on a ferris wheel. I’m so glad my mom recorded him! After the ferris wheel we came across a shop called Buckboard Too! They had SO MANY Wonder Woman things! I got a lanyard, a patch for my back pack, a pin and a lunch box! Wonder Woman errrryyythang.

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It was time to head back to the cabin. I knew I had a lot of packing to do. When I’m living out of a suitcase, I have a tendency to let my bag explode all over the place. I actually managed to pick it up pretty quickly.

The next morning we got up and cleaned out the fridge. We basically had a bunch of random leftovers for breakfast. We didn’t want to waste anything. I think I had a piece of fried chicken, greek yogurt, 2 eggs, a half a gallon of milk and a drumstick ice cream cone because I was NOT going to waste that. As I began to eat it, I realized it wasn’t even 9 am. I scooped out the ice cream and threw it in the sink and ate the cone while I lugged my suitcase up the stairs. I think we ended up leaving the cabin around 10 am. We were heading to Savannah, Georgia for a night. We love it there!

We arrived in Savannah around 4 pm. Mike and I went over to my parent’s hotel room for a drink before we went out. We began walking down River Street. It’s so quaint! One thing that I love about Savannah is that if you buy a drink in one of their restaurants or bars, you can actually carry it around outside. We stopped at Wet Willies, which is a frozen Daiquiri Bar. To no surprise, I ordered the White Russian. It was awesome! These are not your typical girly drinks. These daiquiris are made with grain alcohol. For those of you that don’t know what grain alcohol is, it’s basically pure alcohol. It is also known as ethyl alcohol, which is EXTREMELY potent and NEVER recommended to drink straight. The White Russian was a mix of ice cream, coffee, grain alcohol and vodka. It kicked my ass. I needed food stat. We had a burger and fries at a local restaurant that I can’t seem to recall the name of. LOL. At dinner, my dad decided he was going to sign us up for a ghost tour. It made sense, seeing as how Savannah is known for being one of the most haunted places in the country 🙂 I was gung ho, until he said it was at 11 pm. “Oh noooo”, I thought, “I’m never gonna make it…” After dinner we headed back to the hotel to rest up. We had about 2 hours before the tour. I layed down for a little while and took a cold shower to try and sober/wake myself up. 2 hours passed quick. We decided we wanted to go back to Wet Willies for another drink to bring on the ghost tour. Excellent idea, right? UGH. I got the Call a Cab this time. GUYS. Call a Cab is made with 190 PROOF grain alcohol. I didn’t even know that was a thing… Why didn’t someone stop me? Luckily for me, I stopped myself. It was too sweet and I was too sick of drinking. I threw it away right after the tour started. It lasted about 2 hours. Our guide this time around was the BEST. His name was Skippy Spiral (yeah, totally real)… This guy knew what he was talking about. The girl from Gatlinburg could have learned a lot from him. If you’re ever in Savannah, make sure you reserve a tour with Ghost city Tours: The Dead of Night Ghost Tour. You won’t regret it. It was legitimately spooky. By the time it finished up, it was almost 1 in the morning. I was exhausted. I crashed the second my head hit the pillow.

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We had about a 6 hour drive the next day. I think we finally got home around 4 pm and I spent the next day and a half in my bed bingeing on season 3 of Orange is the New Black.

Well, that was the gist of this year’s family vacation! If you actually read all of that, well, then, I feel pretty special! 😉 If you’ve never been to Tennessee (or Savannah) I strongly urge you to check it out. There are so many awesome things to do! It’s truly my favorite place in the world. I want to know what your favorite place to vacation is! Let me know in the comments below!

P.S. I promise I don’t have a drinking problem :p curling wonderwoman

Until next time…


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I'm an NASM Certified Personal Trainer and Corrective Exercise Specialist. I worked in a gym setting back in Florida for over 2 years, training one-on-one clients and leading group fitness classes. I absolutely loved it, but once we moved across the country to Colorado, I decided to take the opportunity to pursue a slightly different career! My obsession with exercise and love for writing collided, which is how I became a fitness lifestyle writer.


  1. Dave

    July 11, 2015 at 2:32 pm

    Great, Great Post Erin ! I wish we were back in Tennessee Now ! Next year you can write about our family Cruise… I’m sure with the whole fam damily going you’ll have lots to pictures to post for that one too…Lol

  2. Mom

    July 11, 2015 at 2:36 pm

    I would have to say, this was our best trip to the mountains yet. I wanna go back NOW. The mountains to me are Heaven on earth. It was a nice break from the rat race of everyday life. Glad you, Josh and Mike were able to spend this special time with us. Next year…how about another cruise?

  3. Julie

    July 11, 2015 at 4:36 pm

    That was such a fun blog to read! I felt like I was there with you guys lol. I have always wanted to stay in a cabin and go to the mountains. I’ll have to put it on my list of things to do. Looks like you had an amazing time! I would LOVE to see the video of Josh freaking out LMAO! And congrats on becoming a personal trainer 🙂

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