Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas in the Great Smoky Mountains

It is always amazing what 2 or 3 days up in the mountains can do for one’s state of mind. Three weeks ago I suggested to my wife that we get ourselves a chalet in the Great Smoky Mountains above Gatlinburg, TN, for the Christmas weekend, just to get away, just the two of us. It was the first time in 20-odd years that we spent Christmas alone without our kids. Earlier this year when we went to Italy we wanted to go without kids, but it didn’t turn out that way and when the opportunity to go away for the Christmas weekend presented itself we took it without thinking twice. The only draw back…It was too short.

We drove to Gatlinburg on Sunday and arrived at our chalet just as darkness descended over the mountains. It was rather important to get to our destination before it gets too dark because it can be tricky to find the right mountain roads to get to one’s chalet. The last minute arrival was all due to me taking the wrong road at Knoxville, going west instead of east, resulting in a 90 minute detour, because I forgot to printout directions to get to Gatlinburg. (We had directions to get to the chalet once in Gatlinburg.)

Late Monday morning we went down to the village to fill the car with gas and buy some firelighters, and then we drove down to Glades Drive where there is a huge concentration of arts and crafts shops. At Alewine Pottery, where a duet was playing Bluegrass music on a banjo and keeping beat on a double bass in front of a fire, we bought some pottery and further down the road I bought a colorful glass wind chime for the porch at home. On our way back to our chalet we took a detour along Sky View Drive for a view of the ski slopes of the Ober Gatlinburg resort and a different view of the mountains. It has not snowed yet this winter so the resort is making snow for the skiers. Only one slope was open for skiing. Upon our return to the chalet I started a fire in the fireplace, put on some good music, and just kick back and enjoy a cozy Christmas Eve. For dinner I made pork barbeque ribs in the oven, baked portabella mushrooms with in a Mediterranean balsamic sauce topped with aged Parmesan cheese, and baked potatoes. This was accompanied by an excellent 2002 Chateau Ste Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington’s Colombia valley. A nice full smooth and bodied red, but light on tannins.

Christmas morning we woke to a cold, cloudy day and utter stillness in the mountains. With the clouds a special air of calm and tranquility has descended upon the mountain. In the distance Pigeon Forge (5 miles away) and Sevierville were waking up to a beautiful sunny morning. The cloud cover was just local. Not unusual at all. The clouds play a big role in making the Great Smoky Mountains so unique and so beautiful. [
Click here for a visitors guide on the mountains.]

Out on the porch the quietness was occasionally broken by the soft whirring of the aerial tramway down below as it ferries people from Gatlinburg down below to the resort and ski slopes above. Although we woke early, we only got up at noon, sending SMS’s or talking to friends and family from bed with a hazy view of the distant towns and another blue mountain range on the horizon, basking in an orange glow of the morning sun. Early afternoon freezing rain started to fall for a while before it turned to a fine drizzle, but by nightfall the rain stopped again. For Christmas I whipped up a dinner of Salmon in a creamy herb and chardonnay sauce, rice pilaf and steamed oriental-flavored vegetables. We had key lime pie for dessert.

It was one of the most relaxing getaways we have had in a long time. But good things came to an end on Wednesday morning when we packed our bags again and drove home, luckily in glorious sunshine. At home it was 60 degrees Fahrenheit, highly unusual for the day after Christmas because many a year we had snow at this time of the year. But I’m not complaining. The longer the heat stays the shorter the winter.

A view of Gatlinburg night lights through the trees after sunset.

Ober Gatlinburg resort (above) and Ski slopes (below)


The chalet was nicely decorated for the festive season, including a Christmas tree with lights. On the right, a blazing fire in the corner of the living room.

Sunset over Chalet Village above Gatlinburg, TN.

1 comment:

Jane said...

Hi,
My name is Jane and I'm with Dwellable.
I was looking for blog posts about Chalet Village to share on our site and I came across your post...If you're open to it, shoot me an email at jane(at)dwellable(dot)com.
Hope to hear from you :)
Jane

By the way...I love the painting that you are using for your profile picture...bright colors, disconcerted look in eyes...very cool...