GATLINBURG

It may be just my circle of friends and family, but prior to this trip I had not heard of Gatlinburg. It’s a small town in Tennessee on the northern side of The Smoky Mountains with a population of less than 5000. My husband would send me Instagram posts of activities going on in Gatlinburg and I was immediately drawn in by the fairy lights and outdoor activities. I just didn’t think we’d be heading there anytime soon.

For my surprise anniversary trip we arrived in Gatlinburg mid afternoon. WOO! But we were hangry. More accurately, I was hangry. It seemed appropriate we would end up at a place called Dick’s Last Resort. In hindsight I should have noticed the character on my menu. For reference, there he is down below…

Tony remembered seeing a video about this years ago. Basically the premise is they don’t have to be nice to you. Far from it, they are known for being mean and not taking your shit. They get a kick out of throwing napkins and straws at you; no save the turtles here lol. It’s family style seating whether you like it or not. And you get paper hats with custom names courtesy of your waiter. Turns out a “lot lizard” is not a reptile. Google it…

Here’s two things stood out to me the most:

  1. Tony asked for a seltzer and lime and I asked for a water as is our custom. The waiter followed that with calling us cheap for not ordering alcohol. The waiter then brought Tony the seltzer with no lime. We thought he just forgot about it. But five minutes later the waiter rolled an entire lime towards Tony on the table. A WHOLE LIME! I laughed pretty hard at that one for a while. I did not see that coming.
  2. The next thing that happened was to the elderly woman sitting next to me. She politely asked the waiter to cut her burger in half. He turned around and said, “Listen Mee-Maw, I ain’t your grandson and I don’t have to listen to you!” At first I was shocked, and then I laughed pretty hard at her expense lol. Sorry not sorry.

Overall it was fun. I wouldn’t make that the establishment I take my parents to, but I would definitely recommend people do it at least once.

After filling our bellies we explored the area by foot. There is an entire distillery called Ole Smoky Moonshine tucked away behind Dick’s last resort. The entire town was decked out with harvest decor too.

You can both see and smell the process, as well as read about moonshine’s history and origin. I’m all for a nice alcoholic beverage, but that smell was nasty BLEGH!

To make up for the smell there was a band playing live music and plenty of rocking chairs to enjoy the tunes. Inside the store I found some of the most aesthetically pleasing shelves ever!

Later on that night once the sun had gone down we were feeling especially adventurous. Tony, who is afraid of heights on most days, had the bright idea to venture into the Skylift Park. He didn’t realize you needed to ride the yellow and orange sky lift in order to get to the sky bridge. For reference I’ve added an image below that was taken the next day with daylight.

Normally I would be making fun of him because it’s not that high. But the swinging yellow death traps do not secure you into your seat. The restraint, if you could even call it that, lifts and does not lock in. Needless to say, we were both slightly freaking out. Don’t judge us.

Did I mention the Sky Bridge has glass floors too? We didn’t know until we were up there either lol. Oh, and the bridge swings in the wind too.

Once we were done exploring the bridge we found a bar inside the cafe. We had some beers and enjoyed some nice views of Gatlinburg. Well, at least I was enjoying myself until Tony reminded me we still needed to ride the death traps down to go back to the car. FML.

Obviously I’m exaggerating when I call them death traps lol. I’ve never gone skiing and didn’t know that in order to keep the flow moving the restraints didn’t lock. Don’t let my over-dramatization deter you from heading up either. It’s real nice up there. The views include the space needle and the mountain coaster. The beer is also a bonus. Sort of like a prize for conquering your fear of heights (not that I have one). And sort of like liquid courage to help you head back down.

Actually, the best gift you could have given her was a lifetime of adventures.

-Lewis Carroll
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SELVALLAFOSS

Selvallafoss, also known as Sheep’s Waterfall, is located off of Road #56. It’s a lesser known waterfall you can walk behind. Surprisingly when we got there only one other car was in the lot. There are picnic tables to help you spot the area and trailhead. I’m using the word trailhead loosely here because it took us less than five minutes to find it and the loop we did isn’t the most difficult.

The GPS coordinates for the parking lot are: 64°56’29.9″N 22°54’15.7″W. In the picture below you can see the worn trail to the left just above the left-most pillar.

Stay on the path from the picnic area for a couple of minutes. Enjoy the views, there are mountains in every direction. If you’re lucky enough to be traveling with family, you’ll spot some crazies too!

As you approach the waterfall, the sound of rushing water will get louder. Follow the sound and find the waterfall to your left.

Don’t be afraid to explore the different paths in the area. There are some great photo opportunities within short walking distances. Just remember to be careful as the rocks, mud and moss make the area very slippery. You can walk to the foreground to capture the tiers as my cousin did below.

You can also walk behind the waterfall all the way to the other side. Standing next to this waterfall gets really loud. Even standing where I was in the picture below I was getting wet from the mist of the falls. A waterproof jacket is perfect here if you’re crossing to the other side behind the falls.

Fair warning though, there is VERY low clearance on the other side of the falls. And it is extremely muddy. Do not wear shoes you do not wish to have covered in mud. My cousin can be seen crossing at the beginning of the video below.

Once all six of us made it to the other safely, we continued following the trail for a couple of minutes.

We made a hard left off the trail and climbed to the top of the hill. Essentially climbing to the top of the waterfall. This portion of the hike didn’t seem like it, but was very steep.

We followed the water up stream to the road and crossed back over. Below you can see Jessica in her beige jacket leading the group to the road. I prefer to do loops than in and out hikes. So this was a perfect way to get back to our rental car.

Here’s an amazing panoramic image of the area while we were trying to figure out which way to get back to the car.

Overall I would say that if you’re in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula this is a great spot to add to your itinerary. In the small amount of time we were there, we didn’t encounter many other tourists. We freely enjoyed the waterfall and didn’t have to break out into a hardcore hike sweat session to get back to the car. All in all, a wonderful waterfall option!

I have fantasies of going to Iceland, never to return.

Edward Gorey

GRANDFATHER MOUNTAIN

INTRO

What do you do when you have a free weekend in North Carolina? You brainstorm in a group chat with your cousins. One of your cousins will come up with the amazing idea to hike Grandfather Mountain. I saw one picture online and was immediately convinced!

So I landed at 9am in Charlotte. A car with 3 female cousins pulls up full of snacks, water, excitement and fear (more on that later). The drive from Charlotte airport to Grandfather Mountain takes over 2 hours when you stop for gas and pee breaks midway. Long enough to feel away but close enough to not need a hotel room if you live in Charlotte.

We were fine until we stepped out of the car. Not only was it a lot chillier than Charlotte, but the thunder was audible in the distance. I had asked the young lady at the entrance kiosk what time the rain was supposed to hit the mountain. She said 5pm and I thought that would be plenty of time to go up and back (assuming the rain didn’t come down earlier).

The lot attendants informed us that hikers park in the Black Rock parking lot. As you can see, the lot had plenty of cars when we arrived at 12:30pm.

HIKE

GPS: 36.095083, -81.829623

TIME: 5H

LENGTH: 3 MILES RT

ELEVATION:  5,964 ft

FEE: $22 PP

It’s hard to miss the sign pointing the way up. None of us had been here before and we weren’t counting on the extra .4 mile hike to the start of Grandfather Trail. But thems the rules!

It’s an unmarked trail, but very easy to follow. Many of the stones having been placed like “stairs,” which makes the walk easier. You’ll soon come across the bridge. And very soon after that the parking lot.

If you need facilities or want to buy a magnet to prove you came to see grandpa, this is the time to do it. Trust me, you won’t want to do anything after hiking the mountain. You’ll cross the parking lot and see this sign:

You’ll need the color/make/model/plate number of your car to fill out the permit. And take special notice of the “return to your vehicle by 6:00pm.” This is important so a search party isn’t sent out for you. We were on our way up, and the view from over my shoulder includes the mile high swinging bridge, the upper parking lot, and Linville Peak on the right.

Follow the blue trail markers the whole way up.

When you get to “The Patio” there are wooden benches and a nice view to take in. Yup, that’s where we were hiking to, MacRae Peak. This is a good place to drink some water and catch your breath!

We came across the Grandfather Trail sign and continued hiking the blue blazed trail until we reached Grandfather Gap. This is another awesome spot to stop for snacks and water.

After our break we came across what looked like a rope on the trail. I had read about the 9 or so ladders and was just finding out about the cable. It’s meant to assist your ascent, especially if you’re wearing sneakers.

When you’re done with the cable, you’ll meet the first of nine ladders on the blue trail. The nine ladders include the final one you’ll need to climb to summit MacRae Peak. You can see that one of the ladders (second ladder) is tucked between two large rock formations. You’ll walk slanted to reach that one, and find a cable at the top to assist you. I won’t undersell the ladders, they are difficult. They are spaced wider than your average ladder and can be found next to very exposed sides of the mountain. If you’re afraid of heights like my cousin, I would avoid looking down! I saw the look of fear pass through our little group a couple of times. HOWEVER, I wouldn’t deter you from attempting the climb. One of my cousins had never been hiking before and was able to complete the climb (so proud!) without dying quitting.

Here’s an awesome pano I took while waiting for the hiker traffic to pass atop one of the ladders.

And as we continued to hike the blue trail I spotted a ladder in the distance. It’s at the bottom-center of the picture below. I didn’t know at the time but I was looking at the only ladder on the Underwood Trail. That ladder would round us out to 10 ladders total for the day.

Finally! MACRAE PEAK!

Just kidding lol, there’s another ladder first (ladder #9).

Ok, now I can say it…

MACRAE PEAK!!!

We took so many pictures up there. But one of my favorites is this one. I had made it to the clouds. The 360 degree view was nice and the snacks were totally welcomed.

Views? Check! Time to hike down? Yup! We continued past MacRae Peak into the saddle and found a cable heading down on the blue trail.

We made a left at the Underwood Trail to make a loop out of our hike. It’s a great way to avoid lines at the ladders as well.

And here’s the 10th ladder I had seen in the distance a while back.

The Underwood Trail dumps you back onto Grandfather Trail for a little bit. We made a right in the direction of the swinging bridge. At the next junction we hopped onto the Grandfather Trail Extension, which by-passes the swinging bridge. We were cutting it close and needed to be back to the car by 6:00pm.

We got to the car at 5:58pm and we were exhausted. Luckily we didn’t get rained on and we were back unscathed.

Truth be told, we were drawn to the park because of the swinging bridge. But after conquering MacRae Peak, none of us cared to walk up to it. Maybe next time we’ll get there earlier and cross the bridge, buy some magnets and make it all the way to Calloway 🙂

“I’d rather regret the things I’ve done than regret the things I haven’t done.” — Lucille Ball