The Smoky Mountains National Park is the most popular park in the United States. The park is covers parts of North Carolina and Tennessee. Back home in Kentucky, everyone you know has visited the Smoky Mountains at some point. I have to have been at least 12 times, I know the area by heart. I don’t even need a GPS. Which if you know me, you know is a huge deal. I can’t even seem to get to my local mall without my GPS. Like honestly I’ve been here in North Carolina for a year and a half.. how can I not get to the mall?? But, I digress…

This particular trip to the Smoky Mountains, I was able to go with my momma. I love traveling with my mom. When I was a little girl she would take me to The Smokey’s just me and her. I remember so much of our time together in the mountains. Stopping at all the stop offs for her to take pictures with her old Nikon, the aquarium, and me strutting around our hotel room with a stuffed dolphin souvenir in my shirt pretending I had boobies. Honestly, the best memories. And to be able to take my daughters there with her meant everything to me.

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I got to Tennessee and spent the day with my girls before my mom met us the next day. We stayed in a hotel in Sevierville. The hotel ended up being where I had one of the scariest moments of my life. We got into our room around four in the afternoon. Luckily, we were given a room on the bottom floor. At the time, both of my girls were in diapers. I changed diapers, cleaned the chocolate muffin off there faces and fingers that they had ate in the car a few hours ago, filled their sappy cups with a bottle of water and made them something to eat.

I turned the TV on to keep them sitting still while I ran to the bathroom. Unfortunately, the volume wouldn’t work. Nonetheless they seemed content. I made sure the door was locked and went to the bathroom. About ten seconds later I start hearing noises from our room. I thought that the girls were playing with the remote and somehow got the sound working on the TV. I was wrong.

The Incident

My oldest daughter who was almost two at the time went to the door, pushed the handle down, and walked out. The door to our hotel didn’t have a top lock on it like most do. All she had to do was push the handle down and the lock would unlock and she was free. I quickly realized that what I was hearing wasn’t the TV, that it was in fact the sounds of the road that was only one row of cars in the parking lot of the hotel away from our door. I ran out of the bathroom to see my girls were gone.

After that, I found myself running outside, pants still unbuttoned, (they were hardly even on my waist) a wave of heat washed over my body and my heart was beating out of my chest. I saw my youngest daughter, not even a year old down at the end of the sidewalk of the hotel standing in a puddle of water that had been dripping from an air conditioner of another room. I ran to pick her up and she took off running and laughing. She thought we were playing. I shouted “don’t run! Come to mommy!”

She slipped and fell in the water. I ran and scooped her up as I took off running yelling for Elsie. “Elsie!!! Elsie!!! Come to momma baby. Where are you?!” I saw her. I took off towards the road, my shirt somehow now tucked up under my bra showing off my glorious postpartum fat rolls. My pants unbuttoned, flashing my pink underwear to everyone. There she was standing on the edge of the road. Just like my youngest daughter she thought it was a game. She thought it was just a game of mommy chasing Elsie.

Cars rushing by, my youngest slung up on my hip belly first. Her head hung out in front of me, feet kicking me in the back. She was crying. I got to the road and grabbed Elsie. People walking by, cars flying down the road like no one saw this tiny little baby girl standing in the road. I quickly took them back into the room and hugged them like it was the last time I would ever see them. Still half way dressed and crying I looked at their tiny little crying faces and I cried too.

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The Aftermath

My daughters are my life. In a heartbeat, I would give my life or anyone else’s before I would let something happen to them. Above all else it is my job to protect them. I didn’t sleep that night. put all three chairs and the table up against the door. They were heavy and I knew that my 10 month old and 22 month old couldn’t move them. Still, for good measure I scooted the heavy chair in front of the door too. They both slept in the same bed as me and even though I knew there was no way for them to get out, I still couldn’t sleep a wink. I just kissed their little cheeks and held them all night.

I’ve always heard stories of people not being able to find their kids at the park, only to find them hiding in one of those plastic tunnels. Or their kids running ahead while at an amusement park and the parents run after them in a panic, afraid they will got lost or taken. I know things like this happen all the time, but I just couldn’t shake the panic. I blamed myself. Of course now I understand the situation. Most doors aren’t like that. I’ve stayed in loads of hotels while living that travel life. It was an old hotel and I didn’t know the doors would be like that. I’ve gotten good at letting go of guilt, but at the time I really felt like I had failed them.

Welp. Now that I’ve relived the scariest and most mom-guilt inducing afternoon of my life, let’s talk about the Smokey’s…

On that first day and that whole fiasco was over with and we recovered, I took my girls driving through the mountains. We drove with the windows down and practiced naming our colors, looking at waterfalls, and driving some residential areas that are high up in the mountains. We even saw a momma bear with her two cubs in a drive way of one of the houses. (I wonder if one of her cubs ever tried to run away from her like its a game..?) If you want to see bears while you are in the Smokys, head up Wiley Oakley Road. It’s a small and steep road that is off of Highway 321 between Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. After our drive we went back to the hotel and had a walk by our hotel and saw a gorgeous sunset.

Early the next morning my momma arrived!

The Tennessee part of the Smoky Mountains has three main towns near by; Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville. Being the deal hunting divas that we are, our first stop was at the Tanger Outlet in Sevierville. I bought my girls some clothes at $2 a piece and my husband a new pair of Under Armor tennis shoes that were half off. Score! Then, breakfast. We stopped and ate a HUGE delicious southern breakfast at the Flapjacks Pancake Cabin. It was packed but we were seated quickly and they had the best customer service! My girls took a quick nap and then we were off to the Ripley’s Aquarium of The Smokey’s. The same one my mom took me too when I was a little girl.

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Next, I introduced my mom to Cades Cove. This is an 11 mile one way loop trail that is one of the most popular places in the Smokey’s. I have drove this path many times. It is a great places to see spectacular mountain views, elk, deer, bears, and other wildlife. I see bears and/or elk every time I go. On this trip with mom, we only saw a few deer. I told her she’s bad luck. Before this trip with her, I would have GUARANTEED that you would see bears or an elk or two. In conclusion, my mom might be cursed.

We stopped off at several places to take pictures and explore the old cabins and churches.

Another part stop off of the Cades Cove loop trail is the Cable Mill. They have a visitors center with a gift shop that I actually wanted to buy things from. The mill is still functional and you can buy flour or corn meal that was produced there. Also on the grounds around the mill was a booth set up where an older lady and her son were selling their homemade molasses and molasses barbecue sauce. We tried some samples. Then, I left with a trunk full of both, as well as flour and cornmeal. I’m a sucker for stuff like that.

The history of Cades Cove is fascinating. You can learn more about it HERE.

After Cades Cove, I was on a mission and determined to show my mom some black bears in the wild. I drove her and my girls back up Wiley Oakley in the mountains. Nothing. Not a single animal. Not even a dang squirrel. Even more proof that she is in fact bad luck. Or quite possibly she just thought it into existence because she’s terrified of bears. Of all her trips to The Smokey’s (she’s been more than I have) she has never seen a single elk or bear. How is that possible when I seen one or the other every time I’m there. I don’t know, but again, I digress.

To end our day in the Smoky Mountains, we had dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. I slept better on our second night. As a result of the night before I still barricaded the door with way more stuff than I needed to, as if I was keeping out a teenager, piling stuff up to cause racket if they tried to move anything.

But overall I had the best time on our girls trip to the Smoky Mountains and I know there will be many more in the future. Have y’all been to the Smoky Mountains? I’m taking a solo trip in June and plan on taking several different trails. If you have any favorites, leave me a comment!

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