Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Mountains and Moonshine

Part of growing up and getting a grownup job is using vacation days, right? About two months ago my two best friends and I decided we're going to go on a vacation. The easy go-to when you live in Florida is always a cruise. All you have to do is pay for your room (and the alcohol package) and you're good to go. But after living five minutes from the beach for 10 years cruises just don't have the same appeal. So we decided mountains! That landed us in Gatlinburg, Tennessee!  

We flew into Knoxville and used HomeAway to rent an apartment in the mountains. Our rental sat at about 1900 ft above sea level and was quite the drive to get up to. But the view was spectacular. It was so nice having our own space and a kitchen. We even saw a black bear family from our balcony. Getting a rental definitely seems like the way go! The only thing we were missing was a standing mirror and natural light to get ready, but we made it work. 

There are so many great trails to pick from when planning a trip like this. The biggest thing is 2 miles on a treadmill is so difference from 2 miles going up a mountain. We did hikes during the day through out the National Great Smoky Mountain Park. Some better than others, but it was so cool to see such a change in attitude from Florida being below sea level to be 4000+ ft above it. 

Grotto Falls - 2.6 Miles Round Trip 

Midnight Hole - 2.8 Miles Round Trip 

Alum Cave Trail - 4.4 Miles Round Trip 

Of all of those Grotto Falls was my favorite, Midnight Hole was the easiest, and Alum Cave had the best bridges. The 'cave' at the end of the Alum trail didn't really live to my expectation, but the view (and sitting) was great! Going on these trails truly made my want to move there. This is what people here do for exercise. I have to drive over to the nearest LA Fitness. Simply does not compare.

It wasn't too long ago that 10,000 acres of Great Smoky Mountain Park was engulfed in flame. Even a couple of the trails we had planned were still shut down from the fires. It was sad, but good to see that trees were starting to grow again. 

Every day after hiking we'd come back to our rental and get ready to go out for the night. Which really meant we would drink cold brew and moonshine while we sat around trying to get someone to accept our Uber request to drive up the mountain to get us. It wasn't easy, but we definitely had some great rides. 

Now going out in Downtown Gatlinburg is definitely a weird scene. And by that I mean there's some weird people. But it's great because of all the moonshine. There is multiple moonshine distilleries up and down the strip. And how that works is you pay $5 to do the tasting, which allows you to taste about 12 of selected moonshines they have for sale. Then you also get a $5 off any $5 purchase coupon. These coupons will be your life. You will sneak as many tastings in as you can in one day (not at Sugarlands, they track your ID), you will steal coupons from the bar, and you will ask strangers if they're planning on using theirs. The thing about these coupons is you can stack them. So yes, FREE MOONSHINE. If you're smart. Or if you're dumb like us you'll save all your coupon until the night  of your last day, Sunday, and then not know the Tennessee liquor laws. Apparently the sale of liquor stops at 7 p.m. on Sunday. And then you end your vacation with moonshine peanut brittle, moonshine merch, moonshine pumpkin butter, but no real moonshine because you have to use your coupons. Guess we'll just have to come back. 

This right here is the best place in existence. This is what dreams are made of. Moonshine tasting, rocking chairs, great bartenders, live music every night, and no systems that tracks how many times your ID has been scanned if you try to come more than once in one day. Ole Smoky. Somehow this is always where we'd start our night and end our night sitting on the curb trying to convince an Uber driver to take us up the mountain. Their flavors range from Hunch Punch (tastes like college) to Blue Flame (tastes like slowing pouring rubbing alcohol down your throat). Every moonshine has a spiel and the bartender makes sure to let you know it.10/10 would recommend.

 "Would you like a short or tall?" "We'll take the tall!" Next thing you know you have liter of beer in front of you for $6.75. Smoky Mountain Brewery is another place of wonders. Liter of beer for $6.75, 8 5oz pour beer flight for $9, and free wings every time if you take the survey. Plus this is one of the only places open until 1 a.m. If you come here, the one thing to try is the Thunder Wings. They will be the best wings you have every tried. 

Growing up does suck with friends like these, and moonshine.