Our Family Gathering in the Smokies

Our Family Gathering in the Smokies

We spent more than four days together as a family in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, the week before Thanksgiving. I hope you enjoy reading about our adventures. At the end, I have a link to our online photo album, A Smokies Family Gathering, with more great photos.

Back: Brian, Jenn, Bonnie with Lily, Ben, Nicole, and Josh Front: Patrick, Sus, Adriana, Mike, and Luke.


From the “Four Corners”. . .

We all drove. Josh and Nicole left from San Antonio, Texas. Ben and Bonnie left from the D.C. area, adding a stop at the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum in Kentucky. Brian and Jenn took two days to drive from Minneapolis. Mike drove two days as well. I’m still recovering from a broken collarbone and didn’t want to drive yet. We left Orlando Tuesday morning and arrived in Gatlinburg late afternoon on Wednesday.

Our main goal was to spend time together. We also wanted to hike in the Great Smoky National Park at least on one day.

Time Together

We spent lots of time hanging around the house talking, reading, and playing. On our first breakfast together, Ben and Bonnie announced they’re expecting grandbaby #5! We already knew Jenn was expecting their first, so we’ll have two new family members in the middle of May.

We all put together a great Thanksgiving dinner one day. Nicole made her signature pie pops for dessert.

Brian took great family portraits for us one drizzly morning.

The Things We Did

We read up on some trails in the park, picking out two.

The trail to the 40-foot Cataract Falls was level and about 3 miles round trip. We chatted as we hiked and then enjoyed a little picnic back at the Sugarlands Visitor Center.

We thought the trail to Laurel Falls sounded like another easy hike, so we drove over to the trailhead. Both falls were beautiful, but this trail was more grueling than we expected. We read we would be hiking on a paved trail more than 5 miles round trip with little over 300 feet elevation gain. Some parts of the trail had steep grades and sheer drop-offs. A sign near the end even warned that we should watch the children (people had fallen and died there). We were still glad we hiked it. We would not have gone if the write-ups about the trail had been more accurate.

We enjoyed one meal out for a yummy breakfast at Crockett’s Breakfast Camp.

On the last day, it was quite cold. We joined Ben, Bonnie, and the kids to visit Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. Being the weekend before Thanksgiving, it was slightly crowded and noisy. We brought our lunch in and “picnicked” with the rays. Our favorite spot was the penguin area.

We thoroughly enjoyed the rest of our time being grandparents and enjoying the family. It was also great to see the park and a lot of fall color. The crowds and traffic weren’t too bad.

For more great photos by our Schmitt photographers, go to our online photo album, A Smokies Family Gathering.

Photos © 2019 Brian Carnell

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