Home Away From Homeless (part 1)

condo

So we had this great, yet small, condo (1,000 sq. ft. +/-) situated at the front door of The Great Smoky Mountain National Park, our long desired retirement location. 

After much prayer and angst we decided to sell it to find something with a bit more room and a lot more autonomy (a unhappy association with our many investor neighbors was also a huge consideration).  In this decision, we failed to take into account the recent fire in Gatlinburg, which resulted in the shortage of available homes to purchase at our price point…DUH!

SIDE NOTE OF ADVICE:  If you buy a condo in a resort area, make sure that there are a large number of owner-residents onsite. We had a poor experience living in a condo community owned mostly by investors. Investors and homeowners are two different creatures…one treats it like home the other treats it like monthly income.

Pictured below are two examples of the devastating fire that swept through our beautiful park and the upper neighborhoods of Gatlinburg.

We had made plans, prior to selling, for a visit family and friends, out of state, and to go on a cruise out of New Orleans with close friends. Therefore, not being successful in finding a home to buy, in a timely manner, we packed everything and put it all into storage in time to head to Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

First stop, Orange Beach for Mardi Gras with friends. Sweet husband’s 70th birthday fell on Mardi Gras this year and his youngest daughter gave birth to her first child that very day.

Did you know that south Alabama has a replica of the Stonehenge, called “Bama-Henge”?

Above Bama-Henge

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Second stop, Biloxi, MS for a Yellowstone Employee Reunion. Wonderful friends we had made in 2015 who lived and worked with us at Grant Village.  Two fun-filled days of catching up.

YS Reunion

Prior to this trip and because housing prices were on the rise daily in Pigeon Forge, we decided to move to the Mississippi Gulf Coast (for many reasons, much too long and an unnecessary rabbit trail for this post).  WE placed an offer on a house and started the painful mortgage process…UGH! So while on the coast, we went to tour the house in Long Beach, MS we were purchasing…yep, made the offer sight unseen.  (This purchase has another chapter to it to follow in Part 3).

From there we drove to my youngest daughter’s home south of Baton Rouge for a long needed visit with a cruise sandwiched in the middle of our visit there.

Cruise blog and pictures to follow in Part 2

A Walk In The Park

This past week I decided to have “A pamper me” day, so I went to the local nail shop. I was seated next to a young woman (probably 30ish) at the pedicure station. She struck up a conversation by asking me if I lived here and I answered in the affirmative. Then she told me she was here with her husband all week on business and were staying in Gatlinburg (nice, I thought, I love Gatlinburg).  She went on to explain that since he would be busy in meetings all day she decided to drive over to our side of the valley and visit the Tanger Outlet Mall (I’m nodding in understanding and agreement). Then she asked me if there was anything they needed to do while in our area. “Well, I said, “You have to go to the park.” “It is beyond beautiful”, I said, “and since it is early in the week she and her husband should go either this afternoon or Tuesday before the traffic gets bad.” I also told her about The Roaring Fork Motor Trail right off the parkway in Gatlinburg, which is another truly beautiful part of the park. She nodded and was silent for a few minutes and then said, (wait for it), “What kind of park is it?”

I truly pray the shock of her question didn’t show on my face, but I took a deep, slow breath, smiled and said, (in my sweetest southern accent) “Why, Darling, it is THE GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK!” I took another slow, deep breath and said, “It is the largest National Park east of the Mississippi River and it is probably the only one that is absolutely FREE.”

 “Really, she said, “I had no idea?!” (I already knew that). 

After a brief silence, I realized she had no intention of going, so I added, there is also The Island. The Island has a large eye-type Ferris wheel, like they have in London, a music-water show like they have in Vegas, a Margaritaville, Paula Dean’s restaurant and lots of shopping. She smiled real big at that news.

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Oh Lord, help me! She sits on the edge of one of the most spectacular areas in this nation and she drove all this way to go SHOPPING.

 I came home, told sweet husband and he declared we would go to “The Park” on Wednesday, walk about and have us a picnic. And that is exactly what we did. Besides the Mountain Laurel are in full bloom and I have yet to see them (pictured below).

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 There are two trails near the Sugarland Visitor’s Center that are easy hikes. We chose these because I have some very temporary back/leg issues. We also picnicked at the Chimneys Picnic Area – a MUST SEE and Sweet Husband’s favorite part of the park.  There are plenty of other wonderful hikes, from easy to challenging.  There are actually 900 miles of hikes in this park alone…yes, 900 miles! 

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There is an area with a trail, just off the parkway in Sugarland where you can see the almost lost homesteads of two families.  All that is left are two chimneys and a long rock wall.  These were abandoned when the National Park Service purchased these farms in the 1930s (pictured above).

Below are a few other shots taken along our trail walk.  Tell me, if you can, why would you go shopping when you have this kind of beauty nearby?

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The Great Smoky Mountains

So much beauty, so much to see and do…every season.

RIPLEY’S AQURAIUM

DSC03229Ripley's Aquarium

DOLLYWOOD

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PARIOT MOUNTAIN

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CREEKS TO PLAY IN

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WATER FALLS

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FLOWERS

VIEWS IN EVERY SEASON

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THE ISLAND

TENNESSEE FOOTBALL

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CRITTERS

Cougar

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TITANIC MUSEUM

WONDER WORKS

WONDERWORKS

MUSIC

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CADES COVE

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GOLF

CAMPING

The Hills Are Alive With . . . Wild Flowers and Happy Critters

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Orange and red trumpet flower on a small tree taken by Bubba McClary

This blog post will be mostly photographs.  The wild flowers in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park are a riot of diversity, color, fragrance and size.  There are many bears with cubs, making their debut.  Deer, Elk, Turkey, Rabbits, Squirrel, Ground Hogs and so much more.  If I did not add a name to the picture of the flower, it is because I am clueless as to what they are called. I have never seen many of these before.  I have been told that I can buy a book at the ranger station to help me identify them and (naturally) I will.  I am so thankful our National Parks are preserving these.  I did not take all these pictures, as it takes time and equipment I do not have, but I will give credit to those wonderful photographers, who trek into these woods.  Enjoy!

chreeping phlox

Creeping Phlox

Gwen Cross Photography1

Gwen Cross photography

Gwen Cross2

Gwen Cross Photography

Orchid Gwen Cross

Orchid by Gwen Cross Photography

Trillium Gwen Cross

Trillium by Gwen Cross Photography

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Wild Rhododendron

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Mountain Laurel

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Ornamental Maple (not native, but planted here in abundance)

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Some type of wild Magnolia

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Cantilever Barn in Cade’s Cove

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Mushrooms grown here and harvested from the woods here

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Wild Azalea. Photo by Hank McClary

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Sweet Shrub. Often planted near cabin windows for their fragrance (back when we slept with windows open)

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Lady Slipper. Photo by Gwen Cross

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This is not wisteria, it is a flowering tree and the fragrance is divine.

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Red Bud

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Dogwood

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Orchid by Sharon McClary

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Some type of wild Iris (?)

Rhodadendron

Rhododendron

mushrooms

More mushrooms (for sale)

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Spring … Actually Lasting longer than ONE week.

FEATURED IMAGE BY Doug McPherson Photography of The Great Smoky Mountains National Park (TGSMNP).

I have lived in Mississippi and Louisiana most of my life.  Spring is always the nicest WEEK of the year.  In some places, (like way-south Louisiana) it is the nicest DAY of the year.  Winter is nice, but wet a third of the time, cold a third of the time and warm the last third of the time (honest)…with the occasional tornado mixed in.

Let me testify:  Spring in East Tennessee is heaven, TRULY.  Wild flowers, dogwoods, redbuds, multi-greens as the trees leaf out, rain, sweet breezes, fragrances, day temps under 75 degrees Fahrenheit (often way under), night temps 40s & 50s.  The world is new and fresh every morning . . . for more than a week (honest)!  Pollen is not as heavy (?).  Pine pollen in Mississippi is heavy and turns EVERYTHING green for a month.

Photos taken in the last several days of Knoxville (the dogwood and the cherry blooms were almost gone, but oooooh the Azaleas), TGSMNP, and an attraction (new to us) called Parrot Mountain and Gardens (web link below).

Ornamental Japanese Maple Every yard on the trail had at least one or at least one weeping maple.

Ornamental Japanese Maple
Every yard on the trail had at least one or at least one weeping maple.

Cherry blooms were mostly on the ground, pink pavement, oh my!

Cherry blooms were mostly on the ground, thick-pink pavement, oh my!

Oh how the English do their pomp and circumstance!

English Dogwood:  Oh how the English do their pomp and circumstance!

Stately Southern Dogwood Knoxville, TN

Stately Southern Dogwood
Knoxville, TN

Azalea Riot in the Knoxville Dogwood Festival Trails

Azalea Riot on the Knoxville Dogwood Festival Trails

Rhododendron (lavender)

Rhododendron (lavender)

Rhododendron (red)

Rhododendron (red)

We were greeted with bird, “hellos”, and had them eating out of our hands. . .climbing on our backs, arms, shoulders, heads and pulling on my earrings.  We had smiles the entire tour.

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http://www.parrotmountainandgardens.com/

WE HIT THE PAUSE BUTTON

In mid-January we drove from California to Louisiana in five days.  We then rested with sweet daughter and her sweet family for a week; catching up on many, much-needed hugs.

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From Louisiana we drove to Orlando (by way for Orange Beach, AL to visit long-time friends) to attend sister-in-law’s retirement event.

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From Orlando we drove to Tennessee by way of Atlanta where we spent the night and had dinner with our adopted daughter, Michelle.

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Between Atlanta and east Tennessee, we stopped to stretch our legs in Toccoa Falls, Georgia — a must see, for sure!

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In Tennessee we had snow/ice for three weeks holding up the moving, settling in portion of our life.  We spend most of that time on the rehab of the condo, since we couldn’t get our stuff out of storage.  We had to sleep on the couch for two weeks.

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We have been setting up a base in East Tennessee since early February.  We have moved into a small condo and completely refurbished it.  It would be totally finished by now had I not gotten vertigo in mid-March (I’m better, but not quite 100%).  Sweet husband has basically had the balance of the work on his shoulders since then.  We had friends from Virginia drive down for a week to help with the heavy moving and installing.  I have family an hour from here who have also stepped in to lend a much-needed hand.  We have taken a few days off to rest, recuperate and visit with our friends in this beautiful part of the country.  (pictures of our friend/family helpers and much-needed time off above).

It is our goal to be “Living in our minivan” again this summer, so getting organized and well is our only goal.  We are proud to report we have found a church and met a couple of nice locals.  Onward and upward.

Below are pictures of the almost finished/organized base of operations.

LR bedroom kitchen

As time allows, I will get back on this blog to show you this beautiful National Park.  Next weekend is the Dogwood Trail and Art Festival in Knoxville.  This is one of the oldest festivals in our nation.  We plan to go, if that happens, I will post pictures.