Fall is my favorite time of year.
After the long, hot summer (I am from Georgia), I look forward to the idea of sitting in the backyard on a chilly morning, sipping a hot gingerbread latte, while watching the sunrise over the trees. I love seeing the painting come to life; the colorful landscape composed from the dawning light and the cooler weather.
I love the colors of Fall. The browns. The oranges. The yellows. To me, it’s not something dying. It’s a chance to shed an old layer (of whatever is weighing you down), refocus your energy, then start over again with a clean slate; all within just a few months.
One of the Fall activities I’ve dreamt about for years was to ride a train through the Smoky Mountains and gaze at the spectacular colors of the changing leaves. Last summer, I decided that was the year I was actually going to make it happen.
I began researching my various options and stumbled upon a really cool site:
Great Smoky Mountain Rail Road
This one caught my eye first because of the fun Peanuts(tm) Great Pumpkin Patch Express event. https://www.gsmr.com/events/peanuts-great-pumpkin-patch-express#.XYyF1ihKg2w
I will be honest, I almost booked this event. But this trip was just my husband and me. With both our boys grown and out of the house, we felt this would be a really great start to our #tamisweekendgetaway adventures.
So, I booked the trip for early October. And then I waited. And waited. And waited. July to October is a very long time when you have something this fun you want to do…
Finally, the week of our trip was here. We left work that Friday, loaded up the car, and headed to North Carolina.
The drive was beautiful. It was only a few hours from our home and we honestly had a great time on the drive. I made my husband stop several times to take pictures. The scenery was incredibly picturesque. But I began to realize the colors were not as Fallish as I had expected.
When booking that far in advance, picking the right time to see the changing colors is a gamble. But I had seen how quickly the reservations filled up the closer it got to Fall. We had brainstormed four different weekends and during the two weeks we debated the time, three of those weekends had filled, leaving us with our fourth choice. Unfortunately for us, it resulted in the rain and not quite the colors I had hoped for.
Another huge tip here - do a bit more research on where to stay when you take a trip like this. We used our Hilton points to book a hotel room outside of Pigeon Forge, TN. The map said it was only about 45 miles away from Bryson. Not a bad drive for a cheaper price and I liked the idea of touring Pigeon Forge that evening.
What we didn’t take into account was the trip between the two places would be on a winding road through the mountains with an average speed of 30 MPH. We also didn’t take in to account the heavy rains that were taking place that weekend.
With a Saturday morning departure time of 9 am for the train ride, we had to leave our hotel at 5 am to drive two and a half hours… in the dark… in the rain… on a winding road we didn’t know… without any breakfast… It was not my best plan.
We did stop for a quick bite at a small diner about 2 hours into the drive (by that point we were extremely hungry) and made it to the train station with about 45 minutes to spare.
After a tour through the small museum, we waited in line to grab our seats. I opted for the open-air car, thinking I could get some great photos of the trees without the glare of the window. That would have been a great plan, but for the rain.
Thankfully, I had thought to grab our umbrellas and some disposable raincoats.
IT. WAS. WET!
October in the mountains is chilly. We anticipated this and dressed a bit warmer than our Georgia weather required. But what I didn’t anticipate, was being wet and chilly.
Even without the colors I was hoping for, the trip was incredible.
The 4 and a half hours flew by. I will admit it was tough to get some good pictures, with the rain and the speed of the train. I had not taken either of those into account.
But we were able to stop halfway at the Nantahala Outdoor Center, but I didn’t get many pictures due to the increase in rain. We grabbed a beer and a souvenir magnet and then jumped back on the train.
The trip down was just as great.
Overall, it was a super fun trip. It was a learning experience regarding the whims of nature, doing better research on the area regarding hotels (there was a reason those other hotels were a bit more expensive), and it was the start of a way of life for me and my husband and we continued to search out fun weekend adventures.
I definitely want to do this again. You know, one day when it’s not raining and when the leaves might actually have changed. Maybe next year. ;)