For Thanksgiving this year, we spent it in a beautiful cabin in the Smoky Mountains!
It was Matt's family, Gmama, aunt Cinda (in January =) & Jacinda E from Indiana.
I am so thankful for the girls being able to come & help make all this delicious food =) It was a sad first Thanksgiving without our Mimi, but I think she would be proud to know we kept some of their southern traditions.
We had a great time together as a family & packed a bunch of activities into our weekend.
Our little turkey got to spend her first Thanksgiving at a craft show & downtown Gatlinburg. It was cold but fun to walk around & see all the lights.
Of course we made a trip to one of our favorite places to eat..at the Apple Barn! I got a little shopping in & we had a good meal.
Another night we visited The Island which is a new shopping center with a fun light show & ferris wheel attraction.
Greyson was so excited to ride the ferris wheel! I was surprised he wasn't even the least big scared the entire ride. It was fun & neat to see everything from that view.
The best feature is that the pods are HEATED & had festive Christmas music playing =)
Then we spent the entire next day at Dollywood! We go every time we are visiting Pigeon Forge. I didn't get a ton of pictures, but it was fun seeing all the Christmas shows & being together.
This guy is the best =)
And we sure have a cute family to share this experience with! =) Dollywood was another "first" for Rilynn on this trip.
We spent a good 4 days together. It was time for family pictures before we all went our separate ways. Here are all the girls on the trip.
And then Gmama took a picture of us with the boys.
Loved staying at this cabin! It was so nice...another perk to visiting every year is you never know what your accommodations are going to end up looking like =)
The next time we see these two together will be for their spectacular wedding weekend!!! We can hardly wait. I keep thinking of plans for next year & what we might be doing & then I remember...Aunt Cinda will be here!! I'll have another girl in the family!! I am beyond excited & ready for this next chapter in the Crawford family =)
AND then there's this girl. (another possible aunt jacinda....enough said, lol)
She was a huge help with everything that weekend. From cooking, cleaning, wrangling kids...she even got up at the crack of dawn...literally...on Thanksgiving morning to make homemade cinnamon rolls that were AHHH-MAZ-ING!! Not to totally put them on the spot, but that would be a great tradition...you know........when we're not spending Thanksgiving in PA with my side of the family!!! hehee
So, on our way out...we all went our separate ways. Matt & I took the kids to Cades Cove to see if we could spot any bears. We'd been telling Greyson about the bears all weekend & he was ready to see one in the wild. We didn't know if we could deliver, but our best chance was driving through the cove.
We didn't see so much as a squirrel for the entire first half of the drive. We always like to stop & take pictures at this particular spot with the mountains in the background.
Love this view!
Aaaand off we went again....until the FIRST animal we saw was none other than a real live black bear!
He wasn't a cub but he wasn't very big either. He was all alone just walking around & we spotted him on the trail with no one in front of us OR behind us! Usually there is like a 20 car pile up when people stop & everyone tends to catch on that there is a reason & they freak out trying to see what we're seeing & so on...sometimes its just for deer or a really BIG buck (which is cool) but those backup's don't last as long. However, if a bear has been spotted, a car pile up will get so bad that the Forest rangers have to come out to keep traffic moving & people AWAY from the bears because as you know....they ARE wild!
Needless to say, it was really nice to show Greyson a real live bear that we had been talking about. I'll let you in on a little secret...Matt & I prayed specifically for God to allow us to see one. It is winter, & I'm not really sure when bears hibernate, but we knew the ONLY way it was going to happen was to pray about it. We were able to take our time, talk about it & watch him scamper around the trees. After several minutes, a car came up behind us, but we had pulled off so they went AROUND us!! They didn't even stop...after awhile though a few other cars came up & saw what we were seeing. As soon as it started to get congested we went ahead & left. We had our time & it was perfect. =) Another reason to thank God for caring about our little wants.
We stopped at the little rest area, grist mill & store to look around & ran into Poppy, Uncle Jac & Aunt Cinda =)
He loves this little girl SOO much. It is precious to see them together =)
Once again we said our goodbyes & gave Jacinda lots of hugs!
Matt ended up having to make an extra stop in Tennessee to check on a machine for work. We spent the night in a hotel & he went to work the next morning. When he got back, we noticed we were in Hurricane Mills. We saw signs for Loretta Lynn's plantation house & ranch so we decided to take a little tour of the place.
In case you don't know who Loretta is, she was a famous country singer back in the day. They made a movie about her life called "The Coal Miners Daughter" & she has her own little town right outside her house. She owns the grist mill, post office, country store, has a replica of the cabin she lived in as a child & a museum complete with clothes, movies, & memorabilia for her entire family, people she sang with, the movie stuff on down to a bedroom suit & cars she drove.
This was her home she shared with her husband, Mooney & their 6 kids. She now resides in a smaller home directly behind this one. She is in her 80's but still sings occasionally & you can see her current tour bus to the right of the house in the picture below. She was actually home, but we didn't see her...I'm sure she doesn't make appearances for tourist since she is...well...at home!
In the museum, we got to go in her old tour bus that was also featured in the movie.
There was so much to look at. I had to go back & watch the movie again when we got home so I could recognize everything we saw. It was really neat!
Then we went over & toured the plantation house. It was a lot homier than I had envisioned. Clearly it was decorated a few decades ago, so it had a lot of burnt orange in the kitchen with some CRAZY wallpaper, a lime green bathroom (even the tub, toilet & sinks were green) & her bedroom was mauve....you know...that pink that is a cross between pink, purple, deep red...you name it. It had lots of floral designs in it as well & at the end of the bed sat a pair of Mooney's cowboy boots, hat & belt & on the other side were Loretta's slippers that were a gift from Patsy Cline. Made me laugh! When you marry into a family that has horses, you expect to see the same thing from time to time.
The house was really big & beautiful...but I'm not going to lie....it was CREEPY!
I say this because the tour guide elaborated on the fact that directly behind me in the photo below is a trap door in the floor. It is under that white bench & apparently leads to an old dungeon where they chained their slaves up & did who knows what. The guide says that odd things happen in that cellar & said that when Mooney went down there with a lighter, he came back up & said the house needed to be burned to the ground!! I don't know what he saw, but sounds like it wasn't full of warm, fuzzy feelings!
Apparently, the house is known to be haunted. It was even featured on the show Ghost Hunters because Loretta & some of her kids have had some sightings of the previous owners. The story is, that the man who built the house in the 1800's was a civil war soldier with the name Anderson. His wife, Buela Anderson, was expecting a child & turned one of the bedrooms into a nursery that was labeled "the brown room". Her child ended up being stillborn & she cried herself to death shortly after. Loretta says she saw "the moaning woman" pacing the balcony & wringing her hands. Loretta had just returned home from a tour & went up to the balcony to "comfort" this apparition in white but she disappeared. Her children remember seeing the woman standing in the doorway of their bedrooms but were too young to realize who she was & just thought it was someone visiting.
Anyone feeling a little creeped out yet?
THEN, Loretta's son had a pretty crazy night out one time & crashed on the bed in the brown room with his boots still on. I guess he was too tired to take them off...a short time later, he was shaken awake by a civil war spirit trying to tug his boots off!!!
The tour guide said that they don't take guests upstairs anymore because too many things happen...one of the tour guides was pushed down the stairs after straightening one of Loretta's records she has hanging on the wall. The civil war guy likes things left alone...so when she messed with it, I guess he shoved her during a tour & one of the tourist asked her who "that man" was behind her!
Loretta does not go into this house by herself anymore & they say that the odd things usually happen on rainy days. Does it look like we were visiting on a bright, sunny day??
I was ready to leave. I didn't really like hearing about all that especially with small children who have BIG ears...but the lady was super nice & obviously sharing the reasons why the stairs were roped off etc. I can't say that it wasn't fascinating but unsettling to say the least.
I don't dwell on things like this often even though I know they happen, but I just remember that God is bigger than anything we might encounter. He makes even the demons shudder at the sound of His name. He is the light in the darkness.
James 2:19 reads : "You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!"
In spite of the story, we enjoyed our time there & it was a neat experience. The tour guide asked us if we wanted a picture with the house in the background. It's neat...but when I see that balcony...eee...
On the other hand, there is a film crew shooting around the grounds making a reality TV show (similar to Duck Dynasty) that is about life on Loretta's ranch! If it comes out, maybe everyone will be able to tune into more about Loretta's life & what she accomplished. One other interesting tidbit of info is that when Mooney was still alive, my father in law was driving by & knew that Mooney liked horses. So he stopped at this very place & asked the person at the gate if he could see him. Mooney was interested in horses so he wanted to chat & Leslie got to visit with him, but he never did buy a horse =)
We had a great weekend...it was fun filled & packed with lots of sight seeing & shopping. It was even my first time driving through Nashville! I think we'll have to go back sometime soon =) Matt is a Loretta fan & I think this was one of the main highlights of the trip. I am thankful for the blessings we have, for traveling mercies & for a Savior we can trust in for every situation!