I am a little late to this post but wanted to share our observations about our trip to the mountains back in June.

We knew the trip would be a bit different due to the many changes as a result of the pandemic. So I wanted to share what we did, and what we did not do during our most recent trip. These are my observations, you can come to your own conclusions as it pertains to you and your tolerance of risk during this time.

What we did. We tried to be aware of not being in large crowds as much as possible. But we did go to Gatlinburg and walked the streets. We did eat out almost every meal. We did go shopping several times, and we did go to Cades Cove a couple of times. All of these items were in our mind, low risk, and kept our vacation at some level of normal. None of the restaurants we visited were busy, and all had 50% limited capacity of their typical levels.

What we did not do. We did not go to any shows. We did not go to Dollywood, and we did not hike to Laurel Falls – the crowds there were crazy! While being outside is usually a relatively safe adventure, there were extreme numbers of people on the most traveled trails, and we were not comfortable with that.

So my recommendation for a future trip is to just be aware, and do what you are comfortable with. There are still plenty of fun options in The Great Smoky Mountains, pandemic or not.

We are heading to the Smokies again!  We have a trip planned soon and will be keeping this trip pretty casual.  We are planning a trip to Cades Cove, so let’s hope the bears are active.  Here are a few pics from our late spring trip a few years ago.

Sitting at home during the pandemic of 2020 and I realized I never did a review of Crockett’s 1875 Breakfast Camp from our visit in July 2018.  If I could sum up our review of Crockett’s in one word:  awesome.

I didn’t take any pics of our food as I was too excited to eat, but my summary of our visit will not do it justice.  In my opinion, Crockett’s is the best breakfast restaurant in the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area.  We’ve been to many others and haven’t had a bad experience at any of them but Crockett’s was a level above any of the others, period.  We had a variety of the normal breakfast food:  bacon, eggs, hashbrowns, but the one food that still stands out in my mind: the pancakes.  The pancakes are like no others I have ever had, and I have eaten a lot of pancakes in my lifetime.  They are very rich and dense and reminded me of a delicious dense cake, that tastes like pancakes!

If you get the chance to go to Crockett’s, you should definitely do so.  It is a bit pricey for breakfast, but well worth it.  Note that it is ALWAYS busy so be prepared to wait for a bit to be seated.

We always want to try new place to eat and on our last trip in 2019, we tried out Five Oaks Farm Kitchen, across the street from the Tanger Outlet Mall.  We really like the ambience of the new restaurant as it has the feel of a farm kitchen and the menu contributes to that farm kitchen feel.

We tried the pot roast and ribs/pulled pork combination and the food was very good.  The menu is a bit pricey for the type of food on the menu but you get a LOT of food.

The menu states that the Farm Kitchen is carrying on the tradition of John and Blanche Ogle from the days of String Town.  If you didn’t know, Pigeon Forge was once called String Town.  Google that and find some interesting facts on the Ogle family and String Town from back in the day.

We had not been to Dollywood in several years so we decided to spend a day of our summer 2109 vacation checking out the latest section of the Dollywood ThemePark:  Wildwood Grove.  Let’s just say we were not disappointed.

In terms of theme parks, we are more of a Disneyworld family, but Dollywood holds a special place in our heart and we always enjoy our trips there, even though the kids are all grown now – adults can have fun too!  The new Dragonflier roller coaster was awesome, not a tall, overly fast coaster but with lots of Gs and a very smooth ride, it was a positive surprise.

There is also new food options in Wildwood which was surprising as well, and very tasty (see my pork nachos, which were delicious).


Of course we rode the usual rides like Blazing Fury, Wild Eagle, and the Dollywood Express.  Crowds were unusually light up until lunch so we were able to ride 6 roller coasters in the first 90 minutes.  Not bad at all, and that doesn’t happen at Disneyworld!

If you haven’t been to Dollywood in awhile, be sure to check it out again.  And one tip for purchasing tickets.  There are sites that offer discounted tickets or discounted ticket codes.  We were able to basically save enough off two adult tickets that it bought our lunch, so be sure to shop around to save a few dollars.


It has been awhile since we have posted to the blog so we will try to do better.  It has been a busy year with lots of family goodness going on.

We visited the Smoky Mountains again this summer and tried several new restaurants.  We’ll try to post reviews of those but wanted to start with Ole Red.


Gatlinburg is the most recent addition to Blake Shelton’s Ole Red line of restaurants.  It is located where the Hard Rock Cafe resided for years in Gatlinburg.

Ole Red is very much in the same style as a Hard Rock, Planet Hollywood type restaurant.  The ambience is good, again, typical as in this type of restaurant.  The food was o.k.  Hamburgers were o.k. but not fantastic.  The tater tots on the other hand were delicious – apparently they are home made and very specific to Ole Red.  Prices were a little high, especially for lunch but service was good and we had a seat looking out on the main drag in Gatlinburg so that is always fun to crowd watch.  There was live music going on while we were there but that varies according to time and days.

There was also an option for a brunch bar, which was a little pricey but if you combine a late breakfast and early lunch, it might be worth the extra cost.

So all and all, not too bad.  If you like this style of restaurant, give it a try.


We’ve wrote a few restaurant reviews through the years and hadn’t done one in a while so with our most recent trip to Pigeon Forge, we did try a few new restaurants.  Our most recent new restaurant was the Frizzle Chicken Farmhouse Cafe.  Frizzle Chicken serves all three meals throughout the day but we went for supper.  The supper menu consists of a laundry list of meats, vegetables, salad, and dessert, with the meats and veggies being served family style.

We had pot roast, pork loin, ribs, green beans, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, side salad, rolls, and a dessert of choice.  All of the food was good, but what I would call typical for this type of restaurant.  You get a lot of food and can ask for second servings of any of the main entrees if you need more to eat, but for two people, one table setting of each is probably enough.

The added bonus to your meal is the singing chickens, or rather the clucking chickens.  While it might seem  like something for kids, I think the adults found them more amusing than the kids, mostly because they cluck the words to the songs so kids may not fully get it.  I do have to say, the clucking of the Star Wars theme was actually very funny, I laughed out loud at the end of the theme, but won’t tell why.  You have to experience it for yourself.

So if you are really hungry, give Frizzle Chicken a shot.  It is right next door to The Comedy Barn.   Here us a sample of the clucking:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqRS5BG2D44


We made a short trip to the Smokies back in April and it was very encouraging to see all of the new growth in areas where there was so much damage from the November 2016 fires.  The contract of the green of the new leaves versus the burn marks on the trees makes this an interesting photo.

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We visited the GSMNP during the first week of August 2017, this was our first trip since the fires last November 2016.  For the first few days, we saw some fire damage in isolated areas but nothing shocking.  On our last day in the area, we decided to visit the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail since we had heard there was significant damage there.  What we saw was breath taking; the beauty of nature healing itself, but also the total destruction of so much mountainside and of man-made structures as well.  I’ll be posting some images of the fire damage in the near future but will also share some pics of elk and bear.  We were blessed to see both on this trip, always fun to see the animals in the park.

Roaring Fork Fire2Roaring Fork Fire

Smoky Mountain Fires

By now, most of you reading are well aware of the Smoky Mountain fires, most significantly the fire from Chimney Tops that almost destroyed Gatlinburg on November 28, 2016 (my birthday by the way).  I won’t get into the guilt or innocence of those accused of setting the fires but I would encourage anyone reading this blog who loves the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the people that support it to do 2 things: 1.pray for those directly impacted by the fires and 2.contribute in some way.  Friends of The Smokies  has setup a special contribution link on their web page to contribute and support of those that suffered as a result of the fires.  There are many other legitimate organizations doing the same.  I would suggest exercising caution with GoFundMe sites.

Also, if you have a chance to visit the GSMNP, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, or Sevierville, please do so.  Remember, less than 5% of the GSMNP was impacted by fire.  Visit, have fun, spend some cash.  We aren’t visiting this New Year’s like we have the past two years but plan on visiting sometime next year and can’t wait to see our Park in all of its beauty.  While the fire below looks devastating, nature recovers quickly and “our park” will survive.