My wife Danielle and I love the Tennessee mountains. We try to vacation in the Gatlinburg / Pigeon Forge area at least once a year. It’s a beautiful area surrounded by The Great Smokey Mountains national Park. So, we decided to spend Christmas in the mountains for Christmas 2020. We planned the everything. A beautiful cabin on the top of a remote mountain in a small community, we got season passes to Dollywood, Lift passes for skiing, mountain coaster; it was going to be an amazing trip and a great way to spend Christmas with the family.
Our plan was to spend 7 days in the Smokey’s and do everything we could while we were there. We checked into our cabin and were immediately taken aback at the breathtaking views and cabin living atmosphere that the cabin gave us. It was a dream location to spend Christmas in the mountains.
The trip started out with a couple of small issues, minor things we were able to work out with the owners and get fixed. Little did we know these little issues were only the small problems of our trip.
We met my wife’s brother and his wife out there; we shared the cabin for what was going to be a big family get away. We spent two days at Dollywood. Due to COVID there weren’t a ton of people in the park, not to mention the park was limiting the number of people they were letting in. So, the longest line we waited on was 30 minutes, tops. We went on every ride in the park more than once. Their Christmas display was beautiful, the food was great, and the family was having a blast. Lifelong memories were being made. It was exactly what we wanted.
The next day we spent an entire day on the slopes. This was the first time for the kids, so we spent most of the time on the small slope teaching the kids the basics. It didn’t take long, and they were on the big slope. While we were on the slopes, we ran into an old friend of ours and spent the day snowboarding and enjoying friendship. It was another great day full of memories.
Christmas eve, the day everything changed. We woke up early, had a great breakfast and then decided to spend the day shopping at the outlets in Pigeon Forge. The family spent hours shopping. Came back with dozens of bags. It was a nice day. On the way back to the cabin we decided to stop for lunch at this 70’s café. It was a cool little hidden gem. As soon as you walked in you were transformed back to the 70’s. Old muscle cars parked outside and on display inside, old music, poodle skirts. It was a great experience.
While we were eating it began to lightly snow. We all thought how lucky are we? We are going to have a white Christmas in the mountains. It will be just like the movies. As we ate, the snow started to become heavier, and heavier, and heavier. We quickly realized what was happening and rushed everyone into the cars. By the time we got back on the road the streets were covered in snow. The plows hadn’t started yet, and it was already slippery. As we approached the community that the cabin was in the roads were really bad. As we started up the mountain to the cabin, we very quickly realized the roads were covered in snow, very slippery, and impassable. We didn’t want to risk it, we decided to be safe and park the cars halfway up the mountain and walk the rest of the way to the cabin. Straight up hill, in a snowstorm, with 3 kids for 3/4 of a mile. Needless to say, selecting the cabin at the very top of the mountain was not turning out to be such a good idea.
The storm intensified, covered everything with several feet of snow and knocked out power from Knoxville, TN to Ashville, NC. We spent the next three days, stuck in a cabin with no power, no water, and little food. The average temperatures were between 12-17 degrees. The cabin only had a small propane fireplace that did nothing to warm the room and turned off ever 45 minutes. We wore every piece of clothing we had, huddled in groups and all slept in the same bed to share body heat. We spent Christmas day 2020 melting snow to flush the toilets. My kids learned how to take a field bath with snow water and a washcloth. Lifelong memories were made that trip to say the least. It took us three days to finally get down the mountain. Before that the roads were impassable, too icy roads, and with downed trees. When we left, the power and water were still out. On the way down the mountain, several cars were wrecked and crashed into ditches and trees.
It was a vacation we will never forget!