This past weekend, I flew down to Tennessee to attend my cousin’s wedding (Congrats Abbie & Jace!) up in the Smoky Mountains. Since my travel partner AKA my sister had an exam on Friday, we didn’t end up boarding the plane from Chicago until 9:00PM, which meant that we didn’t end up getting to our southern belle hotel until around 1:00AM. You can probably imagine how exhausted we were the next morning. So, after a slow crawl into the shower, we freshened up and went out to find some espresso.
We chose Lil Black Bear Cafe and were, might I say, astounded by the size of this place once we arrived. It was as if someone had parked an RV in the lot and decided to start cooking up breakfast for anyone who’d show. I suppose I’m exaggerating a bit, but there were seriously only 4 tables max that could’ve squeezed in there and everything, including the kitchen, were crammed into one room. I’m honestly curious as to how they planned on having a movie night there. Like, where does the movie go? Even so, I’d be lying if I told you they didn’t get their omelettes right. So, after a quick bite to eat we were on the espresso hunt once again, since Lil Black Bear Cafe only served regular coffee.
We chose Espresso Yourself for our next destination, knowing they couldn’t possibly name themselves that without serving some espresso. After steaming up a nice peppermint mocha, we decided that we had to go investigate the Smoky Mountain Cat House next-door. Walking in, my sister and I had found just what we came to see, four cats ran right in front of us and bounded onto the countertop as the owner welcomed us in and began introducing us to his family. Ziggy is the only name I caught before he found out we were from Wisconsin and thus the “Cheesehead” name-calling began. Love that for us.
This shop had anything and everything you could ever associate with a cat in it. From t-shirts with puns to jewelry to odor-eliminating candles, it’s a wonder this place has been serving the Smoky Mountains for 30 years. On our way out the door, the owner warned us to stay warm at the wedding and, I quote, “Wear a hat and then put some long underwear under your dresses. It’s gonna be like Lambeau Field up there.” Roger that.
Though we didn’t have the rest of our day planned out, we happened to be parked right next to winery and, I mean, what are we supposed to do? Say no?
Mill Bridge Winery was gorgeous. Situated right along the river, it was a great location with some great tasting wines, as well. My favorite was their mulled wine, and (guilty as charged) I did end up buying some spices so I could try and replicate their brew back in Wisconsin. While we were here, we found out that there’s a free wine tour called the Rocky Top Wine Trail that you can do, and you’ll get prizes at your 3rd and 5th (final) stop–Say no more.
We headed on down the road, stopping at Mountain Valley Vineyards, Apple Barn Winery, Apple Barn & Cider Mill and finally Hillside Winery. Tennessee wines are odd because of their peculiar growing season, so the sweeter wines do a lot better in this climate. Their most popular grapes are Concord and Muscadine, and you can definitely taste the eccentric flavors in these ones–Muscadine was a personal favorite.
Overall, though, I have to say that Mill Bridge Winery truly did have the best tasting wines. After this adventure, we had to run and get ready for the wedding! Our excuse for our less-than-early arrival is that we were hiking…..on the Rocky Top Trail.
The venue, The Lodge at Brother’s Cove, was incredible. Though the rain ended up moving the ceremony indoors, everything still ran smoothly and the surrounding windows gave great justice to the view. We spent the rest of our night here, turning the ceremony hall into the dinner hall and eventually the dance floor.
As time went on, the Smoky Mountains continued to do their thing, covering the hills with clouds until we were essentially fogged-in, just surrounded with white walls that used to function as windows.
The next morning, everyone was in a fog themselves, packing up and trying to bundle up as the crisp autumn air seeped into our cabins. My family drove back up the mountains to visit with the rest of our family–cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, before taking the journey back to Wisconsin.
The view from their cabin was incredible, especially as the clouds began to clear away over the hills, revealing the forest surrounding us. Though we didn’t spot any bears, there was this mischievous woodpecker who decided that, out of all of the trees in the forest, this log cabin looked best (which is fair).
The siding was just completely destroyed, but I think this little guy was confused enough himself as I watched him take more than one peck at the window itself. Probably not the best way to go out, but hey, I’m not one to judge. Though it was the tourist time of year when I visited due to the changing of autumn leaves in the Smoky Mountains, the colors were actually a bit delayed this year due to a drought, which decided to relieve itself just as we arrived.
All in all, Tennessee is an incredible state, especially for one looking to have a nature reset or hike (even if that hike ends up being the Rocky Top Wine Trail). Where is your favorite place to wander?