A friend offered us a week’s stay at his cabin in Pigeon Forge and even invited the dog, so how could we refuse? We’d visited there before, once for a cowboy music festival and once for a Vietnam veterans’ reunion.  

I enjoyed the cowboy music — much to my surprise — and no matter where the veterans’ group gathers, I always treasure our time with them. That year, the veterans’ group arranged a bus tour through the Smokey Mountain National Park and the town of Gatlinburg. I’m sure we know more about its origins than do most visitors.

This trip, we invited one couple for the first weekend and another for the last. That way, my husband had companions —or playmates — for watching the NCAA basketball tournament and for visiting the local range and Smoky Mountain Knife Works, billed as the largest knife shop in the world.  

We gals entertained ourselves in other ways. First, we visited the outlet mall where I achieved my main objective of finding a warm parka for this year’s Christmas cruise on the Rhine River. I didn’t find the cheese slicer I was hunting for,  but the guys came home with one from the knife shop, so mission accomplished.

We four did the tourist thing by eating dinner at Margaritaville, mostly so we could catch a glimpse of the nearby fountain feature. Like a mini version of the Bellagio fountain, it erupts with lights and music, though it isn’t nearly as spectacular as the original in Las Vegas. 

Naturally, we had to eat pancakes one morning as there seems to be a pancake restaurant every 20 yards in Pigeon Forge. My husband joked that all you need to open a business there is a building, a box of Bisquick and a coffee pot. 

When those friends departed, I was content to read a book in front of the fireplace for most of one day, though, as you might expect, my husband began to get bored. Never fear, by the next day, more friends arrived.  

The boys headed off to the range and knife store — again — and we gals went to Gatlinburg to “Do the Loop,” an 8-mile trail of arts and crafts galleries and shops off the beaten path. We started out with lunch on the patio at Three Jimmy’s where we’d eaten with our first set of friends. It was worth another visit.

We couldn’t possibly take in every gallery and spent most of our time in two. First was Hand-n-Heart Creations, a gallery carrying paintings by artists Mark Keathley, Greg Painter and Abraham Hunter. 

Our final stop was the Jim Gray Gallery housed in a historic 125-year-old church building. It features the paintings and sculpture of Jim Gray as well as the artwork of Tracy Webb. It’s a spectacular setting, and I was taken with the pottery and jewelry on display and came home with yet another necklace I didn’t need.

Back in Pigeon Forge, we gals prepared to go out to dinner only to discover the guys had to watch basketball, so we made do with an old standby — Mellow Mushroom Pizza.

Despite our trip coinciding with the nightmare of spring break crowds, we managed to have a relaxing week. On chilly mornings and evenings, we spent time in front of the fireplace, and on the several warm days, we moved to the rockers on the front porch. Lord Banjo, our only four-legged guest, happily assumed the royal belly rub position and got in a few walks. He also got into the garbage, but that’s a topic for another day.

Kathy is a Sandy Springs resident. Find her books, “Lord Banjo the Royal Pooch” and “The Ink Penn: Celebrating the Magic in the Everyday,” at the Enchanted Forest and on Amazon. Contact her at inkpenn119@gmail.com, follow her on Facebook, www.facebook.com/KathyManosPennAuthor, and read her blogs at https://theinkpenn.blogspot.com.

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