Dec 022022

The first time we went to Tennessee was back in 2011, with our good friends Bill and Jessi, who invited us to tag along on their vacation and subsequently causing us to fall in love with the area! The three of us woke up early one morning in an attempt to do some mountain shit. Actually, now that I’m thinking about it, I think the sole reason was because my beloved Roadside America app had suggested a place called Clingman’s Dome and it sounded super spacey and weird, so I wanted to do it. I mean, it was only an overlook thing that required a mild hike to reach, but it was still something to do.

I just had no idea that Chooch was going to have such an adverse reaction to this area! He was throwing such a huge fit (“My legs hurt!” “I’m tired!” “CARRY ME, WAH!”) that we were sincerely afraid he was going to alert any neighboring bears to our presence (though I imagine they’d probably have fled the opposite direction, take me with you, bears).

I was cruising through my old Flickr album for the 2011 trip last week, to stoke the nostalgia for our upcoming return, and when I saw the below picture, I thought, “Golly, gosh darn, wouldn’t it be a real barrel of laughs to recreate this shot with Chooch who is now 16 and taller than both of us?”

I posted it on Instagram as sort of an interest check but also to put it out there so that Chooch and Henry would have less room to decline my latest demand. I love doing that to them. “BUT I ALREADY TOLD THE INTERNET!”

We went to breakfast first on Monday with the intention of then driving straight up into the Smokies. EXCEPT GUESS WHAT YOU GUYS. The fucking ONLY ROAD that takes you into the mountains was CLOSED. I went into a tailspin over this. Henry immediately pulled into the Smoky Mountain Visitors Center while I basically cried and Chooch sardonically murmured, “Aw, that’s too bad. I was really looking forward to having  my picture taken. Shucks.” Henry was checking the GPS for alternatives but there was NOTHING. The GPS map even showed that the road was blocked off! The day before, there were high winds in the area so Henry guessed that probably a lot of branches and debris were covering the road and needed to be swept off.


“Go inside the info building and ask them when it will open!” I wailed.

“They’re not going to know,” Henry mumbled, looking for something shiny to distract me.


I was just about to lose my mind when I glanced at the GPS map and noticed that the “ROAD CLOSED” thingie was no longer showing up on the map, so I whipped around to look out the rear window at the actual road and sure enough, the barricades had been removed!

I was screaming! Henry and Chooch were sighing!

The drive to Clingman’s Dome took about 30 minutes or so but it was so nice because hardly anyone was on the road. I think only about 3 cars had made it in front of us when the road opened so it was as nature intended.

What a huge difference from Saturday, that’s for sure. I believe only 2 cars were already in the parking lot of Clingman’s Dome trail as opposed to the 50+ plus the line of traffic going down the mountain that we ran into on Saturday. Has an empty parking lot ever been so beautiful.

Unforch, another big difference was that the weather on Saturday was BEAUTIFUL, sunny and totally hoodie weather. But on this day, it was drizzling/snow-misting, windy AF, and around 30 degrees (but felt like 20 degrees).  Chooch of course was only wearing a hoodie over his t-shirt, AND SHORTS, and Henry and I just had on light jackets. This was 100% hat and gloves conditions, people.

But I wasn’t leaving without the damn picture, so we set off onto the trail at the same as an Indian family. We had only been walking for about 3-5 minutes when we all collectively realized that, “HOLY SHIT, THIS IS THE SPOT.” I mean, it was pretty much exactly the same, even the log was still there. And then I started cracking up because you’d have thought we’d had been legit hiking the side of a rugged mountain for hours the way Chooch was reacting in 2011. But nope – just three minutes!

I pulled out the camera to take the shot, BUT HENRY BROUGHT THE WRONG LENS. So, this time it was me throwing a tantrum and Henry angrily stormed off to retrieve the correct lens. Meanwhile, three of the older members of the Indian family had cried UNCLE and were making their way back. One of them stopped and kindly asked if we needed help and I said, “Oh, no thank you. We’re just waiting for—-” and I blanked, not knowing how to refer to Henry!? “—our friend.”

He nodded and kept walking, but honestly, I’m sure Chooch and I looked like suspish hooligans, loitering on the side of the trail like we had just found a geocache of drugs and gold bars and Elvis’s molar.

Henry came back, jammed the lens into my person, furiously shrugged off his jacket, lifted Chooch up over his shoulder, and hoarsely hissed, “TAKE THE FUCKING PICTURE.”

I mean, it does look like the same spot, right?? I was actually shook that we found it.


Look at Henry so far ahead of us, lol. He was DONEZO after this. It’s been 5 days and he’s still bitching about his back pain. Oops. But, at least we made the memory!? RIGHT HENRY?

Oh shit, the hilarity of the comparison of these two pictures carried me through most of the drive home. I just kept going back and looking at it and cracking the hell up. I want to say that I can’t believe they went through with this, but c’mon.

I knew that they would.

You knew that they would.

They knew that they would.

Say it don't spray it.

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