Chicago mom conquers fear of heights on non-traditional family vacation

Smokies Conquered – Mountain 0, Sara 1

When I last left off blogging, I was on my way to a week in the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee with my four children, my hubby and his parents. We had many doubts and worries in our hearts about this trip. Here’s how it went:

I am afraid of heights. Not just a little scared – like getting weak-kneed but going up anyway – I am afraid to go up too many flights of stairs and look out over a nice, safe edge at the mall. I grab my kids at the top of a slide. I would never be found anywhere near a roller coaster.

I am not certain where this fear came from or even when it arrived, but it’s here now. So, when we got to Gatlinburg at around 4 p.m. on Christmas Day, here is what lay in front of me:

Now, I wasn’t sure how to get in it without falling off it so I sure as heck wasn’t letting my family in there!! I was gently encouraged – okay pushed – by my husband into the cabin where I attempted to gather myself together. Thankfully, the inside of the cabin looked just like the pictures, minus the attachment to a cliff on the edge of a mountain that the agent ‘neglected’ to tell me on the phone. I immediately went into full-fledge panic attack. I cried. I begged to go home – quickly realizing that would mean going back down the mountain. I thought about making a life up here, living here forever, as there was surely no way I was going back down!!

Once I had some food and a good night’s sleep I was ready to conquer going down the mountain once a day into town. My kids had a good laugh at my expense, with my 17 year old telling me to quote “Grow a pair.” Ah, sweet teenagers.

 Anyway, here's what Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge, TN and a week in the Smoky Mountains has to offer: 

Wonderworks – This is a really cool place. An upside-down house in downtown Pigeon Forge, TN that appealed to all ages and stages. A scientific, interactive museum-y funhouse filled with bubbles and baubles galore.

Magic Quest – Perhaps you’ve been to the one in the Great Wolf Lodge in the Dells. It’s a really neat, interactive fantasy game that is amazing for tweens and teens. You essentially become a part of the game as you solve riddles and clues on ‘quests.’ One note: this place can scare the you-know-what out of a tot. I suggested Grandpa take a walk with my five-year-old at this point. She was terrified.

Knife Works – Just once, for the heck in you, check out a knife museum/store. This place is terrifying yet, mesmerizing at the same time. Knifes, swords and grenades were in this humongous building dedicated to all things wrong with America. We left the younger ones out for this trip.

Cades Cove – The bonus, amongst many, of having my in-laws present was the need for a hike. Left to our own devices we would likely have skipped out on the nature-y part of the mountains given the terrifying nature of living on a cliff all week. But, it was a necessary evil when my father-in-law insisted we head out to Cade’s Cove in the Smokys. A looooooong drive we were not forewarned about with many a complaint, paid off in a terrifying but windy and slow, and well worth views (if you’ll look out the window). We saw a lot of wildlife, a ton of mountain edge and some really cool old cabins dating back to the 1800’s.

In addition to the daily trips we played a lot of old-school movies and board games. The cooking responsibilities, shared with my mother-in-law, worked out just great. A good time was had by all and most importantly – I conquered my fear (sort of) by opening my eyes down the mountain that very last time. Here’s a video and some sweet singing by my 10-year-old as well as some smart, cunning by my five-year-old for the Ipad. Enjoy!

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