Sunday, July 21, 2019

The Great Smoky Mountains Adventure Day 2 -- The View From The Top

[Composed 7/10/2019]

While there are countless attractions vying for your attention on Gatlinburg, TN's main street, we'd done our homework and despite the various pleas of D. and J., we focused on getting to our first adventure of the day: Ober Gatlinburg. This was no minor feat for me, as it required a 2 mile tram ride to the top of the surrounding mountain. While I have a fear of heights, enclosed structures like a tram car usually don't bother me. This one was awfully high up and did enough rocking to give me pause.

Still, before we knew it, we were at Ober Gatlinburg proper and the next stage of our adventure could begin. The kids immediately went on the largest water slide and every other attraction from there.

At the base of the amusement park area is the chairlift that takes visitors up to the top of Mount Harrison and serves as an observation point. The tram description promised it would be the best view of the Smokies without having to hike. My first thought when I saw the impossibly long and steep ascent of the chairs was a hard oh heck no. But as our time at Ober wore on, I started to relax a bit. Everyone on the chairlift was so chill. And if the chairlift hugged the mountain, it really wouldn't be that high off the ground.

So before I had time to change my mind, I found myself standing with J. waiting for a chairlift seat to scoop us up.

The chairlift ride was indeed relaxing. At times the ground dropped away and I had try awfully hard not to think about falling. I won't lie, I spent a good portion of the ride with my eyes closed. But thanks to sunglasses, I don't think J. knew this.

Turns out the Ober Gatlinburg scenic chairlift is the longest of its kind in the US. But we all made it to the top, enjoyed some Bluegrass music and took photos and then made it back down.

Whenever my fear of heights kicks in I try to tease out exactly what bothered me. In this case I decide it's the lack of some sort of safety belt. The clumsy-looking restraining bar feels more like an afterthought decoration than a serious safety measure. Give me a nice 5 point harness, and I'll be far more comfortable cruising up a mountain on a front-porch swing. Of course this is all in my head, Wikipedia promises me that even without the restraining bar the physics of the chairlift will keep me from falling out. Physics-shmisics, you best believe I had a death grip on that chairlift the entire way up and down the mountain.

After a fun time at Ober, we made our way to Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies. I was far more in my element here, as plunging to my death was quite unlikely.

As aquariums go, this one was top notch. We saw amazing fish, got interesting views of sharks, pet horseshoe crabs and generally got to see all the things you'd expect to see at a top tier aquarium. If I had to level one complaint it would be that there wasn't anything particularly unique about this aquarium. We, of course, may just be spoiled. If you've never walked through a tunnel that's under the shark pool, scrambled by tunnel to the center of an fish tank, or seen a giant spider crab doing its thing, then you're in a for a real treat. But if you've been to the Baltimore Aquarium, then you probably won't see anything new here.

Still, the kids had a great time and I enjoyed snapping pics of the sharks and other creatures. And everybody enjoyed the air conditioning.

After a day of playing at very touristy Gatlinburg, we made our way back to our Airbnb and busted out the Legos for some building time. What a fun day!

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