The Vacationing (Part One)

Eric and I went on vacation a couple weeks ago for the first time in years, and we had an absolute blast! I guess the fun was evident in my posts on social media, because a bunch of people asked for details and more pics. So, here you go! We set out for our Smoky Mountains/Nashville trip on a Saturday afternoon, and instead of driving the whole way to Great Smoky Mountain National Park, we decided to stop in Cincinnati and check out the city a bit.

Just your typical view of gorgeous scenery in the Smoky Mountains.

Just your typical view of gorgeous scenery in the Smoky Mountains.

Our first stop was Christian Moerlein Brewing Company where we refueled on beer and Goetta, a regional favorite made of ground sausage combined with oats and spices. Then we explored the shops and bars of the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood for a bit. Believed to be the largest, most-intact urban historic district in the country, OTR has seen a huge gentrification effort in recent years, and reminded me of a larger version of Cleveland's Tremont or Ohio City neighborhoods. After indulging in some Graeter's ice cream (OMG, the key lime pie!), we wandered into an appropriately named bar, The Drinkery, where a surprisingly awesome soul band, Magnolia Sons, was just starting. Unlike in Cleveland, nearly every single bar patron was on their feet dancing. Kudos, Cincy! Clevelanders don't seem to dance much. What's up with that, Cleveland?

Magnolia Sons bringing down the house at The Drinkery.

Magnolia Sons bringing down the house at The Drinkery.

Even their sign was awesome.

Even their sign was awesome.

The next day, we headed to Cincinnati Museum Center, home to three museums and an Omnimax theater. The museum center is a grandiose former train station, and its original 1930s Art Deco architecture and detail has been meticulously maintained and restored. It might look familiar because it was the inspiration for the Hall of Justice from Justice League. My jaw literally dropped when I stepped inside the grand hall. It's that beautiful.

Meanwhile, at the Hall of Justice... Just kidding! That's Cincinnati Museum Center in all its gorgeous Art Deco glory.

Meanwhile, at the Hall of Justice... Just kidding! That's Cincinnati Museum Center in all its gorgeous Art Deco glory.

We explored the Natural History Museum and the Children's Museum, where an exhibit called the "Science of Sports" gave me the opportunity to race a T-Rex! The point was to see how fast you can run in comparison to notably fast animals (another option was a cheetah), but I was mostly interested because you all know how I feel about dinosaursHere's me racing T-Rex with really poor sprinting form. Spoiler alert: It would've eaten me.

Ilona racing a trex

Posted by Eric Faehnrich on Thursday, August 13, 2015
This adorable ice cream shop inside Cincinnati Museum Center still retains its original charm. 

This adorable ice cream shop inside Cincinnati Museum Center still retains its original charm. 

After we had our fill of science and nature, we moved on to, well, nature, and headed to the Smoky Mountains. After passing through the tourist trap that is Gatlinburg (this is your place if you like Ripley's Believe It Or Not museums or airbrushed Confederate flag tees), we camped inside the park at its polar opposite, the peaceful, off-the-beaten-path Cosby Campground (where lots of inappropriate Bill Cosby jokes ensued.)

I really wanted to explore this abandoned amusement park we passed between Cincinnati and Tennessee, but it just wasn't possible. But I did snap this shot of the overgrown, lopsided ferris wheel.

I really wanted to explore this abandoned amusement park we passed between Cincinnati and Tennessee, but it just wasn't possible. But I did snap this shot of the overgrown, lopsided ferris wheel.

It was so nice to just totally disconnect. Quiet, sparsely-populated, no cell service. And, so many stars. You don't realize how much light pollution there is in the city until you look up in the wilderness and the sky is just packed with stars.

Hen Wallow Falls   is located a few miles hike up Gabe's Mountain, near the Cosby Campground area.

Hen Wallow Falls is located a few miles hike up Gabe's Mountain, near the Cosby Campground area.

We spent the next couple days hiking up mountains, horseback riding up mountains (EEEE!!! HORSES!), and generally enjoying the amazing vistas and densely packed, lush forests. In three days, we really only scratched the surface on all the things I would have liked to see and do in the Smokies, so I hope to be able to make it back sometime soon.

I picked up this hairy Mountain Man while hiking to the   Chimney Tops  , the sheer rock face that we climbed to get to the summit of a mountain after hiking two miles uphill. I chickened out and didn't make it all the way to the top though. You know, cause I'd like to not fall off the side of a mountain.

I picked up this hairy Mountain Man while hiking to the Chimney Tops, the sheer rock face that we climbed to get to the summit of a mountain after hiking two miles uphill. I chickened out and didn't make it all the way to the top though. You know, cause I'd like to not fall off the side of a mountain.

An outtake from   Myst  . JK, this is   Clingman's Dome  , an observation tower at the highest point in the Smoky Mountains. So high that it was inside a cloud. As in, we literally drove through a cloud to get to it, hence the eerie, misty pic.

An outtake from Myst. JK, this is Clingman's Dome, an observation tower at the highest point in the Smoky Mountains. So high that it was inside a cloud. As in, we literally drove through a cloud to get to it, hence the eerie, misty pic.

Another view of Clingman's Dome from the ground.

Another view of Clingman's Dome from the ground.

Just your standard gorgeous sunset over the mountains.

Just your standard gorgeous sunset over the mountains.

Building fires, making s'mores, reading in a hammock. This part of our trip rekindled my love of camping and I'm really looking forward to our next camping trip, in early October.

Stay tuned for part two, in which we explore Nashville, bathe in waterfalls and buy dead things!