Friday, April 22, 2011

Exploring Gatlinburg, TN

It was dark again this morning, but we woke up anyway. It was a play day and we wanted to see a little of Gatlinburg using our Perks from Dollywood. Gary wanted to see Ripley’s Aquarium, so we started there. This is a picture of the piranha that swims in schools but holds perfectly still to have his picture taken. He has scales that look like a coat of armor. Then there was this lizard just hanging around. This school of fish were swimming towards me, but my favorite little sea creatures are the seahorses. They were all crowded together on this artificial coral. The aquarium was crowded, but not jam packed, so it was a pleasure taking our time. People rode on a moving floor through the shark tunnel, while the saw-toothed sharks relaxed on the top. I love the jelly fish and the nautilus, too. The colors may seem a little off on the nautilus because of my camera setting and the tank lighting. Our favorite section of the aquarium was the Penguin Playhouse. African Blackfooted penguins cavort in a 40,000 indoor-outdoor tank with little name tags on their wings. This is Eddie, kindly posing for the camera. Kids (and adults if they can) crawl through underwater acrylic tubes and pop up in the middle of their habitat for a nose-to-beak encounter.

We must have spent a couple hours there and it was time for lunch. Chinese fit the bill and we savored some chicken with cashews, wild rice and eggroll. Yum.

The Earthquake ride was one of the funniest rides I have ever been on. You belt yourself into a seat with 6 others in the dark. Some guy narrates: “Ugh, oh, it looks like a train is coming right at us! It’s not moving!” You see a light shining at you about three yards away. There is a sound of a train whistle. Your seat tilts to the left. Then you start moving forward. You tilt and the voice says, “Oh, no, we’re experiencing a minor tremor!”. The pegboard with tools and a rat hanging by its tail begins to shake. The platform moves backward. Water gushes out of a wall. Lights go on and off. I’m laughing hysterically. A section of ceiling ‘falls’ with a million rats all over it squeeking (but not moving). The platform moves back one more time and the lights come on. Ride over. No kidding. I can’t believe it’s still in business. Perhaps that’s the draw?

We wandered down the street in and out of shops and shared a little Jamoca Almond Fudge ice cream from Baskin Robbins. Our last stop was the Ober Gatlinburg Tram. Until 1972, skiers wound their way by car slowly and precariously up and down snow-covered Mt. Harrison en route to Gatlinburg's ski resort, which opened in 1962. That winter, the idea to provide a safer, more comfortable means to reach the ski area was explored, and Gatlinburg's Aerial Tramway was born. Departing regularly from downtown Gatlinburg, this cable car will take you on a 2.1-mile ride up to the Resort. The resort consists of a skating rink, shops and restaurants, a pool, maze, carousel, mini-golf and much more, but our favorite was the Wildlife Encounter. Six of Tennessee’s black bears reside here, and some cute otters, a golden eagle and peregrine falcon (enjoying his lunch of mouse). Snakes, skunks, screech and barred owls also live here, and we hung out talking to the keeper about the bears.

Unfortunately, VERY unfortunately, all my pictures were lost – my mistake. Bummer. Fortunately, Gary took some pictures with his little camera and these are the only good ones we have: a couple of bears,
bear poop (taken to recognize on a hike, just in case – yep, really)

our tram ride to the top of the mountain
and back down, and the ice rink.

I had photos of all these things. Sorry. Or maybe you're saying "yay"?

It really was a great day. We wonder how on earth we will be standing for 8 hours tomorrow after walking miles and miles today…

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