A cabin in the Smokies

A cabin on Mount Le Conte, Tennessee. 

A cabin on Mount Le Conte, Tennessee. 

My 2003 Ford Explorer is that one person everyone knows: happy on the outside, but miserable inside. And for good reasons, too. Three out of four windows don't work and some asthmatic entity under the hood operates the air conditioning. It sounds powerful when it’s on full blast, but don’t let that roaring fan fool you. It doesn’t cool shit when temperatures surpass 85 degrees. 

So I told my friends, Andres and Candra, we’re definitely driving it to the cabin we rented near the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. “Are you sure?” Candra said. “'Cause I don’t want it to break down again or anything.”  She was referring to the fact that it broke down twice in little over a month. First the alternator, then the car started smoking.

I pulled over to catch the sunset from the gap in the tree line on Mount Le Conte in Tennessee. 

I pulled over to catch the sunset from the gap in the tree line on Mount Le Conte in Tennessee. 

But we made it to the Smokies. We didn’t need a helicopter to airlift us out of the mountains. The biggest issue we faced was the lack of music. We resorted to rationing CDs from our angsty past.

Veins of the Trillium Gap Trail in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. 

Veins of the Trillium Gap Trail in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. 

When we arrived at the cabin, my friend Andres attempted to fire up the grill but the ignitor switch came off in his hand as he was turning the thing. Hot dogs in a frying pan are unconventional but delicious!

A thrilled Andres cooks hot dogs and toasts buns.

A thrilled Andres cooks hot dogs and toasts buns.

I tried to shoot a few long exposures of our vacation spot around 1 a.m., but the lights from the other cabins cast some ugly shadows that are visible in most photographs. If it weren’t for the light pollution (and the clouds didn't help either), it would be a great spot to photograph the night sky.

1 a.m. outside the cabin in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. 

1 a.m. outside the cabin in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. 

Pigeon Forge is a strange place that has a fascination with go-karts. I must have driven past a dozen tracks to the cabin. But the most surreal attraction I visited is Parrot Mountain. It’s exactly what it sounds like. A mountain with parrots. 

Parrot Mountain and Gardens in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

Parrot Mountain and Gardens in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

Most of the birds aren’t bound by cages. They stand on their posts and bombard people with ca caws, though they might say hello. Some of the other birds fly around, albeit underneath a net, while visitors walk below them. “Don’t look up with your mouth open,” Andres said. No shit.

Parrot Mountain and Gardens in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

Parrot Mountain and Gardens in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.