In 2013, I had my first experience traveling without my family. A friend and I spontaneously decided to take 3 days to just drive through Tennessee and see what we would stumble upon without having any preset plans or research of what we might find.

It was winter, pouring rain, and dark outside, but we figured this was just another part of the unexpected joy. As we were driving, we saw a highway sign that was advertising fireworks, so naturally our childish glee began to emerge and we flew towards the exit. We went in to buy some fireworks to take home with us and as we left, we saw a highway sign that said “Pigeon Forge,” thinking that it had said “Pigeon Force.” Having no idea what that town had to offer, we busted out laughing with obnoxious pigeon jokes, proclaimed ourselves as “The Pigeon Force,” and established a motto of “Pigeon Force Unite,” eventually deciding that this was clearly where we needed to go.

Suddenly there were Christmas lights everywhere and all sorts of massive attractions. We were entirely confused, having expected to find nothing besides maybe a McDonalds, and felt as if we had suddenly stumbled upon the city of El Dorado. Apparently Pigeon Forge was a part of this weird little triad with Sevierville and Gatlinburg, forming tourist attractions for ski resorts and Dollywood, all right next to the Smoky Mountains. We spent probably a good 30 minutes just screaming in our car driving through these towns admiring all of the lights and attractions.

I must remind you that it was still pouring rain outside. We decided this was where we were going to crash for the night and when we arose the next morning, we were going to go hiking on the Smoky Mountains. We woke up the next day and it was still pouring outside. We decided to go on a short hike anyways, despite our lack of ponchos or hiking gear. We were soaked, cold, wet, and possibly the most chipper people on the trail, just thrilled that we had discovered anything at all on this trip.

Our hike came to an abrupt end due to the massive amounts of rain. It seemed that the waterfall we were passing decided to engulf the bridge that we needed to cross to continue the trail. After a few jokes about the most ridiculous polarized luck we had been stumbling into during this trip, we turned back and spent the rest of the weekend dweebing out over the local absurdities. I brought home a slingshot with an alligator on the front as my souvenir and we got dumb matching Pigeon Forge bracelets, scratching the G’s into C’s so we could be “The Pigeon Force.” I don’t know how I didn’t end up with pneumonia after the countless terrible decisions, but #NoRagrets XD hahah