Pigeon Forge, TN Trip

Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5

Day 1

Good Evening Camp Courageous,

The travel group is on it’s last weeklong of the year and it’s going to be a great trip! We are heading to Pigeon Forge, TN, a hidden gem in the Great Smokey Mountains. We have a lot of fun in store for us. I have a ton of fun people I am hanging out with this week. From veterans to some that are traveling for the first time. It’s going to be great! We also have some dynamite volunteers Penny Heisz and Betsy Rohovit hanging out with our group.IMG_8939

The travelers are Sara Bullhorn from Manchester, Kathy Crowley, Aileen Walker, and William Smyser from HDC Davenport, Staci Howell and Lorie Schmitz from Discovery Living in Cedar Rapids, Katie Stephan from Dubuque, Christopher Weir from Grinnell, Tyler Peterson from Reach for your Potential, and Susie Schneider from Monticello.

We started off our journey at camp, with three traveler check-in. Thank you to Amanda for coming in early to check-in one of the travelers meds. We made our way to Marion to check-in two more travelers, Coralville for 3 travelers, and finally Walcott, IA for the last 3 of the travelers. Once we were loaded we began our drive to Lexington, KY where we are staying the night. It was a nice Sunday drive, with great music to listen to and a movie to keep our minds engaged.

We arrive at the Holiday Inn Express in Lexington around 8:30pm EST and are now settled in our rooms. Tomorrow we finish up our drive to Pigeon Forge and begin our adventure of the Great Smokey Mountains.

Have a great night!


Day 2

Good Evening Camp Courageous,

The travelers of Camp Courageous made it to Pigeon Forge, TN! IMG_8947It was a little smokey of a drive and not because of the regular fog the smokey mountains already have. There have been some brush fires in the area of TN and KY, so there was a lot of smoke through the mountains and coming into Pigeon Forge.IMG_8959 It wasn’t too bad that would prevent us from driving into Pigeon Forge, but we could smell the smoke and see the smoke. Hopefully it clears up before our visit to the Great Smokey Mountains National Park.IMG_8953

This smoke didn’t slow our group down, we moved through the mountains like we were on a mission to explore Pigeon Forge. We arrived around 1:30pm, ready to explore “The Island.” IMG_8956The Island is a shopping center that has an outdoor mini theme-park. We didn’t get to do any of the rides, but we did do some shopping. When we arrived into Pigeon Forge, we already noticed that this amazing city is already in the Christmas mood. IMG_8957The cool thing about The Island was their musical fountain. Different Christmas songs were playing and the water was spitting in the area and moving along with the music. It was pretty cool.IMG_8989

After we did our shopping, we made our way to our Hotel, the Holiday Inn Express. It is a very nice hotel with a beautiful view of the mountains. IMG_8965We checked in, dropped off our luggage and made our way to our dinner and show “The Hatfield’s & McCoy’s.” It is a must see show, when coming to the smokies. IMG_8968If you are on Facebook, check out the Camp Courageous page of the two videos I posted of our fun show experience.IMG_8969 The travelers loved the food, danced and sang along with the music, and cheered really hard for the performers.IMG_8977 The theater was split into the two families, one side was the Hatfield’s and we were the McCoy’s.IMG_8978 When I looked around the room, I saw travelers Kathy Crowley & Aileen Walker dancing away to all the songs.IMG_8980 They had such a great time. It was a fun experience.IMG_8981

The travelers really had a fun time on our first night in TN.IMG_8982 After the show we headed back to the hotel and now getting some rest for tomorrow’s fun!IMG_8984

Have a great Tuesday everyone!


Day 3

Good Evening Camp Courageous,

IMG_9016The travel group had such a BUSY day in Pigeon Forge. It was so memorable and fun, it is hard for the travelers to pick what their favorite part of the day was. IMG_9014We had a lot of surprises in store for all the travelers, and they weren’t disappointed.

We started off our day at 9am, a little earlier than planned, but no one was complaining.IMG_9050 I threw in an extra activity, since we didn’t do a certain activity on Monday and it was well worth it. The first place we visited was the new Rainforest Zoo. IMG_9048It is a indoor zoo, where we saw monkeys, lizards, snakes, Lamas, pigs, goats, and many other fun animals. One of the highlights of this visit, was petting a Hedgehog and looking at a Tarantula. Traveler Lori Schmitz really loved seeing all the animals and having a chance to pet the hedgehog.

After our fun adventure through the zoo, we did some shopping and made our way to our next stop.IMG_1876

The Smith Morning Variety Show, was our next stop and it was such a great show. The travelers sang along to many classic hits, from christmas songs, to elvis, and many more.IMG_1871 It was a very good two hour performance and the musicians were awesome. The main singer was very talented, he imitated a bunch of well know artists and he loved telling jokes. IMG_1872Which were actually pretty funny. Traveler Aileen Walker and Sara Billhorn were signing away to all the songs. As soon as Sara saw Elvis, she turned to Melissa and said, “I love Elvis!” It was great to see them so happy.

IMG_9053Once the show was over and the travelers had their time to shop, we made our way to WonderWorks (a indoor, hands on amusement park). IMG_1877Before we could go in to have some fun, WonderWorks had a pizza lunch for us waiting in their back theater. IMG_1880The travelers ate that up and then we made our way to the amusement park to have some fun!!IMG_1878 We had so much to do, that we could have spent the rest of the day here. IMG_1879The travelers had fun with many of the activities.



From a earthquake cafe to a Hurricane zone, from a bike that turns us upside down, to a rock wall and an adventure high ropes course (where a harness was required).



IMG_1915It was so much fun! Travelers Kendra LaValley and Christopher Weir took advantage of the high ropes course and said they both had a blast at WonderWorks.IMG_1908IMG_1887 I knew WonderWorks would be a hit with the travelers, there is something to do for everyone! It was a great afternoon activity.IMG_1893





Before we knew it, it was time for our evening show finale.


IMG_1927The one and only Dixie Stampede. We were greeted with open arms and we even had a red carpet laid out for us as we arrived to Dixie Stampede. IMG_1935They sure know how to great their guests. IMG_1917We took group pictures, listened to a live band, which was playing some awesome music, and then made it into the show. IMG_1941We had a delicious meal, soup, cornish hen, corn, slice of pork, potato, biscuit, and for dessert a crisp apple pie. IMG_1939The show was fantastic, we saw many performer horses, pigs running races, people chasing chickens, mini horses raising, and many more fun things to watch. The show was split into two sections, the North Pole and the South Pole.IMG_1940 We were on the North side and we won this friendly competition. The city of Pigeon Forge is already for Christmas, which is the reason why you see so many pictures with Christmas decorations.IMG_1952 Traveler Staci Howell, has never been to a show like this and she loved every minute of it.

After the show, we made our way back to the hotel to get some rest. IMG_9082Tomorrow is our last day in Pigeon Forge and instead of making up the Great Smokey Mountains like we planned (due to the smoke), we are going to start the morning off with shopping and finish up the day at Dollywood.IMG_1953

Have a great night everyone!


Day 4

Good Evening Camp Courageous,

Well, today went a little different than what we expected.IMG_2006 It was such a beautiful day out, that we really wanted to check out the The Great Smoky Mountain National Park.IMG_9092 So I checked the National Parks website and the only warning was about no fires should be started (cookout or campfire), no other warnings. So we decided to fit this visit in our schedule.

IMG_1962We started off our day, heading to a pretty cool gift shop. It’s not just your ordinary gift shop. Yes, it had a ton of souvenirs of Pigeon Forge, but what it also had was some black bears.IMG_1959 That’s right! At the back of the store was an outside area that the store kept 4 black bears. So for a little amount of money and a big discount for our group we got to see and feed the bears. It was a pretty cool experience.IMG_1974

After our bear adventure, we started our drive to The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I can’t even express how wonderful and beautiful the day was for this.IMG_1971 The past couple of days were very smokey, but today it was so clear that we could see all the beautiful colors of the trees on the mountains.IMG_1968 We drove for about 20 minutes through the park, driving through a by-pass, passed the visitor center, and then to our picnic spot.IMG_1967 Yes, we also had a opportunity to have a picnic in the park. The picnic tables were close to this beautiful stream and it was a good change of pace from the fast food experience.IMG_1970 We weren’t the only ones that thought this was a good idea. Other families were out at this same picnic area, it was a good thing we showed up at the time we did! IMG_1969After lunch, we didn’t have much time, until we had to head to Dollywood, so we drove back through the park and enjoyed the beautiful scenery.IMG_1976

What a great visit, the travelers really enjoyed seeing all the beautiful colors and having the experience of having a picnic in the park. Before we knew it, we were at Dollywood. IMG_1982We could spend the entire day at Dollywood, but today, they opened from 2pm-9pm. We arrived at the theme-park and made our way to our first show. IMG_1991A lot of these shows run from 30 minutes to and hour. But they are pretty good. The show we saw was a story about Dolly Parton’s family and growing up. Her brother, along with her cousins and nieces, put on this show and gave us this rich history.IMG_1990 It was a great show and the travelers were singing and clapping along to songs we had never heard before and some we did.

After the show, one of Dolly’s nieces Jada Parton, sought our group out and gave each one of our travelers a hug for just coming out and seeing the show. She was so sincere about it. IMG_1994After the show, we did some shopping and then it was time for dinner. We ate that this very yummy buffet restaurant called Aunt Granny’s.
It had some good southern food, I highly recommend it!IMG_1996 Once we were done eating, we shopped some more, explored the park and saw all the beautiful christmas lights and then saw our last show, which was about Jesus birth.IMG_2005 Camper Kathy Crowley said that was her favorite show of the day.

Before we knew it, it was time to head back to the Hotel, so we stopped at one more gift shop before leaving the park and then made our way back to the hotel.IMG_9105

Tomorrow we start our journey back to camp. First stopping for the night in Peoria, IL. Have a great night everyone!


Day 5

Good Evening Camp Courageous!

We had a wonderful week in Pigeon Forge! The travelers all wished we could stay longer! We started off our day bright and early! After breakfast at the hotel we hit the road and began making our way to Illinois. It was another beautiful day and our drive to our hotel in Peoria, IL went well. We stopped for dinner close to our hotel and enjoyed a delicious meal at Cracker Barrel. After dinner we made our way to the hotel to get some rest. Tomorrow we finish our drive back to Iowa, making stops in Walcott, Coralville, Marion and Camp to drop off the travelers.