When I was thinking earlier in the year about places we could visit by car, the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area in Tennessee was towards the top of the list. Visiting Dollywood for Christmas was one of our “want to do trips,” and we had no other plans for the end of the year.
For our first Airbnb cabin trip of the year, to Georgia, we stayed with another couple. During the stay, the four of us started to throw around the idea of renting another cabin later in the year. We decided to look at the possibility of renting one in Pigeon Forge. It didn’t take long after getting home for us to start researching options.
We quickly learned that there are many cabins for rent in the area. We had some requirements that narrowed the choices. The main ones were about living arrangements. The cabin needed to have two bedrooms and two bathrooms. We also want to feel like we’re in the woods, so we excluded any cabins with pictures that showed a cabin across the street or a community with cookie-cutter cabins. We were renting a cabin so that we could be away from others if we desired.
We also looked for a cabin that was doing “enhanced cleanings” between guests. When we booked, this was optional for hosts, but since then Airbnb has made this practice mandatory for all rentals.
We finally decided on a place that met all of our needs. The hosts did warn that the cabin was located on a mountain road which, at times, required driving up a steep incline. The road is paved and well maintained but occasionally steep. They suggested that this cabin might not be the best choice if that’s a problem for you.
Both we and our friends have cars that can handle hills (heck, we did OK on the gravel road to the cabin in Georgia) and decided that we’d be fine with the drive.
This the part of the story where Morgan Freeman would say, “But he didn’t realize how steep an incline can get and that it also included curves.” Bonus points if you read that in your head in Morgan Freeman’s voice. (Note from Sharon: guilty as charged – I got bonus points!)
Getting to the cabin
The hosts provided great directions to the cabin, with well-defined landmarks (if you’re familiar with the area, our cabin was located on the Pigeon Forge side of the road that connects the city with Gatlinburg and the National Park). The road started fine, with plenty of turns but only some minor hills. It wasn’t until we turned onto the road for the cabin community where things got interesting. The inclines became steeper and the turns tighter as we traveled up the mountain. Then, as we were finishing a hairpin curve, it was right in front of us. The steepest road I’d ever driven on.
With a car full of supplies, I started to accelerate my car up the mountain. With it making noises I’m not accustomed to, we climbed and climbed and climbed. Then, as we approached the top, I began to notice I couldn’t see what was on the other side. Instinctively, I tried sitting up in my car and peering over the edge. Nope. Fortunately, as we crested the ridge, the road leveled out and our cabin was right around the corner. Here’s our driveway, which was located off a less steep section of the road.
We arrived at the cabin first and called our friends. We wanted to tell them we’d arrived and would start with our own cleaning of the surface touch points. But we also wanted to give them a fair warning about the roads they were about to travel on.
They arrived about 30 minutes later. After saying our hellos, I asked how their drive was getting to Tennessee from their home in Georgia. Our friend, who has no problems with saying he has some good ol’ southern in him, replied that the drive was fine until they hit “Mt. Summab1tch.” We then got to relive the story of the stream of cussing that occurred on the drive, culminating at the arrival at the section of road that we would dread for the next 4 days. It was a great story! 😉
Our cabin is called “The Hunny Pot.” We succeeded in finding a cabin that’s not next to neighbors. In fact, our deck looked out over the mountainside and we were staring at the treetops.
There were some chairs outside and a hot tub (a nice plus and another reason this cabin was at the top of the list.)
On a side note, before we arrived the hosts contacted us and said that if we could arrive as close to check in time as possible, they’d have time to set up the Christmas decorations. That’s a no-brainer. Of course, we want a decorated cabin a few weeks before Christmas!
They were finishing up as we arrived, so we actually got to meet the owner, which is a rarity when dealing with Airbnb. She was nice and apologized for all of the leaves on the deck because of the recent windstorms. She offered to come back the next day and sweep them up if we wanted. We declined because it was getting cold and we wouldn’t be sitting outside much during this trip.
As we entered the cabin, it did not disappoint. The pictures online were accurate and it was even homier with the decorations. The main living area featured a TV with a DVD and cable and a gas fireplace. There was also a dining area with seating for six people.
The kitchen was a bit smaller than our last cabin but has enough space to prepare meals. It did lack counter space if you needed to do any significant meal prep (Note from Sharon: I made a breakfast casserole for us one morning and used the kitchen table for a lot of my prep work).
Just off the kitchen was the master suite.
It’s basic and didn’t include a TV (of course, you’re just steps from the living room, which did have a television). Connected to this was the main bathroom with an entrance from the hallway, so you don’t need to walk through the bedroom to use the bathroom. There was also a whirlpool tub and a shower stall in the master bathroom (not pictured).
Also included on the main floor was a stacked washer/dryer. We didn’t need to do laundry while we were there, but it was helpful to dry our bathing suits after using the hot tub.
The rest of the cabin was located in the loft. That’s where Sharon and I stayed.
There was a large bed, at least a queen size. There were also several drawers for storage. The loft had its own TV.
The part of the loft that was the most fun was the game room. It had a foozball table and a tabletop arcade system with about 50 different classic arcade titles. All of the greats were there, like Donkey Kong, Ms. Pac Man, Galaga, Frogger (Note from Sharon: my favorite!) and many lesser know games such as Burger Time, Dig Dug, Mr. Do and my favorite, Time Pilot. Teenage Joe would have spent all weekend here, playing video games.
The second-floor bathroom had a standard setup with enough room for only one person at a time to get ready. There was a tub/shower located on the right, just behind the wall (not pictured.)
The loft was surrounded by windows that had good curtains to keep out the light. However, there was nothing that kept the morning sunlight from shining on you when these huge windows were just across the cabin. If you’re sleeping up here and light-sensitive, make sure to bring a good sleep mask.
And about that mountain road.
It turns out that after you’ve driven up to the cabin a few times, that road wasn’t as bad as it looked. I even became comfortable making the drive at night, which was necessary because it got dark around 5 PM. I can only imagine the people who drive the propane trucks up the mountain to refill all of the tanks.
Renting a cabin wasn’t something we’d even considered until part of the way through 2020. Until then, we were also set against using Airbnb for rentals. If we’re honest, we still like staying in hotels more. However, we’ve discovered what we find different about these Airbnb rentals from the ones we avoided before. There was no appeal to rent out a house or apartment, which is a place where someone lives. Cabins, on the other hand, are often used as vacation getaways. Staying in one feels “like you’re on vacation.”
Cabins also have their place when wanting to share a place to stay and split costs between two (or more) parties. Obviously, you wouldn’t want to have a family reunion right now, but I could see a larger get-together happening when things get back to normal. Our four-night stay cost us $807 after all of the fees. Divided by two, that’s $400 per couple. The cabin was a better deal than any hotel we could have found for $100 a night.
Besides adding a stay in a cabin to the list of possibilities in the future, we’re also open to explore the other Airbnb options. You’re not going to find a cabin at the beach, but we might be willing to look at a beachside vacation home or even a lakeside retreat when we’re traveling up north. I’ll take anything positive I can find from the pandemic, even one as little as that.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary