Mountains & Shine

things to see and do in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville




Today, February 7th, is National #BookDirect Day. What?  Yep, today is a day that vacation rental owners are educating and encouraging vacation travelers about booking direct with owners like us.

Why Book Direct?

There are many benefits to booking direct with the owner when you’re ready to plan your vacation. The first one, is savings!  When you book on large listing/booking sites like HomeAway, Airbnb,, VRBO, TripAdvisor, or local rental management companies, or use travel sites like Expedia, you’ll be paying additional fees just to book through their system. Booking direct will pay for a week a week of groceries, a nice meal out or even an extra night in some cases, with the savings you’ll have. Its the same destination, why pay more? Check out the savings shown below by booking direct with us at each of our cabins:

Fireflies comparison v2Mudpuppies comparison v2

When you book direct with owners you have the opportunity to speak directly, ask questions to be sure the property is a good fit and get great, local recommendations for restaurants, shopping and attractions. Owners who rent direct rather than using rental companies often have nicer, cleaner accommodations since we’re frequently at our properties taking care of things and have personal relationships with our cleaners and maintenance companies.

We are frequent visitors to our cabins and take a lot of pride in offering a beautiful, comfortable and clean place for our guests to vacation.

Is it safe to book direct?

Absolutely!  The listing sites claim they are protecting you with their fees but you are no more protected than if you use a credit card to pay for your vacation. This effort is about you not being taken advantage of and making sure you remain in control of who you book with. We pay the same to process your credit card transaction directly or on any listing site, we use the exact same rental agreement – there is no benefit to either of us for you to book through a listing site.

There are scammers out there, it’s true, but here are some things you should always do to make sure you’re dealing with legitimate owners:

  • Always pay with a credit card. Do not send money through PayPal ‘Friends and Family’. Do not wire money, ever.
  • Ask for a rental agreement
  • Look for the property on different sites. Many owners can book direct, but will also be found on various listing sites as well and you can see their reviews
  • Find websites and Facebook pages. Scammers don’t go through the trouble of making those pages to appear legitimate.
  • Talk to us on the phone if you have questions or are concerned. Many scammers will avoid doing this and try to only use email or Facebook messaging.

How do I book direct?

We love the phrase “Look. Don’t Book” for using the listing sites mentioned above. When you’re ready to find a place to stay for your next vacation, there are many ways to find owners without using the expensive listing sites. Here are more tips for finding owners:

  • Search the listing site and look for the property name. Quite often you’ll find their Facebook page or website with contact information. Don’t be afraid to call-we love to talk to guests!
  • Check with the local Convention & Visitors Bureau or Chamber of Commerce
  • Look for fee free regional sites for the area you’re traveling – for example, in our area, we (along with many others) can be found on Do a google search for the area you’re traveling and enter key words like “by owner” with the city or region. We have a page at our website with several owner websites where you can book direct. Check it out here
  • Search Facebook for regional pages or groups that advertise their rentals

Ready for your Smoky Mountain vacation?

Call us or head to!  We’re ready for you!


Andrew’s Bald: Hidden Gem in a Popular Spot

We love The Smokies…there’s no denying that.  I am always looking for great experiences for our family outside of the usual tourist-y spots.  I really wanted to hike on a recent trip so I consulted one of my favorite hiking books:  Day Hikes of the Smokies.  I decided on Forney Ridge Trail that ends in the breathtaking, Andrew’s Bald.  Round trip the hike is 3.5 miles and ranked as moderate in my book.  One problem: the trail head is located at Clingman’s Dome (you know, that awesome, busy, popular spot that can back up traffic for miles….ugh!).  Well, some days, much to my family’s chagrin, I cannot be stopped!  We filled our water bottles, grabbed some snacks and hit the road.

To get to the Trail Head, you’ll follow NewFound Gap road, then watch for the signs for Clingman’s Dome.  On this day our family (true to form) just couldn’t get up and go early enough to beat the crowds.  We knew we were in for some traffic.  We packed our patient hats (okay, so maybe not really, but it sounds good..and if you get started late like we did, I suggest you remember to pack yours!) and headed on our way.  The beauty along Newfound Gap road should not be taken for granted.  Make the passengers in the car look out the window…SO. MUCH. BEAUTY.  Driver: keep your eyes on the road-twists, turns and tourists.  There are many pull-offs where you can stop and take pictures. Once you see the signs for Clingman’s Dome, follow them until you reach the parking lot. If you’re like us, you’ll circle and wait for someone to leave…seriously…all the spots were full and we had to just keep driving until we stalked someone on the way to their car.   We applied our sunscreen and headed for the line.  The line for the bathroom.  You’ll want to make this stop before you hit the trail…trust me!

Once you’ve taken care of the necessities, head toward the trailhead.  You may miss it if you aren’t looking for it.  Head toward the paved trail  that takes you up to Clingman’s Dome.  Of course, along the way you may want to stop for the obligatory photos with all the pretty scenery, read about all the places you can see on a clear day (if you’re lucky it is a clear day, if it’s not clear, you’re in the mountains so you’re lucky enough!).  Once you’re closer, you’ll see a trail head off to the left before the Clingman’s Dome path…it’s marked if you’re looking.  Most people aren’t and walk right by it.

When you start off, it’s rocky, full of roots and on our visit, HOT! HOT! HOT!  There’s like, NO shade.  Don’t worry…the payoff is tremendous.  But not to worry, there are also areas with stairs made of rock . Once you’re on the trail a bit, you’ll have areas of shade and more dense forest that offer cooler temps.  You’ll want to pay close attention since there are a couple of junctions on this trail.  Follow the signs to Andrew’s Bald.  The trail to the Bald is 1.7 miles.  The final few feet before the bald are dense and green and you’ll notice the open space up ahead.  When I was walking toward the clearing I was dizzy with anticipation.  You could see the sunlight pouring in through the green trees.  I knew the view was gonna be good.   This hike did not disappoint.  The views. The silence (I mean, what could possibly quiet my three kids…apparently great views!). Whoa.

So, we sat and enjoyed snacks, more water and the beauty.  We admired, stood astonished, in awe at this world we’re in and basked in the sunlight   Here’s a shot of me after we made it to theandrews bald blog2 bald that my hubby snapped of me.  Mom wins!

After lots of admiring (and finally a little complaining from the kids), we headed back toward the car a little quieter than before.  No doubt we were all affected by nature that day.  And maybe just a little tired.

Tips for hiking this trail:

-Pack plenty of water (at least a liter per person).

-Take snacks, or better yet pack a lunch and a blanket to enjoy the views while you eat.

-Remember to pack out what you pack in-Leave No Trace.

-Wear sensible shoes (for goodness sake, please no flip-flops, heels or open-toed dress sandals).

-Give yourself at least 3 hours if you have little ones hiking with you.


-Enjoy the scenery.

Hello, Beautiful!


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