Thank You SMOC
I can't think of any better way to start today's post than with a fantastic thank you to Smoky Mountain Outdoor Center of Apple Valley Mountain Village in Townsend, Tennessee for hosting Bruce and me over the weekend. We flew down Friday morning early arriving on the premises a little after noon. Our reception at check-in was beyond our expectations. The friendly smiles and welcomes warmed our tired bodies and energized us for the afternoon prep work we needed to accomplish for the next day's festivities.
The quaint little village comprised of several buildings. After receiving our key from reception, Jenny our amazing host for the weekend, gave us the grand tour of the complex. First stop was The Dancing Bean Coffee House right off reception. It is the only coffee shop with an eco friendly roaster in the area. You could smell the aroma before even entering the building.
Next we strolled across the busy parking lot that was surrounded by three other buildings, the general store, the diner, and the outdoor center. We skipped The General Store for the time being and went right to The Cafe where friendly staff took orders, delivered meals, and customers feasted on country-style home cooking. The Cafe is home to the condiment cow that went viral on TikTok.
Then we entered the Smoky Mountain Outdoor Center. While The General Store has your normal fan-fare of touristy souvenirs, various delectable treats including homemade ice cream and fudge, and other unique home and gift ideas, SMOC is your go-to place for outdoor adventure needs from clothing, gear, maps, and the reason we were there, books about outdoor adventures.
Jenny did the introductions with the staff at SMOC, including Tim, who I originally met last fall via email. Tim, the purchasing power, is the reason we were there. He heard about my books from a mutual friend, Nancy. And the rest is, as they say, history.
Nancy and I met at trail days last year. She holds the FKT record for all the trails in the Smokys - about 900 miles.
After welcomes and perusing the store, Jenny continued our tour up to the cabin area and event center. We took a detour from the pavement and meandered through the complexe's mini-trail system. It's always nice to venture off the beaten path no matter how short.
The Dancing Bear Lodge & Appalachian Trail Bistro were stunning, quaint, rustic, and cozy. The fresh spring grass was already lush and ready for guests to lounge on while listening to future bands of summer.
The tour finished with identifying our little duplex cabin, one of thirty on the grounds, that would be home for two nights.
Back down the hill we went to SMOC - fun and games were over for the time being. We needed to stuff swag-bags, get things organized, and review the agenda for the next day.
The afternoon flew by as we did our chores. The prize for a job well done was a shower and a trip to another establishment owned by the company - Peaceful Side Social + Craft Kitchen - a brewery and eatery just a short distance up the road. It was the perfect way to end our long day of travel and busy afternoon prepping for our author event.
Bruce and I went to bed completely overwhelmed at the incredible hospitality of everyone we met. The sincerity of each person gushed from all of them. It was obvious the owners of the establishment foster an enjoyable work place where the employees are more than just bodies filling a position but rather are more like family and they make guests feel just as important. We may have been miles from home but we felt that we were among family.
I was up early, no surprise there. I quietly did my things as Bruce captured a little more shut-eye. Once we both awake and ready, we headed to the cafe so we could place our order for a home-style breakfast. Tina and Donna tended our needs as well as the amazing cooks whose names I did not get.
With our tummies full it was time to head over to SMOC to begin our day of sharing.
First up was the morning devotional. The plan was to meet and greet guests at SMOC then walk up to the event center stopping along the way to read devotions from As Fresh As Daisies. Once there, Jenny would have a fire going, beverages, and danishes. We would continue having devotion time for awhile. But, the Smoky Mountains are a temperate rain forest and true to their nature, stormed on us the previous night soaking everything, so we altered the plans and just stayed at SMOC. I shared the history of how As Fresh As Daisies came to be with a wonderful handful of faithful guests. It is always an honor to share the love God has for us with others.
Just like a well rehearsed stage crew on a movie set, Jenny and the gang swapped out the area making it ready for the next event, my sharing of Happy Hiking. While they did their thing, I caught my breathe and was ready for take-two of the days activities. While there were more empty seats then filled, that didn't stop us from having a great time. One mentor of mine said to me once, you can't worry about those who don't show, it wasn't for them. Just focus on those that do come. They are the ones who it is for." And that's what we did.
Since the presentation area was a reading nook inside the outdoor center's store, there was a constant flow of customers who would stop to listen to me or peak at the slide show playing. But for those who were there sitting with eyes and ears glued on me and what I had to share was amazing. Their interest and sincerity fired me up as I read excerpts from my book, answered questions, and gave snippets of take-aways. It was over way too fast.
Next on the agenda was book signing, out to the covered porch we went as I greeted customers who roamed from and to the diner, general store, and SMOC. I loved signing, handing out the swag bags filled with lollipops, book marks, a prayer rock and thank you note. This time allowed Bruce to fetch us lunch from the cafe. The food was so good there. It was your normal lunch counter choices, but I think it had to be the love that made it so yummy.
We ended the afternoon with the children. We gathered back in the reading nook. This time I sat on the floor surrounded by energetic tykes who were already familiar with Black Bear's Adventure. Not sure how that would go since they had already heard the book several times. To my surprise, they still loved it. The preschoolers fluttered back and forth from me to their parents, always coming back to point to a white blaze on the illustrations in the book as I read. What was ego-rubbing for me was the fact that an awesome lady #SmokyMountainsHiker and her daughter sat on the floor with us, were just as enthused about the children's book as the youngsters. They blew me away with their focus. Afterwards, I was thrilled when she introduced herself and informed me we are Instagram followers of each others. It's always a fun to meet someone in person you only know via social media. I can see this friendship going places, hopefully together somewhere on a hike. Be sure to follow her on Instagram, she has awesome posts and is offering a giveaway this week of Black Bear's Adventure.
What children's program would be complete without a craft activity. After all the white blazes were pointed out and remembered lines from BBA were recited, back out to the porch we went. This time for arts and crafts. First up was finger print art then we all made a beaded necklace noting our trail names. I ended wanting more and I think so did everyone else.
After all was done, Bruce and I did get more. We were given a gift card to eat at the Appalachian Bistro. A fine dining experience. Wow! I have never tasted food so good and Michelle, our server was just as amazing.
I could add more. But that wise mentor I mentioned earlier also said to always end a talk with your guests wanting more, not with them wondering when you are going to quit.
And that's what I will do now. While I could go on and on about how wonderful everything and everyone was at Apple Valley Village, I will end here thanking Tim, Jenny, Joe, Ryan, Tina, Donna, Michelle, and all the others who treated Bruce and I like royalty. You guys went up and beyond our wildest expectations. And a special thank you to all the guests who stopped by to listen, especially all the little ones and parents, Oakley, Brandi, Smoky Mountain Hiker and her daughter.