My Old Man | Chapel Hill Photographer / by Annemie Tonken

A week ago, my sweet husband crossed into his fifth decade. I remember when I met him he was 30, and at the time, that seemed SO old, so mature, so worldly to my then-22 year-old self. It's hard to believe that was nearly 10 years ago, but time marches on (rather quickly these days), does it not? I took Matt on a surprise trip for his birthday - he knew we were going out of town, but didn't know much else. We didn't have a lot of time, but I wanted to do something out of our usual routine, so we headed to the mountains. Our first stop was at a small hotel/resort outside of Bryson City, NC called Lakeview at Fontana. The people who worked there were incredibly friendly, and I absolutely loved how they had converted this old, 50's-era resort (then called - of all things - Vacationland!) into a beautiful mountain spa getaway. Check out their website for more pictures... I was so busy looking at the view it seems I forgot to take any pictures of the resort itself!

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There's so much to do around that area! On Thursday, we went into Cherokee, visited the Smokies Welcome center, and had a lovely meal at the Cork & Bean in Bryson City. On Wednesday - Matt's actual birthday, we had spa loveliness in the morning, then rented a two-person inflatable kayak and did some rafting down the Nantahala River. The weather couldn't have been more spectacular, and the water was rough enough to be fun without causing any mishaps (I really wasn't psyched about falling into 52-degree water!). That night we went into Sylva, NC and had dinner at Lulu's on Main courtesy of Matt's mom, then, upon my instruction, called it a night. We had a big day ahead!

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The whole idea for this trip was planned around the fact that Matt's birthday is in August, and I knew we'd be itching to get somewhere cool. For years I've told him about a trip to Mt. LeConte in Tennessee that my family took when I was 12 - the mountain is the 3rd highest peak in the Smokies, and has no road access at all. It also offers the highest lodging for visitors in the Eastern US, and has never had a recorded temperature above 80 degrees at the peak... perfect!  Their central lodge and a series of small cabins can accommodate no more than 50 hikers a night, all of whom must have reservations well in advance, but the planning is totally worth it. After a gorgeous hike, you're met with coffee, wine, dinner, and some of the most fantastic views anywhere. We watched both the sunset Thursday and the sunrise Friday, then after breakfast at the lodge, made our way back down. Here's the series from the hike and our stay:

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So that was it, more or less... I guess more, huh? Sorry if I bored everyone with a million pictures of the sunset... it just was really that gorgeous :D

Happy birthday, love... I hope your next forty years are even better than the first!

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xox,

annemie