Tuesday, July 9, 2013

We Took To The Woods

The kids did not approve of my hike choice--I don't get it

Today you get to hear about the nature-ish side of our vacation to the Smokey Mountains.  I may have been a little too over-excited about preparing for hiking in the mountains.  Mainly in buying too much.  But better to have more than you need than to discover you're missing something vital.

Sunday morning we loaded up our fanny packs with lots of treats--sandwiches in flat wraps, jerky, nuts, granola bars, cheese sticks, crackers and water bottles.  We slathered ourselves in sunscreen and bug spray.  We adjusted our walking sticks to comfortable positions, laced up our hiking shoes, and went for a hike in the woods.

All decked out and ready for a hike

I chose the first hike--to Grotto Falls.  It's a nice uphill hike to a waterfall that you can walk behind.  I thought it was my waterfall, but I was wrong.  After much discussion with my parents, we think the infamous waterfall incident happened in another part of the Appalachian Mountains.  Oh well.  One day we'll make it to the right waterfall.

Lunch at Grotto Falls

About five minutes into the hike, the whining started.  "Are we there yet?"  "I'm tired."  "I need to sit down for a minute."  I told Joy to suck it up and keep walking.  All I can say is that I'm glad it was uphill on the way there, because I probably would have been carrying Joy home otherwise.  But we all made it to the waterfall where we enjoyed a hard earned lunch.

The kids loved the waterfall.  That they got to walk behind it.  Put their hands in it.  Get cooled off by the spray.  And it was beautiful.  Definitely worth the three mile hike.

View from behind the falls

Tuesday we went for hike #2.  This time we chose a more unnatural hike up a concrete sidewalk to Clingman's Dome, a tower at the very top of the highest peak in the park.  I'm sure the view would have been beautiful from up there, but we couldn't see a thing due to the fog.  And it was cold.  Did I mention that it was cold?  Because it was.  And we were not prepared for the 58 degree weather--we were all dressed in shorts and tank tops with no jackets.  Lizzy and I wrapped up in my mom's beach towels, Joy wore my mom's spare jacket, and the guys just walked faster.  We were definitely stylin'.

Baby, it's cold outside

Mom and Dad

Wednesday we went on a bear hunt through Cade's Cove.  We saw...nothing.  No bears.  Just a few deer and wild turkeys.  So we tried again Thursday.  After a half hour of driving the loop, we came upon a traffic jam--which means a bear sighting.  We pulled over and got out to get a closer look at our first, and only, bear sighting of the trip.  Sure enough, it was a bear.  We took pictures and then got hustled back into our car by an over-excited park ranger.  Mom says the best bear sightings are when they get there before the park ranger--translation--they can get closer to the bear because there's no one around to tell them they're being stupid to get so close.  I decided to never let my kids go to the mountains alone with my mom.  They might get eaten by a bear.

Our first bear sighting!

Our real bear sighting--do you see that speck of black in the middle?
Ya, that's the bear.

We were unfortunate to be at the mountains during a big storm front that dumped rain on the mountains for basically three days straight.  Which meant we had to amend our plans a bit.  So Thursday we went to see the mountains from a different angle--from underneath.  We went to Tuckaleechee Cave.  One thing you need to know is that when vacationing with my parents, you will see everything from all angles--when we went to Niagra Falls, we saw it from the top, from the bottom, from a boat at the bottom, from behind, in the day time, at night, and with fireworks shooting off.  One view is never satisfactory.

Hanging out in the cave

So the cave.  My kids loved the cave.  It is a wet cave with a river running through it and a 200 foot underground waterfall.  It is a privately owned cave, meaning the long list of rules I remembered from my visit to Mammoth Cave years ago did not apply to this cave.  We took lots of pictures, touched a stalagmite, drank water from the underground river, and put our hands into the waterfall spray.  And the guide was fabulous with my kids--they asked him questions the entire time and he answered all of them.  The cave was probably the highlight of our trip.

View of the mountains from Cade's Cove

As we were driving home, the kids asked me if I wanted to move to the mountains.  I love mountains.  There's something so beautiful about them that calls to me.  But after thinking on it a while, I decided I'd rather give up the mountains than my trips to Lake Michigan.  I wish I could move a few of the mountain peaks to northern Michigan right by the beach and then I would be in paradise.  (Minus the poisonous snakes of course--those can stay down south)

P.S.--For those of you who read my blog yesterday about the start of our big road trip, you will be happy to know that my van is now all fixed up with no Check Engine Light on.  $400 later, we have a new oxygen sensor and a new serpentine belt.  Always a joy to get that call from the mechanic letting you know the damage to your wallet.

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