Friday, July 3, 2009

And now for pictures from the mountains

Vacation #2 for the summer was a short camping trip in the mountains for me and the girls with my parents. Two nights in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was just not enough, but it was lots of fun while it lasted.

We got there on Monday and set up camp while the girls played in the creek that ran right next to our site.

We then discovered that the air pump for the mattresses was missing, so we loaded up the van and set out on a tiny winding back road for the nearest Wal-Mart. Silly GPS picks the closest, but not always the smartest, route. Pigeon Forge seems to have grown tremendously since we were there last and it's got some really cool buildings. We stopped at the Moonshine Cafe for dinner and had some awesome food for such a tiny cafe.

When we returned, we discovered that the camp hosts had confiscated our coolers and a couple of bags. Seems they meant you had to have everything put away during the daytime, too, even in a busy campground and even if there's nothing in them that could emit an odor to attract a bear. Thankfully, due to some paperwork snag, the ranger could only issue a warning instead of the $75 fine. Those people are serious!

That evening I picked up a list of activities and some Junior Ranger books for the girls. That was both a mistake and a blessing since there were a ton of really awesome activities available. We mapped out several for early Tuesday and went to bed.

The girls and I were up early, ate breakfast, but ended up leaving far too late for the hayride we wanted to do, so we just did a nearby nature trail so they could work on their junior ranger activities.

We went back and picked up the grandparents for a presentation at a 1-room schoolhouse. It was really neat and I actually understand a little more about some of the things in the Little House books. Like in the third book when Laura and Mary have to buy a slate and slate pencil. I assumed it was chalk, but it was actually a small pointed metal stylus. They would use that to carve their work on the slate (it sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard; can you imagine a whole roomful of that?!?), then at night someone had to rub the marking out with a stone so it could be used again the next day.

We left the schoolhouse, went back and made sandwiches for lunch, then headed over to Cades Cove where both the girls got to work in a blacksmith shop. The traffic over was slow, so we ended up getting into the very last class. Once we knew we were late, we got to take our time and enjoy some of the scenery around the loop.

The balcksmithing was fun. Even lightweight L bent steel and did amazingly well with the hammer. They made a triangle with a striker that was curved so it could hang from the triangle.

We went straight from there into Gatlinburg for some awesome Mexican food and a tiny bit of shopping, then back to camp for a quiet evening of smores. I admired the stars just before I went to bed late only to woken up soon after by lightning and thunder. We all lay awake listening to a rather impressive rainstorm and trying to ignore the fact that our tent leaks. Rather impressively.


In the morning the sun was shining and everything was soaked, so I had to do my second least favorite thing about camping. Packing up a wet campsite. My most least favorite thing about camping is packing up a wet campsite in the rain.

We got everything cleaned and dried as best we could and I just laid down a dry tarp and folded everything into the back of the van. We said a sad goodbye to the grandparents as we drove east and they headed west. We stopped for one last beautiful view of the mountains and then at the visitors' center for the girls to turn in their junior ranger books and get their junior ranger badges.

Yep, another instance of education disguised as fun!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nancy and I visited Cades Cove a few years ago, 2004 I think. We saw a lot of cars with Ohio tags! We love the Smokies.