Over spring break we went to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Let me get it out there: this is my new favorite place on the east coast. I love it so much. Maybe I'll become a missionary for them, preaching the word of the Smokies. It was that good. (Deanna and Todd--take note. Move it up on your National Parks list NOW. Or not.) Why? Because there were mountains and streams and green and it was just perfect. For reals.
Before I get into all the details, here are some random shots. The necessary park sign shot.
My boys (like most kids, I imagine) were complete pyros. They wanted to throw everything into the fire. Plates, cups, dinner, each other, whatever. And within reason, we let them.
This is as we were leaving. Isn't it a gorgeous sunrise? So pretty!
Wild turkeys! Most mornings we'd see them by the roadside, but they weren't usually all puffy (like the one on the right). But on our way out, one tom decided he wanted some action. Who could resist such a display?!
Other observations: I hate that the Park Service doesn't take reservations for the campground until May! This was my biggest worry about the whole adventure. Even as we pulled into the campground, the sign said "Campground Full." You know I wanted to cry, right? But we drove in anyway, hoping we'd catch someone leaving...and we did. Ugh. It would have been so much better had we been able to make a reservations.
The trips that I plan are NOT restful. I have something planned for pretty much every waking second (although I don't plan to the second; I'm not that nuts.) I just can't handle my boys running around aimlessly. I'm this way at home too, which made Monday (a day when school was still out) incredibly painful.
Our daily schedule looked like this: morning hike, afternoon activity, dinner/books by campfire. And for the most part, we followed this. We hiked just over 20 miles during the week. Which means my boys hiked over 20 miles. Chuck and I are so, so proud of them for this! And I am especially grateful that they didn't ruin something that I love doing. Hiking power beans may have been a strong influence, but I don't care. They did it.
We ate pretty good. Breakfasts varied (cereal, oatmeal, yogurts, etc.), lunches were always sandwiches we'd pack at the campsite and bring with us, and then dinner by the fire. One night we ate in town, but otherwise, it was camp cooked. Of course the boys didn't care for the one dish I picked out (a delicious pasta), but they ate everything else.
We gave the boys camelbacks to hike with because they're always complaining about how they're thirsty. Ollie usually drank the entire thing by the halfway point, and then peed it all out before we get back to the car. This led to him trying to "break the record" on each hike. I think on our last hike he peed seven times, which was his record.
We had perfect weather! Highs in the low 70s, sun, no rain at all. In the morning the boys wore vests, but that's it. It was incredible.
Being in the south was, um, different. Obviously it's still America, but it had a different feel for sure. When we go back (because we're for sure going back--who wants to come with us?!), we don't feel a need to touch Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge again.
When we do go back in a few years, I think I'd like to try summer (so hello reservations!). We'd stay in the park but maybe try some river rafting. This year we were just too early.
Okay, I think that's it. Starting tomorrow I'll post the details about each day.