Mission Accomplished

Truly it may be said that the outside of a mountain is good for the inside of a man.  ~George Wherry, Alpine Notes and the Climbing Foot, 1896

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We set out today to complete our Hiking in the Smokies challenge. The goal for families is 50 miles, and we began the day with 47.4. We hiked the Gatlinburg trail today, one of the two trails in the park that allows dogs. The trail connects the town of Gatlinburg with the Sugarlands Visitor Center, and is 3.8 miles round trip. Upon completion, our grand total was 51. 2 miles.

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We have enjoyed so many wonderful adventures while out on the trails. The Smoky Mountains have so much to offer, and we are glad we had the opportunity to spend so much time surrounded by their beauty. We crossed rivers and creeks, found frogs, birds and countless bugs, scaled a lookout tower (well, the brave ones did…), admired wildflowers, looked for bears, watched the trees bud, raced down trails, laughed, and spent some quality time together. In the end, we finally did see our bear, and we witnessed an amazing transformation as the Great Smoky Mountains came to life after a long winter’s rest.

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Spending so much time out in the woods and on the trails has been good for all of us. The kids have learned so much about bugs and little critters and nature in general, not to mention they have become excellent spotters and are able to see things that Rob and I would walk right by. We have all learned the names of some trees and flowers that were previously unknown to us.

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Hiking is something we will enjoy for years to come, but since we are scheduled to leave Tennessee soon, it may be a while until we return to hike more in the Smokies. For now, though, it feels good to have completed something we set out to do. We were determined to reach 50 miles here in the park, and while we did repeat a couple of the trails, every mile was unique and thoroughly enjoyed. I’d say that’s a mission accomplished.

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Until Next Time…

My parents came for a visit this week. They arrived on Monday evening and were able to stay until about noon on Thursday. Time must know when we want it to slow down, because it always seems to go faster.

Tuesday morning was spent down at the river watching the rafts at the put-in. Lots of busses arrived at about the same time, but they had to wait until the power house released the water, so there was quite the traffic jam. We watched rush-hour for quite some time, and then it was time for Rob to take us on our own raft trip. My dad took pictures from the bank while the rest of us were on the water.

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We ended the day with dinner at a very tasty local restaurant and a movie back at my parents’ cabin.

Tuesday found us in Great Smoky Mountain National Park. After over three months here and almost 50 miles of hiking in the park, we finally saw a black bear. My parents must have brought some good luck because the bear was right off of the trail to Clingmans Dome, one of the most popular spots in the park. He was content to eat in the bushes for a while and then he wandered off.

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We celebrated William’s birthday after a full day of driving and sight-seeing. Grampy was even here to give him his 10 birthday spankings. which made William laugh. He is feeling pretty cool now that he is in his double digits, and he loved that Grammy and Grampy were here for his birthday.

Thursday was spent sharing pictures and enjoying a little more time together before my parents had to be on their way. It doesn’t seem to matter how old I get, I always hate it when they have to leave. I love the time we are able to spend together, and I find myself wishing we could have at least a few more days together. It just makes me appreciate our time together even more. They were off to North Carolina where they will spend a week at a beach house before flying back to Idaho.

I was surprised to learn that with all the traveling my parents have done, neither of them had ever been to Tennessee, so we were happy to give them a reason to come.

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Thank you so much for the wonderful visit, Mom and Daddy!! We love you!!

 

Mouse Creek Falls

In honor of the “unofficial” kick-off of summer, we decided to head out on a hike. Just over the North Carolina border is a little trail that leads to a popular swimming spot called Midnite Hole. The last time we took the trail, it was way too cold to play in the water, so we thought we would try it again. William and Rob took their time on the trail, identifying trees and flowers as they went, while the twins and I ventured ahead in search of millipedes and centipedes and snails.

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The forests around here are very thick, and it seems as if you can always hear things slithering along in the grass and leaves. I myself am not a big fan of things that slither or leave slimy trails in their wake, but they are excellent nature lessons for the kids so I try not to squeal anymore than absolutely necessary.

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About a mile and a half up the trail we came to the swimming hole. People actually dive and do flips off of the rocks into the beautiful pool below. Luckily, the kids were content to swim around while trying to catch fish. They had to swim in their clothes so they were a little cold when we continued on down the trail, but Mouse Creek Falls was only another half mile away.

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Mouse Creek Falls is a nice little spot where Mouse Creek dumps into Big Creek. We lingered for a little while, admiring the water and all the little rock towers that someone had built, and then we headed back to the car. The kids wanted to run back, so Rob made the announcement that the last one back was a rotten egg, and the race was on. It was only two miles back to the car, and somehow we all made it back in one piece. William came in first, of course, followed by the twins. Rob and I don’t bounce as well as we used to so we were a little more cautious on the way down. I did touch the van about 4 seconds before Rob, though, so I guess he was the rotten egg. 🙂

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Hiking the Smokies

On our first trip to the  Great Smoky Mountains National Park, we picked up a booklet called Hike the Smokies for Families. Basically, the goal is for the entire family to hike 50 miles together. Once you have completed your first 10 miles, you get a sticker in your booklet, then at 25 miles you get a pin. Another sticker gets added at 40 miles and then the final pin at 50. Since our kids are all so high energy and we all enjoy getting outside, we thought this would be the perfect challenge for us.

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We completed our first hike in the park on March 9, and since then we have hiked a total of 32.4 miles. We originally thought we would have the entire summer to complete the mileage, but since Rob will be working for the park service come June, we will have to complete the final 17.6 miles within the next month.

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We are trying to get our miles in without overdoing it so we are doing a mixture of short and long trails and are trying to split up hiking days. Yesterday was a beautiful day for a drive, but neither Rob or I were up for a long hike, so we went to Clingmans Dome instead, which is the highest point in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There is a steep half-mile trail that leads up to spectacular views from the top.

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At the top, we ran into some Appalachian Trail thru-hikers, since the trail crosses right by the dome. They were already 200 miles into their 2200 mile journey and I found myself wanting to jump on the trail with them. Hiking the Appalachian Trail is on our list, but it will not happen for several years. We need time to plan and train and the kids need to be big enough to carry their own gear. If all goes as planned, Rob will celebrate his 50th birthday somewhere along the trail, and a short four days later, I will celebrate my 40th.

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The drive through the park was amazing. The trees are green, wildflowers are blooming. It is spectacular. The trees in the higher elevations are a little slower, but with the beautiful sunshine, I know they will not be too far behind. I am so grateful that we are living close enough to the park to be able to experience all of the changes and to have time to explore as much of it as possible. Normally it is into a park one day and out the next and you leave feeling as though there was still so much to see, but I think that when the time comes for us to leave the Smokies, we will feel pretty good about all we were able to see and do.

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