Cooling Off in Big Creek

About six miles down the road, we cross the North Carolina border and arrive at Big Creek, right where it dumps into the Pigeon River. This is the perfect swimming hole on warm sunny days. The kids absolutely love it, and while Rob and I do get in the water from time to time, what we really enjoy is the down time on the shore. Today we sat in the shade and read while the kids slowly turned themselves into prunes. I must admit, though, the little water chute is very fun to ride down, even if the water is beyond cold. 🙂

Let’s Go Rafting!

Ever since we arrived here, the kids have been asking to go rafting. In the beginning, it was always too cold. Once temperatures began to increase, so did the number of rafting customers. Eventually, though, we knew there would be a chance for Rob to take us rafting. That opportunity came this week, and the kids sure were excited! I was, too, of course. It had been about 17 years or so since I had been white-water rafting, and I was very anxious to go again. Especially since Rob was going to be our guide!

The river was running a little high from all of the rain, but everybody managed to stay in the raft. I did check behind me quite often to make sure the twins were still there, especially after the bigger rapids. We were soaked by the time we were done, but everyone had such a wonderful time! I took a waterproof camera with us, but I have not been able to get the film developed yet, so I may have to share some of those with you after I get them. Hopefully some of them turned out. For now, though, we have the pictures taken by the company’s photographer. He hangs out on the bank through one set of rapids and shoots a series of photos. You can’t see the twins in most of them because they are behind my big head, but know that they were there and were laughing hysterically! The kids even got to swim through a calm part of the river, which they thought was pretty cool.

Welcome Spring!!

We decided to celebrate the arrival of the wonderful new season with a hike up a mountain. We are taking part in the “Hike the Smokies for Families” and the goal is to log 50 miles in the park. Rob had the day off today so it was the perfect time to add some mileage to our book. We chose Mt. Sterling since it is relatively close to home and had a decent distance to it without being too unrealistic this early in the season. Hiking in was fun because it was uphill. Every. Single. Step. I kid you not, but I suppose this is how it goes when you are on your way up to a lookout tower!

I am amazed every time we take the kids out just how well they do hiking. They do stop from time to time for a quick rest, and they cannot be quiet to save their lives, which makes seeing any wildlife pretty much impossible, but they are such good sports! No matter how far we try to drag them, they always go willingly, rarely complain about anything and they have never once asked to turn back. They absolutely rock.

As I mentioned, we will never see any wildlife while out on the trail, we just make too much noise. William can’t leave sticks alone, and once he gets one in his hand, he proceeds to whack everything that crosses his path. And they all like to talk. A lot. When we were almost at the top of the mountain today, Catheryn spotted a paw print in the mud. It was a fresh print, made not long before we passed by, but the black bear who left it heard us coming, no doubt, and was long gone.

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As we rounded the corner, we finally caught our first glimpse of the lookout tower.

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Everyone wanted to climb to the top, despite the fact that it was old and rickety. I, too, wanted to make it to the top for a few pictures, but as we got closer, I realized it was much taller than I had originally thought.

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I don’t consider myself to be afraid of heights, but this was a bit much for me. I attempted, but couldn’t make it past the second platform. I handed the camera to Rob so he could take some pictures for me and he and the boys went to the top. Catheryn and I sat on the bottom steps and ate some trail mix, hoping to see a black bear walk by.

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As imagined, the view from the top was pretty amazing, even if I did have to see it in pictures. After a break and small snack, we began making our way back down the mountain. It was cold and getting colder, so we were grateful that the trip down went much faster than the trip up.

We saw only one person in the 4 hours and 15 minutes it took us to complete the hike, and he was headed down while we were still heading up. We may not have seen any animals, but we had a good time anyway. It was peaceful. And beautiful. And I cannot think of a more wonderful way to welcome Spring, the most amazing of all seasons.

This evening I logged 5.4 miles in our book, which takes us to the first milestone: a stamp at 10 miles.

Great Smoky Mountains

Rob begins his white-water training on Monday, so we are enjoying our last weekend of freedom. It was such a beautiful day today that we decided a drive was in order. About 25 miles down the road is the entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We hadn’t been there yet, and it was about time we added a new stamp in out National Parks Passport.

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While there are miles and miles of trails we plan to hike over the course of the summer, hiking was not on the menu today. Our main goal was simply to check out the area. Much to our surprise, there is no entrance fee to get into the park. Instead, it is run off of donations and sales from the gift shops.

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Some of the roads are still closed because of snow and ice, but we were able to drive up to the top for a scenic overlook. It does not look like much now, mostly because of the large number of deciduous trees, but in a few weeks time, it will come to life with about 50 (or perhaps even more) shades of green and will be absolutely beautiful.

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After a stop into the visitor’s center for our customary sticker and pin, and information on the trails, we took a nature trail that led to a small waterfall. Many other people had the same idea today because of the warm and inviting sunshine. As we were driving home through Gatlinburg, Tennessee, we were amazed at how many people were walking the streets! If I didn’t know better, I would have thought it was the middle of summer and not mid-March.

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Tomorrow is supposed to be another sunny day, and who knows what it will bring. Hope you are enjoying beautiful weather in your neck of the woods!

Home Place

There is an old homestead here that was donated to Taylor County. Everyone is allowed to go out and walk around, visit the outbuildings, take the trail. There is an old cattle barn, grain silos, pastures, a tobacco barn. There are stalls with old farm equipment and even headstones. Some of the equipment is very old and some is modern, but it is a neat place to go to see how a working farm would operate. A fellow camper told us about it, and we were really glad that she did. We spent a wonderful afternoon out there and the kids have been asking almost daily to go back. Luckily it is only about five miles down the road, so going often is possible.

A Hawaiian Birthday

Casually, you climb back onto the boat after a scuba diving adventure. It is

A difficult task, I am sure, spending your birthday in Hawaii, but you can handle it.

Rest and relax and soak up some sun, and enjoy an absolutely beautiful day.

You deserve the very best on this day and always. So go make some

 Noise, go make some memories, and know that you are loved.  

Happy Birthday, Mom!!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Happy

“Happy” is a beautiful fall day just perfect for taking a walk in the woods.

“Happy” is a stroll down the trail, enjoying all that nature has to offer.

“Happy” is hanging out with your brother, because even though he drives you crazy and you want to strangle him most of the time, he really is pretty cool.

“Happy” is watching a loved one master a new skill, like starting a fire without matches, something Rob has been wanting to do for quite some time.

“Happy” is a tasty lunch, grilled to perfection over an open flame. The smell of the campfire is an added bonus.

“Happy” is a day spent with family, exploring and learning together.

“Happy” is watching the sun slowly set over the lake, knowing that it was a day well spent.

“Happy” is… knowing that you are surrounded by those you love. Always.