Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Our first family vacation

We just wrapped up our very first getaway as a threesome in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.  It really couldn't have been any more enjoyable.

The drive down was amazingly easy.  David slept a good part of the way, and didn't really get fussy until we hit the gridlock near Gatlinburg.  Friday rush hour gridlock, I might add,  but no matter.  We quickly found our cabin nestled in the foothills near town, and settled in for the evening.

We spent the first full day exploring the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  In the morning, Cory drove the winding Newfound Gap Road up into the mountains to our first destination within the park, Clingman's Dome.  We hiked the 0.5 mile trail up to an observation tower, pushing little David all the way.  The hike was more steep and strenuous than we had anticipated, but the pinnacle view was exhilirating and worth every huff and puff.  It was a clear day, and you could see for miles.  Despite the glory of the view and the immense beauty of our natural surroundings, the big hit in the park that day was David.  Almost everyone we passed commented on his cuteness, a running theme for a good part of our trip.  Loved it. Cory and I each took a handle on the stroller on the way back down the trail to the parking lot, a little extra insurance against a runaway David careening down the mountain.  That trail was steep!

Driving back down the mountain after our impromptu workout, we enjoyed the vistas and panoramic views of the surrounding peaks from the road.  David was asleep at this point, so we skipped some of the trails that we might have explored along the way in order to allow him a well-deserved nap. Once at the bottom, we stopped at the Sugarlands Visitor Center and picked up a National Park Passport for David.  He got his first two stamps from the ranger there.  Hopefully this will start a lifelong endeavor for him.  I want to see so many of them myself - the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Arcadia, Mesa Verde - and I hope we can all do this together in the coming years.

We enjoyed a picnic lunch of summer sausage, fruit, and cheese at a charming little picnic area called Metcalf Bottoms.  Afterward, we attempted a hike to see a waterfall (Laurel Falls), but gave up and turned back when we discovered that the trail the guidebooks sold as "relatively flat" was anything but.  I guess flat is a pretty relative term in the mountains, especially when you're hauling around a 6-month-old.  There was no way we were making that hike after conquering the trail to Clingman's Dome.

We wrapped up our first day with some relaxing back at the cabin, and Cory treated me to a delicious steak dinner on the grill.  David was a champ, and went right to sleep in the portable crib without a fuss. The strange surroundings didn't seem to phase him a bit.

The next day, Cory headed out to play golf at the Gatlinburg Golf Course.  He sent back some pictures on his camera phone occasionally, and the views were spectacular. That area of the country has not suffered from the dryness that has afflicted the Midwest, so the trees were still green and the grass still lush.  Quite a welcome change of scenery from the crispiness of home.

While Cory golfed, David and I relaxed at the cabin. I even made two scrapbook pages.  It was heaven... without the distractions, I got done what might have taken me two weeks to complete at home. I enjoyed every minute of the process. When Cory returned from his golf outing, we headed back to the National Park to continue our explorations, hiking some easy nature trails. At one point along the mountain drive, I glimpsed a black bear lumbering along a wooded ridge near the side of the road.  I couldn't believe it.  No pics or videos to prove this, so everyone will just have to take my word for it.

We also tried to go to Cades Cove, an historic valley on the western side of the park known for its scenic beauty and wildlife sightings, but the road was closed due to an accident.  Regretfully, we turned back toward Gatlinburg and staged a family photo shoot at the National Park sign.  It's hard to get a baby to look at the camera when you're using a self timer, we discovered.

We spent our last evening at the cabin with a delicious dinner of grilled pork chops while catching the Colts game on TV.  So relaxing, with no agenda but to enjoy each others company. Once again, David slept soundly that night. And thankfully, so did we.

Before heading out of town, we attempted to see a bit more of the park on the Roaring Fork Motor Trail, a one-way loop touring road under Mt LeConte, the peak visible from our cabin. Although we were disappointed that the road was closed, it was a blessing in disguise.  Where we were forced to turn around was a nature trail on an old homestead, complete with reconstructed log house, log barn, grist mill, and other structures.  We wandered through the forest, exploring the pristine woodland and catching glimpses of years gone by in the crumbling stone foundations and roads.  It was gorgeous.  Couldn't catch the beauty on film like I wanted to, but the sights, scents, feelings... the whole experience will stick with me forever.  And who cares if he won't remember it, having David along for the ride (literally, in the Baby Bjorn carrier attached to Cory) made everything all the more perfect.

We're already planning our next escape.  Still, back in Indiana, we were reminded that there really is no place like home.

1 comment:

Patt said...

Beautiful photos! Glad you had a getaway....hope you'll have many more. Love, Grammy Pattpatt

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