The first 3 bears we have seen as a family.
Uploading pictures is painfully slow on the road from the pockets of spots with cell service so that is the holdup on posts. So once we are at the hotel in DC I’ll be able to get caught up more. Please excuse these being small and possibly some picture missing. I have more to add still but wanted to get something up. Rest assured I am typing all my posts as we go and all the words are ready I’m just holding off for pictures)
The Thursday we left I was busy most of the day getting the house ready for us to leave, the van packed up and our stuff all ready. Heath came home from work early and we picked up the kids at childcare early too. I took a tiny nap then we watched some Swamp People and ate a small early dinner. At 6 we stuck the kids in the car and headed out.
Our first stop wa McDonalds for the second small dinner. We got a load of food and Heath got us pointed east and on our way. We ate and talked and listened to music. Heath and Peanut needed a few bathroom stops early on then it got dark and the kids and I got some sleep. I woke up and Heath asked me to take over for a while as she was getting tired. I drove 3 hours then filled up on gas, got some coffee and let everyone pee then we got back on the road. Then next 2 hours went pretty good then my coffee ran out and I started getting pretty tired. I fought off the ZZZs and shortly later the sun started to rise and I was full of energy and excitement. My favorite part of these long car trips is the hour or two where the sun is coming up and everything is shifting from night to day while my passengers are asleep and I am blasting some good music or talk in headphones. As we neared our destination I was sort of torn. I could not figure out if Smokey Mountain is in Central or Eastern time zone as Tennessee is split right around where I think the park is. I was also not sure if I should rush to get us out into the wilderness to see the animals while they are extra active at dawn or if I should take my time and let everyone sleep
Both sort of won. I drove around to some animal hot spots near the Cades Cove Visitor center but no one in the car moved. I drove a special slow speed one way loop in a valley and saw several deer. Eventually Heath got up and helped me spot them. Everything was really foggy (seems like all National Parks are when we visit) and we joked about the smoky mountains really being smoky.
Once we finished a big loop that was good spot for animal viewing. We pulled over in a picknick area and the kids kept on sleeping. Heath and I used the bathroom and explored a bit then got out the propane stove and cooked up some oatmeal.
It was pretty plain stuff but we both ended up enjoying the oatmeal and had a great little morning relaxing, talking and enjoying the nice weather. We decided to get planning the day with or without the kids and headed to a visitor center to get maps and brocers and Jr. Ranger packets. On the way over we got caught up in a big commotion of other vacationers. A mama black bear and her two cubs were running around just around the corner. We got several good glimpses of them but had a tough time catching them on camera but here is one decent shot.
While getting the paperwork the kids got up and started snacking. We spent a bunch of time figuring out what programs and hikes and things we wanted to do then we got busy. An old schoolhouse called the Little Greenbrier School was conveniently close and it had a nice hike beside it so we started there.
As we were checking it out it started raining so we took cover. Then it stopped raining and we did a really cool hike called the Metcalf Bottoms trail with several fun log bridges.
At the end of the hike was the Metcalf picnic area and we decided for Heath and the kids to hang out there while I doubled back at double speed to get the van with lunch in it and bring it over. Once I got back we had lunch. We had peanut butter banana sandwiches and a bunch of other snacks.
After lunch we were feeling kinda worn out so checked out our campsite at the Elmont Campgrounds. Pumpkin seemed like she needed a nap and the weather was questionable so we quickly tossed up her tent and a tarp. Heath and Pumpkin laid down for a nap while Peanut and I went out exploring. We climbed around by the creeks and stuff for a while and then came back about 40 minutes later. It did rain a little bit off and on but was not enough to get us wet. I’m not sure if Heath was getting a good nap but it was pretty obvious Pumpkin was not. Peanut and I hid behind the van and played Nintendo DS for a little while then I decided to unpack and set up more stuff. Heath may have gotten a little nap but Pumpkin did not sleep at all. We got our campsite mostly set up then put on swim stuff and got Heath up.
We hiked a little trail a way then went down to the creek. We found a nice deep slow spot and hopped in.
It was pretty darn cold but felt really good and cleansing. Everyone ended up getting pretty wet and having a lot of fun. We could hear our stomachs complaining though and rushed back to camp to get dinner. I had this Chili Mac plan involving shells and cheese, black beans, chili beans and summer sausage.
It turned out awesome and we all stuffed our faces and ate it all. We were pretty exhausted at this point and not really sure if it was 7 or 6 or 5 still but started getting ready for bed. We put the inside of the big tent together and Heath did all the dishes and we got things cleaned up. Then we put Pumpkin in bed. It was still light out and you could hear other campers talking and stuff but she fell asleep pretty quick. I was ready to crash too but decided to get this post all typed up. Heath and Peanut sat in camp chairs and worked on the Jr. Ranger badges while trying to keep their eyes open. I predict we will end the night by bear proofing the campsite by moving everything food or sent related to the van and then going to bed. It does not look like we will make it till dusk.