2011 Road Trip Day 2 Smokey Mountain National Park.

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I pretty much laid down and fell asleep immediately after finishing yesterday’s post. Pumpkin was also fast asleep. Heath and Peanut hung out a bit then decided to lay in bed and read as it was still pretty light out. As the sun started to set a storm rolled in and we heard thunder. I’m not sure if it was the first clap or what but awoke to some amazing thunder. I could feel the ground vibrate and sky just rumbled loudly for several seconds. It thundered several times and my sleepy brain began to form plans for what to do if it started to rain. The vents were all open on the tents and we had not put any stakes in. The massive thunder eventually woke up Pumpkin and scared her. The rain didn’t start and the thunder got softer and softer as it moved away. The damage was done with Pumpkin though she yelled and screamed for a long time. Eventually Heath climbed in her tent to sing her a song and rock her to sleep I was now really awake and concerned about the tent if it rained so got up and staked everything down. I was hot enough not to close the vents though. Then Heath came back to bed and Pumpkin screamed and yelled and fussed. Every once in a while she would calm down and we would think she was asleep but then would cry again. After it was dark and the campgrounds were quieting down we gave up on Pumpkin getting back to sleep and Heath brought her into our tent. We all finally got some sleep but it is not easy to sleep with a weird monkey next to you constantly rolling and kicking and sleep climbing.

I assumed sleeping in a tent we would get woken at dawn by the light and heat of the sun but the site was well shaded and we actually stayed under the covers until about 9:30am when a trash truck rolled through and woke us all up. We got up and made oatmeal, coffee and peanut butter and rainans rolled up in tortillas.

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We ate a bunch then started packing up camp into the van. We got all our stuff rolled and packed up good then filled up a bunch of water bottles and blatters and headed out.

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We just drove a little ways before getting to the Laurel Falls Trail. This was a 1.3 mile hike pretty much all uphill on an old paved trail to a nice waterfall. There was a lot of people hiking and we didn’t stop for breaks and powered our way up the hill.

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The waterfall was worth the hike and cool to see but we didn’t stay long before going to an area below the fall with a bunch of pools.  IMG_0325 IMG_0337
We got in the water and cooled off some. Peanut found a salamander and we looked up at the big falls.

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We had a ranger program coming up so we didn’t stay too long before hiking back over to the trail and out to the car. Then we stuffed our faces with summer sausage, cheese and cracker sandwiches, fruit snacks and cheese sticks as we drove to Sugarlands Visitor Center. Pumpkin and I were still eating as Peanut and Heath rushed in and got the info. Then we joined them and had about 10 minutes for Pumpkin to run around crazy in the museum full of stuffed, bears, wild bores, opossums and other animals. Then we met the group out front and had a program on the mammals of the smokys.

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We heard about all the elk, bear, fox, beavers and other animals. We sat in a big shaded outdoor area and got to feel all the pelts of the mammals. The program lasted 45 minutes and at the end Peanut made a paper bear mask.

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Once it was over we hopped in the van and rushed from the north end of the park to the south end along a pretty drive called the Newfoundland Gap Road. We snacked a bit more and Pumpkin fell asleep. We overshot our destination and turned around at Mingus Mill. Heath and Peanut took a peak then we headed back up to Smokemont Campground. We drove to the back end of the campsites to a small river and got started on another ranger program about the animals in the creeks and rivers.

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Peanut headed right to the front and the rangers talked about what they were looking for then took the class to wade in the water with nets and look for bugs, fish and other critters. Pumpkin was still fast asleep so I watched from the car and caught up on my posts.

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After they netted stuff in the water a while they got out and dumped all their finds into some bins and began identifying their treasures. They talked about everything in the water.

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 IMG_0367Once the program was over and Peanut got a ranger to sign his book we discovered they were out of badges and we would need to go to a visitor center to get one.

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We had planned to cook up some dinner but instead drove to the Oconaluftee visitor center. This place turned out to be really cool and right next to an old preserved farm called the Mountain Farm Museum.
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We got the badge and a patch and toured the farm. There were a lot of original buildings, furniture and tools and the rangers continued to plant and raise some animals.

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 IMG_0386While at Oconaluftee we saw 3 elk jump a fence at the farm and graze in the field.

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They drew a pretty big crowd but stuck around a long time.

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After we had seen everything we needed we headed back to Smokemont and parked the van and went over to a campfire story time presentation. A ranger had a fire and told us some stories that were pretty entertaining.

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It was pretty hot and afterwards we decided to take a vacation shower. Meaning we put on swim suits and hopped in a creek. The water was cold again but felt great and everyone got all wet and clean.  It was getting dark so we changed back to clothes and hopped in the van just as it started to rain. We thought about cooking dinner or eating snacks on the road but decided a little town was close by so we might as well buy some dinner. We got gas and a sippy cup for Pumpkin in Cherokee , TN just beside an Indian Reservation then found a taco bell and went there for dinner. It was late and we were pretty hungry and stuffed our faces. Then we hit the road, headed east again, this time all the way to the coast.

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