Also, it is incredibly wet. Nearly 90 inches of precipitation per year, as I recall. When we first arrived at the park, the weather was absolutely gorgeous and none of us bothered to bring a jacket (besides Zoe, who has a thing for jackets and this very evening asked to sleep in her furry winter coat.) Sadly, we did not carefully read the papers given to us when we arrived at the park, which said to always bring a jacket. Nor did we take much note of the ridiculous tourists wearing their ridiculous ponchos. Well let me tell you we learned our lesson. At first the hike was perfection.
The kids had a blast playing around on the trail.
Hiding in old hollowed out trees:
Holding hands and singing hiking songs together:
And at last, we reached the waterfall! Remember I promised Jed waterfalls?
What you can't tell from Michael's exellent photography is that in this photo it is POURING. Raining down in absolute buckets that soaked through us in seconds, and twenty minutes later it was still just buckets pouring down our backs and in our eyes and soaking through our lunch as we tried to eat it huddled beneath an overhanging tree.
It poured and poured and poured until we finally gave up and headed home.
About halfway back, the sun emerged and everything returned to its sunny, mountain splendor.
The planned highlight of our adventure to the Great Smokey Mountains was a visit to the aquarium. None of the kids had ever been before. We spent a month beforehand watching videos and reading books and discovering all sorts of wonderful things about life beneath the sea. And all our preparation was worth it at the wonder of this beautiful place!
The kids still talk about seeing the sharks. I even got to touch one! With my hand! Zoe is still blown away at the very thought of it (she was too scared at the moment to do it herself, to her everlasting 4 year old regret.)
Jed loved the South American penguins. They were absolutely darling, and there were clear tubes where the kids could go out and watch/play right with the penguins above and below the water.
My one goal for the visit was to see the giant sea turtle. The first time through the museum, we didn't see him and Jed and I were crushed. We had to go make another round through the underground tubes, but it was so worth it because the sea turtle came right up to us, nose to nose through the glass, looked at us with his wise old friendly eyes, and our hearts nigh exploded from joy and excitement. That one visit made the whole trip worthwhile.
This year, Michael and I vowed, we WILL take a family vacation!
So we did!
We chose a popular destination for locals -- the Great Smokey Mountains.
We rented a little "Camping Cabin" that was perched on the edge of a hill overlooking Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
We had a little porch that looked out into the canopy of the surrounding trees, and Jed immediately dubbed it "The Birdhouse." We loved that porch, and waking up to this is the greatest feeling in the world:
Nothing like cards and hot cocoa while we wait for the boys to wake up.
Because it was May, we essentially had the entire RV/cabin park to ourselves. The last day I saw one person in the bathroom and we both jumped and screamed in surprise. It really felt like we had the whole town to ourselves! Seriously, staying in a place where you can think "I guess I'll just sit out here on the porch in my underwear" is my kind of vacation.
The kids loved having a pool and playground just down the road.
... except when baby brother steals all your fun. ha ha!
I was very proud that I cooked all our food on this vacation -- I brought a bunch of pre-prepared ingredients, my crockpot and my griddle. We ate like kings, and saved hundreds of dollars. Everything on our vacation went perfectly just as planned, a rare and delightful thing. The cabin was perfect, the weather was perfect, the kids were perfect, the food was perfect. It was heaven! We loved our cozy cabin adventure!
At last we were off on our first family vacation in several years -- to the Smokey Mountains! On the way we stopped a strange little state park in Kentucky - it had once been a waste water treatment plant, and now they are slowly converting it to a nature park.
I promised Jed waterfalls. Here was the first one of the trip.
The kids found a little butterfly garden.
And a chair made from a stump which pleased them to no end.
Our appliances have all entered into a suicide compact. First the dryer went out. After a couple weeks of tinkering and waiting, we got the part and Michael was able to fix it himself. Then a week later the washer stopped working. Three days later I woke up to a warm refrigerator and wet, leaking freezer. Then later that day, Zoe decided to see what happens when you cook a rice bag in the microwave for 99 minutes. Turns out, it is pretty spectacular.
Pretty sure Michael has developed a rational fear of unexpected middle-of-the-day phone calls from home.
So now we have a new washer! A newly repaired dryer! A new microwave on top of the fridge where little hands can't reach! And for some reason the fridge started working again -- we don't know why but we're just gonna roll with it for now.
Even though they are tiny toddlers, these two are best friend cousins. Zane and Hallie play together so sweetly, considering they are both busy busy busy babes who don't like to share. We often find them hugging and kissing and snuggling up together.
Two matching boys. I had the hardest time going in to roust them for dinner.
They were so quiet and peaceful and happy together. Isn't it fantastic how you can make yourself a little best friend? Jed is so much like his daddy. Makes my heart glad.