We're so glad you joined us!

Here we are – kids, dogs and all! Thanks for visiting our page! We're hoping that you will enjoy hearing about our travels and experiences as a family. We intend for this blog to share more than just travel journals, but also insights and lessons learned during our daily adventures. Please share your comments and come back often! * update * as of August 2010, we finished our journey, so new entries to this site will be rare. Linda's starting a new personal blog here. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Smoky mountains round 2

Hello, it's Cory again. My parent's didn't have the courage to write this post, so I decided that I would take one for the team and tell it like it is.

We went back to the National Park yesterday. The weather was slightly rainy, so we decided instead of hiking to drive up to the highest point in the park to see the view.

The drive up was pretty, with all the flowers, streams and trees. We also saw some poor guy trudging up the mountain with a lawn mower (in the rain). On a slightly scarier note we also saw a car wrecked on the side of the road with windows that appeared to have been shot out with a shotgun.

Finally, we reached the top observation point. The bad thing about being really high up is that the most likely view is cloud. Which is exactly what we saw. So we decided to wait a bit and see if the cloud would blow over. While we were waiting, I was listening to the radio and looking around the parking lot. There weren't very many cars. Then, a guy got out of one of them and walked to the back (hang on, this story is actually going somewhere). He then took off his shirt and started rummaging around in the back. He came out wielding a bar of soap. Logically, I thought he was heading for the public bathrooms that were less than 50 yards away. Apparently, however, this guy has nothing whatsoever in common with logic. He walked around to the side of his car and started splashing himself with water from a puddle (he was standing in the rain, by the way. As if he wasn't wet enough). I ask myself why I kept on watching. Perhaps it was due to boredom. Perhaps I was just too shocked that this guy had no common sense. Whatever the reason, I will regret it forever. Why? Because after he finished splashing himself, he walked to the driver door, opened it, removed his shorts and threw them in (sadly, he was wearing no underwear). Screams echoed throughout the car as everyone ducked for cover, sheltering their eyes from the horrible hind end of Sir Showersalot. I will never get that image out of my head.

Once we were assured that the horrible scene was past and Mr. Free To Be Me was back in his car, we dared to look around once more. After a bit, the cloud did blow away a bit and the view cleared up slightly. Then it truly was a beautiful sight.

Again, I felt an odious and evil presence. My gaze was drawn back to the car of Mr. Mooner. Where just before the windows had been mercifully fogged up, there he was, cleaning them with his sock. I squealed and hit the floorboard again.

Needless to say, we did not linger on the peak. We may go back again today, and hopefully no one will get any ideas about taking a public shower.

Coragon, over and out.

"Blue moon. I saw you outside your car. Without a brain in your head. How very naked you are."

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Smoky Mountains

We toured through Tennessee several months ago, but we didn't see the mountains in the northeastern portion of the state. We had two reasons: 1 - snow was still hitting various parts of the country and we had seen quite a lot of it, 2 - we wanted to visit portions of Georgia and South Carolina before tornado season hit. We've been pleased with our planning in that regard but were anxious to return to one of the most beautiful sections of the country. We waited out the weekend crowds with necessary chores of laundry and checking out the layout of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. The closest comparison we've seen to those areas is Branson, MO. A long strip of theaters and bizarre attractions line the main roads. Live musical performances, themed miniature golf courses, go kart tracks, 'Believe It or Not' venues and buffet restaurants all compete for your entertainment dollars. We're not planning on pursuing any of those and choose instead to focus on seeing the Smokies, specifically the national park. We've not been disappointed and are thankful that we can visit the park during the week when the crowds are a little smaller. We wove our way to do the auto tour of Cades Cove. A lot of folks visiting the park don't get out of their vehicle, but we truly don't believe you get the best appreciation without a walk or two. Our destination was about midway around the drive with a 5 mile round trip hike to see one of several waterfalls in the park.
Along the way, vehicles were stopped to see these deer in the forest. As long as we were stopped on the one-way drive, we took our own photos too!

The shade of the forest is so dark that we have trouble adjusting our flash to reflect the true colors of green.

The mountains are visible across meadows from time to time. We'd experienced a lot of rain over the weekend and were glad to go on a clear day for our hike.
After parking at the trail head, we were met by a couple of rangers. Several hikers had reported bear sightings along the trail and they were passing along warnings to hikers just arriving. While encouraging caution, they were not at all discouraging folks from carrying on with their hiking plans - so off we went.

Several of these single log creek crossings appeared along the way and we really liked the trail. Classified as moderate, most of the path is downhill to the base of the falls leaving the return trip as the more difficult portion.

The creeks become rivers and provide the refreshing sound of small rapids and a cool breeze all along the way.

Near the falls, the large boulders in the creek were irresistible to Cory.

The park map and other signs warned of the danger of climbing on the wet rocks, but this one was more pointed!

Our reward was well worth the 2 1/2 miles to the falls. Upon reflection, the 2 1/2 miles back was also worth it!

We were getting tired on our return and met folks in flip flop sandals that were going to struggle. While not too difficult of a climb, sections of the trail were climbing rocks and picking your way through tree roots. Traction from at least athletic shoes or boots was needful! We wonder if the sandal bunch was able to make it to the falls or if they had to turn back?

While stopping for rest and water at this spot of rapids, we spied river otters across the way. Two large and one small, they kept their distance but carried on with dipping, diving and climbing over tree branches and rocks. They are impossible to pick out in our photo, but we were so delighted to spend a few minutes watching their playful maneuvering we wanted to share.
We're taking a day to rest, tackle studies and see Knoxville but will return to the park again while we're here. It's absolutely irresistible!

Friday, June 4, 2010

June 5, 1993

Celebrate with Craig and I - it's our 17th wedding anniversary tomorrow!

For some reason, this song has been on my mind frequently and we've chosen it as a virtual anniversary dance. While the message of the song must be balanced with the appropriate source of our peace and existence with God first, the haunting melody of this music reminds us of sweet gift of our spouse as the answer to God's observation that 'it is not good for Man to be alone'....


What are you doing for the rest of your life?

North and south and east and west of your life

I have only one request of your life

That you spend it all with me

All the seasons and the times of your days

All the nickels and the dimes of your days

Let the reasons and the rhymes of your days

All begin and end with me

I want to see your face in every kind of light

In fields of gold and forests of the night

And when you stand before the candles on a cake

Let me be the one to hear the silent wish you make

Those tomorrows waiting deep in your eyes

In the world of love you keep in your eyes

I'll awaken what's asleep in your eyes

It may take a kiss or two...

Through all of my life

Summer, Winter, Spring and Fall of my life

All I ever will recall of my life

Is all of my life with you

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Mammoth Cave

We landed near Bowling Green, KY to take in the sights around Mammoth Cave National Park. The cave is reputed to be the largest in the world and we have no reason to doubt. The fee structure for visiting Mammoth Cave is different than Carlsbad Caverns. The park requires no entrance fee, but tours have fees and guided tours are the only way by which to gain access to the caves. We took in two tours during our stay (not on the same day!).
The first tour was labeled the Historic Tour and took about 2 hours to cover the 2 miles in and out. Unlike Carlsbad Caverns, there's no elevators to help you out of this cave. The routes do not change elevation so drastically either, so they are actually much more friendly to those averse to a continuous stair-master exercise to exit!
Here's a couple of photos that we copied from the internet:

While the formations are terrific, there are not as many of them as you might imagine. The cave is 'dry' for the most part, so formations are only in limited areas. We enjoyed the temperature inside the cave (54 F) as a break from the 85-90 F temperatures outside in very high humidity!
While we had a good time, we did not enjoy touring with the large crowd. Some of the tours allow as many as 120 people at once to accompany the ranger through. There are only a few stops along the way with discussion from the ranger, so most of the way is filing through in single file and browsing as you go.

There were several places where the passageway was very narrow - the one below was titles 'Fat Man's Misery'. We didn't think it was a tough as several places where the height of the opening required stooping as while walking.

We took another tour in an evening. Some of the path was the same as our daytime tour, but we liked it better for several reasons:
  1. The group was smaller - the size was limited to no more than 40 people and we toured with about 20.
  2. The atmosphere was very different - no artificial lighting! Lanterns were provided to every 4 people to share and the interior of the cave was completely different. The limited lighting heightened our sense of hearing and smell!
  3. The tour was more of a historical presentation than geological. With the fresh dose of the Creation Museum, listening to the millions and millions of years talk gets really tiresome to us. Presentations of factual information regarding the cave's discovery and visitors since were very interesting!

The rangers conduct frequent programs that are educational in nature. We attended an evening session with a discussion of bees and beekeeping that was very enlightening and enjoyable.

The park itself is very pretty with heavy forests and surface trails. We're planning to enjoy at least one surface hike which will require no guide. Private concessionaires provide rental canoes or horses for alternative touring, but we didn't choose those.

Next stop, the Smoky Mountains!