Week 31-  April 10 - 16 Week: The Smokies

After our Blue Ridge introduction to the Appalachians, this week was mostly devoted to the Great Smoky Mountains.  We started the week worshiping in a modest sized church outside of Asheville.  It’s funny how your senses are involved with memory…  This church looked, and smelled a lot like the church I attended during my high school years.  It almost transported me back.  The highlight of this service was a personal testimony given by one of the members.  I believe it is critical for a members of a congregation to share how God has worked in each of our lives.  I wish that more worship services would include a regular time for testimonies. 

We visited the Smokies from two different sides this week.  On Monday, we drove from Asheville to the Eastern entrance of Smoky Mountain National Park at Oconaluftee.  The visitor center there includes an outdoor farm history museum.  Authentic buildings have been relocated to recreate a typical Appalachian pioneer farmstead.  Once again we are amazed at the stamina and creativity it took to homestead in a new area. 

It has been a perfect time of spring to be in the Appalachians.  The flowering trees and wildflowers are bursting to life.  The best of show for Brenda and I both has been the redbud tree.  Early in the season, the trees sport a dark reddish hue, then they explode into light purple blossoms outlining each branch and twig.  Mixed with brilliant white dogwoods and the vibrant green of emerging leaves, the views are stunning. 

Our trusty weather.com website warned us that Tuesday was to be a rainy day, so we planned it as our travel day around to the western side of the Smokies.  We also use the internet to plan ahead on where we fuel up ol’ Harvey.  The e-Trucker.com website has been very helpful in this respect.  It publishes a table of diesel prices by state, updated daily.  Especially here in the East, with its smaller states, making it to a cheaper state can save big bucks on a 90 gallon fill up!   

The kids have also learned to track the finances during the trip.  Rotating the job monthly, each of them works with me to enter the receipts into our budget spreadsheet to see how we are doing in each classification.  Even with the awful prices, we have been okay on the fuel budget because I had fortunately overestimated our monthly driving mileage with Harvey. 

We stayed in Townsend Tennessee, a more quiet town on the western side of the Smokies.  To us, it was much nicer than being in the honky-tonk Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge areas, though crowds are no issue here at this time of year!  We spent one afternoon exploring Cades Cove, a unique pastoral area up in the hills with interesting native American and frontier history.  We also took advantage of a crystal clear Thursday to drive up to Clingman’s Dome, the highest point in the Smokies.  There is a half mile hike to an observation structure the provides views well worth the effort!  Nate and I also got a chance to walk along the Appalachian Trail as it meanders by Clingman’s dome. 

Our great time with Auntie Moo had to come to an end Friday morning.  Brenda took her to Knoxville airport while we broke camp to head on.  It was a tough day of readjustment for all as we drove across Tennessee.  To keep to our schedule, we had to bypass Nashville and kept going on up into Kentucky.   

We had reservations for an afternoon tour of the Corvette factory in Bowling Green.  Everyone enjoyed seeing the classic American sports car being assembled.  The highlight though, was at the end of the assembly line.  One of the workers chooses a person from each tour group of about twenty-five to start up one of the vehicles for the first time as it is to be driven off of the line.  I figured they would look for the best looking female, and sure enough they chose Brenda!   J  She did look sharp in a black convertible in her nice black top and sunglasses in her hair!  Maybe we’ll have to trade in Harvey for a ‘vette… 

We arrived at a campground on the edge of the Mammoth Cave National Park area where we would spend the weekend.  We had originally planned to stay only one night, but our campground is very comfortable and private so we decided to stay until Monday morning.  We also needed some time to slow down a bit as we are fighting a family cold.  (We are so thankful that this has been the only illness we have dealt with the whole trip!)   

We took a guided tour through Mammoth cave on Saturday.  It is the world’s longest cave at over 365 miles of known interconnected passageways!  It is unusual in that a huge cap of surface rock protects the limestone caves underneath from being dissolved and destroyed.  Our ranger guide was interesting and informative, but being down in the dark on a perfect spring day took a little bit of the fun out of it.  Also, Leah has no love for tight spaces, but she did just fine!  The kids also earned yet another Junior Ranger patch. 

We have been recharging our batteries for our final big push to the Northeast.  While we look forward to the history and excitement of areas like Philadelphia, New York City, and Boston, busy places are physically and mentally draining to us, a family of introverts!