Yesterday we started the day off at the park in town, with our kids from church. They had a good time playing ga-ga ball, and then we walked over to check out the pond. They caught frogs and tadpoles and just in general had a wonderful time. Here is our crew just before we walked back over for ice cream sandwiches. From left are Emma, Mason, Aidan, June, Chloe, Katelyn, & Paige.
We came home for lunch and then pretty soon we headed over to Charlotte’s to celebrate Brenna’s 10th birthday at a pool party. The water felt soooo good. In back are Mallory, Charlie, and Hope. Middle is June. Front are Mason, Clara, and Brenna. Busy, fun day.
Even though we went in and out of rain all day Wednesday in the mountains, the views from the overlooks were amazing. I loved looking at these clouds down in the valley.
We stopped by Mingus Mills, at one time the largest mill in the Smoky Mountains. Instead of a wheel it used a water powered turbine engine to ground the grains – but it still needed a flume to get the water to the engine.
Wednesday we slept in a bit, since we didn’t get back to the hotel from seeing the fireflies until well after midnight. We got up and hit the road back to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park as soon as we could, though, so we could spent the day getting some hiking in. We stopped at our first overlook of the day, looking down on the city of Gatlinburg, before we ever even got to the park. It’s just so beautiful there, and you can definitely tell why they’re called the Blue Ridge Mountains in this picture. We could also see evidence of the wildfire two years ago.
We checked out the visitor center, went on a pretty short hike to show Mason his first waterfall, and then decided to drive that beautiful (curvy) road from Gatlinburg to Cherokee. We stopped at Newfound Gap, right on the TN/NC State Line, to explore there for a while – rain or no rain 🙂
The kids all got a game to play at the Bush’s Visitor Center – questions to find the answers to in the exhibits, and then a puzzle to figure out using those answers. Here is a family picture we took after they all received their certificates at the end 🙂
When we finished up at the Visitor Center, and the shop there, we stopped by the café for dessert. We got pinto bean pie, apple pie with caramel sauce, and a Smokey Mountain hot fudge brownie that we all shared. It was just a fun way to kick off an amazing trip. The paddle pictures are of Clara’s orthodontists. Whoever takes the most interesting picture of them while on vacation this summer gets a $250 gift certificate. Lindee is really hoping they win 🙂
Tuesday morning Lindee and I took Mallory, Clara, and Mason and headed to the mountains. Our first stop was the Bush’s Visitor Center, where we ate sandwiches for lunch really quickly in the car, and then headed in to check out the exhibits. The history of the company really was very interesting. The history of the company pretty much was the history of the Bush family, and of course I loved looking at all the memorabilia. Very cool.
The actual reason we headed to the Smoky Mountains was that I had won the lottery for tickets to see the synchronous fireflies. These particular fireflies were actually discovered in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park about 25 years ago, and I must have heard of them right away, because I’ve wanted to go ever since. This year they chose 1800 lottery winners to get in to see them; they had 22,000 applications. People were literally there from all over the world. It really was amazing. You couldn’t take pictures there, but I did get this one of our crew just before we got on the shuttle to head out.
Another wonderful day. Andy & Amy have a standard tour they take their visitors on of the city of Richmond, and that was what we did that day. We started off at the farmers market, and then took a drive down Monument Avenue. The newest monument there is this one to Arthur Ashe, a Richmond native – I didn’t know that.
From there we went to the Virginia War Memorial. Our guide there was as knowledgeable and interesting as any I can remember having any of the places I’ve been. It was so obvious he loves what he does. Here he is talking and sharing some of that knowledge with Liz.
When I got up to Richmond Friday about noon, Amy & I went to lunch at a great little sandwich shop, and then headed into town to visit the old, historical Hollywood Cemetery. This is a shot of a few of the graves of civil war soldiers, many of whom were confederate soldiers killed at Gettysburg.
A look at Presidents Circle. The tomb that looks sort of like a birdcage is President James Monroe; the tall one with the craving to the right is President John Tyler’s. Many of the other graves in the circle, although not all, are of their family members. The entire cemetery was just beautiful and covered so much history.