Our annual family weekend in the Smokies has ended, and new memories now blend with the old. We spent more time at the Ranger Stations this year because Kinley works on her Junior Ranger badges whenever they visit a national park.
Our usual hiking was shortened due to Knox's determination to walk it himself. So we dawdled at a three-year-old pace and enjoyed the woods and water of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Our new adventure was to drive to the Cataloochee section of the Park, which entailed driving across the mountains to the Oconoluftee Visitor Center in NC, and then through at least 12 miles of dirt roads to reach the isolated valley where a herd of elk roams through the Cataloochee.
It was misting rain, which made the lush valley and elk seem even more surreal. We picnicked on the porch of the Caldwell house, built in 1903 and eventually purchased as part of the park. We took pictures in the old barn and went into the Palmer Chapel Methodist Church where the church bell still tolled when pulled by eager youngsters and some oldsters as well. We could tell the accoustics were just right, so we had a Boyd family rendition of "Victory in Jesus." Some other people came in as we were singing and seemed to enjoy it almost as much as we did.
I cannot say enough good things about where we always stay--Zoder's Inn on the Parkway in Gatlinburg. We get a Tower Suite with a balcony overlooking the creek, which includes a kitchen, dining room, living room,fireplace, a bedroom with a king bed, bath, and crib, a bedroom with two beds and bath, and a Murphy bed that folds down from the wall into the space between the living room and dining room. This is plenty of room for the 8 of us, especially with Knox in the crib. We get breakfast with many choices of cereal, pastries, juice, and fruit, "wine and cheese" in the late afternoon, and cookies and milk at bedtime. This is the deal of the city because we can get out to the park a couple of back ways and avoid much of the city traffic. The place is clean and neat and the kitchen has microwave, ice maker, dishwasher, as well as stove, coffee pot, etc. And all this in season for $239/night! If you're thinking of visiting the Smokies, I can give you more information. We go back year after year and do not regret it.
We spent quality time in quantity with those we love most in God's magnificent handiwork. What could be better than that?