Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Our first family vacation

Matt & I did a decent amount of traveling as a couple.  This trip was so completely different having Luke along.  It was more work but also very exciting to be on our first family vacation.  We both grew up traveling with our families.  I had camped at the exact same campground and visited the same park (Great Smoky Mountain National) with my family around the age of 2 (and again at 8 and 20).  I know Luke won't remember a thing about this trip but it was still exciting to start those traditions with our little family of 3.

We spent 6 nights at the Pigeon Forge KOA in a Kamping Kabin.

We had a solid roof over our heads, electricity, air conditioning, beds, and a locking door.  We did not have our own bathroom or a fridge.   It was in between real camping and a hotel.  We cooked our meals over the fire or on our camp stove and we walked 100 yards to a shared bathroom. 

We also had a porch swing which is probably the best part of these cabins.  I spent hours and hours on it reading, feeding & playing with Luke.

Before leaving I was most nervous about fitting everything in the car (which we managed) and how Luke would do on the 7ish hours (before stops) drive down.  He turned out to be quite the trooper and we only stopped twice each way.

He'd get so excited to see us when we did stop.  It was very cute.

We had 5 full days in Tennessee and we saw a good portion of the park in that time.  Did 4 hikes, saw 2 big waterfalls and lots of little ones, saw 4 different mills, countless cabins, and lots of mountain peaks fading into the distance.

We were kinda hoping to see a bear (preferably from the car, not on a hike) but we did not.  We did see deer (first one of the trip was in Fort Wayne...), a lot of butterflies, what we are saying is an elk, wild turkeys, a snake who was contemplating eating that lizard, and millipedes.  We also saw wild mountains goats on the drive home but weren't quick enough to get a pic.  And a skunk wandering around the Kamping Kabins.  That one we could have gotten a picture of but I would have had to use flash and you don't really want to startle a skunk. 

Day 1
We hiked to Clingmans Dome which is the highest mountain in the park and has an observation tower at the top.  However the day we did this it was very foggy and so the views were nonexistent. 

It was a little foggy at the top

Yep...no view

Our baby was pretty happy though.  And adorable.

And a few from Newfound Gap, near Clingmans Dome.  Much better view here.  We drove that road later in the week..

Day 2
The next day was Cades Cove which is a cove (duh) where there were many settlers back before it was a national park.  We stopped at a few of the cabins and also at the mill area which had a small grouping of a mill, cabin, barns, and blacksmith shop. 

View from the first cabin in the cove, not bad
Cades Cove mill
Matt and I in the cove...pretty nice views.
Day 3
On Wednesday we had planned to hike to Grotto Falls but that plan got cut short when the keys got locked in the car.  Two hours and $75 later we were back in the car.  We had Luke out but no blankets (chilly in the mountains!), diapers, or food.  It sucked but a lot of strangers did offer help - food for Luke, water for us, help locating phone numbers, and rides back to Gatlinburg.  So nice to have so many people come to our aid.   Before the lockout we did get in a hike around the Ogle Farm which was gorgeous and very quiet.  We hardly ran into a single other person back there. 

And we did get to see some views on our way to the waterfall parking lot.

Day 4
We spent Thursday hiking to Laurel Falls:

Laurel Falls
It's supposed to be the easiest hike since it's paved and only 1.3 miles.  The trail was fairly busy but not horrible.  I got A LOT of comments about Luke.  Pretty much everyone we crossed said something about the baby or that we were hiking with him or something.  It was amusing.  He garners a lot of attention. =) 

After finishing at the waterfall we drove the rest of the Newfound Gap road which had gorgeous gorgeous views.  We made it almost all the way to the North Carolina entrance to the park.  

Day 5
On our last day the only thing we had left that we really wanted to do was hike Grotto Falls without locking the keys in the car.  This hike was a little more difficult than Laurel because the path wasn't paved which meant dodging roots, rocks, and poop the whole 1.4 miles.  And there were a few stream crossings.  Last time I hiked this (9 years ago with my family) I recall a lot of us ending up with a wet foot.  We all stayed dry this time!

We also had the trail mostly to ourselves because we got such an early start (10am).  We skipped all of the pull offs on the way since we done those prior to locking the keys in the car.  That actually  worked out although I could have done without spending the $75.  And the 2 hour wait.

Grotto Falls
Anyways, we had a really nice time in the area this time around.  The rest of the Roaring Fork Motorway that follows the falls is just absolutely gorgeous.  Probably one of our favorite parts of the trip.  Luke fell asleep on the hike back from the falls and then slept 2 hours which means we had plenty of time to enjoy the drive. 

We did a decent amount of driving around the park on this trip which worked really really well with Luke because he could get naps in while we saw sights.  We did many pull offs where one of us would jump out to take pictures and look around while the other stayed with Luke in the car. 

We finished this drive and spent the rest of the afternoon/evening around camp.  Luke was a very good little camper for us the whole week.  He slept well in his pack n play and did great in the car  (we caught him looking out the windows often).  It was a relief to have him do so well because we hope to take lots of family vacations.

It was certainly different from every other travel experience we've had together but it was also so familiar because of the trips we had taken growing up.  It was strange to be the parents this time.  Really doesn't seem all that long ago that I was just a kid on a trip with my parents and sisters.  How time flies.

No comments: