Today marks one week on the road. We ended up starting one day late due to a broken foot. After panicking and imaging the summer spent pushing Julien in a wheelchair we were beyond relieved to find out he only needs a boot for 2 weeks. The doctor said he should be cleared for hiking in 3 weeks which is perfect as that is when get to Zion!
We finally got to Shenandoah on Tuesday evening and promptly set up our camper and got our campfire lit. We had a lovely evening enjoying the first S’mores of our trip. Wednesday was spent attending Ranger programs and helping the kids earn their Jr. Ranger badges. The kids made friends and spent that evening running around the camp ground with them.
Thursday we all took one final (pay) shower before heading to Great Smokey Mountains. We arrived right about S’more-thirty so everyone was out at their campfire to witness Josh reversing the camper into a tiny narrow space. I closed my eyes imagining something akin to my attempts at parallel parking. He nailed it on the first try, our neighbors later complimented him on his reversal skills. Who knew?
We were lucky enough to arrive during the synchronized firefly week. During this week the fireflies synchronize with each other making it completely dark then everything lights up then goes back dark then repeats every 15 seconds. It was really cool to see in person, as it only happens in The Great Smokies and someplace in Japan.
Friday we set out early to check out Cades Cove loop before it got crowded. We took a few hours, stopping to do tiny hikes to see historic cabins, churches and barns. We were rather limited on what we could do with Julien’s foot so we returned to the campground. The kids rode bikes, Vivs decided to get rid of her training wheels. Josh and I ended up getting to know our neighbors, Bonnie and Jared. They were so kind and prayed with us for our continued journey to be safe.
Saturday ended up being kind of a bust. I planned the entire day based on going to a Jr. Ranger program but we had a miscommunication about where it was so we missed it (later to find out all the Ranger programs were cancel because of the synchronized firefly event). Then, Vivs and I were going to go on a hike but the trail we chose had a medical emergency (we later found out they found a body 😳). We ended up spending the day at the campground, Josh baked bread, Vivs mastered riding a two wheeler, Jules hung out in the hammock and I read. In the end it was a nice afternoon spent together.
Sunday we had another big day of Ranger programs planned but upon arrival at the first one we were finally told all programs were canceled. We took the time to check out the museum and movie as well as have the kids earn their badges.
We then decided to go to the highest point in the park. It was a short drive then a half mile paved path so we figured Jules would be alright. When we got to the parking area it was so foggy we like we were in a giant cloud. We were all a little stir crazy at this point so we hiked up to the lookout in the dense fog. We made it up with no problem but on the way down it started pouring rain. At this point we just laughed and tried to catch raindrops on our tongues the rest of the way down.
We spent the rest of Sunday in Gaitlinburg trying to stay dry. We decide to just head out Sunday night as we had a really long drive and it was raining. We drove about 6 hours and pulled into a Walmart where we slept in our trailer. I kept expecting to have someone knock on the trailer door and tell us to leave. We had no problems at all and it was great to get 7 hours sleep instead of an overnight drive.
We pulled into Hot Spring Arkansas by 10:30 Monday morning. We headed straight for the vistors center to get started on our Jr. Ranger badges. We got there right as they were starting a tour so we joined the guide and a few other people for the hour long tour. It was very interesting, the kids even listen for the entire hour. We then had to try out the only Brewery inside a national park. It is in one of the old bathhouses that line the street that make up the National Park. The owner has a 50 year lease with the federal government to use the property. They had 18 beers on tap and the ones we tried were delicious.
Finally a full hookup! Showers, electricity, dishes in our own sink! It was pure bliss and thank goodness because it was still pouring rain and we were stuck inside! Everyone got a good rest and we are back on the road today heading to Abilene, TX.