(This is a continuation of our vacation to the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. See it from the beginning here.)
At the end of our awesome first day of vacation, we came home to the mountain cabin and roasted marshmallows with Big Molly on the deck. The kids love to roast marshmallows, but they don’t really like to eat them, so I selflessly consumed about 10 pounds of roasted fluff on their behalf.
Which is why I am eating carrots and lettuce this week, like a rabbit.
The next morning, we woke up ready to take on another adventurous day. We started by driving over the mountains to the Cherokee Indian Reservation, which was a lot cheesier than I remember from my childhood… But the kids were as mesmerized by it as I was when I was a kid.
However, the most remarkable thing that happened in Cherokee had to be the purchase of Bean’s bow and arrow.
Bean has wanted a bow and arrow for a few months now. I’m not exactly sure where the fascination comes from, really. The only place I can think of that he would have even seen a bow and arrow would be watching “Peter Pan,” but who knows? He just woke up one morning begging for a bow and arrow. I kept telling him to hang in there and we would get him a real one from the indian reservation. I’m pretty sure it was worth the wait because he would not be separated from it for the rest of the trip!
Our trip continued over the mountains, stopping along the way to take pictures and marvel at the views, of course.
And we stopped to snuggle…
We continued on until we got to Gatlinburg, which was actually the original destination for our mountain vacation all along. Growing up, this was where we came on vacation almost every year. It was pretty different than I remembered, though. More lights, more commercial, more people.
But still the same salt water taffy being pulled in candy shop after candy shop…
(This picture is for my sister. Remember these, Gin????)
Still the same little shops and cafes, owned by local artists and bakers. I remember shopping in these exact stores with my mom when I was a little girl.
Only now, I have my own kids with me, and there’s something extra magical about seeing one of your favorite places from childhood through your own children’s eyes.
Well, it’s not magical ALL the time…
After an afternoon in Gatlinburg, we started the hour and a half drive back over the mountains to the mountain house. But along the way, we stopped to play at more little pull offs on the side of the road.
We stopped at this crazy awesome rest stop just outside of Gatlinburg and toured these pioneer colonies.
Bean fit right in with his bow and arrow, except that there were chickens running around the property and he kept yelling out at the top of his lungs, “I’M GONNA SHOOT THAT CHICKEN!” before Chris and I could clamp a hand over his mouth. Boys are so graphic!!!!!
While we were walking around, we happened to find two giant elk grazing in the woods near the river. It was so neat to be so close to them!
We stopped along the road home several more times, but my favorite was this one stop by a river. We stopped and let the kids get down in the riverbed and climb all over the rocks.
It was breathtakingly beautiful, and we stayed for over an hour. Chris taught the kids how to skip rocks…
…and I showed them how to pick up giant rocks and throw them in the deepest part of the water. They thought it was hysterical!
I love planning our vacations. I like finding the places that I think our kids will enjoy the most and scouring around until I’ve found just the right restaurant or place to stay. But, without a doubt, the best vacation moments are the ones that come spontaneously.
When you’re driving down a very well-planned road and suddenly pull to the side and just take off exploring.
Those moments when you’ve got nowhere else to be, no other thought in your head. You’re simply in the now with the people you love the most.
I think that is what vacations are all about. Being in the now.
We got up early the next morning and drove back to Orlando. Our trip to the mountains was exactly what we all needed. Some time away, some time together, some time to play, some time to pull over on the side of the road for no reason at all except that it’s pretty. I think we all need to be reminded of that every now and then, especially when life starts to pull us in 100 different ways at 100 miles an hour. Somewhere, there’s a winding road with beautiful views and miles for us to explore if we just take the time to go.