We just got back from a wonderful camping trip at the Look Rock campground in the Smokey Mountains. We went with some new friends and our kids had a wonderful time playing together.
We got to our campsites slightly after supper, so it was starting to get dark. We quickly set up our tent and got supper started for the kids - then realized we had forgotten to bring roasting sticks to roast hot dogs! Oh well, on camping trips you get to be creative, so the boys searched through the woods for some sticks and sharpened an end to get the hot dogs cooked. Since it was so late, we tried to hurry and get the beds made up so the kids could go to bed. While I was making the beds, Tom went looking for wood to make a nice fire.
He came back really excited and told me that while he was getting wood, he saw something watching him from behind a tree, but whenever he looked at it, it would move. He was about 30 feet from whatever it was, so he tried making a noise to scare the raccoon or squirrel. Whatever the animal was growled back and scurried up the tree. Then he realized it wasn't a raccoon, and it wasn't a squirrel - it was a BEAR! We have been camping in the Smokies for more than 10 years, and despite hearing there are active bears there, we have never seen one. The friends we camped with said they saw 7 bears the weekend before. So we were excited to finally see one, even if it was closer than we wanted it to be. The bear gathered nuts from the top of the tree for several hours. It was a little nerve wracking knowing that the branches falling outside the tent were from a bear so we made certain to lock up all our food safely in the car. Thankfully, it didn't appear to bother anything in our campsite, although my girlfriend Jamie says she heard lots of car doors slamming all night long as people realized something was enjoying their food.
Saturday morning we had a nice pancake breakfast. I made the kids pancakes into pancake rolls to keep them less sticky for my girls who LOVE getting stuff in their hair and crying when I brush it later. Then we had a quick worship and decided to hike to Abrams Falls - a 2.5 mile hike one way. We weren't sure how far we would get with 5 kids 6 and under, but we decided to see how far we could go. We ate lunch by our cars and started on our hike.
The girls were quite talkative on the trail. Nikki got a little grumpy, but as soon as we got her started talking about cookies and what kind of cookie she would make, she was happy as a clam. Her cookies would be strawberry cookies, in case you were wondering.
We stopped to play in the water along the way to the falls and the kids found some minnows in the water. Another family hiking on the trail offered a net they had brought along just for that purpose. They had two boys, so it made sense. We are SO going to be bringing a net the next time we go hiking. What a great idea!
At the falls we stopped to catch our breath and enjoy the view. I warned Tommy not to get wet since we still had a long 2.5 mile trek back to the cars - but he's a boy. Think he listened to me? Nope. He went wading. Oh well. At least we got a couple great family shots while we watched the waterfall.
I was very impressed with our kids on the trail. We didn't have to carry either girl very often - so they walked almost the entire 2.5 miles to the falls and the 2.5 miles back to the cars - 5 miles total! Tommy didn't complain once about having to walk the entire trip, so on the way back, I offered to carry him a short distance piggy back. He loved it.
By the time we made it back to the cars, it was almost suppertime. We decided that we'd stop at the Cades Cove visitor center so we could let the kids look at the mill there before we headed back to camp.
However, traffic was horrific. We discovered that there was a baby bear in one of the trees, so Tom grabbed his camera and ran off to take pictures. We crept along and finally got to take a peek at the bear way up in the tree - bear #2 of the weekend. A ranger was shouting at everyone to keep moving, so I didn't stop to let the kids get a good look - plus Tom was taking pictures that they'd be able to see later. Tom hopped back in and we continued on to the visitor's center.
At the visitor's center, I decided to make the kids take a potty break, since the trails really don't offer much. When we got back out, Tom had again heard that people had seen some bears across the field, so we started walking towards the field. When we finally made it to the side of the field where the bears were, we saw that it was a mama bear and her 2 cubs (bringing the number of bears seen to a grand total of 5!). We only saw one of the cubs when we first arrived because the second one was either hanging out close to the tree, or wasn't moving much. The bear cub at the top of the tree tried moving around from branch to branch and at one point almost missed a branch. Thankfully it made it, because it would NOT have been fun to have a mother bear on the ground!
We decided not to look around the mill, and just headed back to the campsite. The kids were exhausted, so we made chili and cornbread, then sent them off to bed, where within minutes of climbing into their beds, I think they were asleep!
We headed home on Sunday, and now I get to begin the fun of catching up on housework and laundry! Whoo-to-the-HOO! Wait, I'm not excited about all that housework, but I did have a great weekend! Any tips on how to get my house whipped back into shape quickly? :)