Earlier this year we asked Olivia to choose the vacation destination for our June family vacation. Since we are celebrating her graduating from our homeschool, we thought this would be a nice treat for her. She chose the Smoky Mountains.
Our family has visited these mountains once before--when Leah was about 18 months old, I was pregnant with Sam, and the other children were 6, 8, and 10. Jimmy's sister, Jenny and her three children joined us on that trip, and I don't remember too much about it except that I was constantly nauseous, and Leah would not sleep at night! Jenny's children were sick while we were there, and by the time we got home and over the next few days, the stomach virus hit all of us too! What a trip!
We needed to make some pleasant mountain memories!
We left on a Saturday, just after we ran the Elvis Presley 5K. We stopped in Nashville for the night. We visited the Opryland Hotel, and then we attended the Grand Ole Opry. The "most exciting" guest of the night was Scotty McCleary (he won American Idol a couple of years or so ago).
in the pretty Opryland Hotel
still in the hotel
I took Olivia and Julie down to the stage so that we could get some up close pictures. We were surrounded by shrieking young girls. That was almost as entertaining as hearing Scotty sing! When we left to go back to our seats, the young ladies who got our spot were ecstatic!
the Grand Ole Opry stage
We stayed in the Nashville area on Saturday night, and Sunday morning we worshiped with Jimmy's cousin, Stacee, and her family. She prepared a delicious lunch for our family and two other families from their congregation. We had such a nice visit!
Then we headed on up to Pigeon Forge. We were pleasantly surprised by our cabin. It was spacious, welcoming, and clean! The children spent a lot of time in the game room, playing air hockey and pool.
one of many pool games
Monday morning we went to Cade's Cove. We stopped at a couple of the historic spots.
At one point, as we were driving along, discussing the remote possibility of seeing a bear, the traffic inside Cade's Cove came to a standstill.
A bear spotting!
In fact, in a short period of time, we saw six bears! We got out of our van to have a closer look, and Jimmy was able to snap a few pictures.
After the bears moved on into the woods, we drove to a trailhead, Abram's Falls.
We ate our picnic lunch, and then we began the 5 mile round trip hike to a waterfall. All five children quickly left me behind (I am not so fast on trails, especially mountain trails). Jimmy waited for me, and we met the children at the top.
headed up the mountain
one of five scary bridges that we had to cross
the reward of our almost one hour hike up...
a beautiful waterfall!
We rested for almost an hour while the children played in the stream.
Going across another bridge
Can you find Sam in this picture?
The older three children quickly followed the trail back to our van, but Leah and Sam lost some steam. Jimmy had to carry them on his back part of the way!
Tuesday, we drove about 3 hours to visit some friends in North Carolina. It was a curvy, winding road that led over the mountain to their house, and I think all seven of us were carsick by the time we finally arrived.
But it was so worth the trip! Their home was absolutely beautiful, and the view--breathtaking!
Jimmy, Clay, and Aaron rode 4-wheelers up and down the mountainside.
Cari and her daughters prepared us two delicious meals--both lunch and supper. We had such a fun visit! The Smith family has five children just like us, and they also homeschool. Their oldest daughter will be attending the same college as Olivia. And their second daughter is Julie's age. Cari is an ultra marathoner! In fact, she recently completed a 100 mile race!
the older girls hanging out
the little boys played outside most of the day
getting reading to eat lunch
Cari, Olivia, and Emma
Leah and Sarah
Sam with a dirty face after eating homemade goat's milk chocolate ice cream. It was so yummy!
I think one of the biggest highlights of the day for my children was milking the goats!
After they milked the mama goat, they bottle fed the babies.
Here is the beautiful view from the Smith's front porch!
Wednesday we did a ropes course and zip line in Gatlinburg! Now that was fun! In fact, I will write a separate post about that day--I have tons of pictures! It was crazy!
After the zip line we walked around Gatlinburg a little bit.
The children searched for rocks in the streams that afternoon.
Thursday we went to Dollywood.
Each morning I fixed hair--mostly Leah's but on this day I braided all three girls hair. That was a good hairstyle for roller coaster riding and rain!
We rode the scariest, fastest, most thrilling roller coasters ever at Dollywood. I cannot believe the three that I rode! I skipped one. We still had one roller coaster and the huge log ride that we had planned to ride after our lunch--but we were unable to. It began to rain during lunch, and quickly progressed to bad weather. There was even a tornado warning at some point, and we had to take shelter inside a theater. The rides at the park shut down, and we left Dollywood around 4:00.
We went back to Pigeon Forge for a little bit more souvenir shopping, and then back to the cabin to begin packing up.
Friday we left at 6:30 AM for the 7 hour trip back home.
What a fun trip! Olivia chose a fun destination!