Summer’s Almost Over!

To cap off our summer we took a quick trip to the Smokies. Though we had been last April we decided to return to a cabin near Townsend, Tennessee, not far from a back entrance to the Great Smoky National Park. (If you want to visit the Smokies and avoid the commercialization of Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge, which some of our children call “Vanity Fair”, consider Top of Townsend, which is run by a delightful older Christian couple.)

We set off with our youngest seven children plus niece Lizzie. Having Lizzie along was such a pleasure for all of us!

Our first night we trekked from our cabin to the top of our mountain. It wasn’t a long hike, but after a while the trail petered out and we had to make our way through the woods. At the top we enjoyed the view and the kids played “Frolf” (or Frisbee golf) with rocks instead of the usual instrument. Unfortunately Paul’s forehead took the brunt of one rock, so we had to make a hasty bandage from Tim’s shirt and quickly find our way back down the mountain. Dad, Mom and boy were pretty bloody by the time we arrived at our cabin. Tim’s first aid kit, complete with butterfly bandages, came in handy!

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Tuesday we set out for Abram’s Falls, a five mile hike which takes off from Cade’s Cove. On the way we saw this bear climbing a tree next to the road.

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Fred, the friendly bear, as the kids called him.

We’d hiked this same trail 3 ½ years ago with kids about the same ages. What a difference plenty of experience hiking in the intervening years has made! (Plus having a fun cousin along!) This time we were missing a baby in a backpack, but otherwise the ages were very similar. The previous hike had plenty of friction, but this time just laughter. And this time our kids set a blistering pace. No poking along, but power hiking! But best of all, part way down the trail we had an unexpected visitor. Abram’s Creek lay down the hill to our left and the mountain continued up to our right. Suddenly a little bear cub jumped onto the trail directly in front of Kristen, our leader at the time! She screamed! Fortunately she was able to get a few photos and we all were able to see the cute little guy, about the size of a medium dog, before he took off down the hill. We were most concerned about Mama Bear, so we made quite a bit of noise as we continued on our way. We never did see her, thankfully!

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The kids at Abram Falls.
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Babe, our not so friendly bear.

Later that day we took tubes down the Little River in Townsend. This was great fun, though some of us did get banged up a bit. And yes, it was cold! I lost feeling in a couple of fingers until a hot shower revived them. Ben did great in his tube tethered either to Tim’s, Faith’s, or my tube.

Before we came home we took one more hike, this time to Andrew’s Bald. This takes off from the Clingman’s Dome parking lot, and we had read a pretty discouraging description in our hiking book. Was that ever wrong! This was a beautiful hike through rocky forests out to a bald covered with high-bush blueberries, just starting to have ripe berries. And even though the day was one in which the Smokies lived up to their name, the views of surrounding mountains were breathtaking. Ben was wearing out on the way back, but Jonathan, his designated porter, played a game to keep him moving on his own feet. Paul and I, out in front, became Sam and Frodo, and Ben and Jonathan were on a quest to catch the Hobbits. I didn’t know they were playing this scenario until we gathered at the end, but the merry band was certainly loud enough to scare away any bears who might have come looking for tasty blueberries! All in all, it was just the change of pace and scenery that all of us needed before settling in for another year of hitting the books!

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