cades cove

it's been four weeks since our entire family has been home all at one.  crazy schedules, traveling, summer camps, it's what summer is all about.  last week girls plus roger  were in the mountains at 'camp honey.' our trip this year was louder, wilder but calmer and way more relaxed (oxymoron?) last year at the end of our trip, we were exhausted. staying on the go with little down time can drain the life out of mom and kids. we vowed this year to calm things down. stay at the cabin a little more, enjoy nature a lot more, allow time to move a a slower pace... a lot of  'down time' can make some serious memories. so it was louder, but happy noise. it was wild, but a calming kind of wild. (yeah, i am talking in circles)  
while i have a zillion pictures and funny stories from our trip, i wanted to start with my favorite! in fact, it might just be my favorite of the entire summer.

cades cove  is beautiful!  i think it is the most beautiful place in the appalachian mountains!  i had read on line that the park opens two days a week from sunrise to 10 am.  making the 11 mile loop automobile free. perfect for bicycles, walkers, runners, hikers. 

 the only catch was (if you did not bring your own bike) there is only one place to for rentals. the campground. thankfully i called the day before for details. the bike shop opens at 7am and the 172 bikes will sell rent out in an hour. there are no baby seats or carts, so the little ones were out. oh and the line begins forming around 6am.  our cabin was an hour away. i knew this would be an incredible experience for those willing to leave at 5:45. 

the next morning, myself and three girls left for cades cove right on time!  we were in line at 6:45 with only 50+ people in front of us.  

now are you ready to hear me gush about how absolutely incredible this morning was! the mountain air was chilly and crisp, making it feel more like fall than summer. even with 700+ bikers, the path was so peaceful. it felt as if you were in a sacred place. we hummed and sang "this is the day that the Lord has made!" i hummed so not to frighten living things around me. 

watching the daylight fill the air... "let us rejoice and be glad in it!" these little fellas will always remember.
my goal for the day was to take it all in! slowly, not rushing, soaking in one of God's many masterpieces. and that is exactly what we did. when the girls wanted to stop and look at a snail, we did. when they wanted to tour every mountain cabin and nature trail we did. it was a perfect morning!

i am not great at weeding down pictures ~ 
image overload ahead!

these tombstones caught the eye of the girls. 
a mother and father and three of their infants.

then it happened. what every person wants to see when visiting the mountains. a bear sighting! to make it even better, a baby bear sighting!

on our way out, we spotted another mom and her two cubs!
"early birds spot the bear"


we overheard two park rangers radioing in a bike accident involving two broken collarbones and possible neck injury. we were warned at the rental shop about one hill you were required to walk bikes. liza wondered out loud if the accident was on this particular hill.
and it was. the waring pictured on the sign is exactly what happened. we said a little prayer as we passed. after i snapped a picture. rude, i know!

eleven miles up hill is tougher than it sounds. (they weren't all up hill, but we sure felt the up hills more than the down hill. this is an out of focus picture,  i love it too much not to share. three hours later, we had slowed our slow pace. the girls hung in there and kept the 'my legs are hurting'  to a minimum.

the ambulance arrived for the down hill rule breaking biker almost an hour after we heard the park rangers radio it in. YIKES! can you guess what i talked about after i took this shot?  follow the rules. safety warnings are put up for a reason! 

it was an amazing, amazing day!


geez louise this summer is flying by. i feel this way every year when the fourth rolls around. this was our second independence day that coincided with our family vacation. it's obviously not a popular weekend to get married. it is fun to change things up and the fireworks  tourist hot spots are pretty darn great. the american flags flying behind the boats is just a reminder that america ~ or merica as pronounced in SC ;)  ~ is the best place in the world. 

bennett's redneck phrase for the day  
"merica!undisputed back to back world war champions!" 

by the time friday the fourth rolled around, the kids were boated out! we changed things up and rented jet skis. for the kids. jeff and i anchored in the cove and soaked up some couple time!

   after the shark catching, i knew my girls would be nervous. if i had read the article in the state newspaper about hilton head and great white sharks, this might not have happened!

the girls started off slow and steady.
he hates a roller coaster or fast moving carousel ;)
 but this man-child is fearless in the ocean.

dolphin pod
now for a ridiculous amount of jet ski pictures.

our plan was to make a quick trip to the condo to change into our red white and blue. that was until we saw a half dozen tour buses delivering tourists for the fireworks show... three hours early.  there was no leaving and coming back ~ no hurrying.! we enjoyed a light dinner (on the boat) dressed in our non-fourth of july salty clothes. it was great!
another self timer picture. 
A for effort, not quality :)

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