A Walk In The Park

This past week I decided to have “A pamper me” day, so I went to the local nail shop. I was seated next to a young woman (probably 30ish) at the pedicure station. She struck up a conversation by asking me if I lived here and I answered in the affirmative. Then she told me she was here with her husband all week on business and were staying in Gatlinburg (nice, I thought, I love Gatlinburg).  She went on to explain that since he would be busy in meetings all day she decided to drive over to our side of the valley and visit the Tanger Outlet Mall (I’m nodding in understanding and agreement). Then she asked me if there was anything they needed to do while in our area. “Well, I said, “You have to go to the park.” “It is beyond beautiful”, I said, “and since it is early in the week she and her husband should go either this afternoon or Tuesday before the traffic gets bad.” I also told her about The Roaring Fork Motor Trail right off the parkway in Gatlinburg, which is another truly beautiful part of the park. She nodded and was silent for a few minutes and then said, (wait for it), “What kind of park is it?”

I truly pray the shock of her question didn’t show on my face, but I took a deep, slow breath, smiled and said, (in my sweetest southern accent) “Why, Darling, it is THE GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK!” I took another slow, deep breath and said, “It is the largest National Park east of the Mississippi River and it is probably the only one that is absolutely FREE.”

 “Really, she said, “I had no idea?!” (I already knew that). 

After a brief silence, I realized she had no intention of going, so I added, there is also The Island. The Island has a large eye-type Ferris wheel, like they have in London, a music-water show like they have in Vegas, a Margaritaville, Paula Dean’s restaurant and lots of shopping. She smiled real big at that news.

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Oh Lord, help me! She sits on the edge of one of the most spectacular areas in this nation and she drove all this way to go SHOPPING.

 I came home, told sweet husband and he declared we would go to “The Park” on Wednesday, walk about and have us a picnic. And that is exactly what we did. Besides the Mountain Laurel are in full bloom and I have yet to see them (pictured below).

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 There are two trails near the Sugarland Visitor’s Center that are easy hikes. We chose these because I have some very temporary back/leg issues. We also picnicked at the Chimneys Picnic Area – a MUST SEE and Sweet Husband’s favorite part of the park.  There are plenty of other wonderful hikes, from easy to challenging.  There are actually 900 miles of hikes in this park alone…yes, 900 miles! 

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There is an area with a trail, just off the parkway in Sugarland where you can see the almost lost homesteads of two families.  All that is left are two chimneys and a long rock wall.  These were abandoned when the National Park Service purchased these farms in the 1930s (pictured above).

Below are a few other shots taken along our trail walk.  Tell me, if you can, why would you go shopping when you have this kind of beauty nearby?

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The Great Smoky Mountains

So much beauty, so much to see and do…every season.

RIPLEY’S AQURAIUM

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DOLLYWOOD

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PARIOT MOUNTAIN

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CREEKS TO PLAY IN

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WATER FALLS

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FLOWERS

VIEWS IN EVERY SEASON

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THE ISLAND

TENNESSEE FOOTBALL

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CRITTERS

Cougar

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TITANIC MUSEUM

WONDER WORKS

WONDERWORKS

MUSIC

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CADES COVE

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GOLF

CAMPING

Count The Cost

    Things I have learned

  • People everywhere are warm and wonderful.
  • California is fabulous.  My opinion has changed, If I could afford it, I would live there…this what I used to believe (home of the fruits and nuts – I couldn’t resist taking this picture of the truck farmer north of San Francisco), But now, it is the most magical and wonderful of all.

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  • Seasonal clothing should be packed in separate boxes, so you can pull out only what you will need the next day…unless you are staying several days, then you bring in two full suitcases.  We have encountered very hot to very cold since May, 2014.
  • Shoes should have their own box.  (these first two bullet points all go in the very back of the van with the cooler – easily accessible)
  • In the single suitcase pack the daily essentials: under garments, makeup & shave kit, meds, jewelry, PJs, socks and clothing for the next day.
  • One LARGE purse is needed for quick access to items that are needed during the day.  SUCH AS:  WALLET/CELL PHONE CASE [can be purchased at Walmart for $5.00], COUGH DROPS, CAMERA, CHARGER CORDS, EMORY BOARD, PENS, SMALL NOTE BOOK, CHAPSTICK, SALINE SPRAY, TYLENOL, BANDAIDS, ETC.  My wallet/cell phone case can be pulled out with my camera when needed, leaving the balance in the car…because darn, it is heavy!

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  • It is not necessary to have a perfect hairdo if you are going to be in the car all day touring about.  Nice hair is for a few events…a very few – like nice dinner out or church.
  • This does not have to be expensive.  Thanks to friends and family and Groupon/LivingSocial we have stayed really inexpensively.  Plus we have slept in the car when necessary (at a camp ground) – really very comfortable with an air mattress.
  • One not so sweet friend of sweet husband commented, “I sure hope the money holds out.”  Frankly, we are doing this on a very small monthly income.  If it were not for genuine friends and family (you know who you are) a lot of this would not have happened.  We do not over stay our welcome.  We communicate with these friends/family via email and phone and they actually ask when we will be near enough to visit.
  • A computer is necessary.
  • Someone to help with mail is necessary.
  • A (mostly) national pharmacy is necessary.  We have been using Walgreens.  Fortunately, we don’t take a lot of prescriptions.
  • A (mostly) national bank.
  • Good credit and some cash.
  • Patience with your companion and with yourself.
  • A good laundry bag with a ziplock package of laundry pods (I use TIDE)
  • A portable WiFi so you can search for a lodging groupon when you know where you will be stopping for the night. (we use Verizon’s MiFI – just bear in mind, if there is no cell coverage, there is no internet)
  • Most bills can be received and paid online, however, a small supply of checks, envelopes and stamps are needed.
  • An up-to-date, national road atlas/book.
  • An up-to-date passport.
  • I am now, officially a TREE HUGGER after experiencing the great Redwood, Pacific Cedar, Eucalyptus and the Sequoia.

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Botanical Garden

Sweet husband and I went to a botanical garden last week.  May I say, it was spectacular?!

It is the end of the season, but we still had many types of grasses, moss, trees and bushes (many we had never seen before).  There were several types of flowers still blooming, herbs and vegetables, plus fountains, water falls, ponds, chipmunks and many butterflies.  They had a children’s garden (probably my favorite part) complete with scarecrows, a tree house, an art/reading room, ponds and bridges.

After walking through the formal, vegetable and children’s garden we headed off through the woods to the “natural” setting; you know trails thru the woods, along a lake, with boulders and tree/bush identifying signs, etc.  The canopy housed many birds, more chipmunks and delightfully, beautifully colored leaves drifting to the ground like fairies marking the path before you.  We walked down the trail toward the lake, the leaves were brilliant, the lake was smooth, showing a beautiful reflection of the tree colors on the other side.  It was amazingly peaceful and beautiful/  So much so that I actually didn’t realize I had been walking down into this dark forest for quite a distance…THEN we turned a corner… OMGosh I realized we would be walking BACK UP this looooooooong, winding hill.  There was no one else around us (no one was stupid enough to go on that long trek with rain threatening).  At that point I realized and said to my sweet husband with the appropriate panic in my voice, “If we die here trying to climb this hill, no one will find until the spring!”

About two-thirds of the way up this mountain we crossed a road (I use that word very loosely) and we saw signs pushing us onward across this “road”.  Out of the corner of my eye, a few feet up the “road” I saw a bench and what looked like a laarg golf cart parked by it.  Thank you, Jesus!  I am saved.  Sweet husband kept going up the path because he wanted to see the promised water fall at the end of the trail.  My new best friend drove me the final third of the way back in his wonderful chariot (golf cart).  After my best friend dropped me at the top of the hill, I sent him back to find sweet husband – success.

Lunch and coffee were available at the visitor’s center.  We have been sufficiently strengthened for yet another day and another quest.

The Walk in the woods

from the bottom of the trail

from the bottom of the trail

Across the lake

Sweet Husband's quest

Sweet Husband’s quest

Did you know it changes color in the fall.  In the deep south grass just dies from the heat of August/September.  I have had such a sheltered life.

Did you know it changes color in the fall. In the deep south grass just dies from the heat of August/September. I have had such a sheltered life.

There were several in the Children's garden, but this one was made of ribbon...just lovely

There were several in the Children’s garden, but this one was made of ribbon…just lovely