Great Smoky Mountains National Park

We spent a few weeks around the Smoky mountains, but since it rained for a lot of the time we were on the Tennessee side we did not see much of the park from there.  By the time we moved to the NC side, we were able to do more exploring of the park.



On a Sunday morning while we were in Cherokee, NC my parents drove out to spend the day with us.  I did not tell the boys that they were coming, so it was a great surprise when they showed up and knocked on the door.  We spent most of the day at the national park.

The first place we visited was the Mountain Farm Museum.






Then we went up to Clingman’s Dome.  This was a strenuous uphill hike that I’m afraid had my parents wondering why they had decided to join us for this.  But this was the highest point in the park with beautiful views.  It was quite chilly up there too!



I can see why they call these mountains the Smokies.




After a quick lunch break we went on another hike up to Mingo Falls which was beautiful.

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Later that week we had a day off work for Veteran’s Day so we went back to do some more exploring of the park.  We hiked a small portion of the famous Appalachian Trail.  No, we didn’t make it the whole 1,972 miles to Maine.



Then we visited Mingus Mill.  It was closed for the season but it was still pretty to see from the outside.


We went back to see more of the Mountain Farm Museum so the kids could earn their Junior Ranger badges.  We also saw lots of elk there.






The boys even got to learn about an outhouse!


New Junior Ranger badges!


After that we visited the Cherokee Indian Reservation.  It was really cool to talk to these guys and learn some of their history.


Lastly we drove a portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Unfortunately we missed the prettiest time of the year to see the fall colors.  By this time most of the leaves had already fallen off the trees.  But we drove through some cool tunnels.  I was glad we were not towing our house behind us at this point.






We almost adopted a new cat while we were staying in Cherokee.  This little stray cat came to visit us at our campfire each night.  It might have had something to do with the fact that Chris kept feeding it, I don’t know!   🙂    Anyway this cat loved sitting by the fire because the nights were so cold!  Fat Cat and this cat did not get along very well though so we still only have one cat.  For that I am thankful, one is enough!


We really enjoyed visiting the Smoky Mountains.  It is such a huge national park that we were not able to see all of it, so we’ll just have to go back some day and see some more.  Thanks for reading!

Categories: National Parks, North Carolina, Tennessee | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ober Gatlinburg

One of the items on my bucket list of things to do while we’re traveling was to take the kids to an alpine slide.  I remember my parents taking me to those in New England when I was a kid and I knew my kids would just love it.  So while in Gatlinburg we visited the Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort.  During non-ski season the resort has all kinds of other fun activities to do like an indoor ice skating rink, mini golf, scenic gondola rides, water slides (summer only), and our favorite — alpine slides!  The beautiful fall colors were an added bonus.



The alpine slide was not open first thing in the morning because they had to clean the rain and leaves off the slides, so we started the day with a maze where Chris & Jesse teamed up against Jake & me and Jake and I won!  We had the fastest time of the day recorded on the board, but that didn’t last long.


Then we played Jesse’s favorite game, mini golf.


The slides were still not open so we rode the scenic chair lift to the top of the mountain.



There was a band playing all day at the top of the mountain.  I would have liked to have stayed up there longer and listened to them, but my kids are just not into listening to bands yet.


This is the view going back down the chair lift.


By this time the slides were finally open.  Yay!





At Ober Gatlinburg you can either buy individual attraction tickets if you only plan to ride something once or twice, or you can buy a pass for unlimited rides for the whole day.  This was the best option for us because we rode the alpine slide so many times that day I lost count.  We took a day off work and went mid-week and it was not crowded at all.  The people working the chair lift and slide got to know us really well by the end of the day.  They were some of the nicest and most friendly people.  Every employee at this place was so nice!

Another ride the kids loved was the swings.


There were a couple of other attractions that we did not do.  They had a new mountain roller coaster that looked really fun, but since it was not included in the unlimited ride pass we skipped it.  I think it was $15 per person to ride that which I think is just way too expensive for one ride, especially when you multiply that by 4 of us.  The scenic gondola was also too expensive per person so we skipped that too.  Regardless, there was plenty for us to do with the unlimited ride pass and we enjoyed our day at Ober Gatlinburg so much!  If you are ever in this area, I would highly recommend it.


Categories: Tennessee | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

The Smokies with a side trip to Minnesota

Tennessee and Minnesota in the same week?  Sure, why not?

After leaving our last TN State Park we moved on to Gatlinburg, but I took a side trip to Minneapolis for some work meetings.  It was my first time in Minnesota but I don’t get to update our travel map since it was just me, not the whole family.  This was a fun trip!  The team that I work with is so spread out with most people in different states including NC, FL, TX, AZ, VA, WI, CA and MN.  And then there’s me; you never know what state I’ll be in.  We all got together for some team meetings and team building.  I had never met most of the people on the team so it was nice to get together and see everyone face to face.

This was in the lobby of the Wells Fargo building.  I thought it was cute.


My manager Mike and his wife took my co-worker and me out for a delicious Italian dinner one night.  After that we went to see the Mall of America.  I am not much of a mall person (I prefer to shop online), but I must say this is one incredible mall.  When our travels take us to Minnesota, my kids are definitely going to want to check out the amusement park inside this mall.  It is now on their bucket list of “must-dos”.


One night we had a make-your-own-pizza night at Mary’s house.  She has an amazing game room downstairs where the Web team competed against the BI team at table-top shuffleboard.  The BI team won 13-0.  I think that’s because I was upstairs and was not down there helping out my Web team.  Sorry guys!


My favorite thing we did was some team-building at Escape.  This was so much fun!  We had to split up into 2 teams since our group was too large.  The team I was on did the Mr. Dupree mystery.  We were locked in a room for one hour and had to find clues in order to escape the room.  We were doing pretty well and I think if we had about 10 more minutes we might have escaped, but we ran out of time.  Below are the pictures of our 2 teams after we failed our escape attempts.  Oh well, it was still really fun and now I would like to find one in another city so our family can do this together sometime.



I am truly blessed to work with such a fabulous group of people!  This is not just a group of people who work together, these are friends.  Working with friends is always more fun.

I stayed at the Loews Minneapolis hotel which was very nice.  It even snowed the last night I was there.  That was exciting to see since I hardly ever see snow.  This was the view from my room.


Some friends on my Facebook page said that this view isn’t quite like the views I have been sharing during our travels this year.  Yes that is true and even though I enjoyed this visit, I must say I am definitely not a city girl.  Getting back to Tennessee and driving on the Foothills Parkway on the way home from the airport, I was greeted by the breathtaking scenes below.  Home sweet home!  (Home is where we park it.)



Meanwhile back in Gatlinburg, the boys enjoyed Great Smoky Jellystone Park.  This was the perfect choice for Halloween week because Jellystone parks are known for having many kid-friendly activities and this one did not disappoint.  The activities included candy bar bingo (always a big hit with my kids), a huge game room, mini golf, and a playground that kept the kids busy for many hours.

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Our campsite backed up to a cute little creek.  Fat Cat didn’t seem to like the creek noise.  I think this must be her least favorite park we have been to because she never wanted to be outside like she usually does.



Since she didn’t spend much time outside, she decided to find some mischief to get into inside instead.  She climbed up on this narrow ledge around the kitchen slide.  Then she had no way to get back down until Chris rescued her.  Crazy cat!


Halloween was packed full of activities for the kids including a scavenger hunt, hay ride with Yogi Bear and trick-or-treating of course.

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We spent another week in Gatlinburg after Halloween and visited Ober Gatlinburg ski resort to ride the alpine slides which was super fun!  Stay tuned for another blog post about that later.

Categories: Minnesota, Tennessee | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Tennessee State Parks

We are absolutely loving Tennessee State Parks!  There are so many of them and they all look amazing.  We stayed at 3 of them so far.  I already blogged about the first one in another post: Reelfoot Lake State Park.

The next two that we stayed at are Henry Horton State Park:


and Cumberland Mountain State Park:


They were all wonderful, but Cumberland Mountain was my favorite.  It was especially beautiful because of the fall colors.  After living in Florida for 14 years we are not used to seeing these kinds of fall colors.  It was awesome!

We realized we love staying at state parks so much more than RV parks.  They are more woodsy and secluded, the sites tend to be bigger and more spread out, and they have more of a campground feel.  Don’t get me wrong, we still enjoy RV parks, but lately state parks are more to our liking.

Jesse and I had quite an adventure at Henry Horton State Park.  Jesse has been doing Couch to 5K with me because I’m training for the Disney Princess 5K in February.  Jesse loves to run so he is joining me as I do this.  There was a nice nature trail that we could access just behind our campsite.  Somehow we ended up getting lost in the woods.  At one point the trail wasn’t well-marked and we suddenly realized we were not even on a trail anymore.  We found we were walking in circles because we kept ending up back at the same spot.  Chris called me wondering where we were because it was going to be getting dark soon.  I told him I think we’re lost, so he and Jake came looking for us.  They came across a park ranger on a horse and told him they were looking for us.  He said that he had recently seen us and knows about where we are.  He came along about 10 minutes later and helped us find our way back.  I guess you could say we were rescued by the Lone Ranger.  🙂

Our friends, the Graham family met us at Henry Horton.  Their girls joined the boys on the maze at the park.



Also while we were at Henry Horton we did some sightseeing in Nashville with the Grahams.  We visited the Grand Ole Opry.



And Cooter’s Dukes of Hazard Museum:




Cumberland Mountain State Park was lots of fun.  They have 3 playgrounds which the boys loved!




Cumberland Mountain is known for this beautiful bridge.


The other side of the bridge.



And they have beautiful nature trails.





This was a suspension bridge.  It was fun to walk across it.


Another place we visited while at Cumberland Mountain was the Crossville Model Railroad Club.  This reminded the boys of their Grampa who loves to take them to see model train sets like this.  Going here made them really miss Grampa.  They are very excited to see him and Gramma in just a few weeks.


One thing I loved about this park is there was no WiFi.  I know, that might sound crazy because everyone loves to have their free WiFi.  Chris and I use our Verizon data plan for work, but when an RV park has free WiFi the boys like to play on a Minecraft server and watch Stampy videos.  If you don’t know who Stampy is, consider yourself lucky.  🙂  Just kidding, my kids love watching him and have learned lots of cool things to do on Minecraft by watching his videos.  Anyway, when we don’t have WiFi they tend to go outside and play more often.  At Cumberland Mountain they rode their bikes a lot more than usual.  Also, the picture below shows them in the woods behind our campsite.  They spent most of the week back there making their own nature trail.  They were so imaginative and creative and they spent hours back there clearing leaves and making a trail.  They used walkie talkies so I could keep in touch with them and make sure they didn’t get lost.  It reminded me of when I was a kid and how I used to go out and ride my bike and play in the woods for hours.  Kids really need more time to be able to do these kinds of things.  They need more time to just be kids.


Kitty also really loves camping in the Tennessee State Parks.  So much to see and explore.  Jake was teasing her with this branch on the picnic table.


Another place we visited was Ozone Falls which was beautiful!





We also celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary last week.  We had a date night with Katie and Keith.  We have really enjoyed spending time with them for the past 2 months.  One of the hardest parts of this lifestyle is saying goodbye to people so often, but when we said goodbye to the Grahams it was only for a little while.  We’ll see them again in 2 weeks.  Until then, safe travels!


Categories: Tennessee | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Natchez Trace Parkway

The Natchez Trace Parkway is 444 miles long and runs through Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee.  There are many historical places of interest and scenic viewpoints along the Trace which is part of the National Park System.  We only visited a small portion of it in Tennessee, but now it’s on the list to go back and see more of it at a later date.

One of the historical places we visited was the Meriwether Lewis Monument, the site of his death and burial.  We just finished reading about the Lewis and Clark expedition so it was perfect timing to visit this site.  In the book we read that there were mysterious circumstances surrounding his death.  It was believed by many that he killed himself, but that was never certain and to this day it remains a mystery.


How cool to see American history come to life!  I love history and love visiting sites like this where we can learn in even more detail about people and events from our nation’s past.




We hiked to some waterfalls and drove to some other scenic viewpoints along the Natchez Trace.






Driving a 2 mile section of the Old Trace.


The leaves were just starting to change colors.  I imagine in another few weeks the fall colors will be amazing.



We stayed at Thousand Trails Natchez Trace right next to our friends, the Grahams.  For two weeks we spent every evening having game nights with them.  Actually, I should say every evening except for the one night that poor Katie decided to break her foot and then needed to go to the hospital.

We celebrated Jake’s 11th birthday while we were there.  Notice the 9 on his cake?  No, we didn’t forget how old he is.  When you live in an RV you make do with what you have and that was the only candle in the house.  One week later when we celebrated Keith’s birthday, he got to be 9 too.  🙂


Jesse looks the most excited about Jake’s present.


The fall colors were already showing at our campground.


Tennessee is beautiful at this time of the year!


Categories: National Parks, Tennessee | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Reelfoot Lake State Park, Tennessee

Reelfoot Lake was created by a series of earthquakes during 1811-1812 that caused the Mississippi River to flow backwards for a short period of time.  Reelfoot Lake is actually a flooded forest.  We enjoyed camping at the state park for a week and learning the history.


We had a beautiful site right on the lake which was so peaceful.



Cypress trees grow all around the lake and rise up from the water.



We toured the state park museum and walked the boardwalk to view the natural wildlife and trees growing out of the water.








The sunsets were spectacular!


Since the lake is near the Mississippi River we drove over to see it and found this tire swing at a picnic area that the kids loved.



And since we were so close we just had to drive over to Kentucky just to say we’ve been there.  We didn’t add the state sticker to our map though because our rule is we must spend at least one night in the state before we get the sticker.   Maybe next year!


This was a great place to relax and unwind for a week after our busy rally time in Missouri.



Categories: Tennessee | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

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