Thursday, June 16, 2011

South-East Tour Day 9 - Smoky Mountains

Last night there was a lot of rain and thunder.  The temperature fell quite a bit.  I had long johns in my tent, but they were sitting against the side and where wet.
Kim and I awoke long before the girls.  I got the fire going again while Kim boiled water for oatmeal.  I put tinfoil on the gril over the fire and took turns placing an article of wet clothing from the line on it to dry.  I would get them mostly dry and place them back on the line to finish drying.  The rain was completely gone, and the clouds that were still in the sky did not look threatening.
After the girls awoke, were fed and dressed, we headed towards Cade's Cove to rent some bicycles.  The bike riding didn't go quite as well as planned, but was still fun.  Athena still needs training wheels, and the ones on her rental bike where kind of crooked, which kept her off balance.
Being in the mountains, there were plenty of hills.  Athena and Arianna both had trouble peddling up hill, and down hill they didn't know to ride breaks and would just keep coming to complete stops.  At they very end of the ride Arianna got going down hill and couldn't stop.  The bike eventual fell over and she went down with it.  Fortunately she wasn't hurt badly and calmed down as I carried her, and both our bikes, back to the rental checkout.  Aurora was a prop on her bike going up and down the hills with ease.
After this we headed on to the Cade's Cove loop.  I didn't know it until we got on, but the loop is nine miles long, and the speed limit is 25 mph.  We would have been happy to drive the thing at 25mph, but cars in front of us wouldn't even break ten, and would sometimes come to complete stops.  The road is one-way and one-line wide.  There are occasional turn-offs with signs urgin slower traffic to use them to let others pass, but the slower vehicles didn't seem to use them.
The loop is a preserve of older houses and churches used by the original settler of the Smoky Mountains.  We passed by the first house, not realizing what the stop there was, until after we passed the parking.  Aurora became very excited when she found out what we passed.
The loop has two shortcuts which let you bypass a large portion of it.  We took the first one, which took us to another house, which had a storage house and stable.  We stopped this time and the girls where very excited.  They just loved walking through these old building and didn't want to leave.
When we returned we again got stuck behind slow moving cars that made frequent stops.  At one point while going up a steep incline, a few vehicles in front of us made a complete stop and everyone got out.  After just sitting there for about five minutes Kim got out and tol them they where creating quite a jam.  They could apparently see a family of black bears, and it didn't occur to them that just stopping in the middle of the road as an inconvenience to everyone behind them.
Once off the loop we headed into town to fill up our gas tank.  During our drive we saw a lot of people pulled off the side of the road swimming in the river.  The kids has exclaimed how they wanted to swim in the river.  So when we got back to our campsite and Kim had a long list of packing she wanted to do, I took the kids back on the road to find a place to swim.
The river water was very cold, but once we got used to it the girls started walking upstream.  The river bottom is entirely rocks and it rarely got beyond waist deep on the girls.  I held Arianna's hand as we walked us, since the rocks where very slipper and the current would have been strong enough to keep her under she would have slipped.
We eventually found a good spot where Aurora and Athena played games and Arianna and I took turns throwing rocks.  Arianna thought throwing rocks with me was about as much fun could be had in this world and seemed prepared to do this indefinitely, but eventually we had to return to the campsite for dinner.
Kim and I made rick, broccoli, and corn for dinner.  The cor was especially sweet and juicy.  I cooked it over the camp fire in tin foild after Kim had soaked it in water for a while.
After dinner we exhausted our supply of chocolate on smores.  We loaded the van up with everything that could be packed away and I made the pop-top bed for Kim and Aurora.  Arianna, Athena and I will sleep in the tent again.
Tomorrow we will find one more thing to do in the Smokys and then head into town to find wifi to get directions to our next campground in Asheville, NC.  Hopefully I'll also be able to get a hold of my friend Sean who lives there.