Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Thanksgiving found us in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Since we arrived late in the season, all of the leaves had dropped, carpeting the ground and allowing open views into the forest and beautiful views of the layers and layers of blue mountains stretching into the distance. I am sure that it is spectacular when the leaves are in full color. We learned that the park contains the largest number of preserved buildings from Appalachian settlements. Our favorite was an old grist mill where the boys loved watching the chain reaction of the stream flowing into the water wheel, turning the giant gears that moved the mill stones that ground the corn into cornmeal.
As it turns out some of the weirdness we experienced in Gatlinburg spills over here, the most visited park in the U.S. People are what we would call "different" here. This is the only national park we have visited where it felt like a tailgating party with people hanging out their windows, tailgates open with people dangling out of the back, populated lawn chairs in the beds of trucks, as we sat stuck in traffic on the clogged roads. Everyone seemed in the know but us. We passed "basketball-shaped people," as Isaac described them, illegally gathering firewood in the woods, smiling at us as we drove by. After spending hours stuck in traffic taking in the views and watching the "wildlife" we found a campsite where Aaron and Jason went on an extended Owl search party. After they returned empty handed with reports of many owl shaped branches that required careful investigation, I whipped up a delicious chicken stew while we snuggled in the camper van and counted our blessings.
Click here for photos.