Sunday, July 24, 2011

Our family gets a Passport

Say what?  You read it correctly.  On Wednesday of our vacation, we got a passport AND got it stamped 5 four times!  Yes, we got ourselves a National Parks Passport and hit the road to the Smokies.  Looking through the passport I was amazed at all the places we had already been, and that I just never thought about being a national park!  Guess we have to go back, got to get those stamps.

So where did we get stamps for on Wednesday?  The Blue Ridge Parkway (we did that earlier in the summer, so it counts!), Clingmans Dome, the Oconalftee Visitors Center, and the general Smoky Mountain one.

The view from the parking lot at Clingmans Dome.  There were 3 Just married cars there!

all geared up with his camelbak  and new hiking stick

Exploring some of the rocks around 

The boys

Brant's little buddies, Blackie the dog and Beary, the newly purchased black bear from the visitor's center.  We found out that Blackie is scared of heights like Mommy!

There is a foreign beetle that is attacking the trees around the  Clingmans Dome area.

The Appalachain Trail crosses here, we can honestly say we've hiked on it!

Up the tower with Daddy. Mommy was high enough and chose to stay down.  Interesting enough, I was talking to a lady from Pickerington, Ohio!  We kept talking about the railings at the top of Mt. Pleasant in Rising Park!

Going up

A rare appearance of Mommy, with her best little boy

We stopped at an overlook on the way down the mountain.  Isn't this amazing?  This was right at the dividing line where hardwoods grow below the road, mainly evergreens above.

There was an enticing little river that ran beside the road, once we came back down. It begged to be explored and Brant did his best. Contrary to what you think happened 30 seconds later, he did NOT fall in!

We also passed the historic Mingus Mill. Where most mills were run with a watermill, this one was run by a sluice that turned a turbine, which then turned the mill whee.

This was the water they diverted to run the grist mill.

The gate that diverted the water

A bit more silliness

Once leaving the Smokies, we were pretty much dumped into the commercialism of Cherokee, the reservation.  I had always wanted to pan for gems, and knew Brant would love it too. So, we stopped at a Gem Mine. Now, there are places that you can go and pan all day for $30 and you dig your own buckets.  Sounds like fun, but just not very exciting for Brant.

We got a bucket and started panning.  There are no further shots of this activity because it was wet and muddy and required two hands.  We were instructed to keep anything that didn't crumble.  We ended up with a 20 carat garnet, good sized saffires and several rubies and emeralds.  We thought the garnet was a piece of coal and almost threw it down the sluice!

See, how fun is that!?
We'd had about as much fun as we could handle that day, so after dinner at the Dillsboro Smokehouse, we headed back to the cabin. Later that evening we were blessed with this..

Thursday was another "big" day!  Rafting!!

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