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“You’d have to take a lot of band-aids”

Today we headed to the mountains.  Not a huge excursion, not one requiring great exertion, oxygen or even hiking boots – simply a little adventure to get our feet wet, breathe some mountain air, and make new friends.
Um, yeah.
My dad suggested that we avoid the mobs and get to the Park via Townsend instead of Gatlinburg, which was excellent advice. No traffic to speak of and a bit more pleasant entrance than the DIXIE STAMPEDE/NASCAR/RIPLEY’S route.  I gave Katie a brief boring history lesson about ALCOA, reflected on my friend Nancy who commuted to Knoxville Catholic from Maryville every single day and explained to Joseph what these things called “tubes” are.
I didn’t feel like doing Cades Cove for various reasons, so we just sort of drove along Laurel Creek then Little River Road until we came to a good spot for stopping and wading around a bit. 
Which went swimmingly until I looked down at a large stick/small log and idly remarked, “Wow, those are big spiders.”
Well, they were.
Next stop was to be Laurel Falls , which is very popular and crowded, but it was on the way, and we hadn’t really come prepared for extended wandering and exploring of lesser-populated spots.  We found a parking spot and started walking. 1.3 miles doesn’t seem very far, but I think distances should probably be recalculated using some sort of formula that takes into account how many children under eight years old are with you, especially if the way is uphill. I mean, it was really nothing, and they did do  pretty well, but about five minutes from the falls, Complaints Were Heard.
Which were promptly forgotten as soon as we reached the destination. I seriously think Michael could stand in water and throw rocks for dawn to dusk. With Joseph climbing alongside.
As we started back (mostly downhill), about a third of the way down, those coming the other way started smiling meaningfully at us and gesturing from where they’d come. A guy finally said, “There’s a bear and cubs down there.” I said, “You’re kidding.” He laughed ruefully and said, “Nope, and she’s really  close to the path.” A few yards later, another group approached and I asked, “Is the bear still there” and he answered, in accented tones, “About a hundred meters down.”
“He said meters!”  whispered/squealed a Europhile daughter.
There was a small, quiet crowd gathered around the next bend, pointing, taking pictures. When we arrived, the mother was scuttling up a tree – I’m not sure why. Perhaps she was teaching the cubs how to climb, for one of them was certainly trying to follow. But after reaching a great height, she slid back down, ignored us, and kept on with her wandering, the three (three!) cubs scampering behind her – they were down a ravine, but really no more than fifty yards from us. I’m sorry to get stupid about the harsh realities of nature, but those cubs were really, really cute.
Quite the excitement.
Followed by the trip back, on which I did take the Pigeon Forge/Sevierville route, mostly for the sake of feeding the hungry horde (told you we weren’t prepared. Next time. Always next time.). Pretty amazing – Daytona and International Drive in Orlando all rolled into one, long, noisy, busy stretch. I actually wondered if a different level of tourism had been reached when I spied a big building way off the road upon which was enscribed “Cirque”  – but a bit of research shows it is something called “Cirque de Chine,” whose non-Cirque de Soleil bloodline is clear just as much from the ticket prices – $25 – as from the content.
And tomorrow? This, perhaps?
Oh, and the title of this post? I was explaining to Joseph that the Smokies were part of a larger range called the Appalachian Mountains and that some people hiked the whole way, from Georgia to Maine, which led him to reflect on all you’d have to take with you, which dumbfounded him after I told him that no, there were no motels along the way, and you’d have to take your sleeping bag and tent with you, and so on.
“And your food.”
“Some of it. There are places to buy food along the way.”
“And all your money.”
“Well I guess.”
“And you’d have to take a lot of band-aids.”
Certainly. Depending on the moods of any new friends you happen across on the trail, to be sure.

Comments read comments(12)
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Kalynne Pudner

posted July 26, 2008 at 12:17 am

Bears and spiders and Brits, oh my!

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posted July 26, 2008 at 5:24 am

Beautiful pics!! And I thought the Rockies couldn’t be beat for great scenery. God bless you and your family as you enjoy your adventures.

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bears consideration

posted July 26, 2008 at 11:36 am

There are many black bears in northwestern NJ and apparently some people who think them harmless and perhaps most of the time they are but PBS had a piece once on an older couple picnicing on a small lake island having been then killed by them. Just a word of caution. Animals as Thomas Merton said are innocent in that they are never trying to be other than who they are. Yet they can be innocent and dangerous as they follow the instincts of nature and hunger.

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posted July 26, 2008 at 2:51 pm

Really enjoyed the wonderful outing stories and pictures.
ALWAYS good to read about hiking and waterfalls and kids and everything ‘family-day-out’.

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posted July 27, 2008 at 6:29 pm

After doing lots of backpacking, including some on the Appalachian Trail, Joseph isn’t too far off on the Band-aids idea (especially if you are taking kids with you.) Very perceptive boy!

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Patricia Gonzalez

posted July 27, 2008 at 7:50 pm

Great photos of some lovely scenery (your boys, of course!). I hope you get to the Irish Fest and enjoy all the wonderful music you’re sure to hear there. In spite of my Spanish surname, I’m mostly Irish myself by ancestry, and would love to take in all the fun at Knoxville. Too bad it’s such a long way from Montreal! Anyway, enjoy the rest of the vacation — and hope your weather stays beautiful!

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posted July 28, 2008 at 7:46 am

I have been an admirer of your work for a long time, and now I am just flat out jealous! I have been trying to get the family to the Smokies for years! This year isn’t the one either :(
Perhaps if we begin planning now, next year will be the winner!
I used to hike part of the AT in north western New Jersey near the Delaware Water Gap. It is so peaceful. Silly me, I used to hike alone. Thankfully, I met a nice guy on descent one day…
we ran into a mother bear right on the trail. If he hadn’t been with me, I may have had a panic attack!
There was a guy who wanted everyone to know that the AT was do-able…he bought his sneakers at a chain store, and would pick upp spare sock along the way…he did the entire trail in cheap sneaks, used socks, and I’m sure, LOTS of bandages!
Pax Christi, Elizabeth

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posted July 28, 2008 at 8:28 am

Sounds like you had a great time. My wife and I do a lot of hiking with our kids (11 and 7 now) and I know what you mean about distances and small children. We have found that the key for us is bringing lots of snacks along. We do a lot of “As soon as we get to the top of that next hill, we’ll stop and eat.” We are indeed an army that moves on its stomach.

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posted July 28, 2008 at 11:24 am

We used to live in Oak Ridge, TN and then Knoxville. We loved exploring the mtns around eastern TN and I can confirm that those spiders are HUGE!

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posted July 28, 2008 at 12:23 pm

We live here in Knoxville and can tell you it is a beautiful area. The Smokies are very accessable, as you found out, but there are also areas where you can hike for hours without seeing another human.
Be careful with the bears. They are glorious but mothers will protect their cubs against threats real and imagined.

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posted July 28, 2008 at 8:41 pm

You are bringing back fond childhood memories. We ALWAYS went to KY Lake at Paducah where a great-uncle had a cabin, which was good as we were six children. Then we hopped it to Gatlinburg & the Smokies for a few nights, later Pidgeon Forge (which was not around in my earliest years). A sister had lived in Sieverville for a few years. My oldest nephew was born there.
Oh, how many Indian dolls, black bear toys, drums, amazing sea life that would grow! [Just add water!]….

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Mark Byron

posted July 31, 2008 at 3:13 pm

Your comparison of Pigeon Forge/Sevierville as being like International Drive in Orlando is interesting; it reminded me a bit more of US-192 in Kissimmee to the south of Disney. Both are tourist-traps-on-steroids, but International Drive is a notch more upscale than the Dollywood stretch; 192 is a little more downscale but just as touristy and reminded me more of Sevierville.
In my new digs in Lexington, we’re road trip distance away from the Smokies. We went for a weekend last fall when my folks were there with their time share, but it’s a place I’d like to go back to with just my wife and I.

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