Well, friends, we are back from our camping trip and had a fantastic time! Even though we were only gone for five days, it felt like a real vacation. I find that camping always does that for me.
This time around, I am not sure what I loved best. Our little nest that stayed dry even during torrential downpours (oh, did we have some good storms while there!),
or the delicious meals we cooked on our trusty camp stove and on the campfire.
Or maybe it was reading by the fire long after the sun had set.
And then there was the mountain stream that gurgled past our campsite and lulled us to sleep every night.
Some other favorites were the old buildings we found in the park, like this old grist mill close to our campsite,
complete with a still functioning sluice.
One day we drove over tall mountain and very windy gravel roads into the beautiful Cataloochee Valley.
There we saw a gorgeous old farmstead, built in 1903 with an old barn,
and a beautiful house.
Inside all walls were paneled with wood,
except one room that had been wall papered with old newspapers.
Loved those colors!
Aside from the farmstead, we visited the old Palmer church
which was simple on the inside
and beautifully maintained!
And then there was the two-room school house! I guess around 1910, there were 1,200 people living in this valley!
One of my very, very favorite things on this trip were the grand vistas of the Smokies.
Makes you just want to stare and soak it all up forever more!
About 12:30 every afternoon (very punctual!), storm clouds would gather and it would start thundering. Sometimes the storms passed us by, but other times they would unload right over our campsite. One time we were in our car on the road and had to pull over because we couldn't see a thing between the torrential rain and the hail! Luckily, they never lasted long and then sun always came back out.
Then there were times when I cracked myself up! Here I was posing for a photo at Newfound Gap road.
I heard something below and was hoping it might be a bear,
but it was only a squirrel...
On our way back from Cataloochee Valley, we drove a short distance on the gorgeous Blue Ridge Parkway,
where we saw a female elk (sorry the picture isn't very good),
and many flame azaleas still in bloom.
Actually, it was the plants and some of the wildlife that had us oohing and aahing all day long.
Plus, we hiked on a few trails and I kept wondering who determined whether they were easy, moderate or strenuous...
Some of the ones marked easy had me falling out of my shoes they were so steep in places,
and some of the moderate ones seemed no different from the easy trails.
We saw some beautiful little waterfalls along the way!
This was on our last day when we decided to walk a few miles on the famous Appalachian Trail.
We started at Newfound Gap parking lot and walked a couple of miles along the ridge.
The trail starts in Georgia and ends in Maine, 2,180 miles later. We encountered some serious hikers who were trying to walk the whole distance (it takes about five months),
but we just ambled and enjoyed the beauty all around us,
watched for birds and bears,
and admired the huge flowering rhododendron along the way.
The biggest disappointment? Even though we saw signs everywhere, the bears stayed well hidden and deep in the forest. We saw not a single one!