We took our boys on a 2,400 mile (round-trip) road-trip to Washington, D.C. to spend the Fourth in the nation's capitol.
First stop was Nashville, Tennessee to the home of my dear friend Heather Spriggs Thompson. Heather and her husband welcomed their first child, Emerson, into the world in April. As his mother and I have been friends and "heart sisters" since 1988, meeting Emerson was a special delight.
From Nashville, we headed east into the beautiful Smokey Mountains.
I love the rugged majesty of the Rocky Mountains and the unadulterated vastness of the West, but Western Tennessee/Eastern North Carolina magnetizes me. I want to fly over the Smokeys like a bird, soaring over the topography, landing in fern and moss-covered valleys and ravines, sipping from the springs and waterfalls pouring out the side of mountains.
Gatlinburg, TN is nestled in a little valley near a large theme park you may have heard of: Dollywood. We took the boys not to Dollywood but to a kiddie-sized amusement park where Matthew, who is just 39 inches tall, could ride almost everything.
I'd like to know where I can purchase one of these for use at home.
Chris and I were actually able to have a conversation while the boys were locked away in the ferris wheel basket.
After leaving Gatlinburg, we continued east into North Carolina and the Pigsah National Forest. I nearly had to do the Sound of Music twirling spin at a roadside overlook; such incredible beauty surrounded us. (Of course, the camera was missing during this time...)
The next phase of our family adventure was backpacking.
I took off my cute chandelier earrings and wedge sandals and exchanged them for a do-rag and hiking boots. We slid on our backpacks (mine was about 20 pounds, Chris' was about 25), and hiked in just over 1.5 miles.
The boys did great.
Matthew, like most 3-year-olds, is a pokey little puppy when we walk anywhere together. This was also the case on the trail. Except we discovered that he has a "power boost" button: when we would say, "Matthew: SPEED WALK", off he'd go! This little guy can crank those baby legs, matching 2-3 of his steps with one of ours.
Do you know much about backpacking? It's camping, yes, but instead of the family car transporting all of the needed gear, you put everything you may possibly need on your back and then you hike to your primitive campsite (no water, no electricity). The lighter your pack, the more enjoyable the experience is.
My husband is a devout backpacker. He uses a scale as he packs, getting down to the ounces of every item. Toothbrush handles are sawed off to save a few grams. Holes are drilled into spoon handles for the same reason. He's got back-country comfort down to a science. We stay clean and well-fed, but we do it lightly.
Our home away from home...
This is the second time we've taken the boys backpacking. It sure is sweet to wake up between my babies, listening to the wind whisper through the Balsam firs and the peaceful rhythm of the kids' breathing.
We hiked back to the car in the morning. Timothy tripped on a tree root and sustained injury #1 of the trip:
Timothy has many wonderful characteristics, but being tough is not yet one of them. The boy inherited his mama's wooziness where any blood is involved.
Poor kid. Not a great start to your 6th birthday!
We piled back in the car and drove on the beautiful but curvy Blue Ridge Parkway. Matthew gave us a 2-second warning before he got carsick all over himself and the buckles of his carseat. Timothy dry-heaved at the sight of his brother's vomit. I had the privilege of cleaning the mess up with wet-wipes. It was a super way to start the day.
But we gathered our courage and drove on to the spot where we'd spend a second night backpacking.
This is Timothy's reaction to our announcement that I had indeed "packed-in" a birthday present for him.
(He never even noticed the Christmas wrapping paper.)
This is us the following morning, after we had hiked back to the car, stopped at a campground, paid $10 to take a shower, shopped at Target, and consumed a giant cup of Starbucks coffee.
Next stop: Rougemont, North Carolina and the organic farm of the parents of my dearest childhood friend.
We properly celebrated Timothy's birthday there.
Because we always use the long-handled Bic lighters to ignite candles and fireplaces, Timothy was a little shocked at the initial flammability of a real match.
We loved living the "farm life" for 3 days.
Matthew eating a green bean plucked straight from the garden.
Anyone need a caterpillar?
I had the most amazing opportunity to meet Baby Tavner, my lifelong friend's first child: he was born on Timothy's birthday. Another incredibly special moment for me.
From North Carolina, we made our way north to Washington, DC.
(And we were more than a little exhausted...)