June 1, 2022-All Around Lake Michigan and Beyond

(click for today's pictures)

Another great day here in the Smokys. First we headed to downtown Gatlinburg to meet the Hobbs. We were there a bit early and just chilled on the shaded steps of a church. Their parking was 5 dollars instead of the 20 on the strip.

Then we walked up and down the Gatlinburg strip. I feel like you can compare it to Branson, but it is pretty different as well. We did find another Byrd's Cookie store where we dropped some more money. And Campbell and Reagan found a tshirt and sweatshirt respectively. Other than that, we weren't there too long.

Now, we didn't plan accordingly so even though we had snacks, we didn't pack a lunch for the day. I am not really sure what we were thinking, but Robby saved the day by running to Subway to pick us up some lunch for a picnic later.

Then we all headed out along the Roaring Forks Motor Nature Trail. Basically it is just a 5 mile one way loop road in the middle of the woods. However, the scenery is spectacular plus Robby did purchase an audio guide that tells you so many stories and interesting tidbits that it is just so interesting. Even the kids were listening to it. (Actually, this guide made us want to stay another day in the park and hear more of it.)

The trail was really neat. There was one waterfall that I would really like to do when we return. There was just no parking there today. Once we did see some parking and since it was almost lunch time, we pointed for Matt to take that parking spot. 

Robby intended to take the next parking spot around the bend. But there was no parking spot and no place to pull off. We drove for probably a half mile before we were able to stop. And sine there is no cell signal at all (none), we had the next best thing-Graham!

We sent him up the road to tell the Hobbs to come and meet us. I did briefly worry that he was eaten by a bear, but they showed up and even gave Graham a ride there! This then became our lunch stop. It was by a rustic log cabin-we actually ate by the chicken coop. 

After eating, the kids found the stream and rocks to climb on beside the stream. Soon afterwards, the road was over, and we were back into town. From there we came to the camper to pick up Bentley. Then the caravan made its way to the Bush Bean Factory.

This was a little bit away, but we made it with 30 minutes to spare before they closed. We waked around the gift shop and....well, it wouldn't be a trip if we didn't lose Whitman. He must have gone out the front door of the gift shop and us the back-he sat down on the bench when he didn't see us, and we went on walking around the building. 

Behind the building we sat and ate a pinto bean pecan pie that Robby had bought. And yes, we didn't miss Whitman until we were thinking about leaving. He was just about 50 feet from us, but our hearts did all skip a few beats. I praised him for staying right where he was-though if he would have just walked around the porch of the building he would have seen us! He is resilient and was just fine afterwards.  

Now, the pie that we had-well, it was just pecan pie with some pinto beans. Sarah thought that she could taste them and possibly thought that the pie was not as sweet as normal pecan pie. However, it was still really good-there are about 2 pieces left that Robby and I will finish off tomorrow on the long drive home.

From there, the Hobbs headed to Kentucky, and we headed to the Nike Clearance store. Robby is in need of another pair of shoes, but he didn't find them there. However, we did mark a few things off of the list-socks for Graham and shoes for Whitman. (Did I mention yesterday, that when Whitman and Keaton spent the night with the Hobbs on Monday night, I knew we were going to be hiking so I brought Whitman tennis shoes the next morning. I could tell when he put them on that something was wrong-I asked and he said he wanted his crocs instead. Before he changed, I did bend down to feel his toe and yep, they were probably 2 or 3 sizes too small.)

So now he has new tennis shoes, but Graham and Robby, who both need them, couldn't find any. Graham did find a shirt, and Campbell and Keaton both found shorts. From there we came back to the camper where Robby and I started putting things away and trying to get ready for the drive home.

When you go somewhere, things are packed neatly and orderly. However, coming home is a different beast. Pretty much everything has to be taken out of here, and if things aren't taken out then they have to be cleaned/vacuumed so everything will the touched tomorrow or the day after we get home. So coming home, things aren't packed nice and neat. It is more of a shove it here and shove it there approach. Things do still have to be put away since we will still spend a long while in this tiny space.

We did most of this fairly quickly, and even had time for folks to swim. Campbell, Keaton and Whitman have been wanting to swim the entire time that we have been here. The pool here is pretty small, but today it wasn't crowded at all. Graham even joined them.

They were all able to swim for about an hour. And thankfully everyone remembered how to swim. Though Whitman still likes to bob up and down in the water. I had to remind him that it looks like he needs help when he does that. He asked if he could do it where he could touch, and the answer was certainly bob away. 

After they swam, Campbell and Keaton took showers at the bathhouse. Robby and I walked Bentley over there and then drove back to pick them up. Then it was supper time around here-we did have our air fryer pizzas one more night. This was our third time to have them on the trip, but they are a favorite of everyones. 

After eating and cleaning up, Robby and I headed back to Elkmont to see the fireflies one last time.  This time it was a completely different experience. First, we arrived later, but parking was absolutely insane. People were parked everywhere-on the side of the road, on the grass, even in the road. We had to circle twice but were able to find a parking spot.

Now there were lots more people, but Robby and I walked to where we had talked to a man last night. While we were talking to him, on our way out, Robby did notice that he had a good spot to see the fireflies. We made it there-right after the big mud puddle-if we hadn't had a landmark then we never would have found it since it is the dark you are walking in.

The next difference was that we brought chairs-this was a good difference. A bad difference was that it was a bit scary! We were in a much smaller group, and we didn't see that many people-though people did keep walking behind us mainly leaving. Either way, I was a bit spooked!

We stayed for a while, but when we were almost to our parking lot, we noticed that the fireflies were just as active down there. It was just incredible tonight-I talked to a worker and she said this was nearly the peak. The entomologist said that the peak was going to occur before they predicted. I feel like we just really lucked out for sure last night and tonight. Today at the visitor's center, I even bought an ornament, and a sticker and a calendar. Yep, I might just be a sucker for fireflies now.

We drove through the deserted town of Gatlinburg on the way back to the camper. The kids were all still awake when we came back. We told them about our outing, and then started bedding everyone down. We are sleeping with the slides in so we can pull out of here tomorrow. 

We will have to hook up the car which will take a minute when we leave, but hopefully we can get on the road at a decent time. 

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