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Great Smoky Mountains National Park & Dollywood 8/9-11/18

I camped with my family at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as a child, first in a tent, later in an RV. I can trace my love for the woods, nature, and camping back to those precious memories of time spent on the trail and around the campfire with my family in the Smoky Mountains. I had never taken my own family to GSMNP, because of the no dogs on the trails policy. There are plenty of fabulous places to go where dogs are allowed, so we hadn’t made it to the Smokys. Wiley and I wanted to take Ashe, 20, and Miles, 17, on a family vacation and last hoorah before they both head off to school. I decided on GSMNP and Dollywood, so we could knock out two non-dog friendly activities with one trip. Poor Nigel & Pippa, off to the kennel, they went.

We left for the Smoky Mountains on Thursday morning. It was a beautiful ride from Sapphire to Elkmont Campground in the park. Highway 441 from Cherokee, through the park, over the mountains to Elkmont Campground is a bucket list drive. Many of the most famous GSMNP attractions are right off 441. Warning: that easy access means lots and lots of people and full parking areas. We arrived in the afternoon at the wonderfully wooded and waterfull Elkmont Campground. We set up our “Happy Camper”, two tents, and two hammocks next to a small branch of the creek in site C12. There is not a lot of privacy between the sites, but they are large and completely shaded by the forest. If I return, I would want to be right on the gorgeous, clear, rushing Jake’s Creek. Site F8 would be the most private site on the whitewater creek and right at the trailheads.

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Grayson Highlands State Park, VA, West Jefferson, NC, Blue Ridge Parkway, & Davidson River Campground 7/27-31/18

Wow! What a fabulous 9th anniversary celebration we had. Instead of a 5-star Hotel, we did a 5-billion star one, camping in the Virginia Highlands. Grayson Highlands was a bucket list state park. I am so happy we finally made it there, what a magical place.

We camped at the overflow Chestnut Hollow Horse Campground, because the Hickory Ridge Campground was full when we called to reserve a spot. We ended up being pleasantly surprised and were happy with the campground and campsite. It was heavily wooded and shady, although the spots were a little close. Thankfully, we liked our tent dweller neighbors, a precious family from Greensboro with four children, boy age 10mos, and three girls 3, 5, & 7yo. The girls wanted a tour of the van where the 3yo gave the bed the jump test. It was so cute! The girls adopted us the rest of the weekend and had a hard time when we left. We’re hoping to see them at LEAF Festival in Black Mtn. in October. The parents were interested after we told them about it and recommended it as “Woodstock for families”. While camping, you meet the nicest people.

After getting set up in site #12, we had time for a quick hike from the campground to Massie Gap before dark. We took the Horse Trail East, to the Cabin Creek Trail, to the Massie Gap Parking Area. We were greeted by a field full of wild ponies just below the parking area. They were absolutely beautiful and so tame. It was such a thrill! My favorite was a tiny gray 14yo stallion, who, I later learned, the rangers call, Fabio. He is the smallest, but the leader of the herd. There were also, two little foals with the herd. It was such an amazing experience seeing them in their natural habitat, albeit too close and familiar with humans. One pony did get a little frisky and run off another when someone was giving the aggressor food. I wish people would not do that, but people will be people…

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Bee Day in Greenville 7/23-24/18


We had a busy week last week. After returning from Mt. Pisgah, we got word that we could see our grandaughter, Bee in Greenville. So, we repacked, loaded up, and headed down the mountain for a couple of days to catch up with friends and spend time with Bee and Wiley’s parents.

Monday night, I had dinner with my bestie, Melissa at California Dreaming while Wiley hung out with his parents. We boondocked in their driveway for the night. It was nice to see everyone and catch up.

Our time with Bee is so little, we jam as much as we possibly can into the days we spend with her. We ate breakfast in Happy after picking her up then started the day doing one of her favorite things, going to Barnes & Noble Greenridge. We got drinks and snacks at Starbucks then headed over to the beloved Lego Table. Bee gets bunches of plastic Scheleich animals and dinosaurs then builds a Lego Zoo for them as is her ritual. She made a little girl friend, who also loved dinosaurs. They had some epic T-Rex battles. After she left, some other girls came that Bee was not too happy about, so she took her dinos and left for the train table. The little boys at the train table didn’t know what hit them when Bee came bounding over with her T-Rexes. She propped them atop the train shed and water tower and roared ferociously. It was hilarious. Finally, one of the little boys bought in and played too. The others just backed away in shock. It was awesome!

We left Barnes & Noble and went to another fave, the Runway Cafe & airport playground. Wiley Sr. and Jolene met us to watch Bee play a little bit then we all had lunch outside overlooking the runway. It is such a fun experience playing and dining there. We had a ball!

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