Everyone has a happy place. That special place on the planet that fills their heart with joy. For me the Great Smoky Mountains will always be one of those special places. I love spending time in the mountains. I especially delight in going for a nice – long hike in the mountains. And I really and truly love going for a hike in the mountains with my very favorite people in the universe.
On Wednesday I got to do a lot of just that when our family headed to Cades Cove in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Cades Cove was an isolated valley – but now it is one of the most popular spots in the entire National Park. Cades Cove has an 11 mile one-way loop road that is incredibly popular with tourists.
Normally I am not a very big fan of the Cades Cove loop – because it involves a lot of driving/sitting in the car. (Actually – I have never liked going for “rides” in the car. I am deeply and profoundly scarred from my childhood. Oh how I hated being forced to go along for those pointless and truly horrible family drives when I was a kid – so painfully boring. Those rides were torture to be dreaded like a trip to the dentist! I vowed I would never inflict those on my own children or myself ever again. Yuck – just yuck!)
But on Wednesdays the Cades Cove loop is closed to all vehicle traffic for the entire day. So cool! The only wheeled traffic that is permitted is bikes. Jack and Isabella Grace took their bikes and rode the loop. Jack and Bella flew like the wind – because they are young and so very strong. Actually Jack rode around the loop 2.5 times because he is 16 and he could. Again with the young and strong!
Mimi and Papa took Nic and Will and went on an abbreviated loop hike. Mimi is still recovering from a total knee replacement this spring and was only up to hiking about 5 miles on her new knee! We were all very impressed and very proud of her. Talk about making strides in her physical therapy! She is such an awesome role model of fierce determination for her grandchildren and her children and in-laws for that matter.
When I met Linda when I was a teenager – I remember being so impressed with a mom who could hike mountains. I didn’t know any women who were strong and powerful enough to hike mountains until I met her. Now Linda is a grandma who hikes mountains! I hope I can continue to follow in her strong – gracious – loving footsteps. Onward and upward or at least onward!
John, Elizabeth, Jason, and I opted to hike the entire loop. It was so amazingly beautiful from start to finish. We had perfect weather for our hike. And we were in a parenting-free zone (unless you count the 5 whole seconds we saw Jack as he zoomed by us on his bike).
The four of us have been hiking together in the Smokies for 23 years this summer. I have been hiking with Jason and Elizabeth for 28 years now. It is wild to think that Elizabeth was younger than our Jack when I started dating Jason!
So many years and so many miles together. . .So much history and so much laughter . . . So many great stories. . .
We saw snakes . . .
Actually we saw 6 snakes . . .
We saw wild flowers.
Lots and lots of wild flowers.
We saw deer.
We saw a bear.
We saw mountains.
Did I mention the wildflowers?
The wildflowers are always my favorite.
Oh how I love the wildflowers!
This year has been wild and weird and painful and frightening. It has been exhausting and bewildering too. But it has also been filled with wonderful blessings and so much beauty. It has been filled with love and laughter and good things too.
I give thanks for the journey – especially because I get to walk with these interesting people who are my beloved family!
Who are you giving our Lord thanks for these days?
What are you giving our Lord thanks for today?
Even now – our Lord is with us. We do not walk alone.
You are in my heart – thoughts – and prayers.
In Christ and with Love –