Friday, March 13, 2015

Memories through my window

Space Needle

Front and center from our third-floor room in our motel was the Space Needle, an enduring landmark among  the tourist attractions at Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

During more than 3 decades of summer vacations to the Smoky Mountains we had made the elevator ride to the Needle’s topmost observation deck only once. We mostly avoided Gatlinburg crowds and the summer heat except trips for groceries or gas for our van. 

instead we camped with our two boys in the national park where the campgrounds’ higher elevations and breezes off cold mountain streams kept us cool. 

Plus, kids and adults alike found plenty of entertainment in tubing and splashing in the streams, hiking nearby trails, joining park rangers for campfire programs and walks or just sitting around our campfire with hot drinks and conversation.

But for one evening of each trip, we would load up the boys and take them to Gatlinburg. Sons and dad would rocket down a mountainside multiple times on the alpine slide, a gravity-powered ride at the Ober Gatlinburg amusement complex.

 Next on the agenda would be strolling the main street, checking out new shops and sampling the chocolate, taffy, candied apples, hot pretzels and other goodies.The boys also tested their skills in the block-wide arcade at the base of the space needle.

Now the children who populated those memories are grown and their children are making new Gatlinburg memories.

How sweet it is!

Monday, March 2, 2015

How time flies

Seven years ago today

Younger son Jeremy emailed me the photo above today. It did some major tugging on my heartstrings. Nana (That’s a younger me.) and two of older son Walt’s little ones visit their newborn cousin Molly Kate.

This photo was a ramble down memory lane with these little ones who, with our eldest grandson, filled my heart with joy back then. There are now six grands, ages 12, 10, 9, 7, 6 and 4. The joy continues to grow as they grow.

Blessings abound.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Signs of my times

July 3, 2011:  First trip following my April 2011 hemorrhagic stroke. I posted about that happy time here and about our traditional photo session here. 

Snapping family photos at one the official National Park Service entrance signs in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a family tradition. Our photos once captured a visual record of our two sons’ growth. 

Now they record our grandchildren’s growth and my progress in stroke recovery. The photos also document how Hubby and I age, and how our adult sons and their wives DON’T seem to age.

July 27. 2013: Two years after my stroke

In 2014 we took a record five trips to the Smokies. Of course those trips required five photo sessions in front of Smokies NPS signs.

Several of those Smokies visits were extensions of trips for special family events. 
June 12, 2014: Travel to Virginia for niece Becky’s wedding included post wedding excursions on the Blue Ridge Parkway and in the Smokies. 

That was one of our two non-camping trips to the Smokies when we made a motel in Gatlinburg our home base for exploring the mountains. 

For a July Smokies trip we camped a week in Elkmont, an NPS campground near Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
July 28, 2014

We were back in Elkmont in September when our Georgia tribe joined us for a camping adventure. 

Sept. 20, 2014

On a fourth trip we spent two nights in October at Smokemont Campground in the park near Cherokee, North Carolina, and one night in a private campground in the Nantahala Gorge area near the Smokies.

We had tacked that late October excursion on to a trip to visit our son Walt and his family in Georgia. One night in the Nantahala Gorge area and two nights in Smokemont convinced me that cold-weather camping in our van is a lot more challenging for me than cold weather van camping that we did when I was a 30-year-old.

Oct. 26, 2014 

Early December we spent several days with Hubby’s Aunt Sue, his last surviving aunt. She lives in Kentucky now, but they grew up together in Biloxi, Mississippi. With only five months difference in their ages, they seem more like sister and brother than aunt and nephew.

She and her husband O’Neal appreciate the Smokies as much as we do, and they clued us in to the best route from their home to avoid traffic on our drive to Gatlinburg.

We played tourist for several days, enjoying Gatlinburg’s Christmas parade, listening to live mountain music, and driving picturesque backroads. 

We even had the unexpected delight of observing a plump black bear during a traffic backup while a road crew cleared the park highway of trees downed in the previous night's storm. 

The bear gave his captive and extremely appreciative audience an extended bear-sighting experience as he casually ambled around the mountainside near the road.
Dec. 9, 2014

Hubby’s posts on parade here and bear here.