On August 1, we loaded up the car once more, this time with 2 very special guests, Aunt Heather and Baby Kate!! We drove to Birmingham, slept a few hours, got up and started driving again.. on our way to GLORIOUS GATLINBURG!!!!!!! This would be our first family vacation in SEVEN years where all the sisters and Kurt, our spouses and kids would be able to spend the week together in the mountains with Grammie and Pops (minus Jason.. Jaseeeee, next time, you'll just have to quit work. Period.) :)) It was a 12 hour drive there... which you know, if you have kids, is really like an 120 hour trip. Amazingly, the kids were the BEST travelers! They watched lots of movies, colored in notebooks, ate snacks in the car, and kept the whining to a minimum. Praise. God. Even Grant and Kate seemed to enjoy the ride!
In Chattanooga, there is a 100 year old train that still runs. For $60, our whole family rode through a pre-Civil War tunnel (where the sides of the train and the sides of the tunnel are less than 6 inches away from each other! Whaaat?!), watched a steam engine spin on a turn table, took a tour of a train-repair station, and sat and waited at a real, live train depot! It felt like the old days!! Not that I would know what that feels like, but it looks like it from the movies!!! Hahaa!! We also got to play on all these trains in the train yard, too! What a way to start off our home school field trips!!
You can't imagine how happy this made Andrew Paul!
Heading into the Railroad Station to buy our train tickets!
We've got a ticket to ride! ;))
Exploring with Uncle Kurt, Carson, Gavin, and Luke!
We would be riding on Train No. 102... leaving at 12:05 PM!
Finding our seats... in the air-conditioned section, of course! Haa!! Not quite like the old days, but hey, close enough. And I love Andrew's thrilled face, hahaha!!
"When is it gonna startttt???"
"I've got my ticket!! What's the hold up??"
It's time! It's time!! It's finally time!! Off we goooooo!
Even the babies were impressed!
And then a conductor came around and punched our tickets.. just like on Dinosaur Train! I was so scared that I might misplace my ticket and we would get kicked off the train.. So I kept my ticket out, up and ready at all times! Hahaha!! The kids loved this part and I did, too!!!!!!!! So exciting!
Heading into the tunnel!!!!
This was really so neat... and kinda scary! We were literally inches from the wall of this tunnel and it made the entire train sooo dark! Of course, the kids were amazed!
Just getting out and back into the bright sunshine!
Our tour guide told us that this house has been owned by the same family for decades. The man currently living there is an old man now... but still specifically remembers sitting on his front lawn, waving as President Franklin Roosevelt passed by on these very train tracks. Amazing!!
We unloaded here for about 30 minutes, watched a steam engine turn around, walked through a train shed, and then rode back to the station. This post was getting long, but if you're interested in seeing all of those things, just come over. :)) This was our last picture on the train, and I thought it was so sweet! Savannah and Carson - homeschooled kindergartners on their very first field trip! Here's to many, many more!!!!!!!!!
After our train ride, I was starving. And this momma wanted a barbeque sandwich.. So we google-mapped the closest BBQ joint and found Couch's Barbeque. Unbeknownst to us, this was the sloooowwestttt barbeque eatery everrrrr. We waited about 30 minutes for these sandwiches!!! And while they were good, they probably weren't worth the stopping time. Sorry, guys!! Next time, we'll just do Chick-Fil-A! :))
We had about an hour to drive after that... and through the horrible mountain roads of up, down, curve around, and repeat 14 million times, I was so SICKKKK by the time we got to our cabin!! I basically crawled up the front steps, ha! Thankfully, Jen, Nathan, Mom, and Dad had been there preparing a gorgeous dinner for us, complete with homemade rolls. They also had hot chocolate packets and so we indulged!!! It became one of my favorite parts of our nights in the mountains!
The next day, we drove over to Laurel Falls for our very first hiking adventure! Of course, before we got there, we just had to stop at some of the scenic overlooks! How gorgeous is this?!
Best little trail buddies!
Crazy story - Probably 14 years ago, we were on vacation in Gatlinburg on this very trail.. I thought I would be smart and skip part of the trail by taking a shortcut. Umm, it wasn't a shortcut, it was DEATH TRAIL!!! I started running... and could. not. stop. My feet couldn't keep up with how fast the mountain was pulling me down.. I can still remember my mom screaming, "Melissa!!! STOP!!!!" But I was too scared to even yell back that I couldn't!! I ended up grabbing a tree and holding on for dear life... while wildly scanning the ravine that I was about to plummet into. (Okay, a little dramatic... but it was pretty serious and SO scary!) My dad had to come down the mountain and save me... and on the way back up, we came across a rattlesnake that I had apparently run over. Oh. my gosh. Anyways, it was fun little story to tell the kids and Mom and I had a good time remembering it around every corner and every shortcut we saw! :))
We made it!!!! This is Laurel Falls!!!
Amazingly cold mountain water to play in....
Of course, Brother got his feet wet and had to walk down the mountain in wet, smelly tennis shoes... shoes which have still not recovered to this day! Silly boy. :))
Sweet little friends!
What a wonderful start to our family's week together!