Monday, September 2, 2013

Smokey Mountains

Last weekend Steve and I went to dinner with our friends, the Neeses and Frys.  While dining, we discussed what we were doing for Labor Day.  Since Steve and Michael were going to Atlanta to watch the opening Alabama game, the kids and I were left with nothing to do.  The Neeses were headed to the Smokey Mountains, and invited us along.  I immediately said "yes," contingent that the vet allowed Beckham to attend with us (which he did).

Steve thought I was crazy, but I wanted to go....under one wouldn't rain.  Mary Michael researched the weather for the campground we were staying at, and told me there was only a 30% chance, so I felt pretty good with our odds and began packing.  Friday morning, Steve stayed home from work to help me pack up the car, and then I checked Bennett out of school half day and drove up with the kids and Beckham.  Once I got about 45 miles north of Birmingham, it began raining.  It continued to do this on and off the rest of the way up to Townsend (a small town near our campground).  It got pretty bad a few times, enough to make me tell the kids to be quiet and I turned off the radio so I could completely focus (I HATE driving in rain like that)!

Anyway, we finally hooked up with Mary Michael in Townsend and followed her into the campground.  She told me the roads were windy, and to be careful of getting carsick.  We also would lose our cell signal, so we needed to stay close.  Fortunately our kids are pretty good travelers, but little did I know our puppy would be different.  He evidently couldn't handle all of the twists in the road, and threw up in his kennel (poor guy).  Bennett tried to clean it up while we kept following MM, but it left an odor, ugh!  We finally made it around 6:30. 

The Neeses had reserved three campsites in Elkmont Campgrounds, and everyone else was already there.  We met Ashley and his friend, Rob and daughter, as well as Ashley's father and nephew.  Between all of us, we had four tents that needed to go up.  Since Rob and I had the smallest tents, we shared one site, and then the others each took a site.  We had a great location near the bathroom and convenience shop, as well as one of the many creeks that flows through the park.

I immediately got started setting up my tent, and got everything situated inside....air mattress, sleeping bags, Beckham's kennel, toiletries bag, and our suitcase full of clothes.  We finally were settled an hour later, and then some folks got started on dinner, while a couple of us took the kids to the stream to play.  Of course the kids were starving once the fire got going and dinner was cooked, but we managed to please everyone with hotdogs and chips!

After each meal, we packed up all of our food and stored it back in our cars.  The bears are plentiful around the Smokey Mtns, and they have strict rules regarding food so we don't attract them to our sites.  We never spotted one, but that is probably a good thing.

The kids telling their "ghost story"
As dusk quickly approached, the kids began telling stories.  Landon and Jackson started with their version of a scary story, and then the little kids started in with one of their own.  They were pretty cute.  Shortly thereafter, we hit the hay, as everyone was beat from the drive.  The kids quickly fell asleep, but it was so much hotter than I expected, so I was uncomfortable and unable to fall asleep right away.  Thankfully I had my kindle, and read until I couldn't keep my eyes open anymore. Then around 1am, I awoke to use the bathroom and couldn't fall back to sleep.  I read for another hour, and finally fell back to sleep....only to be awoken an hour later with a torrential rain storm.

The reason the mountains are called "Smokey"
Bennett immediately woke up too, so we zipped up our only windows that provided air and sweated it out in the tent.  At first things seemed to be working, the rain was getting carried off the tent by the dew guard, but then the sides started to soak through.  I went into panic mode and began running the electronics back to the car.  Bennett and I then moved everything else to the middle of the tent, woke up Pres and Beck (who had been sleeping through the rain), and ran to the car.  We waited it out in there until dusk.  We would pop the hitch occasionally to allow for fresh air, but it was definitely a long 1.5 hours to be trapped in the car in the middle of the night.  Finally at dusk, the rain ceased and we decided to head back to our tent.  Fortunately the rain cooled things off a bit, so we all quickly fell back to sleep for a few hours.

Everyone began stirring around 8:30, so we all started drying out our damp items.  We had items hanging all over the campsite, and as the humidity returned...I lost hope that things would actually dry out.  Since the kids could care less, I just tried to keep them entertained and happy.  We went for a bike ride (well I walked Beckham, while they rode), tubed down the stream, hunted crawfish and just played around the campsite.  Unfortunately, I experienced another hiccup when I went to access my car, and couldn't unlock any doors.  I quickly found out that my car battery was dead!  Shockingly, none of us had cables, so I had to borrow some from a nearby camper.  Ashley's father gave me a jump, but I was then worried about my car for the rest of the day.  So every 30 minutes or so, I would go start my car and let it run for a minute.  Unfortunately, that didn't last long enough, and I found my battery dead again around dinner.  I tried not to think about it, but I was worried that it wouldn't even start after being jumped the following day.  The compilation of all of these items made me want Steve there badly.  An extra set of hands and someone who would know what to do would have been nice, but I had no cell signal or way to communicate with him, so I was on my own.
Pres tubing through the rocky stream
Beckham relaxing
Kids taking a break from swimming
Pres with one of the crawfish he caught
Even Bennett held one, though it was a tiny baby one
Of course, the kids were clueless to my stress, so we just focused on enjoying our dinner.  All of the kids were anxious to make s'mores, so we did that for dessert.  Before we hit the hay though, I got smarter....I packed up many of our items in the car, leaving just the basics in the tent.

We all passed out around 9:00 again, and it wasn't much later when I was awoken by thunder.  I immediately packed up our chairs and shoved them in the car too.  If it was going to rain again, I wanted to ensure that everything we brought home wasn't soaking wet.  I tried to go back to sleep, but instead I just panicked about the rain.  I stayed up reading my kindle again, and waited.  Fortunately, God listened to my prayers and let it be a mild rain, and we were able to stay pretty dry.

Of course I knew that one of the downsides of camping while pregnant was my small bladder and the need to use the bathroom often.  But I guess I didn't anticipate the early bedtimes, so I had to get up a couple of times each night.  Though the bathrooms were fairly close, it wasn't worth the 3-4 minute walk in complete darkness to go, so I used mother nature.  Naturally after two days of sweating, applying bug spray and being one with nature....we were stinky!  I was DYING to take a shower and actually use soap to wash my hands and face!  The kids and dog were also filthy, and caused our whole tent to just smell.

After a particularly awful night of sleep, no thanks to Bennett being a wiggle worm and the thunder, I got up and was focused on leaving.  Unfortunately with my car battery still dead, it was difficult to pack since I couldn't open my hitch to load the wet and big items.  We were the first ones up, so I took advantage of just dismantling my tent and hauling all of my belongings to the car.  However, I found myself waiting around for folks to wake up, and all I wanted to do was get in my car and GO!  Finally I saw some nearby campers stirring, so I started walking around to hit somebody up for jumper cables.  The first person I saw was wearing Alabama gear, so I opened with a "Roll Tide" and then asked if he had cables.  I guess my pick-up line worked because he had some and he lent them to me.  :)

Ashley's father got me started again, and then I quickly loaded up my remaining items and hit the road at 7:30am!  Fortunately I had filled up before entering the park, so I had enough gas to make it all the way back to Birmingham.  I strategically planned to never turn off the car, so we wouldn't have to worry.  We took one bathroom/food break, and otherwise just flew back home....making great time and arriving home at 12:05pm!  However, my dark cloud was hovering over me still and we went in and out of rain storms the whole way home making it more stressful than I was awake for that morning.

We arrived back home to hot and humid weather, and the kids and I unpacked the car.  I had all of my wet camping gear strewn across my front yard to dry out (yes, we looked like white trash, but I didn't care), and we all (Beckham included) took a long hot shower.  I felt a million times better, but my asthma was still acting up so I tried to relax in between laundry and unpacking.  When Steve got home, we cleaned up our front yard....just in time too, because it started to rain here too.

After a breathing treatment and some much needed rest, I headed to Autozone to replace my battery.  I was in need of a new one, and I now feel much better about running errands around town.  As I reflect back on this camping trip, it certainly didn't go the way I had imagined in my head.  I was expecting a little more down time for myself, cool evenings so I could sleep well, definitely no rain, decent behavior from the kids and perhaps some hiking on one of the many trails they have.  Instead, I was inundated with rain throughout the weekend, a puppy who was very frustrated being on a leash and couldn't handle windy roads in a car, allergy and asthma attacks, a dead car battery and doing it all without an extra set of adult hands.  I am not complaining though because if you ask the kids if they had fun...they will both say "yes."  So we will just have to wait for more time to pass so we ALL have only good memories of our first camping trip without daddy in the Smokey Mountains!


Lisa said...

You are a brave mama!!!

Chelsea said...

You are one brave woman taking two kids camping alone and pregnant to boot! The pics were beautiful, even if there were a few glitches. You couldn't even have a drink to take the edge off! I've been having terrible problems with my battery. Toyota can't find anything wrong but my car goes dead all the time. I now carry jumper cables. Dayven and I have even had to push it out of the garage to jump start it!