Smoky Mountains Family Vacation: Alum Cave

Smoky Mountains Family Vacation: Day 2

Alum Cave

The boys conversing about their misery, just before the "storm" (i.e. near meltdown), in the midst of the storm.

With my first goal of vacationing met (the cabin chosen and reserved), I moved on to my next goal: Strategic Research.

For me, this element - the research - is a long, slow, drawn out process.  It is, first and foremost, a brainstorming session.  I make a few initial searches, save a few tabs and begin to get ideas.  I am apt to be flexible to the desires of the day, so I am not one of these committed schedulers.  I get a general idea of the things we would all most like to see and do, I select my “lean-to’s” in the evenings, and I solidify plans (with clauses for adaptation) the morning of.  I’m not sure this is the way most people would handle vacation, but…let’s face it.  I am not most people.  (And that is OK! 😉)

I had a surprise early morning with the squirrel lying next to me come full day one.  He was 4:00am excited.  (😱). But, to my great fortune, he “let” me sleep until about 6:00a.m.  I don’t tend to be a morning person, and I don’t generally make exception for vacation.  Sleep is a TOP priority.  “Work Hard.  Play Hard.  Sleep Hard.”  It appears, however, I was destined to change my regimens for this trip.

We didn’t have the best of view for the sunrise, but we watched the world wake up together in the mountains, together, on our first full day in the Smokies.  And I am glad I made exception. 💕

The hardest part has been selecting which of the lovely views to share...

Given we were only going to be staying 5 nights, I decided that morning to hit the top of our list right out of the gate.  The top of my list included: 1) Hike a REALLY awesome hike and see something AMAZING.  2) Touch the Appalachian trail. 3) Visit the spinners. 4) Shop something local and artsy.

I had saved a few hiking suggestions from my research into the notes on my phone.  I now took the time to review each of the Smoky Mountains National Park reasonable family hiking highlights I’d previously culled from the overwhelming list of options.

For these, I looked up additional supportive information.  But as soon as I read, “if you can only do one hike in the Smoky Mountains…,” I knew we were going to Alum Cave on this first full day in the mountains.

One of the views we had a rare opportunity to view given my amazing choice to hike this one in the rain!  The cliff/cave overhang was dripping a "fury of the nile" irl-style shower.  

I maintained my long-held plan of giving out NO information except the basics.  Matt started breakfast to rally the troops, and we told them we were going for a hike.

The kids grumbled and complained about their lack of sleep, since Matt was WAY too loud that morning.  (Please note: I am not verifying this information as fact.  I am merely relaying the general consensus of the others in our party.  I simply confirmed, from the start, my opinion that he was very obviously excited that morning.  The rest are just the facts, people.  Just the facts.  I hold NO accountability for any negative connotation.) 

Unfortunately, I did not come to a consensus between all the parts of myself as to which hiking sites gave the most compelling basis for their “ratings” until later in the week.  Probably not an overall bad thing, as I would definitely not have chosen to drag my progeny up to Alum Cave, in the pouring rain, on their first full day in the mountains.  Alas…that is where we landed…another sketchy adventure provided by yours truly.  

I don't believe cameras will ever fully do justice to the beauty beheld with the human eye.  I hope, however, this one comes close...

Don’t worry.  As in the past, our precarious travels ended without tragedy, including any major annoyances or disappointments on the part of the wearied travelers.

I made one good decision that day: I ordered the boys to bring sweatshirts.  In fact, I had made that decision early on…before we even left Missouri.  Unfortunately, they were the only ones who had anything remotely close to appropriate attire for our rain-soaked adventure.  In all my diligence, I forgot to bring my own self a sweatshirt.  Though, I believe Xander was the worst-off in her sandals and socks.  (Note: I can, apparently, only be held responsible for two people at a time.  I work my way from the youngest up.  From there, it’s on you if I miss something.)

I feel sorry for the very distracted fellow who is likely to be the one to have lost this.  But...he didn't come back and we could never be sure.  So, this hike has been brought to you today by, a happy Evan.

At least I knew I wouldn’t be complaining.  At least not out loud.  I find myself to be the ever-optimist when I am the one who planned the adventure.  We will not give into failure, my friends.  However, I will admit I must have become a little cranky, as this is where I found myself uttering my famous “math” quote…and if I remember correctly, it wasn’t too far from the “summit” goal.  I assume even I was getting a little desperate at this point.

By the time we reached the overhang, Evan was all-out crying.  (I’ll admit, it’s not a hard-won state, but…) If you think I didn’t have a rabbit in my hat for this one, you have sadly underestimated my wiles.  Hadn’t I kept that white crocodile he found in the zoo store as prize for just this very moment?  The $5 he found mid-trail kept his enthusiasm going for quite awhile, but it is the white crocodile (along with some cheering encouragements from his brother) that brought him back down the mountain.

Oh that hike!  

I wish I could awe you with the assumption that I successfully achieved summit of this particular part of the trail.  Unfortunately, my illusions are only reserved for my children...and anyone who happens to submit themselves to a hike under my leadership.  This is an extra the kids did while they waited for the "sloth-esque" adults to catch up.

I will let the pictures speak for themselves.  Suffice it to say, we (meaning they) did not realize how fortunate we had been in choosing a rainy day to hike Alum Cave.  1) I was a little annoyed by the slow but steady stream of people coming up behind us and (often) getting in-between our group.  I had NO idea how un-crowded (It's a WORD!) it was until we drove past and saw about 1,000x the cars lined up on the road a few (sunny) days later.  2) Matt (my constant champion) was very vocal about his preference, even in the most trying moments of the hike, for the "cooling" (i.e. downright chilly) rain over the stifling heat we could have been enduring this time of year.  The kids did not agree until I dragged them through a bit of that, too.  😉🤣

While I’m glad we met the enthusiastic hiking teacher who assured us we were only halfway done (party foul!), I am more appreciative of his admonishment to strongly consider turning back if not everyone was on board for 2.5 more vertical miles.  So...

Sorry we missed the backwoods camp, but...

The Alum Cave "half-way" point held enough for us to call this a worthwhile start to our Smoky Mountains Family Vacation adventure!!

As we made our way to the car, I acknowledged what must have been the disappointment of my eldest’s boyfriend.  “Well, Mateo.  If anyone could have made it on to the summit, it would have been you.  I mean…I would have done it, but I have to admit, I’m glad we didn’t go on.”

“Yeah.  I was thinking about you just a bit ago.  I thought, if anyone in this group could outlast me on this trail, it would be you.”

Which prompted me to reply, “Awwwww, I am honored.”  So…do you have the ring, yet?  

Note: I am no longer receiving submissions for complaints regarding the spoiling of our youngest child.

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