Leadership Retreat, cont’d

Friday morning, as is always true of our family, we were up bright and early and immediately on a different schedule than the rest of the world. Seriously, it was kind of a bummer that we were leaving the trails as most of the group was just getting there, but after a crappy night of sleep for Elise and Avery (and their parents), we needed to keep some semblance of structure or they’d be even bigger terrors the rest of the trip. I’m sure this wasn’t entirely terrible for anyone though, considering our pace as we “hiked”. ๐Ÿ™‚ But I’m getting ahead of myself…

We got the girls First Breakfast (a cereal bar, to tide them over) just before 7, then hung out on the gorgeous porch for a little while.
Second Breakfast (pancakes and sausage for 50!) was served around 8, which we ate quickly before heading out to the park. If you know Gatlinburg (and the surrounding areas), you probably know that it is a destination with split personality disorder. On one hand there is the kind of kitschy (and yet oh-so-endearing) part of town – hillbilly golf, tacky gift shops, an attraction that can only be described as a human gerbil ball, and museum after museum dedicated to human “oddities”. I admit, I love this part of town – in moderation.
Let me skip ahead to what some might call a third personality – the arts and crafts “districts” of Gatlinburg. Having a home with decor that is not at all country, this is somewhere we’ve never spent much time. I hear it’s great though, if that’s for you.
The second (or third, depending on whether you’re following my rambling train of thought) is what MAKES this place, if you ask me: The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You can only go in the magnet store so many times in your life. You can only be baffled by the longest human fingernails or take pictures with various wax people or famous cars so many times. But – much like the appeal of Disney World for us – you CANNOT see all there is to see in this giant park that spans multiple states. (You can, however, play Hillbilly Golf and the Ripley’s Golf Courses (Davy Crockett & Old McDonald’s Farm) each and every visit, if you can afford them. But I digress…)
Because this park is so phenomenal, and also because we have absolutely no money :), the outing of choice on Friday for our family was to go to the Greenbrier part of the park and choose a trail to explore. We knew that without hiking backpacks or no children in tow we wouldn’t make it so far as halfway through any given trail, but whatever. That just means we’ll have to go back and keep pushing the Rainbow Falls trail off to another trip.
The trail du jour was Ramsey Cascades. The largest cascade in the state is about 4 miles in. We didn’t come close to seeing it. We did, however, see gorgeous butterflies in droves, beautiful streams, and adorable almost-2-year-olds that LOVE rocks and water and naturally loved combining the two by throwing rocks IN water.
Second coolest activity? “Reach it, trees? Please?” (Translation: “Lift me up please, so I can touch the leaves way up there”).
There are lots more pictures from our hike and the gorgeous trail in Picasa. After a while in the park, it was time for lunch. We weren’t sure where we planned to eat, but the adorable Happy Days Diner caught our eye. Serving meals like the Laverne & Shirley Duo, Fonzarelli’s Chicken Parmesan and Mrs. C’s fried chicken, how could this girl resist? After all, I was raised on TV Land shows!
Kyle and I had burgers, but perhaps Elise had the most creative meal: Grilled Cheese dipped in chili. Apparently it was delicious.
After lunch we put the girls down for a nap. The cabin was empty (seriously, we are the only morning people we know) so Kyle and I played some games and both took a nap ourselves. Glorious. When the girls woke up, we played for a while as other families trickled in (and the rest of the kids napped) until it was time for dinner. After dinner, the girls joined a few of their friends for an impromptu (and RIDICULOUSLY cute) dance party. ๐Ÿ™‚
Finally, it was time for bed. We hated cutting the dance party short, but by 7:45 when we were putting Avery and Elise down they were definitely bordering on over-tired. They went down much easier the second night, though, and Kyle and I headed back out to hang out with the rest of the crew.
The evening was spectacular. Great conversation, great snacks, and culminating in an hour or so of praise & worship on the deck under the stars. The night that followed would once again be mostly sleepless, but the time together was well worth staying up for.
Saturday morning, Avery was incredibly out of sorts. Meltdown after meltdown, a very difficult time following instructions and playing nicely, and Kyle and I decided we just needed to head out pretty early. We didn’t want to be on the road terribly early (trying to time the bulk of the drive with naps), but we knew that we’d be better off with decreased stimulation before making the girls sit in carseats for 5-hours going home. We planned to spend some time at the Old Mill shops since we didn’t really get to in January, but we couldn’t get there because of a parade taking place in Pigeon Forge with staging filling that area. We walked around some other shops though until about 11, then grabbed lunch at Wendy’s (Elise LOVES Wendy – the girl, and the food) and started home.
It was a quick trip – and our second whirlwind trip to the same part of the country in just a few months. We were are exhausted, but it was something we look forward to doing again as soon as possible. We feel so blessed to be a part of such a real, passionate, fun group and are so excited about what God is doing in the church and in the city!
Lots more pictures in Picasa (new May album). Some, especially of the trails, are definitely worth a look – such a beautiful part of the country!