The only two days of pictures from our real camera that turned out pretty were both from the days we were at the Cumberland Gap. Mammoth Cave was also really interesting, but none of the pictures I took really came out decent. It was so dark, and to be honest such a stressful situation, I couldn't get it to photograph well. The Blue Ridge Parkway was also GORGEOUS (there's an iPhone picture near the end that I adore) but we didn't stay as long as we had initially planned and by that point, it was the very end of the trip, and I think I was too exhausted to dig out the big camera.
We hit five national parks in five days, which I thought was a pretty adventurous exercise. We made it to the Natchez Trace Parkway, Mammoth Cave, Shenandoah, Cumberland Gap, and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Even though it not new to us and even though it added several hours on to our trip up to Cookie and Conrad's we decided to take the Trace and enjoy all that our own beautiful state has to offer. We stopped at a couple of landmarks, which was especially fun since it brought back so many childhood memories of taking the Trace up to my grandmother's when I was Annie and Graves's age.
Cumberland Gap was our next park to explore!
We went a little further up the mountain and a lot of the trees had started to change colors.
And this is what Bud started out in. It's a 24 mo. so understandably the snaps kept popping open and he ended up in his underwear in Peyton's sleeping bag one night.
This was my set up the first night we camped. The second night we knew we were going to try to leave super early and didn't want to have to reinstall AP's booster so I just laid back the front seat as far as it'd go. Both were pretty comfy and I slept better than I did in the double beds with P the two nights in motels. I used to say that the "couch" in the front seat of my Buick was some of the most comfortable furniture we owned, and while I'm certainly glad to have a real bed, the van wasn't bad at all.
Hiking the Cumberland Gap with Little Sallie Sunshine!
A few more from our morning hike through the Gap!
Morning snuggles and a new Sallie Selfie. Love every one of her expressions!
Sweet Peyton rarely misses an opportunity to help a stranger. This was somewhere on or around the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Such a pretty view of the Blue Ridge Mountains! This trip was full of unpredictable elements, as one would expect with things like this. Probably the biggest surprise to me, though, was that I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would and Peyton found it more difficult than he anticipated. One of my best friends and I talk about how she and I are like Doomsday Preppers but for life situations. Mick says I (and he) "awfulize and catastrophize". Basically, I can be a real pessimist (and though I've gotten better) I over think and let things P sees as simple become really daunting (and then scream at him that I'm pretty damn flexible to go a long with half of what I do). Sometimes it makes life miserable but sometimes it works to my benefit. Anyway, I shouldn't be surprised; this is how it often works out. (I still contend that I fell harder and loved deeper in regards to New York than he did.) He kept telling me that if I wanted to stay at a motel, just to say so. But another element of my personality is that I really, really like to prove things to myself and to him. That said, I was pretty relieved when he suggested camping one more night for the last time and just trying to get in a bit more hiking. And even more so when he said we should just find something interesting to do on the way and stay in a motel halfway. And even more so when he woke me up super early and said he and Annie thought we should just drive straight home and eat out twice on the way. It was a lot of fun, but was ready own bed!
Sallie gets dressed in baby toile to go hiking. She's such an enigma. Also, one of the few things (probably the only big thing) I wanted for this babykins was a standard Tula. P kind of pushed back (understandably- they're an investment) but I knew from wearing Graves when he was three in Brooklyn how amazing these carriers are and that I didn't want to try anything else. Peyton agreed we could get one if I agreed to try a big hiking/camping trip. I even let him help pick the pattern (Shenandoah, so perfect for us/her!) and he came around to offering a motel if the nights were rough for Sarah Lamar. I've come a long way in flexibility and he's come a long way in graciousness. We did end up in a motel two nights and camping two and surprisingly, Peyton got tired of snacking and wanted to go out to eat before I did. And he got peopled out by the children (not the baby!) before I did, too.
Fussy Little Sallie was not impressed at this point and crying unless she was holding her
momma's hand. But we decided to get up early (in Virginia) and drive the whole way home that day. She was such an amazing traveler and really exceeded my highest expectations for the trip.
Another picture of the best big brother ever taking care of Sallie at a pit stop on the trip. He and Annie are so different. A couple of weeks later AP told me "I tried to help Sallie while you were busy but finally I just said 'Graves, if you entertain her I'll get the Playmobil set up'". At least she gave it a shot. Ha!
er Deep South homeland. And also organize the van which got a bit trashed during our abrupt sunrise campground departure. And THEN Sallie started losing it and so we stopped again and I nursed her and she had her second dirty diaper of the day. Which is super unusual for her as she typically potties every two to three days, it's the source of ninety percent of her screaming, and we occasionally have to give her a suppository for. BUT we had made it to Alabama. Or as Annie would say "a border state".
Because five national parks in five days wasn't enough, we stopped at a state park in Alabama. Our big kids did great on a really long drive today and fortunately, they had a playground, which was really what they cared about. It was $13 well spent and it actually seemed like a really neat place. We may well be back for a visit. Especially since it's only three hours away!
This trip taught me so much about myself, about my little family, and about life. It was an ordinary adventure in so many ways, but it was a very special one to me. I'm so glad we got to have so much time together and enjoy the beauty of our wonderful world!