Finally, we completed a hike. It wasn’t long and it wasn’t difficult, but we finished. We arrived at the Laurel Falls trailhead in Great Smoky National Park just after 9 to avoid the heat and humidity. The parking lots were already full so we had to park on the side of the road.
The parking lot scene was reminiscent of afternoon pickup at a daycare or elementary school. Families with small kids filled the parking lots and trail. In part that is because 2.3-mile Laurel Falls loop isn’t a “real” hike. It is paved. It is wide. Strollers and wheelchairs were being pushed up the “trail.”
Will quickly discovered “detours” he could take to get off the trail and on to some steeper and more challenging dirt paths that cut through the forest. Lucas quickly discovered that it was much easier to ride on my shoulders than to walk up the mountain to the falls. Will took all of the detours. Lucey and I met him on the other side of the “detours.” They weren’t passable with a 41 pound 5-year old on your shoulders.
We had a nice walk up the mountain. They stopped to play in the mountain streams cutting across the path. They climbed on the some of the bigger rock formations just off the trail.
As soon as we got to the top of the falls, my big boy immediately darted down the rocks leading from the top of the falls to the pool at the bottom. That is why I call him the mountain goat. I helped Lucey climb down at a biped pace.
Once we arrived, they turned the pool and stream into a pre-historic playground. Running around. Exploring hidden corners. Will dunking his head in the cool mountain water. “I love mountain water.”
They played in the pool and stream at the bottom of the falls for nearly an hour. We hiked down to the parking lot quickly. Everyone was hungry.
There are moments when you are Will’s parent that you are certain that parents within earshot are judging you to be worst parent in the world. The walk down from the falls was one of those moments.
Will: Chucky is scary, right dad?
Will: Why does he have a knife?
Me: I don’t know.
Lucas: To stab people.
Will: To stab them in the heart.
Lucas: That is why he has blood on the knife and his hand.
So went the entire hike down. If I were within earshot and heard our conversation, I would have been doing some serious negative judging. What kind of parent let’s their 5 and 7 year old watch Chucky? Not us. But you would never know it from our conversation.
We stopped by our favorite breakfast spot in Gatlinburg. The Log Cabin Pancake House, on the way out of town. Will is still “on Keto.” Bacon and cheddar omelet. Lucas opted for a waffle with cherries, a gooey cherry sugar sauce, and a huge dollop of whipped cream. He proposed a new way for me to cut up a waffle. “Cut a circle around the edge. Don’t touch the whipped cream. I will eat that.” He then proceeded to eat all the whipped cream and cherries from the center with a spoon.
After breakfast, we headed to North Carolina. The boys slept the entire time. Two hours of peace and quiet. A beautiful drive. We arrived at Golden Valley Jellystone Park at 3:27. Beautiful and sunny. Hot and humid.
The boys have become good tent assembler apprentices. We had the site set up and the car unloaded in about an hour. We headed to the camp pool and waterpark. They had a blast. Perfect choice for a campground for the end of the road trip.
The nice family next to us have a 5 and 8 year old boys and 11 year old girl. Life sometimes comes full circle. I was talking with them after we got back from dinner and Walmart. We talked about kids. They are here to celebrate his 5 year old Tucker’s birthday. The dad tells me that they got his son, despite his wife’s better judgement, a Chucky doll for his birthday. I see it. It is freakier than Will’s Slappy and B-shooter dolls. He says Chucky is all his son talks about. The wife quickly adds, “We don’t let him watch the movie. We don’t know how he learned about Chucky. YouTube. We think.” I nod. Smile. I tell them Tucker is going to get along great with Will. About our conversation on the trip down from Laurel Falls.