Friday, May 15, 2015

Smokies Day 5: Porter's Creek and Go-Karts!

Our last day of hiking was the easiest; only about 3 miles round-trip and a much better path! We followed Porter's Creek the entire way (even though we didn't actually make it to our destination; turns out our directions were faulty and the falls we were headed for were another half-mile up a rutted and rugged trail that we started up, but turned around after a few minutes. Our directions told us that the falls were unmarked and screened by brush so we spent quite awhile clambering around on rocks in the river wondering if the falls were just out of sight!).

One of our favorite things about this hike was the veritable swarms of butterflies--we saw SO many! They were just swirling around in giant clouds. It was really something!

 This is the gorgeous creek that we walked next to the entire time. It looked like this area had been somewhat heavily settled a few hundred years ago; we saw many moss-covered stone walls and even found the remnants of a fireplace back in the woods!

 About halfway up the trail, we explored the Ownby family cemetary, who were the original settlers of this cove. Many of the graves were from 1909 and we wondered if there had been some sort of epidemic at that time. And the majority of the graves were those of young women in their early twenties and babies who were days or weeks old. Not an easy time to be bearing children.

Half a mile or so past the cemetary, we came to an original cantilevered barn which had been built in 1875. I love the ax-marks on the beams; it reminded me a lot of the old barn that originally stood on our property in Ohio when I was a kid.

We explored the springhouse and talked about what it would be like to keep all of your milk and butter and whatnot in a place like this (much better condition than the pioneer springhouse we had in Ohio, which was kind of a death trap!).

And then we went a little further off the trail to check out the Smoky Mountain Hiking Club cabin. It was built in 1934 and the kids could literally have spent all day here--they LOVED it!

But eventually it was time to move on, so we skirted this guy who was sunning himself in the barn, and went on our way.

According to our directions, this was the point at which we should have seen the falls, but no falls were in sight, so we spent a long time playing around in the stream. This was probably the scariest of the bridges we crossed, since it was quite high, three logs long, and the water was a good 10 feet deep below us--but heavily peppered with big boulders! Definitely one where you didn't want to fall off the open side!

 The view downstream--Neil was longing to swim here!

And the view upstream.

The bridge. Beautiful! I was worried that Isaac would be afraid to cross, given his reaction to the hike the day before, but he went right over without any hesitation.

We spent so long here just throwing rocks in the water and trying to figure out how deep it was. Beautiful beautiful area!

 Then we started back down the trail and found a new place to throw rocks. Poor Nathan had an awful and unbearably frequent diaper situation the whole time we were gone, so after his latest diaper change we let his little bottom air out.

 And then we went to get ice cream and ride around in go-karts!

Abigail was big enough to ride by herself, but the other kiddos took turns riding with parents.



Luke (the go-kart guys were all talking while Luke and I were going around and literally let us go twice as long as they should have. I was DYING! My hip was killing from the awkward position that I had to use to hit the gas but Luke was having so much fun that I didn't want to stop for his sake, but every time we went around again I was like, oh my gosh, please end your conversation and tell us to get off the track so that you're the bad guy in Luke's eyes and not me!).

 And then we drove back to our campsite and it started pouring rain again! Fortunately we just heated dinner up on the stove (roasted tomato-garlic soup and grilled cheese sandwiches), but it was kind of a bummer wet night for our last evening. Oh well--we all slept soundly and the kids were such a huge help breaking camp in the morning that we had it all taken down within an hour of waking up! Then we headed into town and had a fun birthday breakfast for Luke at a pancake house, then we drove home and unpacked, and then Neil and I put the kids to bed, went running (he ran outside and I ran on the treadmill), and then collapsed into bed after the most wonderful hot shower--I really appreciated it after icy midnight showers in the woods! Haha! It was a great trip.

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