Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Grands add fun to mountain trip

Walker gets hauled around
Another aspect of a summer mountain vacation is having grandchildren to watch and enjoy.

We have six -- three boys, three girls. And they are fun. Fun to watch, fun to talk to, fun to plan treats for and I really enjoy shooting pictures of them.
Nate (l) and Luke take care of Walker

They always seem to be on the go and tend to find fun in the mountains, whether it is climbing on rocks, playing in the rivers or hiking trails.

Stella does some 'dry' tubing
Of course, there are those times when they can be a pain (to their parents). "I' tired, can you carry me?" I heard numerous times on our only really trail hike in the Smokies during early July.

But what the heck! They are just kids. I told one of my daughters-in-law how she may be able to quiet the complaining.

On a trip many, many years ago, my wife and I and our only son (her husband)  at the time, decided to take the Sunset Trail in Big Bend National Park.

The good thing about the trail that on the way out, it was all down hill. Then I got to thinking. On the way back it is going to be all uphill.

As one would have guessed, on the return trip, our son started complaining. Well, we broke down. We offered a bribe --  Ice cream, of course, at the restaurant in the Chisos Basin.

Charlie, Molly Kate and Stella
He headed up the trail without any more complaints, and seemed to enjoy running ahead of us to shorten the time before the treat.

My wife also got tired on the return trip and ended up talking a park maintenance worker into giving us a ride for the last few hundred yards.

Getting ready to tube on Little River
Well, back in the Smokies, my daughtert-in-law  didn't offer any bribe, but the kids did end up getting a couple of ice cream treats over the course of the next few days.

Charlie hams it up
Well, after all it is summer and vacation time.

Little ones can be so much fun. And ours are.

PS: In the early morning hours, just after dawn has broken, there is still a chance to get in some quiet time around the campfire before the activities of the day.

Yours truly getting an early morning dose of quiet
Next post: Aug. 2, 2011

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Smokies trip always different, enjoyable

Traditional annual picture on visit to Smokies

Our annual summer trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park takes on different dynamics each year.

A lot of the time we repeat many of our enjoyable activities -- hiking, tubing, enjoying the wildlife, eating, and taking our traditional pictures at the park sign outside Gatlinburg. We also managed to shoot a few pictures here and there.

In years past, when our two sons were considerably younger, we would often go to the intersection where the park road splits with one turn going into Townsend and the other to Cades Cove.

Two streams collide at that point and the resulting connect offers good tubing and lounging around. Those without a brain, and the parents without a brain who allowed their offspring without a brain to do it,  climb up rocks overlooking the river and jump off into the stream some 40 or 50 feet below.

The Park Service has tried to stop those shenanigans.

Family shot at Laurel Falls
We would spend an afternoon there, then go to the Cades Cove picnic area for supper and then  make the 11-mile one-way loop. Sometimes we would cut out and take the Rich Mountain Road, a one-way trip that goes over the mountain to the Townsend area.

Either itinerary usually ended up in Townsend and an ice cream treat.

This past July 4 holiday, we managed to do a lot of eating, took the Laurel Falls trail (with myself and two sons helping wifey make it), watched our children and grandchildren tube, ate chili at the Cades Cover picnic area and of course posed for a picture at the park sign.

The place in Townsend where we used to get ice cream years earlier didn't close their doors until 9 p.m.. Then they changed it to 8 p.m.

Roasting marshmallows for s'mores
After the Cades Cove stop this year, we went there and arrived at 7:40 p.m. Guess what? Yeah. They were already   closed. Now it was a 7:30 p.m. closing time.

Another tradition gone awry.

Well, there was a freezer with ice cream at the Elkmont Campground store, of which we availed ourselves. Pretty good, and not as expensive.

Some traditions continue, others fall by the wayside and new ones are added.

For the past few years, the new tradition was not only having our sons with us, but their children as well.

Its nice to be able and kick back and watch them take on the responsibilities and go through the same activities with their children as we did with them in years past.

There's already talk of getting together again next year.

Maybe we'll add some new, enjoyable and unforgettable traditions.

Next post: July 26, 2011

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Traveling on ethanol-free pure gas

Joe's Grocery offers ethanol-free gas outside Opelika, AL

After reading different articles on the problems with gas tainted with ethanol, I decided about two months ago to try and find ethanol-free gas for my vehicle.

I have been able to find a few places on the Mississippi Gulf Coast where I can do that. One station is located about 10 miles away in Latimer, just north of Ocean Springs.

Another is further west by about six miles, in Woolmarket.

And another station I found was in Pascagoula, about 16 miles to the east.

These stations were discovered by going on a pure gas website that has a list of more than 3500 ethanol-frree gas stations listed.

Planning on a trip to the Smoky Mountains, I wanted to go ethanol-free as much as possible.

The internet listing allowed me to do that. I went to their site and printed out all the stations in the states through which I would be traveling.

Turns out that finding such stations wasn't that difficult.

Starting out on our trip, we stopped in Pascagoula and filled up.  Some 280 miles away we stopped just east of Opelika, AL and filled up again.

This tankful took us to Clayton, GA where we filled up again. That fillup provided enough gas for our visit to the Smokys, our traveling around the park, and back to Clayton.

We stopped again in Opelika which provided enough gas to get home.

Looking back it wasn't such a big deal. Three stations provided what we needed. I must point out that my 2000 Chevy high-rise long-wheel base vehicle does have a 33-gallon gas tank. 

That means our range is a little in excess of 500 miles, depending on our speed.

All of the stations were less than 300 miles apart.

Prices for such gas runs a little higher in most places, although the station in Woolmarket actually sells gas for about 11 cents less than the ethanol-added gas station next to it.

Next post: July 19, 2011