We returned last night from our vacation in Gatlinburg. Our family had a good time together.
The first day there, we hit the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. We enjoyed it, but still prefer the Audubon Institute Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans. The beauty and diversity of God’s underwater creation always amazes me.
And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.
And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures… So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds… and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas.
On Tuesday, we visited Cades Cove and hiked a five mile nature trail that featured a wonderful waterfall. Last summer I regularly walked 12+ miles several times a week, so I figured 2.5 miles to the falls and 2.5 miles back would prove leisurely. I learned you can’t compare the flat roads of the New Orleans Lakefront to the steep up and down rocky root covered trails of the Smokey Mountains. We enjoyed a little unexpected excitement when a couple of black bears crossed our path.
Throughout the week we shopped some of the numerous local arts and crafts, toured some historic log cabins and old churches, and did a few of the Gatlinburg attractions like George Barris’ Hollywood Star Cars Museum.
An exciting white water rafting trek down the Pigeon River highlighted our week. We all managed to stay in the boat, except for the intentional swim in a refreshing calm cool area.
My wife, an avid cyclist, stole away a couple of mornings to tackle the mountain inclines and I used the time to sneak in some reading. I brought along Don Whitney’s Ten Questions to Diagnose your Spiritual Health, God is the Gospel by John Piper and Dear Timothy, a collection of 20 essays by various authors. Lord willing, I’ll post my comments on these books next week. Courtney took off, not quite as well equip. The brutal hills called a for a larger chain ring than she has on her flat land road bike. Even with our grueling hike, the strain the hills put on her legs, and the long hours in the car yesterday, she still arrived home to win this years Louisiana-Mississippi district criterion this morning. That makes 3 years in a row!
On Thursday night we took in one of the dinner theater shows. Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede brought in live buffalo, equestrian, music, audience participation, and other things. Seated according to our geographic location, the show pitted North vs South in a night long competition while we ate a full meal without utensils. Hearing my wife pound the table and scream at the top of her lungs, “go – go – go – you stinkin’ little pig!” made the admission price worth while, as we watched blue and grey ribboned pigs race around the arena. With all that cheering, the southern pigs still came up short.
As far as we could tell, Gatlinburg serves as the Pancake capitol of the world. It seemed every fourth business housed a T-shirt shop, old fashioned photo studio, or pancake house. We figured “when in Rome…” so we ate pancakes at a different place every morning. The Pancake Pantry boasted the best by far. Over all the week’s food didn’t impress us much, but we admit our prejudice. Its hard to please discerning palates accustom to deep south cooking and New Orleans cuisine.
On the drive home yesterday, with our two back-seat teenagers plugged into their own mp3 players and PSP, Courtney and I connected my ipod into the car stereo. We listened to a three part seminar by Al Mohler on “Raising Teens in the Media Culture.” Download part 1, part 2, and part 3.