A Day to Treasure

I set a goal this year to take the boys on a hike up to Mt. LeConte. We live so close to this world of amazing adventure… a place some people travel across the country to see…I want to make sure our kids know what a privilege it is to have this so close, and I want them to experience as much of it as they possibly can during their childhood.

Besides that…. I am a big lover of physical endurance activities and I'm hoping hoping hoping at least one of my boys shares this love ~ so I want to introduce it to them early!  Or maybe it's not so much "introducing" it, but rather forcing them to go with me while I still have some mama control :)
Feeling rather overwhelmed with life lately and giving nearly every ounce of extra energy I have to my dear little one-year-old, I often find myself just missing Sam and Charlie.  Missing that uninterrupted, adventurous, inquisitive, engaging time with them. So, the weekend of Mother's Day, I suggested that I have a day of just the big boys and mommy, to which Mr. Agrestic agreed. So after a morning of baseball, we headed to the Smoky Mountains and jumped on my favorite trail ~ the Alum Cave Trail up to Mt. LeConte. Ten miles round trip.
I knew it was going to be a stretch for the boys, particularly Charlie, but with expectations set appropriately, we all promised each other to give it 100%.
And so we did.
 One of our first discoveries on the trail was this giant snail! The boys thought it was about the coolest thing they've ever seen! Boys..  :)
We stopped every so often so they could throw rocks in the river. Throwing rocks in the water has been one of the easiest entertainment activities for them since they could walk… just something about it!
Then we started to get into some of the really cool stuff on the trail.
Trekking through the middle of Arch Rock.

2.3 miles up, we made it to Alum Cave, which is always a good place to stop for a snack

Earlier in the day, as we were driving toward the mountains, I pointed out that the peak we were climbing was above the clouds. The boys took note of that, and several times during our hike, Charlie kept asking when we were going to walk through the clouds... He had clearly established in his mind that he would be walking in a cloud during this hike. I could tell this was going to potentially make or break the day for him.... sigh...

We continued on our journey… this part of the trail gets pretty steep. And then the REAL fun began :)

It started pouring on us!!  Sounds like a bit of a pain…. but it wasn't. 

It just wasn't.
It was just really wet… and really fun!

 It doesn't get much better than this!

I truly, madly, deeply loved every single second of this day ~ 

You'll notice that Sam is now without hat… He looked up at me during the rain and was quite taken back by what happens to my hair when it gets wet. He happily offered me his hat! And I happily accepted.

One of the best parts of the trail (in my humble opinion) is in the last quarter mile… you walk through this amazing canopy covered wonderland that is absolutely thriving with hundreds of varieties of moss. I have this odd love for moss. I seriously feel my soul swelling when I'm surrounded by it… If ever there was a world for fairies and gnomes to live, I believe it is here. Just amazing. And it's really impossible to capture in a photograph, but ya can't blame a girl for tryin'!

 They found some little mossy porcupines :)
I'll pause here to share with you one of the little miracles of the day... Shortly before we reached the top, we were on a part of that trail that feels almost like a bowl. When you look over your shoulder, you can see a large part of the mountain wrapped around, staring back at you. Because of the rain, there were clouds sitting eye level in this bowl. It was really beautiful to see. Then, just as we were passing through, a cool wind spun up all around us and literally carried the resting cloud to us and washing it over us for 20 to 30 seconds until it found its way up and over the mountains. WE WERE IN THE CLOUDS! Charlie's wish came to fruition. He was beside himself. It was a fun moment for all of us.
And then...
we made it.. 
we reached the top!!
It was exciting and exhilarating and relieving and empowering…  all the great things you would expect after forcing our 6 exhausted legs to step-step-step mile after to mile to the top!

 We did it!!!
Before we started on the trail, I told the boys I would give them a kiss for every trillium they found… we didn't have much luck seeing them on our way up, but somehow several of them caught our eyes on the way down.
 And my big boys actually wanted me to pay up in kisses for spotting the trillium…  sigh… it's the little things.
As we were nearing the bottom of the trail, Charlie flipped into his oozy, lovey, can't-say-enough-about-how-amazing-life-is character, which was really adorable. "Mommy! This was the best hike ever! I am so proud of you. And I'm so proud of Sam. And I'm so proud of me. I want to do this every year! This is my favorite adventure we've ever been on! I LOVE it here!"  … and on and on he went.  It was so beautiful and so fulfilling to see my kids absolutely bursting with pride and happiness about what they had accomplished.
I do believe it was my most favorite adventure I've ever had with them as well. A perfect day from start to finish ~

To top it off, we saw bears too!!  Two different times. We saw a mama and two baby cubs on our drive up there.
(the pictures don't do it any justice, but it was pretty exciting!)
And then this big fella crossed the road in front of us when we were heading out of the park.
So many adventures can happen in a day ~


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