I originally created this blog as a travel journal for my backpacking trip in Europe in May of 2006. Using the blog was such a positive experience--it became a log of my itinerary and allowed friends and family to follow me on my travels--that I decided to keep it going. My vacationing experience has evolved from traveling with friends to traveling with my husband to traveling with our children. I hope you enjoy reading about my travels, and please feel free to email me with any questions.

LeConte Lodge sits atop Mount LeConte. The only way in and out is by using the trails. To get supplies to the lodge, and to get trash out of the lodge, they used to use horses. Eventually, they switched to llamas. Three times a week, a llama train makes its way up Trillium Gap Trail in the morning to LeConte Lodge. After eating lunch, the llama train is led back down the same trail. The Trillium Gap Trail is a popular one for hikers staying at the lodge. It's longer than the Alum Cave Trail, but it's not as steep. The trail has needed updating, so the National Park Service announced that they would be doing repairs on the trails for two years: 2019 and 2020. From mid-May through mid-November, this trail would be closed Mondays, ... read more
LeConte Llamas
Llamas on the Trail!
Bye, Llamas!

North America » United States » Tennessee » Gatlinburg June 6th 2019

We'd been waking up at 5am Central each morning (6am local Eastern time). We assumed we'd get up at the same hour today, and our plan was to head to Gatlinburg to do some laundry and get breakfast. We thought we'd swing by and do the SkyLift Park there and be back before lunch. Instead, we slept in. It was 8am Eastern when I woke up. I gathered up clothes for everyone to change into, gathered up the dirty laundry, and then we set out for a laundromat. We used Super Suds because it was the closest, and that worked out fine. From there, we drove back into town to get breakfast at Crockett's. We drove by there yesterday, and I wanted to check it out. We thought it was named after Davy Crockett. Once we ... read more
SkyLift up to SkyBridge
Crossing the SkyBridge

We spent the morning relaxing at the campground. Andrew and I cooked up a quick breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast, and we discussed our plans for the day. I thought it might be nice to have a picnic lunch up at Chimneys Picnic Area. After lunch, anyone who felt up for it could do the nature loop from there, which is supposed to be 1.1 miles. We thought this might be a good plan because it would be inclusive to everyone in the group, even if they didn't feel up for a hike. The kids and Andrew took it easy playing some video games that don't require internet (the kids brought the Switch along for the road trip). I drove down to the E and F loop and hung out with Colleen, Gene, and Carol ... read more
Rainy Afternoon in the Great Smoky Mountains
Setting Out on Cove Mountain Trail
Cataract Falls

Tubing is an adventure! This is something I’d heard about from my mother-in-law, who is a Texan. I think it’s common to go tubing in rivers where she’s from. Me, I’d never heard of such a thing before I’d met Andrew. When I read up on Elkmont Campground at the Great Smoky Mountains, I read something about how people tube down the Little River there. There are videos on YouTube, and it looks to be a lot of fun. Our campsite is right on the Little River, so I was excited to try it! You need to bring your own tubes for tubing. For Christmas, I got river tubes for my mother-in-law and the kids. I also got the kids some life vests. So, we were prepared! Or so we thought. As it turns out, there ... read more
Trying to Tube by the E loop at Elkmont Campground
Tubing the Little River
Andrew and Jo, Tubing the Little River at Elkmont

Andrew’s aunt and uncle are arriving later today. Paul drove their Tesla to Knoxville to power up at a super charger station there. Colleen opted to stay at the campsite to help set up for Gene and Carol’s arrival. So, it was just Andrew, the kids, and me. There was one tough trail I wanted to hike: Alum Cave Trail. I didn’t think Paul would be up for such a strenuous hike, so it seemed like the perfect morning for us to hike it. We filled our Cambelbaks and set out for the trailhead. We stopped at Sugarland Visitor’s Center along the way (which is super crowded, by the way! It’s difficult to get a parking spot). The Great Smoky Mountains is unique compared to other national parks that we’ve been to in that it’s free ... read more
Starting Our Trek to Alum Caves
Snake at Great Smoky Mountains
Hiking Alum Cave Trail

Our campsite at Elkmont in the Great Smoky Mountains is absolutely stunning. It sits right on Little River. We strung a hammock on the trees overlooking the river and have been enjoying relaxing to the sound of the little rapids below. The campsites don’t have electricity or running water, although there are bathrooms in each numbered loop that have running, potable water. We take a short hike there to fill up our water bottles and jugs, and it’s nice to be able to use real restrooms instead of an outhouse. Unfortunately, there are no heated showers. For Christmas, my siblings got me a solar shower I’d asked for. It seems to work well. There’s not a lot of direct sun at our campsite (something I’m grateful for), but our solar shower still reached 92 degrees after ... read more
The Little River from our Campsite
Our Camping Hammock Overlooks Little River
Ready to View the Synchronous Fireflies

The most common way to see the fireflies at Elkmont is to enter the lottery. Because the natural phenomenon is so incredibly popular, the National Parks Service has started limiting the number of people into the area each year. They block off the entrance to Elkmont campground, and the only way to get in is to win the lottery. If you win, you get to park at the Sugarland Visitor Center in the Great Smoky Mountains, and they will shuttle you into Elkmont. If you don't win, you can still hike around other areas of the park and see some fireflies. They probably won't be the synchronous kind. Even if they are, they won't be as plentiful as they are at Elkmont. Elkmont seems to have the perfect viewing conditions, and it's the ideal place to ... read more

North America » United States » Indiana June 2nd 2019

We stayed the night at Lincoln State Park in Lincoln City, Indiana, close to the location where Abraham Lincoln lived from age 7 to age 20. We stayed in Gobblers Run Campground, which is a tent-only campground. It’s connected to another campground that allows RVs and motorhomes. Gobblers Run was very quiet. We ended up with a site near the restrooms, and there was no one else camped on our stretch of campground. We could relax and let the kids run and explore. Well, within limits. There was a lot of poison ivy on the edge of the forest behind the campsites, so they couldn’t go close to the forest! We were happy with the campground overall. Unfortunately, I accidentally deleted most of the photos I took of the campground area. We woke up early this ... read more
Abraham Lincoln's Boyhood Home
Tom Lincoln's Cabin
Lincoln Boyhood Home Visitor's Center

North America » United States » Missouri June 2nd 2019

We’re off on an adventure to the Great Smoky Mountains! The bulk of our trip will be in Tennessee with Andrew’s family, and we’re hoping to catch the synchronous fireflies at Elkmont, our campground. Last night, we drove for about four hours and stopped in Hannibal, Missouri, to stay overnight. This was Mark Twain’s hometown and is the inspiration of his popular adventure stories of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. Andrew’s paternal grandmother is originally from this part of the country. Her family is from Louisiana, Missouri, so Andrew’s been here a few times when he was a child. We were hoping to see the Mark Twain cave this morning before heading back out on the road. Unfortunately, there is incredible, terrible flooding in the area. As we drove through Missouri, we saw entire fields under ... read more
Access to Mark Twain Cave Closed from Flooding
Entrance to Mark Twain Cave Area
Ranger Tour of Dent Home - Ulysses S Grant National Historic Site

This was our last morning at Isle Royale National Park. I felt a little sad leaving. The kids had been amazing on the trip, and I just felt so proud of the kids for how adventurous they've been. Isle Royale National Park isn't the easiest park to get to, and it's one of the least visited in the national park system. For these reasons, I can't help but wonder if and when we'll get back. We spent the morning doing short hikes around the lodge. The kids also picked out souvenir books from the little gift shop. Joanna got North Woods Girl, and Oliver got Do Beavers Need Blankets? We listed to one last ranger talk before boarding our ferry and heading back to Copper Harbor. Thankfully, the ferry back was once again uneventful. We had ... read more
Souvenir Book
Making Bird Nests
Strolling Near Rock Harbor Lodge

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