Friday, September 2, 2011
Day 3 Road Trip, Down the Mountain and One Amazing Aquarium
Sorry for the break in blogging but I needed to get two children ready for high school. Yep, 2 in high school...how did that happen? I remember taking their first day of pre-school pictures like it was yesterday. Time is going by way too fast for me!!
Okay, back to the road trip. Well, once you go up a mountain you have to come down. Coming down a mountain with a wheel chair is about as much fun as going up. Instead of pushing, you are now pulling and let me tell you, walking down a mountain holding on to a wheel chair is probably the best workout for your buttocks that you can imagine. The trail was steep enough at times that Danielle or Brooke had to get in front of the wheel chair and walk backwards while hanging on as I pulled in the back. But we made it and got a few more great pictures of the scenery.
It's just so peaceful...unless of course you hit a bump with Sam and it hurt his hip or you didn't move fast enough for him. I'm not going to tell you that Sam made the trip up and down the mountain without complaining...we are talking about Sam here. But we all complain about aches and pains when hiking so we just took it in stride. There were no tears or muscle contractions which would indicate a major pain episode so we felt he did okay.
The girls began shedding clothes to stay cool and no, I did not join them in doing that. Sam continued to smile and give them directions. Yep, he would make a great supervisor.
At one point on the trail there was a large gathering of people because a female black bear had been sighted close to the trail. As much as we would have liked to stand around and try to see it Sam had other ideas. The heat was beginning to wear on him and his comfort level of sitting in the wheel chair on a bumpy path was at about it's limit.
Going down did seem much faster and easier than going up!
I am going to look back at these pictures and envy the heat when we start getting snow storms this winter. I just love our National Parks.
When we got to the bottom I asked Sam if he had fun. He gave me his usual answer "All done". I then asked the girls if they were going to hike another trail. For some reason they also felt "All done" for hiking. So we headed back to the cabin to shower and get ready to see the Ripley's Aquarium.
When we got back the girls decided to sit in the hot tub...sore muscles perhaps??? Sam laid down for a while and I took a much needed shower. We had a snack and headed to the Aquarium. After pulling the van into a parking structure that had such a low ceiling I kept ducking we finally parked and unloaded the wheel chair. We wheeled Sam up to the entrance, paid our $90.00 entrance fee which I felt was a lot and seriously hoped this was going to be worth it and walked in.
Sam's reaction quickly assured us that this was worth it.
This place is huge and many aquariums have the walk in glass tunnel but this one was big enough that it also had a moving sidewalk to get you through it.
And of course they had a rain forest and a.....waterfall.
Sam was fascinated by and loved to watch the sharks swim by.
And these were big sharks!!
There was so much to look at that keeping Sam engaged was not a problem.
Such beautiful and colorful displays of coral!
And so many sharks, really big sharks that you saw one wherever you looked.
Some of the fish seemed very comfortable just laying on the top of the tunnel, especially this sawfish that Sam was fascinated with.
I told Sam to look at the school of fish. Sam's reply, "No school no".
Sam loved to watch the shark's move their jaws and teeth, I of course was playing the Jaws theme song in my head and thankful that there was glass between me and the sharks.
Sam kept saying "Cool" and "Mom, oh no shark coming!"
I loved the jellyfish display. Sam knew what they were as soon as he saw them.
They had the coolest exotic fishes too. Both the white and the brown stone looking creatures above are actually fish.
I loved the lionfish.
A nightmare in the making were the Japanese spider crabs. These things were huge, like monstrous...they can have a leg span of 12 feet and weigh up to 41 lbs. For comparison I found this picture on the internet.
It's like something out of a horror film. In my mind, that's a big underwater spider and I don't like it.
The aquarium also had these really cool crawl through areas so that you could be right in the middle of the exhibit. Here are Danielle and Brooke in the middle of the penguin exhibit.
They also crawled into another fish tank area and we captured this photo.
Then we decided to get one more group pictures by the huge jaws. Love Sam's expression on this one!
But the highlight of the aquarium was when Sam saw the diver.
Sam's face just lit up, he put his hand to his cheek and was in total awe of Chris the diver. Chris swam with the stingrays as another person told us all about stingrays.
Sam couldn't take his eyes off of him and his smile was from ear to ear. It seemed that we were not the only one fascinated by the look on Sam's face. Chris began to look at and wave to Sam.
Sam was thrilled and then the magic moment happened. They each put their hands up to the glass. As I looked around, everyone who was watching was smiling. Chris's interaction with Sam and Sam's glowing face and huge smile touched everyone's heart.
A mountain and a moment like this, yep...this was definitely a great day!!
After stopping at the gift shop to of course buy Sam a teddy bear diver so he could remember Chris we headed back to the cabin.
It has become a tradition on our road trips to make a celebration meal of steak with Brooke's sauted onions and some crunchy asparagus. I make the steak and the girls take care of the rest of the meal. Brooke was so delighted with our meal that she even captured it in pictures.
Of course you can see who is first to sit down and start eating. Sam never misses food!
Mmmmm, yummy was Sam's favorite line for dinner and I had to agree. We then all decided to sit on the deck and let our food digest as we looked out on the beautiful Smoky Mountains.
Again Brooke captured some beautiful shots!!
This was one of my favorites while the sun was setting!
Always one to jump on an educational moment, I decided to read to the girls some history about the Smoky Mountains from one of my favorite travel books Frommer's National Parks With Kids.
Yep, you can imagine, they were thrilled but the teacher in me persisted. I read to them about the Cherokee's who originally owned this land or at least laid claim to it. I got their interest when I read that in contrast to European culture, women among the Cherokee were equal to men in their families. Mothers owned the family home. We also talked about what the Cherokees felt they needed to do to survive, how they were pressured to leave and the Trail of Tears. We ended with how the national park was finally bought. I asked questions to see if they were paying attention and they promptly raised their hands to answer them.
We all caught up on our reading.
When it got dark out the girls decided to take a walk. Part of me was thinking, are you crazy, it's dark and we are in the mountains. But I gave them a flashlight and figured they would soon come to the same realization. It took about 5 minutes for them to return and question me on what I was thinking, allowing them out in the dark where a wild animal could have gotten them...what kind of parent was I??? According to them they heard something growl and came running back, ah another lesson learned on their own.
The only wildlife I came across was on our back deck. We had a visitor.
Obviously this raccoon was a frequent visitor. He made himself right at home and we laughed as he fit his whole body through the hole in the garbage can lid...his tail and his two back legs were all you could see as he foraged through the garbage. Yummy!
The girls ended the day with a dip in the hot tub after they scared the raccoon away! What an amazing day. Good night everyone!!