Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Healthy Dose of Nature

A few weeks ago, John told me an idea he had.  "Let's wake up early on a Saturday morning and go to Cades Cove and walk the short loop."  

He loves this place.  He grew up going to Cades Cove.  I had never been, but I had heard the stories of how cool it is.

"One time we counted over 50 deer."
"Mom and Dad would let us drive around in the minivan with the door open."
"Oh yeah, you could see a bear."
"The best is to go early in the morning or right before dark."

Dating back to the 1800sCades Cove is a clearing in the Great Smoky National Park that was home to a small mountain community.  The best way to see it is by an 11 mile loop where visitors can walk/run/bike/drive (what most people do) and enjoy a healthy dose of nature.  From May to September, the park is closed to cars on Wednesday and Saturday mornings from sunrise to 10 am.  

Yesterday, John and I woke up before 5 am (HUGE deal for me), ate a snack, got some coffee, woke up Burl, and drove 2 hours to the park.  After feeding Burl his breakfast, we threw him in the Bob (best jogging stroller EVER), and went.  Within 20 steps of the gate, we saw 7 wild turkeys and 2 deer-and they were so close to us!  Great way to kick things off.

We were passed by several cyclists, some of which seemed to be pros, and some seemed to be on their bikes for the first time.  Families, friends, groups, were out there doing it.  I LOVED seeing everyone.  One group passed us, then we passed them, and so on.  They had a terrible time with their bikes.  Some squeaked, some weren't riding well.  They had problems.  If I were them, I would have been so frustrated.  They were great.  They were encouraging each other, laughing, and helping one another.  It was so cool to see.  (Note to self: test out bikes before going on a ride.)    

For me, I just loved it.  To be surrounded by nature and not able to hear anything else.  Wow.  It was awesome.  We got there just after sunrise, so we were able to see the fog lift and huge mountains appear from out of nowhere.  

My favorite part was when we did the cut-through road.  Instead of walking the 11-mile route, we opted for the 8-mile route.  It's just a road that cuts through the middle of the clearing.  Instead of a paved road, it's a dirt road.  At one point, we stopped in the middle to take pictures and we looked around and could not see or hear anything man made.  I've been on plenty of hikes where I have been 100% surrounded by nature.  But, there are only a few times that it has happened where I am surrounded by all things natural AND I'm in an open space.  When those times occur, I feel so calm and so loved and it's like God is saying, "ISN'T THIS GREAT!?!  DON'T YOU LOVE IT!?!  I MADE THIS FOR YOU.  I MADE THIS FOR YOU TO ENJOY AND TO HELP YOU SEE MORE OF WHO I AM."

It was great to see Burl enjoy it too.  On our way to the park, we rolled down all of our car windows.  Burl immediately started cooing and squealing.  It was awesome to hear this little 4-month old baby reacting to creation.  He does that a lot.  He loves the outside and we love taking him.

This is pretty long for me to write, but I just want to get it all down and remember it.  As this reads, there are a lot of "awesome/love/cool" words in it.  It really was so great and I hope that I never forget that feeling and I am so thankful for the cool memories that we made.

We plan to go back before the end of the month. 

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