This was an amazingly well behaved and fun-loving group, not that I was expecting anything else. The boys earned several treats thanks to compliments they received. And yes I know I still owe them some of those treats. It was one of the youngest groups we’ve ever had with over half the boys being ten years old. Of course, that means the other half ranged from 11 to nearly 15.
We were busy. It’s amazing how much we found to do not far from home. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park was the backdrop for several of our adventures. One memorable hike was up to Clingmans Dome where we were encased in clouds and couldn’t see 50 feet in front of us. But who can’t forget how cold it was trying to eat lunch up there before taking the hike. We had had a temperature drop of nearly twenty degrees in just the few minutes drive up the mountain.
Some of the kids saw elk on three different occasions and everyone saw them at twice. Some kids got a glimpse of a coyote. They all saw wild turkey and groundhogs and other assorted creatures including a flock of chickens at the historic farm at the visitor center at GSMNP.
I think even the boys were somewhat moved by the retelling in drama of the life of the Cherokee and their removal along the Trail of Tears at “Unto these Hills.” And the next day we got to visit a living Indian Village and learn even more. Several of our boys even joined in a Native American dance.
We had a few firsts on this trip. One of those was taking the boys into a bank so they could cash their ten or twenty dollar bills for ones (for the vending machines). But for me the most memorable “first” was participating in the Junior National Park Ranger training and being sworn in by a real-life ranger. The “older set” of 13 year olds on up earned their “Not-So-Junior” patch and certificate. And that included me - fulfilling a life-long dream of becoming a national park ranger.
And of course, the boys will long remember the ropes course and zip-line and whitewater rafting at the Nantahala Outdoor Center, the bowling tournament, the horseback trail ride in the Smokies…and more.
If you missed our adventures while they unfolded, you can check out the daily photos here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mindstretch/albums
And of course, stay tuned for our second trip, which gets underway on July 8.