The Blue Ridge Parkway – Day 1 (June 2)

On a rainy day at camp, we decided to visit the Oconuluftee Visitor Center in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was only an hour away, and we figured we’d either drive out of the rain, or spend time exploring the indoor exhibits. Lucky for us, the weather was fine, and we wandered along the trails, meeting new wildlife…

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And making our way down to the river for a splashing-good time!

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Wildlife was quickly forgotten in favor of wading and splashing…

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But not for long! Crawfish-catching ensued…

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As well as new-caterpillar admiration…

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And then back to splashing and wading!

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It was undoubtedly a great day-trip from our North Carolina base camp!

And then the most amazing thing happened…Having actually run out of things to do, we headed into Asheville for the day, to spend some internet time planning our next steps. While we were there, a friend called – which was very good timing, since we had no signal at our campground, of course. And she asked if we would possibly be able to come and stay with her in Florida for a month, to help her work on her new house, and to provide some spiritual support while her kids were away visiting their father for the summer. Of course we could! And now, we knew God’s next step for us. It just so happened that she would like us to be at her house by June 11th…So we mapped out our route, and found we had just enough time to finish up our Appalachian trip, return to Texas to pick up some tools from Mimi’s house, and then to Alabama to load up the rest of the tools, to arrive in Florida on the 11th 🙂 Just another day at the office, working for the Lord!

Armed with new plans, we set out on a 3-day journey to explore properties in Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia. We saw some wonderful places (and some not so wonderful!), and felt the Lord was leading us along, just teaching us about the land, and what we would be looking for. We learned about what was too steep, what was too close to town, what was too close to highways and railroads, what it looks like when the land has been logged within the past 10 years. We learned, as we drove, to make a list of the things that the Lord spoke to us about the land, a list that we could continue to pray over in the future: a spring, level areas, mature trees, and a new phrase that began coming to mind – “highland meadows.” When we got to West Virginia and drove Highway 33 through the Monongahela National Forest, we saw the “highland meadows” that He had been telling us about, and felt that feeling begin to stir that this is what home may look like someday! We also clearly heard the Lord telling us, “I AM your home, always, everywhere.” We concluded this part of our trip with a great feeling that the Lord had shown us glimpses of what He had planned for us, but that the time is not quite yet.

And so, it was time to set our eyes on our return journey…

And the first part of that journey was a vacation! We would be traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway back to Alabama, and while we would be continuing to move pretty quickly, only staying single nights along the way, we still looked forward to the opportunity to simply enjoy God’s scenery…And, as always, the Lord greatly delivered, beyond all I could have expected!

We entered the Blue Ridge Parkway at Mile Marker 0, and even that was a funny story! We missed our first exit onto the Parkway, and had to get off and turn around…And by doing that, we realized that we got to cross the scenic little bridge right at 0, instead of entering on the main on-ramp just past the marker. Such a sweet little detail just made me giggle!

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And the scenery was glorious! Sky-scapes and heavenly lighting and hills rolling away into misty blue, winding ribbons of forest and color-strewn meadows…*sigh of contentment*

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At the James River Visitor Center, the boys decided that they would like to do the Junior Ranger program, so we would stop at each Visitor Center along the way and pick up a worksheet for them to complete. It was fun for them, and seemed like no big deal, but it proved to be yet another way that God would show me how He especially provides for my kiddos in the same way that He especially provides for me!

Our stops along the way were very laid-back, just pulling over at anything that looked interesting…We had a map in hand, but hadn’t planned our route in detail. We were greatly trusting in the Lord to arrange our stops for us, so that we could drive, enjoy, eat, and have a place to sleep each night! Our only target was to be back in the Asheville area for Asher’s actual birthday, June 4th, so that we could celebrate his big day with a couple of special activities.

The Parkway in June is full of beauty, from the glittering insects…

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(Okay, I know you’re not supposed to touch the butterflies, but can you believe you can get a wing-print on your fingertip?!)

To the radiant mountain laurel in bloom!

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This is also the season for rhododendrons, which light up the forest in shades of magenta and pink and even orange, and while this early stretch of the parkway didn’t seem to be in bloom, we hoped to see them as we travelled south!

Lunchtime found us at the Peaks of Otter Visitor Center, and wouldn’t you know, they have a huge historic lodge with a coffeeshop and restaurant. We ate a healthy lunch of salads and sandwiches (and you know how hard it is to find healthy foods when you’re on the road!), while watching the swallows fishing in the lake through the picture windows…

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And then wandered outside to stretch our legs on the lawn…

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Wow, Lord, thanks for a great lunch!

Our next stop was Mabry Mill, which is an amazing little piece of craftsmanship. Mr. Mabry built everything himself, including the waterwheel, buildings, and two long wooden flumes that directed the water from two different creeks across the wheel, which in turn powered his sawmill, grain mill, and workshop inside. He was an all-season craftsman, sawing lumber and grinding grain when the waters were high and the wheel turned fast, and woodworking when the waters were slower. It was amazing to see all of these wooden, hand-made structures still standing strong after all these years!

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We finished our tour just as the rain picked up, and said goodbye to the mill as the drops rippled across the pond…

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It was also here that I discovered the cutest thing about these lovely mountain laurels! See how the stamens curve out from the center, each landing in a point of the star-shaped flower? Well, when you wiggle the flower, the stamens pop free!

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There’s a tiny puff of pollen, and then the stamens curl over across the middle into a very satisfying little knot!…It’s great fun, you can do them one-by-one or all-at-once, and once I discovered it, I was always looking for more blossoms to pop!

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After a beautiful day on the Parkway, we found a Holiday Inn in Hillsville, where our third-floor room looked out over the rolling hills. We had dinner from the grocery store, the kids played in the pool, and we thanked the Lord for a smooth and beautiful Day 1!

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