Posted by: Bonnie Anderson | August 5, 2011

America’s Playgrounds

The rules are different here is said about many things, but it could not be applied more accurately than to the displays of driving that Bob and I witnessed on our visit to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It has been over twenty years since we visited this particular park, so for the most part everything was new to us.  We also are still adjusting to how easy it is for the two of us to get in and out of the car compared to the chore it was for us and our four children to do the same thing.  We figure we can be out and then back in our car in approximately a quarter of the time that it took our family.  Bob and I also never argue about sitting next to each other and he has never complained that I keep touching him or that I’m looking at him (thank goodness).

For our anniversary we decided to spend the day in the park.  We arrived there a little after noon and stayed until the sun went down around 9:00 pm.  We started the day with a 2.6 mile round trip hike to Laurel Falls.  It may seem like a short distance, but if you are from flat Florida, anything above sea level is more challenging – also the temperatures were in the mid-90s.

We're hooked on Qwirkle - It's a Mensa Select game so I feel smart just owning it.

After our hike we found a scenic area with a babbling brook running through.  We enjoyed our lunch and played our favorite game while listening to the sounds of the forest.  Then we set our camp chairs in the stream and read for about an hour before we gathered the energy to leave our idyllic setting and press on.

"D" - None of the Above

We drove around stopping wherever the urge hit until it was nearly dinner time.  Here’s another place we stopped.  Can you guess which trail we did?  The answer is “D” none of the above.  One hike a day, please.

After a late picnic dinner we descended on the Cades Cove Loop Road.  This is the Smokies equivalent to Lamar Valley in Yellowstone.  It’s the place to go to see wildlife in the early morning or at dusk.  And wildlife we did see.  If you’ve been following me for a while, you may remember that I am rather fixated on bears.  I told Bob all I wanted for our anniversary was a bear sighting.  And I got one.  I was so excited to see a bear lumbering around in the woods right off the road.  Yippee!  We got out and followed him down the road from a not-so-safe distance until he became bored with us and headed into the woods.  Happy Anniversary to Us!  Bob also spotted a bobcat which was exciting because I had never seen one in the wild.

Our Bear lingered long enough for a picture and he didn't attack us. Thanks, Bear!

Speaking of wild, I need to get back to my main point about driving in the park.  I know there is a lot to see here in America’s playground, but one should not put all sensibilities aside.  Following is a list of things that I witnessed this week during our drive through the park:

  1. Gangs of motorcycles passing through with the women on the back failing to hold on to anything but their camera.
  2. Otherwise sensible (I hope) families driving along the road with their minivan doors wide open.
  3. People stopping their vehicles right in the middle of the road and getting out of their cars like a weird “Chinese Fire Drill” only they weren’t concerned about how long they were out and who was being delayed behind them.
  4. Moving tailgate parties with entire families in the bed of trucks sitting in their folding rocking chairs.
  5. Mothers sitting on the tailgate of those same trucks with their children clinging to them for dear life.
  6. Teenagers sitting in the window openings of cars.

I know this is alarming and sounds unbelievable.  But, trust me, it happened.

Me spotting deer & yelling for Bob to get back in the car as I could not reach the brake pedal



  1. That sounds like quite the day! I know you guys are having fun… national park, quirkle, bears, oh my!

  2. Yes, I really liked the qwirkle picture!

  3. You are very funny. I hope Bob appreciates you. He could be married to a very boring person. I suspect he does appreciate you by the lovely trip he has taken you on. Congratulations on the anniversary!

  4. Those are incredible pictures! I can’t believe you actually saw a bear in broad daylight – that was very cool! Thanks for sharing Bonnie. What exactly is qwirkle – was that the tile game you were playing??

    • Thanks, Tor. We were pretty excited about the bear. We’d had one in our neighborhood early in the summer and had managed to see him, but at night so not a great view even though he was just over our back fence. Qwirkle is the tile game we were playing. It’s a great game for 2-4 people and it’s easy to learn – strategy and some luck are both involved. We are a game playing family. Love Settlers of Catan, but you can’t play that with 2 people.

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