(photo - you could pretend they are 'telling secrets' or something cute but really Ava is probably patiently lecturing Lilly about not eating her headband)
Well one thing we didn't anticipate was a little bit of a confusing check in which ended with us setting up in one of the private walk-up sites without water OR electricity. Once we realized that it wasn't worth moving everything but I think in the end the trade off of camping up in the trees all by ourselves might have been worth the 'walk up' and the mild inconvenience of less lights at night and washing dishes (just really a knife and cutting board) down at the pump by the bath house. The photos below shows one of the walk up sites and the short-cut path to the site we picked so you can see our hike with our gear wasn't too far.
We got some amazing 'camping with kids tips'! The glow sticks or glow in the dark pj's like we ended up with for the girls at night in case they wander off was brilliant. Freezing most of our water and using that instead of ice really helped us pack more in our one cooler. We pre-cut the grill meals we prepared and froze them then pulled them out the morning we were going to cook them to thaw. We did end up eating way more than we would normally at home - the extra food really helped! A hot breakfast was super nice after waking up in the tent and bringing a cast iron skillet that you can use over the fire and clean over the fire saves you lots of dishes. As always taking the time to ask the park staff about the easy hikes and shortcuts to do with the girl's was a lifesaver. Then we did the things we already knew about like bringing every medicine imaginable and buying the biggest tent we could find (my husband can stand in ours with clearance and it is 100 sq. feet) so that everyone could have a real bed!
(photo - I packed Ava's 'rescue pack' with a rope, binoculars, magnifying glass, notebook, pencil and water. She was really into being an 'adventurer'. It kept her hiking really long distances without asking to be carried! As soon as her legs started to hurt we would take a break and do some investigation or let her pretend to rescue an animal out of a tree with her rope, etc.
(photo - this was the view above our tent)
(photo - steak, potatoes, etc. getting ready to go on the grill.)
(photo - Glowing skeleton pj's via Walmart - they really glowed!)
Still the tent sleeping wasn't easy for us with our apparently sub-par air mattress (working on that for next time) and Lilly was pretty restless with the fall leaves rustling and the new environment. She didn't take one nap in the tent for instance and she spent the second half of both nights collapsed over me on the air mattress...which was slowly deflating...
This huge suspension bridge spans the gorge - it was quite a hike to get to it with the kids but worth it!
(photo - one is SUCH a cute age!)
Oh! and we had intruders, raccoons we think - both nights probably because we have a group member that throws half of her food on the ground when she eats - thanks Lilly! We are working towards a bigger trip at Smoky Mountain National Park in the spring so we still need I would say two more short trips before then to get the kinks out.
Any more tips for us - share (as always) please!