June 2, 2015

The Dargatz Family Heads South . . .Serenity Now!

As our trip through the Smokies was coming to a close, I realized I hadn't snapped the obligatory picturesque view of the road sign that detailed your presence on the Great Smoky Mountains Expressway. Luckily, the morning of our last full day in the mountains, offered up a decent opportunity.

With it being our final full day, we wanted to take full advantage. With the abundance of exhausting elevation changes the previous day andg crowds wherever we turned, we wished our final day would allow us to enjoy nature in a more calm and relaxed environment.

Wish granted!

We headed to a section of the mountains pretty close to where we started a few days earlier: Mingus Mill. This rustic mill reminded us a great deal of the Old Falls Village/Old World Wisconsin historic buildings we had visited in the past. In other words: we loved it! After the tour of the mill, we found and traversed the adjacent Mingus Creek Trail. Here is where we found the peace and quiet we had been desperately searching. We also found a TON of butterflies and Embry of course found a new walking stick

This trail had lots to offer. Besides stopping at every wildflower she saw, Embry enjoyed the many colorful butterflies. With the trail crossing over the creek at three different locations, we had three new bridges to cross and three new places to toss sticks in the water. Through much of the hike, the only sounds we heard  sounded like raindrops. However, with the sky perfectly clear, we knew it had to be something else. Upon closer inspection, every time we stepped near the edge of the trial, swarms of tiny grasshoppers jumped. In essence, it was raining grasshoppers. Other interesting landmarks along the trail were the old and now vacated shooting range for park rangers and a pioneer cemetery. Pretty cool historical stuff.

After this tranquil trek, we hopped back in the rental car (now much fresher smelling than previously, of you recall what happened) and headed back to the trail we started our mountain adventures on: the Oconaluftee River Trail adjacent to the visitor center.
Before we headed back out, we needed nourishment. So we took a break at the outdoor patio of the visitors center where low and behold, an educational nature program was about to begin. This was right up our alley so we stayed for the show. We learned all about different park animals in the Mammal Mania presentation. Embry was an active participant, often mimicking the actions of the other children, especially the part involving putting on your elk antlers and stomping like a skunk. In conversing with the presenter after the program,  Embry's enthusiasm with the rogue chickens who wandered away from the pen was mentioned. The presenter recruited Embry to chase the chickens back to the farm. She willingly accepted this task and could be seen clapping at the fowl while announcing "come here chickens."

Once we coaxed our little one away from the chickens, we headed back on the river trail. As was customary, we found new hiking sticks and headed to the river for more stick races. We didn't see any snakes this time around but we did hear many birds. Embry made sure to point to her ears and see "hear it" pretty much every time a bird called so this walk had quite a relaxed pace. We also heard the cackle of an American Crow muffled by the fact that it had caught a rather sizable toad. However, these sights paled in comparison to our biggest visual, figuratively and literally. We were able to find something we had been searching for for pretty much the duration of the trip. . .

I remember seeing them as we took a curve, whispering in Jillian's general direction, and taking quiet steps from a safe distance to get a better look at this beautiful creature. Embry loved the "big deer. (we are working on our North American woodland mammal identification.)"
But she loved napping even more and before we finished up the hike, she was out. But she wouldn't be out for long. This particular hike had a very unique and loud ending.
Find out what woke Embry up from her slumber next time.

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