03 July 2010

On Top Of Old Smoky

We spent last week vacationing in the mountains. First we biked the Virginia Creeper Trail (if you go stay with Miss Ginny at the Lazy Fox and rent bikes and take the shuttle with Adventure Damascus) then we headed to Pigeon Forge to go to Dollywood and spend some time in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was a week of extreme contrasts -- the calm pace and peaceful surroundings of Damascus, VA (I don't think the town has a stoplight) versus the hectic crowds of Pigeon Forge, TN (this town has enough stoplights for the entire state) versus the serenity of one of our National Parks (no stoplights here, just bears). It was nice to get away from our normal routine and nice to return to it when the week was over.

I try to be picky and practical when it comes to buying vacation souvenirs. I like mementos that uniquely represent the area we have visited without wearing a signpost that we have been there. Having a 4-year-old does make buying souvenirs a bit harder, though. We came home with a couple of t-shirts and a new sleep-toy, but just about everything we bought came from local artisans or the GSM Park store, so I feel good about where our money went.

One of the things I did buy was books. I love the Smoky Mountains. I think I could live there and work as a Park Ranger -- maybe in my next life. I want Isaac to love them, too, and learn the value of preserving them -- and maybe he will grow up to be a Park Ranger, fulfilling my dream as a good son would want to do. So I bought some books from the Park store about bears and salamanders, two animals which Isaac finds very interesting, to begin nurturing his love of the mountains. I also thought they would be useful at school. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park crosses the Tennessee/North Carolina border, so they are as much a part of my students' heritage as they are my son's.

The Troublesome Bear Cub in the Great Smoky Mountains and The Great Smoky Mountain Salamander Ball are both by Lisa Horstman. I will admit they are a bit didactic and really hammer home the point of taking care of the habitats that these animals live in. But Isaac has enjoyed them. He really is into salamanders and bears, and these books are fun stories that introduce some new facts. They will also be reminders of our visit and will, hopefully, make Isaac want to return and learn more. That would be a good thing because I foresee some hiking trips and maybe even some camping in his future.

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