Annual Summer Mom + Kids Trip 2019

I didn't think it would happen this year, but the desire to get away with my kids was too strong and we made it happen!  I originally wanted to do something like Memphis or Saint Louis with the kids since we finished reading about the Mississippi river this year (Minn of the Mississippi) but it just didn't work out.  Then, a few weeks ago we were listening to our folk song CD and they asked to put Cumberland Gap on repeat.  That got my wheels turning and I asked "Would you like to go to the Cumberland Gap?" They both got so excited and I was able to find a great little cabin about 40 miles away from Cumberland Gap for our adventure!

When checking out the area for things to do, I realized that one of our routes would take us by Big South Fork National Park!  We got off the exit to Standing Stone monument and took some pictures and learned about this interesting monolith!

Standing Stone

This piece of rock is the only known remaining stone of the monolith that once stood 12-16 feet high!  It was carved out of sandstone to look like a sitting dog facing west. As settlers came to the area through Walton road beginning in 1795, the monument had begun to lose chips and fragments as people would take "souvenirs."

In the 1890s, the railroad construction would be placed right in the path of the remaining stone and a group committed to preserving Native American culture (Cookeville members of The Order of the Red Man) secured the remaining stone for the monument.  (This is a picture from the late summer of 1895.)

This is the only memorial to the volunteer movement of the Cherokee people west of the Mississippi. Everyone knows about the Trail of Tears.  However, about 1828, a group of Cherokee assembled to make their departure voluntarily even before the Indian Removal Act was put into law.  They petitioned the government to give them an escort west. The Standing Stone was a pilgrimage for many Native Americans until World War I and World War II.  The historical significance of the monument may have been forgotten if it wasn't for Nannie Buckner (Bohannon) Walker. Her father was at the 1895 dedication ceremony and told her of the Stone's history and significance.  She continued sharing the story with her children and the youngest of the children is the author and author and historian, Dr. Opless Walker, that continues speaking on the historical significance of The Standing Stone. (Watch this video and read this article!)  If you want to visit, the second week of October has been celebrated since 1975 and there is even an excursion train from Nashville to take to the festivities!

Big South Fork National Park - Twin Arches

If we had more than one night for the vacation, I would have loved to stay and explore Big South Fork National Park!  They also have a wonderful junior ranger program and activities.  The visitor center reminds me of a little pioneer town!  The natural wonders of the Twin Arches is what should be on your Tennessee bucket list!  It feels like you are on another planet!  The sandy floor, gigantic rock formations, and the towering rock arches look like a backdrop to some vintage Star Trek episode!

Getting there is really easy.  There are makers to follow that take you on a gravel path to the parking area.  From there, you walk about 3/10ths of a mile to the loop that takes you to the arches. The walk to the arches is another 4/10ths of a mile so the entire trip is only a 1.4 mile hike! We took the path to the left and the only warning I would give concerns the stairs.  They are very narrow so I had the kids walk down facing backward and holding on to the rails.  The hiking is super easy but the stairs are of concern if you are traveling with really small people or anyone with bad knees!

We were awestruck by the magnificence!  I love this picture of Christian! (The kids were complaining of the heat and the hike so the first thing C did was plop down on a rock!!!  He couldn't help but take in the massive structure and I loved looking at him look up at the arch!)

We couldn't see another arch though and we were confused at why it was called "Twin Arches."  There was another family there and I feel bad that I think they left before discovering the second arch!!!  It wasn't until after we had climbed some stairs to explore the top of the arch that I discovered the second arch through the trees!

I don't know much about the history of the area (yet) but did read that it is one of the largest natural bridge formations in the world.  The formation is due to water passages over time that eroded the sandstone.

Not only the arches are a sight to behold, but the vegetation is also magnificent!  Big Leaf Magnolia trees are everywhere and it gives an almost prehistoric feel to the surroundings!

Another reason to come back is learning that once you reach the arches, there is a back country lodge that is ONLY accessible by hiking and they serve dinner or breakfast!  It looks AMAZING and I would love to plan a hike that would put us at the lodge for a meal!  Check it out!
This is also a great guided article to the hikes around the Twin Arches!

I can't wait to go back!

Pickett State Park

I wasn't planning on stopping at Pickett State Park, but I couldn't get my GPS to load directions to our cabin so I stopped at the park office to use the wifi and download our map!  When I drove through, Eva Mae saw the beach and begged to go swimming!  I packed their swimsuits and we are on an adventure, so why not?!

They didn't swim long but it was fun to get a stamp in our Tennessee State Park passport and explore the beach at the park for a little while! 

I did notice a museum that would be interesting to check out!  Like many of our state parks, this was built by the Civilian Conservation Corp during the New Deal.  There was the familiar bronze statue representing all the hard working men that helped build our wonderful parks!  The park is also recognized as a certified dark sky viewing park.  The first in the southeast with this designation!  We'll have to come back with a telescope!

The park has adorable cabins for rent and it looks like some great hiking and fishing!  Christian said it would be fun to come back and rent a canoe - we'll have to add that to our list!

Bean Station

The day of car traveling has taken it's toll and we are ready to crash!  Just before turning into our cabin we stopped at Bean's Station scenic overlook to take some pictures!  This is another great history geek out moment for me, because I had just read the book by Bernadine Bailey which talks about William Bean as an early Tennessee settler!

I hope the kids enjoyed this connection as much as I did!  We'll have a lot more connections tomorrow as we make our way through CUMBERLAND GAP!!!

And since it's not all about experiencing history and nature, I want to make these outings fun and filled with "child passions" so our cabin time was spontaneous play time with characters, snuggles, and rice krispy treats!

These years are going to go by too fast.  I needed this time with them and for myself.  I'm reading "The Brave Learner" and bawled on the back patio of the cabin while doing my devotions, reading, and praying.  Julie Bogart does a great job reminding homeschool moms what it's all about.  I encourage every homeschool parent to pick it up and read it!

A gift I have been giving to myself the past several years is a summer mini vaycay with my kids. There is a season for everything - some folks love beach vacations, kid-less vacations, solo travel, etc. My happy place is me and my cubs on an adventure. My soul needed this view, this book, and this sunrise this morning. I’m so thankful for the current season I am in and immensely blessed at what God has given me in both my family and this natural world. I’m not a perfect mom or perfect homeschooler but I do serve a perfect God who is the giver of perfect gifts like this beautiful morning. ❤️ Waking up to the peaceful slumbers of my babies and being able to pray over them in their sleep and seek God’s wisdom for this next school year is something I will always treasure! I want to remember this moment!
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Cumberland Gap

The whole reason for the trip was to visit Cumberland Gap National Park and become Junior Rangers!  We woke up in the morning and had a sweet time playing with toys and games in the cabin and left around 10:00am to the park.  Our "Cumberland Gap" or bust sign made it all the way to the park!
(Here's Eva Mae drawing the sign and then she taped it to the van!)

We picked up our Junior Ranger packets and started with the two movies that they show in the visitor center.  I love Junior Ranger programs and booklets but you have to know your kids in order to make them fun and interesting.  Who wants to be on vacation and have a mom drill them to write and finish word searches, word scrambles, fill in the blanks, etc???!  I had a great heart to heart with Christian when he got frustrated with the word search.  Is a Park Ranger more interested in knowing that a kid can tell about the history of the park and it's natural surroundings or knowing that a kid can complete a worksheet?!  Of course they want a kid to have the excitement about the history!  We made a deal that he would do what he could and ask for my help for the rest.  We even made completing the pages extra sweet by rewarding ourselves with chocolate covered raisins for each completed answer! LOL!

To prepare for the trip I read them a few chapters in some living history books. The first was a chapter on Daniel Boone by Smith Burnham (I have the hardback and I think it came from my parent's old house in Chapel Hill, TN!)  The second reading we did at home before the trip was a chapter from Tennessee History Stories.  Last year, I made a reading schedule for using some living history spines as a resource of teaching Tennessee history.  You can read it here!

Reading before we left for the trip added to the excitement I think!  Both the kids made comments like "I wish I could sleep until Thursday!" when we started reading for the trip last Monday! LOL!

The Pinnacle View was breathtaking as you looked out over the Cumberland Gap!  Imagning the 300,000 pioneers walking this 100+ mile trek with their only belongings, worried about the dangers of warring Native American tribes, made this experience come to life for the kids.  We talked about how fortunate we are to have clothes, shoes, cars, houses, and roads!  The outcome of the hard work and exploration of the long hunters and early settlers has allowed us to have a very comfortable life!

The kids enjoyed learning about pioneer life and dressing up in period clothing!  The small museum was also interesting to learn about the founding of the town of Cumberland Gap and Middlesboro. It used to be called "Magic City!" Christian enjoyed learning that tidbit!  (Unrelated to this fact, we got home and Nick had ordered "magic light up thumbs" and now Christian is adding that to his magic routine.  I love having a 9 year old boy!!!)

The kids were sworn in by the ranger and I let them pick out a souvenier for the trip before we made our way home!

The best part of the trip for me was recording this little video of them singing Cumberland Gap on the Cumberland Gap sign.  I hope and pray the trip memories stick with them!  I enjoyed talking with the ranger and having her tell the kids that the most important thing you can do to help preserve the National Parks is not picking up litter - but telling others about the parks so more and more people will continue to visit and know the importance of the history of our people and the land.

SO........ thank you for reading this HUGE post and I hope that you're planning your next trip to a National Park soon!


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