We’re back in our beloved Smokey Mountains and we brought our granddaughters and granddog with us. The kids are gone now, and I miss them terribly, but for the last 11 days we’ve had a marvelous time. There’s a lot to do here and the weather is glorious, so we took advantage of it. Here are a few of the fun things we experienced.
Last summer we restocked the pond with a couple dozen baby trout! The ride from the trout farm to our place must have been unusually traumatic because they hid and refused to come out for feedings. After a week we gave up, assuming they were all dead, or had been eaten by critters (we have bears, otters, and great blue herons here, and they all love trout), or slipped through the high water pipe and headed downstream.
But when our kids came back over spring break, the trout were not only there, but eager to eat! By the time we got here last week we had several at least a foot long, several more around 8 inches, and even a few that looked only 4 or 5 inches long! Where were they last summer? Why do we have 3 different sizes of trout in our pond now? Can those little ones be new babies? We’ve heard trout don’t breed in captivity. What’s up? It’s a mystery.
Our girls love horses, so naturally we went horseback riding. There they are in front of me in their personally designed tie dyed t-shirts. That’s the tips of my horse’s ears at the bottom of the picture.
We actually did have a bit of a surprising adventure. One horse had a wardrobe mishap and ran off without his rider. He was caught, but someone else rode him after that. Then a little girl couldn’t control her young horse who kept insisting on being first, to the consternation of the guide’s horse, so she and I traded horses. The little girl finished the trip on my horse, the biggest and calmest horse in the herd, and I, a rather tall person, rode the smallest feistiest horse home! I don’t think my knees will ever be the same!
Then there was the first hike on our property. It was sad and depressing to see the stumps of the beautiful old hemlocks that had to be cut down because of a deadly infestation of the wooly adelgid pest that’s destroying the Smokey Mountains’ grand old ladies. It’s devastated some parts of our property, but we’re making the best of it.
Our friend and neighbor, Algie, made us a gorgeous long table for the screened porch out of some of the timber, and he gave away truckloads of it to neighbors who depend on firewood to heat their cabins in the winter. Tony, my brother-in-law, found a novel use for some of the stumps. Without our knowledge, he had a marble tic tac toe game embedded into a particularly large one and installed two smaller ones for seats! What a lovely surprise to stumble upon in the middle of the woods. Thanks, Tony! You’re the best!
Last summer I talked to Herminio, our handy man who can do anything–and always with extraordinary beauty and skill–about forging a new hiking trail in a part of the property that’s been a dumping ground for dead trees because it’s too overgrown with thick rhododendron in some places and too wet in others to use. We came up with what looked like a good starting point off the main trail, but it looked terribly difficult and I pretty much gave up dreaming about it over the winter.
But when we took our first hike last week, I was thrilled to see beautiful log steps at the entry to the new trail. Soph, Izz and I hiked it and it’s perfect! Herminio used tree trunks to fortify steps and steep sides of the trail, and brought in flat rocks for stepping stones over the marshy areas! And it was just so cool and suddenly I was ten years old again, the little girl who loved trees and woods and was fascinated by natural sanctuaries where I felt the presence of God!