Her screams pierced the air! I started at of my REM sleep and glanced at my iPhone. My brain struggled to register that it was 12:30am. I was sure that the entire campground was now awake as Ava Marie continued to holler inconsolably. As Katherine tried to calm her, I scrambled out of my warm bag to the rude greeting of the brisk 38 degree temperature of the night air. Throwing on my jeans, I grabbed Ava Marie and hustled for the van. Secure in the inter-sanctum of the van, I breathed a momentary sigh of relief. Ava Marie continued to wail, but the tranquility of the campground had been restored!
As Ava Marie laid on my chest, I took stock of my circumstances. My torso was warm thanks to the sobbing heater on my chest, but my t-shirts and jeans were not going to keep me warm for the long night that lay ahead. I strapped Ava Marie, who was now calm into her seat, sprinted back to the tent, grabbed my bag and several blankets, and began to clear the back of the van for the first of two restless nights. As my mind focused, I began to brow beat myself for taking a 1 year old and her 3 year old brother camping, what was I thinking? Restful weekend?! It was now 1:00 am and the cold coupled with the prospect of lack of sleep had me wondering if this memory was worth the making.
Etowah (Native American for "camping with young children not wise!") is a sleepy little town in Tennessee nestled next to the Great Smokey Mountains whose main attraction is the Hiwassee River Rail. Boasting a 3.5 hour train ride running along the Ocoee River venturing into the Cherokee National Forest. The train can be picked up at the Gee campground, very convenient for a tired camper who spent the night in the back of a van. It was a tranquil ride replete with beautiful scenery.
For sustanance and because not all are expert roasting weenies over a camp fire, I'd recommend either Michael's or Memories for dining (Michael's . . . Memories, I crack myself up). Two warnings: there is no place in town to get fresh doughnuts (the "Pig" sells doughnuts in a bag) and the McDonald's makes their coffee thick.
The second night of our stay there was a forest fire at the top of the mountain next to us. As darkness set in the orange glow from the flames could be seen pulsating above us. Fortunately, wild fires always travel up-hill so my second night in the van was just as cold as the first!
Our weekend trip was rounded out by a quick stop in Chattanooga where we dined on a lunch river cruise (thanks mom and dad!!). All said and done a nice memory was made, but camping with young kids remains to be defined by one word, "work!"