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Gatlinburg-ish, Day 3

The Greenbrier Pinnacle on the morning of our last full day in Tennessee.

Sunday morning brought another slow start, but today was by design. With my sis-in-law and her family gone, only my mother-in-law remained with my family. She’s in no shape for hiking, so we took it easy. We only really got started once we left for lunch at the Greenbrier Picnic Area in the national park. After dodging way too many yellow jackets at the picnic tables, I walked the kids through the trees to the bank of the Little Pigeon River. This is where we found all the magic and wonder. Fluorescent orange fungi, a wide variety (and abundance!) of butterflies and dragonflies, and plentiful skipping stones covered the ground in every direction.

We even managed to catch a huge cluster of puddling swallowtail butterflies before we left!

A cluster of swallowtail butterflies "puddles" in the underbrush, sucking up salt and nutrients from decaying plants
Just look at them, suckin' up those nutrients!

After a detour through the arts and crafts community (and a terrific demonstration of paint marbling), we decided to take a chance on the long and winding Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. I say "take a chance" because, per the past couple entries, this whole region is BUSY, just chock-full-of-people. I’d heard it could take forever on this path because it’s one-way, and there's no way to turn back after you commit. But today was a Sunday, and with the exception of two particularly popular trailhead parking lots, the trail was terrific. Of course we stopped at a breathtaking view of the valley where Falls Branch runs (officially "Roaring Fork Interpretive Marker 3 Overlook" - really rolls off the tongue :-D ).

looking across a valley from the Roaring Fork Interpretive Marker #3 Overlook on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
Looking across the valley to all the hazy layers and peaks beyond

On our way out we stopped by the remains of the Ephraim Bales farm and explored the structures and surrounding land. The kids loved it, and I thought it was amazing to be able to walk around and inside this old Appalachian home.

It was a pretty chill day by the end of it, and the evening has been focused on unwinding and packing up most of our stuff for tomorrow's return trip. The primary motivation for this trip was getting together with family we haven't seen in over a year. The location was selected because my sis-in-law's family could camp and we could be close to "stuff to do". I don't think we’ll do Gatlinburg again any time soon, but we all got a lot out of this trip anyway. The family time was great, and while I felt like I spent the whole trip driving from one place to another, the views and natural splendor at the end of those drives were truly worth it.

Off to bed soon. LOADS more driving tomorrow, and right back to work on Tuesday...oof.