the activity the kids were most looking forward to on our trip to the smokies was tubing. our lazy river time in boone, nc has gotten them hooked. the tiny town of townsend, tennessee, just outside the park has several options, and derek booked reservations on our second day of the trip. and then it was rained out. and it wasn’t looking great for our third and last day on that side of the park. but then the clouds parted and the sun came out and it ended up being a perfect day, which was great, because our reservations were non-refundable. 🙂
the two big kids were pretty excited. anna was tethered to derek and isaac was on his own, but ended up hanging on to them for parts of the trip.
the tiny kid started off a little bit more grumpily. she was tethered to me, and was grumpy that we didn’t have snacks and drinks.
unlike the lazy new river, this river had a ton of rapids, making our ride a bit more exciting, and hazel soon perked right up.
once again, we ended up separated from each other quite a bit, so i don’t have many pics of the rest of my gang, but i tried to snap away when we found ourselves near each other.
the entire trip was about two hours maybe. between rapids, hazel helped paddle by taking her water shoes off and putting them on her hands to make oars. or flippers. or paddles. whatever.
the water was at most waist deep in most areas, so when we weren’t moving along fast enough, big kids were glad to get in and move things along. it was also pretty refreshing to hop in after roasting in the sun on our yellow floats all morning.
at the end of our trip, we hauled ourselves out (always a little bit stressful) and caught the shuttle back to the parking lot with several of our closest friends, of varying beliefs about the effectiveness of mask wearing.
we had a day pass giving us unlimited tubing, but the kids were split on whether to go again, so we decided to get some lunch nearby and make an informed decision about our afternoon plans.
there’s another section of river that you can tube, that is quite a bit more adventurous. surprisingly, isaac was interested in trying it, so derek took him to do that, while i took the girls on the same stretch as the morning.
this time, the three of us tethered together. it makes things a little sticky sometimes, but worth not being stressed about becoming separated. off we went. here’s my view for the next two hours. 🙂
anna had fun lounging and giving me orders on which way to navigate our giant amoeba conglomeration of tubes down the different rapids.
and despite a bit of grumpiness (about the sun, about the more boring parts, etc), hazel mostly had a lot of fun.
as we neared the end, derek started texting me about how much fun he and isaac had had and that isaac wanted to go again and i needed to hurry so i could get a chance to take him before the last shuttle left at 5 pm. i got out and hauled us along like a oregon trail pioneer fording a river and derek met us at the spot where we get out. we sped over to the shuttle for the other section and isaac, anna and i hopped out, grabbed tubes and loaded onto the last bus, just in time.
on the way over, i noticed anna was very nervous. maybe panicking. she was mostly worried because you aren’t supposed to tether on this section, but i reassured her that if we got separated, whoever was ahead could just hop out, stand up and wait for the other person. she wasn’t sold, but i cajoled her along, begrudgingly.
the first stretch of the river is pretty boring, giving anna lots of time to conjure up all the worst case scenarios. i held onto her and tried to calm her nerves, but as you can see in this photo, she wasn’t buying it.
then. the rapids came. we held hands for as long as it was safe, but eventually, we became slightly separated. and she panicked. and then she got stuck in some rocks, while i rushed on. but the rapids were all very short, so when i was at the end, and in calm waters, i stood up, walked back, helped work her free, and we floated on.
having what was realistically the worst case scenario behind her, she seemed to settle in after that. also, there weren’t too many more intense rapids left.
meanwhile, through all of this, isaac had rushed way ahead of us, so when we finally caught up to him, he was lazily enjoying the post adrenaline rush of the adventures.
the last stretch was also quite boring, but before long we were at the end. (this section was only about 45 minutes total, 40 long boring minutes, and 5 amazing adventurous minutes).
we walked back to the parking lot, found a shady spot to wait for derek and hazel (who had used the opportunity to stock up on groceries), changed into dry clothes and headed back to camp, a perfect day of tubing in the books.
also, if you ever find yourself in townsend, tennessee, looking to go tubing, smoky mountain river rats was a super efficient, reasonably priced operation, with very friendly staff. 🙂