For the first time in many, many years, we didn't spend Fourth of July at the World's Fair Park with our dear friends, the Cokers. Since their move to Texas last fall, we grab precious time with them when we can. This summer it came a few weeks prior to the holiday with a quick visit. Thank you Joe, Amy, and Layton for taking time on your trip home to visit us!
(Pictured above: top, Joe Coker, Doug Voiles, and Tim; bottom, Seth, Layton Coker, and Reed)
Since our Independence Day tradition with the Cokers seems to have ended, we tried something new this year: spending the Fourth in the Smoky Mountains. We reserved a campsite at Elkmont to pitch our so-called tent (actually, no tent, but lots of chairs, coolers, and inner tubes) for the day. We were joined by our friends from Birmingham: Jinda, Andrew, Will and Jack; and our friends from Knoxville: Andre, Jennifer, Eric and Maya.
I have to confess that I'm no camper. My family didn't camp when I was growing up, and the only experience I've gained in my adult years is one trip to Mammoth Cave early on in our marriage (I think I was still trying to impress Tim) and one overnight campout in our backyard (probably trying to impress my sons). However, camping really is something I desire to do, as I know it will be a great adventure for Tim, the boys, and myself in the coming years. So, this one-day camping trip was a precursor to a weekend getaway we have planned for Tim's birthday later this month. (Tim assured me that planning a meal for 12 people is equal to planning meals for our whole weekend of camping - I will trust him in this matter!)
In the end, we enjoyed a beautiful day and a relaxing afternoon. Tim bravely took the kids on their first tubing adventure; Andre and Reed built an admirable campfire; Andrew saved the day when we realized we'd forgotten the rack for our grill (he cooked our burgers and dogs to perfection on a foil pan over the campfire); and we feasted on traditional Fourth of July fare, including watermelon and ooey, gooey s'mores. We missed the fireworks, but maybe next year we'll figure out how to make them part of this new holiday tradition. The kids were excited about their first tubing adventure (pictured L to R, Seth, Will, Eric, Maya, Reed and Jack). After splashdown, they took off downstream (much quicker than the dads). The super cold water cooled their enthusiasm, however, and a troop of shivering children and a waterlogged Tim (Andre had returned with Reed and Jack earlier) trudged back into camp more than an hour later. Tim brought along an ax and a hatchet, but neither made much of an impact on this piece of wood. Finally, determination paid off with this handsome log for the fire. One of the highlights of my day was to be with both Jennifer and Jinda. They've heard "Jenn" and "Jinda" stories for years, but they had never met! Andrew didn't let a little thing like a missing grill rack stop him. Grilled corn on the cob, burgers, hot dogs, broccoli slaw (didn't you know it's traditional camping fare?), and watermelon: yum, dinner time!
The kids enjoyed the game of "Signs" more than the grown-ups, I think. They are much less inhibited about standing in the middle of the circle.
Tim fed a perfectly toasted marshmallow to Reed, and then indulged in a new creation: two toasted marshmallows nestled between M&M cookies. Mmmmm, the perfect end to a festive Fourth.