Our first stop was to spend some more time in Appalachia. This was the view from our porch every morning:
Next to our house was a patch of wild blackberries. The kids loved to pick and eat berries whenever they wanted a snack:
We all really enjoyed Appalachia. There were lots of trails for hiking, beautiful scenery to explore and quiet places to enjoy. Unlike the Rockies, the forests are dense and trails were typically a narrow path surrounded by thick foliage. In this picture, there are three children ahead of Jericho and Brigham, but you can't see them for the trees:
Only about 70,000 people live in Johnson City, TN but that was a big city by our standards. We'd had enough of the urban hustle by the time we left, so we spent our first month in small towns throughout the northern parts of Dixie. In Middle Tennessee, we stayed on 50 acres near a small stream. In the Arkansas Delta, we were in an old farmhouse surrounded by fields of cotton and rice. The owner's 10 children lived nearby so our younger kids passed the time playing with them in irrigation ponds and climbing trees. Kinsey and I ran the nearby farm roads each morning:
One of the kids' favorite stops was in Hot Springs, Arkansas. We had a small house on the edge of a lake. They spent every day jumping off the dock and getting sunburn.
While fighting with pool noodles near the water's edge, Kinsey knocked Jericho's glasses right off his face and fifteen feet into the lake (as best we could tell) so Jericho spent the next month squinting at all the scenery. For our upcoming trip to Europe, we've packed a couple extra pair of glasses for each kid.
Hot Springs also had a small putt-putt golf course in town. One rainy morning we decided to play nine holes and had the entire course to ourselves. Brigham (3 years old) scored four holes-in-one on the course, three of them consecutively on a single hole. After the second hole-in-one, I bet the kids $10 that he wouldn't score another. Nobody took the bet.
The rest of our trip had a more urban flavor. The kids had never tried a performance Japanese restaurant, so we made an obligatory stop at Benihana:
Same story for the beach. Padre Island was nice because we could park right on the sand. The mornings were quiet with only a few people around. We left the beach each day around 11 am to eat lunch, avoid the crowds and retire to the pool (which was less popular than the beach).
After Padre Island, most of our trip was devoted to visiting family. On the way, we tried to visit the Riverwalk in Pueblo, CO and met with an unexpected and heavy rainstorm during the walk. We took shelter under a bridge where Aravis and Brigham passed the time with a little dancing:
We had a lot of fun, made great memories and loved having months together as a family without distractions or external responsibilities. The naps were nice too:
Of all the places we visited, Wyoming was our favorite. On my first walk after being home, I was reminded how much I love it here.