We arrived on Sunday ahead of Hurricane Nate and ahead of most of the rain. We knew that the next few days were going to be inside days. We bought a camping game at the check-in office that is for ages 4 and up. It would be nice to include the girls in some games besides Sorry or Chutes and Ladders, lol. After we setup we drove around the campground to see where things were and came back to do some laundry. Got dinner all set and the menu planned for the week.
Monday was a slow start because it was so overcast, but the sun came out! It wasn’t supposed to until Wednesday. Kevin worked all day, I finished up the laundry. We ran into the nearest town that had civilization and real stores, like Petsmart and Target, lol. We needed supplies! That afternoon around 4pm we left and went and walked to the lookout point to see the tunnel. As we were walking away from there we heard the train. We were maybe 50 feet away, so we turned around and ran back. Scared poor Hope to death since we all took off running and the ground is shaking below your feet. She just screamed. It is amazing and the pictures don’t really do it justice. If you look closely at the first picture, you can see the train hauling the coal. We walked over the top of the tunnel as well to see the other side and then back to the campground.
Tuesday morning we go up and drove to the park office parking lot to do the hike down into the tunnel and across the tracks. That was the most strenuous hike we have done and it was equivalent to 90 flights of stairs. From the bottom of the tracks you follow the trail to the cabin that was donated to the park and then you end up at the creek. Of course the kids had to play there for a bit before the hike back to the car. After we got back home Sean talked me into going mountain biking with him. It was so much fun even though I fell off the bike and rolled a little. I got up and kept going! After dinner we took a short walk with the kids to the playground.
Wednesday we made apple pie again. Thank goodness those apples are almost gone! Kevin had a bit of work to do that afternoon. So that morning we got up a little earlier and went hiking down to Stony Creek. It was a fairly easy walk, but the best part was wading in the creek, crossing the rocks to go up into the train tunnel. We could only go so far since we didn’t take flashlights or some of the proper gear, but it was really neat what we did get to see. I was hoping for a train to go by so we could see it up close, but it didn’t.
Thursday we went back to town to pick up the screened gazebo that I ordered. It’s a long story as to why we have it, but let’s say we can eat outside now without the girls screaming in terror, lol. Kevin and I got lunch at a place called “The Shack” in Kingsport, TN. It was some of the best food that we have had. I got the black and blue burger and Kevin got the “Rebel”. They were both awesome and we took food home to the kids who stayed behind with Sean. That evening Sean and Kevin went mountain biking and both of them fell too, so I don’t feel so bad now. After they got back we took a walk on the cabin trail to see another overlook that had a different angle of the tunnel.
Friday we were going to hike to Devil’s Bathtub, but we weighed the risks and didn’t have the proper gear to venture out that far. Maybe when the girls are a bit older we can come back, but for now, that trail isn’t for us. We kind of had a lazy day and I got to do laundry again! We took the kids to the playground, drove around the state park and worked a little more.
Saturday we played outside and cleaned up some stuff outside to get ready for our leaving tomorrow. Ate brunch, which we haven’t done in forever, had a late lunch and surprised the kids with a fall hayride. They had a blast! We got there at 4:50 for a 5pm hayride. There was another couple from our campground that joined us, however, at 5:13 there was still not a truck there for the hayride. The other couple called the office and they said they would call her back when they got answers. They called her at 5:22 and said that if she could wait another 30 minutes that the hayride would be back and they will take us. So, we all waited. It was definitely worth the wait and we got the whole hayride to ourselves with Gary and Ruth, our new campground friends. We saw animals, old buildings and the beautiful colors at sunset. It was a really informative ride and very nice of the workers to take extra time and to take us out by ourselves and we were on the last hayride of the season! Very lucky :-)
Over all we loved Natural Tunnel State Park and would definitely go back, the sites were super spacious and the hiking trails were challenging. We still have yet to watch a train go through the tunnel from down below!