Way back in college (okay, 2004), I took a class titled Geology of US National Parks. It was a super-fun class, and not just because the instructor was a crazy, liberal spaz or because we made videos for every project, or because it was a 6 week Summer sprint. It was actually really enjoyable material. During that class, I made a goal to visit all 57 National Parks (and now there are 58!). I’ve averaged about 1/year, which works well if I want to be doing this until I’m almost 80.
The first park I visited was The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was quite the adventure! You see, in 2005 when I took this trip, the hubby and I had only known each other for less than 5 months (so he was still that Creepy-Boy-Who-Kept-Calling-Me-for-Random-Reasons), and we had only actually started talking to each other for the latter few of those. After one extremely long finals study session ending at 2:30am, we decided that we needed a vacation. The next thing we know, it’s 6:00am, and we have email confirmation for a hotel room in Daytona Beach, FL. Whoops. Read up college students: caffeine, cold pizza, and cramming does not lead to good decisions.
Two days later we found ourselves in the parking lot of our university with suitcases packed and mixed CD’s galore (they were totally still cool at the time!). Now, I had mentioned in passing that I would like to visit all the National Parks, so that Creepy-Boy-Who-Kept-Calling-Me-for-Random-Reasons Really-Sweet-Guy-Who-Listens-When-I-Talk mapped the GPS to the Smoky Mountains instead of Daytona. BUT, because we left during rush-hour, and we stopped for dinner, we were four hours behind schedule.
It was very, very dark by the time we got to the park. Oh, but have no fear. Eric was trying to woo me (I would later find this out. I apparently wasn’t a very quick one). He was determined to make me love him. He decided it would be a good idea to assert his manliness and try to drive to the tallest peak we could see… We eventually made it up. But we couldn’t make it back down. That’s right, we were stuck in the mountains, with zero visibility, at 2am.
We could have died, or worse. But being young and naïve, we just couldn’t stop laughing. We decided if we were stuck in the car all night, we should do what any young adult college student trapped in a car with the opposite sex would do…watch Pretty Woman on the laptop and eat all of the snacks. As we were waiting for the sun to come up, there was some sort of scratching outside the car. For this reason alone, I do not recommend sleeping in cars on mountaintops. Creepy. NOTE: This is not the source of the scratching noise, but it could have been. I would put money on it…
Eventually the sun came up, and it was a beautiful sight to behold.
Me: This is so beautiful. It was worth it (sleeping in the car).
Creepy-Boy-Who-Kept-Calling-Me-For-Random-Reasons: You’re more beautiful. And definitely worth it.
Have no fear. There was no magical kiss or declarations of love. (I honestly think my first thought was, “Wow this guy is smooth, and totally full of “bleep”… Come on, what guy actually says super-romantic things at the perfect moments after orchestrating fun, random, beautiful adventures?!) And nice enough to give me his sweater cause it was really cold. And windy. And I had just spent 12 hours in a car with no bathroom, and about an hour of sleep. Look, even my jeans wrinkled!
We got out of the car to stretch and take a few pictures, and realized there were already people there. So, either they drove fast up the mountain, or we weren’t the only ones sleepin’ on the peak. Double creepy. Next stop: the closest Mc Donald’s cause we had to pee! And so started our first vacation together…