Tag Archives: sabbatical leave

Sabbatical Journey #12

Camping Unplugged
We had never tested our Casita’s dry camping ability, so our three night stay at Elkmont was an uncertain one. The report card comes out pretty good. On the third evening we ran out of fresh water. Even though we ran out of water, if we were careful we still had room for one or two more night’s waste water in the holding tanks. Therefore, I carried water from a drinking fountain across the campground in one gallon water jugs and poured them into the fresh water tank. Propane and battery power held out just fine. The conclusion is that we can be fairly liberal with the Casita’s resources if we are willing to hook up and move to a dump station and refill with fresh water every two days. If we are careful and have a fresh water source we can last for, barely, four days. On the “thoughtful” front, I can’t help but note how priorities change when one is out in a small camper like this. At home, such as I just described never enters my mind. I think it’s a good thing once in a while to “unplug” from many of the things we take for granted and let other things (like: how will we keep warm without a furnace) take over. It’s good to be without a cellphone or TV and resort to building a campfire for both warmth and the evening’s entertainment. Somehow, I need to find ways to incorporate that realization into my everyday life.


On the other hand, we moved from the beautiful Elkmont camp with no hookups into Walden’s Creek RV Park in Pigeon Forge. I backed into the site, and had everything from sewer to electric to cable TV ready to hook up. However, I also have neighbors a few feet from me on all sides. No quiet mountain scene, no river rapids outside my door and privacy a bit hard to come by. Instead of waterfalls and wildlife and trails we have outlet malls and restaurants and amusement parks nearby. Those things aren’t bad. In fact, it’s a nice contrast. Still, this isn’t the “sabbatical feeling” I am looking for.

All the photos from this trip are here.

Sabbatical Journey #11

May 18
We’ve been dry camping in the national park in one of the most beautiful spots imaginable. However, last night we ran out of water. I have carried some water back to the camper to get us through another night but we’ll move back out to civilization tomorrow. We won’t be in such a nice spot, but we’ll have a few more creature comforts. I guess all of life has trade offs, even camping.

All the photos from this trip are here.

Sabbatical Journey #10

May 17

With the sun shining and things warming up nicely, we drove into Gatlinburg and then up another park road. It is a beautiful drive and we stopped to hike a mile and a half up to Grotto Falls. What a gorgeous spot. We sat and ate a snack and soaked up the view before returning back to the pickup. From there it was back through the traffic jam called Gatlinburg and back into our entrance to the park. The rest of the day will consist of watching the whitewater just behind the camper, reading, and just maybe a nap! If the camper battery, water, and gas hold out we may just stay here an extra day rather than returning to civilization on Monday.

All the photos from this trip are here.

Sabbatical Journey #9

May 17
 Yesterday we moved from the Ela campground near Bryson City, NC over the top of the mountains to the Gatlinburg, TN side of the Smokies. We are now in the Elkmont camp in GSMNP. That means there are no hookups and it also means that we are about as beautiful a camping spot as you’ve ever seen. We have a flowing stream just a few feet behind us and wonderful green mountains all around us. When we got here it was cold and spitting rain. The night was a cold one, down to around 40. Our camper has no on board heat, but we were able to keep things comfortable using the stove. That isn’t the best way to heat, but we kept a couple of windows open a few inches for oxygen, and when we went to bed we shut it down and crawled into our double sleeping bag. We slept great, although when we got up we could see our breath! Once the stove was lit and some coffee was made it was just fine again.

All the photos from this trip are here.

Sabbatical Journey #8

This morning we hiked a short trail to Juneywhank Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Bryson City, NC. It is a terrific spot. At the time we mistakenly thought there were some other nearby falls so we didn’t stay there as long as we would have otherwise. After leaving the falls we hiked on up the trail for about a half hour before deciding we had had enough for the day. I walk a lot, but, since we live in the flat lands, the up and down mountain hiking works the leg muscles in an entirely different way.

It’s a good thing we got our hike in this morning, as we have a drizzly, lazy afternoon going now. We have the awning up and are sitting outside enjoying the 65 degree mountain air. Tomorrow we head up into the GSMNP for some camping. That means no Internet, no cell phone, no electricity. It also means quiet, majestic beauty. It sounds like a good trade to me.

All the photos from this trip are here.

Sabbatical Journey #7

I had a dream last night, well, probably more early this morning. It was one of those “I woke up but I’m going to go back to sleep dreams.” In my dream I arrived at church on a Sunday morning only to remember that not only was it a communion Sunday but we had a wedding at the end of the service (I actually performed a wedding like that once, years ago). In my dream I had forgotten about it and I was scrambling around trying to be sure everything was ready. In the midst of it all, people kept stopping me to talk to me. I was trying to be polite but I was very preoccupied with getting ready for both communion and the wedding. The people who wanted to chat with me were all nice people who were glad to see me and I was trying to be “nice” and move on to talking to the groom and bride because we hadn’t even had a rehearsal. I don’t think we need Joseph or Daniel to interpret the dream. Nearly every pastor and many other people can identify with situations like this: needing to do something but being interrupted by good, well-meaning people. I think my subconscious is still working through what it means to truly be on sabbatical leave.

All the photos from this trip are here.

Sabbatical Journey #6

Our only “big” deal on this trip is a trip to Biltmore Estate in Asheville and today was the day. The $47 per person admission is painful and, in my opinion over the top. That isn’t to say it isn’t an impressive place. We saw it all, well all which can be seen without spending an hour in each room picking out each individual feature. There are interesting things everywhere from ceiling to floor, including paintings, books, sculptures, and world class furnishings. It is all quite interesting and impressive. As usual I maxed out in about 45 minutes. Jackie lasts longer than I do on such things, but after a couple of hours the joy was wearing somewhat thin for her too. Outside in the gardens was pretty neat. Other features of the property were, in my opinion, take it or leave it. I’d give it all 3 and a half out of 5 stars and, now that I’ve seen it I seriously doubt I’ll ever shell out the big bucks to do it again.

I was reminded, though, of the positive side to such wealth. Vanderbilt had more money than he knew what to do with. In his unrestrained spending he amassed many world class things that would otherwise have been lost. He’s long gone, but people today can appreciate the fine craftsmanship and artistry of the things he collected.

As we were leaving Biltmore Jackie suggested we drive some of the Blue Ridge Parkway rather than just coming straight back to our campground. We got on just south of Asheville and enjoyed around 3 hours of driving the amazing parkway. I’ve been on it up in Virginia, and now I’ve seen the southern end of it. What an amazing road across the top of the mountains! By the way when it comes to wonderful and memorable design, God wins!

All the photos from this trip are here.

Sabbatical Journey #5

This afternoon we drove 11 winding miles up and over to the Cataloochee Valley, which is part of the Smoky Mountains National Park. This, we are told is a less visited area and it is also a prime area for seeing the Elk that have been reintroduced to the region. We saw plenty of elk and also enjoyed visiting the old buildings there.

All the photos from this trip are here.

Sabbatical Journey #4

So what does a pastor do on a sabbatical? In my case, this is a “rest” sabbatical. That means I’m not out here to work on a book or to take a course at some seminary or even to climb some “holy mountain” in search of an encounter with God. To say it more simply, I’m on an extended, month long vacation. That isn’t to say I don’t want a renewal of spirit but my goal is to let that happen in mostly unintentional ways. Some of the personal spiritual things that I do all the time, like writing devotionals, have been laid aside and I haven’t added anything aside from writing this journal. I also brought one book by CS Lewis for some more intense reading and another Christian fiction book. I’m going to keep this journaling going and then take a much more low key approach to spiritual things, just letting things flow in a relaxed state. If I come away from this sabbatical feeling rested and refreshed I’ll consider it a success. Anything else will be a bonus.

All the photos from this trip are here.

Sabbatical Journey #3

Sunday started with a bang. Thunderstorms with plenty of wind swept through the area. There is a railroad right by the campground and right in the middle of the storm a train came through. Of course, we immediately thought of the stories about a tornado sounding like a train. Also, out on the highway some kind of emergency vehicle came through, at least twice, with sirens blaring. The whole event cost us a couple of hours of sleep. That along with the change to Eastern Time caused us to miss the early service at the nearby church. We ended up hanging around till the 11:00 service at the Methodist church. We were last in and first out, anxious to get on the road.

The aftermath of the storms was clear skies but plenty of wind. The little Casita camper tows like a dream and that remains true even in 30+ mph winds. We crossed into North Carolina in good time and continued toward Creekwood Farm RV park near Waynesville. Truthfully, I had debated stopping down the road a bit because of the very windy conditions. Also, we drove back under clouds and spitting rain. We arrived to 60 degrees with wind and rain but managed to get set up without getting too wet or cold. Creekwood is a nice place. Clean, and well ordered. We got full hookups, and I mean full – including 70+ channels of cable TV! Our little camper stayed warm and snug and we got our best night’s sleep of our short journey.

All the photos from this trip are here.