Last month I had the pleasure of hiking this trail with my good friend, Ryan. We were short on time for the day and needed to hike a trail that was “closer” to home. Enter, Middle Prong and it’s amazing waterfalls (4!!!!) and fascinating history (including an abandoned Cadillac and homesite) …. Here’s a trail that I’ve never hiked before (I’ve hiked West Prong ALONG time ago) and always seem to overlook it for the higher elevation hikes at Newfound Gap. Being a member of the Hike the Smokies Facebook page, I would always see pictures of this area and comments of people raving about this hike….you could say it finally intrigue me enough to venture out on my own and give it a try. I appreciate anytime I’m fortunate enough to spend time in the woods but I have to say I was blown away by this trail and everything it had to offer. Below you’ll find the trip highlights.
As you grow older (and hopefully wiser) its funny how things change in your life. For me an example would be my opinion on the sport of soccer. You see, as a young kid growing up in the heart of SEC country the only sport that mattered in my world was football… American football that is… more specifically College Football. Now, don’t get me wrong and let me set the record straight. I still love CFB and more importantly the University of Tennessee Volunteers. They are and will continue to be my #1 team. With that said, growing up in the south and in a rural area, honestly I was never exposed to the sport of soccer. To me it was something completely foreign… and I think it’s human nature to be opposed to something that you’re not familiar with. Everytime someone would speak about it or I would see a highlight my immediate reaction was “Pfft…SOCCER?! HOW DUMB IS THAT?!” My American would come out and I would say something to the extent of “That ain’t REAL football”…. Little did I know that years down the road I would come to not only enjoy the sport but truthfully love it.
It all started around the 2010 World Cup. I don’t remember exactly what made me give it a try but I was shortly hooked. The intensity and magnitude of the matches reminded me of a classic Southeastern conference matchup. I was floored that I enjoyed it so much. I remember watching as much of the tournament as I could and learning and trying to make sense as I watched. Shortly after Spain was crowned champions I was desperate for more. I stumbled upon the Barclays English Premier League and began watching casually on Saturday mornings. As I understood the game more, I began to learn about the structure and history of the sport. It wasn’t long before I was supporting a team of my own (Chelsea) and finding out which teams I associated with Florida and Alabama (ManU, City, Arsenal). Now you can find me watching and enjoying soccer from many different leagues around the world. I tend to find myself watching the Premier League and Champions League the most strictly do to television coverage. As our domestic league (MLS) has gotten better exposure the last several years I have noticed myself watching more games stateside and I know that the expansion team in Atlanta will help with my investment in the MLS. I also have enjoyed supporting my local area club (Knoxville Force) as they battle the lower tiers of the US soccer pyramid (My thoughts on this subject will come in a later post).
Many of my family and friends ask me this question often. Why now? Many of them have a similar story to mine about having a predetermined idea about the sport and still can’t seem to understand why me and most of america have gone “Soccer Crazy”. For me I can best sum it up like this:
I enjoy the passion of the players and fans of the sport – Watch a world cup match, Champions League final or a Darby between Liverpool and Everton and not come away with a newfound respect for the game. From a supporters side: The colorful tifos, smokebombs, drums, singing and chanting….. doesn’t get much better.
Matches are shorter – 90 mins to be exact, not including extra stoppage time. One of my biggest complaints with the modern CFB game or your average Major League Baseball game is the the length of each game. I’m growing tired of the 4+ hours that these games require. Speed it up!
Promotion and Relegation – This is a concept that is complete foreign to us here in the US and the majority of team owners have kept it that way for a reason.Why?.. because It protects them and their money. Put it this way if you are a crummy team like the Atlanta Braves are this year, and you finish last… guess what? You get demoted out of the majors to the minors. But don’t worry, there’s always the ability to get promoted back. You just have to try… and as fans this is all we ask. Ask yourself this, if promotion and relegation was in the NFL the Cleveland Browns might be in Pop Warner football right now. This seasons Premier League champion (Leicester City) was playing in the 3rd division of English soccer in 2008/09.
The game is Exciting – Wither its a penalty shot or a last second goal in stoppage time the game is truly exciting. Every game is an opportunity! You might ask how can a game that finishes 1-0 be classified as exciting? Remember the previous point above… you are playing the long-game. This isn’t the NBA or Arena football… chess not checkers!
Summer is here and we are ready for it. It’s been an incredible year so far, honestly it’s flown by… And it hard to imagine that it’s already this season. Little girl is growing by leaps & bounds and everyday it seems she learns something new. She is such a joy to our life. As I reflect, this time last year we were preparing for her arrival. Elizabeth and I have learned so much as parents and grown closer together as spouses in these past 10 months. I can only imagine what it will be like 5, 10….[GASP]18 years from now.
Like I said, we’ve been busy with the little one but in other areas of our life we are just as busy and have also seen growth. Elizabeth has an exciting opportunity that I’ll let her share at her timing on her space (check it out if you haven’t already @ http://graceathomeblog.wordpress.com) and I’ve also had some potential opportunity at my work as well. With that said, we’ve been looking forward to getting away and I couldn’t think of a better place to do that than the beach.
If you were to ask us where our favorite beach in the US is the answer would be that answer would be Pensacola Beach. This is a place that we’ve been probably 6-8 times since we’ve been together and we love it more and more each time. This year is the first time we’ve been back since the great summer of adventure tour 2 years ago. To say we missed this place would be a understatement. Obviously, this trip would be different than our normal routine of beach bumming for 6-8 hours a day. This trip would be different….. And different is good. This trip we got to take our sweet little girl. We hope that this the beginning of many future beach trips….. And when I say it like that that those 18 years I was talking about earlier makes my heart get just alittle bit fuller.