The Lost Sea — Vacation is ALMOST Over!

I’m writing this from the road, sitting in a motel in Lexington, Kentucky with my two little cherubs snoring softly in the double bed beside my writing table. I think the 200th lap in the hotel pool tonight really did them in!

This afternoon on our way back from Cartersville we stumbled on this wonderful family excursion, and I wanted to mention a few details before they slipped away.  I don’t know about your kids, but mine are constitutionally incapable of riding seven hours in the car without duct tape and rope. (Yes, I am kidding. But only because, being the VERY wise parent I am, I don’t ask them to sit seven hours so the tape and rope are unnecessary.) So about an hour north of Chattanooga, I spotted a billboard and decided it was time for a Family Adventure! (Yeah!!!)

The Lost Sea Adventure is an underwater lake — at 4-1/2 acres, it is the largest underwater lake in the U.S., and the second largest in the world (the largest is Lake Vostok in Antartica). The cavern was alternately a site for Cherokee Indian ceremonies, Confederate soldiers (who gathered bat droppings to make salt peter/gunpowder), a speakeasy (in business for only two months because overly inebriated customers kept injuring themselves trying to get out of the place). It was also a bomb shelter (Federal Government provided the people of Sweetwater enough food to feed 3,000 people for three months; remants of these boxes containing 50-year-old Saltines are still visible.)

The cave contains a large, off-limits room (due to the 90-foot hole in the middle of it, which made insurance adjusters so nervous they closed it to the public) where of an Ice Age jaguar was discovered (think Diego on Ice Age). At 130 feet below the surface, the “Lost Sea” itself was discovered in the 1905 by a 13 year old boy named Ben Sands (no one believed him until a team of scientists “discovered” his find decades later); the site was declared a Registered Natural Landmark in 1976.

The hike down to the lake is about a mile; tickets are about $15.95 adults, $7.45 kids. The lake is stocked with rainbow trout (whose colors and eye sight have both been damaged from being in the dark for so long), who feed on liver pellets and come right up to the glass-bottom boat to say hello.

The Sweetwater Village (across the driveway from the Lost Sea) contains a glass-blowing site as well as other period artisan shops. Admission to the village is free — nice area for picnics, etc.

Adventures with Friends

Sarah at “Just Another Day of Catholic Pondering” has done her usual outstanding job with this week’s “Catholic Carnival.” Be sure to check it out!

When Sarah missed her friend Lauren’s birthday, we decided to take the girls to Sarah’s favorite lunch place … “Sweet Aftons” Tea Room in Plymouth, Michigan.

Sarah has caught my “tea bug.” About once a week we’ll have a special time with my best tea pot and pretty china cups … and c a k e. Cake is not optional, where tea is concerned.

When I arrived at the school to pick up the girls and head for the tea room, another friend was standing there looking sad. So in the end, it was the four of us: Arianna, and Lauren, and Sarah and me. All off for tea.

Then, there was one more wrinkle: It seems that Sweet Afton’s is closed on Mondays. So we headed for my next favorite place, Cafe Marie’s. The teapots were of stonewear instead of china, with mugs instead of delicate tea cups for the apple juice. But it was fun!

Watching Sarah with her friends, I was struck by how much more … active … she is than her little friends. While they sat quietly in their seats and ate French fries, or carried on conversations about earth worms and fairy princesses (with equal seriousness), Sarah was hopping up and down, turning her fuzzy purple hat (her favorite) around and around and inside out. She is a wash of kinetic energy … screeching and singing and blasting her flute. Twirling and spinning and twinkling like an imp. Oh, how I love that little girl.

I’m sure the mothers of those other little girls are proud of them. They can read whole books, and sit quietly for more than two minutes at a time. They put on one outfit and it stays on their bodies all day. My daughter doesn’t do any of these things … at least not yet.

But I wouldn’t trade her for a library of books. Her brother, either.

In a few weeks, I’m going on my own adventure with a friend and her children. Sarah and I are driving to Atlanta, then back through South and North Carolina before winding our way home. Both of us are a bit nervous about how the rhythms or our respective families are going to affect each other … and ultimately our friendship.

Yesterday’s outing reminds me that adventures with friends can be a great way to rediscover ourselves.