I recently took a trip to the Smoky Mountains with my brother Rob’s wife and daughters, her parents, and my own, to release some of my brother’s ashes into the Appalachians, up there. His 18-year-old daughter, Madison, found this perfect spot. This stream is on the Gatlinburg side of the Great Smoky Mountain. Fortunately, we made it up there just a few weeks before the deadly wildfires of this past week.
Rob, myself and our family used to travel up here every Christmas, to romp around around in the snow, hike the trails and go skiing. Like all of us, Rob loved it, and while his soul is with the Lord, I know he’d sure be happy with the returning of the ashes of his body to the earth, right here in this beautiful, peaceful setting that held so many great memories for our family. Rest in Peace, Rob. We love you, and will never forget you.
My good friend and former UF roommate, Dan Rudd. Dan hosted us for a few days in Santa Barbara on our recent trip out west. When I was 19, Dan and I, along with my younger brother, a friend of his and my dad went across country in two cars hitting a ton of national parks. All the way from Florida to Huntington Beach! We did the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, White Sands, Joshua Tree, Death Valley, Grand Tetons, Rocky Mountains, Mt. Rushmore… More than I can remember over 2-3 weeks! There was no Instagram back then, but we took a coffee table book about national parks with us and in each park, we’d look at the photos and try to find the exact spots where the photographers shot from, to recreate them for comparison later. It was fun detective work. Dan said that trip changed his life and later helped prompt him to move out West (like several other of my close college friends). I’m a very happy third-gen native of (Jax) Florida, but do love it out there. So beautiful! Tomorrow is the 100th birthday of the National Parks Service, so a good time to reflect on some of those special places and good times.