Many people don't think of escaping to western Tennessee to see the beautiful sites our country has to offer. More often, Yellowstone, Yosemite, and the Grand Canyon come to mind first. My kids, parents, and I drove sixteen hours to Meenan-Shelby State Forest Park in Western Tennessee; the halfway point between my brother and his family, who live in New Mexico, and us. Meenan-Shelby is a 13,000 acre park forty-five minutes north of Memphis on the Mississippi River. However, the Mississippi River is not the center of attention in this park, only a side bar. We stayed in an old, run-down cabin (they call it that but not one by my definition) on Poplar Tree Lake, a 125 acre dammed lake, pea green in color (sometime neon) due to an over production of algae because of high temperatures and dry creek beds. The natural beauty of the park and watching seven kids (my own and my five nieces and nephews) create imaginative adventures overshadowed the undermaintained and underfunded facilities in the state park. Even with the small problem of invasive species like Kudzu and Japanese Stilt Grass, the park has an incredible variety of trees: Sweet Gum, Cottonwood, Live Oak, Red Bud and many more, creating a forest of different shades of greens and trunks of different textures. This heterogenous ecostystem of forest, lakes, and dry stream beds created many eye-popping moments for the kids when they saw turtles, raccoons (they were a nightly problem), deer, skink, snakes (even a copperhead), egrets, herons, owl, fox, and toads and frogs galore. The kids had so much fun running after the "baby" toads in an attempt to capture and hold them. They even made a mud house for one toad hoping to capture him for a while; that while turned into 30 seconds. It jumped the wall and escaped from 40 fingers all trying desperately to hold it captive. Fishing in the row boats (no oars but paddles) was the favorite daily pasttime. Everyday, sometimes more than once, a different set of kids and an adult set out to capture that night's dinner. No such luck! One memorable fishing event occured one evening before dinner during a break in the rain when my brother took six of them (leaving the 17 month old behind) out to fish in the boat. Within fifteen minutes of starting their outing, it began to rain. Forty-five minutes later, after two heavy downpours, they still had not returned. The reinforcements, my dad and I, were called in to rescue what we anticipated to be six, crying and screaming kids. Boy were we wrong! In our boat, we rounded the corner and came upon six, soaked kids, laughing and screaming with happiness, and the three oldest jumping out of the boat into the pea green lake yelling, "this is awesome!" Seeing the happiness on the faces of all seven children during our adventures along the Mississippi River (yes, we did play on the sand bars in the river) makes the best memories of my vacation.