Now folks, I know its been a while since I checked in with all of you, but I've been out of range - really out of range. If you ever want to get away to a remote locale, ask Bryce to hook you up. He has the knack for these sort of things. No phone, no wireless, no cell coverage. We are, however, lucky enough to have running water (the plumbing and outdoor kind) and electricity.
We are now in the lovely Black Mountain section of the Blue Ridge or Smokey Mountain Range. Not far from Mt. Mitchell (the highest known elevation in North Carolina) and nestled (really cozy-like) in the Pisgah National Forest land in the sweetest little cabin on the creek you've ever seen. I write you now from a deck over looking a series of waterfalls and crystal clear pools along the north fork of Cattail Creek.
We arrived after a brief visit to Cherokee, NC and the Smoky Mountain National Park where we hiked the up, up, up-est trail we could find and even discovered Aconista stone cliffs. It was here I was sure I was coming back down with one family member fewer, thanks to the treacherous climb to the top of Chimney Tops trail. Great trail for aspiring athletes and families alike. (Just make sure your children are older than 8 or so, so they can make the trek up this steep and slippery rock at the trail's end. )
On to Cherokee. The town of Cherokee has seen some great changes recently. We were lucky to enjoy most of them. The Cherokee people have put their casino money to good use by building an amazing new school, walking trails throughout town, new shopping areas complete with visitor's center and splash park right in the heart of it. Smart move there. Kids play in the fountains, dads relax in the shade, while moms shop for moccasins - maybe this idea will catch on in more locations.
The Oconoluftee River runs throughout town, where the Cherokee have also created a park all along its banks with picnic shelters, paths, bridges and benches along its banks. This is a popular tubing spot as the the water is shallow, the stones are smooth and the water moves gently. We enjoyed wading, skipping stones and racing boats here. This river is also known in the region as quite the trout fishing paradise.
The new Cherokee Heritage Museum and Gallery is award winning and a hit with everyone in the family (our family anyway.) The grandslam with the boys (besides the water) was really the Cherokee Indian Village. Here, a tour guide took us through the village where we saw demonstrations of beading, weaving, basketry, trap making (for various fish and animals), blowgun and arrow making as well as demonstrations of dugout canoe building (or burning as it were), tool making, pottery, story telling, dancing and explanation of tribal life and rules. I realize I just wrote a commercial for Cherokee, NC, but really, it is an amazing place for families who want a cultural, historical and outdoor adventure sort of vacation. Also, its all affordable. A play about the Cherokee people plays nightly in a newly built amphitheater, but I'll get to that later.
Unfortunately, Bryce did not get to join in all of our fun here, because, alas he had to work - again (sigh - for Bryceee.) We loved it though and hope he finds more work in this great place.
To the cabin! Oh to the cabin. My dear sweet husband decided that a "short cut" was in order so we could make it to the cabin by nightfall. This shortcut was about 250 ziggity zagity roads going up, up, up, over the mountain and then down, down down only to turn another few hairpin turns ON GRAVEL to go up up up again. I was not pleased when we arrived in the center of the earth. It was then that I made the mistake of walking into the cabin and then out the back door onto the deck. I might not ever leave now. Not only because I can not find my way out of this Gilligans Island paradise, but because it is, indeed a paradise. If you have ever been to Johnson's Shut-Ins state park in Missouri, it is an apt picture of what we see when sitting here on the deck.
I invite you all to get on out here and enjoy it with us while we are here. Really. Truly. Please come visit. We have lots of extra beds and space. We have found a less ridiculous route of getting here than that first night and will gladly meet you at the bottom of the mountain to guide you up here.
Bryce enjoyed the cabin for a full 5 hours before leaving on a work trip for 5 days. The boys and I stayed here at the cabin for two days without getting in the car at all. We explored the creek, hiked the roads (trails and roads are quite similar around here) painted, told stories, played games, swam and practiced archery with our new bows and arrows.
*Note to parents of small children. Do not get into this bow and arrow business unless you are prepared to hunt for lost arrows in the woods for hours at a time or feel them whiz by you no matter how out of range you think you may be - all this regardless of how many times you've gone over the "rules" of archery. All in all, it was fun. Thank goodness these arrows did not have sharp points.
Thursday morning. This deserves a post all its own.
Ahhh…Thursday morning we woke to a lovely day. Today we pick up Grandma Nancy (my mom) at the Asheville Airport. Other than knowing the airport resides somewhere outside the city of Asheville on I-26, I am clueless, but confident that I can find it. The question is, how much time do I need to make the trip? I conclude about 2 hours to be safe. We've got snacks, water, bags for farmer's market shopping and plenty of time. We load up. The key goes in, the key is turned…nothing. We're ready to go, only to find that a light has been on in the backseat for a few days…the car doesn't make a sound. "Awesome!" I screech (along with a few other words followed by "stay here, I will be right back." I run up the 78 degree hill to the next cabin, climb the 200 steps to the front door only to find no one home. Okay, back down the hill, up the hill, next cabin. No one home. Son of a *&^%h! People and their privacy in the woods, for pete's sake! I am feeling desperate. I finally run up another hill, farther away from our cabin, up 300 steps or so and approach the 3rd cabin. I arrive in front of an open screen door, with two nice retired folks seated at breakfast, nothing less than shocked to see a red faced, frizzy haired lady panting and asking for help to jump her car, which happens to be half a mile down the road. Confused, the nice man obliges, gets back to our car and saves the day. Thank goodness I remembered how to use the jumper cables and that I actually had some. And we were only about 20 minutes late to pick up Grandma. Miraculous! What a morning!
And we were off! First to the Moose Cafe at the Farmers Market where we stocked up on fresh veggies and fruit of all kinds. Wynne picked out a whopper of a Canteloupe that he barely shared with the rest of us later. Then to the North Carolina Nature Center, next to the Southern Highland Craft Guild Folk Art Center off the Blue Ridge Parkway. There, at the museum, my eldest son decided it might be a great idea to try out the drawers on some of the desks on display. Confused, he explained that the drawer was open so he was closing it for them. Things went better while watching the silkscreen painting demonstration. This was enough for one day, so it was back to the boonies with us. Mom thought perhaps we were never going to make it.
Friday we enjoyed a cabin day. Well, we enjoyed it mostly. Until a certain young 6 year old decided to get uppity and slam all the doors in the house, we were having a fine day. One of these doors was a bedroom door. This bedroom door was locked from the inside. There was no way to open it. Well, there was one way. Find the big ladder, yell at son, climb tall creaky, scary, shaky ladder up to second story above garage, glare at child, ask mom if the ladder will hold me. Mom was not so reassuring. After climbing the ladder, I realized I needed a tool to remove the screen to dive into the window. Down the ladder, up the ladder, screen off, down the ladder, up the ladder, through the window and OUT. Hooray! Problem solved. Too bad we didn't take pictures. Word to the wise kids, don't slam doors.
This didn't hamper our day much. We still enjoyed swimming and floating in the creek pool, playing in the creek, cooking together and playing games.
Bryce finally made it home just as we all settled down. Wynne was so happy to see him, he fell out of bed.
Busy. Busy. So busy in fact, that when Bryce finally got home, he went to brush his teeth, then passed out, standing up, while brushing his teeth. I thought he was being funny bumping into me, so I moved out of his way, when SPLAT he was flat on his back on the bathroom floor. Guess we should've given him a bit of a break after such a long trip.
Here's the speed tour. Burnsville Farmers Market, drive to Mt. Mitchell, hike to overlook, hike an easy (oops, make that very strenuous) trail with mom, lunch at the Mt. Mitchell cafe. Yum mountain trout! Stop on some of the family farms on the Family Farm tour sponsored by the Local foodies of Asheville. Check out farms, honeybees, gardens, orchards, animals, cool Montessori Mountain School, Wynne milks a goat and finally, back home again. Whew!
Visitors!! About 2 a.m. mom, bryce and I awoke to a child screaming. Sounded like it was coming from outside, on the back deck. That's weird. We checked on Wynne, then Henry. They were fine. We looked out on the deck. There in the moonlight were two bear cubs jumping on the picnic table, grabbing and swinging on the hummingbird feeder, attempting to get a sweet mouthful of nectar. They were working pretty hard on this task, barking or screeching really, each time they missed. While it was hilarious to watch, it was time for them to go. Mama climbed the stairs and swatted at them only after Bryce bopped a baby on the nose through the screen door it was then trying to enter. The bears were probably born not all that long ago. They certainly weren't to wary of us. I'd say they were about the size of an average 2-3 year old child. Mama bear and Jenny would've made a pretty even match (in size, people, not looks. Thank you.)
After all that evening excitement, it was time for a relaxing day around the creek. The boys took a long creek expedition while mom and I went to town looking for arts, crafts and other junk.
Bad idea. Sundays in the south are not big days for commerce. We did find one fun junk shop, but not too much to crow about.
Monday and Tuesday
Take your Grandma to Cherokee, NC field trip.
Well, we did it again. Back to the museum.
I think Henry will be applying for a job there soon. If we go longer than a week without entering a museum he starts to get a little edgy. He gave Grandma the official tour.
Back to the hotel, into the swimwear. We hit the pool, then Bryce joined us for some tubing in the river along park, behind the hotel. This was fun stuff. Ahhh. Indian tacos for dinner then the big treat. The "Unto these Hills" play in the newly constructed amphitheater. What a production! If you haven't heard, the Cherokees and all Native Peoples got a bum deal once whitey started occupying this land and running the show. Of course the actors did a better job filling in the details. Teary and bleary-eyed, we returned to the hotel and dreamed of a place that respected native people and learned from them.
Next morning it was to the local Pancake house for breakfast before Bryce set out on his path and the rest of us on into the Smoky Mountain National Park for some sightseeing, Ranger Programs, and Cherokee Pottery class. Wynne and Henry will be Junior Rangers before we know it. That afternoon, worn out and icing her knees, we sent Grandma on the plane back to St. Louis. What do you know? I had two sleepyheads in the back seat too. I think we were all finished for a while. How about all of you? Ready to get on out here? We're ready to see you.
Well, we've got a production of Annie to get to, so its off to the theater with us tonight. Enjoy your summer and your 4th of July, wherever you are!! Maybe even pay some respects to your native roots with a 4 directions prayer or kind thoughts for all those who have gone before us without recognition while you're blasting those explosives in your patriotic fervor.
After all this zipping, zigging and zagging, it was nice to visit with the Read Family for a couple of days. We rang in Bryce's birthday with cold drinks in hand, seated in lawn chairs, listening to goats bleating and kids splashing in the pool as fireflies and stars lit up the night. Just the way it needed to be.
Trying to get back on track. I can't quite seem to keep up with myself these days. I thought summer days were lazy and relaxing, where's all that? We've been everywhere lately and we're on the move...again.
We've covered alot of ground since that last post. There are many pictures to post, but my e-time is limited, so I'll get where I can now.
We finished here with the story telling festival in St.Louis. We attended many of these events and were lucky enough to see several tellers in fun locations; the History museum, The Gateway Arch and the UM-St.L campus. At the arch, Bryce treated us to a carriage ride, enjoyed by all.
The St. Stanislaus Spring Polish Heritage Picnic was the highlight of the weekend for all of us, with free vodka shots on the hour, heaping plates of polish food, children's games (pig racing was a real hit) and lots of prizes.
Being back in Columbia was bittersweet for all of us. While Bryce put in time walking and talking on the phone, we were visiting friends and soaking up all the goodness Columbia has to offer, most of it being some of the greatest people found anywhere. Such generosity was showered upon us by all. We thank everyone for this. I (Jenny) was lucky enough to revel in an evening of visiting with all the girl friends I could find and gather in one place. Being back on the patio of Uprise/RagTag with all those women, laughing and sharing stories made me cry myself to sleep thinking of how lucky I am to have friends like these. You all know who you are! Special thanks to Amy Higgins for helping me put together and execute the Family Picnic on Tuesday evening, even though I got a flat tire on the way there and had to borrow a neighbors grill (since the park grill had been replaced with a drinking fountain.) Heidi and Elizabeth were painting faces of all the children, which made for an even livelier event. We all had a blast watching the kids squealing around the playground (pictures soon) chasing, and catching one another until it was too dark to see. It did our hearts good to see our own friends and feel support in a community we still feel so connected to. We love you Columbia!
On our way, we stopped to see Katie and Andy and their little kittens in K.C. It was great fun, even if Wynne got a bit Cinco de Mayo nutso and almost puked on Andy at dinner.
Finally, we made it to Grandpa Scott and Grandma Janet's house. Hooray! Grandpa Scott took the boys fishing, fell into the pond, and helped them catch many fish - delicious for dinner, indeed. Liam was taking scooter and skateboard lessons from his big cousins and Raquel was just looking cute as can be as her sweet baby girl self. We are sure to wear out the four wheeler before we leave. Sadly, the other Oates cousins, Oliver, Aubrie and Alisa are sick with strep so we will miss them and are quite upset for them and for us. Boo Hoo!
My time is almost up, as I have other projects to begin and to prepare for as we leave again on Monday morning.
I am heading south, very very south, with the boys to help in the clean up of our newest disaster - the great goo clean up thanks to BP, down in the Gulf of Mexico. We are heading first to see friends in Mississippi, then getting connected to the right folks to help in whatever capacity we can. We will keep you posted on this and will certainly need your help. I will be hosting a new blog devoted to this new chapter of our home school life. What better way to learn about environmental disasters than to experience them, right? I hope to link the new blog here within the week. Keep reading and we'll keep writing.
Hug your mothers and send them love. Tomorrow is Mother's Day! Happy Mother's Day to all you moms out there!
And he used to work on real, actual locomotives! We got to look inside lots of trains no one ever gets to see. We got a special ride on the Trolley. Yes, a real actual working trolley. We got to see where all the books, videos, artifacts and train parts get brought in and catalogued. We learned so much. For example, did you know that the bigger the locomotive engine's wheels are, the faster it goes, AND that it most likely carried passengers.? Those big wheels made for a smoother ride.
And then, he even bought us each a pretzel! The boys were a little wild and crazy, and it was rainy, but Uncle Steve was a champ. Thank you Uncle Steve! Boy, are we are lucky to have this guy!
That evening, we walked (the boys scootered, naturally) to old downtown Webster to get some pizza, then met up with Aunt Pam and Uncle Steve for some ice cream. Grandma Nancy got plenty of help scooping her own sundae from two sticky little guys, eager to try every flavor.
After several months away, we heard the zoo was missing us. Luckily, Grandma got the day off and we ruled the place. Wynne got splashed in the face by a penguin, he connected with a zoo docent talking about puffins, penguins and okapis, and was at one with the guinea hens and peacocks roaming the place. Not sure what it is, but birds (especially domesticated ones) like the kid. Henry spent about half an hour in a one-on-one Q & A with the Entomologist in the butterfly house. And who says homeschooling can't be fun?
Friday the boys and the neighborhood kids took over the street with bikes, trikes, scooters and skateboards. I love that my parents live on a street full of kids! It was fun...and a bit dangerous. Bryce and I got out of there when Nancy got home from work because guess what...we went on this thing called "A DATE."
WooHoo! Dining without children - what an experience! So quiet, so intriguing, so tasty. Really, I mean I actually got to taste my food. And good food it was. Smoked duck confit, braised mustard greens, smoky beans and so much more. OOooola la! The Smoked Duck Restaurant was not a disappointment. We wandered the city, enjoyed some drinks and dessert and made it back home to find...the kids still awake?!!! Aye aye aye! This was all wrong. Yes, it was 10:30, but they should be sleeping. What exactly happens between that parent/grandparent stage? I don't think I saw 10:30 on any day of the year but New Years Eve in my youth.
Saturday the whole crew was out of the house early for a new experience for most of the crew. The IMAX Theater show about Sea Life at the Science Center. This exceeded all expectations and once we convinced Wynne that he would not be falling out of the seat down to the bottom of the theater, all was well. We even stayed for the new Darwin Exhibit, which is pretty darn good for the science center. We all found something to enjoy. On to Sweetie Pie's restaurant for another new experience. Wow. Soul food anyone? I think there was a stick of butter in everything I tried. At least 5 cheeses in the Mac n Cheese. It was tasty but Wynne said it best when he finished his whole plate of catfish, sweet potatoes, cornbread, mac n cheese and cobbler, " My feet and legs feel heavy dad." He climbed onto Bryce's lap and fell asleep. No joke. We all required a caffeine boost after that lard coma.
Sunday we snuck away for a soggy, squishy, muddy birthday bash for Lushen Claridge out at Terra Bella. We surprised him and the whole gang. It was lots of fun and lots of rain!
That leads us to this week. Back to the books for the boys and me, visits with Great Grandpa, picnics at the Sculpture Park, slides and swings at the playground and the St. Louis Storytelling Festival for the rest of the week. We'll share some tall tales with you next time we're around.
1. At bedtime.
Shortly after Henry lost his first tooth, it was time for bed. Oh the excitement! He found his nifty tooth pillow he had made only months before, stuffed the tooth in the pocket, wrote a note to the fairy and laid down to rest. Only a moment later did Wynne ruffle his feathers, complaining that he too wanted his tooth pillow to sleep with for the night. Wynne fell asleep, while Henry continued to toss and turn. He got up, turned on the light and said,"Mom, I can't sleep. I think that if the toothfairy visits me and not Wynne, then Wynne is going to be very sad."
To which I responded that when he loses a tooth the fairy will visit him too. This was just not good enough for Henry. He got out a pencil and paper and left this note," Dear Toothfairy, This is my brother Wynne's tooth pillow. He would like something too, if you have anything extra. Thanks, Henry" He folded the note, placed it in the W pillow and fell right to sleep.
2. In the Morning.
We were busy trying to get the car packed to get on the road to St.Louis. It was 5 a.m. The boys woke up excited about the toothfairy visit. Bryce and I heard this exchange.
Wynne: Did the toothfairy find your pillow, Henry?
Henry: Oh yes! Look, its paper money with a 5 on it! Oh yeah! Wynne! Check your pillow pocket!
Wynne: Oh, I got a paper money too! With a one on it. But...where's the rest?
Henry: The rest of what?
Wynne: The rest of the toothfairy stuff, the...CANDY?!!
Henry: [laughing] She brings money, not candy, Wynne.
Wynne: Yeah, but candy is good. Not money. And candy is what makes your teeth fall out! I want candy from my toothfairy!
Henry: [laughing his head off]
There was no way we were going to leave Virginia without one last tour of some of the state's finest waterfalls. It was off to the Peaks of Otter we went after packing the car. So full, in fact, that everytime we opened a door or rolled down a window a shoe, colored pencil, map or one of us would pop out from the pressure of all of it being squished in there together. Why is this? I blame the Easter Bunny. I digress. The Peaks of Otter. What a hike! Trillium, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, wild violets, Dogwoods, Redbuds and a host of others, all along the cool, bubbling stream, dotted with boulders and small waterfalls. It was too much to bear. We had to take off our shoes and wade around a bit. Tiny frogs and more little eggs were discovered all around. After all this exploring, it was back to the Peaks of Otter Lodge. The Lodge was just what we needed. Virtually indestructible, this lodge was built shortly after the WPA era which meant cinderblock walls, and sturdy construction leaving this mom with no worries about the boys wrecking the place. Also, it was right on Abbott Lake, with a lovely view of the Peaks of Otter. The rooms had no telephones, televisions, internet or cell phone reception. It was perfect. Even better was the amazing seafood buffet that included whole steamed lobster, crab legs, oysters, on the half shell and fried, catfish, salmon, halibut, clams, scallops, seafood salad, crab cakes, frog legs and shrimp cocktail. This is only the seafood represented. There was a whole host of other fixins besides, along with the virtually untouched salad bar, and of course, desserts. Lucky for us the boys were free - I think Wynne ate the legs off of a whole community of crabs along with enough fried oysters and hush puppies to fill a boat. Henry would've eaten the whole lobster himself if it weren't for me sneaking in a bite or two. I think the boys ate 3 plates themselves. Full and happy, we took the trail back to our sleepy cabin.
After a quick morning hike to the Johnson Farmstead, we were on our way to Shenandoah National Park. The Blue Ridge Parkway on a 65 degree day in spring was definitely the way to travel. Beautiful vistas and flowers all around, we enjoyed it all. One picnic later, it was time for another walk. This time to another waterfall (what else!?) When we reached the small falls after walking down, down, down for about a mile, Wynne peeled his clothes off in record time and splashed right in the water. Henry quickly followed, hopping from stone to stone and sliding down slippery rocks naked as jaybirds and happy. The trip back up, up, up the mountain was memorable, but not so enjoyable as the boys had exhausted themselves in the stream. Dragging them up the trail, Bryce and I exchanged looks that said,"Will we ever learn?" These are character building exercises, right? One can only hope.
That evening, as we drove through the park in search of lodging, I came across a coupon in a travel guide. Massanutten Lodge Spring Special! It sounded like fun, had a great rate, a perfect location - we pulled up to the check in. My! Oh my Oh my! For you skiers out there, this is like a ski resort meets Tan-Tar-A meets Hilton Head (without the beach.) The boys were dazzled. Once they caught site of the indoor waterpark, there was no going back. The place was a zoo with 6 hotels, too many condos, its own police department, grocery and liquor store, and...well, you get the idea.
Yes, the next morning after a breakfast that rivals that of Cafe Berlin (in Columbia, MO) at the Little Grille in Harrisonburg, VA , where there are boxes of trivial pursuit cards on all the tables, fun bookshelves full of ninja turtles, hello kitty toys, postcards and kids books from years gone by we were on our way to (Oh God help us) the indoor waterpark. The boys chanted "We're so excited! We can't wait! We're going to an inside waterslide! Yessss!" while wearing their goggles the whole way there. Truthfully, it was a blast. Just like Oceans of Fun or White Water or whatever waterpark you've been to, only in a climate controlled, massively huge bubble. What a day!
That night we stayed in Wytheville, VA exhausted and happy to sleep. Henry, Wynne and I headed to Big Walker Lookout and Mountain for more mountain goat activities to wear out the boys (and myself) as Bryce worked his hiney off so we could leave the state of Virginia and be back in St. Louis, MO just in time for my mom's birthday on the 20th. And we did it! Here we are, back in St.Louis with my family and the boys are back to playing with all their toys and begging to sleep in the camper in my parents backyard. Is it strange that when they get here Henry says ,"Hey Wynne, I know. We can sleep in the camper and pretend we are traveling all over the world." Really?! What an idea.
We do regret saying good bye to our new friends, gymnastics classes, the Blacksburg Library folks (especially Ruth) and this fine state full of wonders. We're sure to be back again soon. The boys and I even made a special trip to the Museum of Transportation in Roanoke this week, so we'll include a few pictures here too.
Missourians - we're headed to see all of you and we can't wait!
While Bryce was busy this week working, the boys and I explored more of the Blacksburg, VA area. I will once again give you a daily breakdown as this is easier for me.
Enjoyed some storytime with Miss Ruth at the library followed by a picnic lunch with our new friends Jack and Margaret, then some exploring on the Huckleberry trail that runs from Blacksburg to Christiansburg. A perfect warm day to spend running around the trail fending off oncoming bike traffic and pretend witches with sticks. Oh how folks on bikes love to see children running with sticks on "their" bike trail. Sorry folks.
What a busy day. Henry was the obstacle course king at his homeschool gymnastics class, which put him in a fine mood for the remainder of the day. We hit the Subway (thank you Aunt Pam!) and took a picnic out to the Pandapas Pond and trails for an evening meal. It might have been peaceful, had it not been for the dozen or so Canadian geese surrounding us hissing demands for veggie subs and popcorn. Wynne stood up to talk sense into them, finding only that they didn't speak english, were the same size as he was, and that it made it easier for them to nab his sammy. We finished up quickly, and walked the trail around the pond, enjoying the nature guideposts along the path. We finished up here, headed back to the car (where some crazy redneck was waving a pistol around in the parking lot. wow! the nice weather really brings the best out in folks!) It was onto poetry night at the Library, where we wrote Acrostic Poems, while Wynne entertained all the kids by telling them he was "made of fire and was going to invent a racecar that could drive through fire and blast off into space." That Wynne, he just has no imagination. Henry illustrated a poem with a painting and a drawing and had a great time chatting it up with the librarians,'telling them to visit Monticello sometime because "yeah, its a really cool place and a president lived there once too." He also added, mater-of-factly that the drive is "not too bad either." I think perhaps we've been doing a bit too much lately.
Check out the tiny video posted of Henry & Wynne's gymnastics and that will give you a vision on thursday. It was practice for future stunt man auditions...all day. We did manage to sneak in a visit to the lovely Virginia Tech Gardens where we found bluebells, redbuds, magnolias, tulips, daffodils, hyacinth, dogwood and a few cherry blossoms all bursting with color.
Bryce joined us this afternoon - Hooray!! Hiking up to Cascade Falls (just outside of Blacksburg, VA). A perfect day for it. Lots of granite stones and boulders to climb on, amazing rushing clear water, lots of interesting waterfalls and the grand prize - Cascade Falls. A 65 foot cascading waterfall to behold at the end of your 2 mile, uphill hike. We did stop to explore the stream quite a bit on the way up. At one point Henry decided to forge a new trail across the stream on a fallen log (um...I might mention here that the log was nearly 8 ft. above the very fast moving water) to what he called "a really interesting rock, mom." He luckily made it back to us alive, with one foot wetter, as I continued to breathe deeply into a paper bag. It should be noted that I am NOT a nervous nellie type, but seeing your son just balance beam walk across a HUGE fallen log over moving water as if he is Indiana Jones is a bit terrifying for the onlooking mother. The trail back down from the falls was not as enjoyable as the boys used their energies to get to the falls, making the trip back nothing new and interesting. Right around the 3.25 mile mark a whining party commenced, scattering wildlife far and wide. While we all did complete the 4 mile loop, there were few smiles from mile 3.5 to 4.
Found some good grub on the way back home and were all the better for it.
A day of history and culture. Out of the house early, we headed for Staunton, and the Frontier Culture Museum. This is a mostly outdoor museum consisting of several "homesteads" from a West African village in the 1700s (the slaves origins), an English homestead from 1600s with a milk cow, geese, sheep, chickens and the house and barns, an Irish Homestead with house, pens, stone fences, pigs, etc, a German Homestead with house, barn, garden, animals, well, etc and two homesteads "Appalachian style" one circa 1840 and one 1880. This place was very interesting and fun to walk around. This was a great way for all of us to learn about the various cultures based on their types of homes, gardens, animals and architectural patterns. Also, the German, Irish and English buildings were all authentic and brought from their respective countries and reconstructed on site. A blacksmith was working along with other guides in homes making cheese, buckets, and playing old time fiddle music. It was an educational and fun day in the sun. Again, the loop around the villages was a bit over 3 miles and yes, you guessed it, the walk back to the visitors center was slow and staggering. A popsicle at the finish improved moods greatly.
We drove into the town of Staunton (a town of nearly 350 years) and enjoyed the downtown scene, checking out the Cranberry Grocery & Cafe for some wraps and salads, then found some great gelato and sorbet at the Split Banana. All of these fun activities left us hoping for a slow and quiet Sunday. We wish you all the same.
Easter weekend brought us warm weather and lots of fun. Saturday we attempted to kayak at Claytor Lake State Park. Our plan was to kayak around the lake, enjoying the sunshine and scenery. Unfortunately, after an hour of kayaking INTO 45 mph winds with the boys shouting, "C'mon mom, C'mon dad! Turn on your engines!" we finally gave up and headed back to the docks. The return trip took about 30 seconds with the wind at our backs! Ha! Oh well, we had fun anyway. Building volcanoes and castles at the swimming beach proved fun until those wind gusts brought the sand into our faces. Yuck. Back home for some relaxation and togetherness.
Sunday we were lucky enough to be invited back to Harry and Gail's farm for a delicous lunch and Easter egg hunt. Their daughter Sarah and her son William (a charming little cutie) were also there for the fun. The boys had a great time hunting eggs all over the farm, finding the eggs filled with animals and playdough so they could be enjoyed for years to come. What a lovely day! We enjoyed visiting and felt lucky to have spent the day with these kind and generous folks. Hope you all had an equally fun spring day!
Up bright and early with the rest of the D.C. area burbs, we were on the meto and headed back into the city for the Cherry Blossom Festival and the Kite Festival, all taking place in, around or near the National Mall. We arrived, squished ourselves out of the train with everyone else and decided that first, we'd finish up with any museum business that didn't get taken care of yesterday. Henry, Bryce and I went back to the Museum of Natural History. Henry just HAD to introduce Bryce to his new friend Darwin at the evolution exhibit, and take one last look at the dinosaurs and ancient cultures rooms before moving on to dead presidents and memorials.
Jake and Chelsea generously volunteered to take Wynne to the Air and Space museum to see the fast rockets and airplanes. This was a big step of independence for the little guy, being the first time he has been separated from family and done something with friends all by himself. Proud as punch and lifting off the ground like a little rocket himself, he held Jake's hand and Chelsea's hand and headed to the museum with his best buds.
Sometime later we all met up, enjoyed hotdogs and half-smokes (these are sausages, not cigarettes) and walked and walked and walked and walked some more, seeing kites of all colors surrounding the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial (where Wynne declared,"what! we're going to that stadium!"), the FDR memorial (where Henry hijacked the camera and took 200 pictures of the various waterfalls and statues), through the Cherry Blossoms along the Potomac, to the Jefferson Memorial (where we lost Wynne's glasses.) Whew! If you are saying, "Wow, that is the longest run-on sentence ever." It is because that is exactly how it felt going from one place to the next with 3000 other people (or more) packed all around us. It was a good time, but a crowded one at that. Lovely and crowded.
The boys had walked all this way, all day by themselves and were beginning to lose it so we decided to head back to the Metro station (which felt like a bazillion blocks away) at the Smithsonian stop. Nearing this station, with Henry on Bryce's shoulders, and Wynne on mine, we noticed that the queue just to get down the escalator to the platform was stretching across the mall. Yikes! We walked on in search of Dim Sum. This is what the boys had decided they needed at the time. Specifically, every kind of chinese dumpling available, ever made. Finally, we found the Federal Triangle stop (not as far as we feared) and made it to China town for a Dim Sum experience that was delicious, but perhaps a bit too much for all of us. The combination of our slap-happy boys and the loud "house music" we'll say made for some videos I will refrain from posting, but will keep in my files for future bribery. The boys were done! We escaped the restaurant quickly, even if not so quietly, grabbed a chocolate crepe from a vendor for dessert and headed back to our hotel via Metro train.
We stepped out of the station in Alexandria and noticed things were all too quiet, and where was our hotel shuttle bus anyway? Only to find out that the shuttle stopped running about the same time our children did. Thank goodness for Chelsea, we called her and she kindly came to our rescue. Thank you Chelsea! We returned and counted zzzzs.
Rainy weather kept us from wanting to go back to the city, so instead we were off to Monticello. We made a quick stop at the Prince William Forest for a short hike, but the boys were a bit hostile about going for a hike after walking around the city for 3 days non-stop, so we cut it short and went on over to the Jeffersons'. Monticello was lovely, even in the rain. I cannot begin to describe what an interesting and amazing place this is. The tour, however, proved to be a bit more than a 3 year old was willing to handle, so we didn't stay too long after to explore. And that is pretty much the end of this adventure. I'll post another soon.