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.