After spending the first part of the summer moving and traveling back up to Virginia for 10 days of activities for the kids (during which time we stayed in a hotel), Jim and I had not planned on a family vacation. In our minds, we had spent the vacation money on other adventures. The kids mentioned wanting to take a trip a few times, but we explained that moving and the Virginia twirling competition and the theater camp up there were our vacation for this summer. Understandably, that wasn’t what they wanted to hear. After all, we usually spend at least two weeks of our summer on family vacation(s). Time that is dedicated to togetherness and fun.
A few weeks ago, Emerald mentioned to me again that she really wanted to take a family trip. Just as I was about to give her the “I understand, but this year . . .” answer, she continued to say that it was important to her to have a vacation before she started school, “even if it’s just a couple of days at Great Wolf Lodge.” That stopped my response on my lips. She wasn’t asking for an extravagant trip. She was asking for two days not an hour away. I told her I’d discuss it with her dad and we’d see, but it seemed like something we might be able to do.
Jim’s response was the same as mine. We can do that. When we progressed to discussing when, he mentioned that any of the few weekends before he started back to school or the one after he started, but before the kids came back would not be good ones to be away. He knew he’d be stressed about starting a new teaching job and might need that time to get more prepared. He also didn’t think he’d be much fun on a vacation any of those weekends.
But there was one weekend after his students returned before Emerald went back to school, so we decided that was the one to plan on. Next, Jim had a thought of another destination. He got online and researched mountain cabins for rent, then mentioned his idea to me. We asked the kids if they would like to go to the mountains (for our first visit to the N.C. mountains) for a weekend instead of Great Wolf Lodge. They cheered and hollered. We had a plan.
This past weekend was that weekend. We left Friday afternoon almost as soon as Jim got home from work. As luck would have it, we ran into a bit of traffic right off the bat, but three hours later, we pulled up to this lovely cabin.
We spent the next hour playing Go Fish and Old Maid. Then we hit the hay to rest up for our next day’s adventures (and slept soundly to the sounds of the babbling creek just outside our walls).
We had a leisurely Saturday morning, drinking coffee, talking, and listening to the sounds of nature. About mid-morning, we left the cabin and headed up to Grandfather Mountain for Sapphire’s first ever real hike. [The last time we took a family hike, she was riding on my back in a baby backpack and Emerald was six.] Although she was very excited, I wondered how long it would take before she was bored and complaining about how much further.
With this lovely trail (about 20 minutes each way; it was like walking up stone steps),
and with these views
that time never came.
In fact, the kids were enjoying the hike so much, they asked me to take their pictures.
At the top, both kids conquered their fears of this suspension bridge.
And we were greeted with even more spectacular views.
We also discovered what a little mountain goat Sapphire is. Jim and I each heard, “I got this” from her as she scrambled over rocks.
We even have a fun family picture, taken by a very nice lady we encountered at the top of the mountain.
And a cute one of the girls.
On the way down, while the rest of us carefully made our way down the rocky path, Sapphire literally hopped from rock to rock (despite my repeated directions to walk not jump). That kid is a little too confident in her abilities for her own good, but she did well and didn’t come close to slipping.
Along the way, we climbed into a small cave.
After getting back to the parking lot, we grabbed some lunch, and visited the animal habitat exhibits*,
the fudge shop, and the gift shop.
*I joked with the kids that we should say that we saw these bears in the wild, since you can’t see any fences. We might have even been able to pull that off with the cougar.
We then headed back to the cabin to play in creek.
And on the hammock.
That evening, we (the “royal we”, meaning Jim) built a fire in the fire pit. Emerald and I boiled hot dogs and heated baked beans on the stove, to prepare for our roasting party over an open fire.
We roasted hot dogs.
And then for dessert, marshmallows.
To make the best S’mores any of us had ever eaten.*
*After the hot dog roasting, the kids and Jim went back up to the cabin for the S’mores fixin’s. They came back in parade formation, doing a little cha-cha and ended with a flourish.
After we put out the fire, we headed back inside to play a game of Sorry before bed.
I posted on Facebook that it was the perfect family day. And it was.
Sunday was fabulous, too. We spent part of the morning at a gem mine.
When we were all done, the staff at the mine helped us sort out the gems from the just plain rocks. They placed them on sheets identifying the stones for us. Here is one (out of five) of them.
We had a fair number of sapphires, emeralds, and amethysts. We also found a few smokey quartz, several tourmalines, a handful of aqua marine, some rose quartz, iolite, garnet, and citrine. We took the gems over to the on-site jeweler (who is also the owner of the mine), and he helped us design a pair of earrings for each girl (amethyst for Sapphire and verdelite tourmaline for Emerald) and a sapphire ring for me. We should receive the jewelry in a couple of weeks, in time for Sapphire’s and my birthdays. We also found a geode, which the jeweler cut in half and mailed to us. So cool! All in all a perfect first mining trip.
After a bite of lunch and a short game of billiards at a very family friendly billiard hall/restaurant, we strolled down Main Street, Blowing Rock and headed home to get ready for Emerald’s first day of middle school.
We have all dubbed this the perfect way to spend our one true vacation of the summer. We’ll be going back, maybe before too long.