Sunday, September 14, 2014

Kiawah in the Fall

The kids and I spent a week at Kiawah Island. My sister Kelly was able to spend several days with us as well.  It was a trip full of new experiences and much relaxation!
We rode our bikes all over the island and found two of the marsh view towers. 
 The views were spectacular.
 
  One of the towers is on an island nature area.
In the middle of the week we took the ferry from Charleston to tour Fort Sumter for the first time.
The fort was really interesting and the park ranger talk was really well done. 

I find listening to the park ranger talks to be the best part of visiting our national parks and monuments. 

The gentleman telling the story at the Wright Brothers Museum in Kill Devil Hills, NC had the entire crowd so enthralled that many of us were moved to tears with his retelling of the story.  

But I digress. 

Unfortunately, you're only allowed a short time to explore the fort (less than an hour) and we felt we had to rush through to see as much as we could.
One thing that took up a lot of time on the fort was finding all the answers to the Junior Ranger questionnaire.
Back on land, the kids passed their test, took the oath and got their Junior Ranger badges as well as their names on the Junior Ranger wall of fame.
The last of firsts on this trip was kayaking the Kiawah River.  It was hot and exhausting but fun. 
We also had the added pleasure {sarcasm} of paddling against in the incoming tide on our way out and against the outgoing tide on the way back in.  

We'll definitely check the tide schedule before the next time we go out!
And so you can say you learned something while reading this, the Kiawah River is not an actual river but is instead a salt marsh and estuary. Now, don't you feel smarter?
We had a wonderful visit and look forward to getting back down to KI in December.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Stone Mountain Camping

Eliza Grace and I joined some fellow American Heritage Girl (AHG) families for a camp out last weekend at Stone Mountain State Park in North Carolina.

I had detailed in a Facebook post how much I dislike camping in general, but I have to admit that, despite the never ending rain, I really enjoyed myself!  Of course that was due to the companionship rather than sleeping outdoors.
We arrived on Friday evening with enough daylight to set up the tent, wander around the campsites, find the all too important bathhouse, and visit with neighbors.
That night we built a little fire that survived the rain long enough to let us make s'mores and then we headed off to bed.
The next morning I set up the cook stove and Eliza Grace whipped up some chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast. Afterward she even did the dishes!
Then, despite the continued misty rain, we headed off with some AHG friends to hike to the top of Stone Mountain.
 
The canopy of trees kept us fairly dry for most of the hike up.
   
There were a couple of rock plateaus along the way and they had all kinds of natural holes and waterways on the rock face.
We sort of felt like we were exploring the moon with all the little craters.

We also came upon the occasional cool little tree growing out of the rock. 

They made nice resting spots.
And of course the views to the west were amazing.
That's Grandfather Mountain out there.
 Beautiful flora everywhere.
 Finally, we made it to the top for the ultimate view.
Eliza Grace had to get closer to the edge to see that tree. However, I was happy to stay further back.
The hike back down the mountain included some serious rain from which no amount of tree canopy could protect us. 

By the time we were back at the bottom, we were soaked to the skin and ready to be somewhere warm and dry which, sadly, the tent was not.  Which explains why we sat in the car with the heat on for about 15 minutes. After a quick change of clothes, I turned off the car, covered Eliza Grace in blankets and let her take a nice long nap in the front seat. 

Dryness and a good nap do wonders for the camping soul!

That evening we had all had it with the rain, and did not relish the idea of cooking in a downpour, so we decided to run into town for pizza.  

If you're ever in Elkin, NC, we definitely recommend Amalfi's Pizza!

The next morning Eliza Grace and I packed up the tent and all our other paraphernalia in record time (our new "instant tent" is REALLY easy to take down) and we decided to do one more quick hike to see a nearby waterfall.  It was only .6 miles round trip from the trail head so we figured we could hike it, take a few pictures and be back in 30 minutes at the most.

We were wrong.

The trail started off just fine.  We even came across this chimney that stood there all by itself on the side of the trail.
But then the trail began a downhill slope and kept getting steeper and steeper.  

We should have been slightly deterred by the signs that kept warning of maiming and death. Seriously, there were a couple of them along the trail.  

For some reason, we kept walking.
Once we arrived at the top of the waterfall, we had to walk down a ~40 degree decline on the rock face. Did I mention it was misting once again at this point?
Then to get to the bottom of the waterfall, there were the stairs.
Somewhere in the neighborhood of 350 stairs in total.
There was a brief respite landing halfway down with all the very necessary warnings about how we would perish if not careful.
Then we headed down more and more and more stairs.
Finally, we made it to the bottom of a very pretty waterfall to a fairly anti-climatic little pool.

Eliza Grace took this action water shot.
We walked a bit further and found this lovely little fairy-sized waterfall in the creek.
And there's a cute little wood sprite now!
After enjoying the beautiful, peaceful sights and sounds of the woods, you know what we had to do then. 

Go back up.
All ~350 steps and back up the 40 degree incline.

Eliza Grace literally hopped up the steps.  She stopped about every 75 steps or so just to see if I was still alive. It was so thoughtful of her.

People, she wasn't even winded when she reached the top.  

I know I was the same way back when I was 12. But alas, I am 12 no longer.

Regardless, I was so proud of us both and it was worth every achy, stiff leg muscle I hobbled around on the next day.

Overall we had a great time and we definitely recommend you check out Stone Mountain State Park, NC!