Monday, March 21, 2016

Spring Break: Eastern Style

After two Spring Breaks in sleepy {read that “AMAZINGLY DIVINE” in my vocabulary} Rockport, Texas, we decided to do something different this go ‘round.  We headed to Atlanta to spend back to back weekends with Jeff’s parents and stuff the week between with a little touring.

After celebrating Michael’s birthday and getting some cousin, in-law, sibling time in, we headed to Helen, a little German influenced town in north Georgia.

Jeff’s mom’s name is Betty. ; )
We talked his parents and sister’s family into going with us-- and I’m so glad they did.  Everything is more fun with some more Sanders-- and Moyes!

Boiled peanuts-- 2 votes, yes.  1 vote, no.

It was a gorgeous day to see north Georgia.  I forget we have some mountains-- thanks to the Appalachains.

Trying out some authentic German food with their cousins

This girl loves a little thrift shop. A German one is even better.

Taken for the sole benefit of her cousin, Hunter.

This store was a favorite for all of us.

Only Jeff and I cared for this one. ; )

And, oh yes, we made it to another national park and it was a beauty.  The trees hadn’t yet greened out but they were trying.   It was our first park with all the rivers and small falls.  The fog was enchanting.

Cades Cove was dreamy in the early morning hours. So glad we got our lazy selves out of bed to do it! 

Laurel Falls - we loved all the water in the Smokies. 

This girl comes alive in these parks- just like she used to when I'd push her around in a stroller.

I loved the history still standing in this park- churches and homesteads and clubs. We especially liked the churches.

Here is Julia's reaction to the early morning history lesson....and here is B's....

Boots?  Why boots, you say?  Well, it’s the only pair he packed--the ones he had on his feet. 

Part of the old Appalachain Club-- interesting history if you like that sort of thing...

And then on to white water rafting-- The Pigeon River!

Excuse the quality here- I already had my phone in its high tech super duper water proof case! I have to admit -- I kind of enjoyed seeing my 12 and 14 year old a little scared.  
(Cocky teenagers get on my nerves) 

The kids did great.  They really didn't have a choice because our AMAZING GUIDE kept them busy the entire time! They obeyed his every command ---- and I told him he should lead parenting conferences. 

A good friend reminded me it was National Pi Day so that seemed the perfect excuse to find a good place for pie. 

And B gave us a 12 year old boy pose.

When you make reservations online and trust the pictures on the sites, it can be a little scary.  Jeff usually does this for us so all of the pressure is on him.  Our drive to this place, I can imagine he felt like a hot tea kettle about to screech. We all got a bit worried as we drove the rain guttered, pot holed roads up, up, up and up. I have no words to describe the, ummm, colorful, eclectic homes we rock and rolled beside on our trek up the mountain.  When greeted by dogs, goats, chickens and an albino turkey, Jeff never even stopped when the sign clearly read "STOP HERE. Check in HERE. Go no further." He bowled right on through and up the mountain to check out the cabin he'd rented online- and thankfully, the cabin checked out fine.  So then he obeyed and we drove-carefully-back down the mountain to be greeted by Miss Mary and her menagerie of animals- owner of Randall Glen Farms. Once we figured it all out, it was a magical place. It is a working ranch of sorts -- I'll let her describe it:

You can see the cabins above.  It was a wonderful place.
"Randall Glen is located just outside Asheville in the historic farming community of Big Sandy Mush. Completely isolated by mountains, this picture postcard valley is still farmed by original settler families and has no commercial development at all. We’re on Newfound Mountain at the very end of the valley, and have over a hundred acres of mountainside and rolling pasture filled with wildflowers, creeks, and forest. We’re surrounded by thousands of acres of conservancy land, and wildlife flourishes here. Our home farm, Randall Cove Farm, is at an elevation of 3100 feet and our Randall Glen mountaintop is at 3600 feet, giving us wonderfully cool summer air and great snow in the winter. We’re so high, in fact, that sometimes we’re actually surrounded by clouds.”


When I was there I kept thinking I would have loved to have stayed there when the kids were little.
She invites the kids to come down early and help the ranch hands feed the animals.  Julia accepted the invitation- actually, we all did.

When I went on a walk by myself, I got to watch a baby goat being born and watch the mother get it to its feet so she could birth her second one. Of course, I didn't take my camera on the walk.

We highly recommend this place but book early. Miss Mary is busy. 

We left the farm to get some good grub AND to see the Biltmore House.  Both the Biltmore and the Tupelo Honey Cafe were super-- if I had to RE-visit one, it’d be the Tupelo Honey Cafe. ; )

Our next stop was Congaree National Park!!! Aren't you pumped about that for us ?!? Yes, Congaree. I know you've never heard of it. Neither had I!

Here's the deal-- or here is why it's a big deal:

"Astonishing biodiversity exists in Congaree National Park, the largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeastern United States.  Waters from the Congaree and Wateree Rivers sweep through the floodplain, carrying nutrients and sediments that nourish and rejuvenate this ecosystem and support the growth of national and state champion trees."
Those are smart conservationist people words and but it was really beautiful. It was a bright blue sunny day- a beautiful walk through this unusual forest. Brighton still talks about how much he loved it. 

The greens were budding out at all heights. And I love greens -- especially on a back drop of blue. I'm so glad we had this day in the Congaree.

Sweet moment-- rare and treasured......


We spent the end of trip back in Atlanta and took Jeff’s parents out on the town.  We hit The Pig and Pearl and met some sweet friends from home who were in the area too.  I’ll never forget Meema ordering sweet potatoes and creme brulee as her meal!

We then saw the city by Ferris Wheel.  Atlanta is a beautiful town.

It’d been a long time since I’d been to The Varsity so it was a stop we had to make.

I’m so grateful for these years to make memories with our kids.  My parents did a great job of planning things for us to-- vacations and such.  Those are the times we seem to remember the most-- not the day to day.  Jeff started counting the summers a couple of years ago and realized we didn’t have many left.  So this has become priority. And we are having a ball!

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