One of the items on our summer bucket list was an overnight trip to Boone. We've taken the kids there at least once a year ever since Jackson was an infant. Both Jesse and I fell in love with the area while attending college there and we want to expose our kids to the beauty of the mountains.
We planned to leave right after Sunday breakfast. I wanted to stop somewhere along the way so the kids wouldn't be stuck in the van for two hours right after they woke up. They slept for the first hour before we stopped for our first adventure. My college roommate suggested we visit Kerr Scott Dam in Wilkesboro. It was lunchtime when we arrived, so we scarfed down the picnic lunch I had packed, then played on the playground. The bathroom photo is perhaps inappropriate, but it was too bizzare not to photograph. The restrooms looked standard enough with a concrete building and painted doors. Inside revealed a spacious portajohn with no plumbing or electricity whatsoever. At least we had a beautiful view of the lake with mountains in the distance.
I originally planned to let the kids wade in the water. The lake had a section clearly roped off with a depth marked 5 feet or less. All six of us ended up changing into swimsuits and getting in the water. Jackson played freely while wearing his puddle jumper. Jesse and I took turns swimming with a toddler while one stayed with the other two toddlers on shore. Of course, James loved the water whereas the girls preferred the sand. As we were walking back to the van, James began running. He loves to run away, turn around to make sure he's being chased, then laugh hysterically. Unfortunately, when he turned around he ended up diving into a pile of rocks. This kid can't seem to avoid injuries!
After several hours at the lake and another 40 minutes driving, we were able to check-in to our hotel as soon as we arrived in Boone. I had called ahead to request three cribs be placed in our room, but I was told the hotel only had one pack-in-play. Thankfully the receptionist was mistaken, because three brand new pack-in-plays were delivered to our room. We set up the pack-in-plays and unpacked, before heading downtown.
Jackson's only request the whole trip was to go to the candy store. The Mast General Store is one of his favorite places. Throughout the year, he talks about going to the mountains and getting candy. This was the first time the trio were able to walk around. At one point, Maddie was carrying at least five ring pops.
Though Jesse and I lived in Boone for four years, we experienced things as care-free adults, not parents of four young children. We never considered what places were toddler friendly. I wanted to go to Howard's Knob so the kids could see the overview of the campus. I thought it would be a good spot because for the kids because you just drive up very steep roads and visit the park. Unfortunately, we weren't able to take the trio down to the fence because it was not safe to get all the kids down the path. Jesse helped Jackson rock climb down to the view while I played with the trio. Then we switched.
I still can't believe I was lucky enough to be surrounded by these mountains everyday.
Jesse was getting very hungry (aka grumpy) so we stopped for dinner. We picked a Chinese buffet because kids under two eat free. People underestimate how much our kids, especially James, can eat!
My beloved flip flops broke on the rocks and Jesse grabbed the wrong size shoes for Maddie, so we made a quick detour at Walmart after dinner. This was a laughable experience due to a scavenger hunt for a family cart, in addition to overhearing gross conversations of Walmart employees.
It was the trio's bedtime once we returned to the hotel. Jackson colored quietly and fell asleep easily. The girls were especially giggly, which gave me a glimpse into the future with sleepovers with friends. James jumped and threw things out of his pack-n-play. Eventually everyone fell asleep, though Maddie slept in bed with me and Jackson and Jesse shared a bed.
We slept in, packed up, ate our continental breakfast, and checked out of the hotel before 10 a.m. We made a quick stop to visit a mutual friend from college, then set out for the Parkway.
One of my favorite places in the High Country is Moses Cone Manor. Jesse took Jackson inside the house while I coaxed the trio down the stairs and shoved the empty strollers down the steep hill. There are ample hiking trails. We picked an easy paved trail. Jackson has been especially temperamental lately and he refused to walk. His latest thing is wanting to sit in the stroller.
I was growing increasingly irritated because it was clear that we weren't going to be able to go for a walk. Jesse suggested we recreate our wedding photos. He pulled up some pictures from a Facebook album and we found the exact spot where one of the photos was taken. The stranger who took the family photos was such a bad photographer it was comical. He managed to get his finger in every photo! Once I cropped his finger out of it, it didn't even look like the same place as our wedding photos. Oh well. At least it turned my mood around.
The only planned item on our mountain getaway was to visit my very dear friend, Laurie. When I was in college I worked as youth director at the same church where Laurie worked as music director. She also played the piano at our wedding. I cannot say enough good things about this woman and I'm grateful my kids were able to meet her. She has recently opened her own music studio. The kids were able to play on the keyboards and boomwhackers.
The last stop on our mountain adventure was Cascades Waterfall of the Parkway. We ate our picnic lunch then braved a "leisurely hike". This was our first real family hike, and it was tough! At different times during the hike, Jesse and I took turns wearing James, pushing a stroller (more like picking it up over roots), carrying 1-2 girls, and holding a child's hand. We had to ditch the stroller at one point because there were several flights of stairs.
Jackson was in a great mood and assumed the role as guide. He led the way and warned us of every root, rock, and low hanging branch. I wasn't able to take many pictures of the actual waterfall because supervising the kids along the rails became tricky. In hindsight, it wasn't the most toddler friendly hike, but I would do it again.
We were able to accomplish a lot without spending much money (other than Chinese buffet, cheap shoes, candy, and a hotel room). I want our kids to appreciate the mountains as much as we do. I want their childhood to be filled with memories of swimming in lakes, hiking to waterfalls, and climbing rocks.
Thanks, Boone, for another great adventure!