Saturday, July 30, 2016

High Country Day Trip

Yesterday we headed to the mountains for a much needed escape from the heat. (Who wouldn't choose temperatures in the mid-70's over upper 90's?) Our previous trips to the High Country have always included staying around Boone/Blowing Rock. This year we chose to explore the Linville Falls area instead.  While there were plenty of joyful moments throughout the day, they were outweighed by moments of frustration, exhaustion, and bitterness. 

We left immediately after breakfast and were on the road around 7:30 a.m. We arrived at our first stop, Linville Falls, by 10. Everyone was in good spirits and eager to begin our day of adventure. 

We utilized the wagon as much as we could. As the path became steeper, Jesse and I alternated the challenging task of pulling the 100+ lb wagon up the hills.

Eventually, we ditched the wagon behind some trees when the terrain became too rugged.

We arrived at the first overlook in great moods.

Unlike our last waterfall experience, you cannot wade or swim in any part of Linville Falls. The currents are far too fast.

Instead of playing in the water, we played on the rocks.

We continued onward, up a steeper incline to a different overlook. Jackson amused me when he picked up a dried up plant and exclaimed,"I found a fox tail!" We finished reading Fantastic Mr. Fox last week and there was a scene where the farmers shot off Mr. Fox's tail. The plant looked just like the illustration in the book.

By the time we reached the higher landing we were all tired, hungry, and thirsty. The overlook was more open (i.e. not toddler friendly) so we left quickly.

Jesse and I had been to Linville Falls together during college. For some reason our memory was different from the reality, especially when it came to picnic tables, bathrooms, and water fountains. Finding none of those things, we loaded up hungry, tired children and drove ten minutes to our next destination, Linville Caverns.

Jesse bought tickets while I started making PB&J sandwiches. Everyone was happy to eat and play.

James peed in his pants outside. Thankfully this was the one and only accident among the trio the entire day. We had brought several changes of clothes for the toddlers so it wasn't a big deal, though we were hyper aware and forced the kids to sit on the potty at every available opportunity.

I was so excited about going inside the cave! Jesse and I had visited the cavern in college, but that was ten years ago. I was mostly excited to see the kids' reactions. I just knew Jackson would love it because we're reading The BFG and the giant lives in a cave. Plus, Batman trained in a cave. It seemed like an obvious good time. Boy was I wrong! Jackson was a total brat the entire time, whining and throwing a little tantrum. He blocked the path, whimpered about water dripping on him, and complained the whole time. We so rarely pay for entertainment; the fact that he was ungrateful and we had invested money made me that much more frustrated.

Thank goodness the others enjoyed/tolerated their underground experience. Maddie was clingy as expected, but didn't cry.

Amelia was a true spelunker, trying to go ahead of the group with total confidence.

James stayed close by and loudly repeated random things the tour guide said. The only time the kids became upset was when the guide turned out all of the lights. Experiencing total darkness is an incredible, rare moment that the kids did not appreciate.

I was so over Jackson's attitude that I was ready to go home, despite it only being early afternoon. Jesse gave a come to Jesus talk to Jackson in the van. We agreed to proceed with original plans for Grandfather Mountain.

 All four kids were asleep in a matter of minutes. It was only a 25 minute drive but I wanted the kids to get a decent nap. I pulled over when I saw a random sign for a fresco at a church.  With the engine running, Jesse and I took turns getting out to see the fresco.

It was beautiful, but so high up that it was hard to see the details.

We continued the drive to Grandfather Mountain. Jackson woke up screaming as we were at the entrance. Thankfully, it didn't take long for the kids to get excited about the mountain.

I wanted to get a family picture before we walked across the swinging bridge. A stranger took this photo for me. She was taking more photos, but just as I tried to pull Maddie closer, Maddie flung herself the opposite way and tumbled down a few stairs. While it could have been scary, Jesse and I could both see she was fine and I immediately picked her up. However, one would assume I had murdered her based on the gasps of onlookers and our photographer. I guess they thought she was going to topple over the mountain. Thank God for small stone walls! I didn't attempt anymore family pictures.

Many people are scared of the bridge. I guess a mile high suspension bridge could be frightening to someone afraid of heights. No one in our family was remotely fazed. We walked across it multiple times.

Jesse took Jackson up on the high rocks across the other side of the bridge while I stayed behind with James, Amelia, and Maddie. Unfortunately he didn't have his phone so I don't have any photos of the boys. Here are some pictures of the trio and the gorgeous scenery.

Blessedly, our usual wind-fearing girl didn't freak out with the high winds. She was surprisingly content.

We descended the mountain. Jesse made fun of me for taking a picture of the road, but those curves are just unreal!

This was the point in the day when things began to unravel quickly. Grandfather Mountain is not cheap, so we wanted to make the most of our trip. The kids were tired of walking but they really wanted to see the bears. In order to persevere Jesse and I had to either pull a wagon, carry a child, or have a child on our shoulders. After doing the same thing for hours at the waterfalls and caverns, we were over it. We saw the bears.

and then we walked back to the van and left. There were plenty of other animals to see, but Jesse and I were both losing our patience. The kids had a snack in the van while we rode along the stunning viaduct. I had to refrain from stopping at every overlook to soak in the beauty of the mountains. Here's one particularly calming view of Price Lake.

Once we were down the mountain we stopped for dinner at Cookout. Our moods lifted greatly after stopping to eat and drink. Granted, we spent half of our time in the bathroom, but that's our new norm with potty training triplets.

The drive home was uneventful. The kids were strangely hyper and laughed a lot. It was already past the trio's bedtimes when we got home so we immediately got everyone ready for bed. While getting Jackson ready for bed, Amelia was eager to show us this photo in her Goodnight, North Carolina book. She showed us pictures of mountains, waterfalls, and the bridge.

It was by no means a relaxing trip, but I know we created family memories and the kids were able to make connections with everything they saw and did. Now we just need a day to recover!

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