The Start of Fall Break

Katie Beth’s Fall Break has started. We are having a small detour with a night of camping before we head to the beach. Our detour was caused by Hurricane Nate arriving this weekend.

Karen has had her heart set on returning to Lei Lani for Fall Break. She just loves the beach in early Fall. The water is warm and days are not the full heat of summer. It is funny because our last travel plans were canceled due Hurricane Irma hitting Florida.

But, the weather is great for camping so this will be prefect start to her break.

Easter in Blue Ridge: Day 6

Today’s activities started with a big delay as Karen couldn’t find her phone and it wasn’t responding to Apple’s “Find My Phone” or to her Apple Watch’s search capabilities.  Karen was sure the battery must have died.  We searched for hours. After tearing the cabin apart, we finally found the phone. Karen was so relieved.

We decided to head out to hike Dukes Creek Falls Trail near Blairsville, Georgia and to visit Helen, Georgia that we have heard so much about from Hope. The drive was beautiful through the mountains of Georgia.  Along the way, we stopped at various overlooks.  The picture above is from one of those overlooks.

In Blairsville, we spotted a thrift store, had to stop, and we scored a few items.

Katie Beth and me on the viewing platform of Dukes Creek FallsDukes Creek Falls is a beautiful cascade of 150 feet.  The trail itself is about 2.3 miles round trip.  Along the trail, you have beautiful views of Duke Creek.  The actual falls are on Davis Creek, which join Duke Creek at the base of the falls.  We saw trout fishermen and lots of cascades in Duke Creek.

Karen wished we had had time to hike the Raven Cliff Falls Trail, but the round trip distance of 5 to 6 miles was too much. The falls cuts through a rock at the top of a cliff.

Dukes Creek Falls Trail

Helen Georgia ArchitectureWe arrived in Helen very hungry so we drove around town looking for a place to eat and learned that parking is a big deal in Helen as there are parking lots every where with high fees.  The town is a tourist destination, but we arrived in the off-season so the place was empty. Most of the town is decorated as a little German Village. Many of the residents are of a German heritage and a great many speak with a German accent.
Katie Beth and Karen at The Troll TavernKaren wanted fish for our late lunch so we decided on The Troll Tavern & Restaurant, which is under the bridge on the Chattahoochee River.  The food was very good and Katie Beth loved playing in the river on the rocks.  We could have sat along the river for hours. The weather was wonderful with mild temperatures and a nice breeze.  Katie Beth in Chattahoochee RiverKatie Beth had children to play with on the rocks.  We even had a parent compliment Katie Beth on how nice she was with their child.

Many places were closed, which could have been do to the season or that is was a Monday. But, we did find Zu Zu’s Petals Rock Shop. Karen and Katie Beth enjoyed exploring the store.  The owner let Karen have some free single crystal Staurolite samples.  Karen is wanting to find in the wild the double crystal form of Staurolite, which is in the form of a cross.

As the day came to a close, we needed to head back toward our cabin for dinner and to be packed for tomorrow’s trip home.

You can view all the photos here.  Remember , username and password are “Friends” and “Photos”.

Easter in Blue Ridge: Day 4

Dwarf Violet IrisWe all had a slow start this morning. After a late breakfast, we relaxed on the balcony.

We decided to drive over to the swinging bridge for a small hike and the view of the Toccoa river.  The drive to the bridge is beautiful.  We took the more eastern route, which provides views of the mountains, hills, and old farms.  The western route follows the Toccoa river more closely.  The trail is nice and easy, but the last 3 miles of gravel road requires a vehicle with high clearance and it will beat you up driving it.

Fallen Tree ChairThe flower is a Dwarf Violet Iris that was found along the trail.  We stopped at the fallen tree chair for a quick family photo.  On our hike, we saw a huge fallen tree giving Karen a chance to search for special rocks.  While heading back to our car and crossing the bridge, we spotted a Cottonmouth snake swimming across the Toccoa River.  The current didn’t even phase the snake as it swam across.

Toccoa River Swinging Bridge

Hannah Jones and Katie Beth Allen on Toccoa RiverAfterwards, we headed over to Hope’s cabin to visit before dinner.  Charlie and Katie Beth put on swimsuits so they could play in the Toccoa River on the rocks.  Charlie tried to get Katie Beth to jump into the water off of the rocks, but she wouldn’t have it.  Charlie JonesEventually, Katie Beth felt comfortable and waded into the water. At one point, poor Charlie slipped and hit his face on a rock.  He said it hurt pretty good and it left a good mark.

Hope mashing rutabagasIt was time to head back for Hope’s Easter dinner and an Easter Egg Hunt at Hope’s cabin.  Dinner was about ready, but needed more time.  Karen, Hope, and I headed out to hide the Easter Eggs.  The children enjoyed searching for the eggs, but Hannah may be getting too old to see the fun.

After the hunt and very enjoyable dinner, we sat around their fire pit and roasted marshmallows and popped corn.

You can see more of today’s photos here. Remember, the username and password are “Friends” and “Photos”.

Easter in Blue Ridge: Day 3

Fire Pit in Blue Ridge Georgia The morning started with the ladies sleeping late and me making coffee and enjoying it by the fire pit. After breakfast, we headed out for an easy hike to Fall Branch Falls. The weather was great for the 30 minute hike into see the falls. The trail is surrounded by rhododendron.

After the hike, we headed into town for lunch at Blue Ridge Brewery.  I had the African Chicken Soup with Apple & Ham Panini, Katie Beth has Shrimp Mac & Cheese, and Karen had the Spinach and Apple salad.  With lunch finished, we went for another hike.

Old Homestead in Aska Trail AreaKeeping it easy, we hiked the Aska Trail: Long Branch Loop.  The trail has some ups and downs, but it is just a moderate trail.  This time we discovered the remains of an old homestead.  We have hiked and bicycled this trail before and never noticed the homestead.  We even found a snake hiding in the stones of the chimney warming itself.  We took Katie Beth to the Tocca River so she could play on her favorite rocks.  As rain was starting, we drove into town.

We decided to stop at Grumpy Old Men Brewery for some sampling.  Karen had some good adult time chatting with other guest.  Katie Beth enjoyed playing with all the dogs and she and I had a good game of checkers plus other games.

Dying Easter Eggs with CousinsAfter dinner at the cabin, we went to meet Hope and her family to dye eggs to finish off our evening.

You can see more photos from today here.  Remember, the username and password are “Friends” and “Photos”.

Easter in Blue Ridge: Day 2

Katie Beth with Fishing PoleAt morning break, Katie Beth was already heading to the creek with a fishing pole and had her line in the water by 7:30AM. Apparently, the low 50’s is too cold for Katie Beth.

After fishing and playing at the creek, we headed into town for a day of visiting thrift stores.  We scored all sorts of things including a set of dishes for Hope, a cool scientific calculator for Katie Beth, some fabric for sewing crafts, a Minecraft poster for Katie Beth’s room, and more.  We finally visited the hiking consignment store, which keeps odd hours making it hard to checkout.

Blue Ridge Oil CompanyAfter Karen had her fill of thrift store shopping, we visited downtown to see the shops, pickup some gifts, and a quick lunch.  We saw the Black Bear Bier Garten had a great selection of custom made sausages, which would be perfect for dinner at the cabin.  We picked a variety of sausages that included pheasant, venison, and bison.  We had lunch at Masseria Kitchen & Bar, which was great as always.  Next up, Blue Ridge Oil Company was our destination for a few gifts.  The ladies had fun sampling all the variety of oils and vinegars.

Corn shuck dollsAfter sampling and picking up items for dinner, we headed back to the cabin for dinner and relaxation.  Katie Beth played in the creek and Karen fished some.  As dinner time neared, Katie Beth shucked our corn and made corn shuck dolls while we sat in front of the fire pit enjoying the warmth and sounds of the creek.

Hot tub relaxationAfter dinner, the ladies relaxed in the hot tub while I tended to the fire and enjoyed some of the beers we picked up.

You can see more of today’s photos here. Remember, the username and password are “Friends” and “Photos”.

Easter in Blue Ridge: Day 1

We are off to spend Easter in Blue Ridge, Georgia and visit my sister, Hope, and her family for Easter dinner.

Katie Beth was excited that we had the car completely packed for the trip when we picked her up from school.  We made quick progress to Chattanooga, but traffic on the interstate through downtown was at a standstill.  We decided to stop in Chattanooga for dinner.

Karen saw that Moccasin Bend Brewing Company would be open so we headed to Crust Pizza to pick up some dinner to take to the brewery.  We ate and got 4 samples to try while Katie Beth played shuffle board for the first time.  The brewery has a very cool look inside and the back patio is great for playing games.

After finishing our samples and pizza, the traffic was gone.  We made our way onto Blue Ridge.  Our cabin is on Fightingtown Creek, which we truly enjoyed fishing and just hearing the water cascading over the rocks.  Being late, we couldn’t fully appreciate the view or creek.

Hiking Around Paul Ronning’s Land

Karen Allen Pausing before jumping creek During our visit to the Birmingham area, we stopped by Karen’s brother’s land to help him find his property’s survey markers. We were down in the area for a rock hounding trip for Karen and Katie Beth. 

Paul’s land is 40 acres that is mostly woods with small creeks running here and there. He is slowly clearing the land of undesirable under growth.  He has some really nice trees on some parts of the land and the land is mainly flat with a ridge line on one side. 

We took our GPS units preloaded with waypoints for the corners of Paul’s property.  We had visited Paul’s land before and had found one of the markers, but Paul didn’t believe it was correct. Today, the GPS confirmed the location and helped us find the other interior corner of the property. 

All of the hiking around had sure tired Paul. Katie Beth would like to explore more of the land, but she may have enjoyed Paul bringing her wafer cookies even more so. Karen really enjoyed helping her brother. 

Natural Well Trail Hike

Natural WellWe went hiking this morning on the Natural Well trail in Monte Sano State Park.  The key feature of the trail is the Natural Well, which is a 191.5′ deep pit. I have never been in the pit, but I understand it features domes and a waterfall.

The weather was beautiful this morning with a light breeze and sunny so the light was dappling through the trees on fallen leaves. The fall colors were wonderful to see.

Katie Beth and Karen with Fall ColorWe hiked 1¾ miles to the pit opening. Along the way, we crossed a previous land slide, which was impressive to see the damage that can cause.  Karen spotted a large knocked down wasp nest and collected pieces for a art project. Katie Beth was collecting large leaves along the whole way.

You can see more photos here.  Remember, the username and password are “Friends” and “Photos”.


Rickwood Cavern State Park Camping

American Heritage Girls Rickwood Cavern CampingWe went camping with our daughter’s American Heritage Girls troop at Rickwood Cavern State Park.  We got an early start on camping as Katie Beth’s school let out at 1 o’clock on Friday since they were having parent-teacher conferences for the first terms report cards.  (By the way, Katie Beth got all A’s, hoot!) We had our campsite setup hours before everyone else started to arrive.

We should have packed more bedding as it got very cool at night.  One night was as low as 40°F.  But, the weather was great during the day for all of our activities.

The park has a nice playground, a pool with a high dive, a couple trials, and the cavern.  The cavern is small and they have tours 4 times a day.  The cave tour costs: $17.00 for age 13 to adult, $8.00 for age 5 to 12.  In the past, cave was setup as fall out shelter and still holds the remains of the supplies from the Civil Defense.  The park grounds are covered with many aquatic fossils as Alabama was historically a seabed.

Fossil Mountain Hiking TrailOn Friday evening, the campers played at the playground.  On Saturday, we did the cave tour and walked Fossil Mountain Hiking Trail.  Everyone enjoyed seeing all of the fossils in the rocks.  On Sunday, we broke camp.  We had to get back to town for a birthday party, but the rest of the group went to the Holy Door of Mercy at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama.

We learned more about camping on this trip.  We need better cold weather sleeping gear.  Blankets take too much space so I see better sleep bags in our future.  A burn restriction prevented wood fires so the cooking plans had to be adjusted and people were expecting a large log fire to keep them warm in the evenings.

You can see more photos here.  Remember, the username and password are “Friends” and “Photos”.

Mammoth Cave National Park Trip

Katie Beth at Mammoth Cave National ParkWe had a long weekend get away to Mammoth Cave National Park.  We checked Katie Beth out early on Thursday, at the chagrin of her teacher, so we could get a head start on the drive.  The weather was great.  Katie Beth thought this was the best cave.  She has gone in Ruby Falls, Cathedral Caverns, and other small caves to compare against.

Gypsum FlowersWe took the Grand Avenue tour on Friday, which includes the Frozen Niagara route, Domes and Dripstones route and the Snowball route.  The gypsum flowers were very cool looking.  It is hard to imagine how large the flowers would’ve been before tourism started in the cave and breaking the gypsum off the ceiling.

Our little cabin was nice even if some air conditioning would have been appreciated on some of the nights.  But, Katie Beth met other children staying in nearby cabins, which made it fun for her.

Spotted Apatelodes moth caterpillarOn Saturday, we took the simple Mammoth Passage tour into the main entrance of the cave so Katie Beth could get a better understanding of the size of Mammoth Cave and see the saltpeter production artifacts.  After the short cave tour, we hiked the River Styx Springs, Echo River Springs, Whites Cave, and Mammoth Dome trails. We saw large numbers of various furry caterpillars along our hike including this Spotted Apatelodes moth caterpillar.

You can see more photos here.