Friday, October 7, 2016

A little family getaway

Since Hensley's school starts back so early (July 26th this year) we got our first academic break during the week that all public schools were just going back. It was a much needed break with a month full of schedules and early mornings. Since my mom's birthday was approaching and we had the time, we decided to do something we have never done before. 

We took a short little trip to the North Carolina mountains with my parents. We have all done a lot of fun stuff together but we have never planned or went on a trip over night together. I was very excited to make some new memories :) 

Our plan was to check out Grandfather Mountain the first day as well as the Linville Caverns then head to the hotel and rest up for the next day when we were going white water rafting!!!!
None of us had ever been so it was all set to be a pretty awesome experience. 

We headed out and I think I was more excited for the scenery on the way up then anyone. Andy and my parents have been to the mountains many many times and Andy has actually been working up there for the past year so they were all use to it. I however was not. I have only been once before and it was on a field trip with Hensley's class and that's not exactly the most peaceful trip! 

Andy, Hensley and I rode in our car and my parents decided to ride their motorcycle because the weather was set to be beautiful! 

It was truly beautiful and since we left early Hensley was quiet watching YouTube and Andy was sleeping. I got to turn up the radio and just enjoy the drive :) 

I was most excited to be able to drive up and stop at a few overlooks on the Blue Ridge Parkway. This place is something everyone should experience and I can't wait to go back when the leaves change!

Trust me when I say that no picture could ever replace standing here over looking these mountains. 

It was so so nice to not be on a schedule and be able to drive slow and get out of the car, snap a few pictures and soak it all in.  

I also don't think I realized just how far UP the mountain Grandfather Mountain is located. It was quite a haul along some very very curvy roads. This also brought on a little bit of car sickness for Hensley and I! :(

I knew there were a few things up there to do but I had no idea what all Grandfather Mountain had to offer. It is definitely a place to spend several hours!!! We had a blast here!
There is a super cool Nature Museum where you can look at some awesome rocks, birds and history found here at Grandfather Mountain. It was super cool. They also have a wildlife exhibit outside where you can see bears, eagles, otters, deer, and cougars. 

It was a GORGEOUS day. The weather seriously could not have been more perfect!!!

I absolutely love this picture of my mom and I.

I think my parents needed this get away so very much!

Two of my favorite people ever!

It was a stunning place and perfect for a photo op :) 
And the greatest thing about it was, there was so no one there!!!

After a quick lunch and a little shopping in the gift shop we headed to the top of Grandfather Mountain. 

It was a beautiful ride up :) 

Once we reached the top I think it took all of breath for a bit. We took a lot of pictures and really enjoyed the view!

We all felt on top of the world and he hadn't even walked the bridge and hiked to the tip top of the mountain yet!!!
I so plan to go back here one year after the leaves change for the fall. I bet it's even more beautiful, that's even possible. 

We had all originally thought the "Mile High Swinging Bridge" was literally a mile off the ground. While it was pretty high up, it got it's name because it is technically a mile high of sea level. It was still really cool to walk across and because it was a little windy it was rocking back and forth which totally added to the experience.  

My mom was very nervous to walk across, she is not a fan of heights. Hensley was so sweet and held her hand and reassured her the whole time.  

Being in a place so beautiful and peaceful will definitely remind you how blessed you are. I am so thankful to have my family and to have a relationship like we do. They love, not only me and Hensley, but Andy so so much. I hope that this will be the start of many adventures we will all take together.  

My mom was not about to take short hike to the tip top of the mountain. She did try but it was just too scary for her. Her legs were shaking so bad! So my dad stayed back with her and the three of us braved the top. 

I must admit while I was not scared myself, there are absolutely no rails, ropes or anything going around the border of peak and I was terrified Hensley would fall. He was so excited to be up there and he was jumping and sliding all around in his flip flops without a care in the world. I think I had several small heart attacks!
 But we made it and it was a check off our bucket list! A very nice man offered to take our picture :) 

There is no one in this whole wide world I would rather take these adventures on then my sweet husband. He puts up with all my crazy ideas and excessive picture taking! He knows I'm stubborn and rarely take "no" for an answer. He doesn't always feel as adventurous as I do but he is always along for the ride!

After all the mountain top exploring we took a quick trip to the gift shop and headed out. Hensley picked out a really cool Swiss Army knife with the Grandfather Mountain logo on it and an "H" carved in it as well. And I of course had to get a Christmas ornament. That's our tradition, anywhere we go we get an ornament or something that can be made into an ornament to decorate our tree and have a memory to look back on! We also bought my mom a ring she was eyeing since her birthday was the next week :) She was totally surprised and LOVES it!

It was so fun to be up that high and the view was beautiful in every direction! 
Time to head off to visit Linville Caverns!

We had visited the caverns on a field trip in 1st grade. We loved it so much that I really wanted Andy and my parents to experience it. It was also really really hot that day in the mountains  so going into the caverns where it stays about 60 degrees was so refreshing!!!

We had a great tour guide but it was hard to take pictures inside due to the tight space and dim lighting!

In this particular spot Henlsey and Andy were taking the very skinny path to see the "water hole" in the cavern. At the end of this path you walk over a metal grate and under you in a very deep hole under water. 

The tour guide told us how deep people had been in this water hole and never found an end. I don't remember how far down it was but it was several miles. Quite creepy!

The caverns were truly one of the most fascinating places I have ever been! 

It was a beautiful place! 

This is a photo of one of the largest limestone stalagmites around.  

The caverns has a stream running through it. We even saw fish!

Everyone had a great time! By this point in the day we were beat!!! It had been a long day of travel and adventure. Time to find our hotel!

I booked a hotel for all of us after much research online. I had no idea if it would be good or not but i read a ton of reviews and quickly realized there weren't many places up near where we wanted to stay. We weren't looking for a Holiday Inn or anything standard, we wanted something different. 

Once we arrived and checked it out we quickly realized we picked a great spot!!!

The hotel was called Skyline Village Inn. It was older but it was run by a husband and wife team we were one of the few people staying there. The view was AMAZING and the only reason I didn't take more photos was because the camera just could not capture how beautiful it was. 

Our view from our room! We loved how the patios all connected and we could all sit outside and enjoy it. 

This is the outdoor dinner area where the owners cook a home cooked meal every night for their guests! It was amazing. We had salad, steak, potatoes and dessert all cooked fresh. It was perfect weather!

After a good night sleep and a home cooked breakfast (this place is seriously like being at home without any of the work!) we headed out for one more adventure.

Our last day was a true adventure for us all. Something none of us had ever done before! It was all my dad's idea. He has planned for us all to go white water rafting!!!!

I was a little nervous because Hensley is so young but the company assured us it was family friendly! Another awesome detail was that we would technically be rafting in Tennessee and I've never been to that state!

We went through a company called High Mountain Expeditions in Banner Elk, NC. They had AMAZING reviews online. The entire staff were informative and so laid back! There store had everything you could need for a fun day on the water. It was really great because we were told to just bring water shoes and a adventurous attitude. We were going to be with our guide group for about 5 to 6 hours that day and everything was provided for us. Life jackets, lunch, snacks and transportation to and from the river.  

They offer hiking, tubing, caverns and rafting excursions. They also offer several different rivers with different difficulty to raft down! 

We chose the Watagua River tubing expedition. The ride on the bus was about 45 minutes over to the Tennessee border. They played some awesome music and put all the windows down. We absolutely couldn't have been blessed with better weather!  

Another great perk to this company was that they take photos of you and your group all throughout the day. Since you are on the water they encourage you to leave your phones on the bus and because they know you will want to document this awesome day they do all the work taking the photos! 

When we first arrived to the site where we would be loading up on our rafts we all sat down for lunch. We were all shocked by the quality of this lunch. We were out in the middle of no where and when we pulled up lunch was all laid out ready for us!!!

They provided fresh meats and cheeses, amazing bread, ripe locally grown fruits and vegetables and yummy homemade desserts! The cookies and pineapple they had were to die for! It was just what everyone needed before a day on the river!

The one thing you have to know about this river....the rapids come from the giant dam being released each day. The water stays at 52 degrees all the time during the summer. It is FREEZING! Almost unbearable! It was very hot that day so it was a little refreshing but my goodness it was cold!!!!

The guides think it's hilarious to splash unsuspecting folks with the arctic cold water.....I was the lucky one in out group!
The look on Hensley's face during this photo is priceless!!!!!

This huge rock is near the beginning of the trip, before you hit the rapids. The guides stop all the rafts right before and have a water gun fight. It was super fun. Then each person can climb the top of this rock and jump off at a spot that is safe and deep enough. It's totally your preference if you go or not, no pressure. The only one brave enough in our group was my dad. It was awesome to watch him jump!

 Then it was time for the rapids. I have to admit I was terrified for this part. I wasn't sure what to expect or how rough they might be. I was also scared to death to fall out or for Hensley to fall out! 

To my surprise they weren't too bad. There was moment of panic for me but our guide was amazing and no fell out! Hensley loved every single minute of it. 
The majority of the ride was smooth and relaxing, with a few more rapids in between. Hensley would lay on his belly on the side of the raft and just float along. It was the most perfect end to our trip. We all enjoyed the scenery and each other. 

This has become one of my favorite photos of all time. This was the very last few minutes of our adventure. Right after this we jumped off and put away our gear. Changed clothes and had a few snacks. Whitewater rafting was all we had hoped for and most definitely an adventure to remember. 

 After this we headed home.
This trip will be one I will always remember.
I am really hoping we can do this again in the coming years.