Friday, July 29, 2011

The butterflies are free!

Today was the day! The caterpillars, which our neighbor Lynn rescued from our mailbox during vacation, have changed and become beautiful painted ladies.  So we set them free.  We had to do a lot of convincing with Brant, as he wanted to keep them for as long as they lived.  But every time I walked by, they screamed, "LET US OUT!!"

He unzipped the habitat, them immediately re-zipped it.

Finally, he was convinced, and rewarded with this,

He was laughing contagiously, as they tickled!
The rest of the day was filled with a game of bowling (it was 101 degrees today, too hot to be outside), playing matchbox cars, checking out books at the library, dinner at Daddy's. And finally, when it was still 93 at 7:00, we went for a swim!   Ahhh, summer!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The lazy days of summer...

Things have been pretty slow around here...lots of pool days, and relaxing.  It's just been too darn hot to do much else.  But isn't that what summer's all about??

So here are some of the odds n' ends we've been doing to entertain ourselves

We made a massive tent off of Brant's bunk bed, I couldn't even get the whole thing in the picture!

We've watched caterpillars turn to chrysalids, and then to butterflies!
I know this cup looks nasty, but ti's actually their food and the silk the spun to help get up to the top.  When they all made it we put the lid in the butterfly habitat. I can't get a good photo of them now, but we have 4 butterflies, and 1 still struggling.

Eating Nutty Buddies on the porch!

And the garden of course. These are only the ones that don't fit the fridge.  Sphagetti sauce is in our near future.
And that's it folks!  Next week we've got some stuff planned, mainly the boys, since I'll be at a conference for 3 days. Hopefully there will be some photos! :-)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Our last day of vacation

The cool, rainy weather continued into Saturday, our last day.   We had left Saturday unplanned, in case we hadn't done something we had wanted to. It turns out, there were two fun things going on locally.  We had to decide if we wanted to go to the Heritage Days festival in Franklin, or the Block Party that night in Dillsboro.  We opted for the Block Party, but more on that later.

We decided to go for a ride on Saturday, down to Cullowhee.  We kept on riding until we ended up in Cashiers,  and a quick lunch break at a Wendy's with a fireplace!  While there we discovered a map of waterfalls in the area, and headed out to see a few more.   The road was so twisty and turny that we all were quite thankful to get out of the car.

The waterfall we found was called Dry Falls, and it was near Highlands, NC.  And let me say, we found where the yuppie area in the mountains is! (sorry if any of you classify yourselves as yuppie! lol!)  Anyway, these falls were neat because you could walk behind them, something Brant had asked up repeatedly to do.  So, down we went...

The walk down to the falls.  I quite liked the fencing, that didn't have gaps and was securely in the ground.

5 year old silliness

Oh look, another family photo, taken by another family that we took their photo!

Behind the falls, can we say wet?

Dry Falls, looks wet to me!
 So after our drive we took ourselves back to the cabin to pack.  Later that evening we headed to the Dillsboro block party, with live music, antique cars and games.  And the shops, which usually roll up their sidewalks at 5, were open late.  We poked around a bit, played with some hula hoops, and waited for it to get hoppin'.  But so funny, I think there were about 75 people there, but some great music.  We enjoyed walking around and I finally got my boiled peanuts (which gross out the boys).

Downtown Dillsboro. There are a few blocks, full of quaint shops, and a few restaurants. You can see the tracks where the Smoky Mtn. Railroad comes through.  It's got to be a great boon to the economy there. 
So, it was our last evening, and we made it home in time for this.

We left early on Sunday, heading towards Asheville, and breakfast downtown at Early Girl Eatery.  It took a bit longer than we thought, as it is one popular place!

One last stop at John and Amanda's house, a visit with the cousins, and checking out the animals they have (pony, goats, chickens and ducks) and we headed home.  Home Sweet Home. Vacation was great, but it's always wonderful to come back!

In search of waterfalls...

Friday dawned cooler, a perfect day to hike the Deep Creek section of the Smokies.   This area is known as a great area to hike,picnic, explore the river and tube. But seeing as it was 68 degrees when we arrived, tubing was not in the plans. Not to mention that mountain water is ALWAYS cold.

We headed into the park through some small mountain towns.  We're talking real towns, where the people had side yards full of firewood for the winter and lush mountain veggie gardens.   We kept seeing people with giant tubes strapped to the tops of their cars, some Suburbans with 5 or 6!  We are talking every other car.  And then, we hit it.  Right before the entrance to the National Park, both sides of the road were lined with tube rental places.  We're talking the Wings (beach store) of the mountains.   It made the escape into nature all the more welcome.

The Deep Creek area had an extensive campground, right on the river.  There were picnickers everywhere, serious ones with charcoal and major coolers.  You could tell they were there for the day.  Why??  They were tubing!  Yes, the nutty people were tubing in chilly, chilly weather and water.

We, however, were in search of the 3 waterfalls in area.  Not an overly difficult hike for little legs, the majority of it was a horse trail, with loops off it to the falls.  Geared up with Camelbaks and snacks we set off...

Most of the hike was along a stream like this one.

The Juney Whank Falls, the first ones.  The bridge went right through the middle of it.

Taking a little break on the bench.

Brantley gave me a hard time about taking pictures of the plants, but  this was too pretty. Anyone know what it is?

How about this mushroom?  They were everywhere and bright red.

A little helping hand from Daddy, this was the final stretch up to the top. 

And a break...

The second falls, a bit more impressive.  Thank goodness for technology,  though. We couldn't find a ranger station with trail maps, so we used my iPhone to download the maps, and used the compass a bit too!

Serious faces, I have no idea why.

At least we got one family photo from vacation, a nice family from Florida took it.  This little cove where the waterfall came down was absolutely swarming with blue butterflies, and a few monarchs.

The crazy people going down the river

The final falls, beautiful, but the only way too it was across Deep Creek.

Once we got down lower we had a great time watching the tubers, especially when they would squeal when the water hit them. Or the guy that totally fell out of his tube and had to chase it down the river.  It was a great day hiking and we always enjoy our time as a family in nature. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A day on the Tuckasegee

Thursday dawned overcast and showery, but since we knew we'd get wet that day, it didn't really matter.  We decided to go rafting, with the Dillsboro Rafting Company.  Their tag line is "mom approved rafting," but really, the Tuck is a great river to go down, especially if your child is younger than 7 or 8.  On the Tuck kids can go if they weigh 40 pounds.  With a couple of class 2s, it's plenty exciting and of course, there are lots of swimming spots and even a chance to body raft.  Big B and I did, little B wanted nothing to do with it (he had taken a swim earlier and deemed it "way too cold for that!"  Once again, not too many photos, as we like our camera and didn't bring a waterproof bag.

Before heading out. We had to wait for the water release for bigger water

Checking out the raft when we got back. There were kittens under the deck that Brant just loved.

Hanging out...

Looking down river with the rafting company to the left. I had forgotten we were on the other side of the divide, so the river flowed towards the Mississippi
The sign of a good day rafting

Love those Keens

Let me mention a neat little aside note.  Right across the river is an old Illinois train and Prisoner transport bus.  They were props in the movie The Fugitive, and the river Harrison Ford swims into is the Tuck!  He jumped from the dam at Fontana Dam, and if you watch carefully, one of the ambulances in the movie says Jackson County EMS.  Harrison takes a turn at a sign that reads Murphy, one of the local towns in NC, NOT IL!!  You can see the train and bus well from the road, but can't get a great photo. These photos were taken from across the river.
The train

There are signs of the movie everywhere! 

What next?  Deep Creek and 3 beautiful waterfalls...

Our family gets a Passport

Say what?  You read it correctly.  On Wednesday of our vacation, we got a passport AND got it stamped 5 four times!  Yes, we got ourselves a National Parks Passport and hit the road to the Smokies.  Looking through the passport I was amazed at all the places we had already been, and that I just never thought about being a national park!  Guess we have to go back, got to get those stamps.

So where did we get stamps for on Wednesday?  The Blue Ridge Parkway (we did that earlier in the summer, so it counts!), Clingmans Dome, the Oconalftee Visitors Center, and the general Smoky Mountain one.

The view from the parking lot at Clingmans Dome.  There were 3 Just married cars there!

all geared up with his camelbak  and new hiking stick

Exploring some of the rocks around 

The boys

Brant's little buddies, Blackie the dog and Beary, the newly purchased black bear from the visitor's center.  We found out that Blackie is scared of heights like Mommy!

There is a foreign beetle that is attacking the trees around the  Clingmans Dome area.

The Appalachain Trail crosses here, we can honestly say we've hiked on it!

Up the tower with Daddy. Mommy was high enough and chose to stay down.  Interesting enough, I was talking to a lady from Pickerington, Ohio!  We kept talking about the railings at the top of Mt. Pleasant in Rising Park!

Going up

A rare appearance of Mommy, with her best little boy

We stopped at an overlook on the way down the mountain.  Isn't this amazing?  This was right at the dividing line where hardwoods grow below the road, mainly evergreens above.

There was an enticing little river that ran beside the road, once we came back down. It begged to be explored and Brant did his best. Contrary to what you think happened 30 seconds later, he did NOT fall in!

We also passed the historic Mingus Mill. Where most mills were run with a watermill, this one was run by a sluice that turned a turbine, which then turned the mill whee.

This was the water they diverted to run the grist mill.

The gate that diverted the water

A bit more silliness

Once leaving the Smokies, we were pretty much dumped into the commercialism of Cherokee, the reservation.  I had always wanted to pan for gems, and knew Brant would love it too. So, we stopped at a Gem Mine. Now, there are places that you can go and pan all day for $30 and you dig your own buckets.  Sounds like fun, but just not very exciting for Brant.

We got a bucket and started panning.  There are no further shots of this activity because it was wet and muddy and required two hands.  We were instructed to keep anything that didn't crumble.  We ended up with a 20 carat garnet, good sized saffires and several rubies and emeralds.  We thought the garnet was a piece of coal and almost threw it down the sluice!

See, how fun is that!?
We'd had about as much fun as we could handle that day, so after dinner at the Dillsboro Smokehouse, we headed back to the cabin. Later that evening we were blessed with this..

Thursday was another "big" day!  Rafting!!