a weekend in the mountains

Dave had been saying for a while that he wanted to go away for his birthday weekend. We don’t have the budget for anything major, but luckily, we can go on what feels like an honest-to-God vacation without leaving the state of North Carolina. We had the choice of going to the beach or going to the mountains. Dave picked mountains. And I’m so glad he did.

View from Grandfather Mountain

Not bad, eh?

It’s about a 4-hour drive over to Boone, NC. We stayed in a small town a bit further up in the mountains. Catie did great with the drive until we ended up on this unbelievable winding mountain road full of 180-degree hairpin turns. Luckily, she didn’t get too carsick, but we did have to make an emergency stop on the side of the road when she thought she was going to barf. (We walked about a city block’s length and that seemed to help her shake it off.)

We got to our hotel around sunset on Friday evening. We got snacks from the local Food Lion, checked into our hotel, and settled in for the night. Incidentally, we stayed at Blue Ridge Village, and we loved it there. Full kitchen, washer and dryer in the suite, jacuzzi tub, the works. It felt less like a hotel room and more like a furnished apartment. Totally comfortable and nice. (And no, they didn’t pay me to say that. Although if they want to comp me a room next time we go there, I sure wouldn’t say no.)

Saturday, our plan was to first go to Linville Caverns, then Grandfather Mountain. Due to a spectacular GPS fail that took us on a 30-mile detour, we scrapped that plan and went to Grandfather Mountain first (just because it was there).

I put Grandfather Mountain on our itinerary because they have an Animal Reserve there, and I knew Catie would love that.

chillin' in the shade


I was right, too. She did love it.

Pretty Catie

The views at Grandfather Mountain are unbelievable. (That’s where I took the picture at the top of this post.) They also have something called a “Mile-High Swinging Bridge” that people can walk across, which was… not so popular with us. I thought I’d be ok until I actually stepped on it. I made it about three steps, then decided nope, can’t do this, and I turned around and bolted back to the mountainside. I’m not sure if it was the bridge itself or me leaving that made Catie freak, but Dave only made it about 5 more steps before she started to cry and said she didn’t like it and wanted to go back. So, none of us made it all the way across the Mile-High Swinging Bridge. And you know? I’m perfectly ok with that.

Once we were done with Grandfather Mountain, we headed over (finally!) to Linville Caverns. That was really, really cool.

cool stalactite

I mean, any time you get to hang around rocks that are estimated to be around 22 million years old, and see trout that live in a stream inside a cave, that’s a pretty good day right there. Plus it’s 52 degrees year-round inside the caves, so after being outside in the heat, it felt fantastic.

trout in Linville Caverns

We were worn out after that, so we headed back to the hotel and got some take-out from a nearby restaurant for dinner. I took Catie swimming in the hotel’s indoor pool after dinner, she loved that. (“The pool is INSIDE?!?!!”)

Oh! Let me back up. Our first night at the hotel, Dave and I had stupidly thought that all three of us could easily sleep in a king-size bed (completely forgetting that Catie tends to sleep sideways and likes to kick in her sleep). It was awful, none of us got a good night’s sleep at all. So on Saturday night, we decided to take advantage of the fold-out couch. You have never seen a three year-old’s mind blown like that. “You mean, the COUCH turns into a BED?!?!! And I can sleep on it?? Are you KIDDING me?!?!!” Between that and the indoor pool, she’s going to think this particular hotel is the site of Crazy Magic Stuff.

"The couch turns into a BED?!?!!"

Anyway, she slept great on the fold-out couch, and the grown-ups got a decent night’s sleep ourselves.

On Sunday, we packed up and checked out of the hotel, before heading to the Tweetsie Railroad, which is kind of like an Old West-style theme park. The admission rates are crazy expensive, but then all the rides are free after that, so I guess it works out. Catie loved it.

me & Catie at the Tweetsie Railroad

my nutty family

The park is kind of built into a mountain, and we saw that there was a ton of stuff at the very top, but you had to take a chair lift (like at a ski lodge) to get to the top. Catie took one look at the chair lift and said, no way. So, we walked it instead. It was about half a mile, straight uphill, and she didn’t complain about it or ask us to carry her once.

Little person in a big world.

Of course, after we hiked it, we realized there was a bus for people with wheelchairs or strollers. Which we could’ve taken for free. Sigh. Oh well, at least we probably burned off that funnel cake we ate later.

But thank God we didn’t skip the top of the park, because that’s where the petting zoo was located. Which I’m pretty sure was Catie’s favorite part of the entire weekend.

It's Bambi!

Catie feeding the goats


I think this emu thought my camera was food. He got super-close to me with his giant crazy bird eyes, and kinda wigged me out.

After all that, we went back and got on the train, where this is the best picture I got.

self-portrait family pic on the train

Yeah. Not my finest photography moment, to say the least.

Even in spite of the fact that we were all tired and grumpy, we still had to drag Catie out of there, she did NOT want to leave. And of course, she was asleep before we even got on the freeway.

It was really such a fun trip, but it also feels so good to come home. All three of us took the day off today to just veg out and relax. Oh, and Catie and I made Dave a birthday cake today, since he didn’t get one yesterday on his actual birthday. Unless funnel cake counts. And I don’t think it does.

P.S. In case the ridiculous number of photos in this entry isn’t enough for you, all the pictures from our trip are here.

beach weekend

Last year, Dave and I decided to take advantage of Memorial Day weekend and go check out the North Carolina coast. That trip came at the perfect time, we’d been stressed out and worried about a lot of things that were going on then, and we ended up having an absolute blast. It kind of sealed it in our heads: Memorial Day weekend, we go to the beach. A new tradition has been established.

Dave, me & Catie in the Atlantic Ocean

Of course, the problem last year was that Catie absolutely hated the beach. She hated the sand, and the waves, and all of it. But I’ve noticed that in the past year, she’s started playing in the sandbox at the playground, and she doesn’t seem to mind the texture of sand as much as she used to. So we thought it’d be worth another shot.

This time, we had much better luck.

Catie on the beach

Catie still doesn’t like the ocean. The waves came up way too fast for her, and the water was just a little too cold. But she had a great time building sand castles, digging big holes in the sand, and collecting seashells (most of which she threw back into the ocean, don’t ask me why).

sandy toes

This year we also decided to invite my brother and sister along, since they live in North Carolina too, and neither of them had ever been to Wilmington before. It’s a longer drive for them, but they took a shortcut across the southern part of the state and met up with us there.

It was great to have them there. It was a lot easier to make sure we had one or two adults on the beach with Catie, while the others were out in the ocean jumping waves. The higher the adult-to-kid ratio, the better.

Side note: At one point, Dave carried Catie out into the ocean. When she started to get a little bit scared, my brother Chris tried to make her laugh by acting like a goofball. And that’s how I ended up with this, one of my favorite photos of the weekend.
my brother trying to make Catie laugh
I love that I managed to get the picture of him while he was suspended in mid-air. Awesome.

So, yeah. We went to the beach, we hung out at the hotel pool, we ate a lot of delicious and fresh seafood, and we had a fabulous time.

jumping girl

How was YOUR weekend?

not-so-beachy vacation

Dave and I have decided we really love Wilmington, North Carolina. Our vacation so far has been great. Cocktails in the evening, naps during the day – basically an ideal vacation. Neither one of us can remember the last time we did this, so obviously it’s been way too long.

Of course, there is the small issue that we came to Wilmington to go to the beach, and Catie, um, well, pretty much hates the beach.

Catie & Dave

this face just about sums up her feelings on the beach

Really, I should’ve known. She hates all forms of dirt and messiness. This is a kid who eats a cookie and then immediately says “oh no! Mess!” and gives me her hands to wipe off. So why we thought she’d dig the sand? Um, yeah. Not our brightest move. The hotel pool, on the other hand, was a much bigger hit.

Catie in her pirate ship float

Tonight, we went to check out downtown Wilmington, which was a lot of fun. We had a fabulous dinner (actually, all of our meals here have been amazing; we’ve really lucked out). I didn’t really know anything about Wilmington before this trip, but it’s really a very cool town.

my 2 Wilkinsons on Wilkinson Alley

Tomorrow we head home; we’re going to try to swing by the aquarium first, to let Catie check out the fishies & burn off some energy so she’ll sleep on the way back.

Hope everyone else is having a nice holiday weekend!