Sunday, June 18, 2017

Grayson Highlands, 2017

I'm so thankful we were able to spend last weekend as a family, tucked away in the Virginia mountains, just the four of us. It was a nice break from Daniel's busy work schedule.

We have been wanting to take our kids to this area of the country for awhile since it is one of our favorite places – so much so that Jack's middle name "Grayson" is in honor of the Grayson Highlands.

Our first trip to this area was over twelve years ago. We parked our car at the Grayson Highlands overnight parking lot and made our way to Mt. Rogers (the highest point in Virginia). We joke about that trip often – namely that we were still fairly newly married and I planned the trip and didn't do enough research about the weather.

We ended up cutting that multi-day trip short after one freezing night... We walked out in a cold, dense fog. We were thankful for the experience but a bit wiser about the importance of being prepared.

Another time we returned and had a shuttle drop us off in the middle of the Jefferson Wilderness. We hiked 30 miles back to Damascus, making our way through the Grayson Highlands, and this beautiful section of country, over a three-day period.

A third time, we found ourselves in Damascus, VA to bike the Virginia Creeper Trail. This area has our hearts, and hopefully we will be making many more trips back to hike, bike, and camp with our boys.

Last weekend we were able to spend Saturday biking the Virginia Creeper Trail as a family. We stayed in a cottage at the top of Whitetop Station, right at the trailhead and made our way down the mountain, 21 miles into town. It was perfect way for us to spend the day together.

Then on Sunday we woke up and drove about 20 minutes to Grayson Highlands to take the boys on a short hike.

We were hoping to see the wild ponies that roam this area of the country, but did not make it far enough to see them. We hope to be back in the future to make that happen. We did get to see people riding horses on the trail, and as far as the kids were concerned, that was just as good!

We hiked up the Massie Gap trail, to the top of the ridge. Jack promptly sat down and said he was too tired and that his feet hurt. I guess he was finally tired from biking 21 miles the day. At any rate there was a lot more whining on the hike than there had been on the bike trail.

We were prepared with snacks, but after more complaints Daniel suggested we go climb on some boulders and then head back. I would have liked to press on, but with kids I we have learned to adjust our expectations and be flexible.

On the way down Isaac was fussing a bit, so I sang crazy camp songs to him, we raced Jack down the trail (Isaac loved the bouncing from me running), and we pretended to be airplanes.

We ended up only hiking two miles, and there were no wild ponies to be found. But it was still a fun trip. The weather was perfect. We still saw great views of the mountains up above the treeline. The kids were pumped to find walking sticks and climb around on boulders. It was a good end to a fun family weekend.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

21 Miles

Yep you read that right. Jack biked just under 21 miles from our cottage at Whitetop Station down the mountain to Damascus on the Virginia Creeper Trail. We are still kind of surprised that he completed the ride. And with no whining or complaining.

In 2007 at our trailhead, 3 miles outside of Damascus, Virginia.

Loading up bikes for our family of four, 2017.

I have a lot of thoughts about this, and will hopefully find time to write them all down, but for now I want to share some of the photos from our trip and also take a little trip down memory lane.

 Pre-ride photo, 2007

 Pre-ride photo, 2017

Ten years ago, before kids, Daniel and I completed this same ride. We actually did a condensed version, starting 3 miles outside of Damascus and biking up to Whitetop Station where we ate lunch and then turned around to bike back down to our car.

  Daniel starting up the trail, 2007

Jack starting down the trail behind Daniel and Isaac, 2017

We were younger and more focused on the speed and mileage of the ride than we were on the experience. Our focus has changed a wee bit.

Me with a mountain in the distance, 2007
Jack and I with a mountain behind us, 2017

Ten years ago we rode 26.7 miles. It took us three hours to get to the top and an hour to get back to our car. This time around we biked 20.7 miles down (with two kids) and it took us six hours (which included a 1.5 hour stop for lunch at the Virginia Creeper Cafe 10 miles into the trip).

Reaching Green Cove Station, 2007

Jack arriving at Green Cove Station, 2017

Jack only mentioned once that his bottom was sore, but he never said he couldn't go on. He never cried or complained or whined. He just kept trucking. Our back-up plan for Jack was to strap his bike to the back of our trailer and let Jack ride with Isaac.

At a waterfall stop, 2007

Jack at the same waterfall stop,2017

With kids, we stopped a lot more often than when it was just the two of us. We counted every bridge that we crossed (they are numbered) –we crossed 30 of them if you are wondering; and we stopped several times to climb down the bank to the creek and throw rocks in the water. There was a slowness about this trip that was lovely.

The kids playing in the creek on one of our many breaks, 2017

We stopped at the scenic spots that Daniel and I made the effort to stop at all those years ago, but we also stopped and appreciated the quietness of the woods, and the gurgling of the stream a lot more often. Kids help you to do that – to choose slow.

Daniel riding across a hay field, 2007

Jack and Daniel riding across the same hay field and even doing the same pose, 2017

Isaac was a trooper. While we packed up for the ride, he made sure to put his toys in the trailer and he wouldn't let us forget his beloved bear. He took two good naps on the ride down, and loved getting out to play in the stream every time we stopped.

 Isaac's bear rode with us down the Virginia Creeper, 2017.

On this ride we introduced Jack to the Camelbak bladder and he carried his own water in his backpack. I think he thought that sucking water out of a straw while you ride was the most amazing invention ever! He drank so much water that we had to stop literally every 15 minutes for him to pee. I wish I had taken a photo of him simultaneously peeing in the woods and drinking from his Camelbak!

My heart about burst with pride as Jack passed this sign, 2017

As Jack passed the "Welcome to Damascus" sign my heart nearly burst with pride. I had completed this journey before and I enjoyed doing it again, but seeing my five-year-old son do it on his own gave me a joy and pride that I didn't know existed. I can't wait to do it again when Isaac is ready.

Daniel and I after a muddy, humid 26.7 mile ride up and down the Virginia Creeper, 2007

Daniel and I mid trip on a 20.7 mile ride down the Virginia Creeper, 2017

We reached the parking lot where our car was parked and Jack wanted to ride on (another mile) to the playground to play. We acquiesced. It's hard to turn down your son when he has worked so hard all day. He played while Daniel biked back to get the car and then load the bikes.

We made it to our car! After this photo, we biked an additional mile to the playground to play, 2017

Once everything, and everyone, was in the car, we drove to eat dinner. Jack fell asleep two minutes from the restaurant. Daniel carried him in and he slept in Daniel's arms while we ordered and waited for our food. When the food arrived, he woke up to eat. He must have been starving!

Jack passed out on the way to dinner, 2017

We were sure he would sleep on the drive back to the cottage. But he didn't. He didn't go back to sleep until we had made a camp fire and devoured s'mores. The next morning he was ready to bike the Virginia Creeper trail all over again! Our kids never cease to surprise us.

Our GPS stats for our 2017 ride with kiddos.

Grayson Highlands, 2017

I'm so thankful we were able to spend last weekend as a family, tucked away in the Virginia mountains, just the four of us. It was a ...