Cleaning Out Part 2: The Dog House

In our house its called The Dog House, a dormer in our attic bedroom that is cram-packed full of STUFF!  Linens, seasonal clothing, the kids’ childhood trinkets and baby clothes I can’t bear to part with….you name it; it’s found in the Dog House.  Every home has one, unless you are a total minimalist and then you have no idea what I’ve been posting about anyway!

I have learned in this process that control is the key word.  Getting organized makes me feel less chaotic and  more in control of our house and also our free time.  I am far from a neat freak but these unorganized and out of control areas in our home linger on my mind and burden the scared free time I have with my family.

I will admit that this one has taken me a few days, make that weeks, to complete.   I needed some organizational tools (i.e. plastic bins and drawers) to help wrangle this mess and this task required several trips to our local donation center and landfill.

When we first remodeled our bedroom 6 years ago I had great intentions of my husband building storage benches down the sides of the walls for a neat and clean look…never happened and may not in the future.  That doesn’t mean that I can’t take control of this catastrophe!

The questions I had to ask myself when tackling this endeavor included:  “Have I used this in the last year?”  “Do I really  need to keep this forever” and “How many ratty old sweatshirts does a girl really need?  I did give in and kept an entire plastic tote of “craft” supplies and bits of scrap fabric….you never know, I may find myself becoming a Pinterest or Etsy crafter one day!  Or at least sew some stuff together to give out as lame Christmas gifts!

The result:  An organized space that still functions to house our storage and junk but with much less stress!  And an actual “dog house” space in our bedroom for Polly to lounge in front of the window!

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Boy Bracelets and Other Fashion Choices

It’s a beautiful spring Saturday in early May and we are venturing out to the Bud Break Festival in Mt. Airy, NC! Before we can leave the house Hayden has to add finishing touches to his outfit…both wrists loaded with silly bands he snatched from his sisters’ room and a Jurassic Park toboggan.  While my husband was questioning his decision to raid Elle’s room for accessories I simply laughed.

The truth is that I miss those little moments of fashion choice independence I cherished with his sisters. Boys are pretty easy to dress.  Hayden will almost always simply put on whatever I lay out for him and go on about his way; he is much like his daddy in that respect! The girls though first started showing glimpses of their developing personalities through their fashion choices!

Christina,  our oldest,  loved to wear dresses and much to my dismay,  little shoes with heels! I still recall the countless discussions we would have about how it probably was not a good idea to wear said heels to school as they are not recess or P.E. friendly. Many of these discussions ending in tears, mine and hers alike! That battle ended though when she fell off the playground equipment one day while climbing in her heels. I’m not sure she ever asked to wear them again! Pick your battles my friends! Her taste in shoes has grown, I often find myself purusing her closet for the perfect pair of shoes to complete almost any outfit! 

Elle on the other hand,  had no interest in heels, or dresses for that matter.  She did develop a taste for tu-tus though! You may be envisioning a little ballerina in powder pink tulle and you would be dead wrong.  Elle did posses a tu-tu in every color of the rainbow,  which she wore over black leggings or skinny jeans with black knee-high Chuck Taylor tennis shoes and a black tee shirt with a sassy saying or rock band on it. In her defense, she has red hair and looks impeccable in black! I loved that phase,  she embraced being unique and a little eclectic. While she wouldn’t think of donning a tu-tu now and that sweet phase was followed by a terrible sweatpants phase, she has grown into a beautiful pre-teen with style that is still more relaxed but all her own. Thank God for tu-tus! 

So for Hayden, I don’t mind his show of fashion independence…. go ahead and rock those bracelets lil man!

Haydenisms…Cuss Words

It appears lately that Hayden has developed some curiosities with profane language!  Unfortunately, this is not his first run-in with off-limit words but now that he is learning to read, the latest incidents are particularly amusing!

As w20160410_172711e were going over his homework last week and Hayden was rattling off his site words he paused when we came to the word some.  “Momma, that is a bad word” he told me plainly.  “What do you mean some is a bad word, it is a site word, of course its not a bad word” I assured him.  Hayden proceeded to inform me that it is, in fact a cuss word, “Some-A-Bitch”.  No son, that’s not exactly it! (I could hear our middle daughter in her bedroom down the hall, rolling in the floor laughing)

 Later on that week his sister and I were sitting on the couch with him watching television when he blurts out “Momma, is asshole a bad word?”  After shooting Elle a threatening look, daring her not to laugh, at least out loud, I replied “Yes Hayden, that is a bad word, let’s not say it again.”  He responded with “can I say ass?”  “No Hayden, that is also a bad word, please do not say that again.”  I could tell this conversation was not over though because the little gears in his brain were clearly still turning.  Finally, he looked me with a serious look, “Can I say hole?”  “Yes son, hole is the only bad word you can say!”

I Can’t Stand This Mess Anymore…Cleaning Out and Finding Some Peace in the Process 

 Our home has been feeling a little heavy.  I know, it’s a house, it holds the material collections of our lives as well as protects us and provides a location for family and friends to gather; but I can’t help but feel that it has become a black hole,  every nook and cranny is stuffed with junk and I am way beyond organizing that mess so it’s time to unload! 

Project  1: Mommas Closet 

 I hate getting rid of clothes! What if I gain weight…better not throw out my fat pants! And the skinny pants need to stay as motivation right??? Nope, not this time,  if it doesn’t fit correctly it doesn’t stay!

I’ve enlisted the assistance of my 12 year old daughter to help me battle the urge to keep clothes I haven’t worn in ages and will not be donning anytime soon! There is no other type of honesty as that of a budding teenage girl when the topic is old clothes.  

We began by dividing clothes into four piles: Keep, Donate, Mend and Sell. (The thought of earning a little circus money for selling some of my designer or un-worn clothing provides motivation I must admit!) There are a ton of websites out there now dedicated to selling your stuff…take advantage of them! Also,  a little advice with the donate pile,  get it out of the house asap or it will end up back in your closet!

I followed the same process with my shoes and handbags as well as chest of drawers and various baskets and containers that hold the multitude of clothes in our room.  I have realized that I own WAY more clothes than I could ever dream of wearing! I should never complain that I have nothing to wear!!

Be patient with the mess.  I have been saying since New Years that I was going to clean out the closet but kept putting it off until I could do it all in one day… never gonna happen! So I finally jumped in one evening after work,  accomplished about half and had to step over the piles of clothes in my room for a few days until I had time to finish.  But, its oh so worth it! I think I actually like my clothes better now!

Our next endeavor…The Dog House!

Advice From a Newly-Realized Old Mom

Its happened…somewhere between pony tails, studying for spelling tests and basketball practices I became an “old mom”!!!  We have three children and always refer to them as “the kids” but the fact is that our oldest received her drivers’ license today, the lil man has almost completed kindergarten, and our middle daughter is taller than I am now!  I am not sure when these atrocities occurred, overnight maybe!

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It seemed like forever that my husband and I were always the ones at gatherings with friends and family that brought “the kids.”  Now, we are the older couple sitting back sipping a cold beverage while everyone else is running after toddlers! It is kind of refreshing actually!!

A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of embarking on a first road trip with a fellow bridesmaid and her 4 month old to go dress shopping with the bride-to-be.  He is the cutest little guy, and for a first road trip he and his mom did wonderfully.  We talked during the ride about the baby, the things he is eating and progress he is making and I suddenly realized that I hardly remembered ANY of my children’s first road trips!!  However, all weekend I was the go-to for any questions regarding all things baby.  A compliment in many ways, but also a realization that the “new mom, raising baby” part of my life is over!  It was bittersweet to say the least.

So, I have decided if I am going to have to be an “old mom” the least I can do is impart some wisdom…so here’s my list to surviving the early years:

  1.  You are the momma/daddy and you know best!  Always be polite when receiving advice from family members, co-workers or sometimes complete strangers but remember that God gave YOU this child, and your opinion is really all that matters.
  2. That being said, don’t be afraid to ask for help when you feel overwhelmed or need guidance.  We have all been there, its totally normal.
  3. Help your child develop some independence, even though it stinks to let go a little; you will be thankful for it when they are old enough to make judgment choices on their own.
  4. An occasional “adult weekend” or even “Mommy date” is good for you, your spouse and baby!  The truth is that the grandparents and/or aunts and uncles really don’t mind keeping baby for the weekend, they’ve been waiting to spoil that cutie without you around anyway.
  5. Let baby get dirty occasionally and don’t get too bent out of shape when they lick things they shouldn’t (like the handrails at Dollywood), consider it building up their immune systems!
  6.   It is more than okay for your child to see that sometimes life isn’t perfect, don’t try so hard to make it that way for them that you forget to let them have some reality checks. Sometimes you lose or don’t get picked for the team – its just a reason to try harder or work to make the situation better.
  7. Recognize that “momma guilt” is a real thing and that you will feel guilty for every possible thing they do and don’t do, even when they are adults.  Part of parenting is constantly doubting yourself!
  8.  Take lots of pictures, in just a short 6 months or a year you will be amazed at how much they have grown.
  9. Enjoy every phase of your child’s life (even the “terrible” stages), believe me it won’t last as long as you think!
  10. Pray often and out loud with your children as much as possible.  Let them see that you know and love God so that they will learn to as well.  Its the very best gift you can give them!

Wanting & Having It All

There is an old country song by Sawyer Brown that goes on about “wanting and having it all”  I can’t say that I remember the lyrics now or even the chorus but that one line rings true for most of us working mommies.

I had a long discussion with my younger sister recently, who is a new working mother and is dealing for the first time with the guilt and personal struggles all working mothers address at one time or another…..how do I support my family and still feel like the wife and mother I long to be???  It is all about wanting and having it all my dears and largely only about perception.

While many of us enjoy our careers, there are those thoughts that linger in our minds each day while we are away from home and our rug-rats.  Will I be finished with this meeting in time to pick up lil man before the school bus arrives at the daycare; did I remember to lay out something for dinner so we won’t be struggling to find food for five starving mouths at 6pm; are Elle’s basketball socks clean; oh wait, did I leave the iron on or forget to separate the dogs in the house so that they will have the opportunity to work together to completely tear up the living room before I get home???  And then there is the the GUILT.   You know you know it, every mother does, but even more so for working mothers.  My own mother recently confessed to me that she still feels guilt even though my sister and I who are both in our 30s, have professional degrees and families of our own…it is simply the plight of the working mother!

So, how do we cope with these feelings and guilt of being away from home?  First, we remember that our kids REALLY like to eat and have roofs over their heads.  Then we remind ourselves that inquiring eyes are watching our every move and we want our little darlings to grow up to have successful careers, therefore setting positive examples of work/life balance is beyond essential in how they will navigate their own lives and parent our grandchildren.  We are not afraid to share with them that Momma does wish that she didn’t have to miss “Muffins with Mom” at 8am on a Tuesday morning at school but explain that its very important that Momma be in court with her client, not only because the Judge requires it but because another person is counting on Momma to help them when they are in a tough spot.  Also, use the time you have wisely.  Clean houses are over-rated!!! Yes, I said it! Believe it!  When I get myself in a tizzy of how utterly nasty my house is at any given time, my mom is so kind to remind me that this is only a phase in our lives and before we know it there will not be toys to cover the living room and kitchen floors and the constant search for matching neon green socks will be over and I will long for this kind of nastiness!  So, for this Thursday night, we will make homemade slime in the kitchen and have monster truck races in the living room floor!

It is truly about “wanting and having it all” and my hard-working friends that is exactly what we have…it all!  We have careers we have worked diligently to build and maintain; we have families we adore and the means to sustain them; and finally, when we step back and recognize that it is not the end of the world if we miss a PTA meeting now and then, and that its more important to giggle and snuggle before bed time even though the laundry is wrinkling in the dryer, then we can clearly see that we do have IT ALL!!

A Love Letter Worth Reading

http://www.fromthefringe.co.uk/mushy-love-letter-blogging/

I have already explained that I have the most loving and supportive husband ever, even when I pined for over a year to start a blog, not having a clue if I even had time in our ridiculously busy lives to even sit down and write. I couldn’t describe to John why I wanted to blog; what do I have to say that anyone would want to read anyway? I just wanted to try it! I am still figuring it out but the fulfilment of just the five little posts I’ve had the opportunity to post has made it worthwhile. (And John is cheering me on as usual! – Did I mention he is wonderful). 

The link above is from another, way more accomplished blogger, but it captures my exact impressions regarding blogging. There is just something therapeutic about getting thoughts out of your head and onto the screen or sharing the things you love with others…

Happy St.Patrick’s Day

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

It’s Friday, a joyful holiday and while we are currently experiencing a cold snap, it’s still close to the first day of spring…sounds like a good day for an adventure!

Today is season pass holder preview day at Dollywood theme park in beautiful Pigeon Forge, TN and we are south bound! While the weather isn’t ideal (only highs in the 50s and a little rainy) it’s a terrific reminder that the snow and winter winds will be gone very soon and carefree fun

These lime green 5k t-shirts are the only green we own!


 in the sun can begin!!  We find some of our best adventures in less than balmy weather anyway! 

Let the weekend’s adventures begin! 

 

A Brief History of Women’s Basketball in the US – Keep Pushing It Ladies!

In honor of International Women’s Day and my team’s end of season meeting last night, I thought I would take this opportunity to honor some of the trailblazers in women’s basketball and look how far we have truly come in a relatively short period of time.

The game of basketball was invented in 1891 by Dr. James Naismith, however it wasn’t until Sendra Berenson introduced the game at Smith College in 1892 and adapted the rules of course, that women were permitted to play.  The rules of play were much different for women and involved no physical contact or perspiration for that matter.  In fact, there was no dribbling, touching the ball was a foul, double-teaming a shooter was a foul, and players pretty well had to stay on their own side of the court.  Oh and did I mention there was no coaching from sidelines!!

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As time passed the rules evolved but not as quickly as one might imagine.  The bounce pass was not legalized for women until 1918 and a continuous, unlimited dribble was not an official rule for women’s basketball until 1966!!  It amazes me to consider the level of play of women’s basketball today considering we were late bloomers in the game.  Finally, in 1971 the women’s game came into modern times.  The rules changed to allow a five player, full court game with a 30 second shot clock.  That same year the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women was formed, giving women the opportunity to compete for collegiate national championships.  The following year the “Mighty Macs” of Immaculata College won the first women’s collegiate national championship!

Young women from across the county represented the United States in its Olympic debut in 1976 and earned their first Gold Medal in Women’s Basketball in the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, led by Southern California’s Cheryl Miller (yes, that’s Reggie’s big sister, long before he ever dreamed of an NBA career).  That team also featured Teresa Edwards, Kim Mulkey, Pamela McGhee, Anne Donnovan, Lynette Woodard and was coached by the infamous Pat Summit.

As they proceeded into the 1990s women’s basketball came to the national forefront.  The 3-point shot was permitted in 1986 and the women quickly worked to perfect the trifecta.  Teams such as Pat Summit’s Lady Vols of The University of Tennessee, Stanford and the University of Connecticut Huskies shaped modern women’s basketball and took it far beyond a trivialized sport for “lesser” athletes.  They brought national media attention and for the first time, little girls in gyms all across the country had those powerful sport role models we had been anxiously waiting for.  I actually remember the first time I watched a women’s basketball game on the television.  I was maybe 10 years old or so and happened upon it on a Saturday afternoon; I ran through the house to tell my mom.  I was playing basketball for our county little league but never imagined watching girls play on TV ! I have been a proud Lady Vol fan since that moment! It was the moment that young girls like me developed aspirations of playing on the big stage, beyond recreational leagues and high school.  We signed up for camps and practiced our dribbling in the backyard and a love for the game grew in our hearts..

  The late 1990s brought forth super-stars in the game such as Rebecca Lobo (a former UCONN Husky) and Lisa Leslie (the first woman to dunk in a professional league) who both played in the inaugural season of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA).  It honored Sheryl Swoopes who was the first woman to sponsor a basketball shoe (I still remember them, I wanted a pair terribly). This year marked the 20th anniversary of the WNBA and its still going strong!

Modern times for women’s basketball is proving to be more successful than ever.  In 2009 Pat Summit became the first NCAA Division 1 coach, men’s or women’s to reach 1,000 wins in a career, an honor now shared by Tara VanDerveer just this year, as the only other women’s coach to reach this milestone.  In 2016 Geno Auriemma of the University of Connecticut surpassed John Wooden with 11 national championships, more than any other college coach in history (and he is likely going to break that record this year with his power-house team of athletes). Finally, this season Kelsey Plum made NCAA women’s basketball history by scoring an outstanding 57 points in a single game to make her the all-time leading scorer in NCAA Women’s Basketball history!!

So, keep working ladies; keep pushing those boundaries and developing the game far beyond what was once contemplated!  If you are interested in the full history of women’s basketball check out the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tennessee! (Another reason to love being in Knoxville!)

The Mini-Vacation…Have As Many As Possible and Our Favorite Spots!

Today a colleague told me that he wanted to live our life….a compliment by any standard but I inquired further anyway!  He said that we always seemed to be going somewhere new or doing something, even in the middle of the week!

It’s true, I admit it, my family is addicted to the mini-vacation and we take them as often as possible!  Last week it was an impromptu trip to Knoxville to watch our Lady Vols Basketball team play their last home game of the season on a Thursday night!20170223_190258.jpgI am also in the process of planning a hiking weekend over Memorial Day , a short trip to the Great Smoky Mountains and this past Sunday we actually booked our week long beach vacation in Kure Beach, North Carolina.

My family has never been one for long, drawn-out vacations (aside from our beach week) and we often do not go very far from home.  Mostly because it is difficult for a family of five on a somewhat unpredictable income to save for those long journeys, so until the time comes that we can venture to more exotic places we will continue enjoying those not too far from home.  We are blessed to live in the Appalachian Mountains so fortunately nature’s playground surrounds us.

Some tips for an abundance of mini-vacations:

  1. Be an outdoor addict:  Hiking is much cheaper than touristy stuff anyway and the memories you will make connecting with nature will last a lifetime.
  2. Watch what you eat:  Since we take several trips to familiar places we have had time to perfect our favorite places to eat affordably and where to get the best snacks.  Its important to plan meals though, if not, wandering aimlessly looking for a place to eat will almost certainly guarantee that you will spend more and enjoy less because you are starving!  Pack snacks – helpful to tide hungry little mouths over while hiking or waiting in a line for a roller coaster and allows you to save money for the goodies you really want later!
  3. Camp as often as possible:  Our family has both a tent and a camper.  The camper is large and bulky to pull around but if the weather is cooler it can still be cheaper to stay in a campground for $30-$50 per night as opposed to a hotel for $150.  We tent camp when possible especially if we know we aren’t gonna be hanging around the camp site all day but rather getting out and doing things.
  4. Hold up on the souvenirs:  Save your hard-earned money for a meal or adventure, no need to bring home an over-priced trinket.  Take pictures instead, they will last alot longer and won’t need dusted sitting on the shelf at home.

Here are some of our favorite short getaways:

Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge/The Great Smoky Mountains

These quaint mountain communities, while somewhat touristy in places, are as beautiful as the locals are kind and genuine. Known as the Gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there is something for everyone from handmade crafts, fantastic cuisine, a first-rate theme park and every other kind of adventure the outdoor enthusiast could ask for!  We prefer camping in the warmer months off of US Highway 321.  It is about 15-20 minutes outside of Gatlinburg but it is an easy drive into downtown Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge and the scenery is beautiful.  Additionally, Highway 321 provides access to exceptional hiking with nearby trailheads at the Greenbrier and Cosby Campground.

When in Gatlinburg, we often opt for dinner at the Cherokee Grill.  It is moderately priced and the food is delicious.  If you are in the mood for pizza, we recommend Luigi’s Pizza (1017 Parkway). For treats in Gatlinburg, the caramel dipped rice krispie treats at Kilwins are mouth-watering and the ice cream isn’t too bad either! Finally, if you are ready for entertainment like no other, and enjoy the occasional shot (or 8) of moonshine, do not miss out on the distillery tastings.  Our favorite is Sugarlands, the Apple Pie flavor with a caramel finish is a favorite! The distilleries are all fun to browse even if you are not partaking in the libations.  Both Ole Smoky and Sugarlands provide music on weekends that seem to bring the streets to life!

If you have children, and even if you don’t, do not miss out on Dollywood theme park.  My mother took my sister and I, along with countless other doting Girl Scouts to Dollywood every summer when we were children and in over 30 years of operation its standards for cleanliness, hospitality and a down home good time are unsurpassed. The park really has something for everyone.  The food is wonderful (do not miss out on the cinnamon bread sold in the gristmill building ), the shows and entertainment are top notch and even the holiday festivities in the winter are a joy to embrace. Did I mention that the roller-coasters are a scream!

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Daddy and Christina after riding Dollywood’s 2016 Lighting Rod

Our oldest is a roller-coaster addict and fully enjoys the attractions Dollywood has to offer from the Lighting Rod, Wild Eagle, the Tennessee Tornado (boy do I have a story about that one, or rather its predecessor), the Fire Chaser (a family coaster my 6 year old son affectionately calls the Big Bertha) to the Thunderhead, a wooden coaster that makes me laugh like a crazy person!  I am biased, I know it, I love the feeling I get walking through the gates!  I feel like a kid again and I want to share those memories as well as make new ones with my children.  Finally, Dollywood is super affordable compared to many theme parks and for those within driving distance, offers a 6 month payment plan interest free on season passes!  Season passes are super helpful when one person in your group has a gold pass, think free/reduced parking, discounts on almost everything you purchase in the park, including food and drinks.

Other helpful Dollywood tips:  1. You can take your children for measuring at guest services when you enter the park so that you don’t have to wait in line to learn that they are too short to ride; 2.  Remember, water is always free so let them fill your cup as much as you like and save your cash for dipping dots or those cinnamon rolls; 3.  Do not ride the train after water rides – it is a bonafide steam engine and if you are wet the soot will stick to you and your clothes, 4.  The Celebrity Theater shows, while wildly entertaining to my older girls and my husband and I, always puts my son to sleep so if you need a nap time place those are always winners, especially during the Festival of Nations – those shows are spectacular  5.  Be sure to catch the Harvest Festival – fall in the mountains is the best (although hotel rooms will be a bit more expensive), and finally 6.  In the summer months we find is best to avoid Saturdays, lines are long and hot even though the atmosphere is still nice, we often do other things on Saturdays and go to Dollywood on Sundays, the kids are out of school, what’s a late drive home – hone in your sense of adventure!

Bryson City, North Carolina

We had our first adventure to Bryson City last Memorial Day Weekend.  While still part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park this little town boasts a more laid back attitude.  While I admit that we spent most of this trip camping just outside of town in Whittier, we visited the downtown area on a few occasions, lightly browsing the unique shops and checking out the railroad station.  Bryson City is home to the Great Smoky Mountain scenic railroad and while we did not take a railroad excursion on our last trip is it certainly on the list!  Also nearby to Bryson City is the Natahaha River, Fontana Lake and the infamous Tsali Trails (these are absolutely on my list to bike – although you need to check the schedule as certain days are designated for biking and others are not).

20160529_132952.jpgWe had the pleasure to hike in the Deep Creek area of the GSMNP. The trails in this area are mostly moderate and well marked.  We encountered horses and backpackers alike as well as day hikers like our family.  The most impressive part about Deep Creek is that after a tiring day of hiking you can rent tubes (cheaply I might add – a full day of fun for about $5) and  float your cares away down the mountain stream.  If you are looking for a wilder ride we recommend hiking up about a mile  and riding the upper section of the gorge which contains patches of whitewater (we also recommend a life jacket as it is easy to be separated from your tube in this section especially after a rainfall).

Our second day of hiking near Bryson City took us to The Road to Nowhere, a scenic mountain highway that takes you six miles into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and ends abruptly at the mouth of a tunnel.  The GPS calls this road Lakeview Drive but to the locals it represents a broken promise.  The history of this area is quite interesting. In the 1930s and 1940s  many Swain County residents gave up private lands to the federal government for the creation of Fontana Lake and the GSMNP.  The creation of the park meant that many ancestral home places were gone as well as Old Highway 288, the road to those communities. The federal government promised to replace Highway 288 with Lakeview Drive, which was to have stretched 30 miles west from Byrson City to Fontana.  The real importance of this road to many residents was that it would have provided access to family cemeteries.  Lakeview Drive was stopped just six miles in though due to an environmental issue and was never completed.  On weekends in the summer the parks service ferries groups of Swain County residents across the lake for family reunions and to visit these cemeteries.  The legal issue wasn’t resolved until 2010 when the federal government entered into a settlement to pay Swain County $52 million in lieu of building the rest of the road!  Walking through the tunnel will open up a world of adventure for hikers and horseback riders alike (we will opt for a flashlight next time thought!) including a trek to beautiful Fontana Lake.  Be wary though, many of these trial while otherwise moderate are somewhat steep and are shared with horses.

The Breaks Interstate Park (www.breakspark.com)

This bi-state park is located on the Virginia/Kentucky line in the Jefferson National Forest.  Affectionately called the Grand Canyon of the South, this park hosts a 5 mile gorge plunging to 1,650 feet to the Russell Fork River.  The Russell Fork is well known by adventuresome rafters for its Class 6 rapids and jagged rocks beneath.  Water is released from the John Flannagan Dam the first 4 weekends in October each year and the rafters come from all directions to try their luck.  One stretch of this river is considered the most difficult rafting in the East.

 The park boasts 25 miles of some of the most beautiful trails in the area.  Most are moderate to easy trails and are shaded for easy family adventures.  My personal favorite is the Geological Trail, the large boulders and majestic forest floor make this short hike more than memorable.  Additionally, the overlooks in the park are breathtaking, especially the Virginia/Kentucky Stateline Overlook near the Geological trailhead.

The Breaks also features a newly renovated lodge and new lake-side cabins.  The park completed a waterpark on the property just a few short years ago!  There is also horseback riding, fishing and plenty of geocaching opportunities!

While I have ventured to the Breaks on countless occasions I had never stayed until this past fall.  My family spent the weekend in the campground in late September when in town for a family reunion.  The campground did not disappoint!  The bathhouse was typical for a state park but clean enough – come on people, we are camping here!  We will definitely be making a return trip.  The weekend in the campground and hiking in the Breaks was relaxing and peaceful!

Other places we like to visit include: Knoxville, Downtown Greensboro, Asheville and surrounding areas, and Grayson Highlands State Park….