North Carolina “High Country” – Week 2

Our last week in the High Country of North Carolina began with a relatively easy drive from the Burnsville area up to Blowing Rock.  A drive to Blowing Rock though is not complete without a few pit stops first.  We weren’t really sure what to expect with the weather this week so we wanted to get some of our favorites out of the way first!

Beef Jerky OutpostValle Crucis, NC

This place has become a must stop for us on our trips up here.  First, Beef Jerky is great food to bring along when your hiking….until you run into a bear.  However, we’ve never seen a bear (knocks on wood).  It’s great protein, seals well in the package, and oddly both our kids love it!  There is an endless supply of all different types of jerky here.  From your normal every day orange teriyaki to deer, gator, snake, and camel.  They always have three types of samples for you as well!  The link to their Facebook page is in the header and click on the city of Valle Crucis in the paragraph header to go to the Google Map location as well.  You won’t regret it!

Over Yonder Restaurant – Valle Crucis, NC

Just a couple minutes down from the Jerky Outpost is the Over Yonder Restaurant.  It’s right across the street from the Original Mast General Store .  More on that in a minute.  Instead, let’s get to how good this okra was!  This wasn’t Cracker Barrel okra that’s for sure.  You could tell this was real and fresh!  Just take a look at this picture.  Considering this was a typical tourist time for them they were jam packed, but they fit us in right away, and food came out quick as well.  This was our first visit here and we loved it.  The cheese grilled cheese with the BLT salad was a perfect mixture!

As for the Mast General Store, if you’ve never been you should go, if only to say that you’ve been. The place is huge, and on the register of historic places.  Their prices are pretty descent for some of their gear and they always have a sale going on.  If you can’t find it here they have a surplus store down the road just a bit as well.  It really is a neat place, but be forewarned it will be crowded!

Appalachia Cookie Company – Boone, NC

Last on our list for the drive up was this amazing place!  If you’ve never been here, you must stop in and order fresh cookies.  They are so good and they’ve even won an award or two.  We’ve tried every single on on the list and have had them shipped to friends as well.  Our favorite go to is the Blueberry White Chocolate Oatmeal….you won’t regret it.  By the way the picture to the right is Flat Stella, she went everywhere with us on this trip.  Flat Stella was a school project for our daughter.  Stella had to go places with us and do things with us, and then my daughter had to draw the corresponding pictures.  Funny thing though, this picture is real, but many of the Flat Stella pictures we took I had to photoshop Stella in because we forgot to take pictures with her!

Chetola Resort – Blowing Rock, NC

The place we called home for our second week was the Chetola Resort.  The entire size of the facility was very big.  We had a two bedroom condo unit and while the pictures on their website didn’t reflect the unit we stayed in, it wasn’t too bad.  The master bathroom shower had issues all week with the faucet and the hot water and the heating in the unit itself struggled to keep up with temperatures in the single digits. They had a fire pit where they held a “bonfire” as they called it.  It was more like 4 or 5 logs and they sold hot chocolate for $3 and a paper bag to make 3 smores for $5.  That was kind of a downer for me.  All in all it was quiet, we slept well, and it was a nice location as we love the downtown Blowing Rock area.

Hikes – Linville Falls-Plunge Basin

It was so brutally cold that we were only able to complete 3 hikes all week.  If you include the two times my wife and I woke up to watch the sunset from a rock on the Rough Ridge trail, well then that’s 5 hikes.  As a family though we completed 3.  The first hike was Linville Falls-Plunge Basin , and this was a great hike.  When I mentioned before that our daughter does not do well with easy hikes, we meant it.  This trail was slippery with ice, huge boulders, quite a bit of mud, and a drastic elevation change and she loved and hiked every step of the 2 mile hike.  This was one of the more fun hikes, and one I’d love to come back and do in the summer when it’s hot and you can jump in the water.  Being that it was a little more than 20 degrees, we hid from the wind at the basin floor and ate lunch before beginning our climb back.

Beacon Heights Trail to Grandfather View

This hike was a random decision to stop and hike.  We wanted to spend more time outside today as we knew that the cold front was coming in.  This hike was brutally cold because of the wind.  It was quite unreal how much the wind was howling and how the clouds were flowing over the mountain peaks.  The views were pretty.  It was a very short trail, our daughter actually fell asleep in the Deuter carrier she was so worn out from the previous hike we had just completed.  It was a short hike, 30 minutes total, but we got some good pictures to share in short time.

Crabtree Falls

Let me begin this description with the fact that there was no expectation for snow the entire week we were supposed to be there.  What does it do?  It snows a half inch the first day and about 3 inches the 3rd day we were there.  We didn’t mind though as it afforded us the opportunity to do a hike mid-morning to Crabtree Falls.  It had just snowed 3 inches, and we were the ONLY people at the trail head.  I came to appreciate this more than most things this week.  It was so quiet and peaceful…except for the occasional snowball the kids were throwing.  What was great was the animal prints we could see in the snow.  The kids loved trying to figure out what each print was, where it went, what it was doing, and were they looking at us as we were hiking.  As we made it to the falls, the temperature was about 15, but the sun was out and there was hardly any wind.  The falls were mostly frozen over and covered with snow.  It was very peaceful and beautiful at the same time.  This trail took us about an hour total and was a good warm up for the rest of the day.


The kids loved the snow.  That’s really all that matters.  We found places to sled, broke a few sleds, had a blast, made some memories, and it was so worth it.

First on this list, we decided to go tubing at Sugar Mountain.  Word to the wise, make sure you get there to be the first group and don’t go during Christmas or New Years holidays.  We went a few days after New Years during the middle of the week and had a blast.  Friends of ours tried to go to the session after ours and it was so packed they couldn’t even find a parking spot. Early bird definitely gets the worm.  The experience was good, I appreciated the fact they were more safety conscious than Beech mountain and our kids both had a great time.  We chose here because our daughter at 4 years old could tube whereas she couldn’t anywhere else.  This was great.

Famous Brick Oven – Beech Mountain

We can’t say enough good things about this place.  We’ve been here a couple of times, and each time the food is absolutely phenomenal.  Yes, it is always a little crazy because of how busy they are.  However, they are responsive, friendly, and again the food is excellent.  Our favorites are the pizza and wings.  I am not sure if we were worn out from tubing and sledding all day or if the food was that good, but we drove from Sugar Mountain up to Beech Mountain on this day just to come here again knowing we liked it last year just to have it again.  If you are near Beech Mountain you have to give this place a try, and while you’re there draw a cool drawing representing where your from on a paper plate and put it on the wall!

Appalachian Ski Mountain

We decided to take on snowboarding at night after the kids were going to sleep at Appalachian Ski Mountain.  Being that it was right around the corner from the resort made it a big plus.  If you have to rent gear the process is a little confusing, but they have people standing around to help answer your questions.  The wait was probably 45 minutes, which I didn’t think was too bad considering how many people were waiting.  What was even better is once we got on the mountain there didn’t seem to be nearly as many people as we thought.  We rarely had to wait to get on the lift and the last two hours or so there was no wait at all.  It had recently snowed about 3 inches and they had a good base already from the man made snow.  The staff was excellent, helpful, and polite.  We will most definitely come back here again in the future!

Downtown Blowing Rock

The downtown area of Blowing Rock is really pretty special.  On nice days during the holidays it is absolutely jam packed, too packed for my liking.  However, there are so many neat stores, restaurants, a playground for the kids,   free covered parking garage, and an excellent coffee shop.  We highly recommend Camp Coffee Roasters right on Main St.  They coffee is excellent and the bakery items are just as good with other local items offered as well.  This area is a not so hidden gem, but one I can’t wait to come back to.


We are always happy to answer questions and love featuring some of our favorite places to visit on our trips.  The extreme cold this second week made it hard for us to do as many things as we wanted.  The high never got about 15 and the lows every night were around 1-3 degrees F.  While it is definitely a dry cold without the wind,  making it tolerable when the sun was out, the last two days the wind was blowing a constant 35mph and snowing and it was far too cold for the kids to be out in for more than a short period of time.  The windchill the last two days hovered between -10 and -27 and we just weren’t prepared with proper hand, feet, and face coverings for the kids.  We love this area of North Carolina and hope you do too!

North Carolina “High Country” – Week 1

Leading up to Christmas this year the kids really started to show signs of understanding the importance of why we really celebrate Christmas.  It began a few weeks before Thanksgiving while driving in the car with my son.  We drove past a retail center that already had Christmas decorations up.  He asked why they had the decorations up already, and I replied they are decorating for Christmas so they can get a jump start on sales for people buying Christmas presents.  He then said, “It’s not even Thanksgiving yet, they should really just care about Jesus’ birthday.”  We decided that we should take the chance to “get away” for a few weeks during Christmas break from school, and we ended up in the High Country of North Carolina to do some hiking.

Mt. Mitchell Area

Our first week in the High Country we stayed in the area of Busick, North Carolina.  Don’t worry you can’t find the city on the map.  It’s one of those places with no cell phone signal, dirt road access, and a beautiful running creek parallel to the road.  The road dead ends at the Black Mountain campground with several trail heads.  What it lacks in grocery stores, it more than makes up for with great trails, fishing access, and quiet.  It’s a short ride to the Blue Ridge Parkway with the only negative to that being when the road is closed due to Fog or Snow.

Catawba Falls Trail

On Christmas Eve we decided to get out of the house, do some geocaching, explore the area and do a short hike to a waterfall.  We found several geocaches as we circled from north of Mount Mitchell to the west near Burnsville then south toward Asheville before finally approaching our hike at Catawba Falls.  This hike was relatively easy.  We decided to wander a bit off the trail to try and find another geocache, but unfortunately we never found it.  The trail was about 2.1 miles out and back with a very modest 330 foot incline.   Follow this link here for more details and to see full hike details on the All Trails App/Website.  However, it did make for a great stopping point at the waterfall and a great way to stretch our legs.

Roaring Fork Falls Trail

Christmas Day was upon us and we needed to get the kids out of the house!  Lucky for us this trail was right around the corner.  This was by far the easiest trail we hiked.  If we’ve learned anything hiking with our 4 year old daughter, it’s that she absolutely despises easy hikes.  This hike is 1.4 miles out and back and there were no rocks or roots or heavy inclines.  We were able to find two geocaches along the way, one of which was one of the types our kids love to find…geocaches with random quarter machine toys that other people have left behind.  The falls weren’t the most amazing we’ve seen, but they were fun to walk around and the hike again was something to let the kids burn some energy.

Peak of Mount Mitchell

The day after Christmas we decided to drive around and see if we could find some geocaches.  For the most part we didn’t do much except hunt around for geocaches.  The Blue Ridge Parkway had been marked as closed for the previous few days due to some unreal fog.  I’ve never driven in fog some think in my life.  Driving about 15 mph I still almost hit several deer and a group of turkeys twice.  We got back to the house sometime around 4pm and I happened to check the Blue Ridge Parkway website for a status update.  Upon checking I noticed they had opened the parkway all the way to the road that leads to Mount Mitchell.  It was a rare sunny day this week, and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to see the sunset from the peak of Mount Mitchell.  So we loaded up and drove way too fast to the peak of Mount Mitchell.  We got there in perfect timing too.  The temperature was about 22 degrees.  As we got to the peak I jumped out of the car and ran the 400 meters to the peak on the paved sidewalk.  I then had to wait about 5 minutes to have the burn in my lungs completely stop.  It was so worth it though.  The colors across the sky were unbelievable.  Had it not been so cold I could say up there for an hour just staring at the sky.



Pinnacle of the Blue Ridge

This trail was very unique.  It’s a 2 mile loop trail with an almost 500 foot elevation change.  There is  1 off road parking spot right at the trail head (which doubles as a park service access road).  However, if you drive 1/4 a mile up the road there is more parking and you can walk off the road in the grass.  This is a loop trail and if to find the trail head on the right you will want to use the All Trails app to find it because it is not marked.  The entire first half of this trail was through weird overhanging bush trees and basically a straight up hike.  It most definitely burned the calves.  It was quite strange compared to the rest of the mountain area trails though.  When you are walking through the first half all you think to yourself is please let this open up at least once to see something cool.  This trail did not disappoint.  When we finally made it to the high point the trees disappeared and we were able to climb boulders to find some pretty amazing views.  We hung out on the rocks for a bit, took a picture with our daughters class project (Flat Stella) and enjoyed some snacks for a bit.

Fly Fishing

While we/I were semi prepared for some fly fishing.  What I wasn’t prepared for was fly fishing in the bitter cold.  We made a couple of attempts in the South Toe River, but unfortunately the weather was just too cold and too cloudy.  Stay tuned for our next trip to this area when there’s warmer weather in the spring!  For now, enjoy a few pictures of our son having his first go at fly fishing.

River Loop Trail / Setback Falls

For the end of our first week and first location we decided to give one last hike a go.  First, the All Trails app was way wrong on how long this hike was.  Yes, it is a loop trail, but it was more like 4.5 miles instead of the 3.5 miles it said it was.  The end of the hike was very strenuous, and honestly the views weren’t that great.  The best part of this trail was the 1/4 mile side hike to Setback Falls.  What made the falls really neat was the fact that it was so cold the falls were mostly frozen.  The kids had some fun and we took some neat pictures as well.

First Week Summary

All in all, we loved the area.  There are so many trails to explore and geocaches to find and in warmer weather plenty of places to fly fish.  We’d love to come back here again.  What’s great about this place, is that it wasn’t chock full of tourists like us during the holiday time period!


Pacific Northwest!! Mt. Rainier Area (Post 6 of TBD)

Days 8-10

These next few days were like going through a time warp between summer and winter in the same day.  It was quite bizarre.  On these days we did some more GeoCaching, made our own trail, went sledding in the snow, hiked across a waterfall, and enjoyed the Mt. Rainier area.

Mt. Rainier

Our first day scoping out Mt. Rainier was a busy one and we didn’t even get to see the mountain!  However, we had an absolutely blast!  The day before on our drive into town we had already scoped out a few spots to stop and hike along the way.  This helped make the day a little easier.  Being that the house we rented was not equipped with internet…or cell phone signal, we had to rely on Blanton’s Market in town for their free wi-fi.  Don’t fret, we did go in and buy something every single time!  If you are in the Packwood area, Blanton’s really is a great little grocery store with very reasonable prices and fresh fruits and veggies.


Alright onto our day.  Our first activity…snow sledding.  Yes…you read that right, snow sledding…in June!  We had a blast.  It was pretty cold, about 34 degrees,

but for the most part we had plenty of warm clothes.  Poor Evan though, we didn’t quite pack the right pants for him and his pants weren’t really water proof.  So he rode around in the car without pants on afterwards for a little while.  He didn’t care though, he had so much fun sledding it made it up for all of it.  The house we were staying through AirBNB had a sled they offered for us to use so we took full advantage and were just lucky enough to find a great spot to do it.  Click here to see a funny video of our hiking adventures, click this link

No Name Hike

Anyone know what the best kind of hikes are?  The ones were you rarely run into a soul.  There’s just something about the ability to get out into nature on a random trail with only one parking spot for a vehicle and making it your own.  I don’t even believe this trail had a name to it as it didn’t appear on my Washington Trails App.  However, it was very quick, and had an amazing view of the river  at the end.  We threw rocks, walked across a series of logs that had piled up and just enjoyed the atmosphere at the bottom of the mountain where there was no rain or clouds.

The View Itself

I’m not going to lie, I really wish we had delayed our trip a few weeks so that we could have had better weather and trail conditions.  However, had we done that we would have encountered so many more tourists on the roads and trails of Mt. Rainier.  So, because of the weather and the shear number of people, we didn’t spend much time near the visitor center or driving around.  We did the one drive through the park so that we could saw we did it, and came away with the view to the right on the one sunny day.  That day was pretty incredible as every turn we made we were fortunate to have a different perspective to see the mountain.

Comet and Christine Falls

This hike was really pretty interesting.  It was one of the more strenuous hikes because it was essentially straight up.  As we hiked up, we passed multiple groups coming down who said they turned around because they couldn’t pass, the snow became too difficult.  The hike itself had some really pretty view in the short distance.  However, we did come to an area where we could not pass with the kids.  It was what looked like was a usual slanted rock stretch heading straight down about 200 feet to the bottom.  What made this difficult was the snow build up.  It was just any snow build up.  No, this snow build up had half way melted and had left what was essentially a hollow cave/bridge for you to walk over.  It was probably at the most 18 inches thick, so walking across it was pretty dangerous.  We chose not to bring the kids, and in fact I was the only one that kept going.  I knew by looking at the WTA app that I wasn’t that far from the last waterfall, maybe 3/4 of a mile.  I made it across and started jogging.  Without a carrier and other baggage, it felt like I could run for days…that didn’t last long though haha.  I eventually made it to the more difficult snow area and I just kept sinking down in the snow. It was actually pretty painful on my knees catching me off guard each time.  The view was so well worth it though and if there was more time I would have kept hiking even further.

Cora Lake Trail

Now technically this trail wasn’t within Mt. Rainier National Park.  It was actually part of the “sister” park the Gifford-Pinchot National Forest.  What was amazing about this trail was we were literally the only people anywhere within miles.  We traveled up a random forest service dirt road.  It appeared to be serving more as a logging road lately as they had been doing some planned clearings to help the over growth.  The hike itself wasn’t difficult, finding the geocache on the hike took a minute, but it was fun.  The hard part was finding the other geocache at the end of the trail.  We spent probably an hour trying to cross the creek where the trail typically crosses.  However, the water must have been extra high this time of year and didn’t give us anywhere to cross safely with the kids.  So we ended up leaving our daughter, who had fallen asleep in the carrier, with my mother-in-law and backtracked a little bit to cross at a place where a small tree had fallen across the creek.  Just because the creek is only 2-3 feet deep and 15 feet wide, doesn’t mean it is easy or not scary to have your 6 year old cross.  However, him and I and Laura all made it across. We then double timed it around the trail.  We had to cross the creek again up stream from the waterfall.  This crossing was much easier.  When we finally made it to the end, it was truly a beautiful view.  With the clouds and mist it was an eery view that was really different from normal view that made this unique.  We never did find the geocache.  There was so much heavy snow around that was packed tight, it was most likely buried.  We then proceeded to go back down.  What we realized when we started following the trail down is that when we were first trying to make it up we couldn’t really find the trail and there were a lot of fallen trees headed straight up hill.  We tried to pass that way but going uphill it became too difficult.  Going downhill though we thought we’d give it a try and cut off about 3/4 of a mile of walking, plus gain a little adventure and training for our 6 year old.  We repelled down the side of the cliff/mountain, grabbing onto whatever limbs/trees/branches we could.  It was quite difficult, but still fun and it saved us some time for sure.  We finally made it to the bottom of the trail ready for a snack!


Due to the weather, outside of the few hikes mentioned here, we spent a good bit of time looking for GeoCaches.  There are so many in the area, it made it quite fun.  It got to a point where anytime we would slow down the car, my son would flip his seatbelt out and yell out “are we geocaching??”.  Up next Mt. St Helens, Packwood Area, and Yakima.

Pacific Northwest 2017! (Post 2 of TBD)


As our previous post mentioned, we spent the first week of our trip staying in Glacier, WA.  What we didn’t say was we did a great deal of driving and exploring.  We enjoyed ourselves so much we are hoping to come back next summer.  Enough rambling, we’ll get to the details we hope you enjoy as much as we did.  At the end of this post we will post a link to our Google Photos folder from the first week of our trip.  To the right is a picture of the kids standing in front of a giant Douglas Fir on display at the Glacier National Park Service Center.  They couldn’t believe trees grew that big!

Day 1 – Deception Pass & Bellingham

In what became a seemingly daily ritual, the sky was cloudy and the rain misty. It was that type of rain that really doesn’t even get your clothes wet, just a little damp.  We started our day with a stop at the Wake ‘N Bakery to grab a couple magic cookie bars and we were off toward Bellingham.  After an almost two hour drive we arrived at our first stop…Deception Pass.  One can only imagine what the views are like when the clouds disappear.  Even so, the views were phenomenal.  The kids enjoyed climbing the rocks and walking the short trails.  The view from very entrance at the park front he bridge is even more fascinating and again one can only wonder how amazing it looks in person when the sun is out or even better at sunset.  Anytime you can take a minute to go somewhere different, experience something new, and see God’s true wonder and beauty, it’s as though it takes your breath away.  These scenes made me just want to sit there and stare at them for hours.  From there we took a short little jaunt to Boundary Bay Brewery in downtown Bellingham.  The beer was excellent and the food just as excellent.  There was a really great farmers market going on right across the street that was filled with anything you could think of from the local community.  Since this was our first full day in Washington we spent the rest of the day going to the grocery store and heading back to condo to get situated for the rest of our trip.  This was a great first day to get acclimated to the time change (3 hours) and experience some local culture.

Day 2 – Horseshoe Bend & Mt Baker Ski Area

We decided to begin our northwest hikes with a relatively simple trail, Horseshoe Bend.  This trail follows the Nooksack River for approximately 2.5 miles roundtrip.  There is virtually no incline of any significance, but the beauty of this trail was phenomenal.  Our kids really liked this hike to get us started.  Evan is six and Olivia is three.  On our entire trip Evan did every hike, faster and better than us adults!  Olivia did as well as she could for most hikes, but really it was a 50/50 chance whether she’d want to hike or not.  She did enjoy this one very much though for it’s relative ease.  The flow of water here is absolutely unbelievable.  The power behind this river is  unlike anything I’ve ever seen.  I have no doubt there’s greater, but this was really amazing.  After this little hike we pulled off the side of the road and had a picnic lunch at the Shuksan Picnic area.  This was a really nice place with picnic tables and areas to walk down to the river and throw rocks and walk along the water.  From lunch we proceeded our trek toward Artist Point Ridge trail.  The drive up was absolutely stunning.  The one problem….we could only make it to the Mt Baker Ski area.   Everything continuing on was blocked by snow.  This area received 271 inches of snow this winter, that combined with a late snow and unusually cool temperatures has made the snowmelt end later in the season.  So our entire plan of hiking the Artist Ridge trail was foiled by all the snow.  We didn’t let that stop us though.  We decided to attempt to just start hiking in the snow to see how far we could make it.  We didn’t make it very far, but the views were absolutely spectacular! The drive up was well worth it just for the views alone.  We headed down the mountain and made a quick stop to see Nooksack Falls.  There is no hike to these falls, you park and walk maybe 100 feet to the viewpoint.  It was beautiful and the history behind the falls and the attempts at delivering power to the area were very interesting as well.  There’s a road that continues from the falls, but is off limits to vehicles.  You’ll need to walk from there.  We didn’t walk up this way, but Glacier Service Center recommended it to us for a rainy day as it’s mostly covered with trees and can keep you dry.  It’s just a nice little walk to see the sights and apparently animals frequent this trail.  When Mother Nature changes around you and delays your plans, you just roll with it.  This was a great day and the views were truly spectacular.  We definitely recommend doing the Artist Ridge hike in July – September.  If/When we make it back this way, this is going to be tops on our list and we will be more prepared with snowshoes!!