After three days of driving and spelunking (not really), we reached our Mountain People. Crazy Aunt Linda and her slightly less-crazy fella, Big Uncle Willy, greeted us at the top of their very steep driveway. Their sweet doggies were in a state, because my children exited the car after hours and hours and began “exploring” the house post-haste. In the whirl of activity, I was handed a beer that I didn’t actually drink for at least an hour, because I needed to get the kids to sleep before they made the universe collapse on itself right there in the mountains of North Carolina.
Over the next few days, we had us some adventures! While I’d been to North Carolina before, I’d never stayed in this beautiful wild and mountainous western portion before. The first day of our visit we went to the nearby Western North Carolina Nature Center, which was like a specialized zoo of sorts for rehabilitated animals native to the region. It was a great outing for our family, because it was a very manageable size for short legs and engaging enough for short attention spans. So it was great for Ollie’s running ahead/running back M.O., and he couldn’t really get lost. We got to see a wonderful little screech owl, and then the kids put on puppet shows that basically went like this: two animals fight. One wins. Then two more animals face off. One wins. I think you get the idea.
After all this excitement, it seemed the only way to cap off the day was to go to the wonderful little park near Linda & Bill’s home for a good ‘ol fashioned hot dog grillin’. Chips and fruit and hot dogs galore, on a mild and sunny NC evening in the mountains, watching my kids play in the creek like they were born country boys? Perfection.
The next day we all headed out to Chimney Rock for a hike. It should be noted that, when faced with the many trail choices and their descriptions online, we opted for the “leisurely stroll” to Hickory Nut Falls. Um: not leisurely. Perhaps for national park service folk who live there, or the couple of show-off extremely fit families we saw jogging on the rocky, rolling trails but us? Well, it was manageable, which is about as much as I can say about it. Joe ran around like a mountain goat with various children on his shoulders, though, so apparently it was leisurely enough for him!
The scenery was pretty gorgeous, though.
Lunch and treasure hunting in the “main street” shops just outside the park were our reward for a hike well-finished. It was fun to see what the boys would choose as their souvenirs. They kept trying to choose weaponry, and like a real drag of a mom I kept declining. In the end, Maxwell chose a straw cowboy-style hat, Ollie a Chimney Rock-emblazoned tambourine, and Seth an undulating wooden snake.
Later that night, my CALi and I snuck away at bedtime to see “The Fault in Our Stars”, which was fitting because I forced her to read it (she would agree it was maybe one of the best things she’s ever been coerced to do) and she loved the book as much as I did. And, indeed, she has come to know John Green’s parents because they live in Asheville and have similar interests/friends. The movie was great–not as genius as the book, by any means, but quite faithful and well-done. You can read–and SHOULD read–the amazing article my aunt wrote about it for her local paper here on page 11! It is such a great piece. Even though she says it better, it was perfect to see the movie with her…a full-circle moment, if you will, considering the movie was released just in time for our visit to NC.
The following day we had to get ready to leave. Our plans had changed, shortening our stay in Asheville and our stay at the beach by a day on each end to facilitate a trip home for Joe to attend Kristin’s memorial service. So after buying an outfit Joe could wear the following day for his travel and the service, eating one more meal at the lovely park (Bojangles!) and playing one more round of Nerf baseball, we had to say goodbye and set out for Raleigh.
Early the next morning Joe took a shuttle to the airport, and the boys and I had a day to spend in Raleigh. Good thing my Crazy Aunt Laura (are you keeping track?) lives in town and was brave enough to offer some adult company to me. After a diner lunch where Oliver was absolutely nuts, we knew the next stop had to be an energy-burner for the boys. We went to the park where they played while we gals chatted, and then we took it back to the hotel so the boys could swim and we chatted some more. I didn’t document much of this day because, to be honest, my heart and head were in two places and I felt so sad and disoriented. But I was very grateful for the time spent with my aunt, who I see altogether too little.
CALa had her own business to attend to later that evening (my guess is a lot of napping; just being near the atomic levels of energy the boys put out is exhausting!) and I had homework, homework, homework to do while I had some WiFi. I ordered pizza in because I could not face the thought of taking the three boys out for dinner alone after the crazy lunch. When everyone was asleep, I took my quiz and texted with Joe and my aunt, then reveled in HGTV before drifting off to sleep myself. By the time we woke up, Joe was back sleeping soundly, too, after a long day of travel and family and saying goodbye to our friend. Oh, how I wished I could have been there, too. But I was glad that Joe could go. And now that we were reunited, it was time to enjoy one last brunch with CALa before hitting the road and seeing the ocean…