Day trip: running away to the mountains for a day
I love autumn... the brisk, refreshing air, the leaves changing colors, the first sweatshirt of the season! Oh, wait... I live in Savannah where it was in the 80's yesterday. Again. While there are some perks to such a mild climate, at times I long for the true change of seasons.
So this past weekend our family ran away to the mountains for a day. It was a crazy thing to do, but we piled the kids and dogs into our minivan before the sun came up on Saturday morning. We drove for more than five hours to reach our chosen spot in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Then we relished every moment as we hiked and explored amidst the shades of red and yellow that decorated the trees in the cool mountain air (the high was in the 50's... hello, sweatshirt!).
Every adventure has its learning experiences, and this one was no different. We had the happy fortune of stopping by a monarch butterfly waystation in our search for restrooms. There we met Nathan, the newly released monarch, who was stretching his wings on a little tree as onlookers wished him well on his journey to Mexico. In an effort to protect and conserve monarch populations, a group called Monarch Watch (www.monarchwatch.org) raises the butterflies, tags them, and monitors their migration. I had no idea!
We also discovered that our little cocker spaniel loves water, no matter how cold, and she likes to swim. Dixie waded right into the pool below the waterfall, and when it became too deep to walk, she paddled along. Then she got out and did it again.
The kids proved once again to be real troopers â€“ and budding hiking enthusiasts. They handled the trails (complete with mud, rocks, and steep inclines) with great exuberance and increasing skill. Even our 3-year-old did all his own hiking.
We began winding our way down out of the mountains as the sun was making its retreat. When we finally landed on our doorstep around 12:30am everyone was asleep in the back of the van except for our boxer. She stayed awake for the whole trip, her head peaking over my daughter's seat, apparently savoring every minute of this strange and wonderful day.
Was it crazy to drive all the way to the North Carolina mountains for just a day trip with three kids and two dogs? Quite possibly. But we had an ambition, a yearning. So when we saw a window of opportunity in a busy month of obligations, we made the most of it. We did something we loved that we wouldn't have been able to do otherwise (because we didn't have an entire weekend available).
Sure, we sacrificed some sleep and put in some driving hours, but our reward was the beauty of autumn in the mountains, the spirit of adventure, special family memories, and the sweet taste of freedom. Not bad for a Saturday.