Home, sweet home. As much as I enjoyed my vacation, and didn't want to come home - I am truly glad to be home, and glad I have a few days before I have to go back to true reality and back to work. I spent the last week in the Blue Ridge Mountains. What a gorgeous place! This is the second year in a row that we went, and I think I enjoyed this year more than last. Last year we did more touristy things, like Stone Mountain, and hitting the shops downtown, etc. This year we spent more time relaxing and enjoying the outdoors. The cabin we rented this year had a little creek in the back, and a lake (more like what I would call a pond, but big enough to enjoy).
We went with two other families, so there were 5 boys ages 7 - 12. They had the best time, not spending a lot of time playing with video games or on the computer. They spent time outside, really playing. They fished, swam in the lake, played in the creek, canoed with their dads. It was so nice to see them play and enjoy the outside, like I did when I was a kid. I was amazed, too, that they spent almost 7 full days together, and no one fought - they all got along awesome together. We didn't see the boys almost all day. They would come in for meals, but most of the day they spent running around playing with each other. It was a very refreshing sight.
I didn't get as much running in as I would've liked, but we hiked almost every day. I ran 1 mile the first morning I was there to kind of get an idea of what the area was like. Unfortunately, I didn't give my inhaler enough time to kick in, so 1 mile was all I could really tolerate. I didn't run again until today, which was my last day there. I did over 3 miles at a 3/1 run/walk pace, and I defeated the huge hills. As you Floridians know, there isn't many "hills" here, so I don't get a lot of time on them. I was so proud and happy as I made it up the first huge hill, I swear it would be considered an incline of 10 on my treadmill. I was running right along side of the Benton MacKaye Trail and a creek. I was so beautiful, and relaxing. After doing my run today, I wish I had done one every day this past week. What an enjoyable run it was.
Not to say that my hikes were any less enjoyable. On Monday, we did our most intense, but yet most beautiful hike the entire week. We went to Amicalola Falls, and for those who haven't yet been there, you definitely should go there if you ever are in the Blue Ridge area. Amicalola Falls sits at the bottom of Springer Mountain and is the beginning of the Appalachian Trail. The falls are 749 feet up, and yes, we hiked all the way to the top. :) I'm not sure how many miles it took us, but I do know there were 600 steps plus a hike on trail to get there. Let me say, it was not easy. I met a women who did the steps twice a week, and then she ran down the road to the bottom. There was a road to the top of the falls for those who did not want to hike to the top. I have never seen a true waterfall, and this waterfall was gorgeous! It is the highest waterfall in the southeast. We thought about going back to hike the beginning of the Appalachian trail and back, but it would have been a total of 16 miles and none of us were really ready for that this trip. Maybe next time. :)
On Tuesday, we did a very easy hike (honestly I would've preferred a little more intense hike, but I went along with the group). We did a hike on the Rhodendrun Trail in the Ocoee Whitewater Center which is in the Cherokee National Forest. This was the site of the 1996 Summer Olympics. Another beautiful place, and next time I am going to hike some of the harder hikes. When we were done with the hike, the boys played in the little pools of water, which when the water is released from the dams become white water rapids. The adults just sat with our feet in the water and just enjoyed the view. While I had my feet in the water, 4 tiny little fish were intrigued by my toes. They kept swimming around them, getting closer each time. I thought for sure, they thought my toes were food and were going to nibble on them. This place was my boys' favorite. They kept asking to go back, but if you have ever been to Blue Ridge you would know that there are so many beautiful places to go, you really don't have time to go to the same place twice. Wednesday was just a relax day. We hung around the cabin, floating in the lake, fishing and canoeing. Definitely a needed day, just to de-stress and enjoy the view from the cabin.
Thursday was probably my favorite day of the entire vacation. I got to do something I haven't done since I was about 10 years old, and have wanted to ever since. We went horseback riding. I didn't realize how much I missed it. It felt so right to be back on a horse, riding through the trails. It's like the saying "once you ride a bike, you never forget, and can get right back on like you've never missed a day" (or something like that, LOL) It was like I never stopped riding; everything came right back to me. I am making a promise to myself that I will find a way to keep riding, and if ever possible have my own horse. My kids got the riding bug, too, even my oldest who really didn't want to go - he wanted to go tubing with our friends. My horse was named Carmel, and I didn't have to do any work with her. She knew exactly where to go, and how fast to go. She had the best temperament; I would've have loved to take her home with me. My boys felt the same way about their horses, too. Ryan's was named Tux, Hunter's was named Scout, and Adam's was named Blue, which I found fitting since our favorite dog was named Blu :)
Friday was another hike to another waterfall. This was a much shorter hike, only about a 1/4 mile in. It was called Fall Branch Falls and was also on the Benton MacKaye Trail. A much smaller waterfall then Amicalola Falls, only a 75 foot high falls, and we didn't hike all the way to the top. It definitely wasn't a challenging hike, but enjoyable anyways. We also did a driving tour throughout the Blue Ridge area, and there are definitely some beautiful sights to see.
That brings me to today, the day we had to drive home.:( I was determined to get another run in, and especially today, because my friend and sister in law was running a 1/2 marathon in the mountains up north (on her vacation, too) and I wanted to show her some support. I was not about to let her down :) I am so glad I ran because it was so peaceful and relaxing - I think that was the only way I was able to get through the almost eight hour drive. If you have never been to the Blue Ridge Mountains, I definitely recommend it. There are things to do for everyone from the very brave, very active person to the one would rather sit and fish and see the beautiful mountain views.