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Lake Life

I don’t live it personally, but I sure could get used to it! Recently, a family friend loaned us their lake house for a weekend, to celebrate my father-in-law’s 70th birthday.

We drove up, about 2 hours from home, on a Thursday evening, and this was my view for half a day of work on Friday:

Screened porch view. I took my meetings from this table!
Morning coffee!

This is a lake in Tennessee, and even though it’s Spring in the South (and it’s in the 80’s as I’m writing this), it was cool yet comfortable all weekend, staying mostly in the 60’s. A couple of the grandkids even braved the water for a swim.

A girl could get used to this view!

Facing Fears & Jumping Off Docks

While recently at the lake (see my previous post, “Lake Life”), my 10 year old son, and his cousin of the same age, decided to try jumping from the second story of the dock. Don’t worry, the dock was designed for this, with a special gate opening up at the top, and the water was more than deep enough! It took just a couple minutes of coaxing them into it and cheering them on once they were standing over the edge, but once they worked up the courage, and faced their fears, they did it over and over again!

Check out these time lapse pictures of my son jumping, and a fun little YouTube video we put together for his channel, BenTube.

Anakeesta in the Great Smoky Mountains

Last week, my son was on Spring Break, and we decided to take a family trip to Pigeon Forge, TN. It is only about a 3 hour drive from our home. We rented a cabin on the river for several days, and were even able to take our Frenchie, Bella. The fishing wasn’t so great due to recent heavy storms, but there’s non stop entertainment in Pigeon Forge that kept us busy. We rode go karts, played putt putt, ate some really great meals, went to a comedy dinner theatre, shopped, etc. But, my favorite place that we went to was called Anakeesta.

Anakeesta is actually in neighboring Gatlinburg, TN. The word “Anakeesta” is a Cherokee Indian word meaning “the place of the balsams,” and refers to high ground. From the base of the mountain, you can either ride the sky lift up on a bench, in an enclosed chondola, or you can take the large ridge rambler up the road leading to the top. The ride up via the sky lift takes about 20 minutes. We did this our first time up, and I hate heights! But, I did it for my son.

Sky lift

Once at the top, there’s multiple activities you can choose from, plus there’s several dining and snack options, and a little village to pick up souvenirs from, or to sit, rest, and rock by the fire or water features. There’s a flat fee to enter the park, but there are 2 activities that cost extra if you want to do them: the mountain coaster, and the dueling zip lines. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to do either of these. The mountain coaster was down due to having been hit by lightning during the recent storms, and the zip line was booked solid all week long. But, I do have a pro tip for you….if you buy your tickets an hour before they close to the public, you can enjoy the last couple hours that evening and get in for free the entire next day! We did this, and it was well worth it. The views at sunset were gorgeous!

At the peak of the mountain is the AnaVista Observation Tower. It is 60 feet high, and provides 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains, allowing you to see as far as Kentucky on sunny days. It even has two glass panel floors to look down at the gardens below.

AnaVista Observation Tower

Another fun activity is the Treetop Skywalk. There are suspension bridges (with high rope sides) hung between the trees, about 50-60′ above the ground. Their website says it’s the longest tree based skywalk in the world with 880′ of bridges.

Me and my son on the skywalk.

There are 2 ropes challenge courses (made for kids, but parents did it too), Bearventure Challenge Course, and Treeventure Challenge Course. Here you can climb, swing, crawl, and slide through multiple levels.

My husband and son on a challenge course.

If you’re looking for picture opportunities, there’s endless places for great pictures at Anakeesta. Here’s a couple cool ones:

As a bonus, we even saw a bear below while we were eating on the deck of one of the restaurants. They say you can often see them roaming below while you’re on the decks and skywalks throughout the park.

All in all, Anakeesta is the one place I wanted to visit while on our trip, and it most definitely did not disappoint! They are still adding to the park, and it will be on our list to re-visit in the future. I give it two thumbs up, and highly recommend!

Nora Mill Granary

Four minutes down the road from where I grew up, is the Alpine town of Helen. Before you reach the actual town itself, alongside the Chattahoochee River sits a historic gristmill, Nora Mill, dating back to 1876. It is still operational, using the power of water and the original 1500 pound mill stones to grind all kinds of corn and wheat products. It also houses an old fashioned country store.

Over the Christmas holidays, while visiting my mom, my family took a quick trip to the mill. Most of my pics are waterside, but this is a fun little adventure if you are ever in the area.

Food is Memories

Just like a song can bring back memories of a particular time and place, so too can food. Remember the time you had the best pizza ever, who you were with, and exactly where you were? I bet you can, and if you’re having a hard time, close your eyes, and give it a try.

I realized I’ve been taking foodie pics lately on our family excursions. Here’s a peek at some of the food, places, and people I’ve shared these experiences with…

Megadeath burger at Fightingtown Tavern in Blue Ridge, GA. Peep the Krispy Kreme doughnut in the center! My husband, son, dog (Bella), and I ate here after a day on the Toccoa River.

You can’t live a full life on an empty stomach!

Sharks & Sunsets

This summer has served up some new experiences for my family, and shark fishing just so happens to be one of them. On our last family trip to the Gulf Coast of Florida, my husband and son tried their luck at landing a shark.

Our first night there, I had just returned from the all important grocery store run, and walked down to the shoreline when I heard excitement in their voices. While I was gone, they had caught some bait fish, and it just so happened that on their first cast for shark, my husband got a bite.

Now, keep in mind casting was not a “safe” activity. They had to walk out into the dark water and cast beyond the second sandbar, and walk back to shore. You wouldn’t have caught me going to that extent! My husband fought the shark for several minutes, and it pulled him down the shoreline some, but he eventually got it in. It was a black tip shark, probably around 4′ long. It drew quite the crowd looking at it, and the boys were thrilled. After I took some pictures, the hook was safely removed from it’s mouth, and it swam off just fine.

We all agreed that this catch, on our first night, was beginners luck because the rest of the week, try as they might, they never caught another one. But talk about one of the highlights of our week!

Often while they fished, I took pictures of things around us. One night, I sat in a chair, with my feet in the water, and snapped some pics as the sun went down behind the distant buildings.

I will leave you with these quotes (author unknown), that pretty much sums up my relationship with the ocean…

To some, it’s just water. To me, it’s where I regain my sanity.

I am such a summer person. Just give me a quiet spot with a breathtaking view, a cool drink in my hand, a warm sea breeze on my skin, the soothing sounds of waves crashing, and I will be in all my glory!

From the Mountains to the Sea!

After a fabulous weekend in the mountains, we returned home for less than 12 hours. We washed clothes, re-packed, and loaded the car again for our next adventure…Sun, sand, seafood, and shark fishing!

We turned lemons into lemonade with a last minute family beach trip, before school was set to start back. The lemons came in the form of a cancelled Spring Break cruise due to Covid-19, but the lemonade came when I had the vacation time available, and an opportunity for a week at the beach, for just the 3 of us, kind of fell into our laps.

Some family friends, who own a beach condo, had the days available, and only charged us the cleaning fee. We had a week of relaxation, with no agenda. It was bliss! And it was an added blessing that this was our second beach trip this summer. We had already been about a month prior with our extended family.

This time, we were on the gulf side of FL, and the water was crystal clear. We enjoyed snorkeling and looking at all the fish swimming around, and there were plenty. We boogie boarded on the days that the waves cooperated, and my husband and son even tried paddle boarding for the first time, although they weren’t real successful with it, as they could never get past the breakers. Most nights they fished from the shoreline as well, and on our first night there caught a 4-5′ black tip shark. It was one of the highlights of the trip! (Don’t worry, it was catch and release.)

Below are some of the more scenic photos from our trip. Look for more to come on sharks and sunsets!

The Mountains are Calling…

As I sit on the back deck of our weekend cabin rental, I can hear the thunder rolling in the distance, and the sounds of children playing in the river, while I swing in the cool afternoon air that the storm is bringing in. It’s my mother in law’s 70th birthday, and her kids and grandchildren have taken her to the mountains of North East GA to celebrate.

The river is narrow where we are, but there is a large rock cropping in the middle, and the water flows around it like a horse shoe. The kids have tubed and swam, and adults and kids alike have fished til their heart’s content. They are catching big rainbow trout. My husband has been all over the country trout fishing, and has paid some big bucks to fishing guides, and the fish caught last night in this little river were bigger than any he paid to find! My son caught one that was 30″ long, and weighed in at 4 lbs.

The prize fish

The area is beautiful, and as it turns out, only 12 miles from where I grew up. Last night I stopped along several overlooks from atop the scenic highway, and got some beautiful shots.

The mountains are calling, and I must go!

Over the Edge for Charity

Over the recent Valentine’s Day weekend, my husband and I flew to Orlando, FL. While this was our first getaway as a couple, without our son, in 9 years, we had a very special reason for going. Plus, we had some quality time together over the most romantic day of the year. (Queue sappy music!)

Here’s a little background info before I dive into the trip. This past summer, my husband, who is a youth minister, led a mission trip to an amazing place called Give Kids the World, in Orlando, FL. GKTW allows critically ill children and their families to take a week long, cost free vacation, including lodging, tickets to the theme parks, and meals. They are affiliated with the Make a Wish program, and have a small full time staff, but rely primarily on volunteer support throughout the year. The teenagers and other adults who joined my husband on the mission trip this past summer were forever changed by their experience at the village. They helped serve meals, work at craft stations, facilitate Disney character visits, drive families in golf carts from location to location, and many other tasks. My husband’s favorite was driving a small train around the village, and seeing the smiling faces of the children as they rode.

Since they opened, more than 175,000 critically ill children and families have had their Disney dreams come true! The GKTW facility is a whimsical village on an 84 acre resort. It has 166 villa accommodations, provides meals, entertainment, and fun activities while the families are on site. The best part is that it gives these precious kids an opportunity to forget about their illness for a week, and just be kids!

As you might imagine, this is an absolutely amazing place and service that they provide. So, when my husband got word of a particular fundraiser they were putting on, called Over the Edge for Give Kids the World, he “jumped” at the opportunity….keep reading, you’ll get it!

For each participant able to raise $1000, or more, they were given the opportunity to “go over the edge” of the Hyatt Regency, the tallest building in Orlando, by rappelling down 52 stories!

He raised the money, and we went. They even treated us and the other participants to a “courage party” the night before the jump. Now, there’s no way in this world I would have been able to rappel from the top of a building, as I am absolutely terrified of heights. So, I documented the adventure safely from the ground, while sitting in a lounge chair by the pool!

It was an unforgettable experience, and we are already looking forward to next year! All together, the fundraiser brought in right at $150,000 for GKTW.

The rappel day just so happened to be on Valentine’s Day. So after the festivities, we enjoyed a night out on the town, with great food, live music, and a comedy show.

Dreaming of Atlantis

This past spring break, my family and I went on our first cruise together. I had been once before, years earlier for a college graduation trip, but it was our first time cruising as a family. We chose Royal Caribbean mainly because it was the only cruise line with something available for the dates we needed. We are hooked, and are planning another cruise for 2020!

One excursion we will be taking again, is a day pass to Atlantis. With 5 miles of beaches with beautiful white sands and crystal blue waters, 11 pools to choose from, and a 141 acre water park with daring water slides, who could ask for more? Not to mention multiple marine exhibits, and a huge casino if you are so inclined.

We had a day to remember, and would highly recommend this experience if you happen to be taking an upcoming cruise with a stop in Nassau, Bahamas.

View from the Lagoon Bar & Grill
View from the Lagoon Bar & Grill
At the Royal Baths
Turquoise blue waters along the beach
Sunset over Atlantis from the cruise ship

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