Since we had plans last weekend we postponed our annual(ish) Blue Ridge trip until this weekend. It didn't come with a free vacation day, but it was well-worth taking Monday off.

We drove to South Carolina on Friday night hitting traffic in both Chattanooga and Atlanta but getting in before 1 am. On Saturday we spent the day in Aiken visiting with family. In the morning we visited Hopelands Gardens (in costume, of course) climbing giant trees with Mimi.

Saturday evening all of the family gathered to celebrate Aunt Kitty's birthday with a wonderful lasagna dinner. We brought her a bag full of Trader Joe's goodies, and the kids created masterpieces for her.

Before bed on Saturday night Aunt Kitty had a special book to read Hamish. Two chapters into The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and Hamish was hooked. That night I downloaded the audio book and Lucy and Aslan and the rest kept us company well into Monday afternoon.

Sunday morning we said our goodbyes and drove north to Boone, NC to a campground Kyle had found online. We arrived about 2:00 and picked the coziest camp site. Kyle and I set up our tent while the kids ran around the trees and explored.

We went to the Parkway Restaurant less than a mile away for a late lunch and then hopped on the Blue Ridge Parkway. At Jumpin Off Rock we looked for color and took a short walk to a lookout. Even short walks take us a while so we were there more than an hour exploring.

We rode on the Parkway down to Boone and got pizza for dinner. The Manimal had slept on the ride up to North Carolina but Hamish had not, so after dinner we went back to our campsite and got ready for bed.

The moon rising on our way home was the first of three major missed photo opportunities on the trip. As it rose over the mountains it was huge and yellow--the biggest, prettiest I may have ever seen the moon. I tried to get a picture but my phone certainly wasn't doing it justice.

At the camp site both kids were thrilled to be in the tent and sleeping bags, and there was a fair amount of silliness and elation in the bedtime routine.

The highlight came when Hamish reached deep in her sleeping bag and pulled out ANOTHER Meowie! The shock and joy on her face was adorable (missed photo op #2 in the dark tent). "What is this nonsense?" she said, laughing. "It's Meowie's twin sister!"

(and yes, "What is this nonsense?" is an exact quote. She also may have been speaking in a slightly British accent, influenced by 4+ hours of Narnia via audiobook.)

On that high note, we tucked all four of them into their sleeping bags and put them to sleep.

Kyle and I had our camp chairs and had planned to sit around the fire that night, but we hadn't bought any firewood before the office closed. So we sat together around the glow of his phone screen and planned our next day's drive then tucked in ourselves too.

Everyone slept well except me. My cold kept me coughing and uncomfortable, but no more so than I would have been at home. I dug cough drops out of the car at some point in the night, and we all slept well until 7 and woke up on Monday cozy and happy.

We ate breakfast again at the same Parkway Restaurant; our eggs sat much heavier this time. Then the kids and I played at the camp's playground while Kyle took down our tent. The lawn and playground equipment were still covered in the morning's dew, so the kids were soaked by the time we walked back to our camp site (but we got to marvel at the dew on spiderwebs).

Once we got changed into dry clothes, and checked out of the campground, we were on the road by 10. We spent the day driving from our site to Asheville, getting off the Parkway at about marker 385.

The color in the highlands just South of Boone was amazing. The Manimal fell asleep so we spent the morning pulling off to ogle the sights and snap pictures but generally staying in the car.


At the highest elevations the golds and reds were dotted with evergreens and whole hillsides were patchworks against blazing blue skies.

One of the best views was in our rear view. A whole side of the mountain was dotted in red and bald stone, and as we drove away the sun shone on the face of the mountain setting those red trees on fire. Missed photo #3.

We arrived in Little Switzerland and ate a wonderful lunch at the Little Switzerland Cafe. On the way out, the Manimal asked to ride on a motorcycle and of course someone let him (sit, anyway).

(They are barefoot because their shoes were still soaked from the playground. We sat them on the car in the sunshine during lunch, hoping they'd dry a little.)

The last section of our ride had less bold color but plenty of tunnels to drive and yell through.

Our last stop for the trip was a few miles down the road at Craggy Gardens. In the past we've made that hike to the top, but this year we just took in the view from the visitors center and got a [slightly squinty] family picture.

We caught 40 at the next opportunity and headed home. Car game for the road:Memory

Kyle: 7
The Manimal: 72
Hamish: 729
Alli: 7294
Kyle: 72948
The Manimal: 72948 um.... dragon.