This year Hamish's fall break aligned with Columbus Day, and so we got to extend our annual Blue Ridge trip. We spent Saturday through Monday with family in South Carolina. We read lots of books, played, wiggled Hamish's first loose tooth incessantly, and celebrated Aunt Kitty's birthday with a piñata stuffed with presents and treats.

On Tuesday we drove up to the Blue Ridge. For the past few years we've stopped for lunch in Little Switzerland, and this year we were thrilled to find a house swap in the heart of Little Switzerland: a little mountain cabin that made a great home base for exploring the Southern Blue Ridge Parkway.

Tuesday night we headed to the Inn at Little Switzerland for dinner at the Fowl Play Pub. The whole ridge was was covered in mist.

On Wednesday, we headed North, driving the Blue Ridge up to Boone. The colors weren't at peak this year. It's always something. This year big temperature fluctuations and rain amounts kept the leaves off "schedule", and when Hurricane Nate blew through, lots of leaves fell early. But it was still lovely to walk in the woods and see the trees changing. And we had the van packed with snacks and coloring materials and Adventures in Odyssey on the radio, so everyone stayed happy.

We hiked Linville Falls North of Little Switzerland. We got the most comments from other hikers on the Linville Falls hike. Several older couples commented on the "next generation of hikers" and remembered fondly bringing their own now-grown children to hike on the Blue Ridge.

Of course we also did some caterpillar-spotting.

We'd done this hike in 2013 when Hamish was about 16 months old. It's fun to sit in the same spot four years later.

Even though we didn't get quite the same color show as last year, the Lin Cove Viaduct was still our best view. Last year the kids stayed in the car while I walked along the path at the Viaduct. This year, they came with us, even climbing the rock face to get the best view.

We headed back to Little Switzerland after we made it all the way to Boone. We stopped at a playground by the river in Spruce Pine for a bit before dinner at a pizza place that our hosts had recommended. One of the best things about house swapping is getting inside suggestions for where to go and eat.

Thursday morning we woke up to a heavy fog in Little Switzerland. We took a quick trip to the shops in Little Switzerland. Hamish had some change burning a hole in her hot pink purse. She really, really wanted to "buy a treat for everyone in the family." Unfortunately, $1.21 won't buy much of anything, much less four of anything. Instead of spending her stash on a single piece of candy, she chose to save it until she can buy what she really wants.

Once the fog had burned off and we'd had lunch at home, we got back on the road to explore the Blue Ridge Parkway South of Little Switzerland.

Mount Mitchell was our first stop. We walked up to the summit for the first time this year; it's a short walk from a visitor's center. There were boulders to climb, and our kids love being "baby mountain goats".

Back at the parking lot we had traditional hot cocoa and hot apple cider. Kyle remembers always going to Mount Mitchell when he was a kid and the dramatic temperature change between the Blue Ridge and the summit. At 6,684 ft, Mount Mitchell is the tallest peak east of the Mississippi River. But the Blue Ridge is already at 5,100 ft at the turnoff into Mount Mitchell State Park. As we drove up, our car showed about a 3-5 degree drop. But when he was buying the  hot cocoa, the attendant backed him up, and said sometimes there's as much as a 20-30 degree temperature difference!

We worked on the loose tooth a lot on Mount Mitchell. Kyle thought it would be a good added memory to lose her first tooth on the peak. No luck.

We bypassed Craggy Gardens this time in favor of the Manimal's car nap, and drove down to Asheville before turning around and heading home.

Thursday night we had dinner at home on the porch, and then cozied up with popcorn and a movie: the 1974 Benji.

Friday we cleaned and packed up and headed home. Hamish left our hosts a thank you note and drawing highlighting all of her favorite activities.

We hit rush hour traffic right as we got into town, making the last hour and a half of the drive less that ideal. We made good use of the van's DVD player, watching many episodes of the Magic School Bus over the last 40 miles or so.

We were happy finally to be home Friday night. (Tooth still in place).