Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Big Summer Trip: Lake Anna State Park, VA

Part of the reason we chose one of stops to be Lake Anna State Park in Virginia was because it is just under an hour from where we used to live. The park itself is nice with some trails and a lake beach, but we also had the opportunity to visit our former home and see some friends. 

Everything tastes better when you're camping! Pancakes for breakfast.

We visited Woodberry Forest and the big girls played dress up with Sophia.

Aurora was in the kitchen looking for snacks.

That afternoon, we went to the Woodberry Forest pool and met some more friends. Then Sophia came back to camp with us to spend the night.

"Don't go too deep!" said. Their definition is different that mine.

Sierra and her buddy Sophia.

We had to make sure Sophia got the whole camping experience, which of course includes making s'mores. 

Daddy helping Aurora catch lightening bugs.

Camping is for the dogs!

The next day, Sophia's family came out to Lake Anna and we spent the afternoon at the beach and had a picnic dinner together.

Events included pole climbing. Sierra was an expert.

Jason had lots of help building a fire.

The kids throwing "poppers" at the ground.

 We love this family!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Big summer trip: Great Smoky Mountains National Park

While camping at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, we decided that we wanted to do the 4 mile hike up to Chimney Tops, one of the tallest places in the park and a highly recommended hike. Despite a soaking rain, we decided to venture out on the hike because we only had two days in the park. 

Grandma, Sierra, and Aurora testing out their rain gear. 

We were wet, but happy. 

Aurora started out hiking but the hike there was pretty tough, and ALL UP HILL, so shortly after this point, she switched to riding. 

Finally, as we neared the summit, the clouds started to break up and we got some great views. 

Kaia stuck with me on a lower vantage point. I didn't want to climb all the way up the rock face with a 2-year-old on my back and it was a little tough for Kaia. 

Jason and Sierra, though, ventured all the way to the very peak. 

Look! I see sun! And it's time for a trail snack. 

This is how Aurora spends a lot of our hikes.

Kaia found a great hiking partner in Grandma Ginger.

On the way back to our campsite, there was a beetle that had managed to find its way into the car. It was near Aurora, and she was fascinated. She was giggling at her little friend and kept saying. "Wook! Wook at my widdle bee-doe!" (Look at my little beetle)

After 4 miles to Chimney Tops and back, the next day, we did another hike to Hen Wallow Falls, this one an additional 4.5 miles. I was SO impressed with Sierra and especially 4-year-old Kaia for covering 8.5 miles over the course of two days.

If there is a rock that can be climbed, Sierra will climb it. 

Jason dunked his head in the falls. 

And before long, Kaia dunked her head in the falls!

Big summer trip: Mammoth Cave National Park

Jason and I have been camping together for years. Our first camping trip was before while we were still dating. We've had a lot of fun, and our girls are familiar with our camping vacations. They love it! This year, we upgraded from tent camping to a pop-up trailer. The timing was perfect because out of 14 days camping, it rained 12 of them, and one was the day we traveled home. Only one day (in Shenandoah National Park) was a complete wash out of all day, soaking rain; but every other day was either part day rain, or a storm in the afternoon, or rain overnight. 

This year, our family (along with Grandma Ginger) headed east to visit some national parks and a state park near where we used to live in Virginia. First stop was Nolin Lake State Park in Kentucky and Mammoth Cave National park. 

The first day at Mammoth Cave, we took two cave tours. 

Heading down into the cave. It was SO HOT and humid in Kentucky when we were there that the cave, at 54 degrees, felt amazing! 

No flash was allowed in the cave, so photos are pretty poor quality inside. 

Waiting to start tour #2. 

The second tour highlighted a lot of the "oooh, ahhh" features in Mammoth Cave. 

Cave crickets

Kaia catches a ride with Daddy. 

Back at camp, we had the camping staple, s'more. Aurora was a big fan!

My mom hurt her foot, so she sat out for our next day's hike. It was hot, hot, hot, and oh so humid. But the hike had some really nice views, a water filled entrance to Mammoth Cave below, and some fun boardwalk sections.

Sweaty girls, post hike. 

Aurora spent most of the hike in my back pack, but she got her chance for a little hiking at the end of the trail.