Unicoi State Park and Helen, GA

unicoi 1We were getting cooped up and we needed to get out for another adventure. We had been to Fall Creek Falls, Myrtle Beach, Breaks Interstate Park as a blended family so far. We had a long weekend over the winter holiday and we were ready to explore. Helen, GA and Unicoi State Park sounded like a perfect solution. They had outside adventures to hike and an adorable Alpine town to experience, so off we went.

Unicoi state park was beautiful even in the winter. The weather was cool, but perfect for hiking and sitting around the fire at night. We were able to get a campsite in  the Laurel Ridge part of the campground. The campground was full of campers ready to ring in the new year. For those who prefer to stay in a hotel there is Unicoi Lodge at the entrance of the park. There is a large lake that had some great hiking trails, and we had some great opportunities to see some birds and other wildlife in the area. The drive there was gorgeous, the views were incredible and there were plenty of places to pull over and snap some pictures.

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We enjoyed the campground, and met our hosts, they were extremely friendly and made a large fire for us to sit around at night and chat with other campers. The kids enjoyed a rousing game of hide and seek around the playground with one another . They also enjoyed riding their bikes around the campground and walking around the lake. A short drive to Anna Ruby Falls led us to a short, paved half mile hike to see the twin waterfalls. Curtis Creek and York Creek  meet up to make these falls. It cost a few dollars admittance fee to get into the park, but it is well worth it.

Helen is a unique town. Back in 1969 the townspeople were looking for a way to reinvent their town. They consulted with John Kollock, who had lived in Germany for some time and visited many Bavarian towns. He shared his vision for the town and everyone loved it. Thus the little dying lumber village was rescued and is now the third most visited town in the state of Georgia. It’s unique in its’ Bavarian styled buildings. You can find some wonderful German food and beers while walking through the town. King Ludwig’s beer garden was a nice spot for us to take a break. We had a few beers and the kids enjoyed some pretzels, beer cheese and some brats and sauerkraut. Hofer’s Bakery and Cafe can’t be beat for finding some scrumptious pastries. My very favorite is  their cream puffs, they simply can’t be beat. We had to load up on some sweet treats before leaving the town.

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Poose was overjoyed to be at Babyland General

Nearby in Cleveland, GA  is Babyland General Hospital. If you grew up like I did, you always dreamed to go to Babyland General. Even as an adult I was quite excited to visit the home of the Cabbage Patch dolls. You can walk through and see thousands of Cabbage Patch Dolls. Some handmade and quite pricey,  and some more traditional and affordable. You can see the cabbage patch dolls being born from the cabbage patch, and take your oath of adoption when you have chosen your perfect match. It’s free admission and made for some fond memories.

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Meet Kendrick, the newest member of our family

 

 

 

Helen also has a wine trail that we had to try out. Most of the wineries charge for tastings, which is different than I am used to, but we enjoyed it nonetheless. Some of our favorites were the Frogtown Cellars and Habersham winery. We didn’t get to try them all, we had to save a few for our next visit, right? We also discovered Bulldog Hard Cider, it was very crisp and refreshing.

helen 1One of our last hikes was spent exploring Sautee Nachoochee area. There are several beautiful hikes in the area, many with gorgeous waterfalls and views. We had fun wandering in the forest and breathing in the fresh air. I enjoy hiking and being in the outdoors in the cooler winter months. It beats being stuck inside by a long shot. The kids enjoyed the waterfalls and views, there were a few spots where ice was still clinging to the rocks that were breathtaking.

We found our trip to Unicoi State Park and Helen, GA to be invigorating. It was a grand getaway that was close to home. It had the perfect mix of nature and culture. We noticed there were a lot of activities for the warmer months such as tubing and Zip lining. We hope to return in a warmer part of the year and have some more fun soon.

Where are your favorite waterfalls and hikes? Do tell!

 

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Camping at Myrtle Beach

myrtle beach 2It’s been a long standing tradition in my family to go to Ocean Lakes campground in September -October. My parent’s like to vacation without a ton of people, so they tend to avoid the busy season. The fall months are great for the beach, you avoid the crowds,you  can take your dog on the beach and the rates are cheaper. My parents rent a house in Ocean Lakes for the  entire month for what it costs in peak season for a week.This is an excellent advantage to homeschooling. You don’t need to fight for your spot on the beach at the same time as everyone else. The weather is still nice and the water is warm.

Ocean Lakes offers a lot of options for visiting Myrtle Beach. You can rent a house or you can bring your own camper and use their hookups. They also offer fresh water fishing at their lakes, there are planned activities such as exercises classes or Bingo ( a family favorite) and they have a convenience store, fast food restaurant and laundromat. It is convenient to grocery stores, restaurants and shopping. So you have the option of staying in the park the whole time because there is plenty to keep you busy, or you can venture out and see what else the city has to offer.

myrtle beach 1Most of the beach homes you rent come with a golf cart that you can use to get around the 310 acres. It’s the largest campground on the East Coast, so this is a definite break of our habit of staying in State Parks. This place has the extra bells and whistles, you can paint ceramics or swim in the heated pool. We enjoy taking a morning or two to spend painting ceramics together, it’s always relaxing and the kids always end up with a masterpiece. This year they added a new water park that we are looking forward to testing out. The showers are newer and cleaner and nicer than your standard ones at a State Park.

So this was going to be the first time I stayed at Ocean Lakes in a camper. Previously I had always stayed with my parents in a beach house. Now there were six of us, so we felt the camper would give everyone there own space but we could still spend time with my parents. We love the idea of camping so close to the beach. The kids were able to ride their bikes to the ocean and around the campground, including back and forth to their grandparents. My parents stayed in a beach house, we set up  our camper at a campsite. We met for dinners at their beach house. There are no fire rings at Ocean Lakes. Usually when I camp I do all of our cooking over an open fire, that isn’t an option here. So it was nice to be spoiled by mom’s cooking each evening. It’s a nice way to meet in the middle with vacation with my parents. My dad isn’t one for eating out, but he enjoys are family meals together, so it works for us all.

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My dad

We usually spend our time taking long walks to the pier. My parents take their Jack Russell with them. She’s getting old and they end up carrying her most of the way. We always meet interesting characters to talk to along the way. Sometimes we’ll see a fisherman catch something, and that will give the kids something to get excited about. We pick up interesting shells along the way.  At one of the piers we usually walk out and spy on the sharks below. It amazes me how close they are and how big they are, I know I won’t be swimming next to the pier anytime soon.

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Late night beach walks with glow sticks, you can’t beat it! 

We enjoy Bingo nights on Mondays, where the crowd in October is mostly Senior Citizens. We compete for junk food and free ice cream cones from the Snack Shack. You wouldn’t believe the thrill of excitement that a getting five in a row can give a six year old, or a sixty six year old for that matter. It’s a lighthearted good time. Late night walks on the beach are always relaxing too. There is nothing like hearing the waves crash on the shore in the dead of night. So we take this time at the beach to reflect on all of the good memories we’ve had in the past and plan on making in the future.

We always look back to our time at Ocean Lakes Family Campground in Myrtle Beach with fondness. We make good memories and get to rejuvenate here a few days each year. We’re going back this year, we just made our reservations.  Do you have a place that you enjoy meeting up with family and making memories? What are your family vacation traditions?

 

 

 

Fall Creek Falls

fall creek falls

 

Poose and I were married last June. Our first trip camping as a blended family was to Santee State Park in South Carolina. It was a success, we were ready to try out our hand at a place a little closer to home. Fall Creek Falls State Park isn’t very far from where we live, so we loaded up the children for a long weekend and headed out.

 

It was a short drive, and perfect for a long weekend. The campground is rather large ( 222 total campsites), and there were five camping areas from which to chose your site. We found our spot and got settled in. The kids enjoyed getting their bikes out and riding around the loop. There was a large field area in the middle which the kids would run through, play ball ,and at night place their chairs to stargaze. A small playground was tucked in one corner, the smallest children enjoyed playing there with their parents not far away. There were

 

cable trail

 

The campsites were relatively private, and deer would sometimes stroll through the campground, which was pretty exciting to witness. There were several great trails that we enjoyed.You need to drive to reach several of the trails.  A family favorite was the Cable Trail. You need to be in an adventurous frame of mind to tackle it and it is rated “Difficult”, but we were able to do it with Lil’ Z from when he was 6 years old. You hold onto a large cable to help you get down a steep embankment. When you are at the bottom there is a lovely swimming area and you get an awesome view from the bottom of the falls. We spotted a neat little water snake while we were there last time. I highly recommend you give it a try.

 

cable trail2

 

We rented boats one evening. The older kids rented paddle boats, and we rented an aluminum boat to do a little fishing. Lil’ Z was so excited to catch his first large mouth bass. The lake is large and peaceful, you can see people riding their bikes and walking trails. You can also catch a glimpse of the Inn on the lake.We did go one morning for the breakfast buffet at the restaurant inside the Inn. The kids were happy with it, and filled up. I would have preferred some real food at the campsite. It just made me think of a Shoney’s sort of breakfast bar. They called it a southern style buffet. I wasn’t impressed, but it’s nice to have it as an option.

 

The Falls themselves are beautiful, there are several trails to take you to see them. You can view them from the top looking down, if you don’t want to take the long trail down to the bottom. Go for both views for the full experience. The children had the most fun at the Cascade Falls. It was hot and they were ready to plunge into the cold water. The rocks are slippery and it’s best to wear swim shoes of some sort, but it was refreshing and adventurous. It is a dog friendly park, we met many lovely pooches on the trails and in the water. We spent our final morning doing the snake program at the Nature Center. We learned a lot and got to see some snakes up close and personal. Lil’ Z also completed his Junior Ranger program that day.

hanging bridge

 

We had a spectacular visit to Fall Creek Falls. It was the right mix of adventure and relaxation for our family.  The facilities were very well kept up. In fact they were nicer than most campgrounds. They also had a spot to buy fire wood and other necessities. There was also a small ice cream shop and store inside the park. We didn’t try out everything, apparently they have zip lining and horse back riding, but we have to save some things for our next visit, right?

Where is your favorite camping spot? Have you ever been to Fall Creek Falls?