Croft State Park

croft state park
photo by @z_photoz_on Instagram

We were on our way for a convention in Orangeburg, SC but we had a few extra days we could add to the trip so we thought we’d test out a new state park along the way. Poose came up with Croft State Park which was in Spartanburg, SC.  It was a good decision. We didn’t realize it at the time we made our reservation, but it’s an equestrian park. So as we were pulling in we noticed everyone had horse trailers, and we we saw a show arena for horses, so Big Z and Pee Wee were particularly excited about this. They had taken horse back riding lessons this year, and have a fondness for horses.

 

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Pee Wee and Big Z testing out the waters

Croft State Park has a unique history to it we would learn. It was originally a military base in it’s early years. There was an army infantry training camp that at one point hosted over 250,000 soldiers, it closed in the 1940’s and was opened up as a state park afterwards.  It was called Camp Croft after a military general, and prior to that the area served as a prisoner of war camp for World War I, and held approximately 250 Germans POWs. Now this beautiful state park has over 7,000 acres of trails, farmlands, old homesteads, cemeteries, lakes and woodlands. It’s become a popular destination for hiking, biking, fishing, boating and for bringing your horses. There are trails made for horseback riding and an arena for horse shows. We were fortunate enough to get a glimpse at one of the horse shows.

 

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Poose and Lil’Z fishing 

We rented kayaks for the big kids, and then a John boat for me, Poose and Lil’ Z. It was March but the weather was beautiful, as so often seems to be the case in South Carolina. The sun was shining and the skies were blue. We all spent the afternoon rowing around Lake Craig. We were able to get Lil’ Z a bamboo fishing rod at the welcome center and he was able to give fishing a try. Compared to other state parks we have visited, we found the rental rates for their boats to be very reasonable. The Park Rangers were extremely friendly and helpful in answering all of our questions.

 

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Serene Fairforest Creek 

The campground itself was a nice little loop where the kids could ride their bikes. It was just a short walk from the show arena. Most campers in our loop had their horse trailers with them, and were clearly there for to enjoy time on the trails with their horses or there to show their horses.  There was another loop closer to the lake, where we will try to stay if we stay there again. It would be nice to camp so close to the lake. The facilities were nice, the showers and bathrooms were always clean and they are located central to all of the camp sites.

 

IMG_6970We enjoyed a beautiful hike along Fairforest Creek. It was such a serene area tucked in the woods. There were sandy areas along the creek. The winding trail took us up and down where we were beginning to think we were lost. We were not of course, since we were still on the trail. It brought us back out on the road leading to the horse arena. Sunday morning the horse arena was in full use. There were beautifully groomed horses all around. It was a cool experience to see the horse show. I was surprised how young and small some of the riders were on these large horses. One girl got scared and fell off of her horse during the show, that gave me a fright. She ended up to be just fine and apparently lost control of her horse. Everyone clapped and supported her as she got back up.

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Photo by @z_photoz_.. her pictures are so much better than mine. I love this one! 

We drove into Spartanburg for dinner one night. As I’ve mentioned before, we always seem to have good success with small family owned ethnic restaurants when we travel. The food is usually healthy, delicious and affordable. It seems to work well for our varied preferences. We usually can find something for the vegetarians, the meat eaters and gluten free for Perry.  This time we tried a place called A Caribbean Sweetness.  The owner, Gaston, was a very outgoing and friendly man. We arrived right before closing, but he was kind and quick to serve us and guide us in our choices. Everything was delicious. The kids enjoyed the mango smoothies and we talked about how delicious and fun the experience was on the ride home. That is a sign of a good meal.

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Crazy girls in the water in March, they bet each other Starbucks, and couldn’t resist. 

We loved our time in Spartanburg, even though it was brief. Croft State Park was the refreshing nature break that we needed. We were so happy to be in some sunshine and we could feel that spring was in the air. We especially enjoyed our fun out on the lake.The girls took it to the next level, and decided to jump in the water. They challenged each other, and they weren’t about to back down. So in they went, silly girls!

When you camp what activities do you enjoy most? For us, we love being out on the water. This was so great to be out on the lake in the sunshine in March. I hope we’ll go back to Croft State Park in the not so distant future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

Beware! Single Mom Camping

Welcome to the February 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting Fears This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories and wisdom about parenting fears. ***

I have come to realize that I really was in a place of comfort relying on my husband for so many things. Now that he’s gone, I find that I need to push myself to get out of my comfort zone if I want to have the life I want to live.
I never went camping before I was married, it was a new concept that he introduced to me (along with things like air travel, leaving the country..). I loved it. There is nothing quite like being outside and close to nature to clear away the cobwebs. I really want to share these things with my children.
This year as we were getting close to the one-year date of losing Ian, I knew I wanted to get away. I felt it would be wonderful to go camping with the kids. It would be the perfect stress reliever, right?
I was worried about whether or not I’d be able to pull it off. After all, Ian always did most of the organizing and planning for our trips. This was now going to be  my responsibility. Would I be able to step up to the challenge? I have learned that most of the things you worry about don’t happen. But what about those things that you didn’t worry about… I decided to just do it. I put the plans in motion, researched online our campgrounds, packed our food, tent and got us ready to go. However, things didn’t go quite as I expected.

Day 1:  We pack the van to leave & head towards Cummins Falls. We check into our campground at Edgar Evans State park. We then drive back & go hiking up the falls.
The falls were gorgeous but the hike was much more difficult than we anticipated. There was a spectacular view from the top, but the bottom was where all the action was.  It was an hour hike along steep cliffs and along the river. We didn’t realize we had to cross the river until there was no further to go.   With the help of other hikers, we were able to navigate across the rocks and over the river.
At one point I was trying to cross the river and fell in. The big tough guy helping us was strong enough to pull The Z’s across but I sunk in about 4 feet of water.  Unfortunately, my cell phone was in my pocket. With the help of others, we were able to make it across the river and eventually to the falls. I wasn’t able to use my phone to get any pics because it was soaked. I did ask a lady to take pics of us & email them to me, which she did. So I do have those. Thank you, kind lady!!
We had a great time at the swimming hole, it was a neat experience. We spent some time there swimming and exploring.  I was dreading the long hike back.
A family in front of us said there was a shorter way back but you had to climb UP. They did it before and said it was fine.  We followed… Up and up we went straight up the mountain. By the time we reached the top we were rock climbing, trying to hold on by our fingertips and wedge our feet into crevices. I made the mistake of looking down and had an instant feeling of panic. Lil’Z  was in front of me and the girl in front of us helped him get to the top. I didn’t realize how hard we worked until I noticed I was still sore four days later. I had shin splints and a sore chest the whole week.

We made it back to the van, I kept my swimsuit bottoms on because my pants were wet from me falling in the water. So those behind us on the way up the rock climb had quite a view. (Sorry BigZ!)
Anyway, we load ourselves into the van and pull out of the parking area. I hear a weird noise and have BigZ jump out to check our tires, she did but  didn’t see anything. We keep going.  We get out on the main road only to hear a whooshing noise. We pull over and I see my rear driver’s side tire is flat. Lovely.
I can’t use my phone because it wasn’t working since I fell in the water. Fortunately, a nice young couple that rocked climbed behind us pulled over to help. They offered me their phone and I called AAA. While I was on the phone with AAA another young guy pulled over and offered to help. I didn’t have a jack handy so he said he lived close and he’d be right back. AAA couldn’t find our location and I didn’t know where I was exactly..so I get off the phone with them and wait for the other guy to come back.
He comes back with a truck he uses for the fire department. He is a part-time firefighter and works at the Walmart Tire and Lube. Perfect!  He changes my tire and has me follow him down the road to a gas station to check the air pressure on my tires. The other young couple from Nashville kept the kids busy during the changing of the tire.
 We said good-bye to them and followed the firefighter to the gas station.  He was my knight in sweaty armor. He had sweat dripping off his nose and had the thickest southern accent. He had never been to Cummins Falls or even heard of the campground where we were staying (30 minutes away). He said he didn’t get out much. He was so sweet and helpful. He offered to follow us to Walmart to get a new tire so I wouldn’t have to keep driving on my spare. I told him that wasn’t necessary, that we’d go the next day. I figured it was going to be dark soon and I didn’t want to arrive at camp in the dark. I offered him some money but he wouldn’t take it. He asked if I had enough money for fuel. I said I did and thanked him. I realized I was still in my swimsuit bottom, looking like a goof. We must have looked like we were homeless. We head back to the camp before dark and get the fire going. We had a pleasant evening collecting firewood and cooking over the open fire.

Day 2:
We drive almost an hour to the nearest Walmart. My emotions were on a short fuse and I was not in a good place mentally. They asked what I wanted at the tire place and I started to cry. I asked if there was a payphone I could use, they directed me to customer service. Well, they had a payphone that was recently removed and everyone seemed to be out of minutes to let me use their cell phone.
One of the tire employees went and got a manager. They escorted me out of the store to use his cell phone. I felt like a freak show,  again we were looking like we were homeless and living out of our van. They told me they’d help me get tires. I told them I didn’t need help getting tires, I just wanted to use someone’s phone! I finally use the phone, have them replace my tire and take the kids to eat.  I come back, get the van and drive back to the campground.
There was no Sprint store around, but I did stop in the Verizon store. The girl was very helpful and told me to take the phone apart and put in into a bowl of rice. I did, it worked! Yay! So, at least, I had a phone in case we broke down, but the camera wasn’t working.

We’re delayed a day from our original plan, but it didn’t really matter. We spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the park and finding some awesome rocky bluffs. I was thankful the weather was beautiful and it wasn’t raining on us.
We heard some cool owls hooting at night. The kids were brave and went hunting in the dark for firewood by themselves, they were quite proud of themselves.  We cooked another yummy meal at the camp and chilled around the fire before turning in for the night.

Day 3:
We wake up and start packing up camp. It takes some time and I regret my plan to hop to a few different campgrounds. If hindsight would have been foresight I would have planned to just stay in one campground. Setting up and tearing down camp is not an easy task to do by myself. While I do have “helpers” they sometimes slow me down  and end up causing new problems.
We FINALLY get in the van, which I will now name “Slumdog”. I turn the key and it’s dead as can be. 😦  We hike to the camp hosts lot. They had stopped by to introduce themselves earlier. There are not many people in the camp so he knows who we are when we arrive. He asks if I have jumper cables, I don’t. He digs for his, then shows up at our camping spot a bit later. He connects the cables and I try to talk to him. He tells me he can’t hear very well because he was “blew up in Iraq”. I then try to speak clearly and look right at him when I speak.  I try to start the van again, and it still doesn’t start. He readjusts things and tries again.  He asks, “Where’s your husband?” I was NOT expecting that. I say “He died..” and tears start to come to my eyes, making him feel pretty awful.  Then I ramble on about this being the one year anniversary since he died,..blah..blah. The poor man stops everything and hugs me and apologizes. He then invites us to dinner and a tour on a boat and begs us to stay longer at the campground. I told him if I can get the van started I’d really like to continue with our trip to Alabama. Finally the van starts, it was the battery after all..whew. We thank him and cruise on out of there and head four and half hours to Tannehill, AL.

We arrive at Tannehill late that afternoon. We tried to find a decent place to eat before heading to camp. I didn’t want to have to try to make dinner at camp after such a long day already. We picked up Subway as a last resort and headed into the Campground. This campground was a lot busier than the one we were at previously. It was a historical park and I was excited for all of the activities to keep the kids busy.
We check into a primitive site since we don’t need electricity or water. We had to drive through several lots of RV’s to get to our location. The kids were excited to be around other people, but when we get to our site we are the ONLY campers in the primitive sites. So we set up as close as possible to the RV’s. ha.
A friendly couple helps us gather up some rocks to build our fire ring. They explain how exciting things are here at the park for the Halloween festivities. Apparently it’s the biggest Halloween campground around. The RV’s are arriving 6 weeks ahead of time to set up their decorations and get ready. (really!) We also find out that the entire pioneer village and all of the activities are not open until the weekend. 😦  WHAT?! We would be leaving before the weekend. We head to bed on that note.

Day 4:

We have a nice campsite near the water, we have the advantage of deer running through our end of the camp. The kids ended up counting over 30 deer, that was neat. I was glad I packed their scooters, they happily rode them around the park around all of the RV’s and Halloween decorations.
The kids are pretty disappointed that they don’t get to do the pioneer village, blacksmith shop, paper making, Sweet Shoppe or any of the other activities I told them about.   I told Lil’Z this could be his opportunity to be a Junior Ranger. So we began to pick up trash through the park and we learned about scat and animal prints. However, when I asked about the Junior Ranger program they said they didn’t have one. UGH!
We hike to the museum and learn about the history of the area in relation to the civil war.We also do a “slave trail” hike through the park.The trails were NOT clearly marked and we ended up walking a bit further than we had planned.  We were exhausted by the time we got back to camp.

The kids get back to ride their scooters, it’s the fastest way to take the trek to the bathhouse. At this point, we realize Lil’Z ‘s scooter is gone. We look everywhere and can’t find it.  We check at the registration office and see if it was turned in or anything. We also leave our info so the rangers can keep a look out for it.
Anyway, we were clearly disappointed that we drove all this way only to have the park activities closed. I did check the website for all of the hours and activities. I guess that’s another downfall of me not using the phone.  We made the best of the day anyway.

Day 5:
We wake up, pack up and get ready to head home. It only takes me about 3 hours to do this, blah. The scooter was never found. Someone said they saw it behind a tree, but it was never located. 😦 I do get the front security card to present Lil’Z with a “Junior Ranger ” badge and pin. It was enough to make him happy.  He couldn’t have been more pleased with being a ranger.

It was quite warm in Alabama. Did I mention we don’t have working A/C in the van? So we hop in and head home. Fortunately, we did not have any more blown tires or dead batteries. I was so thankful for that. We stopped in Chattanooga and ate some homemade pasta and some delicious pastries on the way home.

 All in all, I think the kids enjoyed themselves. They gained some independence and confidence. They got really, really dirty and had a lot of nature time. I was hoping to have a little more reflection time for myself, that didn’t really happen.
We survived. I learned a lot, I think we all did. We faced our fears and overcame them. We were even able to come out the other side stronger. I am so grateful to these kind strangers we met along the way, they were a blessing beyond compare.

*** Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting! Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants (list will be final around 5pm PST February 11):

  • When Parents’ Fears Escalate — If we didn’t self-doubt, we probably wouldn’t care enough about our children to struggle with understanding them. But how do we overcome self-doubt? Read advice from Laurie Hollman, Ph.D., guest posting today at Natural Parents Network.
  • What ifs of addiction — After seeing how addictions of adult children is badly hurting a family close to her heart, Hannah at HannahandHorn shares her fears for her own child.
  • Sharing My Joy — Kellie at Our Mindful Life shares her fear that others think she is judgmental because she makes alternative choices for her own family.
  • Building My Tribe Fearlessly — A meteorite hit Jaye Anne at Tribal Mama’s family when she was seven years old. Read the story, how she feels about that now, and how she is building her tribe fearlessly.
  • Fear: Realized — Laura from Pug in the Kitchen shares how her fear of car accidents was realized and how she hopes to be able to use her efforts to overcome the remaining fears to help her children overcome their own.
  • I’m a Negligent Helicopter Parent — For Issa Waters at LoveLiveGrow, the line between helicopter parenting and negligent parenting is not so cut and dried.
  • My Greatest Fear For My Child — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama admits that she has struggled with not allowing her fears to control her and how the reality of this was blown wide open when she became a mother.
  • Procactive Steps to Calm Parenting Fears — Every parent has certain fears related to dangerous situations, That Mama Gretchen shares ways she is preparing herself and her children for emergencies.
  • Homeschooling Fears – Will My Children Regret Being Homeschooled? — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares an interview with her now-adult children that answers a question she had throughout their homeschooling.
  • An Uneasy Truce — Homeschooler and recent convert to unschooling, Tam at tinsenpup shares just a few of the things she tries to keep in mind when fear and insecurity begin to take hold.
  • Fearing the worst, expecting the best — Tarana at Sand In My Toes writes about fears that come with parenting, and why we must overcome them.
  • Can I be the parent I want to be? — Amanda at Postilius confronts her struggle to peacefully parent a preschooler
  • Out of Mind, Out of Fear — How does Jorje of Momma Jorje deal with her pretty steep, long-term fears regarding her son’s future?
  • I Don’t Homeschool to Manage My Kids’ Transcripts — One of Dionna at Code Name: Mama’s fears of parenting is that she will get so caught up in the monotony, the details of homeschooling, the minutiae of everyday life, the routine of taking care of a household – that she will forget to actually be present in the moment with her children.
  • Beware! Single Mom Camping — Erica at ChildOrganics shares her first adventures as a single mom. She laughed, she cried, she faced her fears.
  • Parenting Fears And Reality Checks — Luschka from Diary of a First Child shares her three biggest fears as a parent – that most parents share – looks at the reality behind these fears, and offers a few suggestions for enjoying parenting.
  • Parenting fear : to kill a pink rabbit…Mother Goutte tells us the story of a pink rabbit that disappeared, came back, and became the symbol of her worst parenting fear…
  • Roamingsustainablemum considers whether allowing your children freedom to explore the world safely is harder now than in the past.
  • Meeting my parenting fears head-on — Lauren at Hobo Mama had many fears before she became a parent. Learn how they all came true — and weren’t anywhere near as scary as she’d thought.
  • Don’t fear the tears — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger worried that letting her children cry when going to sleep was tantamount to the dreaded parenting moniker, CIO. She discusses what actually happened after those teary nights, and how she hopes these lessons can carry forward to f
    uture parenting opportunities.
  • Will I Still be a Good Mom? — Mercedes at Project Procrastinot worries about her mothering skills now that breastfeeding is no longer the top priority.
  • Pregnancy Fears: It Happened to My Sisters, It Will Happen to Me… — Kristen at Baby Giveaways Galore discusses the difficulties with pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding that the women in her family have had and how she overcame them.
  • Fears — Meegs at A New Day talks about how her fears before parenting led to a better understanding of herself and her desires for her daughter.