Breaks Interstate Park

 

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Love this family picture taken on The Ridge Trail at Breaks Interstate Park 

We were off for another adventure, but where would we go?  It wasn’t a typical time of year for camping. It was November and most people would be out of school and work for the Thanksgiving holiday.  But we wanted to get away to the great outdoors for a few days. I saw on Pinterest some spectacular views, and some called it the Grand Canyon of the South. So we decided on Breaks Interstate Park. It’s a bi-state park sharing it’s home in Virginia and Kentucky.

 

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Spectacular views even in November 

The roads were windy to get there once we were off the interstate. It made  us a little weary steering our camper through the windy roads up and down the mountain. However, we quickly realized it was worth the drive when we arrived. We were initially greeted by some friendly deer standing by the Park sign as we pulled in, we took that as a sign of good things to come. We were surprised when we pulled into the camp ground that we were the only ones in the entire park. Really? It was true. We had expected the park to be full for the holiday, but perhaps they were frightened by the thought of camping in the cold? It surprised us, but the weather was perfect for camping and after our initial shock we settled in to having the whole campground to ourselves.

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Me with Big Z and Perry on the Rattlesnake Bike Trail 

We noticed there was a mountain bike trail so I was able to get Perry and Big Z to agree that we should give it a try. So the three of us headed to Rattlesnake Trail. I had never been true mountain biking before, I mistakenly assumed it was just a bike trail in the mountains. Wrong. We noticed the entry to the trail was rather narrow, but were sure it would widen as we traveled. Wrong. We started up the trail, zigging back and forth. Yes, we had to walk our bikes up part of the way. We now realize this was perhaps more than we bargained for, and perhaps we weren’t really prepared for this adventure. Perry’s bike was made for the streets and his tires were as smooth as could be. We realized we better go on, because otherwise we’d have to go down the zig zag we just came up. So forward we marched…with our bikes. Once at the top we were able to ride our bikes comfortably, we also ran into a worker for the park who was repairing the trail. We talked to him for awhile, and he assured us after looking at Perry’s bike that we probably weren’t prepared for this trail. He said once we went downhill we could break off to the right, and it would make the trail shorter, that it was a large loop, and we could cut some of it off. So we thanked him, and headed downhill..

Breaks Interstate Park 5So the downhill was cut into the side of the mountain, zigging back and forth. We could see it part of the way as we look down the trail. Thankfully we all had good attitudes about it, but it was quite intimidating. We mounted our bikes and vowed to try and be careful for the decent. I made sure my helmet was tight, and with a wail off I went. Perry and Big Z stayed together and stayed behind me. I could not believe how narrow the trail was, and how close the trees were to the trail. I enjoyed some of the ride down, it was exhilarating and scary all rolled into one. Perry had to walk a lot because his tires weren’t cut out for this kind of biking, but he was patient and kept going. We were so happy when we arrived at the loop turning point where we could head back to the parking area. I had fell several times during this Rattlesnake run, but I was proud that I had tried something new. We look back at that ride and we laugh, we were so unprepared. So we all have an interest in mountain biking but will do more research on the trails beforehand. We went out of our box and faced our fears, and conquered them. However, leisure biking might be more our speed.

Breaks Interstate Park 2As a family we did several hikes together. There are many spectacular views right off the main road. So it’s easy to drive and walk a few steps and get some great photos. We hiked all we could, short and long. The Ridge Trail combined with the Geological trail  took us along some pretty fantastic rock formations and faults. There were many opportunities to discuss land formations, geology and geography. Most of the trails are moderate because of the rocky cliffs, but the views can’t be beat. We’d love to return to this park in the spring when everything is green, however we still enjoyed it in Fall after the leaves had all fallen off.

 

Breaks Interstate Park 8There is a hotel at Breaks Interstate Park as well as a few  playgrounds and  a restaurant and gift shop. The restaurant was closed during our visit, but we still enjoyed the gift shop for a few items. The teens enjoyed the gift shop for the WiFi it provided. There were also warnings of a bear in the area, we didn’t see him though. The bathroom facilities were pretty standard for a State Park, they were clean, but nothing fancy. We really enjoyed our quiet evenings around the campfire eating our hearty warm soups. There was plenty of fun in the hammocks and riding bikes around the camping loop. We hope to return to this park someday soon.

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Pee Wee, Big Z and Me enjoying the views 
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The rocky cliffs are intimidating but gorgeous. 

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Do you have a favorite camping spot? Where are your favorite State Parks? Where are your favorite views?

 

 

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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.

 

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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?