Every couple needs to get away from life once in a while and spend some time reconnecting. It’s so easy for life to get in the way and the next thing you know, you’re just going through the motions and passing each other by like ships in the night. I say every couple needs this, but I’d argue couples with kids need this even more. Especially those with 3 kids, ages 6, 4 and 2. Just sayin’…
Towards the end of April, my husband, Michael, and I were ready for our getaway. We hit the road early Monday morning with the mountains of North Carolina as our destination. This was our first road trip alone since having kids and we were so excited! No bathroom breaks every 30 minutes. No fast food in the car because who wants to take 3 little kids into a restaurant and spend $50+ to spend the entire time simultaneously begging them to eat and telling them to be quiet? We stretched a 10-hour drive into 12 hours as we chose the scenic route on the GPS, winding through Alabama, Georgia and finally the gorgeous North Carolina mountains. We stopped at Cracker Barrel for lunch and enjoyed delicious southern food accompanied by the glorious peace and quiet that only a parent away from her kids can enjoy.
After lunch we made our way to Camp Toccoa at Currahee, in northern Georgia. If you’re a Band of Brothers fan, this will mean something to you. Camp Toccoa was a United States Army paratrooper training camp during World War II and was featured in Band of Brothers. Michael was very excited to see this place and tried to talk me into running up Currahee Mountain so we could partake in the famous “three miles up, three miles down”… but I wasn’t on board with a six mile hike after spending several hours in the car. So we settled for some pictures and drove to the top of Currahee Mountain for an excellent view.
We finally arrived at our destination in remote Avery County, NC around 7pm. My generous Uncle David and Aunt Judi graciously lent us their mountain cabin for the week. We couldn’t have asked for a better location. Our goal for this mountain getaway was to spend some quality time together, away from civilization, away from stress and away from wifi. We lost cell phone reception about 30 minutes before reaching the cabin and never regained it unless we hiked to the top of a mountain or drove back to town. It was perfect.
To get to the cabin on Yellow Mountain, we drove up this winding road alongside a roaring creek. I’m not exaggerating about the “roaring” part… it was very loud. We could hear the creek from the porch of the cabin, even though it was about a half mile away. The creek was beautiful, as was the scenery as we wound our way up the road. The rural mountains of NC are interesting. On that road alone, we’d see a beautiful cabin next door to a trailer that seemed to be falling apart, with dogs and chickens running everywhere. Then the next plot of land we’d find 10 bulldozers, 5 old garbage trucks and an abandoned school bus. And then there’d be another beautiful cabin. It was eclectic, to say the least. But once we reached the road leading directly to the cabin, we knew we’d found exactly what we were looking for. We took a right turn and immediately wound up a very steep road. A deer darted across the road and up the side of the mountain as we looked for the cabin. It was a fun welcome to the neighborhood. The remoteness was everything we’d hoped for. We could only see one other house from cabin and we never saw any other people, other than the man fixing the phone lines that went down in a storm right before we arrived.
The cabin had everything I could want for a vacation like this. 3 stories, a full kitchen, a fireplace, a beautiful wrap-around porch with a hammock, and satellite TV. When we weren’t out exploring the mountains, we relaxed in front the fire, put together a few jigsaw puzzles or enjoyed some binge-watching that we rarely have time for anymore. (The puzzles proved to be more fun than I expected. It became a real challenge for us, and we really enjoyed working together to complete them!)
Our first morning there, we decided to stick close to home and go hike along the Appalachian Trail near the cabin. The base of the Overmountain Victory Trail was about a 5-minute drive away. The trail recognizes the Revolutionary War Overmountain Men – Patriots from what is now East Tennessee – who crossed the Great Smoky Mountains and then fought in the Battle of Kings Mountain in South Carolina. We hiked about 5 miles total and got some amazing views at the top, (as well as cell phone reception, so we could check in on the kids and our kindergartener’s school performance, which we sadly missed that morning.)
The next day we chose Elk River Falls as our destination. My aunt said it was something that should not be passed up, and she was right. It was an incredible sight. There’s something about waterfalls that almost takes your breath away. Standing at the top of the falls left me dizzy and nervous. Seven people died there in the last 10 years! It’s a 40-50 ft drop to the bottom and the power of the water is overwhelming. After the view from the top, we hiked down to the bottom and got a great view of the waterfall by walking out on some rocks.
That could have been the end of the hike, but we’d only been out there about 30 minutes and we weren’t quite ready to hop back in the car. We continued on a trail through the forest, alongside the river. The trail became less and less maintained the further we hiked, but eventually we came across a dirt road. We walked down the road for a while but never came across anything other than the river. We eventually turned around and went back to the car.
To get to the Elk River Falls, you wind through a very rural neighborhood that resembled the one I described on the road to the cabin… a mixture of beautiful homes and junkyards. Michael swears one yard held at least 6 or 7 decades worth of old cars. There’s some interesting stuff back in those rural mountain areas.
We spent that afternoon relaxing at the cabin. Michael napped in the hammock while I read a 5-year-old Our State magazine about North Carolina. It was fun to read about my home state in such a peaceful setting. I even learned that NC has a state toast!
“Here’s to the land of the longleaf pine,
The summer land, where the sun doth shine,
Where the weak grow strong and the strong grow great…
Here’s to ‘Down Home’, the Old North State!”
On our last full day in the mountains, we headed for Roan Mountain State Park in Tennessee. It was the first rainy day of the trip but thankfully it was just a drizzle. We started our adventure with a short hike to Peg Leg Iron Ore Mine. You couldn’t see much but I could easily imagine men working that mine many years ago. My claustrophobia quickly kicked into high gear when I got close to the entrance. Mines are a big “no thank you” for me!
We got back in the car and drove up Roan Mountain, looking for another place to hike. We found a parking lot and made our way up into the woods and onto a section of the Appalachian Trail. We passed a couple of hikers who clearly were out there for longer than a 2-hour hike. Each time we saw one, I longed to ask them where they started and how long they’d been hiking, but my introverted tendencies kept my mouth shut. When Michael eventually asked a couple of hikers where they’d come from, turns out they started in the same parking lot we did. So we didn’t get any cool hiking stories to share from some serious AT folks, but we did come across an AT Shelter that was fascinating. It was stocked with various novels and a few National Geographic magazines. There was a journal for people to leave notes about their travels and a trail leading to a water pipe pumping out fresh mountain water. I kept envisioning that movie about Cheryl Strayed hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. It was really neat to get a glimpse into life hiking the Appalachian Trail.
We forgot to take our water and snacks with us on that hike, so we were starving and parched by the time we got back to our car. We immediately headed for a nearby town for lunch. Old Hampton Store & Barbeque in Linville, NC was suggested as THE place to get good barbeque in the area, so that’s where we went. Let me tell y’all… that was one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten, and I didn’t even order barbeque! (We just ate barbeque the day before, so I wanted to try something different. Don’t worry, Michael ordered it and I ate some, since that was kind of the point of going to that restaurant.) I ordered a friend green tomato BLT with candied bacon and pimento cheese on ciabatta. It’s hard to describe how amazing all those flavors were together. Don’t even get me started on the mac and cheese on the side. Needless to say, if you’re ever in or near Linville, NC, don’t pass up on a chance to eat at Old Hampton Store! We even left with a few cute gifts for the kids.
The next day we got up early, cleaned up a bit and started the long drive back to Florida. I consider myself a homebody, so after 5 days away, I was ready to get back to my own house. But I was also very sad to say goodbye to that cabin. Uncle David and Aunt Judi are in the process of selling it so I’m not sure if I’ll get another chance to visit. (If you’re looking to buy a gorgeous, remote cabin in the North Carolina mountains, let me know!)
The theme of rest is found all throughout the Bible and I think it’s something that we all need to pay much closer attention to. The “hustle and grind” attitude is very 2019, but rest is restorative and necessary. I can personally attest to how rejuvenated I felt after 5 days of rest and relaxation in the mountains with my best friend. If you can find a way to get away, make it a priority! You can thank me later. ?