From that old Blues Traveler song, "The Mountains Win Again"...they sure did this past Memorial Day weekend. Just when you get comfortable with the beach and long to go back there again, the mountains step up and remind us to not forget them either. During the weekend, I told Kris and the kids this was better than Disney anyday (and a lot cheaper).
The weekend would be centered around bicycling the Virginia Creeper Trail between White Top Mountain and Damascus (in southwestern VA). We were told by other friends and family about it and it sounded like a great activity for the entire family. We started the weekend by stopping at Stone Mountain State Park on the way to Virginia for some hiking. Most of the trails here are moderate to strenuous but we found a nice short one with a round trip of a little over a mile (great for the family) and it included a big waterfall. We discovered forest fire remnants that was still smoldering. It must have covered several acres. The waterfall at the end of the trail was very big (over 200 ft). We then hiked back and found a local church serving BBQ chicken which Kris and I enjoyed while the kids had some food and ice cream at the local general store. We then drove on part of the Blue Ridge Parkway on the way to Thistle Meadow Winery in Laurel Springs, NC. The owner, Tom, was a great and funny host and gave us a nice wine tasting, even some Crush grape soda for the kids to drink out of wine glasses....no stuffiness at this place. Go visit Tom and his beautful place if you're in the area -
We arrived at our hotel, Quality Inn & Suites in Abingdon, VA. Not a bad place for $100 a night since it was a suite with a cordoned off master king bedroom for mom and dad while the kids slept on the fold-out couch in the other room. Plus, they had a decent continental breakfast where we swiped some extra bagels, peanut butter, and yogurts for our picnic lunch on the bike trail. We had reserved a bike shuttle at JCs Outdoors (formerly Ole Barn) in Damascus, VA. http://www.ole-barn.com/ . Its conveniently located right at the end of the 17 mile stretch of trail we wanted to ride. We parked here, they took us and our bikes to the top of the trail at White Top Station. The entire Virginia Creeper trail runs 35 miles from Abingdon to Whitetop through the back country of Southwest Virginia. This 17 mile section from White Top to Damascus that we did has a gradual downhill grade most of the way that is perfect for families. Kris and our eight year old daughter rode their own bikes, and our five and three year old sons rode in a bike trailer attached to my bike. By the way...very near White Top Mountain...on the top of the next mountain over, there is a house with a red roof that you can see very clearly. Very near that house is the point at which the NC, VA, and TN state lines meet.
The kids did great throughout. It is a great family outing and most of the trail was indeed a slight gradual decline. There were stops every 3-5 miles that had restrooms, food, etc. The Appalachian Trail criss-crossed the trail a couple of times and we saw a few hikers. We also saw fly fishermen in the Holston river, some horseback riders, and even saw one guy run the trail. We saw him at the top of the trail as we took off and he passed us at the bottom when we were loading our bikes on the car. He was still going when we passed him in the car heading out of Damascus towards Abingdon. There are many bridges, trestles, and steep sections off both sides of the trail that were absolutely beautiful. The trail is unpaved with mostly black dirt and very fine gravel. We stopped and took a minor detour off the main trail to eat lunch close to the river with no one else around. It took us a little over four hours to complete the trail and we took our time and stopped several times. As you can see by the pictures, our three year old fell asleep in the trailer at the end of the trail. After we got our bikes loaded back up, we stopped at Abingdon Winery for some cheese & crackers and wine by the river. The staff was a bit stuffy compared to Tom at Thistle Meadows, but this place had a nice river to lounge by with your wine.
On Memorial Day, we woke up, drove the scenic route towards home again (through West Jefferson, back through Stone Mountain), and stopped by Shelton Vineyards in Dobson, NC. We had a brief wine tasting, ate at their restaurant (Harvest Grill) which was very good. This place is getting to be a nice operation with more growth in the area to come (new hotel and business center right down the street). http://www.sheltonvineyards.com/
All in all, it was a great trip. For families that have young kids and want to get outside for some adventure and fun, this is it. For those who want more adventure, this is also a great place as you can do the entire 35 miles and/or try it uphill. We saw many people riding the trail uphill. There is also the Appalachian Trail, plus many other great hiking trails, and supposedly great fishing & fly fishing. And of course, the wineries were a nice plus too.
Look out for a brief video of our trip to be posted soon.
Dear Friends and Family, I need your help for a very worthwhile cause...please forward this to anyone that you know who might be interested in helping...
This summer, 4th of July week, I will be realizing a long time dream...to participate in the annual HIHO windsurfing race in the British Virgin Islands. HIHO stands for "Hook In and Hold On" and it's an international event drawing professional and amateur racers from all over the world. We will be covering over 100 miles during the course of 6 days racing from island to island in the BVI chain, including a long distance race of 20+ miles to Anegada. Needless to say, it will be a grueling, yet very fun week and quite the adventure. Kris will be joining me, along with two other friends I windsurf with, and their wives.
We're very fortunate and blessed to be able to realize this dream adventure, so I wanted to take the opportunity to leverage this big event to raise awareness and money for a worthy cause....KinderMourn.
Established in 1978, KinderMourn addresses the special needs of grieving parents. Its fundamental purpose, firmly incorporated by the founding Board of Directors, remains true today: "KinderMourn exists to provide a safe haven for families whose lives have been shattered by the death of a child." All grieving parents are eligible for services regardless of the age of their child or the cause of their child's death.
In addition to services for bereaved parents, KinderMourn assists children and young people who are grieving the death of a family member or friend. KinderMourn's professional grief facilitators provide individual and group counseling at the KM Home, in designated schools and neighborhood community centers. Their mission statement is "To provide a program of professionally guided support groups, counseling services and community outreach programs for families experiencing the death of a child and children grieving the death of a family member or friend."
One reason KinderMourn has stayed strong for over 25 years and continues to grow is because of the generous support it receives from individuals, corporations and foundations.
Here are examples of how donations are used:
Your gift of $500 provides a four-week Helping the Hurt support group for at risk children and teens who have lost a family member or friend.
Your gift of $250 provides five support group sessions for parents who have suffered the devastating death of a child.
Your gift of $100 provides grief literature to ten individuals seeking to support a family member or friend after the heartbreaking death of a child or other loved one.
Your gift of $25 provides one hour of counseling for a child whose parent has died.
Last year, our friends and neighbors Rob & Caroline Johnston, realized every parent's worst nightmare and lost Chloe, their 9 month old daughter, to a heart defect. KinderMourn has helped them through a very difficult period. Kris and I had no idea such an organization existed and are glad Rob and Caroline have been able to use their services. I'll be participating in this race in Chloe's memory and in the honor of the Johnstons.
I'm pledging to do my best in this race and raise awareness of KinderMourn. Please make a donation. I'm paying for all our trip and race expenses. Every single penny you donate will go to KinderMourn. It is a 501c3 tax deductible non-profit organization. Please give as little or as much as you wish. I have a goal to raise over $3,000. It's also ok if you don't make a donation...at the very least, you are now aware of KinderMourn...and raising awareness is part of the goal.
HOW DO YOU GIVE?
Please make a check out to "KinderMourn" and mail to me by June 22nd at: 160 Magnolia Farms Lane, Mooresville, NC 28117. I will collect all the donations and deliver them to KinderMourn together with the Johnstons after I return from the BVIs July 8th. Make sure your check has your address on it, or include your address in the envelope so KinderMourn can send back a receipt to you for your tax records.
This hardly ever happens...2 weekends of windsurfing in a row at the lake. Last weekend, we had solid NW 15mph winds and yesterday was NE 15-25, with some higher gusts, temps approaching 70 or so and sunny. The shorty wetsuit was the call. Rob and I made it out and enjoyed a great session on the lake and there was very little boat traffic. Here are a couple of pics.
WaterTurtle = a nickname some of my friends gave me when we were learning to waterski over 20 years ago because I loved being in the water so much...and still do.
I love to windsurf first and foremost, but I also love mountain biking, stand up paddle boarding/surfing, and snow skiing. I enjoy other outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking, sailing/boating, the occasional Panthers or Cubs ballgame and NASCAR race, etc. I am a husband and father to three kids, plus I have a demanding job in the tech field. This keeps me very busy as it is, but once in a while, I do get outdoors to enjoy a great adventure either in the water or on land. I hope you enjoy my online journal of outdoor adventure. Check out the videos, posts, pictures, and other web sites linked from this page.