Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Fairy Stone: Day 5

Hike to the Dam and Spillway
On Thursday, M and I discovered a trail just beyond the driveway for our cabin. We explored it far enough to find a couple little fairy houses and a large muskrat (?) house by the lake. It took some coaxing, but we got the family to go on one final hike Friday morning.
It ended up being the favorite hike for the week. Baby Q fell asleep. We discovered an overlook that appeared to have been built by the CCC in the 1930s. There was an animal print in the trail (deer?), and a tree that appeared to have been gnawed halfway through (beaver?).

Baby Q found hikes exhausting. He was a good sport, nonetheless.

The dam was small and earthen, covered with grass and blackberry bushes. There was a trail across the middle, then down to the spillway. The water level was low, the spillway was wide, and the drop-off short, so I felt comfortable allowing the children to explore a little. If I'd had a toddler, I would have been worried, though.
Peeking over the edge of the spillway.
Dad and M on top of the earthen dam. She is showing a clam she found.

Virginia Museum of Natural History
A cute little small town museum with a good display of dinosaur bones, we were in and out in about an hour. T was happy to get a pressed penny. It's his newest hobby.
Our family enjoys a good museum, but found this a little too small to be worth the drive. So of course we stopped by the next day on our drive home.
We forgot the stroller at the museum.

Floyd Country Store and Jamboree
On a map, the town of Floyd looks close to Fairy Stone. After driving on the prettiest roads that wound through the Blue Ridge, I was disillusioned, and a little car sick.
On Friday nights, Floyd has a Jamboree. We considered purchasing tickets for the inside show, but were afraid we would spend the whole time pulling the kids away from the open bins of candy.
On summer evenings, there are groups that play in the alley and park near the store, so that became our Plan B.
We bought ice cream from the Country Store, then listened to a group with several guitars and a double bass.
Baby Q wore his straw fedora, and got lots of attention from admiring strangers.

Fairy Stone: Day 4

Iron Mine Trail
It took some coaxing to get the kids to agree to go on another hike. I guess they were a bit traumatized by the three hour experience on Tuesday. I promised that the Iron Mine Trail was much, much shorter. It was.
We saw the old entrance to the mine.

One of the overlooks provided a view of Fairy Stone Lake, including the beach.

Water Activities
That afternoon, we canoed across Fairy Stone Lake to the Spillway and Dam. They were much smaller than dams I'm used to, but since we were canoeing up to them, that was a good thing. 
Cory was in one canoe, with T and S. In my canoe, K sat up front to help paddle. M sat low in the canoe with Baby Q, and succeeded in putting him to sleep.

 After canoeing for an hour, we were ready to enjoy the beach. The shallow area had a lot of anchored-down floating things, like this lily pad that M and Baby Q are on.
 Camp Cooking
The cabins at Fairy Stone have outdoor grills and picnic tables, but no fire pits.
We did foil dinners in the grill one night. The coconut curry pork was amazing.
Thursday night the kids were asking for dessert. I asked Cory to toast marshmallows with his blow torch. We floated them on hot chocolate.

Fairy Stone: Day 3

The Legend of the Fairy Stone
Once upon a time, about two thousand years ago, the fairies around Sugar Loaf Mountain were gathered to sing and dance to thank their Creator for the coming of Spring. Their joyous celebration was interrupted by a strange elfin messenger from a faraway land. He brought news that the Son of the Creator had been killed on a cross. In their sorrow, the fairies sprinkled the ground with their tears. Instead of drying away, these tears crystallized into crosses. If you visit there today, you can still find little cross-shaped stones.

Hunting for Fairy Stones

Monday evening, near the Farmer's Market, the Rangers brought a trough filled with soil and rocks. They encouraged the children to sift through it for Fairy Stones. Wednesday morning we drove out to the Fairy Stone hunt site, which is a wooded area people are permitted to look for stones, provided they don't bring digging tools.
I honestly think we had better luck in the trough of soil. The hunt site seemed rather picked over.
There is a little convenience store that shares a parking lot. By their register, they have perfect crosses, with an eyelet through them for necklaces. I was sorely tempted to purchase, but thought that might discourage the children with what they had found.

Mabry Mill and Rocky Knob
We drove to Mabry Mill for lunch. I recommend the sweet potato pancakes, as well as the pulled pork. If I'd noticed Ed's Special: pulled pork and cheese between two cornmeal pancakes, I would have ordered that. The gift shop was charming. There was a small section that included "Made in America" items. The cute bags of grain with an image of Mabry Mill on the sack would have been more tempting if the grain was actually ground at the mill. Baby Q got a board book with photographs of deer to look at in his high chair while the rest of us enjoyed lunch. T got a pressed penny.

The walk around the mill was enjoyable. The boys recognized the trestles from a scene in Tangled, and said so. We walked through the mill area. The outside wheel turns, but most of the inside components are not hooked up. Most amusing was the moonshine display down in the woods (sorry, no picture).
Mabry Mill is bordered on one side by the Blue Ridge Parkway. We had been disappointed to only drive about a hundred feet on it getting to Mabry Mill, so we decided to drive a few miles to Rocky Knob. The view was beautiful! I wanted to at least hike the one mile Picnic Area Loop, but the children wanted to go swimming and get dinner, so we just enjoyed the overlook for a few minutes.

Fairy Stone: Day 2

Little Mountain Falls
After a yummy breakfast of flapjacks with real maple syrup and chocolate milk, we were well energized for our hike of over three miles. It was late morning when we arrived at the trailhead for Little Mountain Falls Trail.
The hike was longer than we expected, in part because the mileage on the map did not account for the hike from the trailhead to the beginning of that particular trail.
The Little Mountain Falls was little, but since the children hadn't seen a waterfall in close to six years, they were impressed. M and T immediately climbed it.
 The trail went up, up, up. At the peak, we could see Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance. There was a stump cut into a chair, and a bench. In all, we spent about three hours on our hike. This was about twice the time we expected it to take. Thankfully we brought water and a dozen granola bars.

The rest of the day was a blur. I think we went swimming at the lake.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Our Adventure Soundtrack!

Preparing for our "camping" trip in the Blue Ridge Mountains, we discovered the amazing Okee Dokee Brothers. A couple years ago, they hiked the Appalachian Trail, passing near some of the areas we explored. Then they wrote an "Adventure Album" inspired by that trip. Their CD, "Through the Woods," became our Adventure Soundtrack! Everyone loved their music, from Baby Q through Dad.

Fairy Stone: Day 1

We were on the road in the wee small hours of the morning (hoping to complete most of our drive before Baby Q was awake for the day).
We arrived at Fairy Stone State Park before lunch. The gravel driveway for Cabin 24 was steep. The pathway from there down to the cabin was also steep. And muddy. It had rained earlier. I'll never know if we made the cabin floors dirty carrying everything inside, or if it had been left like that.
Then we went to build Fairy Houses with one of the Rangers. Yes. Fairy Houses. Little shelters from sticks and stones in the woods. The oldest boys made a big show of disgust, but got into it after a while.
That evening we hiked to the shelter near the entrance to the Farmer's Market that sets up weekly. We bought a dozen eggs (blue, green, brown and yellow), one bag of potatoes, one bag of little onions, blackberry jam, carrot cake jam, salsa verde and pico de gallo. T kept eating the "sample" of the salsa verde, so we felt obligated to buy two containers. With chili, chips, and cheese, it was a great dinner.
When we walked back to the cabin, there was a deer waiting for us. To our surprise, it allowed M to get within fifteen feet.
We continued to see deer every day that week.