Thursday, October 17, 2013

Sunday: Church and Beech Mountain

On Sunday morning we woke up, scrambled to disassemble camp, ate breakfast, prettied up, and made it to church on time. This is huge for us considering we're usually rushing out the door on an ordinary Sunday and church was a full hour earlier than the time our home ward meets at!

The second speaker of the meeting was Brother Boone, a convert of twenty-seven years. He joked about how nervous he was (and I believe his nervousness was genuine) to speak in such a "large ward," saying that he had always been in small branches previously, so standing in front of so many people to speak was terrifying, though he admitted it had its perks (such as not having to speak as often since there were more people to take turns).

Andrew and I looked at each other in astonishment. This church building is a "mini" building. The chapel was about the size of our nursery (which we only use for half our kids (the other half are in the cultural hall because there's so darn many of them)). Andrew counted up the chairs (they didn't even have proper pews, just folding chairs) and there were 122 chairs in the room (and not all of them were filled, either).

He gave a wonderful talk, though, about temples and the sanctification found therein. He told about when their family was preparing to be sealed together for time and eternity. At the time the nearest temple was the DC temple (at any rate, that was their destination), which meant several hours of travel time. He took a half day from work on Friday so that they could travel, but as he was driving home through the canyon his car broke down. He had to walk over a mile to find a place with a pay phone so that he could call his wife to tell her the situation. She asked what they were going to do and he asked her to just pack up the kids and pick him up on the side of the road; they'd leave the car there and call a tow truck. He said that he couldn't care less about the car at that moment because he so strongly desired the blessings of the temple and the privilege of being sealed to his family.

That particular car of his is likely long gone (though he didn't ever tell us what happened to the car) but his sweet family was sitting right there listening to him. I was impressed with how much he was willing to sacrifice in order to attend the temple. And to think that I've bemoaned how far the temple is from where we live now (less than an hour) and how difficult it is to find a babysitter (when I've had multiple offers from people to take our kids so we can go).

It was a good meeting. Benjamin wandered around climbing onto strangers' laps (which is unusual behavior for him) and stealing everyone's programs. I think the whole room was smitten with him. And if not, well, they were sure obliging him well.

We didn't head straight home from church; we went on a picnic first with the hope that we could just fill up our tummies, tucker the children out, and drive straight home. At the suggestion of a friend (hi, Suzanne!) we headed up Beech Mountain. Our GPS, once again, wasn't quite sure how to get us where we wanted to go but after winding our way along a gravel road we were eventually spat out in the correct location.

Destination: Buckeye Recreation Center in Beech Mountain. Beech Mountain is the "highest incorporated community east of the Mississippi" (at 5,506 feet above sea level).

They have a nice park up there in the boonies, with a beautiful hiking trail, and an amazing recreation center. I asked Andrew how such a small community ever managed to build something like that. His answer was, "Long term municipal bond."

My answer to that was, "Yeah, I suppose I'd be willing to be taxed for thirty years so that I could have something for my kids to do out here!"

In truth, they did some fundraising and they have user fees as well, but we're pretty sure their funds included a municipal bond as well.

Before the girls changed into play clothes we snapped a few pictures of them in their Sunday clothes (Benjamin napped through all of this):

Once they'd changed, we set them loose on the playground, which was really pretty cool...

...not to mention picturesque. We just couldn't get over our surroundings! Rachel asked if we could just stay there forever (and I don't blame her). I joked with Andrew that he could get a job at AppState but it was only a joke because I'm rather fond of straight roads, street lights, and having a grocery store less than ten minutes away. Also, I'm a fan of sunshine and hot

Look who woke up from his nap!

The kids had so much fun playing that they had a hard time eating their lunch (especially Rachel).

They had a treehouse in the middle of the play structure (which Rachel loved because it was "just like Jack and Annie's," aka The Magic Treehouse) with a long slide as an exit. Benjamin loved the slide so much! He probably went down it twenty times, if not more!

Miriam was only brave enough to climb the ladder once and it probably took her a good ten minutes to make it to the top. Once she was up she chirped, "And now I can finally go down the slide!" She had a lot of fun swinging on the various rope apparatuses at the playground and, we learned, actually knows how to pump on the swing fairly well.

Here are Andrew and Rachel playing together:

Here's Benjamin in one of the swings:

And Miriam and Rachel playing chicken:

There was a hammock swing that all the kids thought was a blast. Rachel and Miriam took turn after turn but Benjamin, though he wasn't impressed with the swing when he had to share it with Miriam, took more turns than anybody.

He loved it!

I think Rachel had almost as much fun pushing Benjamin as she did swinging herself:

Eventually I insisted we get going on that hike we wanted to take. We didn't actually know where it led or how long it was, but we started on it, anyway. Andrew even wore his Sunday shoes because, he insisted, it was a city trail so it should be well maintained.

It wasn't. I mean, it's not like it was a horrible trail. It's just that it was a the, it was a little rugged, municipality or not. The hike was beautiful.

Picking an activity to do on the Sabbath was difficult because although we weren't quite ready to go home (we didn't want to drive in the dark on Saturday because the roads aren't as well lit as we'd like) until Sunday we also wanted to honour the Lord's day. For us this meant that we couldn't go any place where we paid for a service (thus the picnic rather than a restaurant and a free hike rather than a touristy hike). In my house going to the park as a family was always a perfectly acceptable sabbath day activity and nature walks weren't entirely uncommon either. My mom has always said that appreciating nature isn't a sin (perhaps not in those words). Of course, these things always happened in conjunction with our church meetings because we believe church attendance is important.

I guess Andrew and I are still finding that balance of what keeping the sabbath day holy means in our house, merging what he was taught in his home with what I was taught in my home with what we're currently learning from church leaders, the spirit, and the Lord, as Elder Faust said, "the divine mandate of Sabbath day observance in our day is now more of a manifestation of individual devotion and commitment rather than a requirement of civil law," so throw no stones.*

Anyway, my point is that we went to church, same as always, and then enjoyed the mountains for a while longer before we went home (not unlike a couple years ago in Grover). We even got home in time to skype with our families (which is our usual Sabbath activity but was a lot of fun this particular Sunday because my sister Kelli and her boys were at my parents house to celebrate her birthday and because Karen was in Colorado visiting Aunt Linda and Uncle Trevor (who is still in the hospital; we got to see his new wheelchair and he got to tell silly jokes to the girls)).

Rachel, Andrew, and Benjamin were often so far ahead of me and Miriam on the trail that it seemed we were playing one long game of Marco-Polo, though we did manage to catch up with them a couple of times.

This is how Miriam chose to walk when I reminded her that we needed to be on the lookout for poison ivy:

Her little hands were glued to her sides (and notice those cute jeans? My friend C. (who is all about clothing kids for cheap) mailed them to us after she saw that picture of Miriam holding up her pants from a couple of weeks ago (she has a daughter around Miriam's age whose pants drawer was overflowing (and she's one of the most thoughtful people alive))).

The kids needed many reminders to not touch foliage until they'd ensured it wasn't poisonous. They couldn't get enough of the leaves!

At one point they both were running down the trail flapping a set of leaves like they had wings. Rachel gave up on that game much sooner than Miriam, who was spinning and flapping through the forest, singing a song about how she was a fairy princess until she had another brilliant idea.

She could transform herself into an Indian Princess! She stuffed leaves in all of her pockets (for decorative feathers) and was sure she was pretty cute stuff.

At one point I set the camera up at the top of some stairs so that we could get a family shot:

You can see that by this time Rachel had joined in Miriam's Indian Princess game.

We soon came to our first waterfall (which, I suppose, is why this is called Falls Trail). Rachel decided it should be called Fairy Falls (I don't actually know if it has a name). It sure was beautiful!

We hiked a little farther until we got to another waterfall. Andrew was already standing out on the slippery rocks by the time the girls and I reached the footbridge.

Rachel climbed farther out into the falls (which was really just a stream running down a rock than an actual waterfall) and found the rocks to be incredibly slippery.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa! Be careful, Dad!" she warned Andrew. "It's slippery!"

I'm not sure why she chose to warn him about this since he wasn't even in the same area she was but as soon as this warning escaped her lips...Andrew slipped. And, yes, Benjamin was on his shoulders. And, yes, the world suddenly stopped spinning and we were all thrown into the weird slow-motion dimension that accidents seem to take on.

Andrew knew he was going down and managed to catch his fall with his elbows (while still holding Benjamin's ankles). After he hit the ground (hard) he let go of Benjamin and Benjamin fell off Andrew's shoulders and landed on the rock beside him.

Andrew had picked Benjamin up and was cuddling him into his chest by the time I reached them, just a split second later.

"Give me the baby," I said.

"No!" Andrew said, very defensively. "I've got him! He's fine!"

"I know he's fine," I soothed. "But you're kneeling in a puddle of water and need to get up. Hand him to me."

I was on dry rock and didn't want either of us carrying the baby on the slick rock anymore. We were very fortunate, however. Other than a couple of sore elbows for Andrew and a wee bump on Benjamin's noggin, everyone was fine. I gave Benjamin back to Andrew after Andrew got onto dry ground again because he needed to see that Benjamin was fine.

He was a little upset about life, but he was just fine. Andrew miraculously took the brunt of the fall on his elbows. 

"I was imagining brains spilled all over the rock before I looked up!" Andrew said, breathing a sigh of relief.

I've been reassuring him for the past couple of days that Benjamin is just fine. He didn't even get a bruise from his little tumble. Just yesterday he tripped in the kitchen and knocked his head on the windowsill. That left a bruise (and caused a whole lot more crying).

Andrew showed me this video today. We both thought it was funny:

Anyway, after that fall, Andrew decided it was time to head home. We didn't know how far we'd come or how much longer the trail went on for (turns out it's between 1 and 1.5 miles long and I don't think we even made it halfway) and wanted to be sure to hit the road with plenty of time to get home before dark (and the sun is setting by 6:30 nowadays).

Miriam was tired, so I carried her while Andrew carried Benjamin. It was quite the workout, going up the mountain carrying a three-year-old (as opposed to how it had been walking down the mountain carrying nobody).

Benjamin decided he wanted to walk the last little bit of the trail:

And with that we said goodbye to the beautiful mountains and set the course for home!

Unfortunately, our GPS doesn't quite know what to do with these small Appalachian roads and we got hopelessly lost. Andrew once again handed me the map (on his we still had a GPS dot telling me where we were) and asked me to get us off the blasted mountain. Our GPS simply couldn't discern between private (and gated closed) roads and public roads so we kept finding ourselves at dead ends. Beech Mountain is like a corn maze—only it's a city. Good luck navigating that:

I finally got us to 184, which is a main road (because it's a highway) and we were able to follow it out of Beech Mountain and onto the highway we needed to be on. Along the way, though, we got a lovely tour of the mountain homes in Beech Mountain (which are all much swankier than the homes we saw in Tennessee), some deer, and most exciting of all...

...we got to drive through a cloud. Rachel was on cloud nine (pardon my pun) and asked that I take a picture.

"Of what? Of you?" I asked.

"No! Of us in the cloud!" she said.

So here she is, driving through a cloud:

Of course, you can't really tell that she's in a cloud but she'll know she was in a cloud. And she'll know it was awesome.

We had a pretty decent drive home. Both Benjamin and Miriam fell asleep (I think; though I can't be positive about Miriam anymore) for a while but when Benjamin woke up he was not happy. After he cried for about and hour straight, Andrew stopped somewhere and demanded that everyone get out of the car to go potty. He took the girls in and I attempted to nurse Benjamin (because that usually makes him happy) but instead of nursing he stubbornly communicated that what he actually needed was a romp outside. So we walked around the parking lot until the rest of the family returned from the toilets and Benjamin—though unwilling to get back in his car seat—was a much happier boy for the rest of the trip (meaning that he didn't scream bloody murder the whole way home and only loudly complained).

And that was it—the end of fall break. 

I think I did about nine loads of laundry on Monday and I still have a lot of work to do to put away all the camping gear. Andrew helped last night with a lot of stuff but he's been so busy paying the piper for our little adventure that we've hardly seen him since Sunday night. He was completely shut up in his office all day Monday and all day Tuesday (like, seriously all day—as in 8 AM until midnight, only emerging for meals) and yesterday I didn't even see him until 5:30 PM when the kids and I got home from the library. We had dinner together and then he left for campus (with the girls) for a review session for stats while I went to a primary meeting (with Benjamin). Neither party got home until just before 10 PM and then Andrew did homework until midnight and I saw him for about five minutes this morning. So...while camping was worth it, the catch up from camping has been a little bit of a shock to our well-vacationed systems.

* I suppose I'm riled up about the observance of the Sabbath by a comment made to me by someone (about someone else) that I thought amounted to stone-throwing. We are all sinners: "slide over and make some room" at the table.


  1. What a lovely trip! Thanks so much for sharing about it in detail. The pictures are fantastic, and I so enjoyed hearing about everything....even attending church in the mountains! :) I am sorry Andrew fell though. Those rocks are very slippery when wet, and I'm sure his church shoes don't have good traction...ouch. I think enjoying God's creation with your family is a wonderful way to spend part of the sabbath. Hooray for Rachel going through a cloud and Benjamin in the hammock is too cute!

    (OK, I think I used up a week's worth of superlatives in this one comment...sorry. The mountains and cute kids do that to me.)

  2. The second I saw Andrew on that rock I started to cringe because I knew what was coming. So glad they both were safe! Those jeans are cute on M! Your friend is the best ;-?

  3. I saw you link to this from your recent trip to Sulphur Creek so I came back to read it. LOOK at little your kids are!!! And there are only 3. This is so sweet. They are sweet now, too, but I had forgotten RMB were so little at one time. And how has this been almost 5 years ago?