Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The Roan Mountain Report

(This title is a true yet fitting nod in the direction of my husband who has just (finally) finished his New York race report. He's been hogging the computer for days and is mostly responsible for the lateness of my own post! But seriously, he wrote another great post, as usual. You can read it here....but, read mine first!)

We had a wonderful time at Roan Mountain this year. As (I believe) this is the first time we've been since I started blogging, let me start at the beginning.

Roan Mountain-Past

When I was thirteen years old, my family was invited to join a group of families from another church as they vacationed in Roan Mountain, TN. We SO fell in love with this place, that the following summer, we brought a few families from our church, and the rest is history.

For some 14 years, we went to Roan Mt. every summer. We were from Florida and VERY much appreciated a trip to the mountains. Roan Mountain State Park is beautiful! They had about 25 cabins at the time. They had a private bedroom and a loft with two single beds. There was a full kitchen, bathroom and a wood burning stove in the living room. The cabins had a large front porch with rocking chairs. It was just beautiful. A couple of years we even rented ALL the cabins!

Now, this was not a church retreat, just a bunch of people from our church who chose to vacation together. We all had our own family cabins and could choose to go off on our own or get together with others. Some of the things we loved to do was hike up Bald Mt. or hike the trail to the top of the Roan to the overlook. We went to Linville Falls, Linville Caverns, Sliding Rock, Grandfather Mt., Valle Crucis to visit the Mast General Store and Annex, Fred's General Mercantile on Beech Mt. and there was always a group going kayaking on the Nolichucky River. Every evening we had a game of volleyball going at the bottom of the hill. There was a little restaurant at the top of the hill with a beautiful view. You could sit on the porch up there and watch hummingbirds at the feeders. Every night you could walk around to the other cabins and find something to do. At one you might find charades, at another Trivial Pursuit. There were puzzles and even singing on the front porch. On top of 'Barn Hill' you could find fathers sending adventurous young boys on 'snipe hunts'. Across the way there was a creek, called the 'Doe River' where kids would go rock hopping or catch crayfish. There was a hill next to one of the cabins that turned to the best mud when it rained. The little ones LOVED this. My dad used to go Trout fishing, then for breakfast my mom would make fried potatoes, homemade applesauce and fresh grilled trout. Mmmmm, that was the BEST breakfast ever!

One year my parents decided to take us up in the wintertime. We hoped for snow but was told it was a bit early in the season and we might not get it. However, if you know my parents, you also know that with their brand of faith, we were bound to get some! Sure enough, just as we pulled into the parking lot, it started to snow. As the snow flakes landed on the glass windows of the car, it was the first time I had ever seen the incredible truth of a snowflake seen with the naked eye. Unbelievably beautiful. We had a fabulous time that winter. It was the first time we kids had seen real snow. We had a ball. Roan Mountain contains some of the best memories of my childhood.

Now here is where my Roan Mt. past became my Roan Mt. future! You could say that Dean and I got together at Roan Mt. I won't go into the whole story now since this post is long enough already, but suffice it to say, this is where we started falling in love. I was 19 years old and Dean had been invited to come and stay with my cousins in their cabin. He came because he knew I would be there. This was his first year at Roan Mt. and he fell in love with both of us! So now, Roan Mt. was part of our romantic history. We eventually got married and moved away, and the Roan Mountain summers waned to a thing of the past.

Jump forward now to 2001. Dean and I had been married for eleven years and had two kids, ages 3 and 5. It was our custom, now that one of my sisters and I were married with our own families, that we alternated celebrating Christmas one year with hubby's family and the next with our family. The Family (mine) had been discussing having Christmas one year at Roan Mt. We had never had a real Christmas tree having grown up in Florida, and were very excited at the prospect of Christmas in Roan Mt. So we planned our first one for Christmas of 2001.

It was so wonderful! We cut down our own tree and made our own ornaments and strung popcorn and cranberries. It was perfect. The kids loved it. We were all there, Grandpa & Grammy, Dean and I with our two kids, my sister Amy and her son and husband (his mom was there, too), and my other sister, Andrea. I don't think we had snow that year, but we went up to Beech Mt. and let the kids go sledding there. We had such a great time that we decided Roan Mt. was our new Christmas tradition every other year. The best part about this first one was that on Christmas Eve, I took a pregnancy test and it was positive! Guess what his name is....? That's right, ROAN! Now he is part of the tradition and he loves visiting 'his' mountain. There is also another member in my sister's family, a little girl, and last but never least, my other sister has added a husband! Maybe next Roan Mt. in 2009 there will be another little cousin crawling around!

Roan Mountain-Present

So, now to the present. We just got back from Roan Mt. Christmas #4. As usual, it was awesome and I took lots of pictures, but again, as usual, when I looked at them I realized how many I didn't take. *sigh*


We arrived Saturday afternoon. As soon as we pulled in, Kai yelled, "Yes! This is it! Remember? This is where we found the deer poop!" LOL! The minute we had the cars unloaded the men and the kids took off to get a tree and the women-folk went to the grocery store. We each sponsor an evening meal for everybody and are on our own for lunch, etc. This system really works out great. That first night I made Minestrone soup. It was definitely a 'soup' kinda night, first night in the mountains and all. It went over pretty well.

Trimming the Tree

Sunday, we spent most of the day making our Christmas decorations. Brad, Kai and I made some origami ornaments. Amy, Alyssa, and I decorated some glass balls with rub-on stickers and glitter. We also had paper snowflakes, a paper chain, and a homemade star on top of the tree. Dean, Alyssa, and Aly painted the front window.Dean and Kai put lights on the tree and the staircase and out on the front porch of the cabin. We also hung the stockings.
The Cabin

The kids love helping with the fire. Dean has taught them how to build and maintain it and they were very proud of themselves when they were able to start it from scratch all by themselves. Kai especially was a very hard worker, constantly bringing in more wood. Roan did a great job gathering kindling, too.It has always been a Roan Mt. tradition to have a puzzle going, so naturally we had two! One in dad's cabin and one in ours. We bought ours at Disney in October and I am sad to say that it defeated us. It was a 1000 piece puzzle and very difficult and in spite of the herculean efforts of Dean, Alyssa and I (and the rather lackluster effort from everybody else!) we were unable to finish it.

Sunday night, we had dinner at Brad & Amy's cabin. The made Mexican. Yum! After the kids went to sleep, the grown-ups gathers in mom & dad's cabin for a Wii demonstration. Dad hooked up his projector and we had a fun time playing bowling, golf, fishing, etc.
Jerry's Birthday

Monday was Christmas Eve and also Jerry's 37th birthday. We celebrated over brunch. Andrea made delicious ham & onion, and broccoli & cheese quiche. She also made Cranberry Orange Croissants that were to die for! (Thank You for the recipe, Andrea!) I made banana bread for the 'cake'. It was a very delicious meal.

That afternoon Dean went for a run. He was very excited to be able to run a stretch of the Appalachian Trail. He drove up to Bald mountain and went from there. It was very cold and windy and the trails steep, icy and treacherous, and of course, he loved it.

Top of the Mountain

While he was running, Dad and I, my kids, and Jerry & Andrea drove up to the top of the Roan and hiked the half mile to the look out platform. This was the first time my kids had been there and I think the last time I went was the week Dean and I got together in 1988, so that was cool. The path was pretty treacherous in that it was very icy. It was rather like walking on a small frozen creek bed. I think each kid fell once, but no-one was hurt. At the platform it was SO windy and cold but we managed a few pictures. On the walk back, Roan found a tree with the branches low enough that he could climb it. He usually can't climb the ones he sees his brother and sister climbing. He said proudly, "Mommy, this is the only tree I can climb!"

There was a little snow up there so the kids enjoyed throwing a few snowballs. Not on ME, though, I was holding the camera. Hehe.

Roan & Grandpa

On the drive back to our cabins, we were talking about how many deer there are and Alyssa mentioned that she had never seen wild deer in person, so Jerry with his sharp eyes, spotted some and we stopped to take pictures.

So Alyssa had seen her first deer. As we arrived back at the cabins we saw 12 deer right there in the afore-mentioned 'Volleyball' field! We stopped for more pictures. It was very cool.
Christmas Eve

We had dinner at mom, dad, Andrea & Jerry's cabin. Andrea & Jerry hosted with spaghetti with homemade Italian sausage spaghetti sauce, garlic bread and salad. It was delicious! After dinner we all gathered in our cabin for the Christmas story, traditionally told by Grandpa. The kids were even (IMHO)remarkably quiet and attentive. Dad didn't tell the traditional story of the birth of Jesus this year but rather from the perspective of Simean and Anna who's lives culminated in their respective opportunities to hold their savior in their arms as promised. I really enjoyed it.

Christmas Morning

Christmas morning we all agreed to meet back at our cabin at 9 am. Unlike certain friends of mine whose child woke up at 2 am wanting to open presents, Roan and Kai didn't wake up until 8:15 and I had to drag Alyssa out of bed at 8:45 and she was grumpy! LOL!

The Lawrence Clan

We had a great Christmas. Jerry and Andrea had some payback for Dean when they presented him with a scavenger hunt to find his present. He has been the author many times of said torture and it was fitting that it be returned to him! Dean's gift for me was a riddle that when solved would lead me to my gift. He was kind though, and made it not too difficult and as usual, was very creative. It started with a long hand-written letter that I loved and it reminded me of all the letters we wrote during our pre-marriage years. I'm so glad we didn't have email back then.

We all worked together on Christmas dinner. I made my friend, Deborah's, Sweet Potato Crunch, among other things. Mom and Amy made the Turkey and homemade pies (Strawberry-Rhubarb, Apple, and Pumpkin) Andrea made green bean casserole and Jerry made his families' traditional homemade noodles. They were awesome! That evening we played some games. We played Trivial Pursuit '80's edition, Battle of the Sexes and Password.

One thing we always do, is visit Fred's Mercantile on Beech Mt., so that is what we did on Wednesday. I love this place. Of course, it was a lot more quaint 20 years ago. (did I just say 20 years ago? Surreal...) Now it is much more built up and touristy. The mercantile is on the main floor and sells everything from groceries, winter clothing, toys, and hardware, to walking sticks, bear bells and Wizard of Oz collectibles. Upstairs they have a Christmas shop and kitchen store. Down stairs is a little cafe and ski shop. That's where we ate lunch. My favorite thing about Fred's is that you can go skiing at the top of Beech Mountain, then half way down, ski over to Fred's, eat some lunch, then ski on down the rest of the slope.


Unfortunately, this year we didn't get any snow to speak of. One of our favorite things to do is sled down the afore-mentioned 'Barn Hill' right next to the cabins. However, since we couldn't do that this year, we took the kids to a small sledding hill down the road from Fred's.

Roan of course was hilarious. This was the first time he'd ever gone sledding all by himself. He had more fun than everybody put together. On the occassions that he fell he just kept rolling himself the rest of the way down the hill, smiling the whole time, then had to climb back up to get the sled.This was Canyon and Aly right as there sled turned sideways and right before it turned upside down and Aly ate snow. She was a trooper but that was her last trip down that day. It was hilarious! Just kidding. Well, it was kinda funny.
After sledding, we drove to Valle Crucis to visit The Mast General Store (the original) and the Annex. Have to go to the Annex, of course, as it has an awsome candy store!
The kids had some spending money that they brought with them, so they had fun spending it. I even bought myself some silver jewelry. After we were all shopped out, we high-tailed it home because it was my turn to cook dinner. I made Brunswick Stew and garlic bread, a family favorite that we must have every year at Roan Mt. Let's be clear, this is not your average brunswick stew. It is not orange and it does not have chicken in it. It has hamburger and bacon and is my mom's recipe and about the best thing you've ever put in your mouth. (Unless you 're Dean, not a big fan)

After dinner, we played games again, another couple rounds of Battle of the Sexes (I do believe the women won every time, by the way. If I'm mistaken, I'm SURE I will be corrected promptly) and Scene It-Movie Edition.

Creek Walk

Thursday was our last full day as we were leaving Friday morning. Dean went running again, this time on highly ambitious trails closer to the cabins. While he was gone, the rest of us (except mom) went on a walk. Dad took us to the Ranger's office where he showed us a stuffed and mounted fully body black bear. It was captured 70 miles away and was the second largest black bear found in the area. The largest had been found much closer. Then we moved on and walked along the Doe River and took lots of pictures.

On the way back we stopped at the playground at the bottom of 'Barn Hill' for a while. Kai and Jerry climbed and tree then threw a little frisbee back and forth.


That evening mom hosted dinner with another family favorite, Shepherd's pie. Then we hooked up Dad's projector again and played another game of Scene-it on the big screen. At that point I prepared the kids for bed. They were going to spend the night at Grandpa & Grammy's. While I was doing this, Dean went back to our cabin to take a shower from running and to prepare for a romantic evening with the cabin all to ourselves. After finishing the game, the others watched a movie. After I got the kids to sleep I went back to our cabin and this is what I found:
Dean had moved the bed into the living room right next to the Christmas tree and although you can't see it in the picture, near the foot of the bed was the wood stove. It was very romantic. There was music playing, candles lit, and a boquet of 2 dozen roses on the bed. It was a beautiful last night to our our vacation.


The next morning we had to get up right away, put everything back where it belonged, pack up and be out by 10 am. Whew! Brad & Amy had to go to Asheville to drop off Brad's mom, Diane. Jerry and Andrea were headed to Alabama to exchange gifts with his family and pick up their dog, Krusty. We were in no particular hurry to get home and neither were mom and dad. They were even staying in the area for a couple more days. So we stopped at the Roan Mt. gift shop on the way out, then went to lunch together at 'Canyon's' in Blowing Rock, NC before heading home.

Near Miss

One thing more I must mention. We start every trip with a family prayer that God will protect us and bring us safely to our destination and home again. As we left Roan Mt., Roan even made sure we remembered to pray! On the way home, a vehicle from the other side of the highway lost it's trailer. This trailer came careening all the way across the grassy median into the oncoming traffic. It headed straight for us. We couldn't swerve left because there was a car next to us. We couldn't brake because there was a car right behind us. Dean swerved onto the shoulder and hit the gas. If we had stayed in our lane or our heavy load had not allowed us to accelerate fast enough, it would have crashed right into us. As it was, it ended up harmlessly in the grass on the other side of the road. Praise the Lord for His faithfulness and watching over us (and the other drivers) on the road!

Roan Quote: Roan was helping Jerry with the wood for the fire. He was stepping on twigs, 'helping' Jerry break them. Jerry told him he was doing a great job and that his name must be 'Johnny Strongfoot'. Roan said, "No, my name is Roan.". Jerry said, "Really? Because I thought it was Johnny Strongfoot." Roan said, "No, my name is Roan Strongfoot."

Another time, he was playing in the mud and told Grammy 'it's like poop'. Yes, my boys have an apparent poop fascination. Boys will be boys!


Debby said...

What a memory for you and your family. Your children will always treasure these moments. And I need my husband to take romance lessons from your husband. LOL Welcome back.

Dean said...



- Dean