Saturday, August 10, 2013

We have another Teen!

The day after Mikaela turned 13, Connor became a teenager as well (they are my "virtual twins").

I have to say, it wasn't too difficult for me to imagine Connor going from this,

to this:

After all, from day one, Connor has been a happy-go-lucky, bundle-of-energy with a Carpe Diem personality!  And I have to say, it's been immensely rewarding watching him develop into a kind-hearted, bright, funny, creative and athletic young man.

Unlike his sister, Connor wasn't very interested in getting a cell phone for his birthday.  Instead, he wanted to share a variety of experiences as a family.  Fortunately, we were able to use Groupon, Living Social and Travelzoo to score some really great deals.  For instance, on the day of his birthday, we got a groupon for all 4 of us to go bowling.  Additionally, one of his B-Day gifts was another Groupon--2 for 1 tickets to Kings Dominion which he and his Dad will be going to later this week.  Their goal is to ride every single roller coaster and water slide.

But the best deal of all, was a timely Travelzoo special.  Several days after his B-Day, Connor and I were home alone.  Bob was in Portland, Oregon taking a week long bicycle mechanics class at the United Bike Institute (my Christmas present to him) and Mikaela was at a 5 night, sleepaway Vacation Bible School with her friend Nadia.  Connor and I wanted to do something special together and we were in the process of planning a backpacking trip along Virginia's Triple Crown.  However, the day before we were going to leave, I got a Travelzoo deal in my inbox that looked too good to pass up.  It was a special  rate for Mountain Lake Lodge in Pembroke, VA. Basically, the special rate was $99/night which also included a $50 food voucher and a $50 adventure activity voucher.  I wound up purchasing two of them and so for $198, we had 3 days of fun in the mountains--as well as $100 in food vouchers and $100 to spend on adventure activities.  Off we went!

Mountain Lake Lodge is located in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains about 30 minutes from Virginia Tech.  It's a family resort and it's most famous for being the location where they filmed the movie Dirty Dancing.  However, Mountain Lake Lodge is wisely trying hard to shed the Dirty Dancing image and instead become a major adventure destination in Southwest Virginia.  As such, they have built 23 miles of hiking/ mountain bike trails on their property as well as constructed a brand new aerial adventure course.

Connor and I opted to use our adventure vouchers to do the Treetops Aerial Adventure Course.   The course had 20 different obstacles and ziplines and we had a total blast.

Next up was a hike on the Appalachian Trail to Wind Rock, a scenic outcropping that overlooks Jefferson National Forest. (The AT runs through Mountain Lake's property)

We also went swimming, soaked in the hot tub and played outdoor checkers with life size pieces,

and when it rained, we went into the "barn" and played many a game of ping pong, pool and air hockey.

Much to my delight, Connor has become a strong mountain biker in the past few years, so of course we explored a number of the trails, which were VERY fun and "flowy."

I love being able to share my passion for mountain biking with my son!

One of the highlights of our trip was a relatively short, 4 mile (r/t) hike we took on the Cascades National Recreation Trail in Jefferson National Forest.


The Cascades trail is very popular because it's not only breathtakingly gorgeous, it's also artfully constructed, with over 2 miles of well placed rocks.  

It rained most of the time we were hiking, but we didn't mind because it kept other hikers to a minimum.

Virginia has had an incredible amount of rain this summer, so everything was extraordinarily green and lush.

Water was everywhere--it was literally running down the trail as well as running down the sides of the mountains.

At the top of the trail was a beautiful 69 foot waterfall with the perfect swimming hole at the base.  (This was just one of the many swimming holes we passed along the way.)

Connor and I had a phenomenal time together and he must have thanked me half a dozen times for taking him on this adventure.  As we were driving home, I realized that this may have been the first time that he and I had spent more than 24 hours together, just the two of us.  I also came to the realization, that we definitely need to do this more often. When I think about how quickly the past 11 years have flown by, I get a pit in my stomach because I know that the next six are going to zoom by even faster.  I want to savor these remaining days together and work hard to create memories that will last us all a lifetime. 

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