My two daughters and I packed up a car and escaped our town looking for adventure. We found it 150 miles away on a week-long camping/biking trek that took us from Roanoke to Damascus, then through Grayson Highlands, to Sparta, then to Doughton Park, North Carolina near Boone. We biked, played, swam, ate, talked, biked, ate, biked, ate, and camped in some of the most beautiful forests in Southern Virginia and NC. Elsa got her first real taste of single track on the Lum trail and Ivy put in long but happy hours on the xtracycle. I’ll have mountain biking children yet!
The three of us met some fun families: John, with 5 of his 11 children, camped nearby and entertained us for hours with stories, great food time and time again, and conversation. Later we met Bettina and her two children. They are from Germany, staying in the US for 3 years (in hot Mobile, AL). She is on a summer getaway, and like me, is traveling by herself with her children. However, she’s staying out in the wild hitting campgrounds all over the East for 6 weeks–she has 3 more weeks to go. She became my traveling companion later in the trip when we headed East, then South.
One of the greatest adventures of this trip was leading 8 kids down the Virginia Creeper trail. John was shuttle man again, and this was our second Creeper day, so the girls and I felt happy about not paying for shuttles or biking all the way up to come down. He took just below the top at Green Cove and dropped the me and the crew off for a pleasant 16 mile journey into Damascus. Amazingly, we had no malfunctions, major crashes, or technical difficulties. The kids’ only disagreement was who was going to be in front. We enjoyed the lush copses, the easy trail, the beautiful pools, and the exploration in the creeks. I enjoyed the life of an outdoor bike adventure guide and wondered if that was my true calling. It’s easy to think that when you have such an easy time of it. Still, kids are happiest in the wild, evident by the wonder, excitement, and joy in the faces of the gang of 8.
We had a grand adventure in Damascus: We made it through good weather and bad, braved thunderstorms and torrential rain, increased bike mileage and hill climbing, and general toughness. But we’d hiked, biked, swam, and camped in the same place, and my wandering spirit was pressing me to move on. Bettina was heading southeast and asked if we were interested in traveling together for awhile as the kids were getting on well. We agreed. After a wonder-filled ride through Grayson-Highlands, we spilled out into Sparta, NC. There was a music festival happening this weekend and it seemed a good place to refuel, re-supply, and hear some music. We ended up camping at the festival, a fiddler’s convention, at the fairground site in lovely downtown Sparta. We heard some familiar tunes, listened to amazing musicians, and met more great folks who were happy to share their passion for music. The children were occupied by an enormous dirt pile where they pretended to be gold miners, then they rolled about on the steep ridge that looked onto the music, and played happily. My husband, an old time musician himself, would have loved being here, and it was here that the three of us started really missing daddy. We took notes on the festival, and promised to bring him back next year.
After Sparta, we headed down into North Carolina via the parkway, and came upon a terrific camp spot at Doughton Park. A women’s work day was going on at the Brinegar cabin, exhibiting the toil that women went through on a daily basis. We avoided that exhibit like the plague, feeling firsthand that we were working hard enough at the moment. The kids played well enough, but signs of fatigue were showing. We stayed for a night, but on Sunday, we knew it was time to go home. We were missing Daddy something fierce, and we could all use a bath and a night’s rest in a bed. We loaded up and headed home on the parkway, for a gorgeous 130 mile cruise home. After a rest, we plan to go back out again, Bettina-style, possibly back-packing, though I’m feeling like a bike-packing trip may be due us soon.
Bettina is a Waldorf kindergarten teacher in Germany, and we had wonderful conversations about the raising of children, the differences in schools here and there, and the simplicity in living a life where kids are outside and moving, imagining, dancing, and negotiating with each other within nature. I’m struck again by how complicated things seem in our winter life, particularly when school is in session, and am thankful for summer wanderings. Our purpose then is to make it last and be as purposeful and meaningful as we can, to take it with us into the winter, and to always get outside.