Monday, April 08, 2019

Spring Break 2019 - Part One

Our original Spring Break "plan" was to fly out to Denver to stay with my oldest brother Tim, but #1 I missed out on  $117 RT tickets (on Delta!) and #2 after that Tim told me his family is moving that I guess that worked out. Im sure he wants three little kids there too in the middle of moving chaos. ha! Also, I hate moving boxes 😂.  

Plan B came about one day when I was chatting with my other brother Bill, who lives in Ohio.  What if we met half way?  I quickly Googled half way between Atlanta and Wooster, OH and where did that put us?

Smack dab in Daniel Boone National Forrest.  An hour and 1/2 east of Lexington Kentucky.

After googling things to do/places to stay I knew this was an awesome spot! The pictures sold me! Red River Gorge, a mecca for rock climbers and an oasis of natural beauty and outdoor fun. Part of the Daniel Boone National Forest in eastern Kentucky, "the Red" is a unique geologic area full sandstone cliffs, waterfalls and more than 100 natural arches. Thanks in part to these incredible cliffs, Red River Gorge is also one of world’s most popular rock climbing and hiking areas.

One of the most popular places within the Red River Gorge is Natural Bridge State Park.
Ernesto found an awesome cabin for a long weekend, but we wanted to be gone the whole week, so tacked on a couple adventures, Espinoza style.

The first started in Knoxville TN.  (Halfway to the KY Cabin). Wilderness in the Smokies is an indoor waterpark.  Kids would like that for a night, right?  Check.

Coincidentally a few days before leaving we saw CHIVO Taqueria on Food Network and decided that would be our first stop.
Ps. Downtown Knoxville is super quaint and totally reminded me of Asheville.
The tacos were tasty, the decor cool.
While waited in the looooooong check-in line at Wilderness, I tried to wrangle the kids from plowing anyone over while running up and down the staircase. 😂
The room was fitted with 2 queen beds and a bunk. PER-FECT!
Gosh my pictures are shitty get the picture. haha
The view of the mountains out our balcony was pretty and made me wish it was warm enough for the outdoor slides to be open.  Although with smaller slides, the indoor slides were a good thrill for our crew.
I think the wave pool was their favorite though.

The arcade was a huge hit.  I don't even want to know how much Ernesto spent on cards for each of the kids.  It totaled an hour of playing time, so you KNOW it was a bundle.  Some costs are better left unsaid.

No matter how many games there are, my kids favorites are always the ones with the mechanical arm that ALMOST picks something you have to try it "just one more time".
Surprisingly, Marcelo did get lucky and walked away with a couple stuffed animals. (as seen below)
Wild Wilderness was definitely a great start to our vacation.
And wore these kids out.  Perfect timing for the next chapter.

Moving on to.......
Since the cousins cabin reservation was not until Thursday, we thought we would preview the area from the rustic cabins IN Natural Bridge State Park.

Over to the right of the above map you see there are 10 cottages.  This is where we stayed. So convenient to many sights.

No frills, these cabins reminded me of the ones we have stayed at with my family at Mohican. Clean, and comfortable with ample space..... plus a PERFECT location.
We were within walking distance from several trailheads and the Hemlock Lodge (also the check-in area for the cabins) It's a very small and cozy hotel set high on a cliff overlooking a huge outdoor pool (which Im sure is packed durning the Summer months).
We hit the trails as soon as unpacking was finished. 
We cluttered up the place in no time and were out the door.  Who wants to spend vacation organizing (haha)
With very little traffic on the dead end, the kids were able to ride their scooters up and down the road....and over to the Woodland Center.

Just a one room "center," displayed taxidermy of wildlife found in the park. 😬 Also,  a display depicting how these "natural bridges" were formed over thousands of years of erosion.
If you don't know what a 'natural bridge" is, don't worry, I didn't either before booking this trip.
Here it is.
Millions of years of erosion took out the middle of the sandstone and created a "natural bridge" over the arches. 
Here is the underside of the bridge.
The arch.
The underside..... the much safer side. 😂

Many many BEAR signs around the park.  
They say it's "NOT LIKELY" that you will see a bear, but if you do, don't feed them. uh....DUH!  They usually come out at dusk, night time and early morning.  Oh my gosh, this gave Mateo and I the creeps the first night.  It was dusk and we were walking around the park when we saw a sign.  Once I explained when dusk was, he was ready to turn around and go back to the cabin. 

The cabins are also a short stroll to several main hiking trails.  One being the most popular Natural Bridge the park is named for (there are over 100).

The natural bridge hike is just over a mile, but STEEP.  Oh the stairs. 
In fact, as soon as we saw this flight, we immediately knew what our workout would be the next day. Up and down 5 times as fast as possible.  My legs were JELLO by the end. 
(ps. I forgot about doing stairs.  I haven't had such a great calf workout for a while.  #sorefordays #repeater)
At the top of this run of stairs is "the cave"
A great place to get super dirty...

About 1/4 mile into the hike you pass Balancing Rock, another main "sight" in the park.  My kids were up there in no time.  #igavebirthtomonkies
You had to climb up tree roots growing up the rock. It was high, but didn't make me nervous.
Plus, Ernesto was up there with them.

However, once we were on top of the natural bridge, I was NOT COMFORTABLE with 3 kids up there at once. I don't have an anxious bone in my body, but this ...
THIS cliff was nerve racking.  
So much so that the first time we were up there I took these two pictures of Paloma and then I had to have two hands.  Talk about being ON...the bridge is only 20 feet wide with no railings. 😬

"Stay close Marcelo. No running"
"Don't go to the edge Mateo. No jumping" 
"Im sorry, but you have to hold my hand Paloma" 

Somehow I have come to be a little scared of heights.  What happened to me? I jumped out of a plane when I was 20!!  Anyhoo, my stomach feels weird and my knees get weak when I look down from heights.     
So when we got on the SkyLift up to the top of the bridge, I was sweating.  Literally, my hands were sweating and I was holding onto my kids for dear life.  On the way up I sat in the middle of Marcelo and Paloma.  Bad idea. I about died. There were no belts, just some flimsy bar in front.  There was a huge opening that either of my kids could have fallen through on the back. It was gorgeous, but not a relaxing ride, to say the least. They had no fear of course. They were yelling and waving and turning around to see papi and Mateo. Marcelo was hanging his head out to look straight down.  Every time they moved a muscle I was gripping them.  

On the way back down I told Ernesto I can only handle ONE child. 

 I was still gripping the lift and baby girl, but the ride was much less tense going down!

The weather was PERFECT for being active outside. Mid to high 60's and 💥. We stayed out hiking and adventuring most of the day and came back for eating and relaxing....oh and hot chocolate.
One fire pit!  What?  
Well my innovative husband did not let that stop him and turned the charcoal grill into our gathering spot.
It worked out just fine. 

Crystals and gems were the theme on this trip.  They were searched for in every crevice. 
The second day we stopped to "mine for gems" at Wild Things of Kentucky.

 We paid $15 per bucket of LUCK!  Scoop some sand/dirt from the bucket into the sifter, drop it in the stream of water and see what gems appear!
 They went NUTS for this.

They walked away with a bag full of gems and couldn't stop talking about them.

The mining BUG didn't stop there.  Every stream, every puddle of water had to be checked for gems.  Specifically GOLD!
 Good thing our little cabin came equipt with a colander sifter and a large serving spoon scooper.  Although no gold was found (much to Mateo's dismay) they had loads of fun searching!

One day after a good hike, this happened:
Ernesto and I got coffees at the one and only coffee shop in Slade, KY and cruised around this enormous park.  Along route 77 is the "scenic route." We made a one hour loop and headed toward Nada Tunnel.
Sometimes described at the "gateway to the Red River Gorge" this 900 foot historic tunnel was created for a lumber company back in 1910.

They blasted dynamite in the limestone and used steam machinery and hand tools to dig through.  It was originally a railroad tunnel and just 12 feet wide and 13 feet high. So don't go if you are claustrophobic....

After learning some history, we ventured through....

Since there is no traffic (only one car at a time) the kids pulled up to the sunroof and got the best view.

We went through three times and blared music, honked the horn and yelled for echos!!
We stopped whenever we saw something interesting.
A waterfall qualified.

Oh the hiking and climbing and quality time together.  More more more please!!
This is a great type of trip for our family.
I mean...there was a LITTLE BIT of this ....
...but mostly wild and free adventures outside!
And you know what?  These hermanos really get along well when adventure is involved!

We need that airstream mi amor!! Look at these happy kids!

All my kids like being outside. Marcelo though,  is the most outdoorsy, dirt loving, touch anything living - boy that I know.  If Mateo and Paloma find something even a little bit iffy, they call Marcelo over to do the "dirty work."  Which he does without hesitation...

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