One of the wonderful benefits of living here in Western North Carolina, are all the wonderful places that you get to explore. One of our very favorite spots is in Pickens, South Carolina. Table Rock State Park has been our family’s favorite outing, so much that we have gone almost every weekend this past year.
During the cooler months it was more desolate with not as many people. We enjoyed hiking in the mountain and along the natural springs flowing down the boulders. We would take our dinners and BBQ while the children enjoyed playing on the play equipment.
Then Memorial Day happened and the lake opened up! The park became a happening spot for tourists. This never stopped us, we enjoyed going every weekend, among the crowds. The only thing we did different, was not to rely on getting a grill, because there were so many people and not enough of them to cook on.
Here is a typical day of what we do and how we prepare:
Each person grabs items that they are responsible for, this can be:
Daddy and Evan–fishing gear, fold up wagon, foldable chairs for everyone, umbrella for beach, bucket of sand toys, 10 blow up inner tubes, foot pump, and swimming noodles.
Brooklyn–grabs our reusable shopping bag and gets 11 beach towels.
Jadyn-makes sure to get a pair of clean clothing all rolled up for each child for after swimming. We may put a rubber band around the clothing to keep it into place. We place in a tote bag.
Autumn-fills up all of the waters and places them in the smaller cooler along with string cheese and a box of crackers for mid day snack. I also put small bathroom cups in this cooler to keep all of their snacks contained while eating on the beach.
Lauren and I -take care of the food. Normally I cook chicken breast and chicken drumsticks on low overnight in my oven. I might marinade it in Italian dressing or cook it with a BBQ sauce. In the morning we have very tender, pull apart shredded chicken for sandwiches. We grab pita bread, pickles, mild pepper rings, cheese slices, lettuce, and ranch dressing to make our sandwich complete. I take a bag of chips and a whole watermelon. I take along a baggie for the remains of the watermelon as well as a knife and plastic cutting board. We serve all of this on paper plates for easy cleanup. Sometimes we take veggies and hummus, depending upon if we have them for the week.
Here they are all buckled in ready to go. We put Madelyn up front, she is the child most likely to get car sick while driving. We place an empty ice cream bucket under her seat for such cases. I try and put an older child in each of the rows. It makes it easier when traveling in case someone needs something.
If we leave out early on a Saturday, we might stop and pick up $5 pizzas at Little Caesers. I keep a pair of scissors in the van to be able to cut the slices down smaller for little ones to eat easier in the van. I brought along paper plates before we left. This makes for an easy lunch, while driving. We also will stop and grab a Starbucks for my husband and myself. An iced hazelnut macchiato with coconut milk—-my favorite little weekend treat!
As soon as we get to the beach, we spray the little ones down with sunscreen and they jump right in the water. As I am watching them, Dad sets up the Sport Brella—a wonderful thing he purchased this year and the fun begins. He originally got this umbrella so that we could have a little place to escape from the sunshine and the little ones love to go and sit under it for awhile during the day. We have found that it works great for those Carolina storms that seem to just pop up out of nowhere. Usually it rains for 5-20 minutes every day and then completely clears up. Something about the way the mountains are situated in the embarkment, well whatever the reason, we have just grown accustomed to the fact that it is going to rain while we are out. Usually we just sit right through it but hubby got the Sport Brella and now we have protection! He sits up there and starts blowing up the inner tubes. All 10 of them!
Here is our base by the water. You can’t set up umbrellas in front of the life guards so we have two zones at the lake. We use the PVC tube stuck into the sand to store our tubes on in case a storm blows up. It will only last for a few moments but enough to blow our tubes far away!
These tubes are great. We picked them up at Walmart for $5 and they have been a huge hit all summer long. We pump these up and deflate them at least 3-4 times per week. We go to the local lake and use them during the week, Dad will take them tubing with the older ones, and then we use them for the weekend. We have plenty and usually someone else at the lake asks to use them as well. Well worth the $5 investment.
The children are enjoying a snow cone treat. A nice way to cool off. If you notice they are all wearing matching swimsuits. It is much easier to scan a crowd and find all of the matching outfits.
They also have a huge diving platform that Evan spends his entire time on. Lauren and I jumped off it and it was fun, I am just getting too old for stuff like that. Safe in the water:) The lake closes at 6 and then it is time to move. We start deflating tubes around 5:30 and then Dad packs us up. We head to the van and I start changing children. Someone holds a towel over the door for privacy and we put them in their dry clothing. I stack all of their wet suits and towels into a dishpan that I have stored in my van and then when I get home it goes right in the washer.
My husband has taught the children the importance of being quiet while fishing. As soon as I walk over to see how they are doing, they are already in a hushed whisper. Far from the loudness at the beach!
Before we go, we find a grill and roast marshmallows. We miss this as we had a fire pit at our old home and do not here. This is something the children look forward to doing each weekend. I bought a pack of 100 wooden skewers and that should last us all summer.
Stephen likes the Reeses peanut butter cup ones. Another simple and easy desert, that the children are making fun memories doing this summer.As the sun sets, it is time to head back home. We look forward to driving through the mountain ranges from South Carolina to North Carolina. It is a sight to behold. Pictures don’t do it justice, but it is our favorite place here on earth.
Home to unload. All of the chairs, wagon, and toys get put on the deck. In the morning we will make sure that the sand is off them and completely dry before putting away. The tubes we lay over the railing to ensure dryness. We then stack them back in the baskets and put in our storage area. The wet bathing suits go directly into the washer. I hang up the suits when they are finished and put the towels in the dryer. The coolers get emptied and set out to dry before closing. The van gets a good sweep and then our weekend is complete. Baths are given and children tucked into bed. Everyone should sleep good tonight.