Sunday, March 27, 2011

James Island Park, Charleston, SC

One of the Tribe's Top 10 Destinations - More
When the Richardson Tribe first started documenting PB&J Adventures, someone we met said we needed to go to a place called James Island near Charleston, South Carolina.  Finally, 2.5 years later, we did just that, and boy were we pleasantly surprised. 
The idea for the trip started with Rebecca looking for cheap airfare so the younger papooses could get the experience of flying. She found a flight between Atlanta and Charleston for $39, so it was on. 

After dropping off the van at the Atlanta airport, we started our journey to Charleston in Homer II on Saturday, July 25. We arrived at the James Island County park around 6:30 pm, and were immediately impressed with the park's facilities. The kids were first to notice the "Splash Zone" water park located right across the street from our campground. The people staffing the campground office and store were very friendly and helpful. We located our site, which was very tropical. It had full hookups and no cable, but it's local to Charleston, so we got adequate reception. 
Sunday morning started with a pancake breakfast at the campground activity center, just a short walk around the pond from our site. The kids would need the carbs and sugar for the next six hours of play at the water park. 
We were waiting at the gate when the water park opened at 10am (tickets are $8 at the campground.) The place was immaculate, clean, fresh, like it was new (we learned later it was 13 years old). Everyone there was very friendly and professional (and there are a lot of people that work there). There is a large pool with a kiddy side and a deeper side (4') for swimming. There are two 200' water slides, a water-play ground, and a lazy river to relax on. We pretty much spent the whole day moving from one to another. I must emphasize the staff at this park. Each of the attractions had no less than 4-5 life guards. there were life guards on high seats and walking around the pool and play areas constantly. I have to commend the park's management for having found and trained such a professional staff. Not once did we feel that our children might be in any kind of danger.

That evening we rode our bikes on some of the many miles of paved bike trails that cover the park. The kids discovered the large playground and couldn't resist. Everyone slept very well that night.

Monday morning we decided to visit Charleston proper. We drove across the long bridge entering the city and were amazed at all the sail boats. The kids got to see a large freight ship pulling through.  We walked around the area admiring the architecture for a while before going to the Noisy Oyster (downtown market location) for lunch. from there, we walked through the open-air market and saw ladies making baskets. One lady spoke Gullah for the kids so they could hear the language.

After returning to the James Island campground, we decided to go back to the water park. They have a twilight rate of $6, so it was very affordable.

Tuesday was 2 for 1 day at the water park, and you know it, we had to go again. It was much more crowded, but still lots of fun. We rode our bikes some more, and played around the campsite.  I had to do a lot of packing, because, sadly, this was our last night.
Wednesday morning we got up early so I could take Rebecca and the kids to the airport for their flight home. I drove the Homer II back home where they were waiting for me when I arrived.

In summary, we didn't even start to do all the things there are to do at and near James Island. Wildlife viewing is incredible. There are miles of paved bike trails running through lowlands and marshes. There are organized activities and events or everyone like crabbing and fishing. Then, of course, there are all the historical things to do related to Charleston.  The verdict? Oh, we'll be back, but longer next time!  For lots more pictures and details, visit the James Island Park PB&J Page.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Visiting an Old Friend

Fort Mountain State Park
The Tribe gets around. We like to see new places and do new things. But sometimes, it's nice to visit an old friend. Sometimes a sure thing is better than a gamble. This is a very busy time of year for our family, so, to decompress, we decided a to visit an old friend, Fort Mountain. It's a mystery to me why more people don't take advantage of parks like this in the Winter and early Spring. We enjoyed 70 degree weather in paradise, practically by ourselves.

It was a little chilly first thing Saturday morning, so we decided to take a short ride in "Willie B" the Jeep. Fort Mountain is located adjacent the Cohutta Wilderness. We wanted to see if we could spot a b
ear, and maybe do a little rockhounding around the water falls. We founds lots of quartz of varying colors of blue and green, just the kind of stuff in which gold likes to hide.

When we got back to Fort Mountain State Park, we put the canoes in the lake and spent the rest of the day paddling around, fishing, and playing at the playground on the opposite end of the lake. We closed the day with a beautiful sunset, games, hot dogs for the kids, and a delicious grilled steaks with baked potatoes for Mommy and Daddy.

Altogether, it was just about as perfect a day as I can remember. Fort Mountain can get a little crowded in the Summer, especially the beach. But camping here this time of year is a no brainer. We can't wait to come back to see our old friend again soon.

Monday, March 7, 2011

When in Rome, just do...

You can pretend you're in Italy, Southern Italy that is
Rome is located in Northwest Georgia at the confluence of the Etowah and Oostanaula Rivers, where the Coosa River begins. History is rich here, both native and immigrant. Although no Interstate highway passes near, Rome is still the largest town in the region. Rome was a key transportation and trading hub long before superhighways, trains, and even steam ships. Native Americans; Cherokee, Creek, and the people before them, the mound builders, used these rivers to transport food and other goods from village to village. Even today, many Cherokee come here for an annual homecoming called the Running Water Pow Wow

Rome's downtown Broad Street area is quaint with several notable restaurants and shops. The downtown architecture has a classic Southern charm, and the adjacent hills are covered with beautiful old Victorian homes and churches. 

One of the Tribe's favorite features of Rome is Ridge Ferry Park, a river-side park with two beautifully maintained playgrounds, lots of grass, and an amphitheater for musical events and festivals. A number of colorful events like the annual Chiaha Festival take place here.

Ridge Ferry Park is also a great access point to the Heritage Park Trail,
a very nice paved path that follows the Oostanaula River through the downtown area. The trek is scenic and educational. The library, located along the trail, is a fun interactive place to visit, as are some of the other stops along the way. There is a fountain area dedicated to the rivers that come together here forming the powerful Coosa, a memorial to local fallen heroes, and two beautiful bridges reserved just for bikes and pedestrians.

Rome has its own Class-A Minor League Baseball team, the Braves. As an affiliate of the Atlanta Braves, it's not uncommon to see up-and-coming players here before they make the big-time. Attending a Rome Braves game in their new classic-style stadium is a lot of fun, and it's a short bike ride from Ridge Ferry Park along the Heritage park bike path.

Another place of interest in Rome is Berry College, a top-rated academic institution on a sprawling thirty- odd-thousand acre campus. Discovering the unique history of Berry College justifies a visit, but the incredibly scenic campus and its natural inhabitants are bonus. After a drive by the castle-like Ford buildings, and a visit to the "Mountain campus," make sure to catch the hundreds of deer that graze the fields near dusk.

Within a half-hour or so from Rome are many other incredible places to go and things to do. You can stay at a local hotel, or go camping and kayaking at Cedar Creek RV Park, go camping and boating at Rock Mountain Recreation area, go canoeing and kayaking on the Oostanaula, Etowah, and Coosa rivers, go rock hounding at nearby Taylors Ridge, and so much more. Rome has a lot to offer, and it is certainly off the radar if you are looking for a different kind of destination.

For more information and photos click here.