Friday, March 1, 2013

Cloudmont Ski and Golf Resort - Mentone, AL

Adventure Journal - Entry Date: February 2013
Long long ago, in the years BC (before children), Rebecca and I traveled out west to ski annually. We enjoyed skiing at Squaw Valley, Heavenly (Lake Tahoe), Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Loveland, Crested Butte (CO), and Taos (NM). So, when we first saw the roadside sign for Alabama's Cloudmont Ski and Golf Resort on an afternoon drive along Lookout Mountain many years ago, we laughed. Skiing in Alabama? Really? We were ski snobs.
Fast forward 15 years. Now we have kids, four to be exact. The cost of an annual ski trip out west is not within this family's budget. We have taken a couple of trips to Cataloochee Ski Area near Maggie Valley, North Carolina where the kids have had lessons and learned the basics. Unfortunately, a southeastern ski trip like that can be pretty painful to the family pocketbook too.

So, one day we were eating at the Wildflower Cafe' in Mentone Alabama, and we started talking with a family that has just left Cloudmont Ski and Golf Resort. They were laughing and talking about how great of a time they had, and they were skiers. It sparked our interest, and so we had to check it out first-hand.
One of our favorite campgrounds is located at Desoto State Park, just a few minutes from Cloudmont Ski and Golf, so we booked a long weekend around President's day. It had been unseasonably warm weather, but several nights of cold leading-up to the weekend meant they were making snow (they need 18 hours of temps 28 degrees or less to open). We were waiting at the ticket window when they opened that Monday morning.

We rented equipment for the kids and paid for all-day lift tickets. The lift is a tow rope, but that's actually pretty good for beginners because they can exit the lift at any elevation of the slope. As I mentioned, the kids have had a couple of lessons, but their ski-time was limited. Fortunately (for us), there were very few people on the slope that day, so the kids were able to ski all day long with no waiting at the lift. By the end of the day, they were all pretty good. John Micah was even skiing backwards.

Now understand, Cloudmont is no Rocky Mountain ski resort. There is a mere 150' drop on their two parallel running slopes. It is what it is, but it is a load of fun and a great experience for the kids (and grown-ups too). It's also very affordable (compared to other ski destinations). Kids under 12 can rent equipment and ski all day for less than $40. Check their website for prices
because they vary based on weekdays, weekend, and holidays.

We've decided to make Cloudmont a regular stop in the winter, and maybe even other seasons. They have a very affordable golf course and there is even horseback riding available. Nearby Desoto State Park and a virtually limitless selection of other area attractions makes this an awesome destination. We give it six thumbs-up.
For more details including reviews of the destination's facilities and amenities, plus tons of pictures, visit the Cloudmont PB&J Adventures page.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Moto Mountain ATV Park - Fairmount, Georgia

Moto Mountain ATV Park is located near Fairmount in North Georgia. It's very convenient to Atlanta and Chattanooga, just about 20 minutes off Interstate 75 from Calhoun. It is also near some of our other favorite destinations like Fort Mountain State Park and Carters Lake. 

Check-in is at Motorcycle Bob's, a local icon situated on Highway 53 east of Fairmount. This little shop sells gas, rents motorcycles, ATVs, and helmets, serves food, and sells various other supplies and trinkets. The ladies behind the counter are very nice and eager to make your visit pleasant. Once you sign the release forms and pay-up, it's a short jaunt to Moto Mountain. As you enter the park, you will begin to see the many trails to your left. Pretty cool!
The area has obviously been logged, and I would assume many of the tracks are remnants of old logging trails. The large property is covered with snaking one-way trails that resemble motocross tracks in some places. There are mud bogs, jumps, and numerous play areas all for the powersports enthusiast. There are some places you may want to avoid with novice riders, but for the most part, the trails are in pretty good shape and not incredibly challenging. Don't get me wrong, when we first arrived for our visit, I was a little apprehensive about whether the kids could handle the mud and hill climbs, but they all came through wonderfully. It was actually a great learning experience for them. Additionally, all trails are one-way making riding much safer for everyone.

The environment itself is made for motorcycle and ATV lovers. There is a culture there that, if you are not familiar, could be a little scary at first. There is a lot of dirt and mud, and lots of machines running around, but it's all pretty safe. In fact, we camped at the back of the property near the Pee Wee Play Area and had a couple of nice long trails virtually to ourselves. Note: If you are a citified yuppy that doesn't like to get your fingernails dirty, STAY AWAY! 

The folks that run Moto Mountain are down
to earth good-old southern country folk (and I mean that as a compliment) that bend over backward to make sure you visit is the best it can be. If you are camping, they'll come by and check on you, even dropping-off some firewood if you wish. Thanks guys! You made our visit to Moto Mountain feel safe and comfortable.

Moto Mountain is a purpose-made retreat that is designed for one thing: riding. Yes, there are other amenities they offer like a zip line, but off road riding is what it's all about. If that's what you seek, then you won't be disappointed. In summary., we can't wait to go back (but we'll need to save-up a little). We suggest a family plan.

For lots more pictures, a video, a review, and a journal entry about Moto Mountain, click here.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Adventure Journal - Entry Date: December 2012

When visiting Maggie Valley, North Carolina in past years, the Richardson Tribe has stayed at Stone Bridge RV Park. We had a bad experience there last winter, so we thought we'd try a change of venue. We began researching alternative campgrounds and came across a place called Twinbrook Resort. The website made the place look promising, especially the large RV sites and indoor pool. A friendly phone call to the park sealed the deal (nice folks).

Our primary objective this Christmas break was snow skiing for all the kids. They attended ski school at Cataloochee Ski Area last year, and fell in love with it. They had a wonderful ski instructor that had a lot more patience than the little guys are accustomed to. One of the first things about Twinbrook Resort that caught our attention (besides the indoor pool), was the proximity to the ski area and other Maggie Valley attractions. From the camp site, it takes about 10-15 minutes (depending on traffic) to reach Cataloochee Ski Area's parking lot.

When we arrived at Twinbrook, it wasn't exactly what we pictured. The website makes it appear more remote than it really is. In actuality, it's just about a block off the main drag, yet it's RV sites remarkably private. One benefit of being this close to everything is... you're close to everything. We were very glad to have site #5 because the other four sites would have been tough to back into. Additionally, site #5 is very near the indoor pool and playground. All the sites back-up to a small stream. While we were there, they flowed strongly providing a nice ambient sound all night long.

Our first full day was spent at the ski area, and we couldn't have asked for a better day. We once again enrolled the kids in ski school, and once again hit a home run with a most excellent instructor. On Saturday, we drove over the mountain to Gatlinburg. It's a beautiful drive, and it always amazes us how much the weather can change from one side to the other. Once in Gatlinburg, reports began coming in about snow. When it snows in the Smoky Mountains, many secondary roads are closed, so we cut our Gatlinburg visit short to head back to Maggie Valley.

That evening at Twinbrook Resort was awesome. As the snow fell, we built a big fire. The snow was falling hard and fast, laying on the grass and the bed of our car carrier. The kids played in the snow for a while, then would return to the fire for a little warm-up. It was hard to keep the snow from accumulating in the camp chairs, but all was good. We stayed outside until late in the evening, then retired to the warm cozy camper for a movie.

The morning sun revealed about an inch of snow. Hardly anything to write home about, but much more than these southern kids are used to. We walked around the resort checking out the frost covered cabins and icy streams, playing in the snow, and enjoying the crisp clean air. Maggie Valley is beautiful in the winter.

Our stay at Twinbrook was very enjoyable, but there are a couple of negatives. Winter camping involves lots of clothing, and a laundry room is very handy. Twinbrook has none, but there is a small public Laundromat just down the road. Also, the RV sites are relatively new, so they have yet to be "burned-in." In other words, I expect little details to be corrected as time passes. The sites aren't very well dressed (bumpy, uneven, small gravel that gets tracked into the camper, etc). Each site's driveway is at a 90 degree angle of the road, making backing almost impossible without pulling into the grass (probably not a big deal in the summer, but in the wet winter... sloppy!). Beyond the resort, Maggie Valley has some seasonal limitations. Some restaurants and attractions are closed during the winter months. For instance, the motorcycle museum (Wheels Through Time) is closed until April. It's a shame, because it's a really cool museum.

In summary, we really enjoyed camping at Twinbrook Resort. It's not a state park, but the sites are private (relative to other RV sites in the valley) and it is very convenient. We would stay here again, and we would recommend it to a friend. 

The Richardson Tribe