Category: Travel

A Weekend in Wild and Wonderful West Virginia

There is a sense of freedom that accompanies having the baby years in the review mirror. But while we may no longer be  buried in sippy cups or making sure we packed the stroller, our calendar is now filled with soccer practices, baseball games, scouts, and other activities that make it difficult to escape for the weekend, which was common practice for us when the kids were little. But this past weekend, we bid adieu to our neck of the woods on Saturday afternoon after a morning of soccer games and drove about two hours west to a cabin in rural West Virginia.

Lost River, West Virginia is an unincorporated community near the border of Virginia. It’s namesake, the Lost River, runs through the Appalachian Mountains in the western panhandle of West Virginia. We lost cell service about 15 miles from our cabin and didn’t see bars on our phones until we were heading back home. We’re so connected as a society that it was a bit of  shock to experience a part of the country were cells phones aren’t really a thing.

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I found our pet-friendly rental on Vacation Rental By Owner (VBRO) and the owners couldn’t have been easier to work with – if interested, please contact me and I’ll gladly pass along the information. We arrived about 4:30pm and spent the next hour enjoying the brisk air, watching the sun set with cocktails and sparkling waters in hand, and relishing in the wide open space surrounding the cabin.

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lost river West Virginia

On Sunday morning, we cooked breakfast and sipped coffee and hot chocolate on the deck. We knew we wanted to hike later that day but we took our time getting ready. We worked on a puzzle as a family, walked around the property, and lounged on the super comfortable leather couch.

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 Thankfully, the cabin had WiFi so we were able to research possible hikes that morning. When planning this little getaway, I looked into super remote and rustic cabins but Clay’s current position requires him to be accessible so we tabled that plan for the future. While we didn’t have cell service, we did have an internet connection in our cabin, which was admittedly quite nice.

White Oak Trail Lost River State Park

We opted to explore Lost River State Park and hike the White Oak Trail to Cranny Crow. The trail itself was perfect for our kids to reach their first Appalachian summit. Hiking is one of Clay’s and I’s favorite things to do together and we’ve enjoyed many trails and summits in various states and countries so we’re excited that the kids are finally old enough to hike 3-5 miles themselves with minimal complaints.

Cranny Crow on White Oak Trail in Lost River State Park

 The hike to Cranny Crow is uphill but it is has plenty of switchbacks so it isn’t too strenuous for kids or people who aren’t terribly active. We were thankful we wore boots because there were plenty of roots and other obstacles on the trail.

Cranny Crow on White Oak Trail in Lost River State Park

It was a fairly cold day so we had the summit to ourselves that day. We passed a few people on the trail but for the most part, it was a very private hike. I’ve read that is typically not the case during the warmer months.

Cranny Crow view on White Oak Trail in Lost River State Park

At the top of Cranny Crow, you can see five different countries with panoramic 270-degree view. Clay and I commented that the view looked similar to some that we experienced during our hikes in Scotland. After spending about 30 minutes at the overlook, we began our descent.

After our hike, we drove about 30 minutes on windy back roads to an unremarkable restaurant that we hoped would be better. The sun was setting by the time we returned to our cabin so we settled in for another quiet evening.

Lost River West Virginia

On Monday, we found ourselves heading back to the city by late morning refreshed and reinvigorated by the mountain air. We stopped in Strasburg, Virginia for a late brunch at Cristina’s Cafe, which was absolutely delicious. We were back home by early afternoon. We really enjoyed our weekend in wild and wonderful West Virginia and look forward to exploring other areas of the mountain state during our time here. What’s your favorite West Virginia town? We’re open to suggestions!

Reasons to Visit Lake Lanier in Georgia

I was in my senior year at Clemson when my parents decided to leave the suburbs of Philadelphia for life on a lake in northern Georgia. Because of this, our visits to my parents’ place over the years have never felt like I was ‘going home’ – that feeling is reserved for when we visit my sister and her family in Pennsylvania. That being said, we always enjoy the time we spend on Lake Lanier. It may not be home but it’s a great place to visit.

Lake Lanier Georgia

Lake Lanier is a man-made lake (reservoir) that was created in 1956 with the completion of Buford Dam on the Chattahoochee River. With 59 square miles of water and 692 miles of shoreline, Lake Lanier is perfect for water sports, sailing, fishing, swimming, and everything in between. In fact, the rowing and sprint canoeing events during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta were held at Lake Lanier.

kayaking on Lake Lanier, Gainesville, Georgia

Lake Lanier is a great place to vacation because it is only a little over an hour from Atlanta, so a trip to the lake can easily coincide with a visit to Dogwood City. It’s not terribly known outside of northern Georgia and when I write about our trips to visit my parents, I get questions about Lake Lanier so I thought I’d write this post to highlight why a trip to Lake Lanier may be a good fit for your family.

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Where to Stay?

As accommodating as my parents may be to family and friends, they’re not in the bed and breakfast business. There are plenty of options via AirBnB and VBRO and those with military affiliation can check out the Armed Forces Vacation Club – I’ve seen some Lake Lanier properties pop up from time to time. If you are wanting more of a hotel feel, there is The Legacy Lodge at Lanier Islands, which offers guest rooms, lake side villas, and cottages on the water. You can also stay further north in the mountains and drive down for a day trip to Lake Lanier – if that is more your jam, I recommend Dahlonega or Helen.

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What to Do?

For as much fun as we have taking the boat and jet skis out on the water, our favorite thing to do on Lake Lanier is kayak. If you’re wanting to be on the water, Port Royale Marina offers boat rentals from runabouts to party yachts to wave runners. And The Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club has a big selection of non-motorized watercraft available for rent. There are plenty of opportunities to fish as well, all you need a Georgia fishing license and a pole.  The Striper Experience has chartered expeditions, as does Capital Clay’s Catching Not Fishing.

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As far as land activities, there is horseback riding at Lanier Islands and zip lining at North Georgia Canopy Tours and Lake Lanier Canopy Tours. There are plenty of hiking opportunities near the lake and if you’re willing to go further in the mountains, you can check out the Appalachian Trail. There is a water park at Margaritaville at Lanier Islands during the summer and Snow Island during the winter.

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Where to Eat?

Due to the shear size of Lake Lanier, there is no shortage of restaurants in the surrounding area. Atlanta Highway Seafood Market in Gainesville is great for a low-key meal or to purchase fresh seafood to prepare at your rental. Pelican Pete’s Tiki Bar & Grill has typical bar food but the fun atmosphere and waterfront location more than makes up for the just-adequate food. If able, be sure to arrive by boat or jet ski! Tam’s Tupelo Cajun Restaurant & Bar in Cumming is popular as well as Pig Tales Lake Lanier in Flowery Branch.

kayaking on Lake Lanier, Gainesville, Georgia

Henry David Thoreau famously wrote that, “A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.”  According to the EPA, there are approximately 53,119 manmade lakes in the United States so Lake Lanier is just one of many. But it’s worth checking out – especially if you find yourself in the Atlanta area.

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