North Carolina

After Lindsey kindly dropped me off at the Houston airport (at four in the morning), I spent half a day flying to the Raleigh airport. Right when I got picked up I knew I was in for a fun few weeks. I opened the van door and was welcomed by some screaming babes and a warm hello from Emily and David. I was already really excited (and a little nervous) to get to help with their kids, but I felt right at home as soon as I sat down in that van.

To make it even more exciting, Emily informed me that we were driving down to Georgia. I was thrilled! I’d never been to Georgia but I definitely wanted to go. I pictured it being this magical green place. And it was.

We all had a fun car ride together. I really enjoyed talking with Emily and David and discussing different topics the whole drive there.

When we got to the mountain cabin in Yonah Mountain I was amazed. It was such a nice cabin! That was the view from the deck.

We spent a few days there having a lot of fun. The reason David and Emily and their kids were there was because David’s family is from Georgia and some of his siblings and his mom wanted to get together and have a little family party. And I was there because I was getting really good at tagging along with everyone else’s vacations. We spent a blissful four days there. One of the days we floated down the Chattahoochee River, and I got to hold Titus and find fun rocks for him the whole way down.

Another day we all hiked to the Anna Ruby Falls which were fun and beautiful. These mountains were so different than all the mountains in Utah. The Rockies are new and sharp and hostile but extremely beautiful. The Appalachians felt old. Everything is covered in moss and decomposing things. There are trees everywhere, casting deep shadows that feel like they hold stories. It reminded me a little too often of Lord of the Rings. I absolutely loved them.

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After the falls we walked down to this stream and we all played around in it. David had told me about how his childhood was so magical because he lived close to a stream like this one. He’d often go down and have Frog Olympics and just play around. It all sounded so perfect. Anyway, I loved sitting by that stream and watching all the kids be kids.

At the cabin we played lots of games together and there was a ton of food. All the time. It was amazing! And it was so nice because the whole time I felt so comfortable there with all their family.

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One of the nights all the adults had fun in the hot tub.

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Don’t worry. It’s root beer. Which I didn’t even drink because I don’t eat sugar.

One of the days we were there was a Sunday, so we all got ready and went to church. It was so fun! The people were just like I was hoping they’d be. Several people came up to us and talked for a while. After sacrament meeting this older black gentleman walked up to David’s mom and gave her a hand-beaded bracelet he’d made himself and complimented her on her beautiful smile. Church was so relaxing and refreshing, and the drive back to the cabin was fun. I loved all the driving we did. Everywhere you looked was green and beautiful and it all seemed so different.

The last morning we were there I accidentally woke up early and got to see the sunrise. It was stunning.

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We packed up and said goodbye to David’s family. I loved meeting all of them. They were all so kind and fun to be around. And then we drove to our next adventure.

We were going to be camping in the Appalachians in North Carolina in the Pisgah National Forest. We pulled into our camp site and David and I had a fun time setting up their huge tent. We walked over to this river that was right next to where we were camping. And it was extraordinary! As we walked down to the river I started noticing that the sand was sparkling. It was beautiful.

And then we got to the river. We all waded into the clear, crystalline water and every step we took a plume of glittering sparkle dust billowed up. And all the rocks were so vibrantly colored! There were bright blues and oranges and reds; so many hues I wasn’t used to finding in a river. It was the coolest river I’d ever seen.

It’s so much prettier in real life.

Back at the camp we made the yummiest burgers and chicken sausage things. We played games and had fun exploring our camp and looking for fire wood.

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The next day we got up and went to Looking Glass Fall. The water shimmered here as well. The boys all enjoyed looking for pretty rocks. And Hazel enjoyed herself.

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After that waterfall we hiked to Moors Cove Fall and it started raining. Bridger made me laugh the whole time because he was a little nervous about the rain and lightening. I thought the rain made the hike seem even cooler. This is the only picture I have of that hike. So just know that it was beautiful.

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When we got back to camp Emily and David rigged up a tarp over the table and we chilled at our campsite the rest of the night.

Another hike we did was to this waterfall. It was one of my favorites.

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That bug thing was huge by the way. Like as thick as my finger.

The next day was a fun one. We were driving to the Smokey Mountain National Park. And to get there we drove along the stunningly beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway. David drove along the windiest roads with astonishing views. This road is well-known for a reason. I wish I had some pictures of it.

When we got to the park we had a great time. We had a delicious picnic, and then we toured old wooden houses and mills and farm buildings and learned about the mountain people who lived here a long time ago.

Next we went and hiked to the highest point on the Appalachian Trail, called Clingmans Dome.

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It became apparent why these mountains are called the Smokies.

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By the time we got to the top of the tower the clouds cleared up enough that we could see everything that was too shrouded in mist before.

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On our way down we stopped on the actual Appalachian Trail.

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The next day we all had a fun time gem mining. We spent a few hours there playing their lawn games and finding beautiful gems.

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And then we went to Sliding Rock in the same forest we were camping at. It’s a 60 foot natural rock slide that has a waterfall flowing down to make the rock slippery. You sit on your bum and slide down into a pool of freezing water. It was really fun. Asher even trusted me enough to go down with me once.

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After that we hiked to another small but pretty waterfall.

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And then we drove to another one. All of the kids (and maybe me too) were asleep, so Emily and David went on a solo hike to find this mysterious fall. Asher and I woke up pretty soon after they left, and they were gone for quite a while. I started to worry that they’d gotten eaten by a bear or something, but then they came out and watched Bridger and Hazel while I took Asher. It was a fun one to hike to. The path was pretty overgrown, and you had to wind your way through the tall weeds and fallen trees. Asher and I ran part of the way and talked about his life the whole time. It was so fun getting to talk with him. When we reached the waterfall it was really pretty. It was like two waterfalls in one, the upper one set back further. Right in front of the waterfall there were two pools of water. The first one went up to about my knees, and then the second one shocked us because it was so deep. But the water was clear and beautiful. I could see a crawfish scuttling along the bottom, scared of the new intruders.

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We played in the water for a bit. Asher was brave and tried to scoot along this mossy ledge. He was going along fine until he slid a bit, and then he got scared so I helped him down. After that we headed back to the van and drove back to camp for our last night there.

Another hike we did that was my absolute favorite was called Graveyard Fields. It was the longest hike of all. And there was a lot of uncertainty about whether we were going the right way or not or whether we should keep going since it was beginning to get darker. But when we made it to the waterfall it was definitely worth it. It was a really fun area to play around. The waterfall was a little like the sliding rock, and everyone had fun going down that. And all around the fall was sandstone that was easy to walk on. But then I went climbing up higher and discovered a whole other waterfall. It was so beautiful. I found myself surrounded by trees in complete privacy. It was like this waterfall was for me only. There were these tiny, golden tailed birds that flitted around and sang such beautiful songs. I loved it up there. I sat and took it all in for a few minutes and then headed back down and told Emily and David about it.

Unfortunately the camera died, because on the hike back it was absolutely beautiful. For parts of the hike you walk through these chambers of trees, and because the sun was setting the roof of our chamber was glowing with the softest golden rays and it created a feeling, it was so pretty.

By the time we got back to the car we were all pretty tired. We were excited to get to sleep that night.

The next morning we packed everything up and put it all into the van. We all said goodbye to the beautiful river, got into the car, and then it didn’t start. David called a tow truck, and when he got there we all sat on the floor of the van and hid illegally because we didn’t want to get left at the campsite. When we got to the shop I got to charge my phone up and talk to Billy, which was really nice. It had been a while since we’d spoken. Most of the afternoon got taken up with getting the car working again. It turned out to only be the key. It had a chip in it and it must’ve gotten wet in all of our watery fun, so it thought we were trying to steal the car so it locked down on us. After that was all taken care of we made the long but fun drive home. I had a great time telling the boys the story of Lord of the Rings. They all enjoyed that. I also loved talking with Emily and David. When we arrived at their house we made a quick dinner and settled down for the night. It was nice to sleep in a bed again.

The next morning was Bridger’s game. It was so cute to watch all of those little kids play baseball. That sport is taken seriously in North Carolina. So we watched that and I got to talk to my mom and tell her all about the fun I’d been having.

That afternoon we were back at the house when Emily gets a phone call from the sister missionaries. They were calling to ask her if she could go with them to an appointment with a single guy in an hour. She told them that unfortunately she had things to do, so they asked her if she knew anyone that would be available. And guess who got volunteered.

It was actually pretty fun. Emily dropped me off at their apartment complex and left to drop Asher off at a friend’s birthday party at a bounce house. I knocked on their door and we all introduced ourselves to each other. Then we walked over to the guy’s apartment since it was in the same complex. And, of course, he wasn’t there (or he didn’t want to open the door). But then we were in a pickle. I didn’t know where Asher’s birthday party was and Emily wasn’t answering her phone. So the sister missionaries decided to go ahead and eat an early lunch. They pulled out this huge stack of coupons to places like McDonald’s. I didn’t want to have to pay for a lunch so I stealthily led them to getting back to work. So then we went to Winterville and went knocking.

I enjoyed myself because I’d always wanted to know what this was like. And it made me happy because it made me realize I hadn’t missed anything too fun by choosing not to go on a mission.

Emily called back and the sisters dropped me off at Asher’s party. Soon Emily was there to pick us up. After that I got to see where David spends a lot of his time. The feel of the clinic reminded me strongly of the clinic at Lamar, and that reminded me of how much I wanted to be in that program. It made me a little sad. But I got to ask David a lot of questions about what he does and some of his cases. It was a lot of fun.

The next day was Sunday and Father’s Day. I got to see Emily make David a sweet Father’s Day breakfast. It made me excited for when I can celebrate Billy being a father.

Church was really good. I love going to so many different wards and seeing how different they all are. Emily taught a great lesson in Young Women’s. And when we got home I got to talk to Billy and take a nice little nap. Then I practiced the piano and learned how to crochet. That’s one thing about being around Emily. She inspires you to want to learn how to do everything. I loved being able to play with the kids and watch how Emily runs her house. I learned so much from her.

Here’s Hazel looking like a little fairy princess.

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The next morning we went on a run down this path in the woods. It was such a fun trail! And Emily is the best running buddy I’ve ever had. I’ve never ran with someone before that matches my pace so well because usually I’m a lot slower. Later on we picked up Hillary from the airport and then the real party started. We got home and talked about everything. We planned a lot of things that we wanted to do in the coming week and we were all excited for all the fun we had planned.

We gathered all the children and drove down to the community pool. It was a fun experience. We might have been the only white people there. There was this one little girl that kept following me everywhere and when I would spin one of Emily’s boys or throw them she would ask me to do it too. It was really cute.

After we got home and showered they boys and I played Super Smash on the Nintendo 64. It was so much fun playing with them. They also loved Ocarina of Time. So they had me play that for a while and they all watched. They actually really loved that game. They had me look up the bosses all the time and talk about all the battles and things that would happen in the game. I loved how much they loved it.

Later on we went to a magic show at the library. The funniest part of the show was when a mom two seats away from me accidentally farted really loud. Her daughter’s jaw fell open and her head snapped to look at her mom in amazement. The mom, looking embarrassed, snapped her fingers toward the show and said, “Hush up and watch the show.” I couldn’t help but die laughing. So both of them started laughing and it was great.

The next day the three of us were going to celebrate all our birthdays, so we were supposed to have come prepared with gifts. But I wasn’t smart enough to do that, so that morning I went gift hunting with Hillary. We had homemade Taco Tuesday for dinner and then us three went to a park to go kayaking. But after we put on the life vests we all decided that it was too much money for such a little amount of time, so we just walked around the park and talked about life. It was one of my favorite moments.

We also made a fruit pizza for our birthdays.

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After we had our fill of the park we drove over to Hancock Fabric Store and bought some fabric and things for a tiny fraction of what it actually cost. It was a heady feeling.

Then when we got home we had our little gift exchange. We all had such fun gifts for each other. It really felt like a little birthday party for us and I loved it! It made me so grateful that when I married Billy I got so many fun and amazing new sisters.

The next morning we went to Yoder’s for breakfast. It’s this little Mennonite restaurant that serves amazing food. We had a lot of fun there walking around the store attached to the restaurant and walking outside and seeing all the animals and little houses they had. After that we spent a lot of time sewing dresses. Emily’s gift to me and Hillary was teal fabric she’d already cut out for dresses. And we’d just bought a pattern and more fabric at Hancock’s for more dresses, so we had quite a lot of sewing to do. It took a couple of days but the results were so fun.

 

The next morning we went to B’s Barbecue, a famous place around those parts. It was such a fun little store. You order out of a window of what looked like a small, old shack. But the whole block smelled so good from their cooking. Carolina barbecue is a lot different than Texas barbecue, and I’m not going to lie. I think Texas wins. But it was still really yummy.

After lunch we went out to this other state park and walked along a boardwalk over a marsh. I love marshes. I think they’re so pretty and different. We saw a giant snapping turtle, a couple of big snakes, lots of little frogs.

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After the boardwalk we went to this crazy little lake thing that had a beach. It was golden.

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The next weekend we drove out to the Outer Banks and found this awesome lighthouse. I was impressed by how impressed I was. It was beautiful and stately.

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It cost way too much to walk to the top, so we walked out to a nearby dock instead. Then we drove out to the beach and had a lot of fun out there. This was my first time ever touching the Atlantic Ocean. It was wonderful. I’ve always loved beaches. The waves were abnormally high and the water was a little chilly for the day, but it was so relaxing to be there.

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After the beach we drove over to the a state park that had really fun sand dunes. I got to talk to Billy on the phone and we all had fun running around on those.

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After that we rode home, all of us pooped out.

Soon Hillary left for Utah and I realized I was really jealous of how she got to go back and be with her husband. I was planning on staying with them for the rest of that week, but on Monday I decided that I really missed Billy and would love nothing more than to see him. So Emily helped me buy tickets and soon enough I found myself at the Myrtle Beach airport saying goodbye. But thankfully we had a little time to say hello to the beach there.

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It was so sad leaving all of them. I’d had so much fun with all of her family and I learned so many valuable things while I was there. I loved so much being able to stay there and grow closer with all of them. It was really hard to say goodbye. I was grateful that Emily was kind enough to invite me out there to live with her for three weeks and that David is such a wonderful father and a great guy to be around. And of course that they have four awesome kids. I had loved every minute of the time I had out there.

And then, just like that, my North Carolina trip was over.

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