Sunday, August 28, 2022

On The Road Again

Hocking Hills State Park, August 2022

 And I can't wait to get on the road again
On the road again
Goin' places that I've never been
Seein' things that I may never see again
And I can't wait to get on the road again

That song should be our anthem. As if we hadn't traveled enough in the last twelve months, we ended our summer vacation with a road trip to the East coast. Our reason for traveling wasn't just for fun or learning this time, it was to spend time with family and to attend my aunt's memorial. Flight prices and shenanigans are ridiculous, so we hopped in the car mid-day on a Thursday and made it into Frederick, MD by Friday. Unlike our last epic road trip out to the DC area we didn't make a lot of stops. We stopped for Skyline Chili in Indianapolis, IN, spent the night in Logan, OH (just outside of Columbus), and hiked Hocking Hills State Park Friday morning before getting back into the car to finish our drive.

Vacation Elizabeth was back!! Drinking a cup of black coffee each morning of our trip. I'm not sure what it is about traveling, but she turns into a coffee snob each and every time. It makes me smile.

Hocking Hills has been a bucket list hike for me for years and I finally got to cross it off! Thankfully, I do a lot of reading and researching about all things because I knew the trail system had recently switched to one way. We were some of the most prepared hikers on the trail and knew when to exit the gorge so we didn't get caught up in an extra long hike (that we just didn't have the time for, unfortunately). I recommend hitting the trails early. We arrived before 9 a.m. and by the time we were done hiking around 10:30, the parking lot was nearly full and the trails packed. Also, AllTrails was not a help with this hike because it didn't take into consideration the one way trail system. We took a picture of the trails map at the trailhead so we didn't get confused. Hocking Hills is continually named one of the top state parks in the U.S. and I can see why!

Not only does the state park offer numerous recreational activities, the area has everything you can think of: golf courses, mini golf, wineries, breweries, ziplining, horseback riding. Friends of ours spent an entire week in the area last summer and barely made a dent in the activities. Basically, if you're looking for a family friendly, outdoor centered vacation, check out the Hocking Hills State Park area.

From Hocking Hills State Park, we only had a five hour drive (without stops). We made stops for views, Cinnabon (as the youngest requested), and dinner at Waffle House. When we arrived at our Airbnb just before 6 p.m., we were exhausted from two very full days. We chose to walk around, make a beverage run (for the adults), and head to bed early while we watched a fireworks show out of our upstairs window (from a baseball game nearby).

We fell in love with Frederick, MD during our visit in 2019. We searched through Airbnb listings until we found a historic row house to stay in, in historic downtown Frederick. We took a short walk on our arrival evening, but spent time later in the weekend exploring (more on that later).

Where do I even begin with our Saturday? Let's see, let me begin the evening before. I was momming hard and set out everyone's clothes, making note of what needed ironed when I discovered some big things missing: shoes for the youngest, only athletic socks for the oldest, and zero jewelry for myself. So, I made sure to set the alarms even earlier than planned because a Target stop was in order (yes, I made sure we stayed in a town in northern Maryland that had a Target no less than 10 minutes from our Airbnb because that's life with kids). We found ourselves at Target the next morning on our way to the church and had to add pants to the list because the oldest outgrew the pants we bought for him four months ago. There was a minor breakdown in the dressing rooms due to mom making him try on several pairs of pants, but we lived through it and made it to the memorial on time. Boom!

But first, espresso!

Just a mom, keeping her cool, not flipping out on her teenager who is flipping out at her from a dressing room stall. Parenting is loads of fun sometimes.

The rest of Saturday was all about family. I am honored we were able to be a part of the burial service for my aunt, uncle, and my aunt's parents. It was beautiful. We spent the rest of the day with family, the kids swimming in the pool and the adults catching up on life. Most of us were exhausted by the end of the day, but Elizabeth knew just what she needed to relax: a wine glass of cold water and an episode of Virgin River when we returned to the rowhouse. I will never underestimate my daughter because by the age of ten, she's figured out the importance of doing the things that make you happy. Quite honestly, she's got life in the bag.

Sunday was one of my most favorite Sunday Fundays ever. We slept in, explored downtown Frederick (all within walking distance from our Airbnb), went on a river float with family, had a Maryland crab and Iowa sweet corn dinner, looked through pictures of "old times," and sat around chatting until bedtime. It was one of those days that leaves your heart full and body energized. 

Frederick Coffee Co & Cafe was perfect for a quick breakfast during our walk through downtown. After breakfast, we stopped in numerous vintage shops, a record store, and passed by numerous yummy looking restaurants packed with brunch goers. Our last stop of the morning was to Glory Doughnuts for a treat for later. They wound up being the best vegan donuts we've ever had!

My bucket list for Northern Maryland and surrounding area (basically within a two hour driving distance) keeps growing with each visit. Last visit, I added a river float to that list and we completed it this time around. River & Trail Outfitters has numerous options: white water rafting, floating down the Shenandoah or Potomac Rivers, kayaking, or paddle boarding right under the historic view of Harpers Ferry, WV (highly recommend a visit to the town). We chose a river float down the Shenandoah River (ending right before the Shenandoah and Potomac River's meet). I fell in the river a couple of time due to the slick rocks at the beginning, but overall it was a great experience!

The rivers are quite shallow (think ankle deep water) minus a couple of spots in the river, so there was a little bit of hitting our butts on rocks as we floated. I fully expected to see some bruises, but apparently I didn't hit as hard as I thought. Sections of the river were flowing so slowly that we had to use our hands to paddle to move us along. The real treat came at the end when there were rapids to go down (off to the side of the main river). The two teens went down this natural water slide at least twenty times. 

I would 100% do another rafting trip in this area again. River & Trail Outfitters made it easy, as we booked tickets online the day of and then had to call and change our "put in" time to a half hour later and had everything we needed for a fun, relaxing rafting trip. We left our keys and valuables up at the check in desk, but I kept my phone in a heavy duty waterproof phone case to capture some of the adventure.

I am not a seafood person. I only eat it occasionally and only when it's fresh, which basically means I only eat it when I travel to coastal areas. We had a Sunday dinner with family that featured crabs and Iowa sweet corn. I have to admit, I have never had crabs like these and I loved them! It's a real work-for-your meal, or a dinner experience as I called it, but we sat around chatting while everyone worked and ate. It's definitely not a first date meal! The crabs were seasoned with Old Bay and now my children are obsessed, asking if we can use Old Bay on nearly everything.

We looked through old family pictures and took a trip down memory lane. I'm the one with the curly hair and bangs (head shake and eye roll). As usual, the visit seemed much too short, but was absolutely perfect and we were already planning our next visit before we even left.