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Adventures/Travel, North Carolina Adventures, Out West

Using eBags on our Cross Country Trip

In just a few days, we set to drive to the Grand Canyon.  Thirty-one hours in a car if you don’t stop at all.  Clearly it will take this family of six a bit longer.

While in the western United States, we will also visit a host of other destinations including Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Arches National Park.

We will spend a total of 17 days on the road sleeping in different locations almost every night.  It is going to be a grand adventure for sure, but it has created a packing nightmare for this mom.

There are six of us in our family.  The thought of dragging six suitcases up and down every night to the various hotels is not a fun one, so I knew there had to be a better solution.  And I think I may have found it!

Enter: eBags Packing Cubes.

Quite possibly the most brilliant, simple idea when it comes to cross country travel.

Out of curiosity, I ordered the 3 piece set which includes three total packing cubes: one large (17.5 x 12.75 x 3.25), one medium (13.75 x 9.75 x 3), and one small (11 x 6.75 x 3).  I wanted to play around with them before ordering more.


I began playing around with some thoughts based on the idea that I only want to take ONE small rolling suitcase into the hotel each night. This small suitcase would contain one pair of PJ’s for each person and toiletries.

Each member of our family would grab an outfit and put it in their backpack to bring to the hotel. Their hiking backpack could also transport iPods and such into the hotel.

What I needed was an easy way for each person in the family to grab their outfit for the day without digging through duffle bags in the parking lot of the hotel. This is where the eBags come in handy.

In the largest size eBag, I rolled up my”outfits for each day. Each roll consists of a T-shirt and undies. Every other day the outfit “roll” includes shorts because I plan to wear my shorts for two days in a row.

Beginning on the right, I have a shirt roll and then the next roll includes denim shorts. Then it is a roll without shorts and then one with.

Isn’t it lovely?


Of course, if you are Type A like myself then this possibly looks heavenly and brilliant.

If you are Type B, then you might be hyperventilating or laughing. Either way. You can stop here if this just isn’t going to be your thing. It is OK. We can still be friends.  But you might want to pausing and consider the idea.  Maybe.

If you are my brother, then you are laughing and thinking, “This is SO Mary.”  You would be right.  It is.  And I do love it.

But if you are drooling over the time we will save when we don’t have to dig for clothing, then by all means stay with me while we continue through the rest of the bags.

The medium size bag will house two pairs of pants (wind pants and sweat pants) a hoodie or jacket, a second set of PJ’s, and any extra clothing (athletic shorts, sports bra, 2 tanks).  I don’t suspect we will need to wear pants whole lot in the west in June as the temperatures are showing in the 90’s.


We each have a pair of wind pants that fit easily over our shorts so that we can layer.  While they don’t need to be in our daily outfit eBag, I do want them to be easily accessible.

Finally, the small ebag will contain socks for the week because there is no reason to have socks included in our daily outfit rolls.


For the first few days of driving, we will wear flip flops or crocs everyday.  But even on days we wear our tennis/hiking shoes, I prefer everyone to leave them in the van each night and wear flip flops into the hotel.  Socks can be pulled out in the morning when we change into our shoes for the day.

All three eBags of clothing are ready to go. So neat and tidy.


The eBags fit easily into my large duffle bag, keeping it organized so don’t spend time digging through clothing and messing up piles.


Because I ordered the girls different color eBags, one of them can easily share this duffle with me because there is plenty of room!

The big test of the eBags was showing my plan to my husband last night.  I was sure  he would laugh at his crazy wife.

 Instead, he asked me to order him a set and a set for each child.

While I ordered a set for my girls (13 and 11) and my husband, the boys (6 and 9) will make do with a previously ordered set of three large eBags.

I  ordered these earlier this month because the larger size seemed very handy.

I plan to use two of them for the boys daily outfit rolls.  Then I will put their extra clothing on the bottom of their small duffle bags, and their socks will be in gallon size ziploc bag.

The additional large eBag will contain all of our bathing suits, goggles, and sunscreen.  When we are ready to swim in the hotel pool, one of us can simply go grab this bag and know that everything we need is in there.


The next morning, assuming they dried overnight, the swim suits can be packed up OR hung up to dry in the van.

Of course, now it is time to pack up the kids and attempt to use this system successfully.  I think it is going to be great, but there is only one way to find out…try it.

Which we will do…in exactly THREE DAYS!

In the end, I have a feeling these eBags are going to be quite handy for all of our family travels and camping trips.

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Adventures/Travel, camping, North Carolina Adventures

Asheville, NC Adventures: Sliding Rock

IMG_7701It was going to be a perfect day.  My plans were perfect.  But the weather was not.

The rain had fallen in fits and starts for 24 hours.  It was just enough to soak everything while leaving no window of opportunity for the sun to do its job.  Articles of clothing and towels hung on the clothesline, only to be soak by the next downpour.

And now I found myself a half mile from the van caught in another downpour.  Huddled under the trees with my boys, we watched the girls jump into the frigid water of the swimming hole.  Laughter and giggles could be heard over the pounding of the rain on the rocks.  They were oblivious to our discomfort.

IMG_5674We shifted closer to the tree trunk.  Nothing helped.  My patience was drenched and ready to return to the car.  Of course, the impending hike through mud, tree roots, and puddles was not going to be a walk in the park but it was the only way to reach the shelter of the van.

A forced smile plastered on my face, I signaled my husband and then told my two sons that we could start the walk back.  Off we trampled and splashed through the muddy path on our way to the van.  We chattered about the rain and our horrible luck while I tried to tell myself that our situation would be funny one day.  I mean, this is the stuff memories are made of, right?

By the time we reached the van, the rain had stopped and the sun was making a very strong appearance.  Of course.  It’s the kind of timing we had grown used to this, our very first family camping trip.

After a group discussion, we all decided that rain or shine, we were definitely going to make it to Sliding Rock, one of the top activities on the list for this camping trip.  But first, we’d headed into the local town to dry our towels at the laundromat.  Dry towels would be key when sliding down a 60 foot flat rock into a pool of freezing (50-60 degrees) cold spring water.

IMG_7715Once the towels were spinning in the heat, I drove my four kiddos to Sonic while my husband waited patiently for the dryer to do its job.  Five milkshakes were delivered to the table and we laughed about the horrible irony of sitting in the sun with our treats while being drenched in the rain on our hike.

Dry towels acquired.  Bathing suits back on.  It was time to head to Sliding Rock.

Upon arrival, we saw the rangers closing up for the day.  Not a good sign.  It was definitely due to the darkening sky which was threatening another downpour.

Thankfully, while the bathrooms and ranger stations having closing times, the rock itself doesn’t.  So we parked and decided to take our chances with the weather as well as the lack of lifeguards on duty.

It paid off for about 5 minutes.  The sun.  The slide.  The slippery rock. A few of us made it down…


…before the sky opened up and rain drenched our freshly dried towels.  I rushed to protect the iPad as well as the disheartened 6 year old, cold from his slide and now clinging to a wet towel.

What to do? What to do? I decided to do the only thing left to do…



I mean, we were already wet, so why not slide in?   We became a few of the brave souls who remained at the rock, determined to enjoy this moment.

And enjoy it we did!





My littlest guy, Daniel, and I escaped to the lifeguard shelter area to hide from the rain.  He was much happier and the towels at the bottom of our pile were able to stay slightly more dry.  We enthusiastically cheered on the sliders from our perch.

One major advantage of our rainy, cold sliding experience was not having any lines or any lifeguards.  Our kids were able to slide together, in groups, and in trains because no one was there to enforce the rules.  In addition, my most anxious slider was able to duck under the bar and slide mid-way before attempting it from the top.



When she finally did make it to the top, the remaining folks had witnessed her anxious persistence and cheered for her as she slid.  My heart swelled with joy and excitement for her as she made it down the first time!

Mission complete.

After an hour or so of sliding, we made our way back to the van and “home” to our campsite.  Our hearts were full.  We spent the evening re-living the tales of rain, laundromats, milkshakes, and more rain.

In the end, it wasn’t how I planned it, but it was a perfect day.

Adventures/Travel, camping, North Carolina Adventures

Linville, NC: Hawksbill Mountain Hike

The final full day of our camping adventure left us with a decision.  We knew the kids would have the energy for one more hike, but we had two great choices.

Table Rock Mountain, the originally planned hike, was a 2.2 mile roundtrip hike with difficult sections.  It was also 5 miles farther along the unpaved, winding, dirt mountain road.

I was having my doubts about this one.  We were all tired.

A bit closer on the same road was Hawksbill Mountain, a 1.5 mile roundtrip hike with a huge climb in elevation (700 ft).

After some debate, we went with Hawksbill Mountain, which was one of the mountain tops we sighted from Wiseman’s View the day before.

Once again, our little troopers hung in there for a very strenuous climb.  It didn’t start out too bad…

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But we were basically rock climbing up the hill by the end.


We took more than one break along the way.



In the end, it was well worth the climb.




We could see the mountain we did not climb, Table Rock Mountain, in the distance.


After having a picnic lunch at our incredible viewpoint, we realized that we had not made it to the top quite yet.  We still had a little path to walk to get to the exact spot Tricia had asked to sit by the day before.  Of course, we didn’t let her go sit on the edge, but she just about made it.



It was a perfect day.  I am so glad we decided to go for the steep climb.  Afterwards, we spent the evening at our campground again.  We just enjoyed playing, whittling, sitting by the fire, and laughing.

Now…I did a quick periscope from the top of Hawksbill Mountain, NC.  It was from the site where we had lunch, not the final destination.  It remains on my Katch site, so here you go:

Adventures/Travel, camping, North Carolina Adventures

Linville, NC: Wiseman’s View

After our hike at Linville Gorge, we hopped back in the van and headed toward Wiseman’s View.  Our directions stated that Wiseman’s View was about 4 miles down an unpaved, dirt mountain road.  It was the longest 4 miles I have driven, but we did eventually find our parking lot.

This hike was completely paved and short.  It promised a beautiful view and we were eager.

Of course, signs like this one always give me pause…


But off we trotted, with my constant warnings of staying back, staying close, and holding tight to my hand if needed.

Wow.  Just wow.


The view was breath-taking, unable to be captured on camera, but attempted.




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We had a great view of Table Rock Mountain, which we thought would be our hike the following day.


We also had a perfect view of Hawksbill Mountain.  Tricia declared, “I want to sit on the edge of that rock at the top.”  No.  I don’t think so girl.  At least not while your still living and hiking with your Momma.

After taking in the view for quite some time, we meandered back to our car.  The rest of the day was spent playing at our campsite and the surrounding campground area.

But our hikes were not over.  We had one more to attempt the following day.  Stay Tuned.

Adventures/Travel, camping, North Carolina Adventures

Linville, NC: Hiking Linville Gorge

Our cold nights while camping didn’t prevent our daytime fun! In fact, the chilly temperatures were perfect for comfortable hiking.

Our first goal was a hike at the Linville Gorge, the main reason I had selected this area for camping.  It was less than 10 minutes along the Blue Ridge Parkway.  October is a beautiful month along the Parkway and we enjoyed our short, scenic drive.

The Linville Falls Waterfall is possibly the most photographed waterfall in North Carolina according to the Romantic Asheville Website.

We were excited to see it.  Our hike was the one along Erwin’s View Trail, which provided 4 overlooks over a 1.6 mile roundtrip hike.

The trail begins over a wooden bridge at the Visitor’s Center.  We spent some extra time on this bridge while Daddy ran back to get tennis shoes for one child who showed up in flip flops.  It was a beautiful setting to spend some time waiting.


Once we were all in proper footwear, we headed toward our destination.


It was like a storybook setting as we hiked.


I spotted a fall leaf rainbow, starting at the top with red.  Then the other colors softly followed…orange, yellow, green.


We enjoyed the strange tree growing along the trail.


Our views of the various falls were beautiful.  There were four overlooks along this roundtrip hike, each offering something spectacular to see.





We did stop for a lunch break and I will mention that I discovered these “Picnic to Go” boxes at Target one day.  Unlike Lunchables, they don’t have to be refrigerated, which makes them ideal for camping and hiking.  While they aren’t the epitome of healthy eating, they aren’t too bad and I particularly enjoyed this one with its asiago cheese spread on olive oil and sea salt crackers.


Our adventure ended at the same bridge where we began.  Of course, we played a romping game of Pooh Sticks, cause who doesn’t love Pooh Sticks?


While our adventure at Linville Gorge was over, we still had another adventure on our day’s agenda.  Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post and our trip to Wiseman’s View.

Adventures/Travel, camping, North Carolina Adventures

Cold Camping Survival: Linville, NC

(October 2015 camping trip)

Carefully, I researched an area of North Carolina to visit. Then I narrowed down the campground.

When I camp, there has to be hot showers and flush toilets. No exceptions. Which left me with The Linville Falls Trailer Lodge and Campground.  The only downside of this campground, according to Trip Advisor, seemed to be that the primitive tent sites, our typical preference, were down a steep hill from the bathrooms. I did not envision much joy in the evenings when walking my 6 year old up steep hills to the bathroom.

We decided to go with a site that had water and electric.  We booked it.  A month in advance.

Then the weekend began to approach.  At the same time, a cold front began to approach. They were clearly going to collide.  And if the weather forecast was accurate, we would be camping in below freezing weather on our first night there, but then it would warm up a bit more each day.

This frantic mommy took to google and Facebook.  Turns out, that you can run a ceramic space heater in a tent IF you have a site with electric, and thanks to the steep hill situation for the primitive tent sites, we would have electric this trip!  We decided to be wild and crazy and go for it, after all, the best memories usually stem from wild and crazy.

The campground was beautiful, as was the drive through the mountains to get there.  We were given a choice between two sites and we selected the first one.  It was only 4 sites away from the bathrooms and it had a lovely private pathway to the field across the road for the kids to play.  It was also sunny for the majority of the day, which was very important.

We quickly got our tent and screen tent set up and then we began working on a fire.  My kids are getting pretty good at starting a fire.

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The kids spent a lot of time whittling on this trip.  Everyone had a great time with Daddy’s pocket knives.

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Eventually I began to explore the campground.  The bathrooms were the best ones I have experienced camping.  There were hot, private showers.  A space heater was located near the sinks and there was even a little make up area by a mirror.  Yes, make up and blow dryers are acceptable camping equipment.


Soon, the cold settled in and we began to break out the warm winter coats.

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Smores are a nightly dessert when camping, so I set up my Type A smores-gous board.  (pun intended)


Finally we retired to our tents, sleeping with snow pants and winter coats by our sides for the morning.

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In the morning, no one was eager to leave their warm sleeping bag.  We huddled a bit by the heater.  I can’t tell you what a brilliant idea the space heater was.  MAJOR points for this Mom!

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Eventually, breakfast had to be made.  Do not be deceived by my smile.  This was NOT the most fun I have had camping.  It was cold.  COLD I tell ya.  But I had electric and I had my hot water kettle, so I had tea.  Happy Mommy.

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Chocolate Chip Pancakes are always a hit.


We spent our days hiking and enjoying the fall colors, which I will post in the next few days.  Our late afternoons and evenings were spent at our site.  Luckily, none of the evenings ever dipped below freezing again.  WHEW!

Our camping neighbors were all very friendly and many were older so they absolutely loved the “life” our kids brought to the campground.  I sat on a bench with one woman and talked for awhile.  She was sitting at the playground just to listen to my kids laughing and playing.  Hers were grown and she missed camping with them.

It was a beautiful reminder for this mom.  The moments are fleeting and the babies grow fast.  So thankful that we braved the cold weather camping.


Adventures/Travel, camping, North Carolina Adventures

Our First Family Camping Trip, Campsite Life

Planning.  Packing.  Prepping.  Camping calls for a lot of all three.

But the day arrived, and ready or not, here we went…

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Of course, as HUGE fans of the Hunger Games Series, it was time to take the rest of the crew to District 12.  Only my oldest daughter and I had been there and it was on the way to our campsite destination.

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And two hours later, we were setting up camp!

Our campground, Davidson River, was a random find through google searches.  It was in the ideal location, near Brevard, NC,  based on the hikes we wanted to take.  We were thrilled with how pleasant the campground was and how ideal our particular site was.


Hot dogs were our first official camping meal as well as our last meal on this trip!  Hot dogs are just an easy dinner while camping; it was such fun to cook them over the fire.  Our second night dinnertime meal consisted of grill cheese sandwiches and soup.  Soup turned out perfect for night number two because it was rainy!


After dinner activities consisted of marshmallow roasting. Smores.  Mountain Pies.  Popcorn.  Fire watching.  And games by lantern light.

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I’ll be honest.  My first night of sleeping was not good.  Hot and sticky are not the words I use when I describe the ideal sleeping environment.  On top of that, one of my children couldn’t sleep either and was keeping me up.  Finally, at 1 AM we both took Benadryl and finally drifted off.  The next morning, our first stop was Walmart for some battery powered fans.  The next two nights were much more pleasant.

Breakfast went smoothly each morning.  Two mornings included eggs and sausage and the remaining morning consisted of pancakes and fruit.

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Obviously, we also had to buy one little girl a hoodie sweatshirt at Walmart when we stopped by for fans.  She forgot hers and was trying to make due with paper towels on the chilly morning.

These hammocks (below) were fabulous sources of relaxation, fun and entertainment.  Sitting around the campsite and relaxing was possible due to these two person hammocks.  We purchased two of them, so they accommodated all four kids.  They had a blast relaxing, playing, and learning to hang upside down in them!


Our one mistake was purchasing a screen canopy that was just too small for our family of 6.  When the rain came, we added this blue tarp to help keep everyone and everything dry.  In the end, we just made it work and went with it.  We were dry and cozy under it!

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Our three room, 6 person Coleman tent (from a purchase over a decade ago) held up beautifully, even through all of the rain.  We were pleasantly surprised.

While we didn’t have a ton of extra space, the six of us fit comfortably, two in each room.

Part of the fun in the evening was giggling and talking at night until it was time to go to sleep.  Our kids really enjoyed being in a tent with us and we enjoyed them.  It added to the novelty of the entire weekend as well as the family bonding and silliness.


We had a wonderful three days, full of adventures and experiences that I will make time to record here.  In the end were all sad to leave and we can’t wait to do it again.  I would say that camping was a great success!

How about you?  Have you taken your kids on a camping trip?  How did it go?