You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘vacation’ category.

Katie keeps reminding me that it’s late January and I still haven’t posted any Thanksgiving or Christmas pictures and video on this blog. She’s right (as usual). I’m tardy.

In my defense, there have been plenty of distractions around here during the past couple of months. What better way to justify my delinquency than with a Letterman-style top ten list?

The Top Ten Excuses Why I Haven’t Yet Posted 2010 Holiday Memories to this Blog

10. I’ve been busy with a statistical comparison of Kendall Marshall and Larry Drew II.

9. Robah’s reluctant new year’s resolution to lose 10 lbs. has resulted in more jogging and less blogging.

8. McLain spat up on our Mac (and grinned through the whole ordeal).

7. A lot of our bandwidth is tied up with an initial Carbonite backup…continually for the past month (only 25 GB left to go before it’s finished).

6. Katie has been dragging me out all hours of the night to see indie bands in Carrboro.

5. Baxter and I are attending Impatient Owner – Neurotic Dog relationship counseling sessions every Wednesday. There are no breakthroughs to report yet, but after almost six years together we’re both committed to making it work.

4. I sprained my typing muscles while hand-washing baby bottle parts.

3. My eyes are watering and I can’t see — I’ve been laughing, then crying about the future of Wake County Public Schools.

2. Our computer was inaccessible after I stored a massive shipment from diapers.com in our office.

And the top excuse why I haven’t posted holiday pictures/video of our kids is…

(drumroll)

1. I’m still going through all the video. Between her birthday gifts and Christmas gifts, there is 27 total hours worth of video footage of Jackie opening presents.

Advertisements

As you might guess, the Burns Family Reunion in Vogel State Park (in north Georgia) is about spending time with family. Katie and Jackie are blue bloods; they are genetically obligated to hang out with the other Burns blue bloods all day. Robah, me, and any other spouse, pet, or guest are outlaws. We outlaws are made to feel accepted and loved; we truly feel honored to be a part of this week-long family gathering.

But once in awhile, outlaws like to spend a little time away from the throngs of blue bloods. Maybe the outlaw retreats back to an empty cabin and reads a book. Maybe a couple of outlaws drive over to Helen for a few hours. Robah and I chose to walk through the woods every morning. I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge my other dog, who didn’t make the trip. Baxter doesn’t travel very well, so he was left behind at Camp Canine (which he seems to really like).

There are several trailheads in the middle of the park. On our first morning at Vogel, we hiked the four-mile Bear Hair Gap Trail. Every subsequent day, we hiked a little farther. Our goal was to work our way up to a long hike on Friday — the Coosa Backcountry Trail, a 16-mile trail through the Chattahoochee National Forest that begins at Vogel, crosses the summit of Duncan Ridge, intersects the Appalachian Trail, and takes the hikers near Blood and Slaughter Mountains (not as violent as they might sound).

Coosa Backcountry Trail from Google Maps

It’s not the distance that makes it daunting. Rather, it was the 7,735 feet of aggregate elevation gain that really wore us down. As you can see from the graph below, the elevation gain during the first half is a tease for the climbs and descents in the second half.

Elevation, by mile

Here are the final stats of our hike. By the way, I captured this data using the GPS receiver and My Tracks on my EVO phone. My Tracks is an incredible tool that is especially helpful for a directionally-challenged guy in the woods with nothing, and no one, in sight or earshot. Here are the hike statistics that My Tracks captured:

Now that you’ve seen the objective data about the hike, let me tell you about a few things that my smartphone couldn’t assist me with. Except for a few guys camping near the trailhead, Robah and I saw no one else anywhere near the trail all day. Thinking that the unfamiliar part of the long trail would have about the same amount of creek water access as the familiar part, I decided to travel light and carry only enough water for me. I had about 70 ounces for me, and Robah could drink from the many creeks along the way. This was a potentially dangerous mistake on my part.

Finally, it seemed to me before we set off that 85 degrees in the north Georgia mountains would feel cooler than 85 degrees in Raleigh, because we would be shaded for almost all of the hike. We were shaded, but we got hotter and hotter the more we walked. I didn’t bring enough water, but I did bring changes of shirts, shorts, and socks. Despite the dry changes of clothes, my pack was dripping wet when we finished.

Here’s a list of highlights from the hike, in order and marked on the map:

  1. Robah and I embark around 9:30 a.m., fully hydrated.
  2. I drink my first bottle of water (24-oz.) at Burnett Gap. Robah drinks from a creek, as planned.
  3. We come upon a recently-vacated campsite. A red Toyota pickup is parked next to a boombox that is playing an unfamiliar Red Hot Chili Peppers song. No one is there.
  4. GPS notwithstanding, I think we’ve taken a wrong turn after the Coosa trail intersects a couple of different Appalachian Trail spurs. After some backtracking and worrying, we figure out the right direction and keep moving.
  5. We meet a deer and Robah goes into berserk mode. I finally convince him to forget about it.
  6. After hiking the last few miles soaked in sweat, I change shirts, get out a fresh sweat towel, and eat half a sandwich and some carrots I brought. Robah scarfs a few Pupperonis (his favorite).
  7. There is no creek anywhere in sight, but Robah is thirsty. I give Robah some water and finish off my last water bottle. We’re officially out of water with approximately eight miles to go…not even half-way. The dry socks I put on are heavenly.
  8. We reach the second crossing of Highway 180, and I realize that the next ascent is just as high as the previous one. In about 20 minutes, we’ll both be hiking (or struggling) on all fours as we climb the mountain. We take breaks every fifty feet during the climb. It’s getting a little hard to swallow.
  9. At the top of the incline, we are greeted by a sea of ferns. Relief and natural peace help us carry on.
  10. A tall man in a white lab coat appears to be gathering rocks from the ground. After a few confused seconds pass, I realize it’s a minor hallucination. It’s actually a half-dead tree. Robah looks at me like I’m weird.
  11. The trail (if you can call it that) is barely recognizable. Bees are swarming in a couple of places. I hurry Robah along, pretty sure that the bees are not just in my head.
  12. I’m feeling better about things now that we’re heading downhill. We scare several quails from their ground nests as we go.
  13. More bees.
  14. Gorgeous, delicate red wildflowers align the trail. I decide against picking some illegally for my girls.
  15. FINALLY, a creek. Robah and I find our respective spots in the water and lie down. We each drink a couple of liters from the creek.
  16. Rain falls on us as we reach familiar territory. I’ve been soaking wet all day, so the rain is no inconvenience. After 16 miles of up and down, we get back to our cabin around 2:30 p.m.

Here are a couple of pictures of my hiking partner. If you’re going to be out in the woods for awhile, there’s no better dog in the world (nothing against Baxter — he has other virtues).

Forgive me for these two transgressions:

  1. In a lazy attempt to summarize all of the late-summer events for our family, I’ve crammed two months worth of highlights into one video.
  2. This post has nothing to do with dogs. Don’t worry, I still love my boys.

My family has been busy in July and August. My amazing, pregnant wife and my amazing, pre-toddler daughter have been traveling — Katie (for work and pleasure), and Jackie (for pleasure). I have been renovating a girl nursery for a baby boy and a guest bedroom for a growing little girl. Katie and Jackie spent some time in Simsboro, Louisiana, with the Jeffcoats and Gordonsville, Virginia, with the maternal grandparents. All three of us have made a couple of trips to Boone to hang with my folks. We also hosted Katie’s college girlfriends and their kids, and attended a wonderful Dubberly wedding.

All the while, we are prepping for the arrival of McLain Moore Jones; this boy will expand our family no later than September 14 (and possibly earlier). We are ready for the little guy, save for finding some indie-rock (or dad rock?) onesies that will help me project my tastes onto my new son. At 14, he’ll probably go through an Eagles phase just to get back at me (other than vengeance, why would anyone go through an Eagles phase?).

I hope to document the room changes in a near-future post. Jackie has handled the transition from a crib to a real bed in a new room like a 12-year-old. At the risk of bragging, I will tell you that Jackie has made parenting easy for Katie and me so far.

Here’s the video:

I finally sorted through the video from the Burns Family Reunion. A lot of good footage ended up on the cutting room floor, but I managed to post some of the highlights from the week.

Every year, in mid-June, Vogel State Park in north Georgia is taken over for an entire week by Burnses from all over the country. It’s the Burns Family Reunion, and this was Jackie’s second experience with Katie’s great uncles and aunts, second cousins, third cousins, sixth cousins twice removed, and so on. Jackie shared the spotlight with a few other children this year (including Henry, Audrey, Emilyn, and Emory), but she somehow managed to get plenty of attention and/or ice cream whenever she wanted either or both.

This was the first year of the BFR (of 44 years total) that Katie served as co-organizer and chief cabin coordinator. With her Uncle Robert’s tutelage, she did an outstanding job making sure that everyone had comfortable accommodations.

I brought a special non-Burns friend along to the BFR this year. Robah made the trip southwest, and I really appreciated him coming. He’s always been a true friend, but I was surprised to learn what a good hiking partner he is. You could say that Robah is a dog’s dog, except that he doesn’t really like other dogs. He does love people though.

Here’s a generalized schedule of the typical day during our week at Vogel State Park:

6:30 — Katie, Robah, and I wake up. Robah goes out to relieve himself, sees a deer in the woods, and takes off for about two minutes (the amount of time it takes for the deer to lose him)

7:15 — Katie heads up to her parents’ cabin, where Jackie is sleeping

7:15 – 8:00 — Robah and I listen to Tame Impala, Ariel Pink, The Arcade Fire, Tennis, and others as we get ready for the day

8:00 – 11:00 — Robah and I hike one of trails that head at VSP. Katie and Janet cook for the family members hanging around Janet and Ben’s cabin (at least 5 guest eaters total, maximum of 15). Jackie entertains, or is entertained, and then naps.

11:00 – 12:00 — Robah and I eat leftovers and snacks for lunch while we catch up with Jackie and Katie on the morning events

12:00 – 4:00 — The Joneses change into swim gear and enjoy the lake, except for Robah, who naps

4:00 – 7:00 — Jackie naps, and Katie, Robah, and I read and relax

7:00 – 9:00 — BFR dinner gathering (everyone), socializing or planned event (e.g. talent show) afterward

9:00 – After reading books with Nana and Papa, Jackie goes to bed in cabin #25

9:00 – 11:00 – Before bed Katie reads, Robah snoozes, and I play with my new phone

The schedule listed above shouldn’t leave you with the impression that every day at VSP is the same. Every day brings nuanced surprises, or in the case of our next-to-last day there, a fairly major event. Robah and I had a scary and exhilarating hike to wrap up our week, but I won’t go into details here.

Katie is lucky to have an amazing extended family (both paternal and maternal), and I’m lucky to be accepted by them (Robah was also accepted, except for the few isolated instances when he slobbered on someone).

Here are pictures from the week. Video will follow when I get around to editing and polishing.

Annie Dillard wrote, “The sea pronounces something, over and over, in a hoarse whisper; I cannot quite make it out.” Well, when the sea spoke to Jackie this past weekend, she talked back to it.

The three of us really enjoyed our first nuclear family vacation (and only nuclear family vacation for just the three of us, considering that McLain arrives in September). We spent four days and three nights in Nags Head over the Memorial Day weekend. Our home base was within walking proximity to a public beach access, a grocery store, an ice cream shop, and Sam & Omie’s — we had everything we wanted adjacent to our modest motel suite. Katie deserves all the credit for coming up with the idea and putting it all together.

Jackie loved the beach with the exception of that huge body of bothersome salt water; it must have seemed so unpredictable to her, the way it continually advanced and retreated. Whenever the tide came within ten feet or so, she scolded it, shouting, “NO wa-wa.” In her defense, the water was pretty chilly.

Jackie is a little beyond 17 months old, and it’s hard for me to imagine a child being more fun at any other age. Here’s some holiday video.

Note: The music snippets used in the video are from songs by Shabazz Palaces, Toro Y Moi, and Gauntlet Hair.

About a month ago, Katie and I left our daughter in the capable hands of Burns grandparents, Jones grandparents, and Uncle Ri and Aunt Mi, and went to Denver to see Steve, Ali, and Lex. A trip west to see the Savilles was long overdue.

Our hosts tour-guided us through Denver, hiked us around Rocky Mountain National Park, braved a treacherous I-70 to get us to Breckenridge for a short day of skiing, and treated us as hospitably as possible.

I also learned two new games while in Denver:

  • the Ring Game, which tests the player’s motor skills and sanity as he pushes a ring on a chain steadily toward a target hook. For me, it was an exercise in futile calibration for the first two-and-a-half hours, followed by celebratory extrication when the ring finally found its mark.
  • the Geo-interpretation of Moving License Plates game, a Steve Saville original, tests the player’s knowledge of places and letter sequences. For more details, and a set of official rules, contact Steve.

I think I can speak for Katie; we’re not more excited about any new baby, anywhere (except for under our own roof), than we are for the little guy arriving in May at Jasmine Street. Here are some pictures from our time with the Savilles.

Note: If I see this tag anytime soon, I’m going to run the other way…

Well, the child’s birthday and Christmas will be combined for the rest of her life, so I might as well do the same with the blog post that documents year one.

The Jones family, minus Baxter (who doesn’t travel well), went west for the Christmas holiday. Since we’ve been married, and because our parents live pretty far away from each other, Katie and I alternate Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings every year. In 2009, we spent the week of Christmas with the Burns crew in Waynesville.

It was a snowy, relaxing holiday week, and we even got to catch up with the some friends in Asheville one night. Most of the time though, we hung out with Katie’s family indoors, waiting for Jackie to do something funny/cute/interesting. Nana taught her a few tricks during the week, including the sliding-rear-end-stair-descent (featured in the video below). And, no one entertained her or intrigued her more than PopPop when he donned his mechanical Santa hat (also in the video).

We also celebrated Jackie’s first birthday (on the 23rd), which she shares with her Aunt Holly (who surprised us by arriving the night before). It was a blast, except for the fact that my parents and brother and sister-in-law couldn’t make the party due to the snow and ice that blanketed the western part of North Carolina. We were able to visit them to start the new year — I’ll post pictures from our trip to Boone as soon as I have time to go through them.

The small cake (for Jackie) and the big cake (for the rest of us) came from The Sisters McMullen Bakery in downtown Asheville. I can’t rave about them enough, and trust me, I’ve had my share of sweet treats in my 32 years.

Jackie was funny about eating her cake, as you can see for yourself in the video below. I like to think she’s a civilized child — it wasn’t until she was given a fork that she really started to dig in. This was her first taste of refined sugar and she didn’t seem too fond of it.

There are a slew of fantastic pictures from our holiday, but I’ll have to put them in a future post when I have more time.

Robah made the trip with us to western North Carolina for Christmas. It was a lot of fun for me to see a dog born on Emerald Isle frolic in 18 inches of snow.

Baxter had to stay home, but don’t feel too bad for him. While Robah and I were out in the snow, Baxter was snuggled up in a bed at home, where Sarah was looking after him.

The first 20 seconds of the clip below show the fun part of his time in the winter wonderland. The last part of the video shows the scariest moment of our holidays. The 112-pound dog from the beach thought he could walk across a frozen pond. I closed the camera after I realized he was in trouble and thought I would have to go in after him, but it was much more traumatic for me than it was for him — he hopped right out of the frigid water and continued his romp through the snow.

I was convinced that the effects of hypothermia would set in at any minute. He wasn’t a bit bothered by the ordeal. That’s Robah for you…whatta good boy.

My mother’s side of the family, the Watsons, came to our house for Thanksgiving dinner. We were thrilled to host the Watsons. My parents attended, as did the Watsons  (Danny and Janice, from Burlington), the Hudsons (Nancy, Gary, Chris, Angie, Lindsay, and Darren Austin, all of whom drove here from Charlotte), the Prices (Carolyn, Will, Ashley, Ryan, from Burlington), and Katie’s cousin Lee (from Chapel Hill). Lee was the outsider who everyone enjoyed having, especially me (he washed a lot of dishes).

The meal was headlined by Katie’s 25-pound turkey, which was the most robust, delicious bird I’ve ever eaten. I could kick myself for not taking a picture of that beast.

All the sides and desserts were equally delectable. Jackie, Baxter, and Robah also enjoyed our company. My father had everyone singing along to his new party game. The working title is What’s Next, and he tailored the clues to the personal interests of the family members in attendance.

We appreciate y’all for spending the holiday in Five Points, and it was darn good to catch up with everyone. Also, thanks to my parents for looking after the baby while we prepped.

The latest, greatest parlor game: What's Next

Goofin' off before company arrives

Baby time with Aunt Carolyn, Cousin Will, and two of her top-notch grandparents

Strolling with Gramps and Great Uncle Danny

Good boys get turkey cracklin'

Strolling some more...watch out for the many sidewalk cracks JBJ

JBJ poses atop her old man

Image from Raleigh

Urban dirt-biking

I took this post-apocalyptic picture outside Jones Barber Shop in Raleigh last year.

Archives

Tweets

Advertisements