We spent Sunday night in Boone because as many of  you know I am not a morning person. Sunday we met our good friends the Jordans at Shatley Springs which is one of my kids favorite places to eat.

Our first stop Monday was Linville Falls. We had four families with kids ranging from 2 1/2 to 13. We decide on the Erwin’s View Trail which has three overlooks and is a round trip of two miles. It is a moderate trail that is wide and has gravel. The family with the youngest struggled some but we all managed well. I would plan on at least two hours to enjoy the overlooks and make the round trip.

Our second stop was Linville Caverns about 15 minutes drive. We met up with another family at the caverns and split up into two groups. They take groups of less than fifteen at a time into the cavern which is really nice to be in a small group. I thought the tour was great. It gave a little scientific info but not too much to bore. They did not say millions of years but just many years ago which we appreciated.

Our last stop was Grandfather Mountain. We had a class about animal behavior where the kids were scientist in each of the animal habitats recording animal behavior. Mickey did a great job and the kids had a good time. We ended the glass by playing The Thicket Game which taught about camouflage and predators. We all ended the day on top of the mountain where we all braved the bridge even those afraid of heights. It was a fabulous day!!

We wrapped up the day with three families stopping at Cafe Portofinos in Boone. Kids Eat Free on Monday-Thursday with an adult entree. That is a deal. I had steak, pub fries and a salad. Claire had corn dog and Cobey had pizza. It turned out very reasonably priced.  Some of the kids got the kids spaghetti and it was a good size portion. I have eaten there several times and I have never been disappointed.


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If you have been wondering what I have been up to the last few week, I have still been busy. I have hosted and AHG lake event, gone to Marbles Kid’s Museum, done a little school, scrapbooked, read a book and worked on an AHG Camp Day. I have been working very hard on scheduling the field trips for the upcoming year which takes lots of calls and emails. The last thing I have worked on is trying to get HB854 – Woman’s Right to Know Bill passed. We need one more vote to override the governor’s veto. So if you thought I was not leading my crazy life, you would be wrong. I have just not been posting.

After we picked Cobey up from camp, we headed for Kings Mountain National Park. We tried to go in May but there had been a storm and it was closed. It was over a hundred degrees today so it was not the best day but it was open. After we got there and got the Junior Ranger Booklets, we debated about doing the hour walking tour. Cobey and I voted no and Claire and Bruce wanted to go. We decide to go and after  a briefly going thru the museum, we were off.

I think Cobey and I were correct this time. It was so hot that I am sure what the kid’s will remember besides that. The ranger did a good job but I think the film and museum were better. If it is not a 100 degrees out then I think the tour would have been more enjoyable.  The most impressive thing on the tour was the obelisk monument (pictured above) that honors the Patriots who fought and won here.

We watched a movie and finished up out Junior Ranger pages after the tour. The movie does a good job of giving an overview of the battle and the key people in it. The museum is small but has good information. If you don’t take them time to listen at each station you are going to miss out.

This battle was unique because it was Americans fight Americans. There was only one lone British officer. It was also muskets used by the Loyalist vs. rifles used by the Patriots. This decisive win by the Patriots is pointed to as a turning point of the war.

They seem to encourage the Junior Ranger program here and they announce the newest rangers over the loudspeaker. I thought that was a nice touch. I really like that each park has their own way of completing the program so you never know what to expect.

I will be at the beach this week so you may not see me again for awhile.

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We headed for the mountains this weekend to visit some good friends. On the way up, we stopped at Guildford Courthouse National Park. After all the parks we have been to that have been so good, I don’t know why they continue to surprise me. This park is much bigger and better than I expected. I highly recommend it to anyone learning about Revolutionary War, colonial times, or NC History.

We started in the museum with a thirty minute movie that gave a good overview of the battle.  We then walked through the museum which is not huge but has some good exhibits and different from other parks. We then watched the map presentation which shows in detail the moves of the forces. The kids finished their junior ranger program and then we saw a musket demonstration.

We decided to do an audio tour instead of the ranger tour. The audio tour gave information about each stop. I was glad we did it because we would have probably missed the first stop which was great.  Not far down the road is the Colonial Heritage Center. Here they focus more on colonial life using the Hoskins Farmstead as the back drop. There is a map display that I think is better than the one in the visitor display. They have a separate junior ranger program that is very good. They get to know what life would be like for  two of the Hoskin’s children for Hannah and Joseph.  There are  different pages for girls and boys.

We went through the museum first that showed life on the farm and included clothes they wore, how a mill worked, different trades, and a life size cabin. The children answered most of the questions of the Junior Ranger program in the museum. We then had a guided tour of the building outside- home, kitchen and barn. We had an awesome guide. She was so great at engaging the children and asking them questions. She even stumped Cobey with a few questions.

After we completed the junior ranger badges, we finished the audio tour. We did not get out at every stop but around three our four. We were at park for over four hours and the kids loved it and wanted to go back.

On the way back from the mountains, we stopped at the Winston-Salem Children’s Museum. This was our second visit and the kids had a great time. Cobey loved the beanstalk that you climb to get to the second floor. On the second floor, the kids loved the Krispie Kreme shop. Cobey spent most of his time there where it was his store and he ran the business. Claire also enjoyed the grocery store and the storybook area. There was a special puppet show there based on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. I was excited about that because we are going to start Shakespeare this year and this was an excellent introduction.

After the museum, we had dinner at Frontline Brewery a few blocks away. The service was excellent and food was delicious. Tuesdays is half off the children’s menu so give it a try.



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Vanderbilt Home, Home of FDR and West Point

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Thursday Jun 30, 2011 Under Claire, Cobey, Homeschool, Kid's Corner, National Parks, Travel

We started to make our way home today. It was going to be rough drive with a hurt shoulder and the radio/CD player broken. Fortunately, after a few hours and prayers I fixed the radio. Cobey was ready to just drive home but I had one surprise left and he changed his mind.  He has been wanting to go to West Point since we went to the Douglas MacArthur Memorial.  I thought he would like a tour.

The first stop we made was the Vanderbilt home in Hyde Park, New York. We had been to two other Vanderbilt homes in Newport, RI so the kids were interested in the family. This mansion is a National Park. It is the first National Park that we have been to that did not have a Junior Ranger program. We had a tour of the house and our guide was very knowledgable and interesting. This was a country estate and was the smallest and least luxurious of the Vanderbilt houses you can tour. I think it was still impressive but it the Breakers and Marble House in Newport were more lavish. And the Biltmore home makes it look like a cottage.

Our next stop was the FDR home, also a National Park and in Hyde Park. This park did have a Junior Ranger program but instead of becoming Junior Rangers they become Secret Service Agents. The program is very good and with the slant of what it takes to be a secret service agent. They earned stars instead the ranger badges.  We had a great guided tour of the grounds and the home. The kids learned a lot about the president. I did have to re-educate them on a few things. The talk was very skewed in how great of a president he was. We then went thru the Presidential Library and Museum. It has some great displays. The kids loved the oval office, the secret map room and his car.  There is also Eleanor Roosevelt’s  home as a National Park in the area.  You could easily spend a day in this area.

The last stop was a tour of West Point. They only take cash for the tour so plan according. (I was getting low for tolls.) You purchase tickets at the West Point visitor center. The tour was great and I highly recommend even if you are not that interested in West Point. It gave some great history and information. This was our last guided tour of the trip. We had lots of guided tours during this trip and all of them had excellent guides. There was not one dud or annoying guide. Cobey liked the story about Paton being a bad student and his excuse being he could not find the library. They now have his statue outside of the library. The campus is absolutely beautiful and has an amazing view of the Hudson

West Point also have a museum there which we did not have time to go to before it closed. We then headed south and made it to Baltimore.

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I really am being to love New England. I was having a great trip but I have really loved the past two days. Maine is so beautiful with the rocky coast and the mountains of New Hampshire and Vermont are breathtaking. We just happen to go past the longest covered bridge this morning. I had to stop for a photo.

Our first stop was at Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site. I gave them some choices and Claire wanted to go learn about the sculptor. This national park is excellent and in a beautiful setting. We started with the movie and Claire was excited to see that Saint-Gaudens had done the Shaw Monument that we had seen in Boston. I love when they make the connections.

The volunteer was not very positive about us finishing the Junior Ranger and although it was a longer one it was not impossible. The program is very well put together. It trains them to pay attention to detail.  There is also lot of sketching of things that they see. The kids would not have gotten near as much out of it without the program. If you are going, take the time and do the program so they can get something out of it and they get a cool patch at the end.

There is lots to see and do here. You can have a tour of his house and an art tour which we did not do. There are Horse Stables, Gardens, a studio, gallery, a working studio, and trails. I think we ended up spending three hours there without any tours. The kids sketched a lot and we did do a short trail which is beautiful!


After we finished there, we headed for Vermont. I could not believe how beautiful the drive was. I kept telling the kids to look out the window. Claire said she wanted to come in the fall and so do I. I can’t describe it but they are different than our mountains. Maybe I have been away from ours too long. I really loved the ride.

We stopped at Ben and Jerry’s Factory to take a tour. I could not believe how many people where there. It was like going to an amusement park. The tour is three parts- a movie, description of what is happening on the factory floor and a free sample. The kids enjoyed it but I was not that impressed. I really don’t even like the ice cream. (I hope the Ben and Jerry’s mafia does not come after me for that.) I got the kids more ice cream outside and myself a smoothie. The smoothie was pretty good. We walked up to the Ben & Jerry’s graveyard for retired flavors. The kids loved seeing that because they had seen it on the website. After that we took the long way to Burlington on purpose. I wanted to see more of the beautiful mountains.

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Busy Day In Boston

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Friday Jun 24, 2011 Under Claire, Cobey, Homeschool, Kid's Corner, National Parks, Revolutionary War Sites, Travel

We started off our day by picking up Bruce at the airport. Navigating underground tunnels was the first adventure. I never knew you could have so many exits in a tunnel. We then headed straight for Boston and set up our tours. We booked a Boston Tea Party Cruise, the Beantown Trolley Tour and the Duck tour. We then visited Paul Revere’s House and Old North Church. Both were included in our Boston Go Cards. We paid 1.50 for the children’s tour guide at Paul Revere’s House and it added a lot to the tour. I recommend it! We also got the guide at the Old North Church. The five minute talk in the church was much better than the guide. We then headed for a Freedom Trail Tour. We stopped for hotdogs on the way from a cart. I love that about cities.

We had the best costumed guide with Freedom Trail Foundation. He had a great voice that was loud enough to be heard over the noisy streets. He told the story of Boston and its people. After studying the Revolutionary War for months, I thought I knew a lot but he reminded me of some and told new interesting stories that I had not heard. He covered the story of the Revolutionary War with some other stories thrown in from different time periods. I HIGHLY recommend this tour and doing it before you do any other sites on the trail. After the tour, we went to the Boston National Historical Park. We probably should have gone there first and gotten the Junior Ranger information but it worked out fine. They answered the questions about the things we had seen and had to draw something from each of them. They have five sites and you have to do at least three of them. I thought the program was pretty good and they learned something new from it. If your kid hates to draw then they will not like it.

After they completed their Junior Ranger Program, we headed to the Duck tours. We scheduled our tour at 530 after everything else had closed. We had a snack from the grocery store while we waited to board. We had another great tour guide, who you could tell loved his city. He told us a ton of information about the city in a fun high energy manner. Claire was so excited when we hit the water. Cobey said the best part of the day was when he got to drive the boat. It was another excellent tour that I recommend. If you are short on time, do the evening tour but if you more time do it first as an overview. It gives you lots of information on what you may want to go back and see.

We also did the Beantown Trolley. We basically used it twice for transportation. It was included in our card. It worked out twice for us but I would not waste your money otherwise. The trolleys get very crowded and you can’t get on. You have to time it perfect or you will be waiting for a trolley for at least thirty minutes. And the Duck tour was more entertaining and gives you an overview of the city. It is a pretty compact city so I recommend walking.

After dinner, it took us forever to get out of the city and back to the hotel. We go back Sunday and there is no way we will be able to see everything left on our list. We will do our best though. I think Claire is a country girl. She kept complaining about the noise , chaos and crazy drivers.

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We slept in this morning. I think we were up a little after eight. I am wondering if my schedule will stay shifted when I get home. I doubt it! Cobey seems to be tired and dragging a little today. He is the  one that needs his sleep. It has not phased Claire in the least except I have been awake before her a few times.

Our first stop was Lowell National Historical Park. The park is about the city of Lowell and it’s part in the shift of America from farms to industry. We started with a twenty minute introductory film about how the town became an industrial city. We then took a ninety minute canal ride that told  the history of the town and how the canal works. We went into a lock and the water rose four feet and four inches. I had never done that before so that was a neat experience. We learned about the man who saved the town from two floods after he was criticized that the floodgates where not needed.  Some tours get to tour a gatehouse so if you can do that tour I recommend it.


After the tour, we took a trolley to the Boott Cotton Mills Museum which is part of the National Park. They have done an excellent job making this museum interesting for kids. When you enter the museum, the kids put on an apron and clock in. They then search for the child cutouts that tells them a little information and something to try. They got to try many of the ten steps of making fabric. They also saw the machines in action. Boy, was that loud! At the end of the museum, they can mark where their clothes are made on a map. But their favorite part was building a city with homes, railroads, factories and parks.  We then walked over to the where the boarding house where the girls lived. Girls and young woman from surrounding farms were the first workers in the factories.

We walked back to the visitor center, grabbing a late lunch at Subway on the way. The kids got their Junior Ranger badges for the park and we were off to Salem. I highly recommend this national park.  There are a lot of staff in this park and everyone was friendly and helpful that we encountered. There are cost involved in the tours and museum but well worth it. It is one of our new top National Parks. You could easily spend a full day there but you know us,  you can’t keep us anywhere for long.

We were off to Salem because Claire wanted to go to The House of the Seven Gables. My friend Mary Beth recommended it and she was right. The kids loved. The tour guide did a wonderful job telling us the history of the house and about the people of that lived in the house. She also told us enough about the story written by Hawthorne to make us want to read the book.  We then had a self-guided tour of the house Hawthorne was born in which was moved to the property.

We then went down the street to the Salem Maritime National Historical Park. We had less than an hour so we did not get to take full advantage of the park so I can’t give it a fair review. The staff was very helpful and friendly. The kids were able to complete the program in less than an hour and they learned something new. They have tours of the cargo ship and custom house. I would like to go back and take those tours sometime. Salem is one place I would like to return to and spend the entire day.

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Plymouth and Cape Cod

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Tuesday Jun 21, 2011 Under Claire, Cobey, Good Eats/Not So Good Eats, Homeschool, Kid's Corner, National Parks, Travel

It has been a wonderful day and we saw some fabulous things. We started at Jenny’s Grist Mill which is the oldest in America. The tour guide gave information about the mill and the the surrounding area. It was more informative than the talk we heard at Washington’s mill. The same guide gave us an hour tour of the historical area including the famous rock, Bradford statue, Pilgrim memorial and much more. You could tell he is passionate about history. I highly recommend starting with this tour when you come to Plymouth before you go to Plimouth Plantation. It gives you a great foundation to build on and shows you where everything actually was.


We then headed to Plimouth Planation which was also a great experience. It is a living history site which are often our favorites. We first went to the Wampanoag Homesite. They have actually Wampanoag people tell you about how life was like and thought of the arrival of Europeans. The next stop was the English village where Claire wanted to try every bed in every house and there where a lot!  We meet Governor Bradford and several other colonist. They were cooking, building, sewing and other chores as you walk thru the village and interact with them. We then went to craft center where you can see craftsman making items for the village. The last stop was a movie about the first Thanksgiving.

We then drove three miles down the road to the Mayflower II. A reproduction of the Mayflower. We were impressed with the size and learned what tonnage meant. Claire got to read from a Geneva Bible. There were colonist and museum guides on the ship. This was our final site in Plymouth and then we were off to the Cape.

We drove by and got our tickets for the a Harbor tour of Hyanis and then headed for the Cape Cod National Park. We thought we would do the Junior Ranger program in a hour then go back for dinner. We were so wrong. It was the most involved Junior Ranger Program that I have seen. He said it would take two to three days to complete. After looking at it, I would say at least a full day. We stayed and watched the movie on how the Cape Cod got its shape which was interesting. Then we went to the shore. Claire and Cobey loved playing in the sand and ocean for a few minutes. Claire collected rocks which were quite diverse in size and color. I really like the idea of collecting rocks on a beach. There were no dunes and the sand was not soft. It was very different from our beaches and I can see why they  all flock south now.


We had dinner at Spanky’s Clam Shack. The food was pretty good but pricey to me but probably par for the area. We ordered one entree, one appetizer, one side salad and two drinks and it was forty dollars before tip.

After dinner, we took our cruise which was at seven. The cruise was nice and better than the Mt Vernon one but not as good as the one in Hampton, Virginia. The biggest highlight was suppose to be the Kennedy compound with sun and distance you really could not see much. You did get to see some houses on the way out and a lighthouse in the distance but there was really not much to it. I have to say that I am not that impressed with “The Cape”. I guess I did not see the good parts but really not interested in returning so that may be my last visit unless George wants to invite me to Martha’s Vineyard.

The only bad thing that happen today was we ended up in a flip flop hotel tonight. We will be checking out early tomorrow. It took be an hour to find something else for tomorrow night! I am going to try and sleep now with the roar of the a/c it is going to be hard.

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I was shocked that Cobey figured out from the clues right away that we were going to Morristown. The only winter encampment I knew about was Valley Forge so I thought that would be his guess. Cobey said I knew Morristown was the only winter encampment in New Jersey so it must be it. I should have known better.

We first stopped at Washington’s Headquarters. They were getting ready for a tour of the Ford Mansion when we got there so we did that first. The tour was very good and told of stories of Washington who stayed there and the Ford family. We then went back and watched the movie and walked thru the museum. The movie did a great job of telling the story of Morristown. The museum had some neat things but was a room off here and there and did not have a good flow.  I am not even sure we saw it all. The Junior Ranger program was okay. I liked the page where they answered why you would want to be a soldier, an officer or not be in the army at all.

We then went to Jockey Hollow where the kids got to hold a musket and dress in costume. Here we got to see the Wick Farm which would have been typical of the time period. There was a lady in period costume at the Wick home. She told a few things about the house but she seemed too involved in her book to answer questions. The ranger at the visitor center on the other hand was eager to answer any questions. There is a display in the visitor center of the wooden huts and then several you can go into down the road a mile. I enjoyed Washington’s Headquarters more but both were good to see.

We then headed to Thomas Edison National Historical Park. This was not on the plan but we decided we had some extra time. This national park was amazing. The Junior Ranger Program was well thought out and they let the kids work on one together which makes so much sense. We only had two hours and that was not enough time. This park cost $7 for adults and the kids were free. They give us each an audio tour that includes a kid’s version. I  learned so much about Edison that I had no idea about. The park is located in his Laboratory Complex. You can also tour his estate but we did not have time for that. Claire liked the freight elevator that the staff encouraged Edison to use when he got older. He never would and always took the stairs. We thought the doll with the phonograph in it was funny. We enjoyed the phonograph demonstration and finding out Edison was part of the early record industry. I knew he was an inventor but never knew what a businessman he was. I loved his three- story library. It was just beautiful. I would love to go back and spend more time here and then go visit the estate.

We had an awesome day in New Jersey. The only bad part was the drive to Connecticut which took twice as long as the GPS said. The kids were excited to see New York City even if it was just to drive thru. I could have done without that part.

The last two nights we stayed at the Doubletree in Princeton. I was a little nervous when I drove up because it looked old. The last Doubletree we stayed in was just okay. This one was much better than okay.  The lobby was well appointed  and the staff at check-in were friendly and helpful. Every staff I encountered during my staff was also smiling and friendly. Claire loved her lemonade and cookie at check-in. The room was nice and the beds were comfortable. We loved all the extras in the bathroom. The breakfast was a hot and cold buffet and made to order omelets. Everyone found something they wanted both mornings. The hotel pool was very great – bigger than your average hotel pool with very NICE seating for me. Claire wanted a hot tub but I think the seating and size of the pool more than made up for it. I enjoyed the hotel so much that I may have to come up with a reason to go back to the area just to stay there. It is definitely a barefoot hotel.

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Yesterday, my brother accompanied the kids and I to Moore’s Creek National Battlefield. It was not on the agenda but we had heard about it at our previous battlefield. I looked it up and found it was not too far from the beach. It is 20 minutes north west of Wilmington. I called  to see if there were any special events during the holiday weekend. The ranger said he was giving a talk and then they would be showing the Patriot on Monday. I asked about a tour and he said there were no regular scheduled tours, but he would probably be able to do one when we came.

When we arrived, we asked for the Junior Ranger program. It was not a nice booklet like the previous sites but was two copies sheets folded. There was one for Claire six and under and one for Cobey six and up. We started with the movie which gave a good overview of the site. We then went to exhibits which mostly consisted of a timeline of events.  The booklet did help focus on some of the important facts of the battle.

I then asked Claire if she wanted to see about getting a tour. She replied, “with a  tour, you always get more.”  We asked and the ranger graciously agreed. We were not disappointed at all. He painted a great picture of the battle and background of the area.  He explained that the battle was fought completely with militia forces. The battle was the first Patriot victory in the South on February 27, 1776. This victory over the Scottish Loyalist  was key for building political support for the revolution and North Carolina voted for independence the following April. The battle also stopped them from meeting up with the Loyalist in Wilmington which could have been a problematic for the Patriots.

We were pleasantly surprised with the battlefield and highly recommend it. And Claire was correct – the tour gives you more so ask if you can get one.

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