Monday, October 22, 2012

Camping at Clemson

A few weeks ago we went camping with the Natiez and Leblanc/Vachon families. It wasn't your normal overnight camping trip. there were no tents, instead we spent the night in a tree house at the Clemson University Outdoor Lab. I had seen the site promoted on Facebook but figured that it would be all booked up. In the end we got a reservation for one of the few weekends that would work out for all of us. Fifty dollars and a few phone calls later we were on our way.

The site was really just a covered platform on stilts in a wooded area just a few miles from Clemson. There are lots of other facilities on site, but this is the most rustic by far. Below is a shot of Isabelle in front of the Eagle's Nest.

There were large gym mats on the floor so the sleeping arrangements were pretty good. The top was mainly screened in, although much of the bottom where the railing was was just open. In the end it didn't matter since there were few bugs or mosquitoes.

On the lower level was a sheltered area where we had breakfast in the morning. Behind where this picture was taken was a large fire pit and lots of firewood. There were some benches as well as a fire extinguisher in case things got out of hand.

The food was of course very important, as usual. We only had two meals to deal with since we were only there one night. Supper was simply tin foil dinners with three types of potato, beans, peas, onion, and either salmon or lamb chops. There was also my not so secret ingredient: les échalotes salées. I was lucky enough to get a taste of both the salmon and the lamb. I must say it was pretty good.

Here is the team putting it all together.
There was also dessert on the Outback Oven. The peach cobbler was very good although it always seems to take a long time to cook. There were also s'mores for those who wanted them (mainly the little ones).
The pictures below show the sleeping arrangements and some of the shenanigans that went on before bed.
The morning meal was simply breakfast burritos. Take some onion, scramble some eggs with cheese and peppers, wrap it up in a tortilla and add some salsa and sour cream and you have a hearty, simple, one dish meal that requires little clean-up.
In the end I think a good time was had by all. The crowd may not have been well rested the next morning but we came away with some good memories and had a good time.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Litchfield and Huntington Beach

Two weeks ago we had another adventure at the beach. This time the target was Myrtle Beach and the surrounding area. We actually stayed at Litchfield Beach in a great called Litchfield Beach and Golf Resort, but not so little, resort. It was like a small town. We shared a house with the Vachon/Leblanc clan not too far from the beach itself.

The four bedroom house was just a few minutes from the beach and ten minutes from the resort restaurant where we had our breakfast each morning. The resort had several complexes and lots of different kids of housing to suit every need. The main resort had a pool and a small water park that the kids really enjoyed.

We enjoyed two great mornings on the beach and some time at the pool. Unfortunately there no kayaks this time but the water was about 24°C and there were waves to play in. The body board got a bit of use and we built a few sand castles and flew the kites.

In some ways the best part of the trip was the food. Jane always manages to find us some pretty neat places to eat and this time was no exception. The plan was to eat breakfast in the resort and then to have a light lunch in the house. Dinner was to be out each night.

Our first night we were just arriving and decided to eat along the way. Driving through Georgetown we stopped at what I call a local diner and had a great meal. There was fried chicken for some, and meatloaf for others. I had one of my favorites: shrimp and grits. It was called Aunny's Country Kitchen and I would highly recommend it. Georgetown itself was nice, even though we only saw it in the dark. To get to down we drove by a huge industrial building that we later found out was an iron works. It was practically in the middle of town and looked like something from a Batman movie, all dark and sooty.

The second day our meal was almost as good as the first. This time we headed just down the road to a little place called Roz's Rice Mill Cafe. It was nestled in a little shopping complex that looked like a little outlet mall from the 1950s. The food there was just as good if slightly more upscale. I had some fried flounder with more grits and Jane had a soft shelled crab. We'd never had soft shelled crab but this one was simply lightly battered, in the shell, deep fried, and then served on a bed of grits. It was good but I don't think she'll have it again.

Our last meal was a more modern place near the resort. It was called Quigley's Pint and Plate and we ended up having to wait a while to be seated, but the kids were pretty patient. We took them out for a walk and watched the turtles and fish in the pond by the restaurant. Off course I had my third round of shrimp and grits, this time with andouille sausage. Jane had a pasta and there were burgers and fish tacos for the others.

So that sums up the food, which is always a big part of the trip in our household. Our final day we split up from the Leblanc/Vachon family and headed to Huntington Beach State Park. In case you haven't figured it out by now I am a big fan of the SC State Park system. This park I had heard about but we never seemed to in that part of the state.

This time we arrived mid-morning and poked around the boardwalk for a while. The saltwater estuary was full of bird from large egrets to little shorebirds. Afterwards we spent some time at the beach and spent lots of time in the water. We did a little beach combing and found some treasures, including a really neat Sand Tiger Shark's tooth. We all had a few good swims in the warm waters.





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In the afternoon we toured Atalaya, the Huntington home built on the park grounds that eventually become a state park. The history of the building and the stories surrounding it are quite interesting. Anna Hyatt Huntington was a sculptor and made some great sculptures that are displayed all over the world.

As for the house itself it must have been an incredible thing to build since it was made mostly built with local unskilled labor. On the day we visited it was not difficult to see why the Huntingtons only lived there in the winter, it was very hot and humid. Here are some pictures, including a little tree frog we saw on our tour.





The return was a little rough, arriving late due to some traffic, but the trip was worth the time in the car. Unfortunately it could be one of our last trips to the beach as our time here nears an end, but I'm sure there will other adventures.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Issaqueena Falls, Stumphouse Tunnel, and Table Rock

This weekend's adventure was a drive up north to the western end of South Carolina. There is a place up there I have wanted to visit for a while now but never had the time. I managed to talk Yohann into going and Saturday morning we packed up the kids, a lunch, & our hiking boots, and we hit the road.

Our first stop was Issaqueena Falls. It is a beautiful waterfall located just north of Walhala. It is one of hundreds of great waterfalls that can be found all over the upstate. This one has an interesting history and legend about an Native American princess and her English lover.

Right next to the falls, just a few hundred meters away is Stumphouse Tunnel. It is one of several tunnels build by hand before and during the American Civil War. It was never finished. It seems that the railroad that intended to use them, the Blue Ridge Rail Road, ran out of money. The war may have also changed their plans. We visited it but I don't have any pictures. Have a look here for more information.

Here we are at the bottom of the falls.
Yohann and the kids under a ledge at the bottom of Issaqueena Falls.

Our last little tour was in Table Rock State Park. I love SC state parks. Table Rock is one I had not been to in over ten years. I hiked Table Rock once back when I was at Michelin School in my early years with Michelin. The plan was to get to another waterfall but we just didn't have enough time. We also didn't have the time or the energy to try the big hike this time either. Instead we did a little loop that took about an hour. There was lots to see including some amazing falls and slides. I hope to get back to Table Rock soon to hike to the top. Anyone want to come along? I'm thinking in the fall when the weather is a little cooler.

The kids enjoying the view. 
The boy and the girl playing on the rocks.
A good shot of the the father and daughter.
For those looking for more info on trails and hiking in South Carolina, I recommend the following site fro the SC Trails Program. It's a little dated but has lots of good information on some really neat things to see and do. Have a look.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Go Gators!

Last weekend was Divisionals for the summer swim league here in Greenville. That meant a meet with five teams and a whole lot of competition. There was also some pride on the line as Orchard Farms had been strong all summer. In the end we pulled it out and won another Divisional Championship, this time in the Purple Division. Here are a few pictures from the event.

It all started with a parade of the swimmers coming in to the pool. This year I got the bright idea to build a cardboard and papier mache gator as we are the Orchard Farms Gators. It seemed like a good idea at the time but it did end up taking on a life of its own in the end. I built the head, arms, and the tip of the tail (with some help from my visiting friend - Thanks Rob) and the neighbors put together the body. In the end he was about 18ft long and had a whole lot of character. I called him Ollie.

 Below are Isabelle and J.-C. with Ollie.
 Here are the younger girls lined up with the banner for the parade into the pool. The meet takes place over two days with the big kids going first and the little kids swimming on day two.
On the second day we decided to just bring in Ollie's head, arms and tail since he was a little unruly to get past the fence and we weren't sure the little ones could handle his whole body. That's me with the head.
The event went very well for all the swimmers. Isabelle qualified for Classics in all her events except one. That means a top 16 finish in the city for Breaststroke, Butterfly, Backstroke, and the 4x25m Freestyle Relay. There was a DQ in the Medley Relay but they would have won that one too.

The video we have isn't great so we only have pictures.

Off course at the end when they announce the winners everyone ends up in the pool.



This weekend is the big finish. Isabelle swims in Classics on Sunday and that will finish another summer swim season. I think it was lots of fun for everyone but I can't finish without thanking all the parents who helped out to make it possible. I also have to thank the coaches. Without them this simply would not happen. Enjoy the rest of your summer (I hope you can all relax.)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

So Many Things To Do, So Little Time

Again, it's been a while since the last post. Since our trip to Connecticut and the robin in the backyard we've had lots of adventures.

Last week Isabelle and I had a weekend of camping with two other dads and their kids. Jane came to visit for the day along with some other friends and we all had a blast at the lake. I've yet to find a state park here I didn't like. Lake Hartwell State Park here in South Carolina was no exception. We took two walk in tent sites to get away from all the trailer campers and had a great time. There was good food and lots of time in and on the water. There was also a little mishap on day two but in the end we had a great time with everyone.

I don't have many pictures (we were having too much fun) but this was the view from the campsite.

Before that we had a huge weekend with the school yard sale, a baseball game and cook out, and the always entertaining Fete d'Ecole at Isabelle's school. The yard sale is always a great place to get rid of stuff and pick up some new things. We followed it up with the much anticipated baseball day.

We invited the school for an afternoon of learning to play softball/baseball followed by a cook-out. It turned into such a popular event that we had over 100 people! Everyone enjoyed the games and the weather cooperated. A few soccer games broke out near the end.

The Fete d'Ecole is always fun too with a concert, games, and lots of good French food. This year I manned the bouncy house again, but there was the all the usual games like the fish pond, the table tennis tournament, and even an angry birds game with huge cardboard boxes.

Here is a video and some pictures of some of the concert. You may need to turn up the volume on the video.



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This last weekend was a little calmer but still very busy. Now that the pool is open (it has been since the first weekend in May) swim team is started with practices almost every weekday. We go to pool as a family most weekends. The water is great but it will soon be too warm. Imagine that!

Last Thursday the subdivision hosted the first swim meet of the summer. Isabelle did very well and is particularly strong in the backstroke again. I started my training to be a Stroke and Turn Judge. Below is Isabelle getting ready for the 100m team medley relay. I'm standing behind her looking very official.

This is a video of her 25m freestyle. It's a little shaky but you get the idea.

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Sunday Isabelle gave us our Family Day gift. Instead of doing Father's Day and Mother's Day the school has the kids prepare one set of gifts for both parents. Jane got a fancy handmade picture frame with some cool art on it. I got a little poetry.

For those who can't read it it says:
Papa
Papa I'd like to give you a kayak with all the colours in the world.
Papa I'd like to give you the smiles of spring.
I hope your spring has been a busy as ours.