More of the Fourth

I mentioned that we branched out a little bit from our Fourth of July traditions this year. Some were welcomed additions; others... not so much.

Happily, we got rid of our old tradition of getting covered in chigger bites every Fourth of July. Chiggers are microscopic pests that love to bite you where your clothing is tightest against your skin (like in your underwear). The resulting wound is insanely itchy and can last for weeks. Poor little Mike is most tormented by them, as you can see in this video from a previous Fourth of July:

**Warning: this video contains ball scratching**

But no more! After some research I came up with The Chigger Defense Plan: 1. Apply insect repellent daily, concentrating on your nether-regions. (I bought a deet-free spray because I am not crazy about spraying my kids with pesticide, especially on their grandchildren-producing parts. It stunk, but it worked. This deet free product also worked.) 2. Change clothes everyday. (No, this is not something we normally do.) 3. Take a bath or shower everyday. (No, this is not something we normally do, either.) I didn't intend on making so many embarrassing admissions here; but there it is, and it worked! Unfortunately, we had to find something other than incessant ball scratching to entertain us.

For this year's traditional Fourth of July tubing trip down the Toccoa River, I decided to shake things up and not apply sun-screen. I don't know why, because I'm usually the type who sits fully clothed in the shade wearing SPF 50. My reward for this lapse in judgement was that I was a walking Fourth of July decoration: bright red on one side and bright white on the other. All that was needed was a bit of blue to complete the look.

Let's hear it for the Red, White, and Blue!

Also, on our float down the river we stopped at a rope swing. I thought I'd give my kids a thrill and give it a go myself. (What?! Mom's gonna do it?!) I don't know about thrilling, but it definitely gave everybody a good laugh. I swung, holding on just long enough to reach the lowest point on the pendulum. I then dropped like a bag of bricks and did a sprawling face-plow through the water with what remained of my forward momentum. I did that twice - just to make sure. I also got a lovely rope-burn on my hand from my grip being violently ripped from the rope by my own body weight. It was a good little reminder: "Um... In case you hadn't noticed: YOU ARE NO LONGER TWELVE!" Noted.

On to more pleasant things...

As I've mentioned before, Curtis and I are not traditionally the "get up and go" types. However, we are not totally blind to the value of a family activity that requires more effort than just wedging our butts in inner-tubes for two hours. So we went on two Fourth of July hikes this year. Both trails ended at waterfalls (we like a good payoff to our exertion).

Our first hike took us to Fall Branch Falls, a lovely three-stepped waterfall.

It was a steep hike, but even after we reached the top of the falls, the boys still wanted to go farther. Curtis and I did not. So Curtis told them the tree that had fallen across the trail where we had stopped was called a "bear guard", and if you went beyond it a bear would eat your balls off.

Contemplating ball-eating bears.

If that news wasn't bad enough, Mike found out that he indeed had to carry his own water bottle.

Life is cruel.

King would have liked to spend more time exploring the top edge of the waterfall, but I wouldn't let him. I'm such a drag.

"What?! It's like you think I'm gonna slip and fall to my death, or something?"

But it all ended well. The waterfall was conquered and everyone was happy.

McRibs and Mr. Universe

As we were leaving, we spotted a sign telling us good things lay a mere 500 feet ahead!

The peanuts were already boiled and the water was already bottled; apparently, there just wasn't enough time for conjugating verbs.

A good ol' mountain gal served us up some boiled peanuts on her front porch.

There were antiques for sale on the front lawn. I had my eye on a set of four jadeite mugs; however another woman said she already had dibs on them. She asked if I wanted to "fight" her for them. (What did that mean?) I politely declined. The "boil peanut" lady came to my rescue, and peacefully offered me another pair from her own private stash in her kitchen.

No punches were thrown in the procurement of these mugs.

Before we set out on our second hike, we stopped at a little mountain general store to get provisions for a picnic lunch. A kind woman made us chicken salad sandwiches and cooked Mike a grilled cheese on her stove behind the counter.

A quintessential hillbilly kept watch out front. I stole a picture through the front door.

It was a long (but beautiful) drive along forest service roads to reach our hiking spot on the Appalachian Trail.

We ate our lunch at the foot of Long Creek Falls.

This one was a keeper and was the perfect end to a wonderful weekend.