Hello again, one and all! I’m back to blogging after returning home from our family vacation to Georgia and South Carolina!
For her 50th birthday my mom decided she wanted to challenge herself with the “Three miles up, three miles down” hike up Mount Currahee in Toccoa, Georgia. This is where the famous Easy Company of the 101st Airborne’s 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment (dubbed the “Band of Brothers” by historian Stephen Ambrose) trained during World War II. Our family loves the Band of Brothers book and HBO miniseries (which I reviewed here), so the opportunity to be where men like Dick Winters, Bill Guarnere, Eugene “Doc” Roe, and Carwood Lipton once walked was really special.
We made the trip on May 19–which also happened to be the day Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were married! I got to keep up with all the latest wedding updates on my phone while we drove through Mississippi and Alabama. We also drove straight through Atlanta–or, as my brother Ben dubbed it, “the belly of the beast.” (It’s terrifying.)
We actually stayed about half an hour from Toccoa, at a beautiful lake house in South Carolina. Most evenings we got to sit on the dock and let our feet dangle in the water.
On Sunday we drove back into Georgia and visited the beautiful Toccoa Falls! It was absolutely breathtaking.
After lunch we went straight to the Currahee Military Museum. It just so happened that one of the museum’s founders, Mr. Ray Ward, was there that afternoon, and when he saw us oohing-and-ahhing over a big Band of Brothers poster and realized we could actually name each character on sight (and complain about who wasn’t on the poster), he offered to guide us through the museum himself! It was an incredible experience. He was so knowledgeable, telling us stories about the establishment of the museum and even pulling out a few archived artifacts for us to see.
The next day (Monday) was Mom’s birthday–and Mountain-Climbing Day! Unfortunately we got started a lot later than we’d intended (hey, it was vacation–we were allowed to sleep in, okay?), so we didn’t arrive at the foot of Mount Currahee until half past noon.
Guys…this may have been the hardest physical thing I have ever done. “Three miles up, three miles down” isn’t quite accurate. It’s more like “three miles up and down and up up UP and down and UP AGAIN!–and three more miles down UP down down UP down.” About three-quarters of the way uphill I got light-headed and thought I might throw up. I had to sit down, eat an energy bar, drink some water, and tell myself, You can do this, those men ran up this mountain in full army gear, Dick Winters did this in 45 minutes, you can do this!
My mom was amazing. If she felt like she was dying, she certainly didn’t show it. Incredibly, 8-year-old Joy never complained either and made the walk quietly and cheerfully. I’m still in awe over that.
Finally, we reached the top! WHOO-HOO!!!! The view was incredible.
The downhill trek was much easier. We took it at a leisurely pace, picking up sparkling specimens along the way for our rock garden back home. All in all, it took us 3 hours to walk up and down Mount Currahee. At the bottom we even got a peek at the ongoing restoration of Camp Toccoa where the WWII paratroopers lived and trained.
On Tuesday, feeling very sore from our hike, we drove north to Greenville, South Carolina and visited the Upcountry History Museum. We got a crash course in South Carolina history (fascinating!)…but the real reason for stopping here? A traveling exhibit of comic book artist Alex Ross’ finest masterpieces! (No photographs allowed–sorry–but do give him a Google. You won’t be disappointed.) I loved hearing my younger siblings gasp and squeal at the sight of their favorite characters. 17-year-old Carolyn, especially, was right at home: if there were any superheroes (or villains) we didn’t recognize, she almost always knew exactly who they were.
This is probably the closest I’ll ever get to ever having my picture taken with Henry Cavill, too. Life-size cut-outs in the gift shop are prime selfie spots.
On our last day we went back to Toccoa, browsed the antique shops, wandered through a used bookstore where they had two shelves dedicated solely to Star Trek novels (!!!), and went bowling in nearby Clarkesville. For the record, I am terrible at bowling–but I did knock down a few pins. Watching my siblings absolutely nail their own successful techniques was the best part! Dad, however, remains the true bowling king.
We headed home on Thursday, and the drive was mostly uneventful in spite of having to get through the Belly of the Beast one more time (did I mention how terrifying downtown Atlanta is?) and the fact that I came down with a nasty cold. I still got to study up on my VBS teaching materials, read a Doctor Who novel, and plot out the end to my fanfic, though.
I admit, I’m glad to be home. There’s something to be said for routine, especially with a family as large as ours–and there’s nothing like sleeping in your own bed. But this vacation was definitely special–not just because we got to walk in the footsteps of our Easy Company heroes, but because we got to celebrate our mom’s birthday in a very, very unique way.