One of the things I love about going to the mountains is that it is like stepping into an entirely different season. Summer has been mild here in Virginia, but even so we often find ourselves with temperatures in the eighties. It is warm, and sometimes hot, but rarely cool, and by August, we are daydreaming about bundling up for the winter. We have learned that in the mountains of West Virginia, it is about twenty degrees cooler than it is at home. This year, we packed long sleeves and sweaters, which ended up being perfect! Can you believe that there was one morning that it was 35 degrees?! In August! Apparently it has been unusually cool in West Virginia, too, which actually ended up working in our favor.
Usually, July is peak wild blueberry season. You can find huckleberries in August (which are, it turns out, a lot like blueberries, but with a large seed in the middle), but blueberries are long gone, having been picked over by hikers and wildlife alike. But this year's cool weather has pushed everything back from its normal timetable, and so we had the unexpected good luck of being around for wild blueberries. We knew we had to get up to Dolly Sods to do some hiking and blueberry picking.
Back in the winter, when we were planning all of this out, we decided to invite our neighbor Carly. Part babysitter, part surrogate big sister, she is one of the most delightful people we know (and now an honorary member of the family). And in the end, it proved to be the ticket to having a truly restful vacation with five kids six and under! Besides, there are a lot more board games to play with three people than with two (here are some favorites).
So anyway, when we decided to do some ambitious hiking with the kids, it ended up being surprisingly relaxed. Ben and I each carried a baby on our back, and Carly told some epic stories to the kids (I think she must have spent on the order of five hours crafting tales about spiderman and princesses and kings. She's pretty much the best.), which we've found distracts them from the intensity of the hiking at hand. I was really proud of all the kids, but Hugo and Lily in particular for hiking five miles on some difficult terrain. It's kind of amazing what kids are capable of, and I think each and every person felt a tremendous feeling of accomplishment upon reaching the peak. Which was sweetened by the fact that the peak of the mountain happens to be where all of the wild blueberries grow. I think Hugo in particular was convinced that he was a character from Blueberries for Sal. The little bear, not the human, of course.
Two sunburned baby noses (yikes! I always forget that sweater weather has equally strong sunshine!), one breakfast of waffles with wild blueberry sauce, and a few canoe rides later, we big girls went for a trail ride on horseback, which must have been the crowning achievement of Zosia and Lily's lives thus far. Certainly something to dream of for the next few months.