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Poole’s Mill Park

Type of Adventure:  Day Trip/ Water Play/ Playground Fun
Length of Adventure: 2-3 Hours
Price of Adventure: FREE

We live in a small town called Adairsville, GA.  When we moved to Georgia my husband and I specifically picked this town because his job is in Rome, GA (Floyd County), and there is a pretty large homeschool community in Cartersville, GA (Bartow County).  Adairsville is 25 minutes from both.  There’s not much going on in Adairsville, but that doesn’t bother us.  We like having a little land for the kids to run around, and neither one of us is scared of a 30 minute drive; One of us (ahem, me…) doesn’t even flinch at an hour drive.  We are also one hour away from Atlanta and one hour from Chattanooga.  I think the location of our little town is just about perfect.

So, we live in Bartow County, and we are less than 5 miles from the Floyd and Gordon county lines.  I’m a part of a great homeschool group in Bartow County, but a few years ago I found myself just itching to give my kids more field trips, in more far-reaching geographical areas.  This is how we found ourselves members of a Cherokee County Homeschool group.  Now, no part of Cherokee County is closer than 45 minutes to us, but we love this group.  They have field trips everywhere from Chattanooga to Atlanta, and my kids and I have made some of our dearest friends through this group.  Every now and then I do find myself a little out of the geographical “know,” however.  We frequent different parks, we shop at different grocery stores, and we sneak away for solace in different local coffee shops.

For awhile I had been hearing lots of my friends talk about Poole’s Mills Park, but I didn’t see why I should go out of my way to visit it.  It’s located all the way on the Forsyth County side of Ball Ground, GA, which is about an hour and 15 minutes away from us, and it’s just a park, right?  Wrong.  This is one of the coolest parks I’ve ever taken my kids in my eight years of motherhood.  One of the coolest thing about this park is that it has small water falls with sliding rocks.  It also has an awesome playground area, a huge covered picnic shelter, clean bathrooms, and an awesome covered bridge that is no longer in use, but is almost 200 years old!  The park itself use to be a grist mill and saw mill owned by a Cherokee chief. His name was George Welch, and he was forced to evacuate his land and give up ownership of his mills during the Trail of Tears.  A sad story, but full of interesting history.

My kids love the sliding rocks.  We always stick to the closest rocks beside the path.  They are not quiet as tall, and the pool they slide into is rather shallow and easy to stand up in.  Even my twin 2 year-olds have gotten brave and slid down the rocks.  If your kids don’t want to slide they can just wade and splash in the small pools.  There is also a great area to set out blankets or camp chairs, and relax in the shade while the kiddos play.  This park is a treasure, and totally worth the drive for us.

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Harris Branch Beach

Type of Adventure:  Day Trip/ Water Play
Length of Adventure: 2-3 Hours
Price of Adventure: $5 for Parking

Before we ever moved to Georgia we lived in Lexington, SC.  We lived in a large neighborhood with lots of kids and a junior Olympic size pool.  There were so many great things about this.  Our daily adventures was just a short walk up the road, and plenty of friends were readily available.  When we first moved to this house I was so thrilled to have much much more land for my kids to run and play, and I was thrilled not to have to pay those high annual HOA fees, but I was devastated that we didn’t have super easy access to a swimming pool.

What a blessing in disguise that turned out to be!  Looking for places nearby that my kids could swim was probably the first catalyst that got me out of my house and into adventuring with my kids.  We have discovered tons of creeks, lakes, rivers, and waterfalls that I would never have searched out when our fun neighborhood pool was super close and convenient.  There are tons of lake access points nearby us with a huge variety of swimming beaches.  We have visited several different ones, but one of our favorites is Harris Branch Beach on Carter’s Lake in Ellijay, GA.
jayden carter's lake
The water here is clean and clear.  The beach area itself is a bit on the small side, but the swimming area is very large and the water gets pretty deep.  Last time we were there it was around 8 ft. at the back!  The bathroom facilities are clean, and there is a huge covered picnic area.  One of the things that makes this place a true jewel is the delightful elderly couple who runs the admission booth.  They always take their time and chat with me.  They ask how my kids are doing, and often have a little sercy for them (stickers, coloring books, etc.).  And, they absolutely never forget to emphasize how important it is to practice water safety.  They genuinely make me feel like they’re happy to see me, and it sets a great tone for our day at the beach.

This beach is a part of the Army Corps of Engineers and has a $5 parking fee.  We have been here so many times, and somehow this was the only decent picture I could find!  I suppose this means that I will have to visit again soon so I can get more pictures for the blog!

Manliness Unbridled: Squashing Flies… Barehanded.

Call me Mr. Miyagi…minus the chopsticks.

Just killed four flies in the garage with my bare hands, in one shot, while they were in mid flight…

OK, it was ONE fly that I killed, with an old magazine, baseball style. But it was still mid flight though – sort of. It is still a shining instance of manliness defined.

Or is it?

One thing that scares me almost to paralysis sometimes is the fact that I’m responsible for this squadron of 6 Joneses. I have to teach my sons how to be men, dads and husbands that follow Christ. At the same time I have to teach my daughters what a man, dad and husband following Christ looks like. Before any of this however, I have to be a husband to my wife and father to our children who follows Christ. Not to mention that I have to do this in a social context that, beginning as far back as the early 1900s, has sought to kill off the traditional roles of man, husband, and father. It’s crushing to be faced with such reality. Too much realness for a Saturday morning.

Now, there’s a real level of scariness associated with the choice to homeschool. Heck, there’s even a level of trepidation when entering Jayden’s bedroom in the morning, cause only God knows what new animal or creation we’ll find in there. But to actually be responsible for leading 4 small kids and a wife when I’m flawed and have my own struggles with sin and manhood is downright terrifying. And yes, I used the dirty word: sin. Society hates the word, but whatever.

What I’ve learned quite quickly is that neither becoming a Christian nor getting married halts your struggles with sin, they just expose them and point out your inability to solve the issues on your own. In the words of Sho Baraka who is fast becoming my favorite artist in his genre, “…I think my friends only share their struggles in the past tense…”

So what’s a man to do? What do I do?

So one thing I’m learning is that neither I nor my wife can solve my struggles – only Christ can. Secondly, I’m learning that being a man is less about stuff like killing flies with your bare hands (or magazines), building tables and amassing an impressive collection of power tools, more than it is about the life that you display and lessons that you convey to your family – i.e. your legacy. If I kick the bucket today, what will my kids and wife say about me? Hopefully they say…

*Dad loved his family and gave his life to lead, serve, protect and teach us.
*Dad walked by faith, recognizing his struggles and asking for forgiveness and help from God regularly.
*Dad showed us what a man is and should be.
*Dad’s with Jesus now.

Unfortunately, looking over the breadth of work, I’m not sure that all of them would be fully able to say that today. And that’s partly because two of them are two years old and lack the words. But if I’m real with myself, it’s mostly because I’m a flawed guy who is still learning what it is to be an unbridled man, husband and dad.

Fortunately for me though, I have a team that wants to see me leave a great legacy.

And I’m still impressed about the fly thing. Just sayin’.

Call me Joshua.

 

To be honest, I share a love-hate relationship with blogging – especially blogging via word. I love the idea and process of it, I just lack the follow-through to do more than 4 or 5 blogs total before I cut bait and move on to something else. Or maybe I just lack the time. Not sure which one. We’ll figure that out. Sorry, just a consequence of ADHD.

But one thing that I have learned as a result of past “learning opportunities” with written blogging is that the first thing you do typically is to briefly introduce yourself. And so…

Call me Joshua.

OK, so that’s actually not mine, it’s Herman Melville’s, but still fitting for the moment.

I get to be the husband and dad of the Jones House, which definitely has its challenges but also many perks – like me getting a brand spanking new kayak for my son’s 8th birthday. Or the power tools and camping gear that the wife doesn’t think is necessary, but she just chalks it up to manhood as long as I make a real case for it’s usefulness- i.e my chainsaw for Christmas. Sorry, that’s another blog.

If I had to sum myself up in a phrase, I’d use “hodge-podge.” I enjoy books (lots of them), sermons from old, dead people like George Whitefield, and food law. I also enjoy weightlifting, woodworking, fishing, and finding good excuses to haul items in my truck just because I have a truck. Whenever I get the chance to combine those things into one efficient outing while teaching the kids valuable life lessons, that’s a win. Sorry, that’s another blog also.

But to wrap our family’s modus operandi into one smooth statement, we’re a 6-deep clan of weirdo homeschoolers who are continually learning (1) to love and follow Christ, (2) to love and care for each other as well as others we encounter, and (3) that learning can be WAY more than just a memorization of facts and figures to pass a test – it all means something amazing. I cherish seeing the light bulbs go off in the heads of my family.

And yes, I just used a 3-point list in a pretty lax blog.

So, that’s me and us in a very small, quick nutshell. Stick around to see how far this rabbit hole really goes and if I can actually make it past the 6th blog.

Dick’s Creek Falls

Type of Adventure:  Day Trip/ Water Play
Length of Adventure: 2-3 Hours
Price of Adventure: FREE

I like to drive.  I really do.  It is such a therapeutic time to me.  The kids are all safe and strapped into their car seats.  We listen to audio books or listen to worship music, and I can just escape into my own mind.  This almost never happens at home when all four kids are around me, needing me, making loud happy noises, and loud unhappy noises.  There are some unhappy noises in the car too sometimes, but my kids are used to riding, and they don’t generally mind it very much.  I took the twins to Zoo Atlanta which is an hour away when they were less than a month old.  That was NOT one of my favorite car trips, but it WAS the beginning of them getting used to it!  I know a lot of people who have an aversion to driving.  Maybe they don’t like traffic, or they don’t want to spend the gas money, or they’re scared to be on the road with all of their kids away from people they know in case of an accident.  I get those things, but to me they are not deterrents.  My kids get so many more experiences and exposure to things because I will drive an hour anywhere for anything that I think is remotely interesting.  I will drive two hours for anything that seems really cool and fun.  No problem at all.  And on the way, the kids get to take in audio books that engage their brains while BONUS I get to spend time just thinking and praying.  My husband always jokes that he has no clue what we’re going to be up to or even what state will be in while he’s at work everyday.  It’s true.

I’ve gotten pretty use to just taking my kids and going where we want to go.  Not many of my friends share my wanderlust and are not deterred by miles.  But, there is one huge exception.  I have a friend named Nicole who thinks a lot like me.  She is a homeschool mom to two sweet boys, and we have talked about how driving is no obstacle in making our children’s childhood the most awesome ever!  I told her I had made an extensive list of swimming holes to visit this summer, and her response was, “That sounds great!  Let’s try to do one a week!”  Nicole.is.awesome.
Dicks Creek Falls 13

So, at the beginning of June, we set out to Cleveland, GA to visit Dick’s Creek Falls.  This was  a series of three waterfalls with several swimming places.  The ride there was scenic and beautiful.  It took us approximately two hours to arrive.  There was a small parking lot located off of a little dirt road.  The parking lot was right beside the waterfalls.  At the top of the waterfalls there were several fisherman and they were catching HUGE fish!  We had seven kids between the two of us, and we were NOT quiet so we hurried down stream to avoid disturbing the anglers.

We found a great swimming hole with a little rocky beach area right by one of the water falls.  It was breathtaking.  The water was cold, but the kids had a blast.  They swam, explored, and caught minnows with buckets and nets.  Where we stayed the water was not too deep, but apparently, directly under the waterfall the water got very deep.  We observed people climbing to the top of the waterfall and jumping far below into the water.  It didn’t seem like the safest move, and we will not be trying that.  We were happy with our little swimming hole.


We stayed and played for most of the day, until the kids teeth were literally chattering from the cold water.  It was one of our favorite places so far, and we were so thankful for good friends to experience it with.  This is definitely one to add to your family’s list!

Leone Hall Price Park

Type of Adventure:  Day Trip/ Water Play
Length of Adventure: 2-3 Hours
Price of Adventure: FREE

This summer I made a list of swimming holes/ water play places within an approximate hour radius of our home for the kids and I to visit.  We love playing in the great outdoors and living in Northwest Georgia we have so much accessible to us!  Chattanooga is an hour to the north, Atlanta is an hour to the south, Ft. Payne, AL is an hour to the west, and Helen, GA is two hours to the east.  So, we have tons and tons of activities available to us just outside our door in every direction!  Now that the twins are able to play and get around more independently I decided it was time to start capitalizing on all of the rivers, creeks, lakes, and waterfalls around us.

One of the first places that we decided to visit this summer was Leone Hall Price Park in Kennesaw.  I heard about this place through social media buzz.  A lot of families in one of the local homeschool groups were posting fun pictures of their kids playing in the creek here, so on our list it went.  I checked out the website and was really impressed with what I saw.  The park is large, 126 acres.  It offers many hiking trails, access to Allatoona Creek, bird watching opportunities, and many other chances for nature observation.  It seemed like a good place for the Jones family!

Finding the park was very easy.  Our GPS took us straight to the dirt parking lot.  We piled out of the van, and started jaunting down a path that was clearly cut from the parking area.  We kept walking and came to a huge meadow.  It was absolutely beautiful, but I realized I had no clue where we were, nothing was marked, and I could see no creek anywhere.  There were many benches on the trail so we took a break, and I pulled the website up on my phone.  I was able to pull up a map of the trails, and that turned out to be a life saver for us.  The park is still trying to secure funding and the trails are not marked at all, however the map available on their website was clear and easy to follow.  We hiked for over half a mile before we reached the creek.  At this point all of the kids were fresh and excited to play so it wasn’t a big deal.

When we finally reached the creek we found a nice area for the kids to play.  The water never got very deep so it was pretty kid friendly.  However, the water was pretty still and murky.  Bug spray was a necessity, and even though we didn’t see any slithery friends it still definitely seemed like a pretty snaky area, so be aware of that if you decide to go.

 

The kids had fun, we ate a lunch that we had packed, and not realizing that we would have to hike quite so far we had carried in tons of water and sand toys.  The kids played and played.  I joined them sometimes, and sat and enjoyed watching them other times.  Every now and then a hiker would pass by us, but for the most part it was pretty solitary.  I felt a little unnerved that we seemed so isolated, and I did have cell phone service, but if anything happened the only way to get to us would be to hike half a mile on unmarked trails.

I let the kids play for over an hour, and then I decided it was time to start the hike back to the car.  I looked at the map on my phone, and decided that there was another hiking trail that looked like a more direct route to the parking lot.  So, we decided to take this new way back to the car.  Now, the problems started happening.  My two two year-olds were now tired and grumpy and in need of naps.  Neither one of them wanted to walk AT ALL, let alone half a mile.  I alternated carrying the two heavy toddlers, and begging them to PLEASE walk.  My five year-old was getting tired of carrying her share of the toys we had carried in.  At more than one point  both twins were crying, and I was trying hard not to join them.  It turned out that this new shorter hiking trail I had picked was NOT shorter at all, and it was a more strenuous hike.  At one point I had all of the kids stop and pray that we would just be able to make it back to the car.  We passed a young man who was hiking shortly after that, and I asked him how much farther we had to go to reach the parking lot.  He smiled and said, “I’m guessing you’re the one driving the mini-van.  You’re almost there, just a few more yards. Wow! You’re brave; hiking with all of these kids by yourself.”  I responded, “Not so brave, just slightly crazy!”

 


We finally reached the car, and I was so relieved to strap everyone in their car seats and be finished.  On the way home I said to the kids, “So guys, that creek was fun, but I don’t really think it was worth all the trouble to get there and back, especially since there are lots of other creeks we play in.  What do you think?”  My seven year-old emphatically let me know that it was NOT worth it to him and he never wanted to go back there, BUT thanks for taking him.  That boy keeps it honest, and always makes me laugh.

This particular place may be well suited to families who do not have twin toddlers.  I think families that really enjoy hiking would love this park, and the creek would just be an added bonus.  I may want to try this park again with my husband, or with a group of friends who have older children.  However, it proved to be a little too much for my young children and me by ourselves right now.  So, we did have fun playing in the creek while we were there, but we probably won’t be going back this summer.  They do offer interpretive nocturnal hikes that look very interesting.  I would like to try that out with Joshua in tow, maybe next summer when the twins are no longer two! 🙂

Cloudland Canyon

Type of Adventure:  Camping
Length of Adventure: 3 Days and 2 Nights
Price of Adventure: $34 per night (We paid a total of $30.60 because we have a Friends of GA State Parks membership.  This gives us a discount of 10% on camping and two free nights a year.  We used one of those free nights.)

Our family has just gotten really into camping this year.  In previous times Joshua has taken the older kids camping and we have done some backyard camp outs, but not the whole real deal, whole family, all weekend camping trip.  To be honest, I was just scared of camping with our twins until they turned two.  Two babies under two is AT LEAST as exhausting as it sounds, and I was a bit scared that our camping trip would turn into frustration and opportunity for repentance instead of the wonderful family memories I was envisioning.  As soon as the twins turned two, we decided to give it a whirl.  Just one night at first at Sloppy Floyd State Park, which is only about 30 minutes from our home, lest the trip turned unbearable.  We were pleasantly surprised that that trip went off without a hitch.  All four of our kids were bitten by the camping bug, and a world of fun ans adventure opened up before us.

On this particular weekend at the end of April, we were anxious to get to  Cloudland Canyon.  Joshua and I had been here before, and we knew it was the perfect place for our family to explore and have some fun.  The campsites here are first come, first serve so the kids and I packed up early and headed out to the campground early so we could snag a camp spot close to the playground. (Side Note: At this state park you have a choice between the West Rim Campground and the East Rim Campground.  We could not recommend the West Rim enough.  The sites are very large and shaded.  The East Rim campground appears to have smaller sites that are closer together without as much shade.)  We ended up at Campsite 40.  It was perfect for us, very large, and with our own little trail cut through the woods to the playground and bath house.  The kids immediately started staking their territory at the playground and getting to know the other kids that were there for the weekend.hammock kids
When Joshua got off work he made his way to the camp site.  The big kids were excited that their bicycles had arrived, and they took off.  Josh and I got to work setting up our large 5 bedroom tent. (This thing is enormous, and we love it!)  The twins were busy discovering caterpillars around the campsite.  Those fuzzy critters were everywhere to the delight of one twin (Josiah) and the extreme dismay of the other (Laurel).  We spent the rest of the night grilling, sitting around a campfire, reading, and just enjoying time together.  Jayden slept in his hammock all night.  The rest of us enjoyed our private rooms in the humongo tent!

The next morning we cooked our bacon and eggs over the campfire and set out to explore our surroundings.  We hiked the easy, paved, one mile Overlook Trail.  All four of our kiddos did great, and the views were extremely rewarding.  It was easy to see out over the canyon and even the two two-year olds seemed to appreciate how breath-taking it was.
First Hike Cloudland.jpg

We then made a quick stop by the interpretive center to look at the cool fish and turtles that lived there.  We went back to the campsite because the two youngest of our troop were in dire need of nap time by this point.  The babies napped, the grown-ups read and relaxed, and the big kids rode bikes and played on the playground with their new friends. There is really nothing like camp life!  After nap time was over Daddy took all four of the kids fishing so Mom could have some very rare alone time.  The fishing pond required a short hike to reach.  They all had fun, but no fish were caught this time.  Empty-handed, but high in spirits they returned to the campsite.
Lydia fishing
Jayden Fishing

Once again we grilled, read, talked, laughed, and relaxed around a campfire.  On this night Lydia wanted to sleep in a hammock all night just like Jayden.  Joshua pulled out his hammock and joined the big kids in the trees.  They all slept under the stars all night long.  The next morning, we packed up our camp, and then perhaps emboldened by our good luck the previous day decided to tackle the strenuous Waterfall Trail with all of the kids.  Now, this trail is only a paltry 1.8 miles in length, but it involves climbing down and then back UP over 600 wooden stairs.  Now, Joshua and I had done this hiking trail before and it wasn’t too challenging for us alone, but we already knew that bringing the kids along would be a whole different ballgame.  We were right.  We both ended up carrying one of our 40 pound twins through the trail for the majority of the time while encouraging our big kids to, “Keep up the good work!”  It was hard. We may be crazy. BUT, it was TOTALLY worth it, and we would completely do it all over again.  The surrounding nature was awe inspiring, the curious rock formations were a sight to behold, the flowers were brightly colored and fragrant, the sound of the rushing waterfalls just before they emerged into view was exhilarating, and the serenity of sitting on boulders around a large rushing waterfall admiring our Creator’s handiwork was unparalleled.

After our hike we stopped by the Interpretive Center one more time for a nature lesson with a park ranger about spiders, centipedes, and millipedes.  Remember this: millipedes are our friends, but centipedes are not!

It was time to head home, but we had a very full, very fun, very exciting weekend.  We would definitely recommend Cloudland Canyon for a fun camping adventure with your family!