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Sept 29th: We adjusted our body clocks to encourage an early bedtime Saturday night (8:00 pm) and have our wakeup naturally to be 2:00 am Sunday. It worked. Everything was previously packed and ready except toiletries. Home was closed and locked and we were on our way at 2:15 am. About 4 hours later we arrived at Amelia Island for sunrise photos and pier shots. (Note: all based on Jeff Stamer Photography recommendations). Many early birds were already on the beach by the pier and I took the time to share 'camera and photography talk' with two fellow photographers. Two take-aways for future shoots 1) wear Crocs so I can enter the water for better composition and 2) become more acquainted with Sony Memories Camera Remote to allow camera control direct from the iPhone. With the light still golden, we quickly located the island's lighthouse on the Coast Guard property (open gate this time) and several bracketed pics were taken. Of course we had to shoot the Palace Saloon in historic Fernadina Beach - the oldest bar in Florida. (some pics may be out of order but who cares lol)
Sept 29th: From Amelia Island it was 8 hours to North Carolina and our cabin on the mountain. Arriving at about 4:45 pm and knowing we had dinner planned at the cabin with Eddie and Linda Alcorne, we quickly unpacked and prepared the grill and food for dinner. The cabin was small with a bedroom, kitchen/dining/living area and bathroom, with a wrap-around deck and amazing views. These accommodations were more than adequate for the times we plan to actually be in the cabin. Our plan was to have all dinners outdoors, during the day we will be on the road, visiting historic areas or hiking Stone Mountain. Since this was a special date - Alcorne's Anniversary, Ginger planned a nice dinner of grilled shrimp, salad and lentil/rice. Celebration 'brownies' topped off the meal. After a full 20 hour day and 750 miles of travel, we called it a night at 7:45 pm.
Sept 30th: Stone Mountain and Widow's Falls was our first planned hike. This 'rock' was HUGE. We walked the base and viewed the 12 climbing trails on the side of the mountain. We learned that Eddie - in his youth, actually climbed the face of the mountain using ropes, hands and feet on all 12 trails. After viewing the face, we hiked the lower trails (both prepared trails and gravel paths). A short drive away, we came upon Widow's Falls, a beautiful, hidden water fall and wading pool.
Oct 1st: This is our day away from Stone Mountain. First is historic Mabry Mill - a water-powered mill in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, one of the most photographed places in the United States (you know we can NOT miss this opportunity). Not only was the Mill a beautiful site, but several out buildings and workshops highlighted what was begun in the early 1800's. Next, it's off to Mayberry RFD (Mt Airy - home of Andy Griffith) and lunch at Barney's Cafe. (Note: very funny ordering process ... their special was chicken pot pie and 2 side (I selected sides of beets and boiled potatoes). However, I soon found out my selection was not acceptable! Immediately, Linda interjected "you don't want beets" and Ginger added "don't get potatoes, get something else". So as Ginger and Linda were deciding options for me while the waitress patiently waited until there was a pause and she asked the ladies and asked "so what is he allowed to order?" It was funny and we all laughed. (a little exaggeration but you can call Eddie and he will confirm)
Oct. 2nd: Up at sunrise and another full day ... a 5 mile hike to the top of Stone Mountain (the easy trail). The hike was very comfortable and we met other hikers with two dogs. On the way down, Ginger decided our company was 'boring' and she joined them in the return - with ongoing conversations about Andy Griffith, Mt Airy and the history of the area. Next: Elkin, to a local winery that Linda had purchased on a previous visit the BEST blackberry wine. What's Elkin, it is a small town with unique shops and lots of antique boutiques. One shop/store we especially enjoyed walking was Kennedy Auto Inc. - a place that has everything - hardware, china, bicycles, tools, glassware, mannequins, guns and ammo. After touring Kennedy's we needed some light beverages and we were directed to an old movie house - the Reeves Theater and Cafe. The lobby was converted into a restaurant and bar and was clearly popular to locals and visitors . We ate outdoors and had the best grilled cheese sandwiches and a Yuengling. It was 'lovely'.
Vacations do come to an end ... our fall get-a-way was terrific - great friends, great location and great sights, with lots to do. I especially enjoyed the photo opportunities the area made available ... see below for some of my top memories captured in pics.