Category Archives: Outdoor

3 Safety Tips to Know before You Go

We had been hitting the books hard this past week with school and the guys were ready for some R&R, so when we saw that the weather was going to be a warmer winter day in the 60s, fishing was the order of the day.

My 15YO dove into our Falcon Guide for Fishing Georgia and we settled on his idea of a nice little lake near a Girls Scout Campground called Lake Marvin, just of I-75 near Calhoun, GA.  We didn’t mind driving a ways and a small lake sounded manageable for keeping tabs on the boys while they fished.

First off, if you have an RV, this is NOT a RV-friendly route. As we came within a few miles of the lake, we immediately began to climb a hill with a severe grade and sharp switch backs. Great for a motorcyclist wanting to enjoy a fun ride — not great for a RV trying to just get up and down the hill and around corners. DO NOT attempt this in an RV, I repeat, do not attempt this hill. We were not towing our RV when we took this day trip and I’m glad for it. It would have been a nightmarish repeat of our California experience (which I’ll post about another time). But I digress.

Lake Marvin near Calhoun GA

So we arrive at this pristine pretty little lake just down the road from the Girl Scout Camp. It has a boat launch and a dock that squeaks when you walk on it (and it even squeaks from the water movement — lets just say it’s got a very squeaky dock.) Signs about use were posted and it was pretty clear that if you weren’t there to fish, you were considered to be trespassing (I’ll come back to this in a bit). Cost to launch a boat was $2 and each angler was $5. Kids under 12 were free to fish, so we only needed to pay for our two older boys and their launch fee.  (By the way, all funds go to help keep the lake stocked and cared for by the Girl Scouts Organization according to signage — a great group to support so be sure to pay the fee.) There was a primitive restroom just off of the parking lot as well. The location was nice and clean and the garbage can we used had been recently emptied.

Lake Marvin rules

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fishing poles waiting to be used

fishing off the dock

So, we unloaded the kayaks and the boys were on their way in no time. We set up our 6YO on the dock with life vest and fishing pole rigged and ready to cast and our 11YO worked on making some hot chocolate on a little camp stove we brought along.

Lake Marvin Kayaks

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Hot chocolate

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It was a quiet site with only the occasional motorist going by on the road not far from where we were situated.  Our 3YO busied herself with finding pinecones and my husband even set up our son’s hammock and took a bit of a rest. Ahhhh, this is how a Saturday should be spent… simply relaxing. Our 6YO son decided it was more fun to throw pinecones into the lake instead of fish, so an imaginary naval assault broke the quiet calm.

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Kickin it in a hammock

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About a couple of hours into our visit, a car pulled into the lot and some teenagers — two boys and a girl — got out and walked off down a little trail along the lake. They seemed to be local. No fishing rods were in hand, so technically, they were breaking the posted rules. Not too long after, they re-emerged and headed off down the road. Then about a half hour later, another car pulled in to the parking lot. This group of three — this time, it was two women and a man — looked a little unsavory and their car looked like it was being lived in with stuff piled in the back seat leaving only room for someone to sit to the side.  What was odd from the get-go was how one grown woman asked the other grown woman to hold her hand on the way to the bathroom. My Mama-safety-senses began to tingle. That is not something most women say, nor do. Even still, we greeted one another and one of the women grabbed a fishing pole and headed to the dock. She hung out for about 10-15 minutes on the dock and then gave up declaring that no fish seemed to be biting.  (And no, she didn’t pay the $5 use fee.) They said good-bye to us and loaded up into their car as if they were going to leave and then oddly, they pulled back over near the bathrooms and turned off the car, then got out and all three went to the restrooms. The two women, oddly enough, went into the same restroom and were in there for about 15 minutes. Folks, I had been in this restroom earlier and it was not roomy. It was basically an open hole with a toilet seat. Noticing their odd behavior, my Mama-safety-senses were in full alert mode and I was put a little at ease when my husband showed me he was packing. There was no wi-fi or phone signal in this location, so if we were robbed or if Lord forbid something worse happened, we needed to be able to defend ourselves. Like a mother hen, I kept my younger three close and ready to throw in the back of the truck if need be while my husband watched the situation. Eventually the women re-emerged from the bathroom, got in their car and drove off (thankfully) down the road.

I know the purpose of this blog is to encourage you to travel and explore, so I don’t want to instill fear, but I want to be open in sharing this experience because the reality is unfortunately that we live in a world where there are some folks that break the law and aren’t safe. I was glad my husband was prepared to defend us if needed and doubly-glad that we didn’t need to take action to defend our family. Trust your gut in these situations. It’s better to err on the side of over-safe than not safe-enough in my opinion. It was a great opportunity to talk with the kids after-the-fact about maybe putting some better boundaries for our family in place when we go to a location. We need to be able to communicate to get help if need be so cell service is a must, we need to definitely keep within eye sight of one another, and we need to be prepared to defend ourselves if needed.

This is not a location we ever intend to ever go back to — not because the boys didn’t catch anything that day — but it just doesn’t have enough visibility nor is it monitored enough to keep those who aren’t using the lake for fishing away.  So, as for fishing, the trip was a bust, but we still had some great relaxing moments and were reminded that whenever we are out and about, we need to be watchful and aware of our surroundings.  And if you live near this lake and know history of this area, I hope you feel free to share your experiences in the comments below. I’d like to think this is an isolated experience on our part, but locals would know the situation probably best. Just be safe in your travels while having fun!

So you don’t think you have enough money to travel…

Quote by Graham Cooke
Our boys exploring the gentle giants — Redwood trees in Northern California — something that has long been a dream of ours to experience.

When you have a dream and chase it, you say no to the things that you might want now in order to experience what you want later.

When everyone is at a movie opening night, you wait to watch that movie until Apple has a digital rental for $4.99.

When others are eating out, you’re eating at home and fixing dinner even though you’re tired and don’t feel like it.

When others get a fancy latte concoction at the local coffee bar, you’re brewing a pot at home.

When others go out for ice cream at the ice cream shop, you go to the grocery store and buy what’s on sale and have a sundae party at home.

When others are upgrading their phone to the latest technology release, you say to yourself, “My phone is just fine – thankful it works” and avoid the Best Buy or the Apple Store.

When others are getting a new car (or new used car), you take care of the one you have and remain thankful she still carries you where you need to go and throw some duct tape on that seat that’s starting to tear from use.

When others go to the nail salon to get a mani-pedi, you pull out your nail clippers and nail polish and give yourself your own mani-pedi.

You clip coupons and look for deals when you have the time to do so.

You don’t run into town whenever you need something, but instead make purposeful trips and stock-up.

You cancel that outrageous Cable/Satilite contract, buy an Apple TV and Netflix membership and your annual cost goes from $1,800 (estimating an average bill of about $150 a month) down to roughly $200 only annually.

Delayed gratification. It’s tough. It’s no fun. It’s doesn’t earn you popularity points on Facebook. But that’s OK, ’cause you’re on a mission to make a dream into a reality.

But when you say “no” to the things that bring pleasure now so you can say “yes” to experiencing something you’ve always wanted, well — there are no words to describe how that moment feels when you reach that goal. Simply amazing.

Want to travel, but you don’t think you can afford it? It’s like Mr Cooke says, “… you must be prepared to do things you’ve never done before.”

Now go chase that dream!

Dream Big! You can do it!

There’s Big Foot in them there hills…

The other day, as I was traveling with my two 14-year-olds, I noticed the car was unusually quiet, so I asked the boys what they were thinking about, to which one of my sons replied to my surprise… “Sasquatch. (pause) And how hungry he must be.”

So, I thought my son needed a t-shirt design that he could wear on our next hiking expedition… Check it out… you can even sport your own.

Close up of t-design shown below:

Sasquatch t-shirt closeup

Love Sasquatches? Here are some fun items you might enjoy as well…

Beware of Sasquatch Tee Shirts
Beware of Sasquatch Tee Shirts by jZizzles
Put your favorite photo on t-shirt designs at zazzle.com
Funny Sasquatch Hunter Tshirt
Funny Sasquatch Hunter Tshirt by OlogistShop
Browse Hunting T-Shirts online at Zazzle.com

Cartersville GA | Etowah Indian Mounds – Part 2

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If you’re traveling out west of Atlanta, don’t miss this great learning opportunity for your kiddos! This location is close to Red Top Mountain RV campsites within a 10-minute drive (6 miles) and Lake Allatoona campgrounds. You can make a day of it and cover the Booth Museum and the Etowah Indian Mounds. This is part two in a series…

The Etowah Indian Mounds:

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The Etowah Mounds provide a great way to enjoy the outdoors with your family!  Plus, it’s only a 10-minute drive from the Booth Western Art Museum so you can do both if you are able to be on your feet for most the day.

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They have a small museum space (very small actually) which only takes about 15-20 minutes tops to walk thru. It’s really geared toward older kids on up to adults. If you have littles, you’ll probably cruise thru this section.  There is supposed a film you can watch, but when we checked in, the man at the front desk didn’t mention it and there was a school group in that area so that might be why he didn’t say anything about it. Either way, we missed out on the film, so if you view the film, feel free to comment below and fill us all in on how it went. To prepare for more discussion, I recommend reading up on it a bit before hand:

This region was home to an estimated several thousand Native Americans from 1000 A.D. to 1550 A.D., this 54-acre site protects six earthen mounds, a plaza, village site, borrow pits and defensive ditch. Etowah Mounds is the most intact Mississippian Culture site in the Southeast.

We went in the first part of April when the trees were starting to awaken and some even in full bloom. It’s best to climb the Etowah mounds when temps are moderate (60-78 degrees) as you will certainly break a sweat climbing the steps! I would not visit the months of June-September due to dangers of heat exhaustion unless you’re going early in the morning — especially with littles. I would not attempt this as a field trip in the summer personally. My kiddos tuckered out and water is a must. But the view is so worth it!

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The climb to the top of Mound 1 • Copyright 2015 Erin Castillo
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At the top of Mound 1. There are no guard rails at the summit of the mound, so keep an eye on energetic little ones! • Copyright 2015 Erin Castillo

Caution! The hills are steeper than you think! There are no safety rails, so good common sense is necessary to keep littles from tumbling down a very steep mound. This photo was taken at the top of the largest mound.


They also have a re-constructed Wattle & Daub House that you can view up close. You can see how it was constructed here. We visited before the sides were put up I think because this is how it looked when we were there… (did the Etowah’s have chicken wire back then?) ;D

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Details-Costs

WHAT KIDS CAN LEARN THRU THIS EXPERIENCE:

  • Native American History (specifically Mississippian Culture)  thru experience and museum artifacts

It took us about an hour-and-a-half to go thru both the museum and walk out to the mounds. We only climbed the large mound because we had a 1 year old on my back and a rambunctious 4-year-old explorer, so if you want to climb the other two mounds, budget additional time. Here are the details for planning your budget and outing…

Cost:
– Adults $6.00
– Seniors (62+) $5.00
– Youth (6-17) $4.00
– Youth Groups (6-17) $3.50
– Child (under 6) $2.00
Group rates available with advance notice.
Bus parking available.
*Children must be accompanied by parent or guardian. Be sure to check their website before you visit to see if there are any other restrictions as things change from the time of this posting. 


TIP: Don’t forget your water bottles and a snack! Though the mounds look small from the road, they are a good climb to the top! And bring a little bit of spending money as they also have a small gift shop where the kids can leave with a special item to remember their outing by.


Hours:
Tuesday–Saturday / 9AM–5PM
*Closed Mondays, Sundays, New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. For a more enjoyable visit, plan to spend 1–2 hours.

Events:
The Georgia State Parks hosts various events throughout the year at the Etowah Mounds. You may want to check their website for upcoming events in coordinating your travel plans.

See Map Graphic
Etowah Indian Mounds
813 Indian Mound Rd SE,
Cartersville, GA 30120
770-387-1300
  • Cartersville GA | Cowboys, Indians & Western Art Part 1
  • Cartersville GA | Tellus Science Museum Part 3  [coming soon]
  • Acworth, GA | Cauble Park Part 4 [coming soon]
  • Kennesaw, GA | KSU Museum of History and Holocaust Education Part 5 [coming soon]
  • Acworth, GA | Pickett’s Mill Battlefield and Homestead Part 6 [coming soon]
  • Acworth, GA | RV Campsite – Red Top Mountain [coming soon]
  • See other trips you can take like this one. Search by State

area-things-to-do-cartersville Click Map to Enlarge


Was this information helpful to you? If so, please click the links below to share on Facebook or pin to Pinterest so that others may enjoy this experience as well. Thanks for spreading the word!

5 Kids and a RV recommendations are based on personal experience and do not represent the business or not-for-profit we feature. We share our experiences in an effort to inspire parents and caregivers to engage and explore with their children.

5 Kids and a RV: “Let’s go learn something today!

National Parks Free Entrance Days

Free Entrance Days in the National Parks

America’s Best Idea – the national parks – is even better when it’s free!Mark your calendar for these entrance fee-free* dates in 2015:
  • January 19
    Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • February 14-16
    Presidents Day weekend
  • April 18-19
    opening weekend of National Park Week
  • August 25
    National Park Service Birthday
  • September 26
    National Public Lands Day
  • November 11
    Veterans Day

Only 133 of our country’s 401 national parks usually charge an entrance fee. So start Planning Your Visit!

If you’re planning a trip that includes multiple national parks, you might want to consider getting the $80 annual pass that provides entrance to all national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests, and many other Federal lands — more than 2,000 in all. The America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass is offered free to all active duty military members and their dependents. Information on these and other pass options is available online.

*Fee waiver includes: entrance fees, commercial tour fees, and transportation entrance fees. Other fees such as reservation, camping, tours, concession and fees collected by third parties are not included unless stated otherwise.

 

 

We’ve done this trip — you can too! [Guntersville, AL]

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Guntersville, Alabama (or Bass Capital as some call it) known for the pristine Lake Guntersville that frequently hosts the Bass Master Classic.  It’s mid-November and our visit is a four-day stay.  Lake Guntersville State Park is located along the banks of the Tennessee River in NE Alabama. The park overlooks the majestic 69,000-acre Guntersville Lake and ranges over more than 6,000 acres of natural woodlands and touts an 18-hole championship golf course.  The Main Campground includes 321 improved campsites, a primitive camping area, bathhouse, playground and recreation area, and country store.  All improved campsites have water and electrical hookups, picnic table, grill, and fire ring; some sections also have sewer hookups.

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The moment we unhook, the boys grab their rods and hit the lake in hopes of getting something on their line.  This is the second time we’ve camped at Lake Guntersville State Park.  The last time was three years ago and we visited during the month of May. That trip was great, but only days after we broke camp and headed home a tornado hit the area and caused severe damage, closing the RV camp until restorations could be completed this year in May of 2013.  It was a little sad to see the trees that once stood in this area are no longer around — it looks like a completely different park in some ways.  If you do stay at this park in the spring months (April thru June), be sure to have a weather radio that automatically turns on and tune it to the area as tornadoes are not uncommon with spring storms.  We prefer to visit late summer or fall for that reason.

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I particularly love how I can look out my window and check on the boys fishing on the shoreline or dock.  The sites are fairly close together which I am not too crazy about.  They do include a fire pit, picnic table, and are a gravel parking surface. Our chosen space was not very level and required effort on our part to get it right. We have two doors on our travel trailer and the back door by the bathroom was a little high off the ground but more level by the main door. We did have full hook-up and that was convenient. Our nightly rate was  $19 for full hook up + a 12% lodging tax surcharge.  Sites are first come, but it is helpful to reserve in advance in case it fills during busier times of the year.   The conference center is situated on the bluff and overlooks the Lake and RV park (see photo below).  Some young trees have been planted, but none to offer shade or beauty yet.

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We did some geocaching within the park. The first one was easy access, but the second one was a bit more intense and I wouldn’t advise it with little ones and no path. I feel a bit uncomfortable with four boys enthusiastically clamoring thru the woods — it puts my mama safety-senses into overdrive. The kids, of course, are oblivious to my silent concerns over poisonous snakes, falls that could cause a broken limb (of a child, not tree), or hunters that aren’t paying attention … and they climb over rocks and logs in the heat of the hunt for new-found treasure — the cache did not disappoint them. 😉

RVing with Kayaks

One cost we didn’t factor in with the kayaks riding on top of our vehicle was mileage. We have gone for towing at 11 MPG to about 9 MPG. Depending on how frequently you plan to use them and how far you go with your RV, it may make sense to just rent at a lake when you get to your destination. We use ours a lot and not every lake we go to has kayak rentals, so the benefits are there for our crew.

We also need a way to secure them better to the top of our rig. They are cradled beautifully on a Malone Kayak Saddles atop a Yakima Rack system and strapped down securely with tension straps. For the most part it’s easy to load and secure. What concerns me is that someone with the wrong intentions and a sharp knife could cut the straps and take the kayaks. When we travel, the kayaks do seem to garner more attention, so we need to find a lock mechanism that would deter theft.

 

Be sure you are aware of each state’s guidelines on kayaking. In Georgia, children under the age of 12 need to have an adult with them and within eye sight to operate a kayak. For our 13-year-olds, we have a buddy-system and they’re to be with another kayaker at all times. I know I state the obvious, but it’s a good idea for your kayaker to also know how to swim.

 

Other than that, the kayaks have been a wonderful addition to our RVing. My husband even said that we should sell our boat and just get kayaks for everyone! Lol I’d call that a win!