In addition to being Independence Day, the 4th of July was on Friday (as you know) which for us--this summer at least--means it was Family Picnic Day. We were invited to Paul's brother's house in Asheville for an evening cookout and fireworks, so we decided to go into town early and spend the afternoon.
The day ended up as a trip down memory lane for Paul and me, and a view toward the way things have changed since we were kids. We started out at Azalea Park, right on the Swannanoa River, near Recreation Park. When we were kids, Azalea Park was, well, nothing. Woods, bottom land along the river. Azalea Road was a sparsely traveled dirt road between Rec Park and Hwy 70. People went "parking" there (not me, of course). Today, soccer fields, a lovely park, a great playground. We had our picnic here, and let the girls play for a while.
Then we went to the Western North Carolina Nature Center.
The Nature Center has changed a bit since we were kids--added more stuff, upgraded exhibits. We all especially enjoyed the Butterfly House.
Of course, we've been to the Magic Wings Butterfly House at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham, which is bigger. But this little butterfly house was somehow more intimate, special in a way. The flowers were stunning, and young volunteers were there to spray sugar water and help the butterflies to alight on your hand. It was quite neat.
Owen and Barrett also enjoyed petting zoo and farm exhibit.
Paul and I remembered Henrietta, the elephant who lived here when we were kids and this place was a sad little zoo (complete with monkeys and big cats in very small cages). Decades of children (including Paul and I and our siblings) loved Henrietta, and now a monument stands outside her old house to honor her.
After the farm exhibit, there were black bears, white-tailed deer (which we see regularly in our field at home), a cougar, bobcats (we've also seen in this valley), and wolves, gray and endangered red ones.
We all thoroughly enjoyed the Nature Center visit, especially Owen, who's been hankering for a zoo visit lately after I checked out a Big Zoo video from the library.
See, her feet barely touched the ground the whole time.
But wait! There's more to the day. After we finished at the Nature Center, we still had some time to kill before Joe's party, so we decided to stop just down the hill at the Rec Park Pool for a family swim. More memories. Paul spent many a summer day in his childhood and teenage years at this very pool, and I spent a few (there was another pool closer to our house where I spent most of my time, although I sometimes went to Rec Park, too, with friends). The high dive is gone--all diving boards are gone--and the pool has even been expanded and changed, but it was much the same in many ways: families all around, the coolest teenagers working the counter and the lifeguard stations.
The girls loved the pool, but I have no photos because I decided to simply enjoy it, instead of trying to juggle the camera near the water.
After swimming, we were finally ready to go to Joe's, where much of Paul's family gathered for barbecue and covered dishes, banana daiquiris and homemade blueberry pie. It's been a few weeks since we've seen Paul's parents (they've been traveling lately, visiting family in Pennsylvania and attending a wedding in Atlanta, then we were camping...) so it was nice to visit with them for a while.
We planned to put the girls in Pj's and drive on home at their bedtime, but we were talked into waiting until after dark for Joe's family fireworks show in the cul-de-sac. Although it meant the girls didn't get to sleep (in the car) until after 10, I'm glad we stayed, because both girls were enthralled with the light show.
All-in-all, it was a lovely Independence Day, and a great Friday family picnic.
(The rest of the weekend was also nice: a party with Paul's colleagues Saturday evening complete with a Chemistry Magic Show; church and relaxing at home today, complete with homemade lemonade, and a fresh trout dinner).
How was your weekend? How did you celebrate?