I told you what I was going to do last Sunday and now I am going to tell you what you missed. I am not bragging but I had such a good Sunday that I want to share it with every one of my millions of readers.  (I know this site has a stats page, but I choose to ignore it and just assume that there are millions of you. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.)

Sunday morning started off by laying in bed reading for over an hour. That has nothing to do with my family, our adventures, or anything that is special or unique to The Upstate. Additionally, I doubt that any of you need the mental picture of me in my boxers sprawled across a king size bed with a book in my hand. However, I just need to say that it is something I have not done on a Sunday morning in years and it was glorious. I need to do that more often and will petition that The Powers That Be extend the weekend by one day to allow additional time for this simple and peaceful joy.  I digress…


Table Rock State Park presented us with a surprise before we stepped foot on the trail.  Apparently we do not hike enough on weekend mornings in the middle of summer because this was our first trip as a family where the nature center at the trail head was actually open (and my first since I was about my son’s age). Before we started our hike we were warmed up with some hands-on education of the environment we were about to step into.  Everything from tadpoles to opossum skulls to plaster molds of bear footprints were on display.  Most importantly, they were supported by a park service employee who knows more about what lives and grows in our region than our President knows about our economy (take this analogy any way you want; the guy at the nature center knew everything).  I held a hognose snake which was cool in spite of the fact that I have a snake at home that I never touch. Alanis Morissette might call that ironic.

Our hike was the perfect effort and distance for the mood we were in.  We hiked Carrick’s Creek Loop which connects the introductory legs of the Pinnacle and Table Rock Mountain trails.  At two miles with just a bit of mild climbing, we achieved the goal of working up a good sweat without being sore and useless at work on Monday. Plus we saw a snake we did not recognize from the nature center so we took a picture of it for Table Rock Einstein to identify (it was the ferocious garter snake and my family cannot believe I risked life and limb to capture this photograph). 
Our next adventure was a quarter of a mile commute to The Lodge for the Birchwood Book & Author Fair.  The Lodge looked just as I remember it on my wedding day with the minor exceptions that we did not know as many people, there was no bar and none of our friends were asleep in the parking lot (to my knowledge).  What was there, however, was local literary paradise.  Each table was hosted by a local author featuring his or her works, many inspired by life in The Upstate.  Children’s books, local history, area-set fiction and even science fiction all had a presence at the fair. One of my biggest surprises was learning about The Littlejohn's Grill which was a far bigger character in the story of blues music in our area than I ever imagined. The book has inspired a blues festival in Clemson, SC next April that I am already planning the month around (well, that and my son’s birthday but only since they are on different weekends). 

The big highlight of the day was the time the authors and storytellers spent on the patio in the shadow of Table Rock and Pinnacle Mountains.  In rotating shifts many of them told their stories to the people gathered on the deck over the lake. I heard a professional storyteller put an Appalachian twist to the story of Cinderella and was introduced to Dori Sanders.  Ms. Sanders is the author of Clover and is part best-selling author, part local peach farmer, and completely sweet and hilarious. She sat in a rocking chair on the deck of The Lodge and discussed everything from her book to New York accents to her peach farm. Given the fanfare surrounding her, I felt like a dunce having never heard of her before but I fully intend to read her books and remedy this oversight.  

My only regret about the book fair was that we were unable to stay and take in more of the personalities in the room. Alas, the attention span of a six-year-old is inversely related to the size of their appetites. So, with a bored and hungry child we turned to an unlikely remedy – Victoria Valley Vineyards.

Before you judge, allow me to say that we do not cruise to the winery and set the kid up with a video game for hours on end while we guzzle fermented grapes.  I am also of the opinion that this may not be a destination for every child but I am just lucky enough to have a son who understands the importance of relaxation, the outdoors and a tasty beverage.  Therefore, the three of us were able to share a cheese plate and toast two glasses of wine and a juice box to a day well spent. We talked about our hike, how grapes grow, and the first day of school which was three days away. 

Victoria Valley’s wines are always delicious but they are even better after a hike.  One glass of 2009 Merlot made my day and a bottle of Syrah is waiting in the wine fridge until she can join us for a good meal.  Ivan had roughly the same feelings about his juice box.

All in all, I would have to call this the perfect family Sunday (outside of football season, anyway).  We exercised, we relaxed, we learned, we turned our brains off, we talked and we said nothing.  Even better, we did it at a minimal cost right here in our own backyard. Best of all, though, is the fact that the wild and vicious garter snake let me take his picture. That was awesome.
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