Turn off the Amber Alert. The kidnapped child was safely returned home.

Ok, so it was not actually a kidnapping… we told Blue’s parents in advance that we wanted to steal her so technically we just “borrowed” her.  In any event, we took our friends’ five year old, picked up Ivan and headed up to the mountains for a relaxing Saturday adventure. 

As we headed north from downtown Greenville we asked the kids where they wanted to hike and what they wanted to see.  The democratic process was compromised when the children voted before the primary candidates were even presented – we were going to a waterfall.  About 30 minutes later the Hippie Hot Rod rolled into Jones Gap State Park and we bundled up for a quick hike to Jones Gap Falls.

If you a regular reader of this site then you are probably thinking pretty lowly of me at the moment; In print I am a kidnapper that led a five and six year old to the same destination that featured a mountain lion a mere six days earlier.  That would make a great Lifetime movie but the truth is far less dramatic.

In reality, we knocked out a quick two mile round trip that let a couple of kids explore the mountains less than an hour from home.  They ran up and down the trail, jumped streams, snapped icicles, and took in a stunning waterfall with minimal effort and an innocence and amazement only a child can possess.

Jones Gap Falls is a relaxing and relatively easy hike through the woods with an outstanding reward at the end.  The trail runs parallel to the Middle Saluda River without any major climbs or changes in elevation.  You simply follow the Jones Gap Trail for about a mile and take a quick turn at the sign for the falls.  A few hundred yards later and you find yourself standing at the base of the roughly 50 foot falls.  

We received a considerable amount of rain in the week before our trip so the falls were more impressive than I remember from previous visits.  In the past it was more of a trickle of falling water but Saturday it was actually rushing over the stone staircase that serves as the structure of Jones Gap Falls.  Even better, the cold weather added some big chunks of ice and icicles hanging like stalactites that really impressed the little folk.

I find it hard to drive an hour to the mountains just to go on a short two mile hike, no matter how impressive the destination.  Therefore, we complimented our excursion with a stop at Table Rock State Park for Music on the Mountain.  Once a month, The Lodge at Table Rock serves as a meeting place for bluegrass musicians to celebrate their craft.  Local musicians ranging in age from youthful 20-somethings to seasoned veterans gather around to jam and see what happens.  

The main “stage” is the upstairs room of The Lodge where seating is plentiful and refreshments are served.  As we explored the building we celebrated our wedding in we discovered that the complete story extended to the darkest corners of The Lodge.  Downstairs we found a storage room located behind the kitchen where six more musicians were playing for the handful of listeners that could fit in the room.  The performers outnumbered the audience due to the size of the room and the result was the most intimate “concert” I have ever attended.  

Both upstairs and downstairs, this was a truly unique experience for us.  Since this was a jam session and not a polished performance by an established act, the results were honest and raw.  Mistakes were made as musicians followed along to songs they did not know with people they did not regularly play with.  Their fun and passion for the music never suffered, though, and amateur bluegrass fans such as ourselves enjoyed every unscripted moment of the hour we spent there.  Also, it was pointed out to us that one of mandolin players we listened to downstairs was Larry Jefferson who performed with the late Charlie Moore and has recordings in the Smithsonian.  It was fascinating to learn that the local talent that we heard has such a deep history and a story that reaches far beyond the get-together we dropped in on.

By this point in the day the kids were hungry and tired so we packed back in to the Subaru for the ride home.  While Chris and I whispered about our dinner options, Ivan read our minds.  “Can we eat at Summa Joe’s tonight?”   Naturally this had already occurred to us but when the child specifically requests your favorite dinner destination it is impossible to consider any alternatives.  So instead of stopping for a quick and cheap bite somewhere along the route home, we hightailed back to Anderson for dinner at the best restaurant in town.  The kids inhaled a pizza and swooned over their brownies and ice cream while Chris and I shared the best chicken picatta I have ever eaten.  We were also able to share our table with a good friend celebrating his birthday and the dinner was a perfect cap to a great day of adventure.

Any trip to Jones Gap, Table Rock, or Summa Joe’s has the potential to be the highlight of the weekend.  Combine the three, add my amazing family, and kidnap my new favorite five-year-old… well, that is what I call a quality Saturday.