We have been living it up this summer! Before we start on baby number two, we have been trying to get the most out of this last summer with just our beautiful daughter, Lyanna. We’ve been going to the lake every chance we get, visiting family in Virginia, and we have been doing tons of crafts and hands on learning activities with her. This week, we had family come in town to spend some time with us. We decided to take a day trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains to visit Emerald Village, a gem stone mining location in Little Switzerland, NC. We live in Durham, so this ” day trip ” literally took ALL DAY. From our house to the mining site, it was about 3 1/2 hours. 7 hours round trip! WHEW! I do have to say that it was definitely worth the drive. I love making memories with our family and giving LC a chance to build relationships with her cousins. Plus, the mountains are beautiful and a bit less humid. Cool breezes, beautiful scenery, time with family, amazing gemstones, hands on activities, and enjoying fresh air. What more could you ask for? Maybe for it all to be a bit closer….
It actually ended up taking us a bit longer to get to our destination, so if you are planning this trip, I would also expect some delays. With four children along for the ride, there was bound to be bathroom breaks. Plus, we had to start the morning off right with a
quick stop to get breakfast biscuits! As we got closer to Little Switzerland and further into the mountains, we stopped one last time to stretch, take a bathroom break, and take some scenic pictures. If you are traveling this summer through this area, there are several locations where you can pull over for some great pictures. Just be sure you are stopping in a location designated for this. These roads are no joke and can be very dangerous. I was not prepared for these roads, AT ALL. They are incredibly curvy and some parts are very narrow. It can be even more nerve-wracking when you pass a semi truck coming down the mountain. If that doesn’t scare you, take a moment and think of the amount of stress on their brakes going down the mountain. EEK!
We finally reached our destination! To our surprise, there wasn’t that many people at the mine. However, this was in the middle of the day on a Monday. While we don’t mind being around people, it’s nice to feel that you have something all to yourself! It’s like going to an amusement park in the middle of the day and not having to wait in a single line. We started in right away and purchased our buckets. They have a variety of sizes to choose from, are reasonably priced, and they are filled to the brim. A child’s size bucket ( see the picture below of LC with her bucket ) is 1 gallon and it was only $ 10 !
After getting our buckets, we found plenty of open seats at the water flumes to start ” mining ” our gems. This was definitely my favorite part of the day. The flumes run with cold water from the mountains and it felt fabulous after being so hot. You use your hand shovel to add small amounts of the material to your tray, let the water run through, and shake your tray in the water. Shaking the tray was Lyanna’s favorite part. She LOVED getting her hands wet and shaking as much as she could. You then pick out the freshly rinsed gems and stones out of your tray. It’s such a simple thing, but it was so much fun seeing how excited the kids were about finding beautifully colored stones.
Once you are done “mining” your gems and stones, you can actually take them to be evaluated by someone. They look them over and tell you what you’ve found. One of our cousins, Kali, had found a rather heavy rock and the person looking over her stones cut it open for her. To her surprise, there was beautiful crystals inside. It was definitely a great find! Emerald Village also gives you the option of having your gems turned into pieces of jewelry, but we decided just to keep what we had as is. They also have a great shaded picnic area where we ate a quick lunch together. We had worked up quite an appetite finding our stones and it was great to sit in a quiet, cool area with a great view of the mountains.
After lunch, we went right across the street to the North Carolina Mining Museum which is actually in a real mine. This self guided tour was a little much for a 2 year old, but LC did great and was just happy to be walking around with all of us. On the outside of the mine, they have a very large pond with a waterfall and fish to feed! Okay, the fish feeding part was actually her favorite part of our day! She was talking to them like they were babies and calling them sweet names as she threw them their food. It was adorable ! This area was very beautiful and the air was nice and cool. It was also very interesting to see the equipment that was once used to mine this area and to read about what life was like as a miner.
Once we completed our tour, we went over to the gift shop before heading home. I try and get something small for LC every time we go somewhere and this gift shop had plenty of options. Their prices were fantastic ! I actually pick up a few things for LC to keep on her memory shelf.
The little jar on the left was such a great idea! It was only $1 and it was perfect for all of her tiny stones she found. There were a lot of little pieces of garnet in her bucket so we got this little container for her to keep them in. I really wish I had bought more of them! All of these little items for $10!
Lyanna proudly showing off her heavy bag of “baby rocks”
This was a fantastic trip and if you are ever in this area of North Carolina, I would highly recommend stopping by. It was reasonably priced and the amount of beautiful nature around to take in is totally worth the drive. Our cell phones didn’t have great service in this area, so it was a great opportunity to disconnect and just enjoy the company of our family. Emerald Village also sells a ” bucket in a bag ” to take home with you. My aunt bought one of these for our cousin that was unable to travel with us. This way, she can have fun at home finding her own gems! Since my husband was also unable to come with us, Lyanna and I brought him a bag home as well. He and Lyanna worked on this bag tonight together. He was able to see the excitement in her that I got to see and have a special moment with just her.
Lyanna has continued to play with all of her stones and has also be practicing counting with them. I may have to take advantage of this new interest ! I guess it’s time to surf Pinterest and a few of my favorites blog for inspiration ! I hope you have enjoyed reading about our wonderful adventure and I hope it encouraged you to get out and enjoy the world around us. You can visit Emerald Village’s website by clicking here. Check out what they have to offer and maybe visit the beautiful mountains soon to experience this wonderful place yourself !