Memory Lane Trip – Camping in Swannanoa, North Carolina

    If you don't know because you're not caught up on our story yet - that's cool, you can catch up or just start here. And if you are caught up, but this isn't ringing a bell, that's all good. I'm about to take you on a little trip down memory lane as we visit a camping spot I spent my summers at as a child.

    Oh, this is gonna be a good one! For me, at least. ;-p

    I spent summers here as a child, as early as four years old and there are endless memories wrapped up into this little slice of heaven. The main reason I love North Carolina so much. This wondrous place is the Asheville East KOA in Swannanoa, North Carolina.

    Summers were always memorable here. Grandma and Grandpa had reserved the same spot every year for ages, so that, to me, will always be their/our spot.

    He taught me a lot in this magical place over the years. He bought my first “big girl bike” that was named ‘Sparkles’ (it was purple and had the tassels on the handle bars and everything) he taught me how to ride it with and without training wheels. How to not be so shy and make new friends. We (really he though) carved our names inside of a heart onto a tree near our campsite. How to catch lightning bugs after dinner every night. Making me a bow and arrows out of sticks and fishing wire and showing me how to use them – I had so much fun with these.
    How to be a duck whisperer – and boy, was I!! How to overcome the fear of climbing to new heights, and I mean that in the physical sense, as Grandma would yell through the window of their fifth wheel to not let me do that, Grandpa always ignored, laughed and cheered me on while carefully watching me. We took our dog, She-Ra, for runs all the time – yes, I had a dog that I named ‘She-Ra Princess of Power’.
    Want to know how I got her? Grandpa. No denying that I have always been his “baby girl.”

    He always supported me tapping into my creative side too, even when I decided I wanted to paint rocks I found around the campground and sell them – he painted a sale sign for me. He also secretly walked around the park, asking his friends and other guests to come visit me and buy a rock or two. No wonder I made over $50 in that business!

    Needless to say, there are countless wonderful memories made here and if it isn’t obvious yet, I hit the lottery with an incredible Grandpa. So we knew that when we were deciding to make North Carolina our very first trip in our new home on wheels, that we were ABSOLUTELY going to be staying at my KOA.
    I was overflowing with emotions. I thought I was excited until we told Grandpa we were going there and try to get the same spot they had for all those years. That really put him in good spirits!

    When I called to make the reservation, I tried to explain what all I could remember to the woman on the phone and although she didn’t know everything I was talking about, she really tried to get us in the right spot. I got off the phone and was a bit frozen. James asked if I was going to be doing a lot of crying and I looked at him with tears in my eyes and shook my head up and down – it was already starting. When we arrived, I felt like I was going back in time (with a little revamp here and there, of course) and so we parked and went into the office together to check in. The girl at the desk showed us where our spot would be on the map. I absolutely broke down in tears, because I knew it was in the general area – if not the actual spot, and the poor girl thought I was unhappy with it and immediately apologized and offered to pick a different site. James had to explain that I was okay and that this was just an emotional experience for me overall just by being here.

    Shortly after that we excitedly get in our camping spot and start our first attempt at getting everything set up. I worked on the inside and James worked on getting everything hooked up on the outside. I was in heaven and then James walked in with this overjoyed look on his face and told me about the experience he just had outside. Before he told me the story, I wondered what was so exciting about hooking up a sewer hose – aside from the fact that it was his first time and that’s a success for all.

    He said he was trying to figure everything out and then he heard someone yell “Hey, Florida!” and looked up to see a guy hanging out by the creek and proceeded to ask whereabouts in Florida we were from. Turns out he and his wife (Val & Daly) were also from Orlando. SMALL. WORLD. MOMENT.
    Val approached James at our rig and before he knew it, Val and our next door neighbor were helping to show James how to operate and set things up. When the attention was turned to the ol’ black tank, it turns out we were sold the wrong sewer hose to connect with our rig. No worries though, our neighbor pulled a brand new boxed sewer hose and GAVE it to us. Seriously. Pay it forward, people.
    This random act of kindness completely stunned James and at the same time, gave him a glimpse into the community he was just starting to dip his toes into.

    We found ourselves really connecting with everyone we met, but especially with Val and his wife Daly.
    Val and James were racing to see who could get their campfire going first.

    They had one of their grandsons with them, whom was so well mannered and clearly loved the camping experience too, which really brought me joy.
    We all shared stories and joked around a TON over a few days! When it was time for them to move onto the next spot, we all knew this wouldn’t be the last time we would see each other.

    The next day, I broke out every single photo I had in my possession from my times spent here as a child.
    James and I started exploring the grounds to match up the photos. We also were determined to figure out which campsite was Grandma and Grandpa’s back in the day. Guess what? We were ONE spot off! I mean, that’s still pretty remarkable to get that close with minimal information and at the last minute. The couple that were in the spot were friendly and let us roam around their site as we matched up photos to the new reality in front of us. We did this ALL over. We even roamed through campsites to check out the trees, in hopes that we could find the one that Grandpa carved into thirty years prior. We never found the carving and there’s a chance the new owners cut down that particular tree, but the campers watching us absolutely loved what we were doing when James explained it to them. It was a good day.

    One of my favorite memories would be walking out onto the rocks in the middle of the creek. Thirty years ago, there was a giant boulder in the middle of the creek that all of us little ones would so eagerly make our way out to and carefully scale to the top just because it seemed like a big deal to conquer and it was a pretty awesome spot to be. However, after three decades, that boulder has really settled into the ground in that creek. This didn’t stop me from going out there and laying down on it with all my ducks swimming around me, just quacking away.
    It was music to my ears. Absolute peace and happiness.
    I was on my rock in the middle of the water with ducks all around, one of my favorite spots in the world.
    Not much about that had changed and it was magical. I called Grandma and Grandpa just to tell them where I was and what I was doing and they sentimentally laughed and awed over the fact that I was back in my spot.

    James was having a ball making another campfire, but he saw me having my moment and felt the urge to join me and I loved it. Watching him balance his way on the little rocks to get to me. I never wanted to leave. I could hear Daly nearby telling Val where I was. It was so nice being able to share that with such great people that all understood how special everything was for me. It was just one more thing that reminded me just how special the energy is here and in this community.

    We spent a few days in that spot, until we stumbled on the lake at the other end of the property and decided that we needed a spot to call “ours” now too. We picked one and moved over there for our last couple of nights and it was a great choice. I think Chloe even loved that spot better than the last, if that’s hard to believe. She just loved playing in the grass and fallen autumn leaves by the water and hanging out by the campfire.

    Naturally, it was important for me to return to this special place for many reasons – mainly Grandpa and all of the memories we shared together, but also being able to share something so special with James and letting him into a part of me that means so much. I knew he would love it and appreciate it, especially because he knew firsthand just how special Grandpa is. We had one major task to tackle though. Photos. Specifically, recreating photos. It was a lot of fun and we managed to successfully recreate a lot of them!
    My plan was to take the old photos and the new ones and create a custom photo album for Grandpa. It was perfect. Something that he could look at whenever he wanted, that I knew would make him happy.

    Here are some of the photos I used for his book!


    There it is! My ramblings on my favorite childhood spot!

    BTW – I worked hard on that book and it turned out AMAZING, many thanks to my first Shutterfly experience!

    So if you ever find yourself looking for a fantastic place to camp in the Asheville area, Asheville East KOA is the spot! Read our totally unbiased review here!

    More from Rhiannon
    I never know what to write for this stuff. I'm accident prone, I love dogs (most animals really, but I'm a real sucker for baby animals), I stopped drinking soda, and I like singing bad karaoke to James on travel days.

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