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Do you ever get that itch? You want to go somewhere! Do something! You need a vacation! But you haven’t got a ton of time or money to spend?

Last time I needed to scratch that itch, I ended up having a gorgeous day at Lake Junaluska.

A friend had told me about her family’s vacation at a house up on the lake a few years back, and it piqued my curiosity.

Finally, we had a chance to visit – as we often do – completely on a lark. Originally, I was heading to Sylva, North Carolina, because we were spending the night nearby. The kids packed up the car with snacks and everything. At the last minute, I decided I didn’t want to hear my GPS squawking at me the whole drive when I was pretty sure I knew most of the route. I double-checked the driving directions to Sylva on my computer, and the alternate route caught my eye. Instead of taking the highway up from the west near Cashiers, we could come up by the east through Asheville.

Between Asheville and Sylva, there lay Lake Junaluska – a place I’d heard was great, but I’ve never visited.

Change of plans! With kids loaded in the car with snacks, buckled up, I completely changed our day trip!

The fact that we could add a stop in Asheville, if we wanted, was an added bonus. (Although actually our only stop in Asheville was at the Ingle’s for picnic provisions.)

Google GPS was surprisingly inaccurate. Usually trustworthy, Google sent us out of town on some back road. We ended up turning around at a farmhouse about a mile from the lake. Maybe choosing a more specific location than just the lake would’ve helped, but that wasn’t feasible because we had no clue what we were doing.

After we backtracked, I followed the signs for the conference center.

Finally, we stumbled upon a Methodist retreat center, which had a paved path of about 2 miles around part of the lake, crossing a bridge. The scenery was gorgeous with rolling hills off in the distance in every direction. My kids loved the animals: ducks, geese and swans.

I loved the old Craftsman style architecture of many of the homes. A stone chapel looked like something right out of the English countryside. In the chapel yard, my girls loved the stone labyrinth path that curved and twisted. Intended as a meditation tool, my meditation efforts fell flat with three loud children, but it was a cool learning experience for them. While I didn’t manage any mindfulness, it was fun to watch the girls have a great time doing something I didn’t expect them to appreciate.

There was a long section of rose bushes in bloom along part of the lake. They were fading during our fall visit, but they must’ve been stunning earlier in the year.

We could tell there must be plenty of boating and swimming in the summer. Also, we saw trolley stops periodically around the lake, although it didn’t appear to be running. I can see why my friends enjoyed their visit here so much.

As we were leaving, we saw a grassy public park area, which looked like a great place for the kids to run around and have a picnic. We’ll remember that spot next time we go back.

We still made it to Sylva for a little while late that afternoon, just in time to see a few shops before they closed. We visited a vintage shop, Treasures Unknown, and the adjacent ice cream parlor. It was nearly 5 p.m., so we didn’t get to see much before heading back to our place in nearby Cashiers. The antique shops of Sylva will have to wait for another day.

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