Selah Lou Who goes to Helen for Christmas

For Selah’s very first Christmas in the continental United States, we decided to leave the continent and fly to Bavaria, Germany… well no, not really, but she’s not even two-years-old so we took her to Georgia instead. She didn’t know the difference.

Bavaria, Germany or Alpine Helen, GA?

Alpine HelenGeorgia only has a population of around 430 residents, yet it is the state’s third most visited city. If you visit this charming little town, you will see why it so good at packing a crowd. Helen is a recreated Bavarian Alpine village with the Chattahoochee River flowing gently through its center. Helen first began as a home to the Cherokee Indians before European settlers eventually arrived for the gold and the timber. When Selah Lou Who came to town, she was simply there to see Christmas.

Selah Lou Who likes to carry her own bags!
Selah Lou Who is ready to see Christmas in Helen
I’m pretty sure she knew Santa wasn’t real!
Downtown in Helen, GA
Go to Muller’s Fried Cheese Café for authentic German Cuisine!
Selah Lou Who waiting patiently with Mommy for our food to be served.
Daddy ordered the Pork Loin Cordon Bleu Schnitzel, potato salad, red cabbage, and kraut. It was köstlich …yum!!!
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Alpine Helen is one of the best places to see Christmas lights in the Southeastern U.S.A.
Selah Lou Who just loved the Christmas tree!
Mommy makes all my blog posts look better!
Visitors to Helen can take home that special souvenir from one of their many German-themed shops.
Gingerbread men proudly on display
One of many finely dressed yuletide displays
Unforunately this candy kitchen was closed for the night, but we would be sure to visit the very next day.
The Gourmet Shoppe in Helen offered free samples of the local wines.
At the Heidelberg you will find the most authentic sausage plates in town. The grub is great, the service is fantastic, and the beers are large and frosty!
The window all dressed up at Windmill Dutch Imports
Even mommies like Santa Claus!
After the Grinch made Selah Lou Who go to sleep, he enjoyed an adult beverage… or two!
Alpine Helen offers a phenomenal selection of imported German beers and is known for their annual Oktoberfest in September and October.
The Paulaner Salvator Double-Bock is a German-beer lover’s dream!
Selah Lou Who greets the sunshine behind the Hampton Inn in Helen.
This beautiful mountain stream ran right behind our hotel.
Jolly’s Toys in Helen, GA
Come stay in an authentic windmill suite at the Heidi Motel!
Inside of Charlemagne’s Kingdom you will find a massive Germany-themed model railroad exhibit complete with miniature villages, Alpine scenery & traditional music.
While strolling past this charming row of cottages, Selah Lou Who found herself a friend.
She was very disappointed when we didn’t take him home!
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After Selah Lou Who said goodbye to her four-legged friend, our trail led us into the beautiful Unicoi Park.
Selah Lou Who is still looking for that dog.
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The Alana Falls didn’t so much fall as it did trickle.
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She was very fond of the tulip girl with the wooden klompen (clogs).
Located along the river and right in the heart of downtown Helen, the Castle Inn is a romantic English-style inn with lots of character.
These Padlocks on the bridge reminded Rebecca and I of a wonderful trip we took to the real Germany.
Enjoying a frosty mug with this busty, headless fräulein!
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Shortly after that last picture was snapped, Rebecca abandoned me for this headless dude in lederhosen… what a jealous act of revenge!
…and now she’s flirting with the soldier while I am standing right there!
The only snowmen we found in Helen were all indoors.
Poor Frosty was melting!
You know we weren’t leaving town without first setting foot inside Hansel & Gretel Candy Kitchen!
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She said she has four teeth, plenty enough for a bite out of one of those delicious caramel apples!
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There was so much to choose from I didn’t know what to get. I ended up leaving with chocolate covered pretzels.
The owner of Tim’s Wooden Toys really knew how to make Selah crack a smile. He’s the closest thing to a real-life Geppetto in all of Georgia!
This nutcracker was taller than me…. as were the third-graders on the other side of the room.
We found wall to wall Santas in Betty’s Country Store
Father Christmas standing guard just outside the door
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Before leaving, we stopped at the Cafe International for the best reuben in town!
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Now she’s eyeing my sandwich like she wants to make a trade. I tried to tell her!
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Selah Lou Who, being not yet two, stuck with her trusty peanut butter sandwich squares.
It was tempting but daddy was driving home.
The heaters and plastic afforded us warm outdoor seating with a view of the river below.

After lunch, Selah Lou Who got buckled in all nice and cozy and napped most of the ride home. While she probably won’t remember much of our two-day bavarian getaway, her daddy and mommy sure will. Memories like these are what makes life precious, especially when they’re still full of so much innocence and wonder. Thank you for visiting my site and I hope your holidays are spent joyfully with family and friends.

Merry Christmas from Big John, Rebecca, and Selah Lou Who!

Happy travels,

Big John


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Outrigger Canoe Paddling in Pearl Harbor

Canoeing has been a part of Hawaii’s history and culture since ancient times; and in my opinion, there is truly no better way to experience Hawaii than from the seat of an outrigger canoe.  I had the privilege of getting my oars wet for the first time when I, along with a team of my coworkers, recently met at Rainbow Bay Marina in Honolulu. The Rainbow Bay Marina is a Morale, Wefare, and Recreation (MWR) facility for military members and their familes stationed on the island of Oahu. The marina, located just outside the Arizona Memorial on Pearl Harbor, offers a variety of boats and other activities for fun times on the water.

These canoes weigh roughly 900 pounds each!

I think one of the most challenging things about outrigger canoes is just getting them launched into the water. We were lucky that we had a pretty large paddling crew to all lend a hand. These canoes weigh roughly 900 pounds each!

Our paddling instructor, who was also our Na Ho’okele (steerer) kept our team operating like a well-oiled machine… Well she tried her best, considering what it was that she had to work with!

The key to outrigger canoe paddling is that every stroke be made in perfect unison. Yeah, that wasn’t always the situation inside of our canoe.

 A beautiful sunrise over Pearl Harbor

We won the race easily… seeing how there was nobody else in the water.

We probably would have paddled a whole lot better but that guy in the black shirt actually forgot to grab an oar.

…not to mention the guy in the lead seat on the port side was snapping selfies the entire time.

All in all we did pretty well and most would say I rowed the best… regardless if I paid them to say that.

There’s that guy in the black shirt again. We are all finished rowing now and he’s still looking for an oar.

I think we’re all about ready for the big leagues now!

Outrigger canoe paddling is not only fun, it is a fantastic way to get some quality exercise with family and friends. If you like water sports and enjoy working as part of a team, than this is definitely a sport that I would highly recommend!

Happy travels,

Big John


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The Hike Up Koko Head Crater

Out of all the amazing hikes I have done during my stay on Oahu, Koko Head is my absolute favorite. Koko Head is located on the southeastern side of the island in an area known as Manalua Bay. Although it is a relatively short hike, the 1,048 railway stairs to the top can definitely test one’s endurance! One of the most fascinating things about Koko Head, aside from the breathtaking views, is its military history.

During World War II, the U.S. Army erected several bunkers at the summit of the crater with a railway tram that carried up troops and supplies. After the Air Force was formed in 1947, the installation at Koko Head Crater became the Koko Crater Air Force Station.

Koko Crater Air Force Station atop Koko Head

For years, Koko Head Crater was a fully functional radar station. Eventually the Air Force turned the property over to the Hawaii Air National Guard. I sure hope those weekend flyboys didn’t mind the occasional hike!


Her tracks can be perilous in places.

The tracks that remain are now referred to as “railway stairs”. A climb to the summit on the Koko Head Railway stairs will take you up 990 feet in just over .7 miles. It is a grueling hike, but the view from atop is definitely worth every bit of the struggle along the way!

Koko Crater Air Force Station Mess Hall

The building was long gone by the time I began making my way up the summit; but the morning of my hike, I could almost still smell the bacon and eggs! I skipped breakfast that morning, so I was probably just hungry.

Start your hike early enough to catch one of these gorgeous sunrises on the summit!

Parking is free at the Koko Head District Park and the gates open at 6:00 am sharp. I highly recommend that if it is your first time going, start early so you can still catch a sunrise at the top. Just be mindful, it will likely still be dark when you arrive so bring a headlamp.

 

The trail can get muddy just after a thorough soaking.

 

U.S. Air Force Radar Station – July, 28, 1949

Koko Crater Radar Station during her prime.

 

Hanauma Bay in the background

In 1966, the radar station became obsolete and the property was passed on to the City of Honolulu.

 

For many, the way down can actually prove more difficult than climbing to the top.

 

American Airman hard at work manning his station.

I know what he is probably thinking. “Those slackers have been gone for hours. They better have brought me back a sandwich!”

It is still quite a trek before reaching the bottom.

This is the part of the trail where I like to sit on the rails and just contemplate life… life is difficult… walking is difficult… sitting is difficult… lying down on tracks is really difficult…. getting back up is even more difficult than that…. people are altogether way too difficult… why won’t they just go around?

 

With the aid of a gas-powered winch, a military tram slowly makes its way back down up the tracks.

I sure hope the guy photographing this has another ride coming soon. It’s a long walk getting back to the hooch!

 

It’s a pretty common occurrence to get stuck on the tracks during rush-hour traffic.

Koko Head is a very popular hiking destination for both tourists and the locals. It is estimated that over 500 people visit Koko Head trail on any given day.

Rebecca and Jonah throw up a “shaka” on the trail.

 

You can’t see Hawaii without seeing at least one of her spectacular rainbows!

I hope you enjoyed my post. If you are ever in Oahu, this is one hike that you really must do. Please feel free to explore more of my site, Big John’s Adventures in Travel, post a comment, and maybe even show me some love on social media.

Mahalo!

Happy travels,

Big John


Posted in Adventure Fitness, Adventurous Places, North America and tagged , , by with no comments yet.
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