Thanksgiving is a time when you come together with people you see once or twice a year. It is a time to give thanks, watch too many parades and football games, and eat until you can’t stand the site of food any longer. This has been the way my family and I have done it ever since I can remember. We head to Pennsylvania with our snow boots on and belts one notch looser so we can grow into them later that day. When this past year’s Thanksgiving rolled around, my family decided to break tradition and head into the mountains to have what we now cherish as one of the most memorable holidays we have experienced.

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About 30 minutes from civilization deep in the mountains of western Virginia lies a small cabin nestled between the mountainside and the James River. Arriving after sunset and later than expected, thanks to a heavy snowfall that day, we quickly nestled into bed eager to wake up Thanksgiving morning to take in our surroundings. There are six of us in my immediate family so we felt very close (literally) sleeping in a two room cabin. When Thanksgiving morning rolled around I woke up and immediately grabbed my hammock, put on boots, mustered my siblings and ran outside to see what adventures were amongst us. Right beside the cabin were steep steps covered in snow built into the river bank leading down to a narrow path beside the river.

I hung my hammock right beside the river from a tree whose branch reached slightly across the rushing waters. We all hung out here for a while admiring the strong river and snow covered mountains behind it until Mom called us in to eat. Usually the meal is a focal point of Thanksgiving. While we were enjoying every bite of the warm potatoes dripping with gravy and all the other tantalizing food, we ate fast and made sure not to fill up — we were about to go exploring!

With the country roads still snowy and the sun beginning to peak through the clouds and brighten the mountainside, we drove to a trail head that we noticed driving into camp the night prior. As we began our ascent up the trail, it was evident from the fresh powdered snow that no one else had been there to leave their tracks. The path led up the side of a rocky stream where we crossed twice by bridge and once by large rocks poking above the ice cold water. There were several teasingly small, crystal blue, cascading waterfalls glimmering in the snow like a picture on a calendar. Our surroundings were so calm and peaceful. All you could hear was the stream flowing and our boots crunching through the snow. Two or three miles up the trail we began to hear a faint rustling noise. As we pressed on, the soft beat turned into a roaring rush. We approached a wide, gushing waterfall that was clearly the purpose of this trail. As we sat and watched the fall spill out into a deep blue water hole surrounded by splashed rocks and shimmering snow, we admired all great and powerful beauty amongst us.

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My older brother and I are in college and rarely make the trip home. When we are home, my dad works full time so it is hard to all be together. Just like most families, we bicker and argue about useless things like whose turn it is to clean up dinner. However, as we sat in awe at the power of nature and this special holiday, it seemed as if nothing else mattered except for being with the people you love in the beautiful outdoors. It is hard to describe the strong bonding and love for one another we experienced Thanksgiving Day underneath that waterfall. None of us would hesitate to say that day was full of memorable moments that will continue to bring back warm recollections for years to come. In this fast-paced game we call life, it is very important to slow it down, be with your loved ones, and give thanks to everything this earth has blessed us with.