June 19, 2022

Smoky Mountains

Damon's Father's Day Trip!

Smoky Mountains

I asked Damon what he would like for Father's Day.  He told me he would love a trip in the motor home.  He wanted to plan a trip north into the Smokey Mountains.

Day 1

Panama City Beach to Jason's Deli in Dothan, AL.  We both have fun family memories of Jason's Deli that go way back.  It's a happy place and delicious too!

Then to Oak Mountain State Park in Alabama.  It was quiet and HOT!  

Day 2

We drove northward into Franklin D Roosevelt State Park.  It Is located on a beautiful high ridge in the center of Georgia.  9,042 acres.  There are several cool stone buildings and cabins built in the 1930's.  It's very beautiful!

Day 3

We drove to Warm Springs, GA.  The town FDR would come to for Polio treatment.

We did a little shopping and have a treat at the Lightnin' Bugs Cafe.  

Expensive is Fuel!  Around $6 a gallon.

Then we drove to Ellijay, GA.   A darling little mountain town that we visited earlier this year.   We decided on Ellijay Wood Fired Pizza for dinner.  It was beyond delicious!

Then we drove about 30 minutes to a Harvest Host location called New Hope Black Walnut Farm . Reggie had full hook ups in his front yard.  He gave us the full history and tour, complete with cracking Walnuts.  

Day 4

Father's Day

I sneaked a few gifts on our trip. Virgil's Root Beer, Seaweed Paper, beef jerky, and a pancake waffle mix.  Damon said he felt loved and celebrated. He also did a bit of work in the morning :)

Damon here:  My children decided their gift to me would be sending a couple pictures that had meaning to them and explain why. It was fun to receive these messages and pictures throughout the day.


"Happy Father's day, Dad!!!

I love these pictures - they're literally and metaphorically a perfect depiction of our past, present and future.

Our relationship has always gotten stronger by bonding over photography and sushi, and I like that we both took a picture of each other.

This night was the first time I treated you, and it was cute how surprised and pleased you were!

You surprised me before dinner with a first too, when you spent time with me and Ash and expressed genuine happiness that I found a good human to love and do life with.

I am so grateful for our relationship - you're precious to me and I love you with all my heart ❤️

Thanks for doing your best, you've done a great job. You're amazing ❤️"

Damon Jr

"I love this picture because it’s such a pure capture of playing and the excitement of hiding and being found. When I was 10 I remember trying to hide from you and I went behind a door in the laundry room and you found me right away, and I asked how you knew where I was and you told me that “I was 10 once and I know 10 year olds hide”. It was a little thing but I still remember it somehow, and I think about it now playing with Navy and Cobalt 🙂 Thank you for playing with them too and capturing these sweet moments of their childhood!!

I picked this one because it’s an amazing picture, the pie was incredible (shout out to Emily!!) and because your love for food has been such a big influence in my life. One of my fondest memories with you was the night I got to Houston at the start of my internship, you were there for a day or two before heading back to Mom in Arizona and we ate your homemade chicken noodle soup with all of the ingredients made from scratch and it was sooooo good 🤤🤤 But even better was the time talking and enjoying it with you!

I love you and I hope you have an amazing Father’s Day!! ❤️❤️❤️"


"happy father’s day dad!! thank you for your kind message, it means a lot ❤️ haven is so lucky to have such an awesome grandpa, i would know because i loved being raised by you!

also, the siblings and i wanted to take a the day to reflect on the art that you’ve been continuously creating for and of us, and share our thoughts and feelings about it with you 🙂 i chose the attached pictures because they resemble the most incredible bonding time that we’ve been able to share in the past several years.

the nashville trip was this was the most fun trip of all time, thanks for the last minute invite! it’s so cool to wake up one day, thinking you know how the day is going to go, and then instead you end up in another state touring an iconic city. it had been a while since we’d seen you guys, so it was extremely nice to catch up and eat all the best food in nashville 😬

and then the picture at soho house stands out to me in a lot of ways. first of all, it was so cool to have you and mitzi come so spontaneously, nashville v2. next, that picture is “illegal” as we learned there is not supposed to be any photography there 😂 and lastly, i think that picture sums up my social personality pretty nicely, which is interesting because i don’t think i would be able to be like that if you hadn’t spent a lot of time teaching me how to be cool when i was a young teenager desperately trying to fit in. those conversations were extremely important to my current social abilities, which has led to the career i have today. i also attribute it to reading the scriptures out loud every morning in front of the family, and the church you raised me in. for all its faults, there were some good parts, like youth leadership positions, teaching opportunities, and public speaking.

anyways, i love you so much. thank you for everything you’ve done for me, you really set me up to be as successful as i’m capable of, and i hope to emulate that as a father myself."


"The siblings had a great idea for Father’s Day this year to share a picture you’ve taken that means something to us and include a note about why it matters and why you matter.

I remember when I saw your first post on damonjanisart and I couldn’t stop smiling looking at the picture of you with the code behind you! You are a unicorn, just totally one of a kind! You’re so creative and I think you have the best humor of all time!! I love the expression on your face in this photo, it tells a whole story about your creativity, passion, humor, and curiosity. I love you dad!!".


"I absolutely love this picture. It tells so many stories in just one moment. I feel like this picture captures so much about how I see you, even from behind the camera.

  1. First it makes me think of my relationship with you. How since I was a baby and all growing up, you always have taken time to notice me and talk to me even when so many people are around and things are going on. It is amazing to know that you are always completely present with me.
  2. It also shows how much you notice everyone and everything going on around you because of how present and perceptive you are.
  3. I love the efficiency driven aspect of your mind. You seek out the simplest ways to capture the important things in life and cut through the chaos. This trait shows up in everything you do, whether it’s your life philosophies, personal relationships, clean coding, your career decisions, photography/art, lifestyle choices, health, etc.
  4. You have the ability to see things from everyone’s perspective. You have so much empathy and companion, and such an open mind. I respect that so much and have benefited and learned from that kindness my whole life.
  5. And of course, the picture is so artistic (like everything you do!). It shows these two different worlds happening at the same time right next to each other. Amazing that you thought to capture it!

I love and respect you so much dad, and I am so grateful for you in my life every day❤️

Happy Father’s Day!"


"I know your probably driving, hope you have a great day! Happy Father’s Day to the best bonus dad I could’ve asked for. Thanks for everything you do for me and my family!".


"Happy Father’s Day Damon!! 🤍 I’m so lucky to have you in my life and hope you have the best day!".


"happy father’s day, damon!! 🤍 i’m so incredibly grateful to have you in my life. you’re such a fun & amazing father to spencer & have raised him to be a stellar man. he always talks about how amazing you are as a father to him and how grateful he is to have you & all you have taught him. i love you & i can’t wait for haven to grow up having such a cool grandpa around! 😘".


"Happy father’s day to the best bonus dad ever. I’m so lucky to have you in my life and have literally no idea what I would do without your guidance and love in my life! You make our family so much better and full of love and I thank you for that! You really are so amazing and I especially love the way you love my mom. Thank you for everything you do ❤️❤️ Love you!!"


I don't have the exact quote because it scrolled off Instragram, here is a paraphrase. It was a super sweet and kind note. She said I've filled the stand-in dad role so well and she was very grateful for me.


"Happy Father’s Day! I sooo appreciate everything you do for all of us. You’ve been a huge positive piece of my life. We love you! 🤍".

Mitzi's Girls

Mitzi's girls sent me a Father's Day gift. It arrived on Thursday after we left so I got it after we arrived home from the trip. They are so so good to me. Always loving and accepting, thoughtful and kind. For this I have deep appreciation.

They sent me a sourdough starter kit and some tools for baking and making sourdough. The starter is amazing and I've already made sourdough pancakes twice :)

Back to Our Travels

After we left Reggie's, we drove back into Ellijay and saw a new store that had just opened up 2 days earlier, Hey Baby Boutique. We found some yummy maple syrup to use with the pancake mix. The people in the stores in Georgia are so friendly.

We went to Back Porch Bistro for lunch. Their dessert Sopapilla Cheesecake was so good!  I went back and got another piece for the road! The friendly fellow who told us it was so amazing had a good laugh when I came back to get more.

We enjoyed lunch on their outdoor patio. Really great food.

We walked around a bit more and took this photo outside a furniture type store.

Next we drove up to Walnut Hollow Ranch in North Carolina.  This is a grass fed cattle ranch.  They have full hookups for Baby Malanah and we were set to stay for 3 nights.  It was much cooler in the evening hours.  The property was beautiful.

We drove into town and had some BBQ.  Benny face-timed us too!

The sunset was dreamy.

Day 5

I made pancakes for DJ.  Yum!  Then we made a day trip up to Sequoyah Falls, NC. and Bridal Veil Falls, NC.

We enjoyed a motorhome picnic.

On our way home we stopped by one last mountain look out across the Georgia line.  It seems like you can see for 100's of miles.

Later that evening, we dined at Casa Bella, a one woman restaurant.  Connie greeted us, took our order, cooked it, and visited with us.  Super unique and a delicious experience!

Day 6

Damon had booked us a Fancy Restaurant for this evening.  Upon discovering that he had brought no dress clothes,  we went shopping at Alexander's in Blairsville, GA.   A Jesus loving department store that had everything from automatic weapons to fancy sandals.  Damon bought a nice shirt and some long pants. I bought some shoes :)

We drove over to Brasstown Bald, GA. A National Park which is the highest peak in Georgia.  It was a steep climb in the motorhome.... then the last 6/10  could be hiked.  I was itching to climb it and DJ kindly followed me.

The 360 degree view of the Smoky Mountains was incredible!

We then hiked back down.  This is the old Route 66 that crossed the hiking trail.  So amazing and humbling to think about all the people who traveled on this trail.

And then we got cleaned up and headed to The Copper Door in Hayesville, NC for dinner.  Damon looks great in his new outfit!

It was beautiful inside and so charming.

Pop-overs, tuna tartar,  curry shrimp, bacon spinach, cajun caesar salad.

Tomahawk Ribeye, Corvina Fish, Eclairs, Bananas Foster....... Yum!  Delightful Experience.  Dining with Damon is just the Best!

Day 7

We swung back through the Town Square in Hayesville, NC and I do a little fabric shopping.  I've had my eye on this making this quilt and ran across just the fabric to construct it.

We drove down to Blue Ridge, Georgia to stay in a hotel for a few days and get caught up on laundry.  The main street was full of darling shops.  This one being the best!

Day 8

The Pasta Market for lunch.  

A Darling Shop with beautiful delightful food!

Damon captures so many genuine happiness moments.

And dinner at ROE.  Oysters, bread, salmon.

We checked out the scenic rail line we have booked to ride the next day.

Day 9

Damon booked us 2 first class tickets on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway.  On the journey they fed us yummy food.  The seats were comfy.  The views were gorgeous. The stories humbling.

The train stopped in a town that was divided between Tennessee and Georgia.

When the train pulled into the station we jumped into the motorhome and began our drive back to Wild Heron.  The best surprise was a Buc-ees along our path.

What a great road trip!  Happy Father's Day Damon.  I love you and I hope you had a wonderful time!