By Amber Avalona-ButlerSeptember 16, 2010
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - "It actually reminds me of when I used to go camping in New Hampshire, so it's very serene and quiet," said Marina Ryan as she sat at a picnic table, taking in the view of Smith Lake and the scent of Southern pine.
"It's a change of pace," added her husband, Matthew, who's been stationed at Fort Bragg for six years and currently serves with the 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.
The Ryans spent their weekend at Smith Lake as part of the Romantic Getaway weekend hosted by Fort Bragg Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation.
According to FMWR, the weekend was an opportunity for "couples to escape to nature and reconnect." On Saturday and Sunday, 10 couples settled into their respective rustic cabins for a getaway that matched alone time with group activities meant to foster communication to embrace resiliency and balance mind, body and spirit of military couples.
Couples enjoyed a hay wagon ride with views of the forest, a sunset horseback ride along the trails, and an evening of S'mores and music around the beach fire ring.
"Just to be out in the woods is different, especially here in Fayetteville. They don't have too many parks where you can go and relax," said Marina, who learned of the weekend from a Family readiness group e-mail. She experienced her first horseback ride over the weekend, with her husband at her side.
Saturday night, Marina and Matthew returned to their cabin where a candlelit dinner awaited them, complete with rotisserie chicken and a bottle of wine. Sunday's activities included breakfast at the campsite, along with a canoe ride on the calm waters of Smith Lake.
The $75, all-inclusive package is typically offered on Valentine's weekend, but FMWR recently expanded the program to include other times throughout the year.
"People love it. It's a one-night getaway where you get pampered and you don't have to do anything," said Sabina Bryant of FMWR, who helped host the weekend.
"We keep it low key but we want to put a lot of emphasis on the detail - we deck out the cabins, and I think people appreciate that," added Bryant, who has planned past getaways for Fort Bragg couples.
To date, every event has sold out and continues to be a favorite of couples who enjoy escaping to a natural setting.
For this romantic getaway, Bryant drew from her experience with scrapbooking to create photo frames for the couples. Frames included a picture of each couple and room for "why I love you" cards, custom designed by the participants.
So is Matthew typically a romantic man' "I wouldn't say that there's flowers on the table every night," he answered before looking to his wife for input.
Melanie summed up the spirit of the weekend by saying, "He's very thoughtful and that counts more than the things he could buy."