Sand meets Mountains

Hearing the rain all night was actually calming. We woke up early and packed up. We chatted with the guy next to us who is also an educator. He is a physics teacher in Flagstaff. He had hiked all the back country routes the day before and didn’t wear sunscreen. We shared our aloe vera with the crispy fellow. While we were packing up we found a hitchhiker and probably another reason that lady may have been yelling the night before. It was the biggest millipede or centipede I have ever seen in my life! My brother used to have the Creepy Crawly set where you make your own gummy bugs and I swear there was a mold for this kind of creature. After the kids saw it, we sent it on its way. We checked out the Chacoan ruins that morning. First, we hiked a trail to check out some petroglyphs. Yet again to hear the kids’ interpretation of what they meant was classic. Korey was the one with a keen eye and was spotting obvious petroglyphs and ones a little more obscure. 

We went a little ways to check out one of the bigger sites, Pueblo Bonito. They didn’t actually speak Spanish but the first people to describe what they were seeing were the Spaniards. Jud was super pumped as this is some of the material he covers in his course on Ancient History. It was incredible to imagine the civilization in its prime at this site. Pueblo Bonito was used for community purposes, not many lived there, it was more of a central meeting place for ceremonies, burials, clan gatherings, and much more. The kids loved wandering through the site and getting lost in the maze of rooms. The doorways were short and narrow, Eli size for sure. He was the only one that didn’t have to “dunk” (duck) down as he said. At one point I hid beside one door way and as Noah can blazing through I scared him, oh, you should have seen his face! 

I took the kids on to the car and let Jud soak everything in. He also went a little further and checked out a much smaller site, Pueblo del Arroyo. The kids were spent, although Eli kept pointing out the remains of houses along the way. 

We headed down a dirt road and on to Colorado. We drove through Dulce, New Mexico and thought of our silly beagle.

We ascended to about 10,000 feet above sea level as we navigated the mountain roads of Colorado. It was so nice to be back in the mountains. I love the cool air, the lush green trees, the raging rivers, definitely more my style. 

Upon our arrival into the Great Sand Dunes National Park, you could see the dunes off in the distance. It was mind blowing, to see mountains in the backdrop of these gigantic dunes! We hiked a couple of the dunes but the wind was super strong and would pick up the sand and beam it at the back of you legs. Poor little Eli with such sensitive skin was struggling, between Jud, Noah and myself we would rotate giving him a piggy back ride. 

It was just incredible to be hiking in sand dunes, in Colorado, in July! This was probably one of my favorite places yet! 

We were fortunate enough to find a camp site in the park, because we hadn’t made reservations. The Mosca Outpost hooked us up with fixings for dinner and we were able to use up the mountain pie stuff.  

The kids loved wandering through the campsite and climbing trees and spotting deer. We have seen 6 deer and one little baby with its spots.

The gentleman across from us is a retired principal from Texas. He is celebrating his retirement with a “cruisin” on his motorcycle. He had a small posse of really nice guys. They rolled out a little before us.

We were very reluctant to leave this beautiful and interesting place, but we are now headed towards home. 

Arizona to New Mexico

We checked out the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest. Which is totally a “two-for”! At first we were a little underwhelmed but as the sun made its way through the clouds the true colors of the sands and rocks were able to break through as well. I just can’t imagine being the first person to ever witness this beauty and wonder. 

We couldn’t do everything in the park but we hit, Newspaper Rock, Agate Bridge, and Crystal Forest. That way when we come back we can check out the places we didn’t get to. 

Newspaper Rock was super cool. We learned about petroglyphs which was a type of communication. Not so much with words but the images could represent ceremonial or celestial happenings, or possibly a tribe or clan symbol. It was neat to hear what the kids thought the symbols meant. There are binoculars (no cost) and you can check out the petroglyphs closer up.

The Agate Bridge was a log that had fallen at some point and created a bridge across a gully. It was amazing to see. They had reinforced it with some cement underneath.

Lastly, we walked the Crystal Forest. At some point during the Triassic Period this area was a sub tropical forest. This particular spot was the edge of a river channel. The fallen trees would slowly be covered with silt and the water enriched with silica would permeate the organic molecules in the wood and created a replica in quartz. Erosion causes the logs to become exposed for our enjoyment. It was incredible to see the inside of a log, sparkling! Eli loved the various colors and would point them out at pretty much every log he saw. We were gifted the glimpse of a few lizards that were hanging out on some of the logs. We later learned the colors actually mean something. Red, yellow, orange and purple are iron oxides. Black and grey are manganese oxides. Of course, the white that sparkles is pure quartz. It was about a mile hike through the “forest”, perfect for the kids to get out and hike and get rid of some energy. No sun cover, so lather up with sunscreen and you may want to take some water.

We got back on the road and headed to our campsite for the night. We are currently staying in Chaco Canyon. As we came in on Navajo Road 57 we were greeted by a few jack rabbits and some tumbleweeds. We could see some storm clouds in the distance and headed to the site to set up, make dinner and take cover! There is a pretty crazy lightning storm going on and the thunder just picked up. 

While Jud and I ate our dinner, the kids were in the tent reading Calvin and Hobbes out loud to each other. I am so impressed by Noah. He loves to read those comics and actually got upset with me when I said it was time to stop reading and go to bed!! So, Judson and I are eating just outside the tent, listening to the giggles and we are invaded by this HUGE ant looking insect, no joke it was the size of a tarantula. If Eli had seen it we would not be able to get him to bed tonight. I was a little freaked too! I tried to snap a picture and it’s not the greatest but I’ll add it to the gallery later. Later we heard a lady scream a few obscenities and we can only imagine she encountered the six legged freak as well!

A Grand Day

The rain definitely came down while we at the Grand Canyon. I am so happy we remembered our rain jackets. Korey kept commenting on people wearing plastic bags (ponchos) and how she was happy she didn’t have to wear one of those! We used that time to hit the visitor center, a shop and they market. The visitor center was super informative and interactive. Of course the boys were fixated of the replica of giant sloth poop. Meanwhile, Korey was checking out the interactive model of the canyon itself. 

The market actually had better choices for gifts than the gift shop. So we picked up a few things for dinner and headed on to the campsite. Surprisingly when we left the market, no rain!!! It seems that storms typically roll through pretty quickly out west. 

Everyone inhaled their food! They were hungry. They love the mountain pie pizza sandwiches we make and of course had to top it off with s’mores. 

The kids have learned so many things on this trip. Some things are profound while others necessary. For example, things like: which side of a post card you write the message on and which side you write the address to the importance of not feeding the wildlife and what it does to their bodies and their behavior. 

I have two little boys who are seriously thinking about being park rangers and I have a little girl who can climb anything and everything and wants to pursue rock climbing when we get back to Virginia. 

I am beyond happy we could give them this experience and can’t wait to see what the future holds.

We got up this morning and broke camp early to head to the Bright Angel Trail. We didn’t hike the whole thing as it’s pretty steep but we got another look at the vast canyon. As you look and another corner catches your eye, your mind has a hard time comprehending the beauty right before your very eyes. We encountered some horses on the trail and the kids claim we now need horses when we get our “next house”. And sorry Papa but Eli has some big plans for a tree house. He drew up the blue prints and all, somehow it will have to fit a triple bunk bed! Ha! 

Heading towards the Petrified Forest now!

7-11

We weathered a pretty rocking storm last night. It dropped the temps though so it was warmly welcomed. 

We packed up camp, grabbed one last shower (they were great! There was a pull string so you didn’t waste water) and headed out the north entrance of Snow Canyon. We also had to celebrate July 11th with some free slurpees from 7-11!

There were so many beautiful scenes on our way to the Grand Canyon. We stopped at Le Fevre Overlook in Fredonia, Arizona. You could see so far in the distance, it was almost overwhelming. We also stopped at the Navajo Bridge and saw the Colorado River. I made lunch while everyone checked out different views and of course the kids climbed the rocks. Korey even wandered over to a Navajo jeweler. She came back and told me the woman was so nice and lowered the price of a crystal necklace from $30 to $25 just for her (meanwhile, Korey has already spent all of her money and got a crystal necklace in Seattle). 

After some car karaoke (Bohemian Rhapsody a must), we made it to the Grand Canyon. With some storm clouds in the background and an occasional lightning strike, the views were stunning. We are doing the South Rim and stopped at the Watchtower first. We hiked down a little trail to get another view, i can’t say better because every view is breathtaking. Yet once again, I feel so small next to something so deep, vast, and luxurious.  

Sweatin’ in Snow Canyon

Much better night was had by all! We had to wake Noah up, he was snoozing away! There is a lot of neat wildlife around the site. Noah saw a few quails scurry across the road last night. Several rabbits, lizards and even a little kangaroo mouse (I know it is “rat”, but I refuse to call it a rat). He is a cute little thing and visits in the evening. Just as the sun is going down we also get to see a couple of bats flying around.We decided to head back to Zion to beat the desert heat. It is unseasonably warm in Snow Canyon. Korey said that the park lied and I asked why and she explained that there is no snow anywhere! Ha! When Noah and Eli found out we were heading back to the water they ran to get their swimming trunks! Jess is following us and then will leave to head home to Arizona. 

We hit “Weeping Rock” which was intriguing. Desert, you think dry. The water comes from snow melt and rain on the plateau and then filters through layers of sandstone until it weeps out of the rock itself. There are several hanging gardens that are a result of the moisture. It seems an unlikely pair, rock and vegetation. It is stunning to see the vibrant greens next to such dry, orange and yellow sandstone.

We started up to The Narrows and had lunch before we ventured on. The kids were stoked to get in the water again. There was a warning of flash flood so we didn’t hike down the river but we hung out in the water. Noah was jumping from a rock into a pool of water. He tried talking Eli into it but Eli couldn’t muster up the courage. 

I headed back to the car a little before the rest of the crew because my eyes were in revolt again. Once I got to the car and got the contacts out, I laid on a boulder and waited for them. While I was laying there I heard a bunch of rocks falling down the canyon side and I looked up to see a mountain goat saunter up and over the ridge. 

Once we reconvened, we headed out and bid Jess save travels. We really appreciated her coming to hang out with us. In fact, the kids were really bummed she was leaving. Hopefully we will see her when she comes home to visit!

We stopped by the grocery store before we went to camp to pick up a few things for dinner. We got back to camp and started dinner. The kids were begging to go on a night hike, so with some clouds rolling in from the distance we put the headlamps on and went for a quick hike up the sandstone faces right by our site. The kids were having so much fun climbing the rocks, but it was cut short due to the wind at the top. The wind about knocked Eli over. It was powerful enough for a small pebble to be carried by the wind and hit Jud on his cheek. 

When we got back down, the kids showered and headed to bed. Jud and I hung out checking out the stars. We have also been able to enjoy some local brews in the evenings. 

Heading to Hannah!

We had breakfast this morning at Eddie’s restaurant in Apgar Village this morning. In the 1930s it was a soda fountain restaurant and has evolved through the years. The breakfast was amazing and the pancakes matched the mountains: massive!! Our server, Kelsey was super nice and very accommodating. 
We checked out Lake McDonald before we set off for Seattle. It was gorgeous, so clear and so blue. You think you’ve seen all the blues and greens that you could ever see and then you come to a place like this and it totally blows your color palette mind. 
We stopped in Post Falls, Idaho for an oil change at the Jiffy Lube. They were super quick and topped off all the other fluids. 

Then we stopped in town at The White House grill. It was a Mediterranean restaurant and it was fantastic! Their slogan, “You love garlic, We love you!” So I totally knew they were my people, because in my mind, garlic goes with everything! 

We are back on the road and heading towards Hannah!!! I am super excited to see her. She was an art teacher and the field hockey coach at Hickory when I started. She introduced me to several things “south”. My first “pig pickin'” was with her family. She also showed me how to take an oyster shot at Chick’s Oyster bar in Va Beach. I loved going down to her classroom on my planning to check out what they were doing. I even helped coach a season of field hockey while she had her beautiful baby boy! My favorite times were hitting the beach right after graduation, hanging at the coaches meeting and counting the “mmm ks”, Black Friday shopping in Williamsburg (me in my onesie pajamas), and going to the midnight showing of one of the Twilight movies! I miss her so much, but am excited to hang out with her for a couple of days!