Ama-Zion! 

We met up with Jess Ehrbar in Utah. I was so happy to see her and be able to catch up with her. She moved to Arizona and was a former athlete of Jud’s. She has totally become family and we miss her. We are currently desert camping in Snow Canyon State Park. The first night was rough. It was super hot and we hadn’t acclimated just yet. After a pretty sleepless night, I tried to put my contacts in. I think with a combination of no sleep, dry eyes and dry weather, the contacts revolted. So, glasses it was. 

We headed up to Zion. Once again, no words can describe the awesome beauty of the sandstone and it’s varying reds and oranges. We hiked Emerald Pools and saw the lower, middle and upper pools along with an amazing waterfall. After hanging out at the upper pool and cooling off in the shade and the water we headed down the Grotto Trail. 

Zion has shuttles that run to nine different stops throughout the park. Before we hopped on the shuttle we played in the river. The kids built a rock bridge to the rapids and I climbed a tree that hung over the river. The tree was super relaxing and allowed for some cool views. 

We ventured up to the Riverside trail in order to hike a little into The Narrows. We saw plenty of squirrels (super tame and love people) and a few deer (three bucks and two females).

We got to the end of the trail and started into the river. The Narrows hike is pretty much a water hike. The further you hike down the river the closer the canyon walls come together (hence, it’s name The Narrows). The water was super clear and the further you hiked the cooler the water.

The kids, of course had a blast swimming and playing in the water. You may be able to take the beach kids away from the beach, but they will find a way to get to the water.

We headed back to the visitors center after an amazing day in Zion. I encountered a fellow educator on the shuttle. He teaches History and was on a trip with a few seniors. They were from Northern California and are heading to Colorado before they head home. We both agreed that traveling and being outside enjoying nature is a great way to spend the summer. 

Sequoias for the Sixth and Seventh

We got up the morning of the sixth and started to tear down camp. The kids were able to get some last minute river play in. We didn’t have far to drive so we took our time.

We headed on to Sequoia National Park. Once we got there we headed up to check out the largest tree in the world (I’m still skeptical, but Jud thinks I’m silly). We hiked down to General Sherman and then took the Congress trail, which I highly recommend. So many people are content with seeing the major attraction they miss out on a whole other grove of redwoods just as grandiose and amazing. It is about a two mile hike through some incredibly huge and unforgettable trees. I was wondering why they called it the Congress trail and soon found out because it is home to the President Tree, The Senate Cluster and the House Cluster. On the trail we all slid down a felled sequoia. The kids were having such a good time! We joked that it was part of nature’s playground for us.

Venturing to the campsite we saw a few deer and a sunset with colors indescribable. Our campsite is awesome! We love the location and the kids love the big boulders they can climb. They made a friend, Lucas and played hide and seek with him the morning of the seventh. 

We gathered them for a hike to the second largest tree in the world (still skeptical), General Grant. It was about two miles from where we camped. Once we got to the grove we saw the Michigan Tree that was formerly named the Spring Tree due to the spring of water that ran under it and later added to its demise. It ended up falling over in 1931.

We also walked through a hollowed log of a sequoia, that I would totally live in if I could. The kids crawled under a sequoia through a fire scar. Finally we made it to General Grant. We climbed some boulders and hung out on the rocks and just observed the tree. 

As a kid, I practically lived in our trees. We had two pines in the front and a cherry and apple tree in the backyard. My brother and I were always climbing a tree. One of my favorite things to do was to look up at the sky through the tree branches. I still love looking up through the branches and a I laid back on the boulder and looked through the sequoia branches I was thinking of the times this tree had been through. Then my mind wandered to my life and what has brought me to this point. 

We hiked back and spooked a few deer off the trail. It was a mama and her two young deer, one male as he started budding antlers and the other a doe. We had lunch and hung out in the hammocks for a little while after lunch. Then we suited up and headed to Lake Hume for some fun in the sun and the water. We went to Sandy Cove and enjoyed the natural water slides among the rocks. The kids had a great time cooling off and sliding down the rocks. I laid out and worked on my awesome “hiking tan”. The water was cool and so refreshing. Once you got your head under it was much more tolerable. We found a little pool of water to hang out in. 

Lake Hume is home to a Christian camp so the place was crawling with teenagers. It was funny because Jud and I totally felt at home! Talk about Paradise for these teens! I was excited for them and for us to have such a great afternoon.

This evening we got back to the site, the kids were in hammocks, bouldering or collecting pine cones. I cooked dinner (so good, buffalo chicken with quinoa and mozzarella cheese). Then we checked out the sunset and chilled around the fire.

I love the days we don’t have to rush around and we can hang out at he campsite. 

“From sea to shining sea”

Happy Independence Day! I’ve been to some pretty incredible places abroad but I believe we forget about our own backyard sometimes. This adventure through America has been breathtaking and exhilarating. It seems a perfect way to commemorate our journey across the pond and our fight for freedom. 
This morning we hiked around Crater Lake. No words to describe the varying blues of the water. The reflection of the rim in the lake was perfect! I posted up on a rock and soaked in the pure beauty that surrounded us. There is a mini volcano in the middle of the lake and I teased the kids that I am going to move to the island. Eli was intrigued.
After a long car ride, we rolled into San Francisco. There was minimal traffic due to the holiday. It was foggy over the Golden Gate Bridge but it was still spectacular. We got out and walked out on to the bridge. Eli liked waving to all the drivers on the bridge. It was super windy and chilly. The view was still awesome and seeing Alcatraz in the distance was cool. There were sailboats enjoying the wind on the bay. The kids agreed that Papa needed to bring his sailboat out here.

Judson’s cousin Amy let us crash at her place for the night. There was even a sign made by her daughter, Anya, welcoming us to their home. The kids enjoyed playing with the cats and Anya’s toys. The kitchen set and the building blocks were a hit. We wish they could have been there to hang out with us. Amy summed up our trip in a most appropriate way: “from sea to shining sea.”

Ape Caves Adventure

This morning we got back on the road. It’s never a “goodbye” when you’re leaving your best friend, it’s a “see ya later”. I had such a great time catching up with her and getting to know her boys. I really miss her but I know I’ll see her and we will have more adventures soon. She did an amazing job showing us around Washington and making sure we had food for energy! We took the kids on a couple different hikes and to some cool parks and our last day we hit Tolmie State Park. When the tide goes out you can find live sand dollars, jellies, and you can see little fish and crabs scurrying to and fro. The kids had a great time making “crab pools”, collecting sand dollars and playing in the sand and water. 

This afternoon we found ourselves in the land of the Sasquatch. There was someone debate between the kids whether or not he is real. It was funny to listen to their positions. “Well if God made him, he has to be real.” Just one of many arguments! 

We hiked Ape Caves which was carved out by lava. It stays around 42 degrees so long pants and a sweatshirt are a must. You also need at least two sources of light. We were outfitted with our headlamps and we purchased these really neat solar lanterns for the kids at Christmas time. It was about a two mile hike down the lower tube. It was incredible! If you look above your head you can see lavacites from where the lava melted the ground. You can also see where vents were created on the sides of the tube and hollowed out a little spot. I am not a mineral expert, however I know there are several different mineral deposits in those little coves, some even sparkled.

We had quite a trek to get to the Broken Arrow Campground at the base of Crater Lake. Jud and I set the tent up in record time, in the dark. We huddled around the fire for a little bit and then headed off to bed.

Sarver’s and the Jones’ take on Mount Rainier

The kids have been getting along so well! This morning they played, watched some cartoons and checked out some maps on the computer together. 

After much herding and wrangling we headed to Mount Rainier. I am seriously running out of words to describe the pure awesomeness of all of these places. Mount Rainier did not disappoint. As we drove in the road was lined with evergreen trees as tall as skyscrapers. We hiked “Grove of the Patriarchs” and witnessed 1,000 year old fir, cedar and pine trees. No picture could do it justice (we tried anyway). The kids were able to hop in the river and play, skip rocks and even tried to build a rock bridge to the other side. On the trail was a small suspension bridge, recommended one person at a time pass. 

It was amazing to drive in the park because around each turn Mount Rainier would make its presence known and show you a side you hadn’t seen yet. 

We hiked the “Silver Falls” trail that paralleled the stunning water. The kids had a great time hiking and checking things out. There were a couple bridges on this trail and the last bridge we crossed gifted us the most amazing view of the falls. On the way back up the trail I played “Follow the Leader” with some of the kids. They had to mimic everything I did. They had a good time and Korey commented that I choose the goofiest things to do. The goofier the better! It got their mind off the hike back and made it much more bearable for everyone involved. 

We stopped at the Reflection Lakes on the way back home. It was a little breezy so the reflection of Mount Rainier wasn’t perfect but you could get the idea. You are supposed to be able to see the reflection of the dormant volcano in the lake.

We are currently driving through a glacial canyon. Which is impressive. We are also surrounded by huge, lush evergreens. 

Must. Come. Back.

We had some wind and rain last night in Glacier. The wind continued this morning and made it too difficult to build a fire. I cooked eggs on the stove and Jud made the kids hot chocolate and us, coffee. We packed up and headed out for a hike. We hiked towards Mount Siyeh and then took the pass down to Going to the Sun Road. Our bells were ringing, bear spray was at the ready, and we were super vigilant. We saw a lot of bear poop and many markings. With as loud as the kids were I think every bit of creature was as far away as possible. The kids were singing, telling jokes, making fun of each other and having so much fun. 

We ended up hiking about 6 miles unintentionally and there was only minimal complaining. I will hand it to them though 16 miles in two days is no joke. Glacier is by far one of my favorite parks so far. The scenery is breathtaking and the hikes are incredible.

We had about a two hour drive around Glacier to get to the other side since the Going to the Sun road isn’t open to vehicles. We are currently in Fish Creek for the night. We stopped at West Glacier Cafe for a late lunch/early dinner. The food was amazing and the kids said the French fries were as good as Gram’s homemade fries. After we ate, we headed back into Glacier and on to the campsite. We are set up right beside Fish Creek itself. Our neighbors are from Springfield, Virginia and have three children as well. The kids have been playing in the water and are so excited to have other kids to play with.

Everyone is so nice here. A gentleman from Wisconsin gave us a sleeping bag they were trying to get rid of (he tried to give us their tent and tarp too!). All of the people in Glacier whether it be the camp store employees, park rangers or the other guests are so enjoyable. They are willing to help or just offer a smile. I wish more people would take the hint. “You catch more flies with honey.” Just be kind to everyone you meet, this world would be such a different place if we could follow that advice.

Glacier.

We left Yellowstone Sunday morning and on our way out we were fortunate enough to see a black bear mama and her cub. The cub was super cute and playful and we watched the mom swat him away. Eli was excited and said it was his “gang” because he was wearing his black bear hat and gloves.The kids were great in the car as we traveled another 7 hours to Glacier National Park. For lunch we stopped at Mike’s In and Out Beefburgers in Livingston, Montana. It was spectacular! A really nice lady from Billings, MT gave use great advice on what to order and where to enjoy a nice picnic lunch at a great park in town. After the kids ate they got to run around at the park and release some pent up energy. 

We got to our campsite in the nick of time. We had previously stopped for mountain pie pizza fixings. The kids thoroughly enjoyed the mountain pie experience! 

Once everyone was awake and moving we headed north to Many Glacier. We hiked about ten miles and the kids were amazing!! We encountered a moose and her calf. They were grazing in a meadow. The mother stared us down and we thought it best to move on. 

As we continued to hike there were mini waterfalls just off the trail. Of course our water loving children practically bathed in the ice water! Eli loved dunking his head and Noah just put his whole body in. A little slider snake slide in front of Eli and he about jumped out of his socks! 

We got as far as they would let us go. The rest of the pass was snow laden and icy. We watched as a couple tried to venture across the packed down snow. 

We met several wonderful people on the trail. An older couple from Idaho who enjoyed watching the kids interact and were thrilled we had bear bells. Towards the end of the trail there were several grizzly spottings so they stayed close. We met another couple, Loretta and Franco, lovely Italian people! They enjoyed talking with the kids and chatting with Jud and I. They are such interesting, genuine people. I loved hearing of their adventures from Brazil and beyond. 

As we got closer to the car there was a cooling mist of rain. It was neat to watch the soft droplets hit Swiftcurrent Lake. It was also super refreshing after hiking about ten miles.

We drove as far as possible. Logan Pass is closed and Jud is super bummed about not being able to drive the Going to the Sun Road. There was an avalanche and there is damage to the road. They are working to clear it but it doesn’t look like it will open until July 1. We still stopped along the road and were able to get some great pictures of the massive cliff faces. 

This evening we enjoyed more mountain pies and then went to an informative session on bears, “Bearing a bad name” led by intern Park Ranger Kelsey from Texas. She was delightful and did a wonderful job! All of the kids that attended were engaged and entertained. 

We saw Loretta and Franco at the presentation and they were in awe of the endless energy our children have. It was so nice to see them again and be able to hear of the rest of their adventures for the day. About ten minutes after we left the top they saw a grizzly walking in the trail! We had to get the kids back so they could journal and get to bed so we wished them safe travels to Boulder, CO. 

This evening we are sitting around the fire, reading a Calvin and Hobbes comic strip book and Jud is reviewing the map to see how we will get to Fish Creek tomorrow. We were laughing so hard at the comics finally at 10:30pm (although it was still light out), we had to shoo the kids off to bed.