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!

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. 


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. 

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.