National Parks

Yosemite National Park

When people ask me what is my favorite place we have been, I find that is a very difficult question to answer. This country has so many beautiful national parks to explore and it’s hard to pick just one. Some of my favorites are Bryce Canyon, Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton. Now I can add Yosemite¬†to my ever-growing list of favorites because I just loved it!

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We had to take a few days off work to visit Yosemite because we stayed at Yosemite Lakes RV Park where there is no cellular coverage at all. That’s okay though, sometimes it’s nice to go somewhere and disconnect and really focus on enjoying our time at the park.

On our first day driving into the park we were lucky enough to spot a bear grazing in the grass beside the road. We pulled over to get a few pictures.

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Our first hike was to Lower Yosemite Falls. I have to say that when we were there in early May the rivers and waterfalls were raging and so powerful! The large amounts of rain and snow that California received over the winter have resulted in amazing falls to see in Yosemite.

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Lower Yosemite Falls

We hiked a portion of the trail up to Upper Yosemite Falls but did not make it the whole way. It’s a long way up there, but the views along the way are beautiful even if you don’t make it all the way to the top.

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Next we went to Bridalveil Fall which was overflowing onto the trail. As soon as we got close to the falls it seemed like it started pouring rain even though it was a sunny day. The spray from the falls was like a drenching downpour. And our feet were freezing walking through the ice cold water.

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Bridalveil Fall

There were some ponchos to borrow on our way up to view the falls; Chris was the only one smart enough to grab one. The rest of us got soaked!

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Ooh, that’s cold!!

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Raging river below the falls

After this we went to Tunnel View to see one of the best views in all of Yosemite. You can see El Capitan on the left, Half Dome in the distance in the middle and Bridalveil Fall to the right.

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The next day was a cold and drizzly day in Yosemite so we just took care of getting the kids’ Junior Ranger books done and watched the park movie which was very interesting.

On day 3 (our last day in the park) we did a really long hike to Vernal and Nevada Falls. We hiked a total of 9 miles which included a mile each way from the parking lot to the trailhead. We had hoped to also hike the 2 miles to see Mirror Lake after this but we were all way too tired after this hike to do it. Next time!

The hike up to Vernal Fall is very crowded, but starts to thin out once you get past this waterfall and continue on up to Nevada Fall.

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Vernal Fall

There is so much spray from this waterfall that you get soaked on the way up. It felt like we were getting rained on in the picture below.

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With the spray comes beautiful rainbows!

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Once you get to the top of Vernal Fall, there is a large flat area to rest, let your clothes dry and have a snack before continuing on up to Nevada Fall.

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Top of Vernal Fall

Continuing on up to Nevada Fall was strenuous but so worth it!

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Nevada Fall

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Top of Nevada Fall

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There was a nice, large flat area at the top of this waterfall also which was a great place to rest and have lunch.

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Starting our hike back down the other side of Nevada Fall

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We really enjoyed our stay at the RV park because we got to park next to the Travaglino family. They are the ones that started the Fulltime Families group. Fulltime Families runs all of the rallies we attend and it is through that group that we have met so many other like-minded traveling families. We are so thankful for FtF. We had met the Travaglinos before, but never had the chance to get to know them very well. We enjoyed hanging out by the campfire each night and getting to know their family better.

Unfortunately one night while we were sitting around the campfire someone ran into our truck. An RV was pulling into the campground at night and took a turn too wide and the back end of his RV hit the back of our truck. With us always traveling we wondered how in the world we’re ever going to get that taken care of. I prayed that God would help us work out all the details and that something good would come out of the inconvenience. Well it did! First of all, the other guy’s insurance took care of everything and they did it quickly. They got it fixed at our next stop in Santa Cruz within a week, and meanwhile we had a nice fuel-efficient rental car to use to sight-see around Santa Cruz and Monterey. If you are at all familiar with Highway 1 (also known as the scenic Pacific Coast Highway), you would understand that having a smaller vehicle for that was a true blessing. The timing could not have been better to have something besides our big truck to drive around in for a few days. Romans 8:28 says that all things work together for the good of those who love God. I find that promise to prove true in our lives all the time, and this was one of those times. ūüôā

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Sequoia National Park

After leaving Las Vegas it was time to head into California. First stop was Sequoia National Park located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. We had planned to also visit Kings Canyon while we were there, but the only day we had available to do that ended up being a rainy and cold day so we didn’t make it.

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Anyway, Sequoia was beautiful of course but we only spent one day there. We stayed in Lemon Cove about¬†30 miles from the entrance. I had assumed we could make a few trips into the park in the evenings during the week, but on our first visit on Sunday we quickly realized that was not feasible. The hard part about visiting Sequoia is that you have to drive a very long twisty & windy road up a mountain before you get to most of what you would want to see and do in the park. So even though we were only 30 minutes from the entrance, it was probably another hour drive before we got to any hiking trails and things to see. And that hour drive was the source of some complaining of car-sickness because of the windy road. So we decided in order to more full experience this and Kings Canyon (which is connected to Sequoia), we will come back again someday and stay at a cabin or lodge inside the park. That way we will only need to do the carsick-inducing drive once and then spend a couple of days exploring once we’re in there.

Of course the main attraction at Sequoia are the enormous sequoia trees.

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General Sherman is the biggest tree on earth. Not the tallest nor the widest, but biggest by volume. Interestingly, the top of the tree is dead but the volume keeps increasing. The trunk grows wider every year, adding enough wood to equal another tree.

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A¬†tree’s trunk tells its history. The rings in the tree below show that the tree lived about 2,210 years and marks within some of the rings show scars from at least 80 different fires

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Can you spot the boys and me in the picture below? We are so small compared to these giants!

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The area of the park where you go to see these trees is at a pretty high elevation, so there was still lots of snow left in May.

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After admiring the giant sequoias, we went to hike up Moro Rock. You get beautiful panoramic views of the entire park from up there.

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Lastly we went to the Tunnel Log to see if we could fit our big truck through it.

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We fit!

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We stayed at Lemon Cove RV Park which was a nice little park with a¬†pool. Even though it was very cold up in the higher elevations of Sequoia, down where we stayed it got quite hot that week. An added bonus to staying there is we met another Fulltime Family staying at the park. We really enjoyed getting to know them during the week at our nightly “happy hours” and hope to meet up with them again soon.

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The drive into Sequoia from Lemon Cove is very pretty, passing by Kaweah Lake…

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…and the cute town of Three Rivers and the currently raging Kaweah River. Please be careful if you visit any areas with raging rivers like this. Two people died falling into this river during the time we were in the area. The water is so rough right now due to all the heavy rain and snow CA experienced over the winter, and the rocks are so slippery. I believe the people that died fell in when they slipped on the rocks.

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One day was certainly not enough to fully experience Sequoia, there is much more to see so we will hopefully go back again someday and visit Kings Canyon while we’re at it. Next we moved on to Yosemite, one of my new favorite parks!

 

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Zion National Park

We have finally been to all 5 of the big Utah national parks, with Zion being our 5th. I can’t say that Zion is my favorite because it was actually the most crowded of the 5 and the crowd level took some of the fun out of it. However, we still had a great time visiting this very popular park.

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Our first day visiting this park was on a Monday afternoon. We could not believe how crowded it was! There is very little parking inside the park so there are several parking lots outside the entrance scattered around the town of Springdale. There is a shuttle bus that will take you into the park from Springdale.

We had wanted to drive on the Zion-Mount Carmel scenic highway through the tunnel that sounds pretty cool, but the lady at the entrance station said we could not drive the dually truck through there unless we pay $15 for an escort. I had heard about that before but thought it only applied to RVs, not dually trucks so we aborted that plan.

We took a chance on driving into the park to see if we could park near the visitor center, and we were able to park in the oversized vehicles lot where we saw several other dually trucks parked. I guess if we can’t drive through the tunnel because our truck is too big, at least we were able to park in oversized parking.

We went in the visitor center to pick up maps and junior ranger books, and the line to the desk was the longest we’ve ever seen at any park so far. Once we got that taken care of we looked at the park maps to try to decide what to do. The line for the shuttle bus that takes you into the park was about 45 minutes long (seriously, this place is worse than Disney as far as crowds go). So we opted to hike the Watchman trail which starts at the Visitor Center so we did not need to take a shuttle bus anywhere.

This hike was approximately 3 miles round trip and gave us some spectacular views of the towering rock formations at Zion. It was very nice to get up on the trail and away from the crowds.

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After this hike we went back to the campground to re-group and come up with some kind of strategy for visiting this very crowded park. I’m not sure if it’s always this crowded, we were there for the 2 weeks before and after Easter, so maybe it was more crowded than usual with spring break crowds.

That weekend we decided to go to the less-visited side of the park called Kolob Canyons. That turned out to be a good choice for Easter weekend. It was not crowded at all and we enjoyed some nice hiking there.

But we still had to figure out how we were going to explore the main part of Zion. Chris came up with the idea that we should spend the night at the Zion Lodge. The Zion Lodge is inside the park and if you are staying there you get a special red parking pass that allows you to drive into the park where only shuttle buses are allowed. By parking and staying overnight at the lodge we were able to avoid the crowds at the visitor center and get an early start on the trails in the morning before the rest of the world entered the park. We were lucky to get an opening for one night at the lodge. Typically you need to reserve a room there a year in advance, but they seem to always have last minute cancellations.

Staying at Zion Lodge was a real treat! We had a beautiful view from our balcony.

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From the lodge we were able to hike to the Lower and Upper Emerald Pools. The hiking trail starts right across the street. The pools were not emerald colored at this time of year but were actually kind of muddy. I heard that at certain times of the year they are a prettier color. The hike was still very pretty regardless, although very crowded (have I mentioned how crowded this park is?) ūüėČ

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Virgin River

In the evening we explored the cute town of Springdale and found out from the locals that Oscars is the best place to eat so we had dinner there. It was very good so I can see why the locals like it.

The next day was our best hiking day in Zion. Since we were able to get an early start from the lodge we were able to avoid most of the crowds that show up later in the day. We started by hiking along the Riverside Walk which is a mile out and back. This paved trail goes alongside the Virgin River and it’s very pretty. It ends at the start of the Narrows. The Narrows is a hike through a slot canyon where you also are hiking in the river and will get wet. It sounds like an amazing hike and it was the hike I was most looking forward to at Zion, but unfortunately it was closed. The Virgin River was at a very high level when we were there and it’s not safe to hike through the Narrows when it is at this level. It sounds like late summer may be a better time for that hike so we’ll have to try again someday.

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The start of the Narrows; no hiking beyond this point until the river level goes down.

Next we did the short hike up to Weeping Rock.

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Weeping Rock

Lastly we hiked to Hidden Canyon. This hike goes up many switchbacks until you get to a section where you are literally on the side of a cliff and have to hold onto chains. It was quite scary and fun all at the same time. Jake really enjoyed it, but Chris was nervous the whole time. He doesn’t do well with heights and especially has a hard time watching his kids on the side of a cliff. I can’t say that I blame him. One of the most popular hikes at Zion is called Angel’s Landing and it has some areas where you are on very narrow ledges holding onto chains. We did not do that hike this time because we were not sure we were ready to take the kids on that, but Jake really wants to try it next time since he liked this one so much.

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Chains to hold while hiking along the cliff

You can’t see it in these pictures, but it is a very long way down over the edge here. I think we were all a little nervous, except for Jake who seems to be fearless. There was a couple behind us and the man was petrified. I didn’t think he would make it, but once we got to the top I saw his wife hug him and congratulate him. He was so relieved and I think he conquered a fear that day.

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After our fun day of hiking it was time to get the kid’s junior ranger badges and head back to the campground.

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I found it interesting how many parts of Zion are named after places in the Bible. Zion itself is a biblical name. There is also Angel’s Landing, the Court of the Patriarchs (where the 3 large rock formations are named Abraham, Isaac and Jacob), the Great White Throne, and the Virgin River.

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The Court of the Patriarchs

Chris had a great idea when he suggested we stay at the Zion Lodge. It really gave us a chance to more fully explore Zion without having to worry about driving the truck, where to park the truck, long shuttle bus lines, etc. I would like to go back someday and experience the Narrows and maybe even Angel’s Landing (still undecided about that one). I just don’t know when exactly is a good time to go there when it’s not so crowded. A lady in Springdale said it’s always crowded except in the winter, so maybe there really is no “best” time to go.

Now that we’ve been to the big 5 Utah parks, would you like to know which one is my favorite? All 5 parks are incredible, but my absolute favorite is Bryce Canyon. I love Bryce and cannot wait to go there again someday.

During the 2 weeks we were in the area we stayed at a fabulous state park called Sand Hollow State Park in Hurricane, UT. I will write a separate post about that later along with a write up about our day of hiking in Snow Canyon State Park nearby which was amazing!

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Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon was one of my favorite places we visited in our first year of travels, and it is definitely worth a return visit. This is one of those places that I could return to again and again. I could never tire of hiking through the beautiful hoodoos.

If you’ve been following along you might remember that we got to enjoy some snow at Grand Canyon just a couple of weeks before coming here. We were so excited to get even more snow while we were at Bryce Canyon.

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The boys got to enjoy sledding down a little hill at the campground. When we bought these sleds for the sand dunes in Texas we had no idea we would get to use them again so soon, or that we would be able to use them for snow this time!

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We had one good day of snow, but most of it melted the next day. The rest of the week we were able to go for several hikes in the evenings after work. I love daylight savings time since it gets dark later in the day now so we have time to hike in the evenings.

Our first hike of the week was a repeat of one of our favorite hikes at this park: Queens Garden. This hike can be combined with the Navajo Loop trail, but since we wanted to do shorter hikes each evening, we did not combine them this time. The views on this hike are so incredible which means I took way too many pictures.

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The next day we did the Navajo Loop trail, but it ended up not being a loop because the Wall Street section was closed. So we hiked out and back. This hike includes going down a bunch of switchbacks which you later have to hike back up. Hiking back up is exhausting! On the way down most people passing me on the way back up were out of breath. I knew that would be me on our way back up, and sure enough it was!

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The last hike we did that week was the Peek-a-Boo Loop trail starting from Bryce Point. This hike was new to us this time and we all loved it! That has become our new favorite hike at Bryce. The hike down from Bryce Point was a little tricky with all the ice and snow still on the trail. It was wet, muddy and slippery in some sections, but so worth the effort to get to the bottom for the Peek-a-Boo Loop. This hike is a total of 5 miles: 1 mile down from Bryce Point, a 3 mile loop and then a mile climb back up.

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We stayed at Ruby’s Inn RV Park. We really like to stay there while visiting Bryce because it’s right outside the entrance to the park. There is also a shuttle bus to take you into the park from the campground, but it wasn’t running yet when we were there in April. The shuttle bus service runs from May through September.

This last picture was taken on scenic highway 12 on the way to Bryce as you go past Red Canyon. When we came here 2 years ago we weren’t sure if we could fit under this tunnel so we pulled over to measure before going under. This time I wanted to get a picture of Chris driving the rig under the tunnel and I can see we had plenty of room!

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Painted Desert, Slot Canyon and Hoodoos

Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument spans almost 2 million acres in southern Utah. It can be difficult to find where to go or how to find information about hikes and other things to do there. It’s not your typical national park or monument with an entrance station and visitor center with all the information you would need. Thankfully I learned about some really cool hikes to do near Lake Powell from another Fulltime Family. All of these areas we explored were within 30 miles of where we stayed in Page, Arizona.

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First we went to the Paria Rimrocks Toadstools (also known as Hoodoos). The parking lot for this is right off US 89 between mile marker 19 and 20 heading northwest away from Page. It’s a pretty easy hike of less than a mile to get to the “toadstools” which are cool rock formations.

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Check out the yoga class going on in the picture below. What a cool spot for a yoga class!

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Some of this hike looked like we were on another planet. It actually reminded me of the Badlands in South Dakota.

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After this hike we continued on up US 89 to mile marker 31 to the Paria River Valley Road scenic drive. This is a 6 mile long dirt road past some beautifully layered, multi-colored cliffs. The colors and painted desert look was just stunning!

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On this drive you go through the Pahreah ghost town, a cemetery and the site of an old movie set. Some scenes from The Outlaw Josey Wales were filmed there.

Lastly we backtracked down US 89 back towards AZ to mile marker 26 and turned down House Rock Valley Road. About 8 miles down this dirt road is the Wire Pass Trailhead. From there you can hike to Buckskin Gulch, the longest and deepest slot canyon in the southwest. The canyon is 12 miles long but we only hiked for a few miles. We love hiking in slot canyons with the tall towering cliff walls high above us on either side and narrow passageways.

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We had such a fun day exploring these various locations in the Grand Staircase. There are many other hikes and locations to explore in this park, but it is so spread out so we only visited the few that were near where we were staying in AZ. If you are ever in this area I hope you’ll find the highway and mile marker information useful.

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Lake Powell and Glen Canyon

Lake Powell and the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area are¬†in both Arizona and Utah. We stayed at the Wahweap Campground in Page, AZ. We actually stayed here in the summer of 2015 but left after only a couple of days because it was 105 degrees during the day. We loved the area and wanted to come back again and see more of it when it wasn’t so hot. March turned out to be a great time to visit. The weather was much nicer and it’s still the off-season at that time so it wasn’t very crowded at all.

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View from our campsite at Wahweap Campground

There is so much to do in this area! For starters, Lake Powell itself is absolutely gorgeous with the sky blue water and colorful rocks and¬†cliffs in the background. It’s stunning!

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Lake Powell at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

The Glen Canyon dam and visitor center are close by so we went there to check out the dam and pick up Junior Ranger booklets. The dam is incredible to look at! You can walk across the bridge to get an amazing view looking down at the Colorado River. The visitor center also has great views of the dam and bridge and is very educational as well. The visitor center and bridge are free, but you can also take a paid tour of the dam which we did not do.

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View from inside the visitor center

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View of dam from bridge

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View of Colorado River from other side of bridge

New Junior Ranger badges. Their vests have gotten too heavy to wear for long and we now need to add badges to the back of their vests.

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Horseshoe Bend is another place that is a must-see in this area and it’s free! It is a section of the Colorado River that bends through the canyon. It is incredible, but also a little scary. There are no railings or anything to prevent people from falling off this cliff. I would be very hesitant to take small children here. Chris is afraid of heights and he didn’t like this very much, but I thought it was awesome! He was happy when I finished taking pictures and said we could go. ūüėČ

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Horseshoe Bend

Notice the people laying down at the edge to the right of us in the picture below. That was a good way to look over the edge and see the river below. It was very scary to stand at the edge!

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Another fantastic place to visit in Page is Antelope Canyon, but that deserves a post of its own so stay tuned for that next.

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Grand Canyon National Park

On our way out west we are passing by some areas that we visited a couple of years ago. Grand Canyon is one of those that is worth repeating. We were excited to be there when they got a little bit of snow. We don’t see snow very often so this was a treat for us.

Arizona does not observe daylight savings time so at this time of the year they are on the same time as Pacific. That means that the sun comes up pretty early in the morning and we were up bright and early to witness our first snowy day of 2017. This was at the Trailer Village RV Park right inside the national park. We love staying right in the park because they have bus transportation to take you where you want to go. And they have restaurants and lodges that are fun to visit.

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I know it’s not much but it was better than nothing. This was Fat Cat’s first experience with snow ever. She didn’t know what to think of the stuff!

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Later in the afternoon the snow had already melted off the picnic table but it started snowing again so we brought Fat Cat back out to see how she liked it falling on her head. I think her expression in this picture is so funny!

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In the morning we headed out to check out the canyon before the snow melted.

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We saw lots of deer out at that time of the morning looking around for some breakfast.

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The snow on the trees was so pretty!

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The boys enjoyed a snowball fight.

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We enjoyed this so much! I know for those of you that live in cold climates where you see snow all winter, this would not be very exciting. I’m sure a warm and sunny beach scene with palm trees would be more appealing. As one of my friends told me, it’s all in your perspective. For us Floridians, snow is a novelty to us and we enjoy it so much when we see it.

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After our one day of snow the weather cleared up and we saw a spectacular Grand Canyon sunset the next evening.

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We did 2 hikes while we were there. The first one was the Bright Angel trail hike.

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We started down into the canyon and about a mile down we heard loud thunder and it started to storm and sleet. We know from our visit here 2 years ago that being inside the canyon during a lightning storm can be very dangerous so we abandoned the rest of that hike and went back up.

This was the start of the hike and the skies were a little cloudy but not too bad.

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But then the storm clouds rolled in and it looked pretty ominous.

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The next day was much better for hiking and we did our favorite hike down the South Kaibab trail. We did this hike 2 years ago, but only went as far as the Ooh Aah Point. This year we continued on down to the Cedar Ridge Point which was amazing!

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Starting down the South Kaibab trail

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Spectacular views every step of the way

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Ooh Aah Point

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Cedar Ridge Point

This was on the way back up. See those ants crawling up the cliff? Those are people, and would soon be us. I was so tired at this point I didn’t think I would make it up there, but I’m here to talk about it which means I made it. ūüėČ

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Grand Canyon is such a magical place and definitely one of those places worth going back to again and again.

Next we moved on to Lake Powell in Page, AZ. Stay tuned…

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Badlands National Park

While in South Dakota we visited Badlands National Park. ¬†I have to admit I did not have very high expectations for this park. ¬†I mean after we just spent the past month or two visiting the Tetons, Yellowstone & Glacier, I wasn’t sure anything could measure up. ¬†I am happy to report I was wrong. ¬†The Badlands are amazing! ¬†It was so beautiful and so other-worldly. ¬†I mean it seriously looked like we had landed on another planet. ¬†Hey, that’s not such a bad idea! ¬†If space travel ever becomes a “thing”, we might have to change our names from RoadSchoolers to GalaxySchoolers! ūüôā

Anyway back on earth, here we are at the Badlands.

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Beautiful hills that remind me of the painted desert in Arizona with wildflowers everywhere.

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Oops, a little traffic jam caused by some pronghorn sheep that decided to walk in the middle of the road instead of on the endless miles of prairies off to the side.

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This was after they decided to get off the road and let us drive by, thank you very much!

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We started our hike at the Door Trail.  This is where it especially felt like or looked like walking on another planet.

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Oh no, it seems we have left bear country, but we’re back in the land of rattlesnakes. ¬†Yuck! ¬†I’m not sure which is worse. ¬†At least bears are cuter.

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Next was the Window Trail.

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And then the Notch Trail which had a fun ladder to climb.

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The Notch Trail was my favorite.  Not only was the trail itself really fun with so many cool rocks to climb, but the end of the trail had a really amazing view.

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Climbing back down the ladder was a little harder than climbing up, but Jesse makes it look so easy.

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Afterward he wanted to sing a song on top of a rock. ūüėČ

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The last trail we hiked was the Saddle Pass trail which was a short but steep climb.  You see that pointed peak in the background?  Jesse and I climbed to the top of that!

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When we reached the end of the Saddle Pass Trail, Jesse and I wanted to climb to the top of that peak, so there we are — those two little dots almost to the top.

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We made it!  Now we look like one little dot at the top.

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Climbing back down Saddle Pass was a lot harder than going up. ¬†It’s like trying to walk down a dusty slide. ¬†You might as well just sit on your butt and slide down because that’s basically how you’ll end up going down anyway. ūüôā

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At the end of the day, we stopped at the Visitor Center so the boys could earn their Junior Ranger badges.

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On our way out of the park we passed by one of many prairie dog towns.  They are so cute!

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We visited the Badlands in September, and it was a very nice day (about 80ish), but it felt really hot on some of those hikes.  I have heard that in the summer it gets well over 100 there.  So if you plan to visit, keep in mind that the middle of summer is probably not the best time to go.  I think September was great, but even October is probably very nice.

If you have ever traveled down I-90 in South Dakota, you would see many billboards advertising a tourist trap called Wall Drug. ¬†Wall Drug is close to the Badlands so we went there after the park to check it out. ¬†It’s basically just a bunch of shops and some restaurants, and you can buy any kind of SD souvenirs that you can imagine. ¬†There are also lots of fun statues for the kids to play on.

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That wraps up the highlights of our time in the Black Hills of South Dakota. ¬†Next up — Minnesota!

Categories: National Parks | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Custer State Park and Mt. Rushmore

After leaving Montana and Wyoming we headed east to South Dakota and stayed at Custer State Park. ¬†This park was amazing! ¬†We all agree it should be a national park. ¬†It’s a very big park with several different areas and campgrounds. ¬†It’s definitely one of the coolest state parks we have been to. ¬†I was very thankful to get a campsite there as they start taking reservations a year in advance, but I didn’t know we would be going there until about 3 months in advance.

We had lots of excitement at our campsite every day as bison came walking through. ¬†We’re always told to never approach or go near the wildlife, but we couldn’t really help the fact that these bison were always grazing¬†right in our campsite. ¬†Sometimes we would be sitting outside and look up to find a bison just a few feet away!

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Fat Cat was pretty scared of these things.  She wanted to run back in the house anytime she saw one.  I think she realized this animal was much too large for her to mess with.  She liked to watch from the safety of indoors.

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We visited 3 different areas of this park.  First was a driving tour of the Wildlife Loop.  We saw some pronghorn sheep and bison on this loop, but honestly we thought the wildlife sightings back at our campsite were a lot more interesting.

The next evening we drove the Needles Highway. ¬†This was an amazing drive with spectacular scenery of these tall rock formations. ¬†I had read about this highway beforehand that mentioned 3 tunnels we would have to drive through. ¬†The tunnels are very narrow and only one vehicle can fit through at a time. ¬†As you know, our vehicle is rather large and we weren’t sure if we should do this drive. ¬†The Needles Eye Tunnel is only 8’4″ wide and our truck is about 7’10” wide. ¬†But we did it! ¬†Chris is such a good driver. ūüôā

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Needles Eye Tunnel – I can’t believe we drove through this!

We hiked to the Cathedral Spires which was a beautiful hike.

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Then we drove to Sylvan Lake and walked the 1 mile loop around the lake.  This was a such a fun hike because there are so many rocks to climb on!

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There were also a couple of narrow passageways to walk through.

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I really loved how the rocks reflected in the water like a mirror.

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The next evening we drove the scenic Iron Mountain Road to go visit Mt. Rushmore. ¬†This road also had some tunnels, but not nearly as narrow as the Needles Highway. ¬†As we¬†drove through the last tunnel, we could¬†see the president’s heads in the distance.

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Mt. Rushmore is one of those iconic landmarks that is a “must see” on any American road trip.

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All 50 state flags are on this walkway.

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The boys earned their Mt. Rushmore Junior Ranger badges.

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Before we started traveling like this, I had never really given the state of South Dakota much thought.  I had no idea it is such a beautiful state with so many awesome things to do.  We visited Badlands National Park next, but I will save that for my next post.  Cheers!

Categories: Fun and Interesting Places, National Parks | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park

While we were in Glacier we decided to make a day trip up to the Canadian side of the park called Waterton Lakes.  Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada and Glacier National Park in Montana, USA joined together to become the first International Peace Park in 1932.  The Peace Park commemorates the friendship between the two countries.  I love this because my dad is from Nova Scotia and I have many friends and relatives from Canada.

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Waterton Lakes was a 3 hour drive from where we were staying near West Glacier, so we left the RV at the park in Montana and stayed in a hotel up at Waterton for one night.  This was so exciting because although I have been to Canada, I had never been to Alberta.  And our kids thought it was really fun to go to another country for the day.  Now Jake really wants to spend a summer exploring Canada, and so do I.  What a beautiful country!

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Our first stop at Waterton Lakes was Red Rock Canyon.  This was a lot of fun for the kids to climb on the rocks and Jesse even found some rock slides.

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I think it’s pretty obvious why they called this Red Rock Canyon!

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Then we got settled at our hotel before venturing out to explore Waterton Village.  The village is in the middle of the national park and it is so cute!  There are several hotels to choose from.  We stayed at Waterton Lakes Lodge because it had an indoor pool and hot tub which we enjoyed very much.  You can walk to all the restaurants and shops in the area from any of the hotels.  There were lots of deer everywhere!

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Even Bambi!

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Waterton Lake is gorgeous!

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We ate dinner at a restaurant right next to the lake. ¬†While we waited for the food the kids enjoyed playing in their “yard” and on the chair swings.

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I think I look a little tired in this picture.  This family sure knows how to work hard and play hard!

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The next day we hiked to Bertha Falls.

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Some beautiful views of the lake and mountains from the hiking trail.

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Then we toured the Prince of Wales Hotel which was stunning!

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This is the lake view from the hotel.

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I am so glad we made this little side trip from Glacier, but our time there was too short.  Like I say about most places we go, that just means we have to go back again someday.  Exploring more of Alberta is now on our ever-growing bucket list.

Categories: National Parks | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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