Birthday Celebration in Park City, Utah

It was almost 3 years ago that we set out on this adventure of a lifetime. I started this blog 3 years ago this month with this post about why we are doing this. In that post I mentioned that the #1 reason we are doing this is because “blink and they are grown”. Truer words have never been spoken! It seems like just yesterday that my first child Jake was born, and the next thing I knew he became a teenager. How did that happen??

We were in Park City, Utah to celebrate his 13th birthday at the end of September where we spent the day at Park City Mountain riding alpine slides and coasters.


Getting ready for our first ride down the alpine coaster.


This was so much fun! We were able to ride it several times that day with little to no wait since it was a weekday and not crowded. On the alpine coaster you ride up the mountain in the coaster for about 5 minutes or so, enjoying the views, and then fly back down in much less time.

I took this picture on the way up, but I couldn’t take any pictures on the way down.


We also rode up the scenic chairlift a few times to ride the alpine slide.




Jake going down the alpine slide.

We purchased a day pass so we could have unlimited rides. The day pass also included the Legacy Launcher, gem mining and mini golf.


Jake on the Legacy Launcher


Gem mining.

After we closed the place down, we headed into the cute little mountain town of Park City to find some place to have a birthday dinner. We ended up having Mexican which seems to be what we go for most often.


The shops on Main Street were so cute!




We loved Park City Mountain and would really like to return there for skiing in the winter sometime.

We stayed at Jordanelle State Park that week which was gorgeous with the mountain views and beautiful fall colors. It was even snowing the day we got there but didn’t last very long as it warmed up slightly that week.


Beautiful campsite at Jordanelle State Park




I think this was a great place to spend Jake’s 13th birthday, and it’s definitely on the list to return again someday.

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Sand Hollow and Snow Canyon State Parks

While visiting Zion National Park we stayed at Sand Hollow State Park in Hurricane, UT. This was an absolutely beautiful state park and our campsite was huge with gorgeous views all around!



The Sand Hollow Reservoir was right behind our site.



This campsite was so big that the kids decided to design their own national park in our back yard. They named it Red Sands National Park. They made a map with trail information and junior ranger books for Chris and me to fill out. They used an app on my phone to map how long each trail was and then led us on some trail hikes.



I love to watch their creativity blossom at places like this!

We also visited Snow Canyon State Park in nearby St. George. This was a gorgeous state park with lots of fun hiking trails.

First we hiked a short trail to Jenny Canyon which is a slot canyon.




Then we hiked the Lava Tube trail which was a new experience for us and something the boys really enjoyed. We were able to walk around in the lava tubes which are like underground caves. These lava tubes were formed during a volcano eruption many years ago.






Then we climbed up this slick rock to an amazing view point.





See the black hole in the ground below? That was one of the lava tubes we explored. I’ll admit it’s kind of creepy down there. It’s very dark and we only had our cell phone flashlights which don’t shine very far into the dark.



There is so much to see and do in Utah which is why we keep returning. It was time to move on to more adventures but I sure hated to leave the incredibly spacious campsite at Sand Hollow. Wait until you see the site we moved to next. I’ll give you a hint, it was NOT spacious!


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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.


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.




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.


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





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.



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.


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.


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.





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


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.


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.







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!



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.










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!




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.













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.


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.





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


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




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!






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.







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.

Categories: National Parks, Utah | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Corona Arch and a Rattlesnake Encounter

Moab Utah has so many fun things to do that it is definitely one of those places we plan to return to one day. ¬†Besides visiting Arches and Canyonlands, and river rafting on the Colorado River, we also heard about a really awesome hike to Corona Arch. ¬†When I mentioned to Chris that I wanted to hike to this arch he said only if they would be serving Coronas once we got there. ūüėČ This hike is about 10 miles from Arches National Park. ¬†We met up with another Fulltime Family that joined us on this hike which made it even more fun!





Meet the Muller family.  4/5 of them anyway.  Fin must have been running off ahead with our boys at this time.  We loved hanging out with this family for the evening and hope to meet up with them again someday down the road.


There’s Fin!




What a beautiful arch!



Beautiful views looking back from the arch!



I thought this train track looked really cool coming through the rock.  I wish we would have seen a train come through while we were there.


While we were in Moab we stayed at the OK RV Park.  The sites at our campground were so close together!  This is why we prefer to stay at state parks whenever possible.  But while visiting Moab the choices are pretty much limited to RV parks with really tight sites like these (or boondocking).


The views were pretty though.


Speaking of boondocking, after the hike to Corona Arch the Muller family invited us to their campsite for dinner. ¬†They were boondocking at a really awesome spot. ¬†Boondocking (also known as dry camping) means they were camping at a spot with no water or electric hookups. ¬†We haven’t done that yet mainly because we don’t have a generator. ¬†I’m hoping we can get a generator sometime soon because from what I’ve seen you can stay in some really out of the way spots with amazing views. ¬†The picture below was taken from their campsite.


Wide open spaces in the wilderness like this would be nice, but I should mention there is a much higher chance of encountering wildlife like the rattlesnake the boys came across that night. ¬†The snake was right near Jake’s foot but thankfully only rattled to warn them to get away which they did. ¬†They came running and screaming back to the campsite. ¬†I thank God for watching over and protecting the boys that night!

I’m sorry I don’t have a picture of it. ¬†Chris went to look at it and since it was getting dark he needed a flashlight to see it. ¬†He called me over to check it out, which I did. ¬†It blended in really well with the sand. ¬†I’m surprised Jake didn’t step on it. ¬†Again, I thank God for protecting them!

Anyway, that about wraps up my posts from Utah.  Two weeks, three national parks and lots of fun!  Now on to some more adventures in Colorado.  Cheers!

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Canyonlands – The Needles

If you are following along, my last post was about Canyonlands РIsland in the Sky.  The Needles was about 70 miles south of where we stayed in Moab so we went there on a different day.

Maybe it’s just because we were tired from a lot of hiking and activities in Moab, but we just were not as impressed with this section of Canyonlands. ¬†If we had it to do over, we probably would have skipped it. ¬†It was a long drive and in our opinion, not really worth it.

This park is pretty far out of the way so maybe they just don’t get a lot of visitors, but they really need more parking spaces. ¬†To access the most popular hike in the park (Chesler Park), you need to drive down a narrow dirt road for 3 miles. ¬†The big dually truck has no trouble on dirt roads, but it becomes a problem when that road is skinny & narrow and someone else is coming the other direction.

Once we finally made it to the end of the 3 mile dirt road, there was no available parking.  It was a very tiny parking lot for the most popular hike in the park.  So, we turned around and made our way back out the skinny 3 mile dirt road.

We made the best of it by going on some of the other hikes, but they just really didn’t measure up to all the other places we had seen in Utah. ¬†Not to mention, parking was very limited at these other hikes as well.

Anyway, now that I’ve really built this up to be a great park, I’m sure you want to see my pictures, right? ūüôā

The first cool thing we saw was on the way into the park.  There were several cows just lying on the side of the road.


And then we got to Newspaper Rock.  This is a wall full of petroglyphs.


Those are the Needles way off in the distance.  If you come to this park and are fortunate enough to find parking for the Chesler Park hike, you can hike all the way up to the Needles which would probably be a really cool hike.


We hiked on the Pothole Point trail which has beautiful views off in the distance and fun rocks to climb on.  Lots of potholes in the slickrock too which I suppose is how they came up with the name for the trail.





We learned about cryptobiotic soil.  The black-ish soil in the picture below is alive and made of tiny living things.  There are signs in the parks to let you know to stay on the trail and not walk on this soil.


The Slickrock trail also had some beautiful views.







I really don’t mean to make it sound like this part of Canyonlands is not worth visiting. ¬†It certainly has some amazing views to see, and I’m sure if we had a chance to hike to the Needles it would have been awesome.

I also need to be fair and say that our lack of enthusiasm for this park may have a lot to do with the fact that we were all exhausted from 2 weeks of hiking in Utah.  The picture below of Jesse on the way home after the Needles pretty much sums up how we all felt by that point.



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Canyonlands – Island in the Sky

While we were in Moab, Utah we visited Canyonlands National Park. ¬†This park is separated into 3 districts: Island in the Sky, the Needles and the Maze. ¬†The districts are separated by the Colorado and Green Rivers. ¬†The Maze is not accessible by vehicle so we didn’t go there, but we did visit the Island in the Sky and the Needles on 2 different days. ¬†The entrance and visitor centers to these 2 districts are not at all close to each other, so it’s not practical to visit them on the same day.

I will add another post about the Needles later, but I will mention that of the 2 districts, we enjoyed Island in the Sky much better!

Our first hike was to Grand View Point.  It reminded me a little bit of the Grand Canyon, on a much smaller scale.










Next we did the Aztec Butte hike. ¬†We found out that Butte is pronounced “byoot”, not the way we had been saying it, lol! ¬†However, even though we now know the correct pronunciation, my kids still like to call it “butt” because they think that is funnier of course. ūüôā

It was a steep climb up slickrock. ¬†We met some other hikers along the way that said our kids are like monkeys. ¬†I’m not sure what they meant by that. ūüėČ Maybe it’s because Jesse was way up ahead of us, climbing like a monkey?


The views from the top were incredible, and it was a great place to stop for a snack break.




My people thought this cave looked like a good place to take a nap.


There were some structures from ancient peoples that lived there a few hundred years ago.



The next hike was on Whale Rock.  This one might have been our favorite.  It is made up of huge mounds of rock that from a distance could resemble a whale.



On top of the whale was the perfect place for a picnic lunch.


Nap time again?  I think I tired my people out with all the hiking while we were in Utah!



After lunch we did the Upheaval Dome hike.  That was definitely the hardest hike of the day.  Maybe it was because we could have stopped at the first overlook, but I insisted we keep going to the second overlook which involved a lot more up and down hill hiking.  By the end of this hike we were all exhausted.





But no matter how tired we were, we couldn’t leave Canyonlands without seeing Mesa Arch. ¬†It was a short hike to a spectacular view!





New Junior Ranger badges!


Stay tuned for another Canyonlands post about the Needles.  Cheers!

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River Rafting on the Colorado River

We decided to try river rafting while we were in Moab, Utah.  This was super fun and now the boys really want to do an overnight river rafting/camping trip sometime.

Moab has several options for river rafting outfitters.  We went with Canyon Voyages and they were awesome!  Our guides were friendly and knowledgeable.  They pointed out areas of interest along the way, and told lots of interesting stories.  We did the full day trip which included a stop for lunch.


The water was calm for most of the trip, with only about 6 rapids along the journey.  The rapids were the most fun though so we wish there had been more.



That is Fisher Towers off in the distance where mountain climbers climb all the way to the top!




Here come the rapids!




That water was cold!! ¬†Supposedly people jump in the water to swim on these trips, but that must happen later in the summer. ¬†At this time of the year I didn’t see anyone jumping in the water. ¬†And when the water splashed on us from the rapids it was quite cold.

The snow-covered mountains off in the distance are the La Sal Mountains.  I think there is snow up there most of the year.




This was where we stopped for lunch.  Canyon Voyages brings along a delicious lunch with many options like turkey or ham sandwiches, hummus, veggies, quinoa and fruit.


In the morning we were on the raft with a single guy from Poland who is touring America’s national parks for 6 months. ¬†He gets from place to place by hitchhiking. ¬†It was very interesting talking to him and getting to know him. ¬†In the afternoon we were on a raft with a really nice family from NC. ¬†One thing I love about our traveling lifestyle is meeting all kinds of different people from many different parts of the world.

I love these next pictures of the boys.  The expressions on their faces show me just how much they were enjoying themselves.  I love my boys, all 3 of them!





What a fun day! ¬†This trip was appropriate for young children. ¬†They allow kids as young as 5. ¬†Jesse is not quite old enough yet for a trip with more advanced rapids. ¬†Someday we’ll try that when he’s older and maybe an overnight rafting trip too.




Categories: Utah | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

Arches National Park

After we finished visiting Capitol Reef we headed over to Moab, Utah to visit Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.

Rather than just try to visit these parks in the evenings and on Saturday, we took a few days off work to more fully experience these parks.

Jake got a Utah Rocks t-shirt last year when we visited Bryce Canyon.  This year the rest of us decided to get those shirts so we all wore them while visiting Arches one day.  We all think that Utah ROCKS!


On our first visit to Arches we went to Balanced Rock and Double Arch.  How does that rock stay up there??



The scenery at Arches is simply stunning!


One day we went on 2 separate hikes, totaling over 8 miles. ¬†The first hike was to Landscape Arch, and then we went on a little further up to Partition and Navajo Arches. ¬†We didn’t make it all the way to Double O Arch; we’ll have to save that for next time.



Landscape Arch.


Climbing up to see more arches.


There was such a beautiful view through Partition Arch.



This is standing under Navajo Arch.



We hiked to a few more arches in this area and then took a lunch break.  After lunch we went to the Delicate Arch hike which I think is probably the most popular, and I can see why.  The hike up to it was strenuous, but with amazing views.


We hiked up lots of slickrock.





Then hiked around this narrow ledge.


The hike was worth it to come around the corner to see this!




We rested up at Delicate Arch for a long time, but eventually decided it was time to hike back down.


And then we went back to the Visitor Center so the boys could turn in their activity books and earn their Junior Ranger badges.


We really loved Arches and plan to return again someday to hike some of the other trails we didn’t make it to this time.

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