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!

0511171542f_HDR

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.

0511170849b_HDR

0511170850_HDR

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.

0511171036_HDR

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.

0511171145_HDR

0511171206_HDR~2

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.

0511171433_HDR

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!

0511171435a_HDR

Ooh, that’s cold!!

0511171439_HDR

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.

0511171456d_HDR

0511171455_Burst04

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.

0513171035a_HDR

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.

0513171039c_HDR

With the spray comes beautiful rainbows!

0513171038b_HDR

0513171042a_HDR

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.

0513171054a_HDR

0513171101b_HDR

Top of Vernal Fall

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

0513171149c_HDR

0513171150b_HDR

Nevada Fall

0513171219a_HDR

Top of Nevada Fall

0513171250d_HDR

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

0513171253a_HDR

0513171301_HDR

Starting our hike back down the other side of Nevada Fall

0513171302_HDR

0513171311_HDR

0513171318_HDR

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. 🙂

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

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.

0506171340b_HDR~2

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.

0430171409b_HDR~2

0430171424a_HDR

0430171431_Burst02

0430171432_HDR

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.

0430171516a_HDR~2

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

0430171520_HDR

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

0430171523_HDR~2

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.

0430171535_HDR

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

0430171604b_HDR

0430171606_HDR

0430171607b_HDR

0430171612b_HDR

0430171615_HDR

0430171622_Burst03

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

0430171656_HDR

We fit!

0430171648a_Burst17

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.

0504171524d_HDR

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

0506171445_HDR~2

…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.

0506171408a_HDR

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!

 

Categories: California, National Parks | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The City I Did Not Want to Visit

Las Vegas or Sin City. What do you call it? Vegas was never high up on my bucket list of places to go, but somehow we ended up there for a week between Utah and California. It was a good stopping point and there were several other Fulltime Families in the area. But, were we really going to take our kids to Sin City? I was very apprehensive about going there, but some friends reassured me that there are plenty of kid-friendly things to do in the area. So we went.

I am happy to say that despite my misgivings, we had a great time and I’m so glad we went. I honestly did not see anything that weird or inappropriate. I’ll admit, this traveling lifestyle has taken me out of my comfort zone more than once, and this was one of those times.

One of the really fun things we did was hike at Red Rock Canyon. I know it seems strange to hike while in Vegas, but this was a really great place to get away from the busyness of the city. There are so many hikes at this park, but we only had time for one. We did the Calico Tanks hike which was amazing. It is an out and back hike with lots of rock scrambling which our kids love.

0424171641_HDR

0424171632_HDR

0424171735c_HDR

0424171703b_HDR

0424171716a_HDR

At the end of the trail you can enjoy a beautiful view of the city of Las Vegas off in the distance.

0424171712b_HDR

The next night we went to the Pinball Hall of Fame retro arcade. All arcade games are only a quarter and we had so much fun playing these games that I remember playing in the 80s. Donkey Kong was always my favorite, but I’m not very good at it anymore.

0425171650b_HDR

0425171645_HDR

The best part about our week in Vegas was getting to know the Arnold family better. We had met them before at FtF rallies but had not gotten the chance to spend much time with them. We had dinner with them several times that week, played lots of games together and explored Vegas. They already knew their way around the strip so I felt okay about going to see it during the day with our kids. I was pretty sure we should not stay after it got dark.

It was really a lot of fun exploring all the hotels. This one was one of my favorites.

20170426_172939

Excalibur Hotel

The New York New York hotel was pretty amazing with a roller coaster outside.

0426171731_HDR

So I said we would not stay past dark, but somehow we ended up staying until 10pm! And it was awesome! We had a great dinner at Nacho Daddy where they have so many unique options for nachos. I tried Thai Chicken nachos and Chris tried buffalo chicken nachos. Both were delicious!

Walking around the strip at night was so pretty with all the lights. And like I said earlier, we did not see anything that made me feel uncomfortable with kids. We did see people handing out flyers for prostitutes, but they do not hand them out to people with kids which I was glad about.

0426172102b_HDR

We watched the fountain light show at the Bellagio Hotel which was so pretty!

0426172204a_Burst01

20170426_215633(0)

I was so happy that Bunny and Eric were there with us. I don’t think I would have enjoyed it nearly as much without them to show us around.

Another night we went back to watch the Nathan Burton Comedy Magic Show. We were able to get a good deal on tickets through Groupon and it was a kid-friendly show. We all loved it!

0428171721_HDR

The kids with Nathan Burton after the show.

We stayed at the Oasis Las Vegas RV Resort. This was the nicest and safest place we could find in Vegas, but it was very crowded. It’s definitely not our favorite type of place to stay. You probably have heard me say before that I love state parks where we have lots of space, like the super large space we had at our last campground at Sand Hollow. It was hard to go from that space to this!

0423171617_HDR

Very crowded and tight sites!

This RV park at least had a pool which was fun for the kids. And us adults enjoyed the hot tub one night while the kids stayed home and played games.

20170427_180404

I am so happy that we did not skip Vegas just because I had heard so many bad things about it. I’m sure there are lots of bad things that go on there, but there are also lots of good, family-friendly things to do. A friend of mine wrote a great blog post about all the fun things they like to do with kids in Vegas: A Kid-Friendly Guide to Vegas.

There were many things in her list that we did not have time for, so I guess that means that one day we’ll actually return to Las Vegas. I never thought I would hear myself say that! 🙂

Categories: Nevada | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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!

0409171510a_HDR

0409171511b_HDR

The Sand Hollow Reservoir was right behind our site.

0412172008b_HDR

0412172011_HDR

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.

0413171916_HDR

0413171918_HDR

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.

0422171254_HDR

0422171258d_HDR

0422171305_HDR

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.

0422171350_HDR

0422171408_HDR

0422171418c_HDR

0422171353a_HDR

0422171430_HDR

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

0422171436c_HDR

0422171440e_HDR

0422171450d_HDR

0422171439b_HDR

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.

0422171446b_HDR

0422171344_HDR

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!

 

Categories: Utah | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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.

0418171508_Burst05

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.

0410171450_HDR

0410171505c_HDR

0410171507b_HDR

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.

0417171556a_HDR

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?) 😉

0417171500_HDR

0417171450a_HDR

0417171448b_HDR

0417171517a_HDR

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.

0418170930a_HDR~2

0418170953b_HDR

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.

0418171039_HDR

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.

0418171128_HDR

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.

0418171156a_HDR~2

0418171158a_HDR

0418171159d_HDR

0418171216_HDR

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

0418171502b_HDR

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.

0417172009b_HDR

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!

Categories: National Parks, Utah | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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.

0403171103c_HDR

0403171107f_HDR

0403171127_Burst01

0403171130d_HDR

0403171112a_HDR

0403171143b_HDR

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!

0403171740_Burst27

0403171736a_HDR

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.

0405171636a_HDR

0405171649_HDR

0405171653d_HDR

0405171654a_HDR

0405171655a_HDR

0405171656_HDR

0405171700a_HDR

0405171712a_Burst01

0405171713b_HDR

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!

0406171646c_HDR

0406171723_HDR

0406171724a_HDR

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.

0407171531b_HDR

0407171532_HDR

0407171534_HDR

0407171535b_HDR

0407171536_HDR

0407171542_HDR

0407171542g_HDR

0407171546b_HDR

0407171555c_HDR

0407171624_HDR

0407171633_HDR

0407171751a_HDR

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!

0402171417a_Burst13

Categories: National Parks, Utah | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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.

0401171348_Burst02

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.

0401171132a_HDR

0401171135a_HDR

0401171137a_HDR

0401171141d_HDR

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

0401171142_HDR

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

0401171149_HDR

0401171152_HDR

0401171200g_HDR~2

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!

0401171333_HDR~2

0401171338c_HDR~3

0401171300c_HDR~2

0401171318a_HDR~2

0401171322a_HDR~2

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.

0401171520_HDR

0401171545a_HDR

0401171520a_HDR

0401171553a_HDR

0401171514_HDR

0401171549a_HDR

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

Lower Antelope Canyon

While we were in Page, AZ we heard that Antelope Canyon is a “must see”. So I researched it and found out that we can’t just go and tour the canyon on our own, we have to go as part of a paid tour group. Since we prefer to do our own thing and not have to follow a crowd we were not all that interested in doing that. Besides the fact that it’s a little pricey. I know I say this often but we are not on vacation. We can’t do every fun activity available at every location we visit; we have to carefully pick and choose what we all want to do as a family. If it costs money we have to decide if it’s really worth it.

0329171511_HDR

0329171514c_HDR

There are actually 2 tours: Lower and Upper Antelope Canyon. We chose to do the lower canyon tour. I had a hard time finding much information online about this tour and how much it costs. I incorrectly learned that it would be approximately $80 for our family, and after seeing some pictures we decided we should do it.

0329171509b_HDR

It turns out it was $116 for our family of 4. The ticket prices added up to $84 ($25/adult and $17/child), but this canyon is on Navajo land and we also had to pay a tribal fee of $8 each. Anyway, this ended up being a pretty expensive tour. It was also very crowded and we were really having second thoughts about our decision to do this.

0329171534_HDR

Well, I am happy to report that it was very much worth our time and money! This place was so incredible! I usually say pictures don’t do it justice, but I think these pictures actually turned out really great.

We did this tour with Ken’s Guided Tours of Lower Antelope Canyon. Our tour guide, Brook, was amazingly helpful. He helped me with my phone camera settings, he showed me the best angles to get the best pictures, and he even took my phone from me several times and took the best pictures. He was an awesome tour guide and I was so glad we got assigned to him.

0329171511a_HDR

He took pictures that he said had been used as Apple and Microsoft screen savers, and he showed us some shots that famous photographers took that sold for millions of dollars!

0329171526_HDR

The waves and layers in these rocks were such an incredible site!

0329171523_HDR

The tour lasted for maybe an hour or two (I don’t really remember), but the crowd really thinned out as we started through the canyon. Around every corner we would find new angles and interesting rock formations. Being a slot canyon, there were many areas with narrow passageways to walk through.

0329171537_Burst01

0329171533_HDR

0329171536a_Burst04

Brook took many pictures of the 4 of us together which was wonderful!

0329171519b_HDR

0329171529b_HDR

0329171544a_HDR

He was even very creative with some pictures like this one where he made a sand waterfall.

0329171555a_HDR

0329171516c_HDR

0329171541a_HDR

0329171543_HDR

0329171551b_HDR

0329171556_HDR

This last picture was right after we came up out of the canyon. We were down there in that tiny slot! It’s amazing to look back across the top and realize how much incredible scenery is down there below.

0329171557_HDR

Like I said earlier, we don’t usually splurge on tours like this, but I am so happy we decided to do this one. Touring Antelope Canyon is such a unique experience and I would highly recommend it if you’re in the area.

 

Categories: Arizona | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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.

0328171937_HDR

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!

0329171624_HDR

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.

0329171230_HDR

View from inside the visitor center

0329171232a_HDR

0329171242a_HDR

0329171248_HDR

0329171252a_Burst04

0329171250_HDR

View of dam from bridge

0329171255a_HDR

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.

0402171012_HDR

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. 😉

0329171334_HDR

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!

0329171428_Burst02

0329171436_HDR

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

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

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.

0323170632_HDR

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!

0323170632d_HDR

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!

0323171514d_HDR

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

0323170801b_HDR

0323170834_HDR

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

0323170805a_Burst01

The snow on the trees was so pretty!

0323170823_HDR

The boys enjoyed a snowball fight.

0323170819a_Burst01

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.

0323170833a_HDR

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

0324171838_HDR~2

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

0325171218_HDR

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.

0325171225a_HDR

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

0325171257_HDR

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!

0326171311a_HDR

Starting down the South Kaibab trail

0326171312_HDR

Spectacular views every step of the way

0326171415_Burst02

Ooh Aah Point

0326171321_HDR

0326171322c_HDR

0326171325a_HDR

0326171328a_HDR

0326171335_HDR

0326171338c_HDR

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. 😉

0326171436_HDR

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…

Categories: Arizona, National Parks | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.