Thursday, July 30, 2009

July 29th, the last Day and the end of the blog :(

On Tuesday, the 28th, we left Socorro with many a teary eye. We said our good byes and headed to Albuquerque around 11. We were going to ride the Tram to the top of Sandia Peak. That ride leaves a ~6000 foot base to a 10,300 feet peak. It was an excellent view of the city and a fantastic place to have lunch and take a hike. The kids met with the park ranger and got the materials to earn their Jr Ranger Badge for Sandia. In order to find all the needed answers, we took a mile nature hike around the top of the mountain. It was a gorgeous day and the temps that high up were in the mid 70's (compared to 90's at the base). We spent a few hours there and then headed back to the old town part of the city. This area has many museums, shops, galleries and restaurants. It is a really fun place to stroll around. I had told the kids that if they could solve a math problem I had given them that I would buy them a slush. They solved it so we headed for the slush maker near the rattle snake museum as soon as we parked the car. On the way, we ran into our friends the Sakamotos! They were having an ice-cream before heading over to the AAA Isotopes baseball game. It was fun to see them again.

We found a great restaurant to have dinner- the High Noon Saloon. They had really good food and excellent service. We had a great last New Mexican meal before heading to our hotel for the last night of our trip.

On Wednesday, we headed to the airport for our 10:20 flight. Due to the wonderful weather on the East Coast, we had a 1 hour delay leaving New Mexico and a 3 hour wait on the tarmac in Baltimore due to the Boston airspace being shut down. We eventually arrived home at 10:30PM. We had a fantastic trip overall. We are all ready to do it again, but are happy to be home for now. The kids seemed to converge on Carlsbad and White Sands being their favorite places. I loved Zion for the hiking and would love to go back to Carlsbad and do some of the cave crawls as well. Debs highlight was Mesa Verde. We all loved the slower pace of life and the time together as family.

We cannot wait to see all of you and catch up. God certainly blessed our adventure, showed us some of His favorite places and kept everyone healthy throughout the process. Halleluiah!

We will be in touch soon!

The Dionnes.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

July 27th- Sandy Experience

Yesterday morning, we left the Holiday Inn and made our way over to White Sands. Before leaving the hotel, we borrowed sleds and bought some wax. First, we stopped at the visitor center to gather a little info about the dunes. Then, we drove to the dunes, waxed up our sleds, and hopped on them!
The dunes are very hard to explain. They are white as snow; and they're cold! We slid down the first hill for a while, but we found a taller dune, which we slid on for the rest of the time. All eight kids loved it, but the little girls were tired and fussy. I enjoyed rolling down the dunes and getting sand in my hair, but the sledding was fun too!
We didn't want to leave, but it was a relief to sit in the visitor center and watch the movie about White Sands. We learned that if a yucca plant is 2ft above the dune, and the dune is 30ft tall, then the yucca is probably 32ft tall! They can grow faster than the dunes can and will keep up as the dunes 'grow'.
When we got in the car to drive back to Socorro,(I scraped my leg on the car) sand was still falling off us! White Sands was one of my favorite National Monuments, even though sand is still falling off me right now!
-ed (Emma)

ps- do you know the difference between a National Monument and a National Park? We will let you know the answer when we see you at home.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

July 26th- Tom's B-day

Hi All,

Today is my little brothers birthday! Happy Birthday Tom!

Yesterday, we left the Inn and headed for Roswell. Yes, we thought it would be fun to see the UFO capital of America. The official museum and research center was pretty lame. We were hoping it would be sort of funny and interesting but no. The people who worked there were not friendly or nice and the whole place was tired and sort of pathetic. Oh well. Back into the car and on to Carlsbad. We reached Carlsbad in time to check into the hotel, hit the pool for an hour, grab some take-out BBQ and head to the park for a picnic dinner before the flight of the bats. The visitor center is on top of some small mountains so the view from our picnic table was fantastic. The company wasn't bad either as we had a couple of Turkey Vultures soaring pretty close.

We finished up our dinner and headed to the amphitheater. It is directly in front of the natural entrance to the cave where the bats fly out. We got our seats and listened to the ranger as he talked while we waited for the bats. Around 8:05 PM, the bats started coming. They fly up from about 400-500 feet down in the cave (one type of bats roosts at the very bottom, about 1100 feet down!) and they swirl up to the mouth like a whirlwind, doing one last swirl in front of the mouth of the cave and then shooting off to the right in a jet stream of bats. As they started coming out, you could smell the 'cave smell' which was a musty smell mixed with bat guano. I thought it smelled OK, the rest of the gang didn't like it much. Whenever some of the bats would stray from the stream and fly out over the amphitheater, the smell would intensify immediately. So while you may not be able to see the bats in the cave, you sure will smell them when you are getting close to their roosts. The whole thing was a spectacle well worth experiencing. We were not allowed to photograph the bat flight so we will have to show you the pictures we bought when you visit us at home. The bats poured out for about 45 minutes- well past dusk (We were told there are about 250,000-300,000 bats living in that cave). We stayed until we could not see them any longer. It was soo cool that we just did not want to leave.
But, we had a 10 am tour the next morning and found out that we had to hike an hour down into the cave to get there so we knew the next morning was going to be an early one so we finally headed out around 9.

Getting up this morning was difficult. Of course it was the morning that every one of the kids would have slept 2 hours longer! We hit the road at 8am and arrived just before 9. We got our tour tickets for the 'Kings Palace' room tour (they had some other tours where you had to crawl long distances through small tunnels but you had to be 12+ for those) and headed to the cave entrance. It was a really neat experience heading down hundreds of feet into the cave mouth, and then eventually getting to the point where natural light could no longer reach. This cave is immense. I believe there are 5 huge caverns inside and then dozens and dozens of smaller chambers- some they are still exploring. I am not sure I want to even try to describe what it looks like because it is nothing like you have ever seen before. Take a look at a few of the pictures... It looks like a whole other world down there: beautiful, unique, unreal.
We took a 1.5 hour tour of the Kings Palace and the Queens chamber. In the Queen's chamber, the ranger had all the lights turned out for a few minutes so we could see what it is really like in the caves: Dark- like absolutely no light. You cannot see your hand directly in front of your eyes. The kids got a kick out of that part.
The ranger told a story about Jim White, the 16 year old ranch hand who first explored the cave, and about how one time deep in the cave, he was down to his last 3 matches and almost couldn't re-light his lantern. Experiencing that type of darkness, there is no way you are getting out of that cave without a light.

After our tour, we went up the elevator (travels the 750 feet up in less then 1 minutes), had lunch and then went back down to explore the 'Big Room'. This room is the size of about 14 football fields with an average ceiling height of maybe 30-40 yards. We walked the 1.3 miles around this room and it took just about an hour. We could have stayed in there much longer and taken many more tours. It was really one of the highlights of our trip and tonight some of the kids were rating it their number one national park! I bought a DVD so we could share at least a glimpse of this with all of you when we get back.

The pictures: mouth of the cave, a few pictures of inside the cave, the kids just completing their Carlsbad Cavern Jr Ranger badges.

Friday, July 24, 2009

July 24th, Ruidoso

We left Socorro late this morning and headed south to Ruidoso where we planned to meet up with the Sakamoto family. They live in San Jose, CA and are in New Mexico visiting Kristina's parents. John has met our kids and I have met his, but this will be the first time we get the kids together.

On the way down, we stopped at the 'Valley of Fire' national monument to have our lunch. It is kind of a cool place. It is a valley filled with harden lava that was pushed up through volcanic vents rather than a volcanic eruption. The lava poured out of these vents and filled the valley approximately 5000 years ago. As you might be able to see from the pictures, as it cooled, it created really need tubes, bubbles, caves and other formations. This area is about 165 miles long by a few miles wide with an average depth of 65 feet.

We reached our hotel, the Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort and Casino at 2:30. Just in time for Deb and Emma to get to the stable for their horseback trail ride. It ended up being just the two of them with the guide. They were out for well over an hour as they rode through the woods, valleys and across a ridge that makes up this beautiful property. Deb was a bit nervous when the guide told her that he had seen a bear cub on the 9am ride and was chased by a pack of wild dogs on the 11am ride. Aside from seeing the bones of elk, cayote and a horse along the trail, the trip was uneventful!

We met the Sakamoto family late afternoon and headed to the pool. In addition to the pool, they had a steam room, a sauna and a huge hot tub with a small waterfall feeding the water into it. The hot tub was the big hit with the kids and parents.
The picture on the top right is the view from our balcony at the Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort.

Tomorrow it is on to Carlsbad Cavern with a quick stop in Roswell to check out the aliens. We are planning to get to Carlsbad by mid afternoon, have an early dinner and then get a spot to watch the 400,000 bats fly out of the cave at dusk.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

July 23- Socorro

We have been enjoying a relaxing last few days in Socorro after getting back from Taos. Yesterday, we had a very lazy day overall. We played board games after a late breakfast, did a little work and ate some lunch. After lunch, we headed out to a park in town to play Frisbee, have a water gun fight and play on the swings and climbers. We then headed for home and made some black bean chipotle salsa and fajitas. All the kids loved them and ate seconds: progress on getting them to spice up their favorites!

This morning we headed into Albuquerque after breakfast. We went into old town and had a picnic lunch near the Natural History Museum. We then visited that museum. We had been in it 4 years ago when we had visited Albuquerque for Kris's wedding and really liked it. This time was even better. We spent 3+ hours there and could have easily stayed another hour or two. This museum had the right combination of information, displays, sounds and things to touch on things like dinosaurs, space, geology, animals and history. If you find yourself in Albuquerque with kids, make the time to visit this museum. It was very interesting and a lot of fun. They also had a great IMAX movie about the Grand Canyon and the Colorado river. After seeing that movie, I am recruiting to go on the 18-day white water rafting trip through the Grand Canyon. Send me an email if you are in! I think the kids were a little scared after seeing that as none of them were willing to sign up when I asked. I will have to work on them over the next few years.
After that we had a must see museum request from the boys- the rattlesnake museum. This is s small display of about 30 different types of rattlesnakes in the back of a store in old town. From the 8x10 picture on the cash register of the owner catching an 8 foot rattler a few years ago, you know it is his love. They also have displays of black widows, Gila monsters and other cool reptiles. Then there are the video's running in continuous loop of different characters talking about snakes. One such character was the 90 year old snake man. He has been bit over 150 times by a wide variety of poisonous snakes and continues to work with them daily. Years ago he started to de-sensitize himself to snake venom and gives himself a booster every week! The boys and I (the ladies found something else to do) spent almost 45 minutes in there and could have been in there another 30 minutes easily. They loved it.
For dinner tonight, we have steak with goat cheese and an Ancho Chile sauce with home-made Cascabel Onion rings on the side. Mmm.
Off to the Inn of the Mountain Gods resort tomorrow as a pit stop on our way to Carlsbad Caverns.


July 23-

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

July 21- The Float

Yesterday we arrived at the visitor center on the outskirts of Taos just after noon. We were supposed to meet our rafting company in the parking lot at 12:30. We ate a quick lunch and shortly thereafter, our rafting company pulled into the lot. We signed ourselves in and followed them across the street to where we would end our rafting trip. We then piled into their van and headed upstream to our launch point. It was a hot and sunny day when we started. The guide mentioned that he would be in the water alot on a day like this. They went over the rules and safety procedures (most of which really pertained to those doing the more aggressive trip- we were doing the float which really only hit a few mild rapids). We then launched our two rafts and were on our way! The boys were in one boat with Kris and Jeff and the rest of us were in the other boat. It was not long before we were in the water cooling off. We ended up pulling up to an island in the middle of the river and having fun practicing "nose up, toes up and facing down the river " . This is the procedure you need to follow if you fall out of the raft and into the river. We all had a blast floating down and then running back up and doing it again (first picture). Even Anna loved it.
After about 15 minutes, we continued on our way. By now the clouds had moved in and it cooled off to maybe 80 degrees. The girls were cold and had to borrow the guides jacket! We floated downstream until 3:30 or so. I forgot to mention that the river we floated on was the Rio Grande and it was very pretty. We saw a few muskrats, some geese and a few birds.
At the end of our trip, the guides set up a snack for us- which the kids devoured in about 2 seconds!
We then drove into the town of Taos, checked into our hotel and hit the hot tub and pool. For dinner, the guides had recommend a restaurant called Grahams Grille. We headed downtown to try and find it. Well, we did and it was fantastic! We sat on the outside patio- adults at one table and kids at another. The food was amazing- I had mango and chicken enchiladas, the desserts were the best we have seen on this vacation and the service was impeccable. If you ever find yourself in Taos, check out this restaurant right in the center of town.
Today, we are going to see the sites in Taos and head back to Kris and Jeff's house for a few days before hooking up with our friends from San Jose- the Sakamoto family.

Monday, July 20, 2009

7-20, Santa Fe

We have been in Santa Fe since Saturday afternoon. After a late Birthday BBQ for our birthday boy on Friday night, we got up on Saturday am and took our time getting a few things ready to head to Santa Fe. We hit the road just before noon and arrived in Santa Fe around 2. We stayed in the El Ray Inn. It is a great South Western Motel. The place is well kept, the rooms are clean and many of the rooms have little sitting areas outside which makes it great for putting kids to bed and then sitting outside the room enjoying the night. There is also a pool and several hot tubs- which the kids loved.

On Saturday after checking in, we strolled around the down town area. Lots of churches, shops, art galleries and side walk vendors. No bargains to be found in Santa Fe! But as usual, the kids found many souvenirs to spend their money on.
We then headed out to dinner at the Blue Corn Brewery. We sat on the back patio and had a great Southwestern dinner accompanied by their fine beers. It was fun and very spicey.
On Sunday, we headed to the Audobon preserve on the outskirts of town for a hike. They had a good selection of trails and of course, lots of birds all around. We spotted 4 different species of humming birds which the kids really loved watching. It was another beautiful 85-90 degree day and most of the hike that we chose was in the shade which was a bonus. From there, it was over to the pool where we spent most of the afternoon. The kids probably would have swam until dinner time if we let them.

We ate at a little Mexican restaurant two blocks away from our motel. It was very authentic food and from the lines, you could tell it was very popular. Almost all the kids tried something different- which was a change from the pasta and chicken fingers- and for the most part, liked what they ordered.

This morning, we are packing up and heading for Taos. We have a 1PM river rafting trip planned for today and we are all excited about that. Should be a great time. Enjoy your Monday!


Friday, July 17, 2009

July 17th- the transmission

Well, a trip like this would not be an adventure without a little problem, and today, we ran into the problem. We got up this morning, checked out of our campground and headed back into Durango. The town looked really neat yesterday and we wanted to spend an hour or so exploring before heading south to New Mexico. We spent an hour or two walking the streets of Durango. It was a cool town. Lots of restaurants, eclectic coffee shops, stores and saloons. We wish we had a bit more time to spend, but we wanted to hit the road at a reasonable hour as we planned to make it to Deb's sisters house by late afternoon. Our plan was to unpack and clean the RV Friday night so we could just drop it in Albuquerque on Saturday, pick up the minivan and head to Sante Fe. We left Durango around 11:30. I drove the first 2.5 hours. We were making good time as the speed limit was 70 so I was able to cruise along at 65. Around 2, Deb took over so I could get a little work done while we drove. Around 4:30, we were in the greater Albuquerque area. As we passed south heading for Socorro, Deb said that the RV was not working, that it would not go. I asked her to push harder on the accelerator, she said it was on the floor, so I told her to try 2nd gear. That worked and we started gaining speed again. She then shifted into Drive and we continued. A few minutes later, it happened again. Deb asked if we should pull over. I really wanted to make it to Socorro and was hoping we could keep it going. That it was just some 'glitch'. Well, it happened a 3rd time so i suggested we hit the exit and i would take a look at the fluids. We pulled off onto a 4 lane state highway and onto a wide side median. When I looked at the transmission, it was completely empty. I tried putting the car in gear and it would not move. It was done. We called Cruise America and got an answering machine. We then called Deb's sister and she headed out to find us. We also called Enterprise about seeing if they might pick us up- you know their ads. Well, they said they would! We spent the next 45 minutes packing up everything. By the time Enterprise got there, we had almost everything packed. By this time, Cruise America had called back and said they would send a tow truck. I put Deb and the kids and all the stuff that was packed into the 15- passenger van that Enterprise brought. After loading all this in, the guy from Enterprise came over to me and said, "Sir, seeing all the stuff you have, I do not think it will fit in the mini-van you have reserved. I checked with my boss and we can give you this 15 passenger van for only $10 more/day. That will also save us from having to take everything out." "Great idea" I told him. So Deb left to go sign the paperwork. I finished packing all the food and other items left into bags and set them down to wait. I got out one of the camp chairs and sat in the shade of the RV waiting for the tow truck or Deb's sister. She arrived first and we both sat and chatted while we waited for the truck. At 7pm, Deb called to say she was on her way to Socorro and 1 minute later, the tow truck arrived. I handed him the keys and we were done with the RV.
The positives; We now had a big 15 passenger van to cruise for the next week so that Deb's sister and husband and mother could all be in the same vehicle with us, our packing up and cleaning the van job was done and we would not have to make any stops on Saturday to pick up rental vans or drop off RV's and lastly, I should have no problem getting a discount from Cruise America!

As I type this, the dinner is almost cooked, I have a cold beer in my hand and we are with family. Life is good!


Thursday, July 16, 2009

July 16th- Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge RR

Well, we were able to get home from a day on the train and get everyone in bed and still have time left to grab a glass of wine together and update the blog.

We left Mesa Verde this morning and headed East to Durango. We are hoping to spend some time tomorrow exploring Durango a bit because it looks like a great little town. We caught the 9:45 train to Silverton. The train is the last steam locomotive in the world. The company that runs them has to machine any parts needed to repair and keep them going. It is run on coal and you can smell it and see it on you (we were in the open air car- more fun but just a roof and no windows so a bit dirty). The trip meandered through the San Juan National Forest along the Animas River (looks like a very wild white water river) and through spectacular scenery. Much of the trip was around 8000 feet in elevation and some of the mountain tops we passed by still had snow on them! You would think we would be tired of looking at the scenery but it is all so different and so stunning that you could stare at it endlessly.

Silverton is an old mining town, and it still looks that way. Dirt streets, saloons, old hotels,

but they have transformed themselves into a tourist destination. The town looked like an Austrian village- completely surrounded by steep, very tall peaks- complete with a big avalanche danger billboard updating the towns folk on the level of avalanche danger. We had fun walking around and eating our lunch. The kids could have spent all day there in the dozens of gift shops and even a Big Foot museum.

On the way back, Anna and Will slept for an hour plus each. We arrived back in Durango around 7 and grabbed a quick bite at Fiesta Mexican. We are now sitting in one of those parking lot style RV parks where people seem to 'summer' here, you cannot have a fire and you have a 4x10 strip of grass. But hey, they have wifi.

Tomorrow we will poke around Durango a bit and then head out late morning to Socorro, NM to catch up with Deb's family. Tomorrow will be our last day with the RV as we will trade it for a minivan on Saturday morning. We have enjoyed it and are looking forward to doing it again in a few years. Anyone up for renting one and joining our caravan as we explore more of our national parks??

Pics: Mike and Em on the trail to petroglyph point; all of us arriving at the train station, view from our car as the engine rounds a bend; Anna keeping herself cool with the spray fan as she hikes; kids boarding the train;

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

July 15th- Mesa Verde day 2

Hi All,

We had a fantastic day today. We let everyone sleep in late (7:30-8:00) while I was able to get out for a run while it was cool out. When I got back, we all headed out to the pancake breakfast at the campground cafe. The kids loved it. The boys ate 5 pancakes each with loads of syrup. After that, we headed out for some hiking. We hit the trail head around 10:30 and hiked about .4 miles to the Spruce House. This is the 3rd largest cliff dwelling in the area. We were able to explore parts of it a bit, watch a few archaeologists working on some restoration and climb into a restored kiva (ceremonial room that these people used. Usually underground with beams for a ceiling. They even had ventilation built in.) It was pretty neat to get in. The kids got a kick out of it. We also saw a bull snake inside one of the kiva's you could not go in. The ranger said it was unusual to see snakes in the dwelling. After visiting this for 30 minutes or so, we continued on our hike out to the Petroglyphs. This was a 3 mile hike to some walls with carvings in them. The hike out was mostly shaded. It meandered on the side of Spruce Canyon over rocks and roots, under wall and cliff overhands and through a few 20" narrow slots. The views of the walls and canyon below were stunning. Everyone had a great time. Even Anna hiked most of the way on her own. We brought the spray water bottle/fan and by spraying her every 15 minutes or so, she kept hiking without complaining! We reached the petroglyphs around 1:00. They were pretty cool. We will try to load up some pictures tomorrow. After that, we found a shady spot with a view and at some lunch. The way back followed the rim of the canyon and thus was a bit more exposed to the sun. We had also finished 2.5 litres of water so I had to ration the last .5 litre. Lucky the rim was an easier hike and we were back at the start by 2ish. The water bottle effect finally wore off and I had to carry Anna for a few of the last stretches.
On the way back, we stopped at a cafe and had some prickly pear iced tea. The kids perused the gift shop for the 3rd or 4th time. I think they only bought a few things this time.
Then, it was off to the showers and back to camp for some quiet time and then dinner. Tomorrow we head to Durango for a 9:45 train ride to Silverton (an old mining town) and back. We have talked to 3-4 different people who have taken that ride and everyone loved it. So, we are all looking forward to it. We don't get back into Durango until 7 and so by the time we catch dinner and find our site, it will probably be too late for a post. Will do our best. I hope your Thursday is as blessed as ours!



Tuesday, July 14, 2009

July 14th- Mesa Verde

We got up early this morning and took a bus tour with a ranger of several of the cliff dwellings. It was a really interesting tour. There are thousands of archaeological sites in the area and many are very well preserved. The tour was almost 4 hours and culminated in a walk through of the 'Cliff Palace'. These ancient people were pretty skilled craftsmen and built very elaborate multi-story buildings on the cliffs. The Cliff Palace had over 100 rooms! Later in the day at the museum, the kids were able to make plaster pictures using the material the ancient people used to decorate their buildings and homes. Unlike our homes, many of theirs are still going strong after 700 years with hardly any maintenance!

We had a picnic on top of the mesa and then bought ice cream at the visitors center. On our way out, as we were walking out the door, Anna announced that she had to use the bathroom and headed off at a run. Deb quickly followed her into the bathroom and once inside, took one look at her face and realized she was going to vomit. Both stalls were in use so Deb held her up to the full paper towel waste basket. She hurled 4-5 times and then promptly announced she was all set.

Tonight we had a leisurely dinner of hamburgers by the campfire. As the night wore on, we read a national park mystery book by the fire.

The stars out here are amazing. Last night it was so clear and so dark that we could see the milky way. It is also so quiet (once the Dionne kids are in bed anyway). It is really peaceful just sitting out by the fire and gazing at the stars.

Enjoy the few pictures: Lake Powell, Deb driving the RV, Cliff Palace, whole family at Cliff Palace.

Planning to sleep in late and hit the campground pancake breakfast tomorrow. See you later.

Monday, July 13, 2009

July 13th- Mesa Verde

Hi All,

Time is flying out here. Our days go by quickly, but are not too packed with things. We have tried to pace things out and take time to enjoy things.
On Saturday night, we had pulled into Glen Canyon National Park and Lake Powell. It almost looks like a movie set. A beautiful blue/green lake surrounded by vermilion (red) cliffs and canyons. Amazing. On Sunday, we headed to the coves to swim. We spent all of the morning and a few hours of the afternoon just lazing about, swimming in the 79 degree water. The kids loved it. It was soo nice to be near the water because it was probably 100+ degrees anywhere else. Mid-afternoon, we took a tour of the Glen Canyon Dam. That is a pretty impressive structure. We took an elevator 500 feet down into the dam where the water temperature kept the place at 65 degrees. That felt good after being in the sun most of the day. This dam is the 4th largest in the country and puts out 1.5Gig Watts of power! The kids loved saying 'We are going on a dam tour!'
This campground was very different than the rest. Probably due to where we were (lake Powell being a huge boating haven), the boys with their big toys were all around. Huge RV's (40+ feet) pulling trailers with jet skis, power boats, dune buggys, etc.. Our 30' RV seemed small! Felt like I was back on the 38' boat in Newport harbor with the 100+ footers on each side.
This morning, we took a boat tour of the Navajo cliffs and Antelope canyon. Due to the heat, they had complimentary lemonade and water down below. I think our kids drank nearly all of it. Our small bladder 7 year old, spent about half of his time in the bathroom! He was never without a cup of lemonade in hand.
After one more look in the gift shop (kids favorite part of everyplace we go), we hit the road for Mesa Verde. It was a long drive- ~230 miles with a few detours for road construction and pit stops. 90% of the drive was through the Navajo Reservation.

We lost an hour heading into Colorado and so arrived here at 8:30. From what we can see of this place, it is really nice. We have a tour of the cliff dwellings first thing in the am and have also booked a trip on the Durango to Silverton railroad. It is the only remaining narrow gauge railroad left in the country- and a train ride was one of Anna's few requests.

Will try to post some pictures and an update tomorrow night.

May God bless you all!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

July 11th-Wahweap Campground- Glen Canyon

Sorry for the few days of no updates. We spent the last 2.5 days on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and their facilities have no facilities! In addition, we have been going from dawn until late.
On the morning of the 9th, I woke the boys up at 6:30 and asked if they still wanted to hike the Narrows. They did! We ate a quick and quiet breakfast and jumped on a shuttle bus to the end of the canyon. The first part of the trail was paved and meandered through hanging gardens, river views and the narrowing canyon. At the end, there was a small set of steps that led to the shore of the Virgin River. We changed from our hiking boots to our water shoes and stepped into the river. The 'Narrows' trail is basically the river. You follow it through the canyon as far as you are willing to go. I believe it goes 24 miles to get out of the canyon to the town beyond. At first it was ankle deep and then knee. We hit a few banks here and there. As you progress, the banks get fewer and fewer and there are some very deep sections (see pictures of the boys up to their chests!). We only went in about a mile or so as we had to get back to meet the girls. It was a really cool trail and one to put on the list to do more later on. After meeting up with the girls, we proceeded to the Zion Lodge gift shop so the boys could purchase their 'I hiked the Narrows' T-shirts. After lunch, we hit the road to the Grand Canyon.
We arrived at the campground 5:30. We had a site that was less than 100 feet from the rim of the Grand Canyon! Needless to say, that was pretty cool. We cooked steaks over the fire and later on, read a book around the fire before putting the kids to bed. On Friday, we hiked the rim of the canyon over to the North Rim Lodge and visitors center. The canyon is, as the others were, almost indescribable. So vast, so beautiful, so colorful, so awesome. We sat on the patio at the lodge for quite some time just taking it all in. The trail from our campground to the lodge was about 1.5 miles. The first time we hiked it, almost from the beginning, we had to coax Anna along. By the time we got to the lodge, she declared she was not hiking anymore and that this was the worst vacation she had been on. Later on, when Deb took her to the campground store (maybe .15 miles) she had to bribe her with a soda. After Anna was sitting at the store drinking her sprite, she declared this was the best vacation ever and that she was a great hiker. Deb went back in to the store and bought her a t-shirt with a picture of Brighty the donkey on it (Anna thought it was a horse). Deb got a chuckle out of it.
The kids attended a few Ranger talks and earned their Jr Ranger badges from the Grand Canyon.
That night, we had our first RV incident. Since there was no electric hook-up, the batteries were weakening. I had tried turning on the generator that morning and it would not start. I figured we would be fine. Well, by 8:30 PM, the lights were dim and anything electrical was failing fast. Soon, the carbon monoxide detectors started chirping every 2 minutes due to low power. We were outside of 'generator' hours and I could not get it going anyway. So...while Deb was doing laundry, I decided to pack up the kids and go for a drive to re-charge the batteries. Well, lucky I caught Deb just finishing. She jumped in and we headed out on the really dark and desolate canyon roads. It took about 20 minutes to get the battery charged enough to get the generator started. By then, we headed back and parked at the bathrooms and brushed teeth, leaving the generator going. We finally returned to our site around 10:30 with some grumpy kids. We got them settled and sat by the fire for a little while watching the moon coming up. This morning, we hiked a few more hours and then hit the road to Glen Canyon. On the way we hit our 'favorite' store- Walmart SuperCenter. The kids are beginning to like this store as they have stopped asking if they can stay in the RV. We stopped at the Dam first. That is one huge dam. Almost as big as the Hoover dam, it is 710' high. Lake Powell was created from damming the Colorado River here and instead of endless canyons and slot canyons, you have 186 mile long lake with countless coves and canyons. The campground is truly a desert campground. A few small trees per site and the RV's lined up one next to the other. You get your small spot of desert with a grill, fire pit, picnic table and few square feet of stone/sand. it is really not that bad. We have a fantastic view of the desert and lake and they have wifi! One of the boys commented that this was the best site yet because the restrooms have some sort of maze and they were having a water fight down there.
Tonight we had another one of my special creations for dinner- hot dogs wrapped in Bisquick batter cooked over the fire on a stick. Yes, hot dogs are bad for you I know, but we had our chips and fresh salsa first, our yellow peppers second and then the main course. Deb almost didn't eat, but I cooked one up for her special all golden brown and she actually liked it. For dessert, Deb's idea was banana boats- take a banana with a peel on it, slice it down one side, stuff it with choc chips and marshmallows, wrap it in foil and put it in the fire. The kids ate them up. Oh, I am just remembering that I should have opened the can of B&M baked beans to go with it. Oh well. Maybe for breakfast....

One more visual for you. As I sit out by the fire and type this, Deb is sitting next to me scanning the area with a flashlight on the lookout for black widow spiders and rattle snakes. When the kids and I went to the ranger program tonight, she told us there were lots of black widows around and another camper said she jumped over a rattler in the parking lot the other night.
Over and out for tonight. Enjoy the pics; panoramic of Zion, kids and I heading into the Narrows, the kids in the Narrows up to their chests, pic of kids on patio of North Rim, kids around statue of Brighty the mule, us at our site here in Glen Canyon.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

July 8th- Zion

Arrived in Zion yesterday around dinner time. Luckily it was a short drive from Bryce. We were able to get in another hike on the Rim at Bryce and the kids were able to finish up their Junior Ranger Badges before we left.

Deb drove over to Zion but made me take the wheel as we neared the park as the roads were narrow with good drop offs and then, there is the Tunnel; $15 extra for RV's so they can clear the road and let you drive through in the middle for its 1.1 mile length. The tunnel was opened in the 1930's and is pretty impressive considering the technology they had at the time. Once in the park, the road has a ton of hairpin turns as you wind your way to the bottom of the canyon. I had a bit of fun trying to scare Deb as she looked out the window on her side to a 1000 ft drop!

Zion is awesome. Hard to explain. As with Bryce, pictures will not do it justice. Deb and I waited up for the full moon last night to come over the canyon wall- about 11ish- and it was so beautiful. You could see it coming for an hour or so before it crested as the other side of the canyon was basked in moonlight. I tried to lure the family out of bed and onto the trail early this am with breakfast at the Zion lodge. It worked great! Everyone scrambled out of bed and we were on the shuttle before 8 and the trail by 9ish!

It is hot here. The high was 101 and the low 7o. The first trail we hit had a decent amount of shade and also the trail passed under some waterfalls which gave us a nice misting. The boys and I continued to the pools above that fed the waterfalls and soaked our hats in them before heading down. The girls went to the barn and Anna got her first horse ride! This has been a dream for her for at least 2 years so needless to say, she was thrilled. She is NOT a hot weather girl. Getting her to hike in the heat has been daunting. In Bryce I had to carry her about half of the way. Today, we just kept her to one short hike and a few walks to the shuttle.

This afternoon, the older kids attended a ranger program and earned their Zion Junior Ranger badges. They now have them from 4 national parks and are excited to continue to earn them. Around 3:30, the boys and I headed out to hike the watchman trail. It is a 3 mile hike up the side of the canyon to a promontory about 1/3 the way up the canyon walls. It was very hot but we drank lots of water and the kids did great. The views were spectacular. On the way down, we stopped and swam in the Virgin river to cool off. The boys loved it.

While we were hiking, the girls headed to the museum to see the film on Zion. It was cool in the museum and Anna was a bit chilly:). After dinner, we shared Popsicles with the campers across the road. They had a few young kids that Anna had fun playing with.

Got the kids in bed early for once and Deb and I are out sitting in front of the fire. The boys wanted to do the most treacherous hike in the park- Angels Landing. It is a 5 mile hike with 1000 foot drops at some point and they do not recommend that children do it. We nixed that and plan to hike into the Narrows- a trail that winds through narrow canyons following the river in some points. You have to check with the rangers for flash flood warnings before you venture there. The girls may do a horse ride along the river. After that, it is off to the North rim of the grand canyon. No electric hook ups there so updates to the blog may be more difficult.

God is doing some great work and we thank all of you who are praying for us.
Pics: boys on promontory on Watchman trail; tired kids and dad after a full day of hiking; full moon cresting Zion; family on emerald pools trail; Mom and Dad found a daycare center for the kids while we went to the spa.