Thursday, July 30, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
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!
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
Friday, July 24, 2009
Thursday, July 23, 2009
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.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Monday, July 20, 2009
Friday, July 17, 2009
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
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
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
Monday, July 13, 2009
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
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....