Parenting Tales, Points to Ponder

Our Western Adventure: Bryce Canyon National Park

Howdy all. Today I am following up on my series about our trip out west this summer. This time I am focusing in on our day at Bryce Canyon National Park, which was almost a 2 hour drive from where we stayed.

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It definitely deserves its own post, don’t you think? I’ve said this many a time over and over, but pictures really do it no justice. Bryce was absolutely stunning!

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One of the things that makes it so unique are the hoodoos, these crazy cool rock formations that are literally everywhere at Bryce.

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You can use your imagination as to what each looks like. The day we went, we were also gifted with a gorgeously blue, clear sky, which contrasted perfectly with the reddish orange color of the rocks.

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We began our travels at the Visitor Center, then drove over to Sunset Point. From there we hiked down Navajo Loop, which is a steep descent down into the canyon. I was SO glad we used that trail for going down, not up! It was basically a series of tight switchbacks that go on and on. From there we went across the bottom of the canyon, hiking the Queen’s Garden Trail. After going across a ways, we made our way up to Sunrise Point. One great thing about Bryce is that due to a much higher elevation, it is cooler in temperature than Zion. A bad thing is that unless you are used to the elevation, you can start to feel it when you hike. Thankfully we didn’t notice it as much until near the end of our longer hike, when heading back up the canyon.

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It is worth it though! Everywhere you turn is an amazing view! For several of my kids, along with my husband, Bryce was their favorite park.

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After our hike, we chose yet another amazing place to have a picnic lunch, then drove around to several of the viewpoints. Each one was spectacular!

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You can easily see at least the highlights of Bryce in a day trip, though I’m sure we would’ve discovered much more had we spent another day there. If you ever get a chance to visit, I’d highly recommend Bryce Canyon. It is truly a one-of-a-kind park that is unforgettable.

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Parenting Tales, Points to Ponder

Our Western Adventure: Zion National Park

Happy Monday! If you caught my last post on the Hoover Dam, you will know that we just came back from a trip out west. I am doing a little recap of the different destinations we visited, along with pictures and my take on each one. Today I am delving into Zion National Park, which we visited 3 different days.

First things first–Zion is stunningly beautiful. You may have read that via other sources or have heard people talk about it. It’s definitely not overrated, and though my pictures are okay, they do it no justice.

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On our first day in Zion, we got there later in the morning, so we had to park in town and shuttle in. We kind of got the lay of the land that day and didn’t go too crazy with hikes. That day we did the Lower Emerald Pools trail (the Middle & Upper were closed due to storm damage), the Grotto, and the Court of the Patriarchs. We had our picnic lunch at the Grotto trail. We pretty much had an incredible picnic spot for lunch every single day on our travels. It was fabulous!

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On our second day at Zion, we met up with some friends who were also out there and did a portion of The Narrows together.

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The Narrows is a hike literally through the Virgin River, which runs through a slot canyon for many miles. We met up early in the morning and shuttled out to the Riverside Walk trail, which goes down to the entry point for the river. You then enter and hike upriver basically as far as you want, then turn back around until you get back to the entry point. I’m not sure how far we went upriver, but it took several hours going up, then not quite as long coming downstream.

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Every turn of the river gives you a new view. You always want to keep going to see what’s around the next bend! I told my friend that it was like a little slice of Paradise down there. It was also a much more comfortable temperature there in the morning, as well as pretty shaded.

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In the picture above, you can see how you are sometimes pretty hemmed in by the canyon walls. Since we went in the  summer, we did not rent any special gear, just wore closed toe hiking sandals, and we were all fine. You do have to be careful and take your time picking around and over a lot of the rocks in the water, that’s for sure. Fortunately the water was not high when we went and there were more sandy areas than I expected.

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I would highly recommend the Narrows for anyone visiting Zion. It is a really neat experience and a great bucket list hike!

We did a bunch of other day trips to other places in between, but then came back to Zion on our last day in Utah. This time we did one morning hike to Hidden Canyon, the trail I was most looking forward to. I had really wanted to do Angel’s Landing, but it was also closed due to storm damage the entire time we were out there, so that was a no go. Hidden Canyon is maybe not as well known, but it could be challenging too.

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One may think that to get to a hidden canyon, you are down low, but not in this case. It is a hanging slot canyon, so you actually walk up about a mile or so (and gain close to 1,000 feet in elevation during that mile) to get somewhat near the entrance to Hidden Canyon. It is a bunch of long switchbacks that take you up, up, up, so it’s no joke. Even super fit looking people were huffing and puffing on their way up, so that made me feel better as we took several quick breaks on the way up. At the top there is kind of a landing area where you can rest and keep going or turn back. Just beyond that is the start of the chains, the part I most wanted to do. My daughter was having no part of the chains and Jeff doesn’t love heights, so the boys volunteered to do this next part with me.

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Several parts had a slightly larger ledge, but you’re mostly holding on and watching your step, because it is a loooong drop off to the side. If there are people coming back the opposite way, you have to get to a wider section and maneuver around one another. The boys did great! Below is a picture that my husband took of us coming back on the one section.

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I would have loved to explore the actual canyon, which you can see the mouth of in the above picture. However, we had two family members waiting on us, so we didn’t tarry too much. It looked really cool in there though.

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Overall, I really enjoyed this hike. As it was our last full day out there, we headed back to our rental and chilled before a long travel day.

A couple of things for people who may want to visit there…

Since we visited in early August, it was mega hot there every single day (as in 104-105 degrees F every afternoon). If you go in summer, take lots of water and make sure to drink it. There are water bottle filling stations at a lot of the stops, so top your water off whenever you have a chance. Plan hikes for the morning hours if possible. It is also extremely crowded that time of year and the main visitor lot fills up very quickly. We had to be there by @7:30 am if we wanted a spot, otherwise you end up parking in Springdale and shuttling in. If I ever go back (which I would LOVE to do) I would try to shoot for the fall when maybe it’s not so hot and crowded. Never the less, Zion is still gorgeous and I absolutely loved it. A beautiful piece of God’s creation, that’s for sure, and I’m so thankful to have experienced it.

 

 

 

Parenting Tales

Our Jim Thorpe Getaway

Several weeks ago our family squeezed in a mini vacation. We were looking for something that was just a couple of days, very low key, and not far away. Jim Thorpe was an area we’ve been meaning to explore, so we decided to head there this year. Here are a number of pictures taken while we were there:

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Our first stop was to Hickory Run State Park. One attraction there is this huge boulder field. It’s a great workout to work your way any distance across this jumble of boulders, though I did wonder how many broken ankles and twisted knees it has claimed. Don’t worry, we came through unscathed!

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Our next stop was a hike to Hawk Falls.

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The last thing we did at Hickory Run was a trail called “Shades of Death.” It was my favorite!

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Despite the name, this trail had lots of beautiful sights to behold. It was slightly challenging, but well worth it.

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It was the perfect way to end our adventures at Hickory Run.

After a fast food supper, we stayed overnight at a Holiday Inn Suite. Actually, we stayed both nights there and had a great experience. The free breakfast was probably one of the best I’ve ever had at a hotel. Lots of hot foods and even a pancake machine, which my gang was kind of fascinated with. For this big family, it was well worth it. The free hot breakfast, along with a packed lunch and snacks meant we just had to buy dinner out.

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The next day brought us to the actual town of Jim Thorpe. We first stopped at the Jim Thorpe Memorial, which is where I took this cool statue pic.

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Next we went to town, which is pretty and has plenty of neat architectural building details. There were a bunch of cute little shops and such, but traveling with a pack of boys was not conducive to my checking out “cute” shops. So…we were in the town for maybe 55 minutes and they were itching to leave. Nice, huh? (This Real Family Vacation moment brought to you by the Craig family! You’re welcome.)

Oh well, our next stop was enjoyed by all.

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Our next destination was the No. 9 Coal Mine.

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I was able to get about zero good pictures within the mine, but I can tell you that we all learned a lot and enjoyed our time there. Our tour guide, Larry, was hilarious and made it even better. My take-away was that I would never, ever want to work in a coal mine.

This next picture was from the museum portion of the tour.

I think the sign says a lot, don’t you?

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After the mine we stopped at Lehigh Gorge State Park, which boasts a gorgeous waterfall trail called Onoko Glen Falls. This sign is what we first saw once approaching the trail. A little disconcerting, especially while hiking with kids, but we pressed on.

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Onoko Glen was SO beautiful, though And we didn’t die. Or fall. Or anything like that.

This is a shot looking down some of the falls.

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My photos do absolutely no justice to this place. In person I found it breathtaking.

We wrapped up our day by stopping at a Butterfly Sanctuary and eating at a fabulous Italian restaurant. The third day we were planning to drive to Ricketts Glen State Park and do some hiking and exploring, then head home in the late afternoon/evening. However, a very ugly forecast (which included extreme thunderstorms/hail/etc.) for the whole area convinced us to pack it in and head home early.

Well, that’s it for this trip. Next year we seriously hope to travel out west, specifically looking at Zion National Park and a few others in that vicinity. I am super excited for this to possibly finally happen!

Parenting Tales, Uncategorized

Our Maine Adventure

This summer I fell in love.

Not with a person, but with a place.

Our family was finally able to visit Maine, and specifically Acadia National Park. It was something that had been on our bucket list for some time, but we decided to just go for it this year. I’m so glad we did!

Here are some of my photos taken while there:

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First up is the little property we rented. I have had tremendous luck with the VRBO website and found an absolute beauty of a cottage for us. We walked in, looked around, and declared it perfect for our family.  This is the pond in back of the cottage, where we could sit and read or just relax. I have to say that the location of this place was wonderful—well away from Bar Harbor and crowds, on the very quiet side of the island.

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Our first full day there we set out to see the Bass Harbor Lighthouse. To get a great view of it, you need to climb down some steps and make your way over on giant boulders that sit along the shore everywhere.

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This is a view looking out the other direction. This trip was my first experience with this type of coastline, and I loved it.

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Our favorite place to visit was a place called Wonderland. There is an easy trail that leads out to this coastal area that has lots of tide pools. We ended up visiting there a couple of times during our week at Maine.

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Lots of cool little discoveries at this place and we spent hours there. Truly it was a “Wonderland” for my kids.

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The next day we did a tour of the main part of Acadia. We drove the Park Loop road, which I highly recommend. There are many places to pull over and park along the way. We parked at the Otter Point area and hiked the Ocean Path a couple miles up to Thunder Hole.

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Along the way were the Otter Cliffs, as well as many other scenic views. At many points you could go out to the edge, whether it be high up or down along the water.

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We also drove up Cadillac Mountain, where you could see out far in all directions.

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That evening we attended a lumberjack show, which was both educational and entertaining!

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Our family usually enjoys the lesser-known spots and trails. Fortunately for us, we were on the side of the island away from the main crowded areas. It was still full of beautiful things to see and do! Above is a picture from serene Pretty Marsh Harbor.

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I regret that I have no decent pictures from our whale watching excursion.(Those whales are just too darn fast for me!) This was an incredible experience! We saw many different whales and were VERY fortunate to see them in various stages of feeding. Lots of tail flukes, some full rolls, and one that did about a full breach for its rapt audience! Upon pulling back into the harbor, our guide was wowed and said that was the best trip they had all summer! An unforgettable experience for all.

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One morning we visited the Oceanarium, which boasts a lobster hatchery and museum, among other things. At first glance it appears a little run down and ramshackle, but we had a good experience there and learned so much. The guides really took a lot of time to explain things to the kids.

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Another morning we took the gang and hiked up a mountain. Parkman Mountain was one of the neatest hikes I’ve ever done. Though it’s not as well known as Precipice or the Beehive, it was really cool and worth the climb. (And yes, now I can say that I’ve done one with rungs built into the rocks to actually help climb up…it was just in one spot, but whatever. Bragging rights, y’all.) My husband was taken with all of the old cairns that marked some of the original trails. We saw cairns just about everywhere.

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It was a great experience to conquer a mountain as a family. We had a picnic lunch at the summit to celebrate.

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On our very last full day in Maine we hiked around Jordan Pond (which to me was more like a lake…). Part of it was on little boardwalks, as seen above.

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The water that day was a gorgeous blue–my pictures do it no justice.

Some other places we visited were Echo Lake Beach, and my oldest and his Dad hiked Beech Mountain and the Beech Cliffs and said they were awesome.

Honestly, I think we could have stayed a couple of weeks there and still not have been able to do everything we wanted. That just means we have to go back one day…

Seriously, I very much fell in love with Maine and Acadia. It suited us so well and was one of our best vacations ever. If I didn’t love our little piece of Lancaster County so much, I would be very tempted to move!!

Hope you enjoyed my photos.