• Day 38: Renewed Spirits

    Every day is a new day to start over. This morning, our last full day in Zion, we decided to see more of the park which included heading through the tunnel in the mountain. We saw different mountain rock structures, ascended over huge cliffs to a grand overlook while bravely scaring some ram off the trail. We found the other entrance to Zion which brought different wide open ranches and flat lands against the huge mountains far beyond. It was gorgeous. It is warmer and sunny here today which always makes the days much more enjoyable. A snow storm is supposedly coming through tonight and while we would love to experience that, we don’t really want to be stuck here for days on end (with no food, no shower (going on day 3!) and freezing water tanks). This place feels like the grand finale. What we see beyond this won’t compare in grandeur. As soon as we arrived back at camp the boys ran to the river and have been playing it ever since, until one little girl went for a swim. Brrrr! We are glad we got to experience this place but are looking forward to making our trek home.

    We have no idea where we will stay for the next few days. We are stuck between wanting to experience snow and wanting to get out of freezing conditions. We shall see what tomorrow holds.

     

  • Day 36-37: Inspired Out

    After reluctantly leaving Valley of Fire, we headed north to Utah to camp at Zion National Park. I had been there as a child but couldn’t remember what this park was all about. We were told if you liked Valley of Fire, wait until you see Zion. How could it possibly be more amazing than what we just left? We were camping in the off season which meant only one campground loop open there and it was on a first come first serve basis. That always makes me nervous but we managed to get a great site where the kids and dogs could roam. We took a sunset drive through the park and yes, the cliffs were vast and HUGE and unlike anything we had seen yet. It was magnificent. Wow, how small we felt, and what an awesome God we have to create something so deep and wide.

    Maybe it is 30+ days on the road, or maybe the kids minds have already been blown away too many times, but we all felt like the drive through (without experiencing any hikes) was enough for us. The park doesn’t allow dogs except on one boring, flat, safe trail. The rocks are too huge to climb. There is a river running through our campground where the boys have made boats from branches and have been over there doing whatever boys do near water. (Thankfully no one has gone for a swim yet although the question has been asked way too many times). We took a short walk to lunch and the huge mountains were all around us. The boys were most interested in the huge digger and construction that was taking place. Mcree sat at his own table to make sure he got a front row seat. Kids are kids. Will they remember the magical sights each location held? Doubt it. Will they remember the Park badges they earned or take away any bit of knowledge about certain parks? Nope. They will remember the fires at night. The high cliffs they climbed. The “treasures” (aka rocks) they collected along the way. They will remember being free to explore the wide open spaces. I wonder how much of these experiences are being weaved into their character, where they will be comfortable to wander, and take life as it comes, and experience adventure right where they are. That is our hope. I love being able to change our environment even for a short while and learning to be uncomfortable in the unknown.

     

  • Alone Time

    It’s hard to grab a little one on one time with these kiddos. When Gress asked me if I wanted to go on a hike, and no one else wanted to go, I jumped at the chance to have some time alone with him. I love his sense of adventure and how every square inch of open space is an opportunity to explore what is right under his feet. This particular hike we set out in search of fossilized rocks. Surprisingly we found a few and had lots of great conversation along the way. Thanks Valley of Rocks for so many nooks and crannies of great finds!

  • Day 33-35: Saying Goodbye and Hello to Awesome

    We said goodbye to family in Prescott, and hit the open road to Nevada to camp at Valley of Fire State Park just an hour north of Las Vegas. We left early in hopes of snagging one of the “first come first serve” sites, which go quick.  People from all around drive through this park for the stretch of amazing rock formations and incredible hikes. When we arrived at the park gate, we found 40+ cars in front of us and we were sure we would be boondocking or finding another park. Lucky for us, we got one of the best and last sites at the campground. This park was incredible and hands down one of our favorites.

    We have gone back over our favorite landing spots to evaluate what makes a park great for us. This is how we rate a great park: 1) Access to things to explore right around the campground where the kids can run wild without much supervision. 2) A dog friendly park where dogs are allowed on all trails. Leaving the dogs locked up while we exercise ourselves is such a bummer for us. 3) We realize the season we are camping is not popular so we have had most places to ourselves. This is an incredible way to experience nature. 4) Hot showers, electric and water hookups, a dump on site right at your camper, and space to feel like we have room to spread out without bothering anyone.

     The things to explore at Valley of Fire were INCREDIBLE. The kids climbed huge rock formations, found a group of mountain goat rams (Gress might have charged at them with camera in hand…don’t ask him about it….he is quite embarrassed after a fellow camper told him they could actually turn and charge him). We hiked one of the most amazing hikes (White Domes) we have done yet. Our jaws were dropped the WHOLE time and the kids climbed higher than they ever had before. The kids found fossilized rocks and the boys took hikes alone for hours on end (with walkie talkies in hand). There were cold showers and no dump site at our camper, but, we could see past that because of how amazing the sights were. The days were warm, I laid in a hammock, took a nap, and rested more than I had yet. I didn’t want to leave. But we had to move on as there was more to see and we had to start making the curve home one of these days. I hope to come back here one day.

  • Camper Life

    A lot of life happens in this camper. There is art being created, meals being shared over great conversations, morning snuggles to get warm, and spectacular views just outside our windows. Just a few steps away, adventure awaits us. Here we go!

  • Playing in Prescott: Day 29-30

    Lots of hiking and playing and hanging out with grandparents here in Prescott. It’s been fun to explore new places, be fed great meals, exercise the dogs to exhaustion, Rad and I get a little time without kiddos, and be loved on in so many ways. Yesterday we hiked in the Prescott National Forest with Pop and it reminded me of my childhood hikes near my grandparents home in Sedona’s Oak Creek Canyon. We also frolicked along Granite Basin and Rue had her first full submersion experience (by being thrown in). Pop and Christina also gave Mcree a motorized boat for Christmas and he has LOVED being able to use it every chance he can get. The kids have gotten spoiled for sure!

    We leave tomorrow for our next leg of our journey. We will head to Nevada to see more family and then to Utah, which will be the furthest North we will travel before heading the long drive home. There are some amazing parks we are excited to see. Here we go!

  • Truth Behind the Photos

    How often do we see a photo and think how amazing that moment must be without knowing the whole story? And while most of our moments have been pretty spectacular, there are days and hours that are rougher than others. There are 5 people in a small space, too much stuff in one tiny camper that we can hardly move around and not enough distance to remove yourself for some quiet time. There is a leaking roof on your bed when you are so very tired. There are long drives with little rest the night before. There is the unpacking and packing of things day in day out just to get to what you need for your day. We are learning….slowly…how to adapt to these little challenges. We are working on tweaking character (in ALL of us), on how to be kind when you are irritated and how to serve each other well. We have gotten to know our kids (and each other) even more these last few weeks. What a gift this has been.

  • Hiking & Climbing: Day 28

    There is so much to see all around us. Isn’t that true of anywhere you are? So many things to explore, and experience, yet sometimes we miss it because it is so familiar. We have been to Arizona many times yet, now having kids who love to climb and dogs who need to get all their energy out, we have loved finding new trails to explore. And there is something so fun about seeing new landscapes and being able to see for miles!

    Mimi hiked with us this day on the Constellation Trail, named for a plane that crashed there some time ago. The winding trail took us through huge gatherings of massive rocks. It was a great hike and I think the little cattle dog got the most exercise, climbing up the rocks and not knowing how to get down so having to take the long way around.

    We are excited to explore even more trails these next few days.

  • Day 24-26: Hello Arizona

    I looked at Rad last night and asked him if he could…would keep going on this adventure. His answer was YES! There are some things we would change, and the pace at which we move from site to site would slow way down but we both agreed this has been so great!

    We finally made it to Arizona. We camped a few nights at Homolovi State Park in Winslow, Arizona. It was a great stopping point to get restocked, do laundry and take it easy. The park was pretty empty however we met a Canadian couple who were overlanding (driving into remote places with a fully equipped off road vehicle). Rad and I would love to be able to experience that one day so it was a great way to strike up a conversation with them. They ended up coming over to sit around the fire and share their stories with us for hours. The guy is a boat builder and personally outfitted his truck so there was a lot to chat about. We loved the company and meeting people who share our sense of adventure.

    Since we were a few hours away from where my parents live, Pop came to hang out with us for a few days. We loved getting out and about with him. We stood on the corner in Winslow, Arizona, “such a fine sight to see” (based on a song from the The Eagles). We also visited the Petrified Forest National Park. Archeologists claim that this highland desert park once resembled current day Costa Rica’s jungle, with massive trees and foliage. The trees fell, and were submerged under river sediment and the organic material was replaced by quartz to make massive petrified logs. THE LOGS TURNED INTO ROCKS!  That blows my mind! Just another complex part of God’s creation. We had some fun sights along the way, one being the Wigwam hotel (also seen in the movie “Cars”).

    A while ago, we promised the kids that we would find a hotel with a pool and let them swim. Thankfully my Dad’s hotel has a great pool so we let the kids swim their hearts out. Glad we could follow through with that wish and not personally figure out how to get 2 adults, 3 kids and 2 dogs checked into a hotel! The night before we left Winslow, Pop took us all to a restaurant that was once a 1930’s posh stop on the Santa Fe Train Line known for the “Harvey Girls” who were hostesses for weary guests and travelers in the hotel. Not only was the place full of history but we got to dine on some amazing food. It was a great experience to let the kids practice their fancy restaurant manners and it was a great treat!
    On our drive to Prescott, Arizona, we stopped at Montazuma’s Well and Castle. This was a place I fondly remember going to with my grandparents. We used to sit and picnic and play in the little streams that flowed along the rocks. It was sweet to share that place with my kids. We are headed to see the grandparents for a bit. We are excited to hike and hang out with them.
  • Over Half Way

    We are already over half way through our journey. We have come a long way in so many ways!