Thursday, August 10, 2017

Day 4: Horseshoe Bend and some driving

We were sad to say goodbye to Zion, but excited to start the next part of our journey. After packing up, we left Springdale and headed towards Arizona. Our first stop was Horseshoe Bend. Here, the Colorado River has made a horseshoe-shaped bend in the canyon from years and years of the water eroding away the sandstone.




We arrived around 9:30am and set off on the sandy trail. We trudged up the path in heat and sun that was already beating down heavily on us. This first part from the parking lot was fairly steep and the sand was soft and hard to walk through. Once we got to the top we went down to the bend, which was fairly easy, but all we kept thinking was that we have to go all the way back up on the way back! Plus, we were carrying both kids. But once we made it to the bottom we were rewarded with inspiring and gorgeous views of the Colorado River and the bend. When we were there the bend was looking a little dried out, but it was still a beautiful site. While Jon took some pictures, I huddled under a rock with the girls to get us all out of the sun, especially since there wasn't any shade anywhere on the .75 mile walk back... and the sun was strong!






Coming up the trail carrying two kids took some effort. One guy who passed us on his way down patted Jon on the shoulder and said, "Man, you've got some balls! Good for you!" That provided us with some laughs on the way back up!

Jon carrying Julia

We then drove to Cameron Trading Post about 45 minutes away. I had read that this was a good place to stop if you were going to enter the Grand Canyon from the east entrance. They had a huge store full of everything you would could possibly want to buy from your trip to the southwest, plus a restaurant that had authentic food from the area. One thing that threw us off though was the time change. We knew that Arizona doesn't follow Daylight Savings Time, but after researching we found out that Indian Reservations throughout Arizona do follow Daylight Savings Time. I think. Or is it the other way around? So when we got to the restaurant to eat lunch at 11:40am they informed us that everything in the building was an hour earlier than everything outside of the building, therefore making it 10:40 in the morning and not lunch time at the restaurant yet. I'm confused just writing this. So we shopped a little and came back to eat their specialty, Navajo tacos, which were very good!

This is only half of one portion! 

With our bellies full we got back in the car to continue our drive to the Grand Canyon. More on that later :)




Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Zion National Park

Jon and I were ready to explore a part of our country we both had never been to before. Since we were taking our 3.5 year old and 6 month old I planned a trip that would allow us to enjoy the sights and scenery that we were craving while also providing the kids with enough down time and plenty of pool time to keep them happy as well. Little did we know that J would so enjoy hiking at Zion that we intend to seek out more challenging hikes for us to do as a family in the future!

We flew into Las Vegas, grabbed some lunch, and headed to Springdale, Utah just outside Zion National Park, which took about three hours. It was a long day of traveling, but these two girls were so good! Everyone went to bed at their normal bedtime, which ended up being 5pm Utah time for the kids. These early nights and early mornings would end up working in our favor since Zion gets incredibly crowded and incredibly hot very early in the morning. I'm so glad that I planned out our time here - knowing which hikes are at which shuttle stop, when the shuttles start, and what to expect on each hike were key in making sure that we used our time efficiently and without crowds and crazy heat.

Here we go!
Since we were all up around 4:30 the next morning we packed our gear and headed to the park (which ended up taking an hour because... kids). We parked at the museum and headed to the Pa'rus Trail, which is a paved flat trail perfect for strollers and bikes, and also has a great sunrise view of the Towers of the Virgin, which is a large collection of peaks including the West Temple, the Sundial, the Altar of the Sacrifice, and Meridian Tower.

The Pa'rus Trail

Pa'rus Trail 

Pa'rus Trail looking east

M took her first nap in the stroller while we walked to the spot. J played in the red sand while Jon and I marveled at the first sun's rays hitting the mountain. What a gorgeous site! And it was so special to share this as a family!

Towers of the Virgin






Playing in the sand

On the walk back to the museum - gorgeous!

We walked back to the museum, put the stroller in the car, and caught the already packed shuttle to the Zion Lodge stop where the Emerald Pools hike started. After grabbing some egg and cheeses to eat outside while watching some deer graze in the grass, we set off on our hike. It was 0.6 miles to the lower pools, 1 mile to the middle pools, and 1.5 miles to the upper pools so we decided to evaluate at each stop to see how everyone was doing. We made it to the lower pools and took a break to feed M and enjoy the scenery. J was giving us some mini heart attacks from getting too close to the edge on our walk up so we decided to put on her hiking harness. We could then reel her in if she was getting too close to the edge and also help her up on the larger rocks during the hike. She LOVED it!









We made it to the middle pools and decided to go onward. We reached the upper pools after climbing quite a few rocks and steps for half a mile. We fed M and then set her up in her travel bassinet with some white noise and she fell right to sleep. While she slept, J played with the rocks and we took a nice break from the climbing. After about an hour we packed up and started our descent. Many people were coming up at this point (by this time it was also getting very hot) and we had quite a few people say they were impressed with us since we were carrying and hiking with two young kids. When we reached the middle pools we took a different way down to get some new scenery, during which J also had enough and went into the backpack. She did over three miles of hiking and walking that morning!

Family picture at the Middle Pools. Yes, that is the travel bassinet on my back that I lugged with me!

Climbing up to the Upper Pools

On our climb up

Climbing some rocks at the Upper Pools



Had to go up before we could go down...



We caught the shuttle from the Grotto stop and headed back to the museum to grab the car and go back. It was after 11 and we had already put in a full day. And it was HOT. We grabbed some food on the way back, watched a movie, and cooled off, then went to the pool in the afternoon.

Almost at the end - walking to the Grotto stop

The next day we got to Zion at 5:45 to catch the 6:00 shuttle and there was already a long line. Fortunately, we made it on the first set of buses that we were taking all the way to the last stop, Temple of Sinawava. Here, there is a very popular hike called The Narrows that unfortunately we weren't doing because... kids, but you can do a walk called the Riverside Walk which leads to the start of The Narrows, so we were able to see and get an idea of it. This was a very pretty and serene walk showcasing flowers, imposing rocks, the river, and animals. This walk normally gets really crowded, but we were there on the first shuttle so we basically had the walk to ourselves, which made it really relaxing and quiet. We hung out at the start of The Narrows for a little bit - J had a blast playing with the rocks in the water and we enjoyed the cool morning air and cold water on our feet.

In the parking lot of our hotel before sunrise... so serene! 

On the Riverside Walk

Gorgeous scenery 

The start of the Narrows

Looks like she's about to fall right in - luckily she didn't! 

We really want to hike this! 

Resting  

Next up was the Weeping Rock trail, which was off of stop 7 on the bus line. This was only a 0.4 mile trail. M needed a nap (can you tell I'm a stickler for naps?) so we decided that Jon would take J on the trail while I sat with a napping M. Since it was such a short trail I could always go when they came back. The hike was a little steep in places, but nothing too bad. At the top you are surrounded by a moss and fern covered overhang that looks over a cliff. The cliff has tiny waterfalls misting over the edge of it that end up in little pools below.







Hunger was starting to kick in so we went to the Zion Lodge for some breakfast where we enjoyed some much needed grub. We decided to go back to the hotel after this since it was around 11 and we had been out since 5:30. Plus it was getting HOT. Coming back to the visitor center on the shuttle we were shocked at how long the line was to get on the busses. I read about how the shuttle lines can be as long as over an hour at this time, but it was also around 105 degrees... not sure why anyone would want to wait in that line and have to deal with the heat!

Tired

The rest of the day consisted of us chilling, napping, and going to the pool. We had a great time at Zion and definitely want to come back! Had we been alone we would have tackled some more challenging trails like Angel's Landing and The Narrows, but we were still able to see Zion's diversity and beauty with the trails that we did.


Saturday, May 13, 2017

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

Back in December, Jon and I decided to go on a quick weekend away close by for a "baby moon" while I was 35 weeks pregnant. We were also celebrating Jon's birthday so it was nice to get away for some much needed relaxation and child-free time.

We decided on a bed and breakfast about an hour and 15 minutes away in Charlestown, West Virginia near Harpers Ferry. We wanted something that would have some light walking or hiking and I wanted a bed and breakfast that had a cozy feel with a fireplace in the room. Bonus points, this b&b had a spa and small restaurant for its guests. The bed and breakfast wasn't housed in one building. It was more like many small buildings located on a large piece of land - very quiet and very serene.




The "lobby" of the main house

Our house for the weekend

The path to the main house, aka where the food was!

The main house and restaurant
We arrived early and stopped at the local grocery mart before chilling for the afternoon. I was a little hesitant to go inside, but this mama needed her snacks and water for the room.


We had signed up for a five course meal at the bed and breakfast that was to be served in the main house seating area. We were in a small room with three other couples (we each had our own table) and feasted on local, fresh food that the chef whipped up for us. It was a great experience and a tasty dinner!

The next morning we drove to Harpers Ferry. The area has gorgeous views of the Potomac and Shenandoah river valleys, as well as the Blue Ridge Mountains. There are a plethora of hiking trails to choose from, and if I wasn't so far along in my pregnancy we would have spent the whole day hiking and admiring the scenery. We chose to walk up to Jefferson Rock since it's right in town, a very short walk up, and has great views of the area. We climbed from the downtown area, went past a church, past a cemetery, and up to the rock. The scenery was breathtaking and was well worth the climb.




35 weeks!



The rock
Afterward, we walked across the Railroad Bridge Tunnel into Maryland.






We spent some time walking around the cute, quaint town, passing by 1800s reenactments and Christmas caroling. We bought some gifts for ourselves and for Julia, got some food from a local restaurant, and warmed up inside.



We had a couples massage scheduled in the late afternoon at our b&b so we headed back to chill a little in the room. For Jon's birthday we headed into Charlestown and had a big steak dinner followed by some time in the casino where we basically threw away our money at the craps table.

We had a quiet morning inside the room sitting by the fireplace and then packed up to go. This was a great getaway and definitely was a relaxing trip before our little one was born. We'd love to go back and do some of the more strenuous hikes!

At breakfast 
The B&B



Tiny house