Friday, September 1, 2017

Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Las Vegas

We drove from Cameron Trading Post through the east entrance of the Grand Canyon. We were happily driving along when all of a sudden there was a break in the trees that briefly showed us something we had never seen before. Thousands of feet below us were deep canyons of red and brown tones that were just stunning. We had planned on stopping at Devils Tower, which is one of the first viewpoints on the road, but decided we'd see it later since both kids were taking a nap and it was better if we didn't wake them up until we got to the hotel. We drove about 30 minutes more to our hotel which was only a few minutes outside of the gate to the park. We spent the afternoon at the pool and made it an early night.

The next morning everyone was up early since we gained another hour so we packed up and got to the park around 6am. I can't even describe the sheer vastness of the Grand Canyon. Pictures don't do it justice and it is beyond anything I have ever seen. We started off at the more popular viewpoint, Mather Point, which is supposed to be a good spot for first time viewers. It's over 7,000 feet in elevation and has just an amazing view. And we were there early enough to see the very early morning sun beam off the ridges. We then walked the Rim Trail for a little bit. It was nice and cool in the morning and we were able to push M in the stroller while she napped. Next, we hopped on the shuttle and took it to Yaki Point where we had the place to ourselves and could look at the canyon from another vantage point. We took the shuttle back to the main visitor center and decided that it was time to leave the park. At this point it was only 9:30, but we were quickly losing the attention of J and figured she (and us) could use a couple hours of zone out time with a movie and the pool.

View from Mather Point

Walking along the Rim Trail

Eating a snack at Yaki Point 

Later on in the day we decided to go back out and drive back to Desert View Watchtower - I won't go into any details, but it ended up not being the best decision! Albeit a quick visit, we did see some nice scenery and get some nice shots...

We checked out the next morning and started our drive towards Las Vegas, stopping at the Hoover Dam on the way. We didn't stay too long at all since it was around 112 degrees! M was basically stuck to my body and J wanted no part in walking around. And honestly, neither did we after a while!

Jon and I have each been to Vegas many times, but not with each other. While Vegas has a lot to offer kids and families, it's really not my ideal place to take them since I'd much rather be doing more adult things there! But, it was a great spot to rest our heads for a night so we didn't end up doing too much driving in one day. Planet Hollywood was right next door so we walked around there for a little bit, watched a water show, and grabbed some dinner to go since the girls were beat and ready to go to sleep pretty early. Jon and I longingly looked out of our hotel room window, and we wondered if anyone else on the strip was turning out their lights at 8pm and going to sleep for the night. At least we didn't lose any money - I'd call that a win!

Our tamest visit to Vegas yet!

Watching the thunder and lightning show
Taken at 5am when we were waking up 

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! 


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!


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.