Category Archives: Family Travel

Day 578 of Life on the Road as a Family, Antelope Island, the Great Salt Lake

IMG_2421We headed to Antelope Island today to swim in the Great Salt Lake. The Island is 75 miles long by 28 miles wide and has a 600 bison, pronghorn antelope, coyotes, badgers, bobcats and tons of birds living on it, but we felt lucky to get this close to this huge guy!  There are signs all over warning people to not get close to them, so I love that the lady in the Jeep Cherokee is hanging out the window to get her picture.  Look at how big he is!  We had seen them up the hill to the left when we drove the road out to the original ranch and I commented on how skinny he was.  Uh, maybe not!  We watched him lumber across the road and when he turned his head toward us, I was hoping he wasn’t coming our way.

IMG_2440Here’s Nate and myself and Dan IN the Great Salt Lake.  We did it!  Please notice who’s taking the picture – the only smart one in the family. Seriously, we had read online about how gross the flies were at the beach, and how you should just go see it, but not plan on swimming.  The brown stuff on the beach are dead bugs, interspersed with dead seagulls and other unmentionable things.  To get to the water we had to walk through swarms of flies.  They weren’t biting, but other big bugs did, right through our layers upon layers of OFF.  There were 4 other families way down the beach taking their time getting in, too.

We were determined to get in, however, and I am so happy we did.  When we were here years ago, we swam in the resevoir nearby, but the salinity was less than the actual lake, so we had to come back and try it.  It was worth all the gross stuff, even the brine shrimp and algae IN the water didn’t stick to us.  The brine flies were on top of the water, too, and would barely move as you swam.  I was very careful to keep my mouth closed.

But the “swimming” for 20 minutes was still fun!  It could hold you up in a sitting position without even trying, and to swim on your stomach, you really had to push your legs down, because they’d rather be on top of the water.  We kept yelling for Eliza to come in, but she declined.  She doesn’t mind that she didn’t swim in the Great Salt Lake, and she also didn’t have to take two showers afterward!

IMG_2461The view of the lake from near the car.  We walked for about 15 minutes to get all the way out there to “swim.”  The water levels change during the year, and right now, much of the water has evaporated.  The 2.2 million pounds of minerals that are leftover are a light grey and are both heavy chunks and light oolitic sand.  Not your normal beach.  We did see tons of birds we didn’t recognize and learned that this is the Pacific Flyway stop for 9,000,000 birds each year.  The funniest part was the marina with one boat – who would want to ruin their boat out here?!

IMG_2475The view on the drive back, a 7 mile causeway that joins the island to the hopefully brine-fly free afternoon we are looking forward to!  Not the day at the beach we expected, but quite the adventure.  You have to go see it for yourself – just don’t plan on swimming for long.

Day 574 of Life on the Road as a Family, Canyonlands NP & Dead Horse State Park

IMG_2122Driving out to Canyonlands, we ran into a rainstorm that lasted for about 30 minutes.  We could see for miles and there was lightening right where we were going.  Not that we would turn around! What’s a little water when you’re exploring?

IMG_2132The famous view of Canyonlands!  It’s crazy to stand there. As far as you can see there are “canyons within canyons” as Dan says.  The colors were muted, but we could still see the layers and how the water has worn away the mountains.  It’s stunning.

IMG_2157Just heaven to hike with my family!!!

We hiked the mile out to Grand View Point, and once again, the write up on the hike was incorrect.  It was easily over a mile and the elevation gain was closer to 500 feet than the 50 feet they stated.  So strange that whoever does the write-up’s for all the tourists can’t get it right.  We run into that continually, so we end up not really believing anything we read about a hike.

IMG_2158That’s Nate, of course!  I’m so proud  – he sees a rock pile/mountain and he has to climb it.  Yes!

IMG_2161Our selfie at the very end of Grand View Point.  Dan says this is his favorite selfie of the trip, so I have to include it.  I got all of us in it, which is a miracle.  18 1/2 months of practice and I finally get a good picture!  We are all so happy to be exploring every day in new and interesting places, AND we’re getting closer to home…

IMG_2177Nate is checking out the view and raising my blood pressure at the same time.

IMG_2215After finishing with Canyonlands, we drove to Dead Horse State Park and paid the $10 to drive in.  Dan has seen this iconic picture for years and wanted to see it in person.  That’s the Colorado River behind us. The Green River is over to our west and joins with the Colorado further south of where we are.

The park got its name from an annual wild horse round up that the cowboys used to conduct, running the horses out to the end of this mesa, across a 30′ wide neck, and then they would close it off with brush and junipers to keep the horses there.  The cowboys would pick which horses they wanted, and then they left the others there to die without water, within sight of the river.  So sad and absolutely horrible.

We hiked around the point for an hour, and enjoyed the views from all the different sides.  The views of the river were better here than from Canyonlands, so we were pleased to have taken the trouble to come this far.

IMG_2226We ate Kevin after our picnic lunch!  It’s been in the trunk of the tow vehicle for at least a month; none of us can even remember buying them.  When Twinkies went off the market we were joking about it, and when they came back on the market, we thought we should try them. So funny. We haven’t bought them in years, but we remember them as bigger and having more filling, darn.  Still, Kevin was a fun addition to another perfect day on the road.  Back to the RV park to swim, nap, and eat another great dinner.  It doesn’t get any better than this.

Day 573 of Life on the Road as a Family, Arches National Park

IMG_1997Early Friday morning, and we’re driving into Arches National Park to hike before the heat really hits.  Arches has miles of trails, but we only “need” to do a few of them.  We call this a “drive park”, like Bryce, because you can just drive around and see the highlights.  And what highlights they are!  That’s Balanced Rock, second from the left.

IMG_2003We wanted to hike to Delicate Arch first, but we weren’t the only ones.  An easy 3 miles round trip, it was already 85 degrees before 8 a.m., and we were on the trail with a couple hundred others tourists.  Most of them not speaking English, which I really enjoy.  You can tell by the inflection what’s being said sometimes.  This part of the trail was beautiful.

IMG_2016That’s us under Delicate Arch!  A young woman from Bavaria who just finished med school in Germany took the picture for us and I’m so grateful.  We really wanted this shot – it’s iconic.  Everyone was very polite waiting in line for their own picture, although I noticed several people who wouldn’t venture out that far.  It wasn’t that narrow, but I did ask my family to not move me around; I was a little nervous.

IMG_2023A little ledge hiking and I could barely keep up with those three.  I like hiking behind them to get cool pictures, but for this one, they caught me and all turned around!  This drop off was far enough that I knew I never would have been able to hike the Eye of the Needle in the Grand Canyon.  I was practically gripping the wall!

IMG_2037On the hike in we had seen a sign for Petroglyphs on the left and knew we’d check it out on the way back – so happy we did.  Only a couple other people detoured with us.  The informational sign says these are from the 1600’s, probably by Ute Indians.  They have it roped off, but it’s still amazing that people haven’t ruined them.  The “Indians” had just gotten horses, so they were documenting it. Fun fact:  Utah was named after the Utes, even though the Mormons wanted the state to be named Deseret.

IMG_2041Here’s the cabin Dan and I would be happy to live in the rest of our lives!  Perfect size.  It was built by the Wolfe family in the 1800’s.  They lived in a sod house until his married daughter came to visit and made him build this one.  He had moved from Ohio to recover from an injury, but at the end of his life went back to Ohio.  There was a small stream nearby and it was the only water for miles around.

IMG_2063After a picnic lunch, we stopped at a few more places to hike, but it was starting to get so hot that we were ready to be done. This is the North and South Windows.  Beautiful hike around the back on a “primitive trail”, which means you hunt for the cairns and aim for where you want to go.IMG_2101Many of the formations are named in the park, and the others we made up our own names.  The one on the left above is The 3 Gossips and they are facing The Sheep.  I hope you can expand them enough to really see them!  After stopping at the Visitor’s Center and running into Nate and Eiiza’s old principal, we headed back to the RV park to nap, swim and eat a great dinner.  Life is rough.  Only 14 days left of our adventure and then we’re home!

Day 572 of Life on the Road as a Family, Bryce to Moab

As we’re ending our adventure, I’m thinking of everything I haven’t blogged about yet, and I now realize, I probably won’t get it all in here, darn!  It’s nice to have wifi again so I can get caught up, but we’re so busy exploring each day, I don’t have time to get it all from my journal to here.  Before I forget, however, I have to add how much Dan and I LOVE drive days with our huge front window!  That’s one of the reasons we bought this rig – so we could have the huge view.

IMG_1940We left Bryce about 7:45 a.m., which is a little late for us to hit the road when we have 274 miles to go.  Dan and I get up and he takes care of the rig while I do the dogs, and kids if they get up!  It’s always a good time for them to sleep in if we’re not stopping anywhere special on the way. They get out of their bunks when we put the slider in, and hop back in immediately and go back to sleep.

IMG_1947Here’s a sign we don’t enjoy seeing, but when you’re in the West, it’s inevitable.  Dan’s a conservative, careful driver, so we take signs like this seriously.  We stay in the right lane, slow down, and try not to get going so fast that we can’t control the weight of it.  We’ve had drivers pass us on the right and left.  Really?!  If you’re driving a car, give those truckers and Rv’s a little respect!

IMG_1993That isn’t our rig and tow, but this is our Rv park and I was so excited – this is where Dan and I stayed in 1998!  I loved this park because right behind the sign is a pool where I spent my days (110 degree heat that week), and where we’re going to spend a lot of time this week.  They’ve changed the name, so we didn’t realize it was the same park.  It’s in Moab itself, which has grown into a cute little town.  Can’t wait to explore it after a long day of driving!

Day 571 of Life on the Road as a Family, Bryce Canyon National Park

IMG_1865Woohoo, Nate’s feeling better, so we get to show him Bryce!  A stranger took this photo for us as we headed into the park.  It was already in the 80’s, but at this high altitude, it feels hotter.  Love it.

IMG_1887I took this picture at Bryce Point, as Dan was 1/2 mile back in the car, waiting to get into a parking space.  We didn’t take the shuttle in case Nate wasn’t feeling well again and needed to go back to the rig quickly, so we had the horror of bumper to bumper traffic.  After a few minutes, the kids and I got out and walked to this view point – gorgeous!  And I love this picture because Eliza hopped up a little to momentarily be taller than her younger brother!  We walked back to Dan who was still in traffic.  He didn’t mind that he missed the view because we had seen it before on our previous bus tour.

IMG_1905A view from Sunset Point.  I took over 40 pictures today of these views that just don’t quit. Again, I cannot wait to blow some of them up for our home!  We all trooped out to see it, then Dan and the kids went back to the rig, and I kept hiking to the Lodge.  Nate wasn’t feeling great, but I wanted to see the old Lodge before we left in the morning.  It was a nice, hot hike and the Lodge was quaint.  It’s hard not to compare it to Yellowstone or Yosemite. Same vintage, just not as big or outstanding.

IMG_1925  While the men relaxed, Eliza and I spent our evening playing games, and it’s our family tradition to keep track, so here’s the scoreboard… Eliza beat me 15 games to 2!  (A couple games I won are from another day.)  We’ve played games all over the country, inside the rig and out, in heat and in storms, with electricity and without.  We don’t always remember to write it down for posterity, and we sometimes write it on the game box itself.  It’s really cute to see when she was 4 and beating me even then!

Day 570 of Life on the Road as a Family, Bryce Canyon National Park

IMG_1772Here’s a pano of Bryce, as Eliza and I head out for a hike for the day!  It almost does justice to how vibrant the colors are and how wide and vast the area is.  We drove to the Fairyland trail head early, ready to hike down into the canyon and back out on an 8 mile loop.  Sounds simple, right?

IMG_1735The trail was easy to start with, and I followed Eliza as we headed down.  I took almost two dozen pictures before the canyon floor and just kept saying, “look at that” “did you see that hoodoo?  It looks like a …” and a continual, “wow.”  We were so happy to be hiking together.

IMG_1752The trail isn’t flat at the bottom like I remembered, but it was beautiful.  We’d learned that the sun, wind and erosion created all the spectacular hoodoo formations, but I think God must be smiling at His masterpiece, Bryce.  We met more people from all over the world here than any other place we’ve been to, including NYC and Boston.  People just want to see Bryce.  (And Zion and the Grand Canyon, it’s an easy loop.)  Bryce is set up well to handle international visitors, and our campground, Ruby’s Inn, had signs in 8 different languages.  I met people from Holland, China and other parts of Europe who have dreamed of coming here for years.  You can see why!

IMG_1753I love that this little flower is able to survive in the canyon and grows out of the rock.  We didn’t see any water in the canyon, but we did hike across the now dry washes that the storms have created when the water dumps in mass.  From the rim, the washes look like roads, but there are really areas that the water pushes through, and the sides can be 10 feet tall.

IMG_1773Here we are, back at the top after a long hike to the rim!  So happy to be here and so hot.  We passed tons of people going down into the canyon, some again without any water.  How can people hike in the heat without water?!  Even down to see a famous landmark was 1.7 miles and it was over 85 degrees on the rim, so was hotter on the canyon floor.  Please people, carry water!

IMG_1798We think this is the formation called The Great Wall.  As the guide said earlier, you’re supposed to use your imagination when you look at them, and come up with what you think they are.  Before, we were able to see the lion, horse and chicken in another area, but we never saw the Snoopy the guide pointed to.  It’s just like clouds, you say what you think they are.

IMG_1804The hike along the rim back to our car was 2.5 miles.  The newspaper described it as a stroll, but we beg to differ.  At this spot, it’s flat, but the first 1.3 miles were up, and the last 1.2 miles were at a 6-10% grade going down. That’s a stroll?!  My hip hurt going up and Eliza’s knees hurt going down, so we were quite the pair.  We just wanted it to be over.  For some reason, this hike just wasn’t fun.

IMG_1838Our last view of Fairyland – beyond beautiful.  We made it!

Day 569 of Life on the Road as a Family, Bryce Canyon National Park

IMG_1670Eliza and Dan and I took a 3 1/2 hour guided tour of Bryce Canyon National Park, while Nate stayed at the rig, sick, in his bunk.  We had made reservations the day before and could have cancelled, but he was happy to have us gone so he could sleep in a quiet atmosphere, and we were happy to be gone, away from his germs.  I think he picked up a virus on the shuttle bus in Zion.  There were people coughing and hacking every time we rode, and there was no way to get away from them.

So we took the tour and I enjoyed every minute. The guide definitely knew his facts about Bryce, and he shared interesting stories, in between corny jokes.  We were able to ride all the way out to Rainbow Point, which isn’t possible on the park’s normal shuttle system.

IMG_1675This is the view from our last stop, Fairyland.  The colors were breathtaking and we took more panoramic pictures here than anywhere previously on the whole trip.  I cannot wait to see them blown up for our walls at home.  Where we will be in 18 days.  18 days left of solid family time, then we are back to  two careers, a home without wheels, and our favorite city, Bend, Oregon.  But for now, we’re enjoying Bryce!

Day 566 of Life on the Road as a Family, the Narrows

IMG_1422Here we go, early morning, into Zion again!  I’ve taken so many pictures of the mountains, and still, just driving in, I have to take another one!

IMG_1435We rode the shuttle to the very last stop, the Temple of Sinawava, hiked the mile down the Riverside walk, and then started hiking up the Virgin River in the canyon called The Narrows.  It was my favorite hike ever!  Hiking and water, what could be better?!  We didn’t rent the shoes that many people recommended and I am glad we didn’t.  The water wasn’t that cold and our closed toe shoes were fine.  We had checked the weather report for the day and there was no chance of showers or flash floods today, yeah.

IMG_1447The canyon was this beautiful for every step.  We would hike through the water to a little bit of land, then through the water to the next land.  We all had walking sticks to help us and I am so happy we did.  It really made a difference in how we stepped on the wet rocks.

IMG_1454After a few hours of hiking, this is where we had our  lunch.  It was hard to stop because we kept on wanting to see what was around the next corner!  “Oh, just one more” we said about a dozen times.  Finally we were too hungry.  Also, it was getting to be a little crowded.  When we had started out at 8 a.m., there were only a handful of people in the canyon with us.  By 11:30 a.m., it was getting to be a zoo.  It had been so peaceful and quiet before, and we really enjoy nature that way.  If you go, go early morning.  There were hundreds of people in each little stretch of canyon as we hiked out.

IMG_1466On the way back, I took a few minutes to swim in this pool – after being told by my daughter that a boy died in Minnesota after swimming in a lake that was filled with microbes that made him sick.  Very sad for the boy and his family, but not swimming is akin to not breathing for me. This is a moving river, so it was worth the risk.

IMG_1479This is the end of our Narrows hike!  I was still sopping wet, but we were all so happy to have done it.  I would do it again and go further.  I’ll have to come back someday!

IMG_1498After the shuttle took us back to our car, we hopped in so we could drive through the tunnel.  Man-made in the 1930’s, you can drive through in a car, but would need a ride if you’re on a bike, or an escort if your RV is as large as ours.  We didn’t want to hassle with either, so decided to take the car.

IMG_1506And here’s why we wanted to go through the tunnel – to get to the other side – miles of this beautiful view!  Amazing to see trees grow out of the sandstone, and all the incredible colors.  We’ve seen tons of paintings and photographs of Zion, but none are as grand as seeing it in person, with the sun shining, with your family.

IMG_1531This is part of the Checkerboard Mesa.  Nate and I wanted to climb all the way up, but we knew it would be very hard to climb down, so he only went this far.  It was the perfect climb to end yet another perfect day on the road.  We are so lucky.

Day 565 of Life on the Road as a Family, Zion National Park

We got up early and drove into Zion National Park, parked, and hopped on the shuttle to the Grotto to get to the most exciting hike in Zion, Angel’s Landing.  Dan and I had hiked it years before and we couldn’t wait to show the kids how cool it is.  After hiking by the Virgin River for awhile, we got to…

IMG_1361… the famous Walter’s Wiggles, 21 switchbacks built into the side of the hill by master craftsmen years ago.  I was gasping for air and happy to take a break for this photo opportunity.  It’s only 2.4 miles to the end, but it’s all uphill and it was already scorching hot in the shade.

IMG_1369Eliza and I are firmly seated on Scout’s Landing while Dan and Nate check out the trail as it continues to Angels Landing.  It goes right up the side of that hill and then another 1/2 mile out to the end.  It has steep drop offs and a few chains to hold onto.  6 people have died on it.  Dan and I hadn’t gone to the end years ago, and I knew I couldn’t now.  Eliza didn’t go because her shoes had no tread, which is necessary.  Dan went up a ways and then turned around to come sit with us.  It was hard for him to admit he couldn’t do it, and even harder to let Nate go alone.  We had talked about it before and Nate said he really wanted to do it, so we let him.

IMG_1372This is the view 4 feet to my left.  Straight down to Big Bend.  Scary.

IMG_1381This is Angels Landing.  I swore I saw Nate hike through the gap to the left of the trees.  He’s got a very distinctive walk.

IMG_1598Look closely.  That’s Nate’s boot, right on the edge of Angels Landing.  I cried when he texted this to me later in the day.  That’s straight down!  My son stood there!  He didn’t take a selfie or ask anyone to take a picture of him, but I think this picture is priceless.  We started this trip with a 6th grader, and we’re going home with a young man who wants to be a Marine.  Wow.

IMG_1395Here he is, back safe and sound and we can breathe again.  He wasn’t scared, he had a blast, and he’s so glad he did it.  It only took him 30 minutes to go out and back!

IMG_1413After getting back down, we hiked to the viewpoint for the Court of the Patriarchs, but there wasn’t anyone around to take our family picture, so we tried this selfie.  Hilarious!  We’d been hiking long enough, so we headed back to the RV park for wifi that works, a dip in the pool and a great dinner.  Life is rough.

Day 561 of Life on the Road as a Family, the Grand Canyon

IMG_1157The view of the north Kaibab trail from the Bright Angel  viewpoint.  That huge gap on the left is the canyon that Dan and Nate hiked, all the way out to the end and the Colorado River.  The far side is the south rim of the Grand Canyon.  It’s our last day here and I am cherishing every view we can take in.

IMG_1169We sat for awhile on the back porch of the lodge, enjoying that view!

IMG_1179The front drive and view of the Lodge.  They’ve recently put on a new roof and it’s disconcerting versus the very old interior. When you walk in the front door area under the flag, you go down a funky old staircase to a room that has huge windows and the best view of the canyon on the north rim!  Even when the lodge burned and they re-built it, they kept the floor plan that the original architect had designed.  It’s beautiful. Go visit.  It’ll be as hard for you to leave as it was us.

IMG_1204Back at our campsite, we made the last S’mores of our Grand Canyon week.  They were delicious!  We played board games (Eliza won), laughed about the dogs’ antics, and talked about every fun thing we’d done that week. Truly a dream come true that Dan and I got to take our kids to the Grand Canyon and we won’t soon forget our magical week.