End of the Road

Saturday – July 18

Day 44

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Today we rolled into KOA in Fredericksburg.  What in the world is up with this humidity!!!!  Thought for a second to turn around a drive to dryer air, but held back.  It has been an absolutely amazing trip.  I want to thank you all for following along, enjoying the adventure with us, praying for us, and living vicariously!  But it isn’t over.  Stay tuned.  Hopefully in the next day or so I’m going to share a ton of what we experienced, learned, and even give Jennifer and the boys some room to comment on what their favorites were.

Route: Milton, WV to Luray, VA

Campground: Fredericksburg KOA

Time: Left 8:00AM ET, Arrived 9:45AM ET – 1Hrs45Mins

One Last Hurrah

Thursday – July 16

Day 42

Sometimes things don’t turn out like you imagined.  We thought we’d leave Colorado early and roll into Fredericksburg today.  However, every campground is booked over the weekend.  So we find ourselves in Luray for the next few nights.  Our lease on our apartment doesn’t start until Monday.  At least we have a home on 4 wheels.

Route: Milton, WV to Luray, VA

Campground: Outlanders River Camp

Time: Left 8:15AM ET, Arrived 1:45AM ET – 5Hrs45Mins

Friday – July 17

Day 43

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IMG_6525IMG_6547IMG_6548IMG_6559IMG_6568If you are stuck next to national park, go visit.  Why not make it 13 national parks in 42 days?  We ventured up into Big Meadows and got the boys books stamped and devoured some blackberry ice cream.  The campground we are staying at is amazing.  It is only 5 years old and sits on the Shenandoah River.  After 42 days of camping and fishing, we finally caught 3 small mouth bass.  Nothing like a little patience.

Itinerary: Shenendoah National Park, Big Meadows, Shenandoah River

Rocky Mountain National Park

Sunday – July 12

Day 38

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I might have found another favorite national park.  First its cold.  At least it was cold when we were there.  We had our heaters running overnight.  Second, its absolutely beautiful.  Third, its crowded – very crowded.   But there are still spots you can find solitude and solace.  It reminded me a bit of the Smoky Mountains and Yosemite wrapped into one.  Unfortunately, we ended our stay a day early to get home and possibly cut down some of our drive time.  It certainly is a place I’d like to return to.  Not to mention, the top of Rocky Mountain NP was BLUSTERY and FREEZING!  There are spots you can find snow still on the ground.  There are animals everywhere.  We saw lots of elk, and two huge bull moose right in our campground.

Itinerary: Adams Falls, Trail Ridge Road, Bear Lake, Nymph Lake, Holtzwart Historic Site

Monday – July 13

Day 39

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We found hell on earth, and its in Oakley, KS.  Some parts are ‘amber waves of grain.’  But where we stayed was awful.  HOT HOT HOT.  The grass is crunchy.  And you track in these burrs that you constantly end up stepping on the rest of the day.  Poor Dorothy.

Route: Grand Lake, CO to Oakley, KS

Campground: High Plains Camping

Time: Left 8:00 MT.  Arrived 4:10 CT 7hrs 10 Mins

Tuesday – July 14

Day 40

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You can’t pass through Kansas City without hitting some BBQ – especially when the BBQ is in a gas station.  Can we say burnt ends and ribs?

Route: Oakley, KS to Danville, MO (VIA Joe’s Kansas City BBQ)

Campground: Lazy Day Campground – One of the nicest we’ve stayed at.

Time: Left 6:45 CT.  Arrived 3:45 CT 9hrs.

Wednesday – July 15

Day 41

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You can’t pass Culver’s without getting custard.  It is absolutely the BEST!

Route: Danville, MO to Milton, WV

Campground: Huntington/Fox Fire KOA

Time: Left 7:45 CT.  Arrived 6:20 ET 9hrs 35mins.

Arches

Thursday – July 9

Day 35

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Sometimes its a good thing to wake up at 4AM.  I’m still surprised we were abled to pull it off.  We woke the boys up at 4:15, gave them toaster waffles, threw them in the truck, and hauled off to Canyonlands National Park.  Why in the world would we do such a silly thing?  Mesa Arch at sunrise of course!  I will have to say, it did not disappoint.  The colors look great in the photos, but hey still are no match to what the human eye experiences.  The brilliance of the sun coming over the horizon and lighting up the arch is spectacular.  Just be careful though.  You don’t realize you are on the edge of a huge cliff until the sky lights up a bit!

Some people have no manners.  I don’t have pictures for this one, but it is probably best for the bobos I’m talking about.  Mesa Arch is a photographers dream.  The smart ones get there on time.  We were the third party there.  The first two were photographers that staked out their plot for the best shot – and I admire them for that.  The ones I don’t admire are the morons who don’t set their alarm, and think they can just squeeze in on your space, sticking their butt in your face, and never once asking “am I in your shot.”  They also forget that they are precariously perched next to a cliff with people they just made enemies with.  I cannot imagine how many fights break out in that place. The world loves our parks.  I am not exaggerating when I say this.  I think 70% of the people I hear in our national parks are not from America.  Japan, Korea, China, Sweden, Germany, Spain, Canada, Switzerland, and who knows where else.  It amazes me that they love our jewels enough to come see them.  It amazes me even more that they outnumber Americans.  Do we even know what splendors we have at our disposal?  Have they become too commonplace for us? IMG_6279 IMG_6274 IMG_6270 IMG_6268 IMG_6230 IMG_6249 IMG_6242 When they say ‘arches,’ they mean ‘BIG arches.’  I wasn’t prepared for the size of these things.  They are huge!  Giant sculptures of sandstone standing in the desert, these structures tower over you, juxtaposed with the deep blue sky.  Arches has over 2000 of such pieces it gets its name from.  Some are a mere three feet wide.  But many are as tall as a ten story building!  Look closely at each picture to see if you can see the boys.

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Elephants can live in the desert.  Jennifer said, ‘I hate to say this, but that looks like a bunch of elephant butts.’  The boys guffawed.  Sure enough, on the map, the butte is called ‘Parade of Elephants.’ IMG_6316 IMG_6315 It does rain in Moab.  We’ve had some crazy weather.  It is best to get out early to beat the heat.  But more importantly, it is best to get out early to beat the afternoon thunderstorms.  Every afternoon we’ve had some doozy storms.  So much so, we’ve seen some street flooding – as is illustrated by the girls rafting down the street.

Itinerary: Mesa Arch at Sunrise (Canyonlands NP), The Windows (Arches NP) – Turret Arch, North & South Windo, Double Arch, Moab Aquatics Center

Moab Bound

Tuesday – July 7

Day 33

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The landscape changes every hour in Utah.  Today we saw the most diversity I’ve ever seen in a 5 hour drive.  We came down from Bryce Canyon, leveled out into desert and painted rock, then ascended it what seemed to be Ireland.  The trees changed, grass began to emerge, and the temperature plummeted.  We saw nothing but pine and an abundance of aspen.  As soon as it appeared, it disappeared, giving way to red stone.  In fact, in one of the mountain pictures, you can see the desert below.  It was a gorgeous drive.

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IMG_6002 IMG_6006There’s always time to squeeze in another national park.  While in Utah, why not just complete all of the big 5?  Between Bryce and Moab you have the opportunity to pass through Capital Reef National Park.  We didn’t stop to see any of the sights.  But we did get an apple pie.  Apparently, growing apples was a big thing at the Gifford Homestead.  And since the ham we packed for lunch was frozen, apple pie was on the menu for lunch.

Route: Bryce Canyon City to Moab via Hwy 12 and Hwy 24

Campground: Portal RV Resort

Time: Left 8:30 MT.  Arrived 2:30 MT 6Hrs

Wednesday – July 8

Day 34

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Dan Mick is the bomb!  If you are ever in Moab, make sure you book time with Dan Mick.  He, his son, and is brother-n-law, are the nicest people, very knowledgeable, and very capable.  They showed us dinosaur tracks; took us down declines that made you feel you were going to flip forward; took us up inclines that made us feel like we were going to flip backward; and amazingly put Jennifer at ease with the whole thing.  Dan Mick is a legend in Moab.  Companies send him parts to test out on his jeeps.  His 100K modified jeep is basically sponsored by other companies.  And the kids absolutely had a blast.  I don’t think there was a moment they weren’t grinning ear to ear.

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Part of Utah is frozen in time.  These are petrified sand dunes.  We were off roading on these (called slick rock formations) all day.  You can actually see the wind marks in the dunes.

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Dinosaurs are frozen in time too.  Dan’s son, Richard, showed us at least three types of dinosaur tracks, all in the same area.  You could almost imagine what was taking place between them all.  There was a raptor, a stegosaurus, and something that would eventually turn into T-rex.

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When they say ‘red rock’ they aren’t kidding.  After our adventure with Dan, we journeyed through Arches to get a glimpse of our next day.  Storms chased us out.  But before we left, we saw dark, blackish red cliffs, Balanced Rock, and a whole host of treasures waiting for us over the next few days.

Itinerary: Hell’s Revenge Trail with Dan Mick; Arches National Park

Bryce Canyon

Saturday – July 4

Day 30

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3 Hours can make a huge difference.  We left hot hot hot weather in Zion National Park.  It was over 100 during the day and 80’s at night.  Your only solace was to find the river.  Bryce Canyon is at over 8000 feet altitude and that makes a lot of difference.  It is in the mid 70’s and beautiful!  Feels amazing!

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Bryce Canyon is unique.  It is one of the smaller national parks.  We are here four nights, so we don’t feel rushed to see what it has to offer.  Today we drove to Rainbow Point and drove back the length of the road stopping at various viewpoints.  The Hoodoos stand like an army in the valley.  It really isn’t a canyon, though named as such.  It is more of a natural amphitheater created by erosion leaving precarious hoodoos to guard the landscape.  Tomorrow we get to hike among them!

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America celebrates Independence day.  Sadly, one year I was in Canada on the 4th of July…. long story.  There was a noticeable absence of fireworks.  No one was setting off bottle rockets.  There were no Roman Candles.  There were no mortars going off in the distance.  And you couldn’t find a fireworks show anywhere.  It was sad.  Not so in Utah.  It wasn’t the Stars and Stripes Spectacular of Spotsy county.  But it did the job!

Itinerary: Rainbow Point, Bryce Point

Sunday – July 5

Day 31

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Cicadas are everywhere!  We were hiking the loop and kept hearing this clicking sound echo through the Hoodoos.  A little investigation and we found our culprit.

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Bryce Canyon is a mix of Grand Canyon and The Badlands, yet accessible.  We didn’t try any hikes in the Badlands, and maybe there are some interesting ones.  The only hike you can take at the Grand Canyon is down to the canyon floor.  That is 9 hours round trip and several liters of water.  The lower you go in the Grand Canyon the hotter it gets.  Bryce Canyon feels more at your disposal.  You can hike down into the Queens Garden (that is Queen Victoria 4 pictures down) and continue onto Navajo loop to enter Wall Street.  Wall Street is The Narrows of Zion without the long hike and without the water.  The walls envelope you.  But, as with any good hike, and as we have learned many times on this trip, what goes down must come up.  Zig zag zig zag like ants up their tunnels.

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Water in this place is surprising.  Yes, it has been raining every evening.  That isn’t normal. Nor is having to wear a jacket on 4th of July.  But still, finding a river in this terrain feels out of place.  It was a beautiful and refreshing.

Itinerary: Queens Guarden Loop, Navajo Loop, Moss Cave

Monday – July 6

Day 32

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Cows are loud.  We headed out to fish today (yes in the rain, and no we didn’t catch anything).  On the way we got caught in a cow-jam, hundreds of cows on a drive down the road.  They were more interested in watching us do our thing than being part of the drive.

Itinerary: Fishing at Tropic Reservoir

The Narrow Hike

Wednesday – July 1

Day 27

IMG_1002 IMG_5804 IMG_5802You don’t have to be in a National Park to experience N.P. beauty.  Driving into Zion, we kept asking ‘Why isn’t this part of the park?”  There are breathtaking views everywhere!

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The Narrows earns its reputation as one of the most amazing hikes in the U.S.  The kids are kids.  They expire quickly on hikes.  But I knew we were in good shape when Weston asked, “Is there more to go?”  When I said there was, he exclaimed, “YES!”  Most of it is in water.  Some of it is on sandy ground, but they preferred staying in the river.  There are pools to swim in, places where you wade waste deep (depending on river flow could be much higher), and towering canyon walls.  It is a hike that beckons you to look around the next corner.  We ended up hiking 5 miles round trip, taking us to the beginning of Wall Street, where the walls narrow considerably.  I think an overnight backpacking trip through the narrows has been added to my bucket list.

IMG_5791This is the Court of the Patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Itinerary – The Narrows

Thursday – July 2

Day 28

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Zion may be one of our favorite parks.  I got to hike the Canyon Overlook trail today.  Breathtaking views of the canyon.  There is a beauty here you can’t find anywhere else.  And right in the middle of it is the refreshing Virgin River.  It is easy to get to from Virgin, UT.  You have a beautiful gateway town in Springdale.  You can hike and get all nasty, then jump in the river to cool off.  There aren’t too many places with this type of diversity.  Plus, they’ve restricted automobile access past a certain point, which cuts back on traffic congestion.  One of the more surprising things about Zion is how busy it is.  There are TONS of people in Zion.  If I were to come back, I’d try May.  Hopefully it wouldn’t feel like Hell.


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There are surprises everywhere in National Parks.  You really don’t know what you are going to experience around the next corner.  We wanted to take the Zion Tunnel (built in 1930) up to the Canyon Overlook trail.  I knew it was 1.1 miles long.  I didn’t realize its pitch black in there.  I also didn’t know about the great arch.  And I certainly didn’t know I was bout to meet up with some Desert Big Horn Sheep.  After reaching the overlook, I hiked back to Jennifer and the kids.  Getting our packs together, we heard some rock falling.  I just assumed it was loose rock.  We looked down and there was a family of Sheep climbing up the mountain.  This was the last animal I really wanted to see on our trip.  When we got back to the truck, we were still in shock we saw them.  Then out of the blue, they emerged up above us as we waited in line to go back through the tunnel.  Absolutely amazing!!

Itinerary – Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel, Canyon Overlook Trail

Friday –  July 3

Day 29

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Today we drove from Virgin, UT to Bryce Canyon City.  Its a whole new world!  Cool.  80’s.  Drops into the 50’s at night.  What a welcome reprieve from all of the heat!

Route: Virgin, UT to Bryce Canyon City

Campground: Ruby’s Inn Campground

Time: Left 8:15 MT.  Arrived 1:30 MT 4Hrs 45 Mins – Got stuck in traffic from a truck overturned carrying bottles of water.  Ironically it caught fire.

Heat Wave

Monday – June 29

Day 25:

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FullSizeRender 162 FullSizeRender 151Out West, if you don’t like the scenery, keep driving.  It will probably change within the hour.  Today is travel day and we have a modest drive to Virgin, UT.  To get there, we must go to Flagstaff, and head North, around the Grand Canyon, and up through the bottom of Utah.  First, I was pretty surprised by the terrain in Arizona.  Northern Arizona is cooler (higher altitude), and quite a bit of greenery to be seen.  As we drove around the Eastern portion of the Grand Canyon, we could tell it was getting lower, hotter, and more arid.  I was really excited that we got to see the Vermilion Cliffs.  They were beautiful red cliffs that showed layer upon layer of ancient history.  But as we climbed out of them, the scenery changed.  We started seeing scrub pine and small bushes – then larger pine.  The pine was thin enough that it looked as if someone had sprinkled them out on the hillside with a pepper shaker.  And suddenly, I felt as if I were back in the black hills.  At the bottom of the climb we were at 100.  At the top, where the Kaibab Forest is and the Northern entrance to Grand Canyon, we were in the 80s.  Then as suddenly as the pine appeared, they thinned to nothing and we were back in an arid dry landscape.  One of my favorite things about this trip is seeing how the climate changes from mile to mile.  It is an impressive site.

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There are more National Monuments and Parks than I realized.  When you go into your first National Park, you have to visit the Visitor’s Center and pick up a Passbook.  From then on, every time you visit a monument or park, you can purchase a sticker to put in the book and stamp it like a passport.  Driving 89A we came around a curve, descended a bit, and found this beautiful bridge spanning Marble Canyon what I think is the beginning of the Colorado River.  They had a visitors center and a place to stamp your book!  Plus we saw California Condor #54.

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“It’s just a dry heat,” is a load of crap!  HOT IS HOT!  Imagine walking outside and having a hair dryer blown in your face, and on your head, and on your body.  I’ve never felt heat like this before.

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Rivers cool the heat!  Thank goodness we are camping on a river!

Route: Williams, AZ to Virgin, UT via Hwy 89A

CampgroundZion River Resort 

Time: Left 9:00 Standard MT.  Arrived 4:00 MT DST 6 HRS

Tuesday – June 30

Day 26:

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Zion is like the desert version of Yosemite.  It has its own huge named peaks and rock faces.  Zion is beautiful.  It is a beauty you can’t find anywhere else.

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For some reason, Zion NP doesn’t believe in air conditioning.  Its the hottest park so far and none of the buses have AC.  The Visitors Center is actually cooled through natural cooling towers.  Have no idea how its works, but it does.  If only the buses had cooling towers.

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Water is life.  We hiked to the Lower Emerald Pool and made sure to drench ourselves in the falls.  Then we ate lunch and soaked ourselves in the Virgin River.  It is an oasis in the desert.

Itinerary: Lower Emerald Pool

Light Show

Saturday – June 27

Day 23:

Guy knows his stuff.  We decided to let the kids play in the pool this morning and take it easy today.  Tonight will be worth the wait.  Until then, we chose Flagstaff and Salsa Bravo for an early dinner.  We saw the place on Diner’s Drive-ins and Dives.  MUY BUENO!!  We had our fill and headed on to the Grand Canyon once again.

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God’s light shows are the best.  My parents really wanted to see the Grand Canyon at sunset.  I’m glad they did!  What a beautiful site!  It seemed that every minute gave you a new portrait to look at.  There was a slight haze in the canyon from a fire, but I think it only added to the scene.  God’s creation truly is a work of art.  If you ever get bogged down in life and forget that God loves you and is looking over you, just take a moment and observe something from creation.  Look at the sunset.  Look at a blade of grass or a leaf on a tree.  Watch a bird care for her chicks.  Then remember that Jesus said He cares for you more than they.  The testimony of God’s creation is that He is mighty and that in His might He loves you.

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Apparently everyone wanted to see the sunset.  The buses were packed with people on the way back to parking.  Debbie didn’t think there would be much of a crowd.  WRONG!  People hanging onto the bars like monkeys, emitting their odor-ific B.O. only added to the ambiance.  That’s my dad’s grey head.  Notice which way he is leaning.  Jennifer and I have a code for body odor (B.O.) – Obi Wan Kenobi.

Itinerary:  Salsa Brava – Flagstaff, AZ; Hopi Point – Grand Canyon

Sunday – June 28

Day 24:

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If you want the oxen, you have to deal with the poop.  Today was repair day.  Jennifer and I went on a walk and on returning we noticed my slide topper had pulled out from the camper in the previous days winds.  I think it was simply bad installation.  So a 30 minute drive to Home Depot, Camping World, and some friendly camping neighbors to borrow some ladders, and the job was done.  Just enough time to walk around downtown Williams and witness another shooting.  Fun place to be.  I’d say I much rather downtown Williams over Flagstaff.  Less of a culture shock for me.  :0)

Itinerary: Downtown Williams

Majestic

Friday – June 26

Day 22:

In the Grand Canyon, Arizona has a natural wonder which is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world. I want to ask you to keep this great wonder of nature as it now is. I hope you will not have a building of any kind, not a summer cottage, a hotel or anything else, to mar the wonderful grandeur, the sublimity, the great loneliness and beauty of the canyon. Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it. – Theodore Roosevelt

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Don’t bring your finger to a gun fight.  What do boys love more than a cowboy gun fight!  Prior to our trip up to the Grand Canyon, we were treated to a cowboy show complete with a gun battle.  The boys loved it.  And even the dead cowboys rose to life and took pictures with the kids.  Is it just me, or does the sheriff look like David Letterman?

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Sometimes it’s nice for someone else to do the driving.  We’ve been driving a long time.  So the thought of a someone else taking care of the transportation is a nice reprieve.  The Grand Canyon Railway takes you from Williams, AZ to the Southern Rim of the Grand Canyon, complete with Air Conditioning, and another resurrection of the bad guys from the earlier shoot-out.  They must have nine lives because they robbed the train.

I think Weston is enjoying the train.  This kid has always loved trains.  He has pointed them out every time we see them on the road.  He’s played with them all growing up.  Anytime we can do something like this we do our best to make it happen.  Plus, I didn’t know he could play fiddle!

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The Grand Canyon is certainly GRAND.  Majestic would be another word to describe it.  As would awesome, stupendous, gigantic, ridiculous, ginormous, unfathomable, etc.  When you walk up on the site from below, your heart starts to beat a little faster.  I think that is because your body knows once it sees the view, it’ll stop temporarily, as will your breathing.  It is truly a site.  I will warn you, that you have to get off the main area.  Get away from the village.  The our guide on the train said to avoid the shuttles.  I say take the shuttles.  Get away from the tourist trap.  There is less people and more view if you move to the red line toward Hermits Rest.  I got to hop on and see Maricopa Point and Hopi Point.  Hopi is where you’ll see your first glimpse of the Colorado River.  One day the boys and I are going to raft the Colorado!  Until then Jr. Ranger will have to suffice.

Itinerary: Grand Canyon Railway to Southern Rim