Packing For Our Vacation In Utah

Our Utah vacation was almost jeopardized by my minor medical setback. But I’m feeling good, now. And I’m ready to go. I wish I had a few extra days to get a couple more things ready for the trip. Kevin and I just have to make a trip to the store and grab a couple more shorts and I need to find a smaller, lighter tripod than the one I have here. When we hike and come across a neat waterfall, I would like to capture it in long exposure. The only way to get a decent shot, I need a tripod for these photos. The lighter the backpack, the easier the hike. πŸ˜‰ I will take a short break from blogging. And when I come back, I will have a whole new story to tell, and hopefully some cool pictures to show y’all.

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Time to pack for our trip to Utah. Katelynn’s plush snake makes me giggle. πŸ˜€ Hopefully, we don’t come too close to a venomous snake. After all, it’s the desert.

Planning A Trip To Utah’s National Parks

Today, I spent most of the day doing some online research for our Summer vacation. This one is a little bit of both: planned and spontaneous. Kevin and I decided to take the kids to a few Utah National Parks, last weekend. When Kevin came home, we debated and planned a little more. And while Kevin booked a cabin, I went outside to capture some photos of this evening’s sunset. My brain began to hurt a little. And the best way to relax is to watch the Sun setting. Now, we are all excited and look forward to hike some trails at the canyons of Utah.Β πŸŒ„

Our Grand Canyon Trip In 2008

Yep, you read the headline right. Nope, no typo! πŸ˜‰ Our first trip to the Grand Canyon lies ten years back, now. Last December, we took Sara to the Grand Canyon for a couple of hours. We wanted to make sure, she sees this big gap in the Earth for herself. Back in early May 2008, when we went there for the first time, Katelynn was 4Β½ years old, and Sara wasn’t even “planned”, yet. πŸ˜‰ The last trip gave me the idea, that I want to blog something about the trip, we took a decade ago. And it all started by planning it, first.

In February 2008, Kevin talked about going on the road again. This is his way saying: “I desperately need a vacation!” We were brainstorming, until I said: “Remember, when we drove with your parents to California; I saw the sign, how many miles it was to Grand Canyon; and I really wanted to go up there, so bad?” Kevin remembered and said: “Well, let’s plan a camping trip in Arizona. Do some research and let me know what else you would like to see along the road.” Said, done!

In May of the same year, we drove to Amarillo, Texas to get to I-40, which brought us through Albuquerque, New Mexico again. And from there it wasn’t too far to get to Arizona. We wanted to visit the Petrified Forest National Park first. But we arrived in Arizona in the wee hours of the morning. So, we decided to keep driving and take that National Park on the way back home.

Around 6 am, we arrived at the Barringer Meteor Crater. Katelynn just woke up in her car seat. And we still had two hours to wait, before the place operated. After we ate some breakfast we had in the cooler, I put some warmer clothes on top my shirt and shorts on. It gets a itzy bitzy more frigid in the desert and at the higher altitude. Katelynn and I walked around for a little bit, while Kevin took a short nap behind the stirring wheel. (No worries! The Jeep was parked by the gate.) After sitting in the car for so long, it was nice to stretch out our muscles. I took a good look at the rim of the crater, and noticed how massive it was seeing it just from outside.

At eight o’clock the gate opened, and we could access the parking lot at the crater. After we paid the entry fee, we looked at some neat stuff, like the Apollo Test Capsule, the “Window to the Desert”, and the biggest fragment that has been found from the meteor, which impacted the area. While we waited for our tour guide, we could look outside a window to see the crater. Kevin and my jaws dropped. With beingΒ about 3,900ft (1,200m) in diameter and some 560ft (170m) deep, it is a huge hole in the ground. The tour guide told us stories about the impact of the meteor, a plane crash in 1964, Mr. Barringer’s findings, and the NASA trainings for the Apollo Missions to the Moon in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The tour and the higher elevation made us hungry. We decided to have lunch at the Subway inside the center, before we traveled to the canyon. By the time we will arrive, our camping lot should be ready.

Kevin, Katelynn and I spent three nights at the Grand Canyon. At the day of the arrival we built the tent, checked out the Village and looked in the canyon from the South Rim. I remember very well how I reacted, when I was standing at the rim for the first time. First, I looked all the way down. I have fear of heights, and for some reason it comforted me looking down. And as I went up with my head looking at this vast Grand Canyon, my jaw stayed in place wide open. My eyes began to water. And I must have been standing there like this for a while. Because Kevin asked me: “When do you gonna shoot some photos?” Let me say something to you: If you ever need a reality check and you need to come back down to the carpet, go to the Grand Canyon. This is one of the most sacred places, which will definitely put you in your place as a human being on this beautiful planet. We are literally only a speck of dust.

The following day, we did some more hiking at the canyon. Katelynn got a Junior Ranger Patch for doing some research, with the help of her parents of course. πŸ˜‰ Kevin and I learned a lot of fun facts about the canyon and its surround area as well. Sometimes it doesn’t need to be explained in adult words. It is nice, when it is as simple that even a 4-year-old can understand it. And we did a little tour with a Park Ranger. We really enjoyed it. And we look at the desert at a whole new way. Before the tour, I thought the desert was a dry, dead place. But the Park Ranger advised us, that the desert is very alive.

On Monday, we had our busiest tour day. Since we planned going to Page to see the Antelope Canyon, we also planned a trip down the Colorado River as well. We organized this all in early March. And all what we had to do is show up and tell the receptionists we have arrived for the tours. Everything was paid ahead. Therefore it all went very smooth. In the morning, we had a Navaho tour guide showing us, in a small group, the Antelope Canyon. It’s one of the most photographed places on the planet. I was fascinated, what water can do to sandstone over all those years.

In the afternoon, we went with the raft from the Glen Canyon Dam to Lee’s Ferry. It was a 4Β½ hour tour on the Colorado River in the Glen Canyon. Chuck, our tour guide and rafter, told us interesting stories and read us poems about the canyon. At the NE corner of the Horseshoe Bend, we stopped and looked at the Ancient Anasazi Petroglyphs. Some of these petroglyphs symbolize that these native people found a herd of Pronghorns close by. A more hidden one shows, what we believe to be an Eagle. Back on the raft and further down the river, we saw some very interesting stone formations. My favorite one is the Finger Arch. The afternoon trip on the river was fun and definitely not boring. We were surprised, Katelynn lasted that long. But she crashed in my arms in the tour bus, when we were on our way back to Page. It was a looooong day for her. She was sleeping in the car all the way back to the Grand Canyon Village. And she was very happy to snuggle with her little lamb “Mimi” in her sleeping bag that night.

Tuesday morning, I brushed my hair while stepping out of our tent. A lady from the neighboring camping lot approached me slowly and said: “Look to your left and move slowly away.” First I thought, she is talking about a venomous snake or a bobcat or something really frightening. It was White-tailed Deer. But that young buck was so close, if I had stretched my arm out, I could have touched its nose. Not a good idea! The annual reports show, that accidents happen more with “cute little bambies & bunnies” than with any other “dangerous” wildlife. Because some stupid tourists think, oh look at that sweet little deer, do photos while hugging them and wonder why they get kicked in the groin. On the other hand, there have been “only” three bobcat attacks in the last Century. And usually the cats only attacked, because they were cornered … by tourists. Do you get the point? (I could tell some interesting stories, I’ve witnessed on my two-day trip in Yellowstone N.P. in 2010. But that’s material worth to write in another blog.) Back to the white-tailed deer buck: Kevin and Katelynn came back to our campground from getting cleaned up. I told them to be very quiet. Kevin picked up the camera and filmed the now three deer on our lot. One thought it owns the place, while the other two were licking stones to get minerals. Katelynn and I sat on a boulder and watched them from a safer place. We also invited more camp neighbors to capture photos of the deer. Sharing is caring! πŸ˜‰

After the deer adventure, we packed up and drove to the Tusayan Ruins & Museum. It was very interesting to see, how ancient people lived at the edge of the Grand Canyon. The rest of Tuesday, we traveled east on I-40 to get to a motel close by the Petrified Forest National Park. We wanted to be well rested, before we visited the park and travel back home to Texas.

The following day, we looked at some interesting stone formations and petrified tree stomps. The Blue Maze and the Painted Desert just look stunning. After we purchased a couple more souvenirs, we were on our way back home.

It was a fun trip I always wanted to blog about since the last several months. This blog might be long and boring for some of you. But I really enjoyed revisiting my memories and writing about our adventures to the Grand Canyon. We had a very young child with us. So we had to plan age appropriate tours for her. Katelynn didn’t get bored. And Kevin and I still could see, what we wanted to see on this trip. When the girls are both in their teens, we still can consider, if we want to plan a bigger trip to the Grand Canyon to do a hike into the canyon or do a wild water raft on the Colorado. Meanwhile they both look at photos and chat about that huge gap in the Earth divided by a “tiny” river. “It’s biiiig!” Sara said to her Dad, when she was sitting on a bench near the Desert View Tower in December.

A Visit At The Fossil Rim Wildlife Center

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Since we are not big with traditional Easter celebrations, Kevin and I decided to go with the girls to the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center. The park is located south of the Dinosaur Valley State Park outside Glen Rose; and 55 miles SW from Fort Worth. That’s about an hour and a half drive from our house.

When we arrived at the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, the girls and I stepped out of the car to see some American Bisons, while Kevin paid for the access tickets and a bag of feed. The park has guided tours, safari tours, family tours, etc. We chose to drive with our own car through the park. This way we are on our own time and speed to see the animals. Kevin explained the park rules to us, before we entered the park: “Girls, only the giraffes can be hand fed. No other animal should be touched and petted. When you feed the other animals, throw some feed on the ground away from the car. They will find it. And you can watch them, eating it.” Sara was not sure, if she really wants to hand feed a giraffe. These animals are sooo big for her. But we will see how she does, when a giraffe approaches her.

Katelynn and Sara were fascinated seeing calm ostriches, addax, antelopes, deer, and other animals. The zebras seemed to be very happy as well. At about mid-point of the 7.2 mile drive are the Nature Store and the Overlook CafΓ© located in the wildlife park. We had lunch at the cafΓ©, before we went to see the giraffes.

Once the giraffes came to our car, Sara held her hand out and waited for one of the long-necked animals to take the feed from her. She loved how gentle the big giraffe took the food out of her hands. KatelynnΒ fed the giraffe, too. She wanted to experience how it feels, when a giraffe takes food out of her hands. The little giraffe came over to take a nibble out of Sara’s hand and left some saliva as a “Thank you” on her hand. Sara didn’t mind. She fed two giraffes without being scared. Later, she would wash it off with some water and soap in the bathroom. “That was AWESOME!” she cheered. “But now, my hand is wet from the little giraffe.”

We went on to see more animals, before we left the park. It was a beautiful way to spend Easter Sunday. Katelynn and Sara both mentioned several times that they had fun, on our way home. But first we had some ice cream to round up this nice trip.

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Our Cute Lil’ “Bunny”

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Since this Sunday will be Easter, I dug out a couple of photos of our little ” Easter Bunny”, Sara. When she was younger, she loved those bunny ears. I remember, I always had to get four or five of them, so she could wear them at any season. When one of those ears broke, we had back up ears for her. Isn’t she spoiled rotten? πŸ˜€ πŸ˜‰

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Camping At Lake Ouachita State Park, Arkansas

March 11 – 12, 2018

Kevin and I were making plans to go camping on Spring Break, a couple of weeks ago. We didn’t want to go too far, which means in Texas “slang”: up to six hours distance is okay; but no 18 – 20 hour one way trip. Kevin mentioned Arkansas and Oklahoma as a destination. Well, we’ve been in Oklahoma quite often in recent years. And so I looked for a good camping spot in Arkansas. After a little discussion, we decided we would go to Lake Ouachita State Park.

Everything was prepared and packed for Sunday morning. Around 10:30 a.m. we left home and drove toward Texarkana. Before we arrived at the border, we made a short stop to refresh. Sara wanted her sandwich, I prepared at home in the morning. And we all got hungry a little bit, after she mentioned it.

In Arkansas, we stopped at the first Rest Area/Tourist Center on Interstate 30. I wanted to get more brochure of the State Park. While we were on our way, I had the chance to read a little bit more into it.Around 4 p.m. we arrived in the park. Kevin stopped at the Visitor Center to check us in, before we went to our campground. It was a nice Walk-In Campground with one dozen tent spaces. What I liked about the camping area, there was a pre-made square gravelled area for the tent to sit on it. It could fit one big tent or two to four small tents. The area was very clean. And I was happy to find clean toilets/shower rooms.

The wind was something else. It took Kevin, the girls and I quite a bit of strength to keep the tent up. Luckily, we found some big stones to put inside the tent corners. And Kevin tight twoΒ  corners to the nearby trees. Once the bedding was in the tent, we were settled. I warmed up some beef, potatoes and corn, which I cooked the night before. The wind was cooling the temperatures quickly. And the meal hit it spot on. After dinner, the girls roasted each a couple of marshmallows. They skipped some stones over the water’s surface, before the sun set.Β We went to bed early that night. The wind was just too strong and cool. It was no fun staying out.

The following morning, we kept our stay short. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel well and wanted to go see my bed at home. I wish, we could have seen a lot more.Β  It was cool, but the wind had died out on Monday morning. For a five hour drive one way, it was extremely short. We have to go back there another time, when it is warmer. On a good note, we didn’t have to deal with mosquitoes at this time of the year.

Home of The Super Bowl Champions 2018

Last year in June, Kevin, Katelynn, Sara and I were in Philadelphia. We also past the Lincoln Financial Field, while driving on the Delaware Expressway/Interstate 95. Since the Philadelphia Eagles won this year’s Super Bowl, I pulled up photos of their home stadium.