Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Sequoia & Grand Canyon

Ok, we were on a National Park Roll! It took us a couple hot travel days to get to Sequoia and then the Grand Canyon after that. Thankfully the higher elevations have the cooler temps and the sights are great!

A long travel day got us to Kingsburg, CA. It was around 100 during the day so we had the AC running all the time. It was hard to get the kids outside but thankfully this place had a pool, another family to play with, and this water bottle to kick around. Whatever keeps us from sharing 150 square feet for extended periods of time.

That's a cool sign!

Dry as a bone. There were always posted warnings about the dangers of swimming in the rivers because you can easily be swept away. But I don't think there was any danger of that this year. 

Another great campsite for cycling! Cubby practicing her no hands routine.

Drew has a more relaxed style. 

There it is! The largest tree on earth. The General Sherman Tree. It's funny because when you're walking down the path toward it you ask over and over, "is that it?" And then you come around the bend and...

It's hard to capture the size on camera. But if you look at the little people behind the fence you get a better sense. These trees aren't as tall as the redwoods but they're very dense and massive. 

Keebler elves in the room tree.

We had the nicest of all of our hikes this day. A long, winding, shaded trail eventually opened on to this meadow where we had a picnic lunch. We had the place almost to ourselves. On the way back we got kind of lost but it was such a nice walk it didn't matter. 

It gave us a chance to find giant pinecones.

And see this chubby marmot sunning himself on a rock. 

And these pretty deer hiding in the shadows. 

And this track. What is it from? 

On one of our legs to the Grand Canyon we drove past many orange groves. We stayed in the Orange Grove RV Park and it was filled with orange trees. Unfortunately we weren't there at the right time to pick the oranges. The trees are painted white to keep ants off of them. It was visually appealing in an Ikea sort of way. 

More long stretches of hot, dry desert as we got into Arizona. 

We stayed at the Railside RV Park in Williams, AZ where the steam train to the Grand Canyon is based. Here's the train flying through on the last stretch of the Man vs. Machine race!

When we arrived at GC we went right for the views. But we stayed behind the railing unlike this insane couple who ventured out on to this precipice to get a better picture while everyone had heart attacks expecting them to fall. We couldn't believe how many people went right to the crumbly edge and we fully expected to witness a tragedy. 

Great views no matter where you go.

We arrived at GC on Drew's birthday and the day of the total lunar eclipse. We were blabbing on about it for days ahead of time and then suddenly realized an explanation might be in order. So a quick astronomy lesson with pinecones and rocks helped clear things up. 

Geez. This looks like a picture of a passage aboard Tangent.

The start of the supermoon bloodmoon eclipse! 

Over the GC, nonetheless. We were quite pleased with our timing. 

Absolutely enthralling. Just not more so than the hijinks of Archie and the gang or factoids about other national parks. Oh well. 

Happy 11th little big guy!

Writing this after the fact, we now know his wish came true. Look for the big reveal in a later post!

Yet another great campsite. We were there for the elk rut season and could hear males bugling all the time.

This talk got off to a slow start. Partly because grasping geologic time is not so easy to do. But once we started finding fossils it was fun. 

This is not only a picture of Drew and a nice view but a look at the fault running north through the canyon. Can you see it? 

Flour wanted the same picture.

At the start of the Bright Angel Trail and the point at which I decided to bail out. Clinging to the wall and my brave son! 

A pretty day on the trail while I enjoyed the exhibits and the architecture at the village.

Another view of the fault. 

We took the shuttle out to Hermit's Rest and got out at a few of the stops to catch different vistas and views of the Colorado River. 

Another view.

Another building designed by Mary Colter. Amazing how well they integrate with the environment and capture history at the same time. And each one is so different.

Don't throw her in! She's not THAT bad. 

It wasn't until it was too late that we realized we all dressed exactly alike that day. Look at these two hermits resting!

Even though she didn't get to see any on the trail, Cubby was happy we spotted all the mules having their dinner and running around so we stopped to say hello. 

Once we realized we heard the most bugling in the early mornings, Drew and I decided to get up early one day and wait to see if we had a better chance at spotting an elk. We were not disappointed. We heard distant bugling for a while but then suddenly heard a really loud one and saw this guy standing at the side of the road. He made another call and very determinedly walked in a certain direction. Ready for a fight! We quickly got out of the way but Drew managed to get this shot from the back of the truck. No tangling with these tough guys! 

Later in the morning we heard more so followed the sound and saw this different but equally impressive male taking a drink at one of the campsite water spigots. When he heard a bugle he took off toward it really fast. 

Off to battle. We trailed him and got to witness the pretty frightening and intense battle between him and a smaller male. We hid among the rocks and trees and stayed out of the way while still being able to see. 

The defeated male eventually emerged from the woods panting and exhausted. He had lost the battle and was moving on. Probably to a cold shower.

More promises! 

On our way towards the east exit of the park we stopped at the Tusayan Museum and ruins. The kids were a bit burned out so we didn't linger. 

Pretty cool, though. 

Another great building.

Sunday, September 20, 2015


Yosemite was another stop on our "must see" list. We were glad to visit when the temps had dropped and all found it really beautiful. We learned some geology and history, had a chance to look at the climbers through telescopes, enjoyed really nice walks in the woods, beautiful views and a really chill time. One of our favorites!

We stopped to see El Cap on our drive into the valley. 

When we first looked up it was certainly impressive...for a rock. But it wasn't until we got out the binos that we realized there were tiny climbers dotted all over it. Then the scale of it really came into perspective.

The campsite was all the way into the valley. We were surrounded by trees and views of the granite all around. It was really peaceful until Cubby pointed out the coyote behind Drew making a bee line for him. We were inundated with information about what to do if you encounter a bear but I had no idea about a coyote. So I just shouted to Drew to run to me which was probably the wrong thing to do since that seemed to pique the coyote's interest even more! But then we calmed down and took a bunch of photos. 

The coyote came through the campground right at check out time. He probably makes his rounds looking for leftovers when the place is quiet.  

Yosemite had the most thorough Junior Ranger activities. The kids really had to work for it and were game to collect lots of garbage. We had no idea how many cigarette butts are everywhere until we really started looking.

I guess we're not doing the 4 mile hike. 

This is the view from the base of El Cap. It takes most climbers several days to reach the top. They sleep in hammocks hanging from the side of the face. No. Effing. Way. We were happy to just be observers and students at this park. 

One of the famous views but the sun was so bright and we were in a very shadowed area so you'll have to go see it for yourself since this picture stinks.

We did take a very nice long walk to the base of Vernal falls. It was crowded and hot but we needed the exercise and it was pretty at the top. Because of the time of year and the drought conditions we missed out on really experiencing the falls. 

Drew was fighting a cold so we told him to take a break in the shade.

Cubby decided she needed a nap.

I think normally there would be lots of water rushing past here. Boo. But it was still very pretty. We loved the forested trails with the giant granite faces coming into view now and then.

This was a very cute ranger talk about mammals. 

Oath time. Thank goodness for the Junior Ranger programs! We moved so often there was no time for school. It helped us figure out what to see and do for our brief visits, gave the kids a way to connect with what they were seeing, and something to work on without any groaning.  

I'm really glad they had this conversation.

She's going for it!