December was cold (i.e. 40's/50's...we're wimps now) and packed with activities, so we took a break from hiking and camping. By January we needed another adventure. The weather report threatened 20 mph winds and a 60% chance of rain, but we decided to risk it anyway and drove our family to Tumacacori National Historical Park
Awesome picture brought to you by Robb
It's the site of an old Spanish compound with the remains of a mission, store house, cemetery, and an orchard. The sweet ladies at the front desk gave us Junior Rangers tour book with things to look for and questions to think about. Had the weather been 15 degrees warmer, I think Colby would've enjoyed it, but it was chilly and he really wanted to go home or at least the car...anywhere with indoor heating. We managed about 60% of the tour before Colby and his red nose had enough.
And somehow we convinced him to finish our trip with a short hike down to the river (running water in Arizona never ceases to amaze me). Everyone was happier. Maybe it was the sun finally coming out and warming us up. Maybe it was being out in nature. Maybe it was the promise of snacks on the way back.
It hailed a little bit just before we hit the Visitor's Center and then we were back in car (which we left wide open...thankfully nothing was taken).
As we were leaving:
Lakin: "Did you guys have fun?"
Alice: "Mama, do you know what pandas eat? Bamboo!"
Robb immediately got to work making dinner in the dutch ovens which left me in charge of the tent. Thanks to two solid weeks of camping every other night, I'm pretty familiar with the whole set up process. but Ashley came over to help and together we got it up. Then I put Claire down for nap, when I came out I found Colby, Alice, and Elliot running as fast as they could from "the troll" aka Aaron who was guarding his bridge.
Robb made us pulled chicken sandwiches with peach-blueberry cobbler for dessert. He's pretty amazing. The sun set really early, so even though we got everything finished on time we were eating in the dark. Alexandra and Chris entertained us with their "camp fire riddles" or logic puzzles you use yes or no questions to solve. Trent decided to add his own, "A man goes into the woods. Bang, bang, he's dead. What happened?" I'm still trying to decide if he made that one up on the spot or not.
The mountains right behind our campsite
Then started my best night of camping:
:: All three kids were in bed by 8:00 without much of a fight
:: I won our round of Bohnaza
:: Our neighbors and the campground in general were quiet...in fact, we were probably the loud ones until we went to bed around 9:15 (and I didn't hear a single note of mariachi music)
:: All three kids slept in until almost 6:00
We bundled up our Arizona babies good
The next morning Robb split our logs and kindling to fit in our tiny camp stove so we could have a ranger-approved fire. We ate breakfast, broke camp, and were just driving off for our hike when the Wiscomb's car stopped shifting gears...so sadly they left to get that fixed.
The loop was 3 miles and we weren't sure the kids would make it (we even did some small practice hikes around our neighborhood to get them ready). We had to turn back after 1.2 miles because Elliot and Claire were getting tired, but Colby and Alice walked the entire way by themselves. Proud parent moment.
Alice was our little fearless mountain goat. Once we reached the Grottos she insisted on climbing through the rock formations
Colby wasn't sure he wanted to join her after he saw the giant boulder above, but he came after we promised it wasn't going anywhere. Alice keeps us adventurous and Colby keeps us safe.
The plan was to drive down highway 1 and explore the parks around Big Sur, but after an hour in we learned all the parks were closed due to fire. So we snapped a quick picture and backtracked to the main highway.
Lunch was at a little hole in the wall Mexican restaurant, somewhere in the San Joaquin Valley, that met our need for great tacos and got us caught up on the Olympics.
Our AirBNB was a condo at a Ranch House in Acton, California. The hostess was very welcoming and with some creative arranging we found room for everyone to sleep, but the best part was the pool. We scarfed down dinner and all took a swim before the kids went to bed. Then the adults snuck back outside to hot tub and mess around once the bedtime rituals were over. Aaron managed to shove Robb in the pool by telling him that dangling your feet in the pool water while sitting on the edge of the hot tube gave you the perfect mix of hot and cold.
It was a great way to end our two week trip. We're already starting to plan our adventure for next year (because when you have friends like the Bloods, one epic vacation is not enough).
We left our cozy apartment and took the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) into the city. Colby was really excited about the train and wanted to stand the entire time. I, on the other hand, only stood when Claire needed to be bounced to sleep. As soon as I walked onto the bus or train, the sweet people of San Francisco insisted on giving up their seats (they were also really nice about giving directions).
Our first stop of the day was at the Japanese Tea Gardens. The highlight for the kids was the giant fish swimming around the ornamental ponds and the large stepping stones you had to cross to get over the waterways.
Then we walked through a rose garden (which smelled amazing) to catch a bus to Lou's. You can always tell a restaurant is good if there's a long line. Lou's was worth the wait. Aaron and I tried their roast beef and mushroom sandwich with their famous house sauce and jalapeno spread, Robb went with pastrami, and Ashley chose clam chowder. We all left full and happy (except for Alice. She recently decided to boycott all things with melted cheese...which meant her ham and cheese sandwich was unacceptable).
Another bus ride took us to the Golden Gate Bridge. We made it twenty or so feet before turning around; Colby didn't have a lot of faith in the bridge's structural integrity and there were a couple of bikers with road rage.
Playing at an exhibit on the principles behind suspension bridges
Colby: "I am sad on the bridge. This is not a good place for me."
We got lost on the way back. Google maps promised us a bus stop at a nearby corner, but it wasn't there. We wandered to several other stops, boarded the wrong bus, and finally were saved by a nice Englishman who shared his map and pointed us in the right direction. Reading train maps is not a skill most Americans acquire naturally. All four kids were asleep by the time we reached BART.
We found our campsite through AirBNB. It was clean, quiet, but lacked some things you would expect with a $100 price tag, like a table and bathrooms (there weren't a lot of options in the area, so he gets away with it).
However the site did have a compost toilet and a solar-heated shower. The toilet or "lou with a view" as Ashley dubbed it lacked walls, so she was the only one brave enough to try it. She made it sound like an almost transcendent experience, but we prefer privacy.
The solar heated shower was a bit of a let down. Ashley and Aaron were all ready to use it, but someone beat them to it and all the warm water was gone.