Thursday, July 28, 2016

Trip Dynasty: Yosemite

Claire woke up first this morning and did 15 minutes of solid happy gurgling/squealing before I gave in and got her. I knew we were going to be so sleep deprived before this trip was over. We broke camp quickly and Robb took Colby and I took Alice for their first shower. Alice was pretty concerned about getting her face wet, but after I convinced her that a shower wasn't that different from the sprinklers at the splash pad she loved it. Side note: Washing two people on a coin operated shower requires way more strategy and prep work than I expected.
Anyway, we drove through more twisty, but scenic roads until we arrived at a very packed Yosemite park. The drive through the entrance tunnel was accompanied by the appropriately epic/fantastical "Gerudo Valley" from the 25th Anniversary Legend of Zelda album. That view at the end of the tunnel is like a fistful of fairy dust to the face. We tried parking for a little while before giving up and using the shuttle bus. Our first stop was at a great view of El Capitan. An experienced climber set up a few telescopes so we could watch a few people making their way slowly up the rock face. He then fielded questions about all the climbs he's done and what kind of equipment he uses. Colby loved the telescopes.
Ashley and I hiked back a bit to try and fit more of El Capitan in the picture, but once again, my camera couldn't do it justice.
Then we hopped back on the shuttle to Bridal Veil falls--it was beautiful and I can only imagine what it looked like in the Spring when the water was higher. Then we raced back to the shuttle stop (literally, we each had a kid and were sprinting back), only to find the bus was completely packed. Claire was overheated, so I tried to nurse her off the side of the trail. She refused to eat. We went back to the group and made up a bottle. She refused that too. At this point she was crying inconsolably and I couldn't do anything to help her. The next bus arrived just as I got her to latch on, so Claire, the nursing cover, and I manged to climb on in and find a seat in the back.  Within ten minutes she was back to her normal self and charming everyone around her.
That night we camped at a site with a beautiful creek running in the back and with the least smelly/fly infested outhouse I've ever come across. Seriously, they were downright pleasant. 10/10 - would relieve myself here again.

Trip Dynasty: Sequoia

Slept in until 5:00ish when Colby greeted the dawn in his usual enthusiastic manner. We packed up everything and by 7:30 we were ready to go. Traveling in the car is an excellent time to catch up on sleep. Robb is the designated driver in our family and I'm not sure how he managed the whole trip without napping. We arrived at Morro Rock in the afternoon and hiked it with all four kids. It was a half mile up with over 300 stairs and I saw plenty of adults huffing and puffing along the way, but Colby and Alice made it up all on their own and Alice only needed help on part of the way back.
There's no way we could have finished the hike without the Bloods' help. One of them was almost always helping with one of our kids.
Then we went to see General Sherman. Currently, he's the most massive single stem tree in the world and I tried to photograph him, but my camera and non-wide angle lens don't do him justice. He's huge. We tried to let Claire nap in her car seat as we hiked down (another steep 1/2 mile hike), but she woke up almost as soon as we got going. So on the way back we had to juggle the tired kids and a car seat between the  four of us. At one point Robb was carrying Colby and Claire and a man walking by said, "These Americans are so strong."
We got back late again and it was another rough hour trying to get Claire and then the other two into bed. We were all tired and decided to go to sleep pretty quick after that. While I was in the bathroom I heard Robb and a random woman start yelling, "Did you see that?/I've never seen one that big before/That was amazing." I guess a huge meteor (update: the news said is was Chinese space junk...meteor sounds better) completely lit up the sky for about 30 seconds straight. It was one of those once in a lifetime moments and I had to be stuck in the bathroom.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Trip Dynasty: Joshua Tree National Park

We only left 20 minutes later than planned due to the mercy/kindness/charity/all other virtues of the Bloods who offered to watch Colby and Alice while we finished packing. We arrived just in time to set up camp and put the kids to bed. The kids entertained themselves by climbing boulders and exploring the many caves and tunnels around the campsite. 
We didn't leave much time to explore this park (when you plan an epic road trip, something's gotta give), so I hope we'll go back someday. 
By the way, this is what a Joshua Tree looks like:
It's like a Dr. Suess illustration come to life.
After we got the kids to sleep (which took some work...Claire was overtired and hot), we listened to a pack of coyotes howl (they were surprisingly considerate of sleeping hours), watched the sunset, and saw the Milky Way in all it's glory. Robb spent several hours reading up on how to photograph the stars. Unfortunately he expected I would actually be familiar with the settings on my camera, so it didn't quite turn out the way he hoped.  Here's his best one: 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016




The Hays and Blood families (hereafter codenamed Farmer's Tan and Phlebotomist, respectively) recently embarked on an ambitious reconnaissance of several key natural areas along the West Coast of the United States. Their scouting operations covered nearly the gamut of officially recognized protected area designations: State Parks, National Parks, UNESCO World Heritage sites, and even a National Wild and Scenic River. Their primary objective was to attend the 10-year high school reunion for Lakin (hereafter referred to as The Farmer's Wife). Their secondary objective was to observe and assimilate as much natural beauty as humanly possible within a 13-day stretch. As it was dangerous to go alone, Phlebotomist agreed to escort Farmer's Tan to their destination and back to HQ. After much deliberation, the most efficient route was determined. This route was codenamed Dynasty.

The following map was reconstructed by Robb (hereafter known as Farmer Hoggett), using his best recollection of Farmer's Tan's travel route and highlighting key observation areas. A separate map was created by Phlebotomist in their communique on the Dynasty mission.

The intelligence gathered by Farmer's Tan on this mission will be communicated in several future briefings. Many sleep schedules died to bring us this information.


Saturday, July 9, 2016

Camping in Sedona/Slide Rock

It might seem a little overboard to go camping two weekends before the longest road trip of our lives (or at least mine. Growing up travelling was all about the destination, not the journey), but we needed this trip as a trial run. Is it possible to survive in a tent with three children ages four and younger and still have fun? The answer is yes.

Colby spiked a fever the day before (102.7) and we almost stayed home. If it was just me, I would have stayed.  But Robb insisted on packing everything up the night before, just in case, and that plus Colby bouncing up and down in excitement meant we went despite a low grade fever.

Sometimes Robb is right. Colby was fine. 

We set up camp in a primitive camping area (meaning Alice learned what a blessing indoor plumbing is...actually she was pretty proud of herself, "I pooped in the woods, Daddy! Not in the tent. And that's where it lives now"). 
And then the Bloods and Hays piled into our minivan and traveled to Oak Creek. It's one of the few streams in Arizona with a year round water flow and runs through a gorgeous red rock canyon.
We ran into a stormtrooper on our way down. Colby's, Day. Made.
The water was cold (another anomaly in Arizona) and gently pushed and prodded you down the "slides." I only made it down twice (the only downside of being Claire's designated snuggler), but the views made up for that. 
Colby always has the best expressions. It looks like Robb's trying to strangle him.
Robb and Aaron went cliff jumping, while Ashley and I stayed with the kids and watched them get really dirty.
Elliot and Alice are notorious for finding the dirtiest spot and then parking there and having a great time together.
Dominos Pizza for dinner and the kids were in bed, but not necessarily asleep by 8:00 (Alice at least stayed up until 9:40 before she went down). Our initially quiet campground filled up, but at least the groups of hyena-cackling drunks, mariachi enthusiasts, and the ATV road warriors were a good distance away,
Ashley won a round of Citadels, we did a little stargazing, and then everyone went to bed. All things considered, it wasn't a bad night. All three kids woke up on separate occasions and I couldn't find Claire for awhile (our tent was on an incline and she'd slid over three feet from her blankets), but they staggered things so we had a couple three hour blocks of sleep.
At 4:40 everyone woke up and by 5:00 there were three extra people crowding into our bed. Laying on my pillow I could see the four people I love most in the world all snuggled up. I really wanted my camera, but decided to savor the moment instead: Claire beaming up at me, Colby and Alice on either side laughing at her, and Robb trying really hard to get back to sleep.
We gave up on sleep at 6:00, made some delicious blueberry pancakes, and packed up camp. 
Alice spent most of her time collecting these green "beads" we found all around the campsite
On our way home we stopped at Montezuma Castle National Monument and got a stamp for our passport book. The ruins were pretty amazing: a four story fortress built into the cliff side. The park ranger gave Colby and Alice a tic-tac-toe scavenger hunt to earn their Junior Ranger badges. Colby wanted to find every single item and was pretty upset when we couldn't find a squirrel. Fortunately, he saw something which may or may not have been the long sought rodent, and if it was good enough for him it was good enough for us.