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Bryce Canyon

We headed down for the weekend to visit Bryce, a first visit for 3 of us, and got to camp nearby with friends.

Our friends picked a beautiful forested spot near the park where the kids could run and roam and play. There was a lot of dancing, hide and seek, battling, games of 20 Questions, and so many other things.

Lilah won hide and seek once with this hiding spot high up a pine tree near our tent:

We ventured into the park after dark the first night for the astronomy festival. They had set up a bunch of telescopes looking at different things far from light sources so you could see so many stars, the milky way and a bunch of satellites. I spotted 4 shooting stars while we were out. We looked at Jupiter, a dumbbell nebula and the Hercules star cluster through scopes.

We went for a hike into the hoodoos in Bryce Canyon with the older kids. It was gorgeous and they enjoyed spotting wildlife and seeing the rock formations.

They especially loved watching a chipmunk who was eating a watermelon candy. It was shaped like a slice of melon and it was holding it pink side up, green side down. We watched it nibble for quite a while.

The next day we all took a short hike to a mossy grotto and a waterfall. It was easy enough for the little ones and they got to play in the water which is always fun.

The world is a beautiful, fascinating place.

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a camping eclipse!

Whoa!

We headed up to Idaho, right outside of Stanley, to meet family and friends at a campground to watch the eclipse. We also got to check out lots of fun things to do while the moon was not in front of the sun. One favorite activity was learning to play Balderdash. Players make up definitions for obscure words, acronymns, movies, dates and then the made up definitions are given along with the real one, and everyone guesses which is the correct definition. It was really fun!

Chris and Gavin rafted and kayaked the Salmon River. It was Gavin’s first time rafting and he loved it! It was Chris’ first time kayaking a river and he loved it too. I didn’t go because Lilah had a negative experience recently on a rafting ride, getting too wet and cold and scared and firmly told us she didn’t want to raft. So, we listened to her wishes and hope that someday, maybe soon, she’ll be ready to brave the raft too.

We went to a nearby lake to hike, paddleboat, kayak and paddle board. There were so many fish, little and big, silver and even some red kokanee. It was our first time on paddle boards and Lilah and I had so much fun! Gavin enjoyed the kayak more and Chris preferred that too.

On one visit we took a speed boat across the lake to hike the other side. We found a lovely waterfall.

There were many natural hot springs near Stanley so we visited one at the edge of the river one evening. The spring was hot! and the river was cold! and every so often you’d find a sweet spot where the two mixed together in the right proportions, but mostly the tops of my legs were hot and my back was cold. It was fun to see how different depths and sizes of pools changed the water temperature. Gavin spent the evening on a huuuge log jam, pulling sticks out, tossing them in the river, finding treasure (fishing floats, beautiful sticks) buried in the hill of wood.

And then there was the eclipse. Incredible! Words can’t describe the experience adequately. We had breakfast and then it was time for the partial eclipse to begin. We passed out glasses and watched the moon ever so slowly cross in front of the sun from the top right edge, slowly, slowly toward the bottom left. It was warming up when the eclipse began but it started getting colder again after maybe a half hour or so and by the time the moon completely eclipsed the sun it was much colder. We checked the time and watched the progress and watched the shadows change from rounded edges to crescent shards as the eclipse got past 90%. It seemed to get murky and strange though it was still quite bright until suddenly the light was gone. It was dark enough to feel like night, though not as complete as night, similar to the darkness between twilight and full night.

We took off our glasses and saw the sun black, it’s corona red around it and surrounded by white shining light that was pointed in several directions, like we draw stars. You could see the corona moving, spitting, exploding. We could see other stars. The animals quieted. The humans did too. It was such an amazing experience it was hard to take it that it was actually happening. And then, 2 minutes and 13 seconds later, a shine, and then a burst of light out from the other side of the moon and then the crescent grew and grew into our usual round sun. The warmth returned, the usual activities of the day returned.

After talking with friends upon our return home, many of them watched the partial eclipse, not realizing how amazing a total eclipse really is, or not realizing the difference between a 98% eclipse and 100%. It made me so glad that we were able to realize what an opportunity we had and grab it. It was utterly amazing.

We listened to much of Patricia Wrede’s Lyra series on our way to and from the campground. It’s a fun series though I wish the narrator was a little more sensitive to context and emotion in the material. We arrived home to love from the cats and the first lemon cucumbers ready for picking, some cherry tomatoes and several squash including a pink banana. I love squash and am so excited about our squash plants this year but it may be quite a challenge to figure out how to store and eat all of it.

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Snow Canyon with friends

We camped this weekend in Snow Canyon. It was beautiful, though a bit less rain would have been nice.

We hiked and explored in Snow Canyon, in red sand and petrified dunes and twisting trees.

We played card games huddled under the awnings of the trailers during the rain storms.

The kids biked and scooted and dug in the sand and played soccer and found secret hiding spots.

We ventured into nearby Zion National Park for a day and went to weeping rock and then far out to where less people and trails are, to the Many Pools area. There had been so much rain recently and the snow is still melting so the pools were bigger, more and there were streams between most of them this time. We didn’t spot any frogs or tadpoles but it was overcast so much harder to see the bottom of the pools.

It was early for wildflowers still but we saw a few paintbrush and other flowers like this desert sage blooming already. The kids were smelling the leaves of various plants and deciding if they liked the scents or not.

We also spotted ravens, cottontail rabbits, songbirds and a few lizards.

The kids saw lots of sandstone and volcanic rock and were quite interested in how it’s formed and how different the volcanic rock is, smooth, rough, bubbly, pockmarked.

We all went out to dinner one night and Gavin lost his first baby molar! He was quite surprised.

On our last afternoon a few of us stayed later and found the lava tubes and climbed down into the caverns and then back out. It was really neat! We took flashlights, lowered ourselves into the opening and then descended into the dark tunnels and caverns below. It was dark down inside the caverns. We came out of a different hole nearby when we were done exploring.

Here’s the entrance we went into:

Someone on the trip asked Gavin what his favorite part of camping was and he answered, “Going new places that I’ve never been before and exploring.” His least favorite part was, “Being away from my computer.”

I asked Lilah the same thing. Her favorite part was, “Being with our family is most of it. Also exploring and climbing on rocks.” Her least favorite part was, “Getting in freezing cold water.” She kept walking in the wet sand after the rain and checking the temperature of puddles.

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Del Norte

We drove over to the top of California to camp in the Redwoods, visit with Chris’ parents and visit the beach.

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It was so nice to play in the sand, to toss driftwood (or logs!) in the water and watch pieces go out and come back in or sometimes just keep moving out.

The kids made their own game using driftwood, rocks and shell pieces and played for hours.

We collected shells, especially lots of sand dollars.

We caught up with Chris’ parents and had lots of fun with them on the beach, at the aquarium, at Trees of Mystery. It’s always so good to see them and the kids look forward to every visit we get.

We went down the the beach early to tide pool.

As we were about to leave the beach I looked out and spotted something with a fin so we watched for a while as several dolphins, lots of pelicans and other birds and a family of sea otters were catching some fish out in the water. Lilah was particularly excited to see dolphins!

We picked wild blackberries on the trail to the beach.

We saw sea birds, sea stars, anemones, mussels, barnacles, snails, limpets, hermit crabs having a fight over a shell, other crabs, fish, a tiny sea cucumber, chitons, a nudibranch and a gumboot chiton at the beach.

At the campsite in the redwoods we saw jays, ravens, other birds I didn’t recognize, chipmunks, mushrooms and banana slugs.

There are large stumps of old, old redwoods to climb on, in and around all through the campground.

It was wonderful. It’s so much fun to go exploring in types of places we don’t have near home (and types we do)!

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Yellowstone Park

We went to Yellowstone National Park over a weekend and then, we went again the next weekend with family! It was a little crazy, being home for 3 days to do laundry and grocery runs and then head back the same place but it was so much fun to be in the park.

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We lounged in hammocks with friends and the kids played a game based on Pokemon for hours together.

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We walked up the road to the lake shore and the kids swam and kayaked and played in the sand.

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We huddled under a canopy and played games while it rained and then roasted marshmallows as it sprinkled.

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We dipped our feet in the Firehole river and picnicked with the company of jays, ravens, chipmunks, a deer.

We walked miles and miles and waited and waited to see several spectacular geysers as well as really wonderful smaller ones. We admired hot springs and fumaroles.

There are all kinds of surprises in Yellowstone, but I didn’t expect this one: a smily face out of nails in the boardwalk.

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We even got a game or two in while camping! (We LOVE games in this family!)

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We spotted bison, including two who were head butting each other. We saw elk lounging by the river and crossing streets. We saw deer and a fox. We heard Sandhill cranes in the mornings. We even spotted a swallow landing in a hole in a post on a walkway bridge. We looked inside and saw two baby swallows looking back!

The kids built a fire with minimal assistance and happily tended it while Chris and I worked to make breakfast and pack up camp.

It’s a beautiful place and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Arches

We enjoyed a long weekend at Arches National Park.

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We were able to obtain a permit to head into Fiery Furnace one day and spent hours exploring winding passages, caves, huge boulders, hidden passages and arches that many don’t ever see. I can’t wait to go back in!

At the park we were:

hiking

climbing

exploring

enjoying

playing

spotting ravens, tadpoles,

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caterpillars,

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lizards, several kinds of rabbits, flowers of many kinds,

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snakes

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climbing

&  more.

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It’s a good life, filled to the brim with light and learning, love and wonder.

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Salt Point, Gerstle Cove

We went back to California, to Salt Point State Park, this time, an area new to all four of us.

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We camped in a forested area a ten minute drive from the ocean, which was the main attraction. There was a tree right on top of where we put the tent and the kids were up up and away within minutes after the very long drive. They are up above our tent here, probably between 12 and 15 feet off the ground, the little monkeys.

We went to the visitors center and asked where to go look at tidepools which is one of our favorite activities. Following their directions the next day we were a bit disappointed, but the following day we struck out in the other direction and soon met a family of seals as well as a plethora of really fun tidepools. I’m left wondering why they would give information about the tidepools being best in an area they really weren’t unless they were trying to keep kids from clambering on rocks and maneuvering between waves which is part of the fun and necessary if you want to see what I call “the good stuff”. Anyway, we found them, the amazing tide pools.

We saw hundreds of urchins,

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a bat star,

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racoon prints in the sand,

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rocks that had had seaweed washed up and dried to them, then peeled off by the water or wind, revealing prints of the seaweed on the rocks in the algaed surfaces,

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lots of seals, swimming, sunning, looking at us, patrolling, fishing,

 

pools filled with tiny swimming orange creatures that Lilah first spotted, not sure if they were fish or shrimp or something else entirely,

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mussels, anemones and barnacles, limpets and snails of course,

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sea stars,

hermit crabs and dungeness crabs and small fish who rested in the shadows of small pools,

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It’s so much fun making discoveries in the pools, and then calling everyone over to share.

Between tidepooling, which is best done at low tide, we drove down the coast to find sandy beaches that the kids love to play in the water on. One day we stopped at a beach which is well known for it’s undertow so we learned about what makes a beach safer or less safe, especially how steep the slope is under the water and breakers area. Gavin thought it was pretty cool that it was one of the deadliest beaches in California. I was a bit less thrilled and watched the kids like a hawk. Another day we stopped at a much shallower beach which had sandy areas and pebbly areas to explore.

Back at the campsite the kids did the dishes, their idea, alternating who was washing and drying and who was rinsing. They enjoyed it and Chris and I enjoyed supporting their interest in helping and having time to get other things done.

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On the drive there and back we alternated between listening to music and The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare. The kids are enjoying having ipods to listen to music that they choose, when they like. It’s fun to watch them enjoying picking out songs and bands they like and comparing notes with each other.

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