Bryce Canyon National Park

As we drove up to Bryce Canyon, Andy was curious as to what we’d be doing there. Is it hiking? Is it just driving through? What will we see? What’s there? I told him that I reserved a spot at an RV park for the night and I knew just about nothing else.

 At this point in the trip, I pretty much put faith in the National Park System that we’ll be seeing something great but I put almost no research into what we’ll do. Zion was the only park we’d been in so far that dogs were really really not allowed in. Usually we can keep him in the car, someone might have to stay back with him from time to time, but we’d still be “in the park” to see most of the cool sights.

Bryce Canyon was a treat, I’ll just tell you that. It’s described as “Bryce Amphitheater”. If you imagine in your mind that we are driving on the road that’s at the top row of the movie theater, the canyon, cliffs, hoodoos and everything else is all the seats going down to the stage. The stage would be hundreds of miles of different plateaus, levels or “grand staircase” and eventually the Grand Canyon. But just walking on the rim(at the top) you can see all these hoodoos with amazing colors of pink, red, orange, grey and whites. We walked the rim for about a mile, admiring all the hoodoos we saw below us.

Hoodoos is a new word for us-it might be for you too! We’ve figured out that it’s a Native American term for the statue like rocks scattered in the amphitheater, and it comes from a story referencing them as “canyon people” who are standing alone, in a group, and some are sitting. It’s a great term actually, and you really can visualize faces and bodies on some of them! These hoodoos were made from thousands of years of erosion, with a harder grey rock usually being at the top to give and keep its shape. A famous one is Thor’s Hammer, and another is the queen’s garden(see her riding a backward camel). See if you can pick them out here:

There is a road that leads through Bryce Canyon that comes to a dead end, with pull offs every once in a while, all giving different perspectives on the amphitheater. At one stop, we saw a large “window” or arch that was super big and just super neat!

We had 3 days in Bryce, and on day 2, I convinced Jesse to wake up early with me to see the sunset. Neither boys were interested and I wasn’t going to make them. Woody had second thoughts during the night though b/c he wrote us a note and left it on the sink telling us to wake him up! It was pretty special to see the sun rise off the hoodoos, a great memory total worth the early alarm!

On day 3, I made Andy go on a hike with me down into the canyon of the hoodoos. He’s a pretty brisk hiker and we’ve been holding him back pretty much every hike we do. I was bound to keep up with him! It was fun to be down in the tangle of the canyon and hoodoos, a different surprise at each turn. But then the trail turned back up to the rim, and that was grueling, even for Andy! I haven’t done much one on one time on this lifestyle with Andy, but this was awesome!

Our campsite was right near the entrance of the Bryce Canyon National Park and backed up to a National Forest, so there were lots of campers and rv’s with 4 wheelers and bikes. Woody really wanted to rent a 4-wheeler until he found out he was too young to drive one himself. He’s 11 going on 16 real fast! The whole area we were staying in seemed to be owned by one company, so were able to have access to the pool at the local hotel, and also use their business center. We did plenty of swimming and the boys got excellent use out of their business center. The boys had complete privacy to do their schoolwork in there, no one ever came in. (I mean, who wants to do work on vacation?!) They had access to 5 computers with fast internet and even had “mood lighting”. Southern Utah is very rural so I didn’t think we’d get this lucky. We hadn’t had computer access since San Francisco (nothing in Yosemite, Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Death Valley or Zion!

The uniqueness of Bryce Canyon will keep it a favorite of our families for a long time. This is one I would highly recommend, though I’m sure I’m going to say that about all of Utah’s “Mighty Five” National Parks too! (MT)

Zion National Park

Today we went to Zion National Park in Utah. It was super packed the whole time we were there. The line to get in was long and so was the line to get on one of the shuttles. Our first hike was to the emerald pools where we saw some pools and little waterfalls.

Next, we saw a ranger who talked to us about how water is passed through the giant rocks. The water takes almost 2000 years to come out. Later on we walked to the Narrows where we saw many people with waders walking down the path.

At the end of our time in Zion when we met the artist in residence and he was fun to talk to. He is this month’s photographer. He gets to stay in the oldest building in the park.

There was a look out in the park called Big Bend that was neat. I had a lot of fun at the park because it was like we got to see two in one:Zion and Big Bend!(AT)

Death Valley

Our climate took an abrupt turn from the warm days/cold nights snow capped Sierra Nevada mountains to the dry and extremely hot(90’s) Death Valley. DV has only been a National Park since 1994 but a National Monument since 1933. It’s the largest NP in the contiguous states.

It’s super desolate here, but beautiful. The Valley is situated between large mountain ranges and only gets 2″ of rain a year. And it’s hot-did I mention that? (90’s) We pulled into Death Valley in the late afternoon, and after setting everything up, we went swimming in the cool spring fed pool at the motel across the street. Our site doesn’t have electricity so we slept with the windows open(still like 70 degrees at night). The night sky is a designated world night sky, you can see millions of stars at night! We’ve even picked up a couple of constellations in the past couple months so that makes stargazing more exciting.

There’s not a ton of trails here, to be expected when it’s so unbelievably hot out(90’s!). But we stopped at a couple of points of interest including a bunch of random gigantic sand dunes that the first Star Wars was filmed at, a short hike to see a natural bridge(like a rock arch), a centuries old borax mining operation, and the devils golf course which was just a ton of crystallized salt. Like a ton!

Another exciting stop was Badwater Basin, the lowest point in America at -282′ below sea level. Pretty awesome to say we’ve visited this sight!

A beautiful side drive we took was called the Artist’s Palate drive. The drive was along the base of a mountain range, and the rock was so many different colors(think purples, blues and pinks)and shapes, like a giant had used the range for a masterpiece!

We celebrated our dog Gunner’s 10th birthday here too. Not super memorable for him I’m sure, all he really got was extra petting, the birthday song and an extra scoop of dog food. But we’re so happy that he hit another milestone birthday, we know he won’t be in our lives forever but I’m so happy he got to join us for this cross country trip. Death Valley has been an exciting stop full of memorable vistas, celebrations and experiences!(MT)

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

We’ve been at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park for the past 3 days, and we have had so much fun. Right when we arrived at our campsite within the Kings Canyon NP, I saw there was a huge snow pile behind our camper. I haven’t been able too play in any snow yet this winter, and I was so excited to build a snow fort and just play around in the snow, which I did every day in the afternoon when the temp was about 60 degrees. The snow was fun to slide down (slippery!) but I made a snow fort my brother and I could both fit in! My mom even got into it-it was a lot of fun!

Sequoia and Kings Canyon are sister Parks, you only have to pay once to get into both of them and they share the same rangers and volunteers. In Sequoia we visited the General Sherman Tree, which is the biggest tree in the world. It’s not the tallest nor the widest, but it is the biggest in volume. It is about 2,200 years old, 275′ tall and 120′ around! It’s so big that it doesn’t even fit into pictures! Pictures can’t even tell how big it is! It was in a grove with a bunch of other big sequoias, and in that grove there was a tree we walked through-that was cool. It was pretty with the snow all around as well.

Our campsite was really close to the General Grant Grove, which housed the General Grant tree which is the 4th largest tree in the world. Again, it’s hard to imagine just how big it is by just looking at pictures. I’m so happy we have seen these in person. There was another fallen sequoia here, but it was hollowed out so we could walk end to end in it. It was used 100 years ago by the cavalry that protected the Grant Grove. I could totally camp in it if it was an option!

In the afternoon, we went out of the park to the Sequoia National Forest. It was only 7 or so miles away and there dogs can be on the trails unlike in the National Parks. We hiked around Hume lake, which is one of my favorite hikes we have ever done because Gunner got to run free and I got to climb all over boulders. He was climbing logs and the boulders with me. He was such a happy dog – and that makes me and my family happy. Happy dog happy life!

My mom and I went on a moonlit hike in the park led by the Sequoia Conservancy. Our guide told us many stories about the moon, both with Native American roots and scientific roots. The sky was clear so you could see every single star in the sky, and I was able to pick out the constellation Orion. It was one I learned back in Texas at the McDonald Observatory’s star party. The moon was full and bright, but the large trees shadowed it until we were almost done. At the end of the hike, there was hot chocolate and a warm fireplace in the lodge. Our guide asked so what our favorite hikes were, and mine was the Grand Canyon with my family, grandparents and aunt and uncle, but I know I’ll remember this one with my mom for a long time now.

On Easter, my dad made us french toast with lemon curd and Mexican vanilla. We also had bacon and raspberries. It was the best Easter breakfast ever. After that we had a big Easter egg hunt that was awesome. I got a ton of eggs and a soft Kings Canyon T-shirt and a ton of candy. We played the worlds longest game of Phase 10 because we always took breaks!

I hope everyone had a happy Easter too! I’ll never forget the Easter we spent in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. (WT)

You can watch my video here: