Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fall Break

We had our first official UEA weekend last week and decided to take advantage of it and head south for a vacation. Cody worked half day Thursday and at 2:00pm we were all packed up and headed off to our destination of Bluff, UT. Bluff is a little less than 2 hours away from Moab. It took us about 6 hours to get there including a stop in Moab for dinner. We have a portable DVD player and we were able to set up Cody's laptop so that the kids in the back could watch a movie too. The kids did great!
This is a view of our set up at Sand Island Campground the next morning. Our kids don't ever sleep in so we were eating breakfast every morning by 8:00 and out of their by 9:00.
Our first stop was at Goosenecks State Park. It's pretty amazing what a lot of water and erosion can do over 300 million years. Of course we had to reign the kids in and try to keep them on the inside of the fence. : )
En route to our next stop we drove through the Moki Dugway. You see several of the signs below leading up to it.
And this is what you travel up. The speed limit was 5 miles per hour. Pretty crazy, but some spectacular views.
Our next stop was Natural Bridges National Monument. It has the 2nd largest natural bridge (like an arch) in the world. (The largest bridge is Rainbow Bridge at Lake Powell). We hiked down to this one, Sipapu. The kids did awesome on the hike down and their favorite part were the ladders.
Blake was Mr. Happy baby the whole time. Who wouldn't be, when you get carried everywhere you go?!
Straight up shot of Sipapu Natural Bridge. We drove to the overlooks for the other 2 arches. They are quite impressive with their wingspan and thickness.

After Natural Bridges we realized that we were only 45 minutes away from Lake Powell, so of course we hit the highway and drove to Halls Crossing. My Grandpa had a timeshare on a houseboat their while I was growing up and Cody and I both LOVE Lake Powell and can't wait to buy a boat and make Lake Powell trips one of our family traditions.
We let Tucker and Aubrey search for some seashells before we headed to our next destination.
The channel never looks this great in the summer!
The scenery was amazing on all of our drives and would change as we'd go over each mountain pass. I thought these zigzag patterns were pretty neat as we drove toward Mexican Hat.
This is Mexican Hat. A balanced rock that looks like an upside down sombrero.
After passing Mexican Hat we continued south to Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. This was probably one of my top two favorites for the trip. There are land structures jutting out of the desert floor in neat shapes. This one is called Left Mitten and across from it was...
Right Mitten.
We hit it just before evening set in and the colors were pretty sweet. There were formations that looked like elephants, camels and more. It really was spectacular to see, but because it is on the reservation it costs $5 per person.
So all the above was from our first day in/around Bluff. Now we are onto day 2. Saturday morning we headed off to Hovenweep National Monument. It is a site where 11 Indian ruins have been discovered and preserved. There is a walking loop to view them all.

It always makes me wonder about the people that lived in these and the story of their lives. I wish more was known about them.
After Hovenweep we drove through Colorado and New Mexico to reach Four Corners. I have always wanted to visit the one place in the United States where 4 states meet. I was informed before our trip to not expect much from it. It's true, it's out in the middle of nowhere, but still, I had to get a picture of everyone on the spot. I think learning about it in school made me want to visit so badly and now I can say I've been.

Cody didn't want to lay down. He probably wouldn't have even cared about a picture if I didn't make him hold the boys.
Finally, my moment of glory. I am officially in 4 states at the same time. Yeah!
After eating our lunch at Four Corners we drove back to Bluff to the Comb Ridge to view San Juan Hill. This place was made famous by the Hole in the Rock pioneers. It was their last huge struggle to get to Bluff where they were called to settle.
If you enlarge the picture below you can see me in my turquoise shirt climbing up/down the trail. It is amazing that they cut paths through this ridge. The last quarter of the trail to the top was very steep and I'm sure extremely difficult for those pioneers and their wagons, oxen, children, etc.
If you've read the book, The Undaunted, it describes the whole journey of these pioneers. In the book, while they are camped at San Juan Hill, paving a path to travel, some members found an Indian ruin around the corner. We drove around the corner and sure enough their is an awesome Indian Ruin that you can climb to and look around. I've seen a lot of ruins and this was probably the best/most intact one I've ever seen. It's pretty wondrous that it still exists and that they were able to build it up in an alcove to be protected from the elements and enemies.

Petroglyphs are still visible on the walls.
An attempt at a family picture, minus Blake.
After Comb Ridge we headed back to camp to relax and enjoy the evening. The kids had a blast throwing sticks into the river. Tucker even found a snake which completely made his night.
The San Juan River.
It was a great trip and luckily our kids did awesome on it. We google mapped everywhere we went when we returned home on Sunday and we drove approximately 20 hours and put 1100 miles on the truck. It was fun to knock off a bunch of things on our vacation to-do list. We saw a part of the state that we had never been to before, were able to utilize our awesome camping trailer and were able to be together as a family.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Moab addendum

I got a few photos from Jaron of our campsite in Moab that I wanted to add to our blog.  As I mentioned before, we had the best campsite around.

Here is Jaron's truck and trailer and Kristin's Jeep.

Here is our truck and trailer.

And here is a great view of the cliff face that sheltered us.  It was a great backdrop to our campsite.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

House Pumpkin

We're about ready for this Halloween season. Just need to go buy our pumpkins. I LOVE how the house pumpkin turned out. My friend does one in her front window and I thought, what the heck, I'll try one too. Maybe not spooky, but fun!

Monday, October 10, 2011


This past weekend we headed down to Moab in our truck and trailer to meet up with my entire family for a long weekend of fun.  Carson and his family drove all the way down from Seattle (18 hours!).  Kristin and her fiance Chris came (congratulations you two!). My parents took their fifth wheel and four wheeler down, and my cousin Jaron came with his girl friend Angie and brought his tent trailer.  We got the best campsite in all of Sand Flats area.  It was perfect for the 3 trailers and all the kids, had plenty of sand to play in, and was shaded by some great sandstone cliffs. 
This was my 11th trip to Moab and by far the best.  Not because I did the best bike ride, hike, or climb.  It was the best because the whole family was there together and I am at the stage of life when I would rather see my wife and kids enjoy my hobbies with me than me get the most extreme adventures in.  Don't get me wrong, I still love some hard core biking and climbing, but I get more satisfaction out of being with my wife and watching my kids play and have a ball. 
The temperatures for the trip were amazing!  It got up to about 90 during the day, and the evenings were sublime.  Right about now we are asking ourselves where those 90 degree temps are as we now have snow.

When we arrived on Thursday we tried to take a family photo.  Those are so difficult to take when you have little kids.  This one turned out the best, but for some reason it isn't really crisp or focused.  Oh well, better than nothing.

Carson brought his new mini motorcycle and that was the first thing Cole went to.  He loves all things motorized.  It is a fun little bike.  I feel like a clown on it, but had some fun zipping around on that little green monster.  That and my dad's four wheeler kept the kids begging for more.  They were thrilled to have anyone take them for a ride on the four wheeler, which was usually my dad or Carson.

The kids played non-stop in the sand and were loving it.

Tucker ended up catching a lizard and was in heaven.  It was so fun to see his excitement with the lizard and reminded me a ton of when I was his age and we would go to Lake Powell.  My brother and I would have contests to see who could catch the most lizards.

We laughed that the most popular thing in camp was this old, green shovel that my dad brought.  The kids all battled for it and relished their time they had with it.  Who would have thought that such an ordinary object would be the kids favorite?  By the way, the scratch on Blake's nose happened not more than 5 minutes after we took our family photo.  He pushed on the screen door in our trailer and fell out.  Ooops!  It looks worse than it really was.

Friday morning we got up and made a delicious breakfast.  All the food was divine on this trip.  Especially the ribs that my mom and dad made Friday night.  Mmmmmm, tasty.

We brought Blake's high chair that attaches to tables.  It was so convenient for keeping him out of the dirt at meal times.  That little dude just loves to eat dirt.

After breakfast, Carson and his family, my family, and Kristin went to Wall Street to do some rock climbing.  We found some easier climbs that the kids could do. Unfortunately we didn't have very much time to climb because the rock faces were heating up fast in that Moab sun.   Here is a photo of Lisa belaying Aubrey.  Aubrey is our little spider when it comes to rock climbing.  She just loves it so much, it's quite funny.
Here's Tucker rappelling down after his climb.

Lisa showing off her mad skills.

After climbing we came back to camp and the kids played in the sand some more.  At one point we put on a movie for some of the younger kids to keep them entertained and out of trouble. Check out Lisa's new curtains and cushions for our trailer.

That afternoon Carson, Marisa, Lisa and I went on the Slick Rock trail.  Carson and Marisa had never done it and we all had been training through out the summer, so we were pumped to ride it.  Here's the happy group in the parking lot at the beginning.  Carson was the only one not brave enough to rock the spandex.  Maybe next time bro.

I was so proud of the progress Lisa has made this summer with her mountain biking skills.  It was night and day difference between when we went in the Spring.  I was very impressed.  Good job Lisa!


Last time I rode the entire trail I did the whole thing in about two hours.  Granted that was about 9 years ago.  So I figured we could do it as a group in about 2.5-3 hours.  We left the trail head at about 4:30 pm, and that was such a huge mistake on my part.  What followed was a crazy experience that I'm sure none of the four of us will ever forget.
At about 7:00 we reached the half way point and it was quite obvious that there was no way we were going to make it back to the trail head by nightfall.  Even worse, there was no moon, and for those who have been to the canyon land desert when there is no moon, you will know that it is the definition of pitch black.  So, I started to panic and had all these tragic scenarios playing out in my head and felt super guilty for underestimating the time we would need to ride the full loop.  Also, I didn't bring any headlamps.   Yeah, some eagle scout I am.  I got us into quite the predicament and my gut was all torn up over it.  I finally decided that I needed to zip on ahead of the group to go notify my parents that we were ok so they wouldn't panic.  I would then come back with some lights to illuminate the remainder of the trek back for the other three. 
From the moment I left those three I was praying fervently for any kind of miracle that would help us to get out of there without any accidents or major problems.  My prayers were heard about a mile and a half after I left them behind.  There is a point on the trail where the mountain bike trail skirts about 30 yards away from the jeep trail Hells Revenge (ironic that my prayer was answered by some jeeps on a trail called 'Hells Revenge'?).  Well the sky was starting to darken and I heard three jeeps on that trail, and I knew they were the last of any jeeps that would go by that evening because no one would be dumb enough to be out on those trails after dark, right?  I rode as fast as I could to cut them off and flag them down.  I explained our situation and they were more than willing to help us out.  What a miracle indeed.  They let us load our bikes up in the back and gave us a ride out.  I feel kind of guilty for how much fun the next 45 minutes were because of how desperate I felt before running into them.  Carson, Marisa, and Lisa got their first taste of jeeping in Moab and how extreme it can be.  These great people took us through some of the most unforgiving, rocky, and impassable terrain imaginable.  So, not only did we get out safely, but we also had the privilege of enjoying a jeep ride on Hells Revenge.  We got back to camp around 8:00 safely.  I am so grateful that it didn't end up as badly as it could have.  I decided at that point to pass on riding the Poison Spider trail the next day as I had originally planned.  I didn't want to tempt fate again on my mountain bike.

Saturday morning we all kind of split up into separate groups.  Carson and Marisa had never been to Arches National Park, so they went there with my parents.  Lisa and I just did it again this past spring so we passed.  Kristin, Chris, Angie, and Jaron all went to try the practice loop on the Slick Rock trail.
Lisa wanted to try out her new fancy, shmancy road bike, so we loaded the kids up in the truck and took her into town and dropped her off.  We were going to meet up with her along the highway that follows the Colorado River on the way to Fisher Towers.  I then filled up with gas in town, got some ice, and ran some other errands to give Lisa a head start.
Tucker showed off his photography talent and took this picture of Lisa as we passed her.

I pulled off to the side of the road ahead of her to wait for her and let the kids get out and play.  I took some scenic photos while we waited.

Man, that's a good looking truck!  I bet it's owner is even more good looking.

Fisher Towers.

When we got back to camp we decided that it was way too hot to just sit around, so Jaron took us on a little adventure to a water hole along Mill Creek.  It was just what the doctor ordered in that heat.  Jaron and I were the only two brave enough to dive in.  The kids had so much fun, and Lisa was content to just sit in the cool, refreshing water and relax.  Chris and Kristin just enjoyed cooling their feet off.  It was the perfect prescription for the blazing afternoon heat.

Saturday afternoon and evening we all ended up just hanging out and relaxing at camp.  After rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking and four wheeling, we were all in the mood for just chilling.  One of the great things about Moab is that even when you aren't out on some adventure, you can still be mesmerized by the scenery.  Who wouldn't be happy with a campsite that has these kinds of views?

Lisa took the three younger kids on a 4 wheeler ride.

For the final night, my mom busted our some glow sticks that she brought.  So to add to the fun I also broke out some sparklers for the kids.  The kids had a blast and we got some cool photos of it too.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, this was easily the best trip I've had to Moab.  It was a joy to be with the whole family and enjoy some biking, climbing, hiking and all around desert fun.  Let's do it again soon!