Saturday, June 27, 2015

Steamboat Springs, CO. A pleasant surprise.

After nearly cooking in the desert heat of Moab, we left early Tuesday and made it to our campground outside Steamboat Springs, CO.

As soon as I saw the snow capped mountains I knew we were going to be someplace better. 

We rolled into camp in the early evening and with a ranger's help got setup in a spot not far from the spot we had already reserved for the end of the week. Then we immediately went swimming in the reservoir. 

The campground was quiet and the temperatures were only in the low eighties. What's better is that it dropped to the fifties overnight! 

When we found out we'd be heading east earlier than expected, I booked a short horse back ride for the whole family for Wednesday. I was so excited to get everyone on horses I could barely contain myself. 

We were each assigned a horse. I got Bart, Samus got Rojo, Lucas rode Whisky, and Marcus got little Peanut. Jason got Cider. 

Thankfully I was at the back of the crew and got to see everyone interact with their horse. 

To say that Cider was not thrilled to be carrying our heaviest member was an understatement. She was making all kinds of noise and kept darting for grass. She even passed Bart and me at one point. Jason asked me, "why is your horse behaving?". "Because I know how to use him," I replied.

Sam's horse was also a prolific grass eater. But Samus wasn't afraid to yank the reins and get Rojo back on track. Marcus was being led by the trail guide so his ride was pretty uneventful. Then there was Lucas and Whiskey. Whiskey was not really into going on a trail ride just then. He would slow down or stop every few steps. The trail guide told Luke to give him a good kick, but Lucas suddenly became the most gentle child ever. Finally the guide gave Luke a stick and told him to give whiskey a tap on the butt to get him to keep moving. Unfortunately Lucas' interpretation of a tap was more like a piece of cotton floating down to the ground. Needless to say, Whiskey just did what he wanted for the duration of the trail ride. 

In the end everybody had had a great time. Except Jason, who was sore. After 45 minutes of riding. 

Afterwards, we toured the quaint downtown and everybody got their souvenirs. And ice cream. Which was becoming a daily "need".

We wrapped the night with swimming in the campground's reservoir. 

Thursday we decided to seek out one of the towns namesake hot springs. 

It was like the town's city pool except it was fed by a hot spring. There was a series of seven different pools. They went from the hottest and most unfiltered on the left to the coldest and most filtered (and most like a swimming pool) on the right. We all enjoyed the warmer pools and the boys loved going down the waterslide. 

Friday was the day we had scheduled our white water rafting trip down the Colorado River. None of us really knew what to expect so we were all a little apprehensive.

We got a totally cool river rat kind of guy who kept us all together and heading down the river in the right direction. Who knew you sat on the edge of the raft? Not me. But that's where Samus and Marcus stayed for the whole trip. Do not even get me started on how fearful I was about Marcus falling out of the boat. But he made it. On the ride down, cool guide dude told us all about the history of the area we were rafting and pointed out wildlife. 

Toward the end of the trip, we stopped at a tall looming rock face where we could choose to jump into the water. It looked scary from the boat. But I knew if I didn't do it I'd regret it. So up the cliff side Jason and I scuttled. Two girls went before me and then it was time for courage. I surprised myself and just jumped. And then I fell for what I felt like was two minutes. But I fell with grace. At least that's what I thought until we saw the pictures. My mouth was wide open screaming (which I don't remember), and my legs were all akimbo. I truly thought I went in like a toothpick. 

While we were only shooting class two Rapids (and one class three), it was a total hoot! 

That evening we decided to check out the other spring in Steamboat called Strawberry Springs. This place was way more rustic. None of the water was filtered and you could jump into the river with the fish anytime you wanted to cool off. It was fun too and would be amazing in the winter. 

I'm not going to sugar coat anything here. We were still doing fun things and making memories, but we were ready to be home. Tempers flared, squabbles broke out easily, and exhaustion was written across everyone's face. Jason and I made the executive decision to make our next stop our last. We would have a super long last day getting home, but that's what needed to happen. 

That night the boys and I snuggled as they fell asleep. It was wonderful. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Zion to Arches National Park. Or from a fire to an inferno.

Utah is pretty. Mountains and red rock formations in all shapes and sizes. So many different rock formations that you can play the cloud game with the rocks. "Ooo. I see a bear on his back with a fish in his paw. Wow, that looks like an elephant and a rainbow." It was really that ridiculous. 

Anyway, once you've seen so much beauty and so many rocks you sort of become immune to it. "Yep, it's still pretty and the rocks are still red and shaped like animals." That was how the drive from one national park to the next went. 

Going into Arches we knew that it would be hot. But apparently the temperatures in Zion were about 20-25 degrees hotter than normal, and the temperatures in Arches were also about 15 degrees hotter than normal. Clearly one of us was going to die (from a heat stroke or murder, it's hard to say) if we stayed the entire three nights we had planned in Arches. So we called an audible and decided to stay one night and move onto the Rockies for the two additional nights. It was only supposed to be in the eighties there. 

This meant that we needed to cram our three days of sightseeing into about three hours. Surprisingly, this wasn't as difficult as you would imagine. 

We simply got up early the next morning, drove to the most popular arches, hiked the short trail, took some pictures, and got our souvenirs. This took about one and a half hours. Tops. Boom. We were done with Arches and we had the pictures and souvenirs to prove it. I have no idea what we thought we were going to do with all that extra time. 

And now, we're on to The Rockies. 

I couldn't help it. 

Hiking the Narrows in Zion

Apparently the big deal with Zion is "The Narrows". It's where the canyon walls come together and are just wide enough for the Virgin River to flow through. Actually it just sort of meanders. Anyway, the hike to The Narrows begins with a one mile river walk alongside the river and then they plop you into the river and you walk up as far as you can stand it and turn around and come back. Unless you're a maniac and hike like 18 miles, including some spots you have to swim, and stay overnight. We did not do that. We woke early to beat the unseasonably high temperatures and where walking in the water a little after 9. 

Not only did we beat the heat but we were hiking during the prime time for hypothermia. Special. There was no sun overhead yet to warm us, so it was shaded our whole hike upstream. The water is about 60 degrees and after about an hour and a half we were legitimately concerned that Marcus was getting too cold. We were lucky enough to find a rare strip of sun and got him warmed up. Then somebody (Jason) carried him through any water that was deeper than an ankle. We sort of forget that he's a mini person and that when the water is up to a full size person's knees it's up to his waist. 

We hiked and hiked and hiked and hiked. I can not stress how long we hiked. But people on their way back kept saying, "oh it's only another half hour and it's so worth it." We hiked until the walls were about 30 feet apart and were assured by one man (and a map) that we in The Narrows. You see when you enter the trail you're not in The Narrows per say. You need to hike for an eternity, in freezing water, to get to the beginning of The Narrows. The man also said that the water was chest deep just around the nearby bend. Well we sure as heck weren't taking the boys swimming in the hopes that the walls got closer. We were done. 

We turned around and it seems at that moment that the sun rose directly over the canyon. At once I literally felt myself step from the cold shadows into the heat of the sun. And dang was it hot. Like immediately. 

We went from scrambling from rock patch to rock patch trying to avoid the cold water, to finding the deepest portions of the river and wading/swimming. The water was now our sanctuary. 

At the end of the trail we had a one mile hike back to the bus stop. It was so hot we were almost completely dry by the time we got there. We had hiked from 9 am until almost 2 pm. 

Naturally we did not take lunch (we had snacks) and were starving to death. We paid way too much money for food at the cafeteria and ate outside behind a sign for shade. 

By the time we got back home it was after 3 pm. I had hoped to sneak a "quick" drive to the Grand Canyon in, but upon learning that the drive would be three hours one way we ended up playing in river and going to bed where we slept like hot dead horses. 

Zion Pictures

After baking at the Valley of Fire we headed to Utah and Zion National Park.  We were hoping it would be cooler and I guess it was but only by 3 or 4 degrees. I didn't really know what to expect. I had spent time researching the first half of the trip but didn't really spend any time on the back half.  Of course it had beautiful scenery but we've seen a lot of amazing things on the trip and I might be taking it for granted a little bit.  I had to take a step back and really try to pay attention to appreciate what a spectacular place it really was. 

The drive there was another scorcher and we worried about overheating the truckster.  We got our first engine light of the trip right before we pulled into Zion so that was fun.  I had them pull and clear the code when I got the oil changed and it's something with the fuel pump.  Hopefully it just got too hot, everything seems to run fine yet so we're hoping it doesn't come back and it'll make it until we get home.  Stay tuned to see how that turns out.

It was 110 degree heat while we were there so hiking was limited to the morning and we didn't take any long trails the first day.  Then we hiked the narrows the seconds day, well technically hiked up to and just inside the narrows but it looked pretty much the same as what we walked all day, really wasn't as narrow as I expected.  That must be upstream more.  Overall it was a 5 hour hike up and back so that was enough for us. On the way up stream we worried about hypothermia as Marcus got pretty chilled and needed to be carried for a ways to keep him out of the water.  Then on the way back we had to worry about heat exhaustion as we were running out of water and it was getting really hot out.  Lucky we were in the river and we took some of the deeper routes through to keep everyone cool.  It was an awesome hike and I'd highly recommend. 

Here are the pictures from our time in Zion.

Our Campsite at the Watchman Campground in Zion

Waterfall on the emerald pools trail

Hanging Gardens

Sam trying not to overheat

Virgin river by our campsite, an escape from the heat and the boys favorite place to be.

Lucas floating down the rapids

Starting out on the river trail to get to the Narrows

Ready to begin the real trail

From here it's in the river

Except it wasn't all in the river luckily there were a few dry banks to get out and warm up


This rock was a landmark with a name but I don't remember it

Look a named rock

This is when we made it officially into the Narrows proper.  Only went in a little ways and there was reportedly a spot up to peoples chest so we turned it around.

View above us

Warmer so willing to get into some of the deeper water

Taking a swim to cool off

Loved the hike

Now lets get out of here and find some lunch

Monday, June 22, 2015

Valley of Fire Pictures

Our next stop after California was a night stop over in the Valley of Fire state park in Nevada.  We drove through Las Vegas and we all got to see some of the interesting casinos quickly as we went by on the interstate.  The heat was insane and we had to turn the air off for a few stretches to let the car cool down.  From there it wasn't much further to the park.  It was so hot I've never been in anything like it.  The park was very interesting and the campsites where huge and not many people crazy enough to camp (maybe 6 other campers there with us) so a nice change from San Clemente. It was just too bad we couldn't leave the trailer for long without melting.  We are not built for the heat.  We were close to Lake Mead so we sought out the nearest swimming hole we could find. I didn't realize until we got there why I received the weird look from the Ranger when I inquired about swimming nearby, with an answer Hmm, ahh, probably Echo bay would be your best bet it's about 12 miles into the Lake Mead National Recreation area.  When we got there it was a ghost resort, I bet it was hopping in it's time but now it was dead and eerie. I thought we were done when we only found a boat ramp and nothing that looked like a beach or swimming hole but then we saw a couple of ladies in swimsuits heading to the other side away from the boat ramp so we hopped out and went down to the water.  It looked like it would be great with wavy coast line and a group of islands but we quickly discovered that it was all muddy and eroding.  We meet up with the ladies and discovered they didn't know what they were doing either.  But we found a semi solid piece of land and got into the water and where we had a blast and most importantly got cooled off.

View of our campsite from up on the rocks nearby

Another view of the campsite, they were huge.

108 doesn't really capture it. 112 was the highest I saw.

Forgot my phone when we went down to Lake Mead here's a quick shot from the car that doesn't really capture it.

Becky really likes the heat

The cabins, made in the 1930's for hikers to shelter in

petrified wood.

Samus recovering from the heat