Family Fun Adventure: Bryce Canyon National Park

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Ahhh, Bryce Canyon! TOO beautiful to describe and the photos don’t do it justice. Mostly, I run around trailing kids and reach for the camera for a quick shot, barely looking through the view finder ūüôā

Continuing where my last post left off, the next day brings us to Bryce Canyon National Park. Warning: Lots of pictures ahead, not too many tips though due to the weather

Day #3: We booked two nights in the town of Panguitch, Utah and again, woke up early Saturday for breakfast that was included in the room prices. We headed out at around 7 and made it into the park on a very cold and snowy day. All the hiking trails were closed due to the weather, but the viewpoints were being cleared for the day

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We started out parking near Sunrise Point and walked the snowy Rim Trail to Sunset and on to Inspiration Points. The day started nice and sunny. Because of the weather we couldn’t make any trips into the canyons, which I can imagine would be quite incredible. The part of the trail between Sunrise and Sunset Points are a pretty easy walk and the kids had so much fun with the snow

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Cole (age 14) following the trail beside the steep drop offs

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Daddy keeping the tiniest turkey back from the edge. See that pebbly ridge? Yup, a snow covered slope down from there!

 Not gonna Lie, the trail was scary with little kids. The trail itself was mostly wide, but the steep drop offs coupled with the slippery conditions as well as overly excited children, made for nervous parents. We each stuck close to and mostly held the younger kids hands. Of course, being mom, I constantly reminded the older kids to be extra careful. They were sliding, running, throwing snowballs, and I just wanted them to be safe

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 The contrasting colors were vibrant and unbelievably stunning

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Winter wonderland definitely added a extra fun element

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At the first lookout the kids are relatively happy and wow, they are smiling!

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They couldn’t stop themselves the entire time from making snow ‘Angels’

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My older boys are very uncooperative for taking pictures most of the time, so they are pretty rare shots

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I must say I love hiking in the woods and by rivers. It’s so relaxing to be out in this type of nature. Normally, we hike the dry chaparral of California in the roasting heat, so this is a welcomed change

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Proof that there were parents along for the trip. Well a parent and an Eskimo ūüôā

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After about 3 pm the kids were cold and tired. We headed back to the hotel for a some vacation snacking, T.V. watching and just chilling

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After they warmed up and dried off the little boys, Alvin and Daddy made a snowman behind the hotel

Day #4: Woke up early and loaded the van for making our way home today. For some reason (maybe a religious thing as it was Sunday) even though the hotel  (Days Inn booked on priceline) advertised breakfast at 6:30, as we enjoyed the previous day, they did not have anything out on Sunday. In fact no one was in the lobby and it was all locked up, I tried calling the front desk, waiting etc. Finally, we just had to leave our keys in the rooms and go. That was kind of a bummer as I was counting on that being a big meal to keep the kids happy at the start of a long drive. Thank goodness for back up snacks and a couple hours later we arrived in Vegas in time for another buffet lunch to make up for it. So all was not lost. I will say that room service was very kind the day before in helping us charge our dead battery to get us on our way and the breakfast was one of the nicest we have had at simple lodgings

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One final pic of enjoying the view. I can’t wait to visit again and hike down into the canyon trails.

What are your top favorite National Parks?

Family Fun Adventure: Zion National Park

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Hey Lovelies! Hope you are enjoying a wonderful holiday season and making fantastic memories. For once I have pictures a plenty for this post. The scenery was SO stunning and I found myself snapping a photo every couple of steps. Hubbs also took many of the pictures I’ve included in this post on his phone. Everywhere you look is postcard perfect. Come along with us on a picture journey through Zion National Park

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We were kinda of on the fence about taking this trip at Thanksgiving break, because we weren’t sure if the weather would be fun for us Cali natives to hike in. We were extremely lucky in that we lucked out both days with pretty clear weather and views for both days that we visited Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park. ¬†Here’s is the itinerary we followed for our 4 day trip to these beautiful Southern Utah parks and a few tips. Enjoy!

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Happy to be outta the van and ready to hike

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Day #1: Woke up early and started the day long drive out to the Zion area. We broke up our journey in Vegas for a Thanksgiving buffet lunch, thankfully we made it in before the huge dinner crowds. The meal ended up being about what we would’ve spent on a home cooked special meal, so even though it was not an inexpensive meal, it still worked out ok. We learned that if you sign up for a players card (you don’t need to play) at the casino that the buffet is attached to, you can receive a couple bucks off each meal. After the lunch pit stop headed on out to the town of Springdale, Utah, which is the last town outside of Zion Canyon. Since we weren’t sure we would make it all the way there and not just stay in Vegas, we hadn’t booked rooms. We arrived only to find rooms were going for $175-$200 per room (of the two places we stopped at. The cheaper one was a locally owned type place and the other was a large chain) NOT fun! Since we need two rooms for our crowd of 7, we hopped on the wifi in the parking lot and booked more reasonable rooms at $126 (for two rooms) back the way we came in the town of Hurricane. Since it was a holiday weekend we were very fortunate to not be stranded, everything was pretty packed out. Needless to say we booked the next nights rooms in the next city as soon as we checked in that night

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Day #2: Got up early, packed up, had free breakfast included at the hotel and were on the road at about 7:30. One really great feature about this park is the bus that takes you to a bunch of scenic views and trail heads. We optioned to buy the inter agency pass, which is an annual pass for all the National Parks at $80, instead of the one day pass for $30. Since we were going to visit Bryce Canyon the next day and usually make it to 1-2 other parks during the year, we just went for it. After entering the park, we parked the van and got some warm clothes on. We then boarded the bus and stayed on for the entire loop, to get a feel for the area and sights. The bus driver and recorded information tells a little history of the park and other interesting facts. We spotted lots of mule deer the entire day which was extra fun for the littles

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Back on the bus we headed to the end of the loop to the Riverside Walk at the Temple of Sinawava bus stop. This easy 2.2 mile walk (the park website says it takes about 1 1/2 hours) takes you to the entrance of the Narrows hike, which takes you through the canyon walking in the river. How awesome is that! Of course that 8 mile hike is just too long for our littles at this age. But we got to watch lots of waterproof clad folks headed up that way. What we loved about this park was the up close feel. Walking between the canyon cliffs were pretty amazing. Hubbs and I agreed we preferred it to viewing, say the Grand Canyon from the rim

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The Riverside Walk Trail¬†is very easy for all ages, no climbing and its a paved, easy to follow path. Very enjoyable to not have to worry about someone falling off the edge. We were among many visitors to the park that weekend, plenty of people around but it was not too overcrowded. We were very happy to see lots of fellow ‘home grown’ tourists out in nature enjoying our beautiful country

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 Azure at the mouth of the Narrows Trail

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Silly fun by the Virgin River on the Riverside Walk Trail

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Check out all those gorgeous cliffs. The colors were stunning!

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After the this hike we stopped off at the van for lunch and boy was the parking situation crowded! At least 10 people asked us if we were leaving, and lots of other people were circling trying to find parking. Good thing there is a shuttle pick up in the town of Springdale too if you don’t manage to snag a spot in the park.¬†After lunch the buses were so crowded (they are taking all park visitors around as no private vehicles are allowed) we decided to walk from the Zion Canyon Visitor Center to the Zion Human History Museum which was a short mostly flat, paved walk which is part of the¬†Pa‚Äôrus Trail

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By the afternoon it was getting a little foggy and we were glad we brought winter jackets. Yeah, I know we are cold sensitive Californians

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We were spoiled by the beautiful fall colors and river views

After checking out a bit of the museum and Azure picking up his Junior Ranger booklet, we divided forces. A couple of less than outdoor enthusiastic big boys took littlest brother for a much needed nap and settled in the van with snacks and books

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The smaller troop of Azure (age 7) and our oldest, Alvin (age 16) were still happy to accompany Mom and Dad for another approximately 2 hour hike that was a little more challenging. ¬†First we made the short walk on the Weeping Rock Trail. Nothing too amazing. The whole park for me was all about the views, rather than the ‘sites’ to arrive at

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The Kayenta Trail has a great view of the Virgin River from a height

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We walked around that huge mountain following the river

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The Lower Emerald Pools Trail leads through a canyon crack. COOL!

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The Kayenta Trail, which starts at The Grotto bus stop is more of a hike. It’s not paved, there are steep drop offs and the trail is a little narrow it places. I was glad that littlest brother (age 4) sat this one out, while he could have made the hike, we would have had to move slower and held his hand to feel comfortable. The trail continues on to the Lower Emerald Pools Trail. Maybe, it was just the time of year (Late November 2015) there wasn’t much water in the pools or coming over the falls, it wasn’t very interesting or too picturesque to me. But the views of the hike were totally amazing and we enjoyed every bit of it

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Azure took part of the Junior Ranger program and was sworn in and given a badge by the ranger after completing a Zion National Park booklet. He was real excited to earn another badge after receiving one at the  Grand Canyon National Park earlier this year

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At Zion we felt like we got to see a good portion of the park and didn’t feel like we were missing out on most of the sites/things to do. Even though there were plenty of longer and more difficult trails we didn’t get to take,I really liked that this park didn’t seem so huge it was overwhelming. Like, say Yellowstone did to me

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I can’t believe we have lived within a day drive of this place and had never been. Get out and explore guys! Our country is SO amazingly beautiful

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One final picture I took while driving out in the evening. TOO much gorgeousness.

What did you do for the holidays this year?

Family Fun Adventure: Casitas Water Adventure (Lake Casitas, CA)

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Our Family Fun Adventure today comes from Casitas Water Adventure located inside the Lake Casitas Recreation Area and Park. I apologize in advance for the lack of photos in this post, I went solo with some of the kids to the water park and Brecks smashed up his finger pretty bad while camping earlier that morning, so he needed constant attention and calming

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I had planned on a two night camping trip, but when we arrived on a Thursday night, there was only one night available. I made the mistake of not making a reservation, I thought for sure there would be space as its a huge campground. The ranger said we could try asking after check in time to see if there was cancellations or pitch our tent in a giant overflow field for $40. We paid $25 for a basic (no electric or water hook ups) tent site for one night. There are several little playgrounds around the campground and our tent site area (area C) had two flush toilets (no showers, though maybe there are some in other parts?) One bathroom was out of order, there were two porter potties available and there was always a line to use the facilities. All the campsites in this area were nice and shaded by large trees. You can fish and boat on the lake (no swimming though) and we have come to watch the meteor showers and star glaze a few times. Anyhoo, after the littlest monkey somehow smashed his finger while playing with rocks in the dried riverbed by our site, I didn’t feel like staying another night. After packing up in the morning we headed over to the water park. It’s only open during the summer, so check their website before going

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Entrance fee to this park is $12 per person, so not the cheapest thing to do with a big family. I have wanted to bring the little boys here for a few years now and I’m glad I waited until this year. More on that in a minute. One big brother came along ¬†to hang with Azure, which turned out to be super helpful, as Brecks needed my full attention. Parking is $10, or you can park outside the campground and walk in. Though it may be difficult to find parking outside on a busy day. If you stayed at the campground you don’t have to pay for the day use fee. No food or drinks inside the water park but they will stamp your hand so you can go out to use the picnic tables or buy food at the snack booth (expensive though). There are showers/changing rooms, bathrooms, life jackets, some shade, lounge chairs, lockers¬†and water fountains available. Bring sunscreen, sunglasses, and water shoes if you have them. The pavement is scorching hot and get there early to get a good spot in the shade. There are basically three areas in this small, but fun park; The Lazy River (with tubes available, though you will have to wait quite some time to snag one if its real crowded), a Kiddie Slide/Fountain area and a tiny Kiddie Spray area

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Taking a little rest in the shade

We visited in July and the park was really full, though the crowds thinned a bit an hour before closing. Azure (age 7, loves water) could have gone non-stop the whole day. Cole (age 14, doesn’t like swimming much) was happy for about 3 1/2 hours watching his brother. And Brecks (age 4, loves water) lasted about 3 hours, but I imagine if we hadn’t camped (he woke up extra early)¬†or had another adult to take a turn with him, would have lasted longer. I had to persuade him to take a nap and then Cole sat with him while I took Azure back out

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Azure is 7 and swims very well was able to team up with Cole (14 years) and go off on their own. There are tons of life guards to keep everyone in line and safe. Since Brecks doesn’t swim well enough without a floaty and is too small to climb into and hold on to a tube on his own I had to help hold him up. There were a couple other moms with two littles trying to grab tubes, whilst holding small kiddos and trying to get the kids in them. In my opinion, you need one adult/or older kid per little guy. The water is moving current, you have to help a little guy quite a bit. I would have been really stressed if Azure didn’t swim like a fish

Next Brecks wanted to go to the Slides/Fountain area. It’s real fun for kiddies, freezing water for me ūüė¶ Brecks is 4 and isn’t great at following directions yet. He didn’t understand to wait until the lifeguard said he could go (he saw no one on the slide, cause they were waiting for the ok, and just thought he could go down), to clear the bottom of the slide immediately, don’t try to climb back up, don’t walk in front of the slides. Good and bad thing is the lifeguards are hyper paying attention and ready to give the kids instruction. Great for slightly older kids that need a reminder, not so good for little guys that don’t really understand/remember too well. Basically, I had to go to the top and wait with him until it was his turn, then race down the stairs (no adults allowed on the slides) against all the up coming kid traffic to get to him at the bottom. Fast as I was trying to go, the lifeguards were already admonishing him before I could reach him. That part was really stressful, as I didn’t want to be a pain in the behind to the lifeguards. I think in another year he will be fine and it will be much funner for me to stand around just keeping an eye out from the bottom. There are also lots of older/fast moving kids all over, so if your kids are too small it can be a bit scary and you’ll just have to go everywhere with them. I guess with two parents it might be done easier.

In closing I will say that I will definitely bring the little kids again and this park is certainly worth a visit, especially if you are staying at the campground also.

What fun activities did you discover this summer?

Family Fun Adventure: Hungry Gulch Hike (Lake Isabella, CA)

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Hey Lovelies, today’s Family Fun Adventure comes to you from the Kern River area near Lake Isabella, CA. We had the pleasure of joining friends for an over night camping trip by the river We enjoying delicious fresh caught trout and the kids had fun getting wet and really grubby!

On pack up morning our family headed down the road for coffee and had hopes of finding a short kid-friendly trail nearby. Luckily we ran into a helpful ranger that pointed us just down the road to the Hungry Gulch Campground and informed us of a couple short trails within the park

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The campground was closed for the season, so we parked in the large dirt area outside the gate by the sign and walked in. We started up the Coso Mine Loop Trail which¬†continues up as the¬†Isabella Peak Trail. As you can see from the sign it was only a mile and a half and was perfect for littles that haven’t hiked in awhile

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Some parts of the trail we were unsure of the correct path, looking out for the marker signs helped keep us on track

I’m glad we hiked early enough in the day to keep from roasting in the sun. I did not notice if the restrooms or drinking water at the campground were open¬†at the time however the parks website said there are flush toilets, drinking water and a playground

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Almost immediately we had views of the lake across the freeway and the trail was very easy for everyone. No climbing necessary. Interestingly a sign stated that the trail was maintained by the local middle school. What a great idea!

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After quickly reaching the really non exciting mine that’s walled and fenced up we continued higher up the hill on the Isabella Peak Trail

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We were rewarded with a beautiful view and cool breezes

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A couple peak top photos later we were ready to head back down for lunch

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We crossed the street to picnic by the lake and the little kids cooled off in the water. What are you doing to stay cool this summer?

Family Fun Adventure: Cozy Dell Trail Ojai, CA

 

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Hey Again Lovelies, Today I’m sharing a Family Fun Adventure: Cozy Dell Trail hike in Ojai, CA. Originally we were trying to hike to Matilija Dam in Ojai. For some reason we could not find any roads or trails to this lake! If any locals know the secret to getting there, please share! Anyhoo, since we couldn’t find any way to get to the lake we came across the Cozy Dell Trail on highway 150. We hiked this on Mother’s Day, May 11th this year.

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¬†¬†Left: Here is the trail sign on the left side of the road, where you park and carefully cross the highway Right: This is the sign on the trail side of the road. This trail isn’t jogger stroller¬†friendly¬†and¬†there are no restrooms. We found the trail really nice and easy for the little guys (6 and 3 years) that being said, we only hiked about a mile and a half this time. The ground was dry, but it was made of clay, so after a rain there will definitely be lots of mud. The trail is lovely and half shaded¬†on the portion we travelled, it was well maintained and easy to follow. There were tons of native wildflowers out¬†to be enjoyed along the way. They smelled lovely too.

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Some of the characters that were along for the hike

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I’m really not sure how long this trail is, some reviews say 3-4.5 miles. We made it to the first marker (see picture below), maybe it was the only one as some people mentioned the lack of them. We saw lots of bees, lizards and two snakes. Thankfully, that was all! I read that some saw bear tracks and even a bear. Yikes! I would not think a bear would like this area, its hot and dry, not like the cooler lush forests you normally think of. Maybe I just don’t know what to look for, as I’m always nervous about large wildlife and look for tracks. Anyway, just a heads up.

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This is where we stopped to rest and turn around. There were about 7-10 cars parked at the street and we met a few hikers along the way. Not enough to feel crowded, but enough to make you feel a bit safer should you need help. In any case be sure to bring water, snacks, discuss safety with your kids and tell someone where you are going.

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We decided to do some camping this summer, since we haven’t been in probably 7 years and all the kids can hike with¬†their own legs.¬†We got the tents and a little stove and made our first camping trip¬†to the Big Sur area up north. BEE-U-TI-FULL!!! Post coming soon. Get out and enjoy the great outdoors this summer ya’lls. What adventures do you have planned?

 

Family Fun Adventure: San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Family Fun Adventure: San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Hey Lovelies! We spent a Sunday at the Safari Park in San Diego last month and thought I’d do a little write up of our experience at another great California park. Family Fun Adventure: Visit the San Diego Zoo Safari … Continue reading