Archive for the 'Travel' Category

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John Wayne and the Covered Bridge

What do John Wayne and the Covered Bridges have to do with each other? Well, that’s simple: Madison County, Iowa!

Yes! John Wayne’s birthplace is in Winterset, which is a tiny town nestled in Madison County, the home of the famous Covered Bridges.

The reason for our impromptu trip to Iowa was one of great sadness, so we decided to lighten the mood and stop to see some attractions on our trek back to Colorado.

Claire is a HUGE fan of John Wayne. He’s her favorite actor. Yes, really. She’s loved him for at least a couple of years now. I know this isn’t the first person you think a 10-year old would admire, but there you have it!

John Wayne’s Birthplace and Museum aren’t too far off our path home, and on the way there, we decided to stop off at one of the famous covered bridges. One right along our route was the Hogback Bridge.

Madison County Bridge

Two bridges

As you can see in one of the photos, we are no longer allowed to drive across the bridge. It was completely safe to explore on foot, so we did just that!

After the bridge, we made our way to Winterset to John Wayne’s Birthplace and Museum. She loved it!

JW statue outside

JW statue inside

Dinosaur National Monument

For Fall Break, after staying in Steamboat Springs for the night, we were able to head out west to Dinosaur National Monument. This is a FANTASTIC park that straddles Utah and Colorado. In fact, we lost track of when we were in which state. We saw dinosaur fossils; we got to touch huge dinosaur bones; we saw petroglyphs, and we camped at the end of a 14-mile 4×4 road. Our campsite was amazing, and the hikes we did lent themselves to once-in-a-lifetime views.

We had such a marvelous time.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here is about 32,000 of them! (give or take an extra hundred for the captions…).

Enjoy!

Click on the photos to enlarge, if you so choose.

1 Night in Steamboat

Our view from the hotel room balcony in Steamboat Springs. Magical!

Dinosaur is in CO and UT

Dinosaur is in CO and UT

 

Look! We found one of the Dinosaur heads!

Look! We found one of the Dinosaur heads!

 

Both of these models did a great job of not wiggling while I took the picture.

Both of these models did a great job of not wiggling while I took the picture.

 

So many bones

So many bones

Yes, we got to touch a dinosaur bone. For realz, yo!

Yes, we got to touch a dinosaur bone. For realz, yo!

 

A cutie and some Petroglyphs

A cutie and some Petroglyphs

 

You may have to click on the photo to see the road we're taking. It's 4x4, all the way to Echo Park Campground. Sue (the Subaru) was in HEAVEN. (And we didn't die.)

You may have to click on the photo to see the road we’re taking. It’s 4×4, all the way to Echo Park Campground. Sue (the Subaru) was in HEAVEN. (And we didn’t die.)

 

It's awesome having an extra helper set up the campsite!

It’s awesome having an extra helper set up the campsite!

 

Our campsite was surrounded by TALL cliffs. The sun didn't even hit our campsite until after 9am! We brushed our hair in the sunshine and took a selfie, because of course we did.

Our campsite was surrounded by TALL cliffs. The sun didn’t even hit our campsite until after 9am! We brushed our hair in the sunshine and took a selfie, because of course we did.

 

View from campsite of Steamboat Rock (from Echo Park Campground, not to be confused with the Steamboat Springs where we stayed the first night!)

View from campsite of Steamboat Rock (from Echo Park Campground, not to be confused with the Steamboat Springs where we stayed the first night!)

 

Steamboat Rock up close. Incredibly difficult to capture the true majesty of it.

Steamboat Rock up close. Incredibly difficult to capture the true majesty of it.

 

Confluence Trail led us to the confluence of the Green River and the Yampa River

Confluence Trail led us to the confluence of the Green River and the Yampa River. See my two there?

 

Stone Skipping Lesson. (As you can see, there were hardly any stones to choose from... *cough*)

Stone Skipping Lesson. (As you can see, there were hardly any stones to choose from… *cough*)

 

River Hike Confluence Trail - The colors are just gorgeous!

River Hike Confluence Trail – The colors are just gorgeous! The river and Steamboat Rock are to the right of us, down the bank.

We made it back to our campsite for lunch.

We made it back to our campsite for lunch.

 

After lunch, we decided to hike Mitten Park Trail, on the other side of our campground. This looks easy!

After lunch, we decided to hike Mitten Park Trail, on the other side of our campground. It’s already shaded by the cliffs. This looks easy!

 

This part of the trail looks super-easy. Right? Right.

This part of the trail looks super-easy. Right? Right.

 

Claire found a section where the sand was two different colors. Blonde and redhead. Hmm. Familiar?

Claire found a section where the sand was two different colors. Blonde and redhead. Hmm. Familiar?

 

Waitaminute. This isn't an easy trail after all!

Waitaminute. This isn’t an easy trail after all! And, yes, the rest of the trail was harrowing. I was duped!

See the rafters through the artistic-looking tree? Be careful. Don't fall to your death. No pressure.

See the rafters through the artistic-looking tree? Be careful. Don’t fall to your death. No pressure.

 

Our campsite is way down there!

Our campsite is way down there!

 

See? I've marked it!

See? I’ve marked it!

 

Yes, this is the trail. This is on the way back down. Do you see where Claire is pointing? Yes, that's a cactus. Ask me how I found it on the way up!! (Yep, put my hand right in it while trying to hoist myself over a boulder. That is decidedly ill-advised.)

Yes, this is the trail. This photo was taken on the way back down, because I was too upset to take a photo on the way up. Why? Well, do you see where Claire is pointing? Yes, that’s a cactus. Ask me how I found it on the way up!! (Yep, put my hand right in it while trying to hoist myself over a boulder. That is decidedly ill-advised.)

 

Petroglyphs!

Petroglyphs!

 

More Petroglyphs!

More Petroglyphs!

We didn't slip and fall to our deaths. We made it down (relatively) safely. Or, this is all a dream...

Headed down…

 

We didn't slip and fall to our deaths. We made it down (relatively) safely. Or, this is all a dream...

We didn’t slip and fall to our deaths. We made it down (relatively) safely. Or, this is all a dream…

 

Back at camp, Dad has Claire work on her whittling skills.

Back at camp, Dad has Claire work on her whittling skills.

 

The next day, on the way out, we stopped at Whispering Cave.

The next day, on the way out, we stopped at Whispering Cave.

 

Inside Whispering Cave

Inside Whispering Cave

 

Side-by-side photos. Left: pictures we took of the "dot" petroplyghs. Right: an explanation.

Side-by-side photos. Left: pictures we took of the “dot” petroplyghs. Right: an explanation.

 

A photo from the 4x4 road of the 4x4 road on the way out. Goodbye, Echo Park! Goodbye, Dinosaur! What a fantastic adventure!

A photo from the 4×4 road of the 4×4 road on the way out. Goodbye, Echo Park! Goodbye, Dinosaur! What a fantastic adventure!

Steamboat Springs!

It’s been almost 4-years since we’ve been to Steamboat Springs! We thought it was well-past time to return! Originally, we were going to spend the night at our favorite hotel and then use Steamboat Springs as a spring-board for a longer trip out west to go camping for Labor Day weekend. The more we researched, however, the more we realized we weren’t alone in our planning.

Rather than give up on the idea of escaping if only for a short break, we kept the reservations at our favorite hotel in Steamboat and will go camping out west during a Fall Break that not everyone has. 😉

Yet again, Steamboat did not disappoint.

We broke the shorty out early and headed for the hills! (Okay, truth be told, I filled out all the requisite Excused Absence Forms for early dismissal, and she’s getting tall! …and they were mountains, not hills!)

We drove through some rain, but not enough to damper our excitement.

At one point in the drive, we were right at cloud level!

At one point in the drive, we were right at cloud level!

At another point, the highway completely disappeared and we were driving on what can only be described as a good ol’ mud road. The construction sign earlier said, “Rough Road,” and we’re thinking the usage of the word “Road” was rather liberal. THIS sign along that 6-mile stretch made us laugh out loud!

Lanes? There are lanes?

Uneven Lanes? Really? Also, there are lanes?

You should see Sue. We didn’t get any mud on the windows, but that’s about it.

Muddy Sue

Muddy Sue

We checked into the Rabbit Ears Motel, our favorite place to stay in Steamboat. (Pro-tip: They have river view rooms with a balcony AND discount tickets to the hot springs literally across the street! Listening to the river as we fell asleep was just an added bonus!) We went to our favorite restaurant, Mahogany’s, and it was still as fantastic as we remember. After dinner, we went back to the hot springs and soaked and played for over two hours before going to bed. What a fantastic night!

Rabbit Ears Motel Labor Day 2015

The next day, hiking was on the agenda before we pointed our muddy car in the direction of home.

We opted to do Fish Creek Falls. The first part of the hike was listed as “easy,” because it was a trail that was only 1/4 of a mile and very accessible down to a gorgeous waterfall. You could cross the bridge and do a “moderate” trail on to the next waterfall up, with an even more strenuous part you could do after that up to the lake, if you chose.

First Bridge

First Bridge

Fish Creek Falls from the First Bridge

Fish Creek Falls from the First Bridge

We compromised and did the moderate trail to the second bridge. Poor Daddy insisted that the “moderate” trail we had just done was “easy,” and he wanted to go even farther to the lake, but after weighing the importance of hiking in peace while NOT carrying a body (or two), he opted to be happy with the second bridge and cute little waterfall & stream to explore.

Roots

Roots. You gotta give your kid roots & wings.

Still, that part of the hike was not for the faint of heart. Claire and I managed with no problems, but it was a challenge. (That part of the hike was 2.5 miles in one way, with a 2000 ft elevation gain. As always, “down” was my favorite part.) Ha.

The "easy" trail.

The “easy” trail.

We took some fun pictures along the way and had a great time. We’d opted to do this in the morning before lunch, because lunch at the bottom is a great reward, in and of itself, and the risk of storms is that much greater in the afternoon.

Claire and JoAnn Labor Day 2015

The Second Bridge

The Second Bridge

We hiked for about 3 hours, and as predicted, lunch tasted fantastic after we’d survived the adventure. 😀

Food always tastes better outside. True story.

After lunch, we headed home. We opted to drive through Rocky Mountain National Park on the way and exchange Claire’s paper pass for a plastic one. This year, 4th Graders and their families get a FREE National Park Pass. (We even used the paper version at Fish Creek Falls to pay the day-fee of $5. National Park Passes were accepted at this location and after a bit of educational convincing, the park ranger let us use it. It was the first pass, of what I’m sure are MANY, he’d ever seen, so he was skeptical but willing to play along.) We had no problems whatsoever at the gate at Rocky Mountain. They were ready for us and gave us all the info. (If you have a 4th Grader, don’t pass up this deal! It’s fantastic.)

Claire's FREE Park Pass is good for a whole year, thru August 2016!

Claire’s FREE Park Pass is good for a whole year, thru August 2016!

The weather was some of the best we've ever seen up there! See the elk? (Click photo to see more detail.)

The weather was some of the best we’ve ever seen up there! See the elk? (Click photo to see more detail.)

We even saw a bear as we got closer to town! I didn’t get a picture, because I was too busy yelling, “BEAR! Look, a BEAR!” to the other occupants in the car. This black bear was playing by the stream on the side of the road in one of the towns on the way home. I’m so glad we all got to see it!

After dinner at a local place we love, we headed home. It was a great adventure, and just right. This way, we got to escape for a bit and then still have what will seem like a full weekend at home.

Perfection!

Aloha!

Oahu PanoramaClick image to see more detail.

What have we been up to the last month? Why haven’t I posted? We’ve been having way too much fun wrapping up the school year and jetting off to an island paradise…or two…or four.

Stay tuned for more details!

…when we get a chance. 😉

Aloha!

Relaxing in Tucson

As you can tell from the previous posts, we had a fantastic time on our Spring Break Trip to Tucson. Each day was filled with an adventure of some sort, but we also had time to relax.

Our favorite place to do that?

Tucson Relaxing

You guessed it…by the pool.

When I texted my sister to taunt her about our lounging about by a pool, I was sure to tell her I had spotted a creeper. I could hear her snort in response.

When I texted my sister to taunt her about our lounging about by a pool, I was sure to tell her I had spotted a creeper. I could practically hear her snort in response.

Tucson Swimmer

Tucson Swimmer

A Tucson Tickling Fish was tickling my toes!

A Tucson Tickling Fish was tickling my toes!

Prickly Pear Cactus

Oh, Tucson. We love you. Thanks for the wonderful Spring Break!


Old Tucson Studios

Do you know who one of Claire’s favorite actors is? John Wayne. Yes, really, The Duke. She’s watched a handful of his westerns, and she absolutely loves him.

You can’t say that about very many 9-year olds.

When we were in Tucson, we’d talked about the different sights we wanted to see on this trip. We mentioned Old Tucson Studios, and said that John Wayne had filmed some movies there. She didn’t seem overly excited about this adventure, and I couldn’t figure out why, but I didn’t think much of it.

As luck would have it, we arrived just as one of the included tours was starting. As we were walking around with the cowboy (who has played in many movies as an extra, etc.) giving us all kinds of background and insider information about the various sets, all of a sudden, Claire squeezes my hand.

“Mom! I recognize that building out of Eldorado!” she squealed as she pointed at one of the buildings. “…and that one is out of McClintock! JOHN WAYNE HAS BEEN HERE!? YOU DIDN’T TELL ME THAT’S WHERE WE WERE GOING!”

It finally dawned on her why we were there. We were there so she could see some of the places where John Wayne had actually filmed some westerns.

She was floored. Seeing her excitement was worth the price of admission.

After the guided tour, we caught a show put on by some stuntmen, and that was entertaining, complete with gunfights and explosions! Then, we explored on our own.

Click photos for more detail.

Old Tucson Studios Stagecoach

Old Tucson Studios High Chaparral

Old Tucson Studios Waterwheel

Old Tucson Studios Girl and Waterwheel

This car was harder to control than you'd think. I'd scoffed at the rail down the middle of the road, but it kept us from barreling into some cacti...

This car was harder to control than you’d think. I’d scoffed at the rail down the middle of the road, but it kept us from barreling into some cacti at one point…

...and as you can see by Papa hiding his face, Grandma's driving may not have been much better!

…and as you can see by Papa hiding his face, Grandma’s driving may not have been much better than mine!

25 Scientists Plus 1

U of A Matching the Flowers

Claire’s outfit matches the flowers at the University of Arizona!

We had a great time walking around the campus at The University of Arizona. We enjoyed looking at all the plants, flowers, trees, lizards, and sculptures. Our visit just happened to coincide with a certain big basketball tournament, so the campus was completely empty. Bonus!

I loved this shot, in particular. This piece of artwork is called “25 Scientists.”

25 Scientists Plus 1

This photo should be called “26 Scientists.”

 

Saguaro East

We love hiking in the desert. No, really. We do! It’s beautiful and dangerous, and if you’ve read any of this website, you know we like adventures that fit that description.

Saguaro East

Last year, we fell in love with both parts of Saguaro National Park (east and west). On that Spring Break Trip, Claire completed their Junior Ranger Program, which was one of the most extensive programs we’ve seen in a national park (and she’s done a lot of them!).

This year, we could just play.

…so play, we did.

No filter, just squinty sunshine.

No filter, just squinty sunshine.

Claire and Grandma

Claire and Grandma

Dad and Papa

Dad and Papa

Rock Hunter

Rock Hunter

Hey guys! Don't go!

Hey guys! Don’t go!

So, you know the danger part of the adventure equation? This is the reason we wear shoes when we hike in the desert (as opposed to the awesome hiking sandals we own). I didn’t even know I had this stowaway until we got back to the apartment in Tucson. See it? If I’m pointed the right direction, you can tell time sundial-style with this thing!

Wicked

Wicked

As always, click the above photos to see more detail.

Biosphere 2

Biosphere 2 is another place we explored while on our Spring Break Trip to Tucson! It was just like going to another world.

Click photos to see more detail.

Biosphere 2 Map

Why is it called Biosphere 2? Well, as we were roadtripping there from Tucson, someone in the car asked that, and I jokingly said, “Well, it’s probably called Biosphere 2 because we already live on Biosphere 1!” Everyone laughed, but you know what? I was right!

Biosphere 2 started out as an experiment to see if we could replicate Earth in another dimension. What would it take to be sustainable? After 2-years of being sealed inside, the scientists needed a boost of oxygen from the outside world. They’d discovered the hard way that the curing of the cement in the facility was using more oxygen than they could produce & sustain.

The scientists learned a lot from that experiment, and now, Biosphere 2 is a wonderful place to do other experiments on a grand scale. Scientists are using it all the time to test their theories on a scale that can only be imagined elsewhere.

Speaking of scale, the pictures do not do this place justice. It’s massive.

Walking down the outside path to Biosphere 2

Walking down the outside path to Biosphere 2

Biosphere 2 is home to the same types of regions here on Biosphere 1.

Ocean

Ocean

Rainforest

Rainforest

Temperate

Temperate

Desert

Desert

We even ventured underground!

We even ventured underground!

Biosphere 2 Desert Basement

Labels, Labels, Labels!

Labels, Labels, Labels!

When the scientists were stationed here, they had to provide for themselves with what they had. They could communicate with the outside world, but labeling everything made their jobs that much easier if something went wrong and they needed to do maintenance.

Biosphere 2 Lung

On our guided tour, we were able to go to the South Lung. Because Biosphere 2 is a closed system, there needs to be an efficient way to move the air that is constantly heating and cooling.

On our guided tour, we were able to go to the South Lung. Because Biosphere 2 is a closed system, there needs to be an efficient way to move the air that is contracting and expanding.

See the black portion around the outside edge of the top? That is a membrane that expands and contracts, not unlike lungs!

All kinds of experiments are being conducted here.

All kinds of experiments are being conducted here.

 

I wasn’t sure what to expect when we visited Biosphere 2, and I was impressed. It’s amazing to think that the things they’re learning in Biosphere 2 will help us here in Biosphere 1.

Kitt Peak

On our wonderful Spring Break Trip to Tucson we had a chance to visit Kitt Peak, the home of the National Observatory which boasts 25 optical telescopes and 2 radio telescopes. These telescopes are not what you may be thinking: those cool instruments you can take out to the backyard and view the stars. These telescopes are massive and buried deep into the mountain-side and then soar off into the air. They are incredible to see in person.

The day we visited, they also had a solar telescope up and running. We were able to view the surface of the sun with two different filters. One highlighted the sun spots, and the other allowed us to see the plumes of gases swirling and moving on the surface of the sun. It was absolutely magical.

On this particular trip, we weren’t able to snag a spot in the nighttime tour group, but we were able to do the 1:30pm guided tour of the Mayall 4-m Telescope, which is the largest optical telescope on Kitt Peak.

Kitt Peak Mayall Telescope

On the walk up to this telescope, the guide showed us where they had to put a bolt into the side of the mountain during construction.

"Hey, Claire! Go stand by the bolt so we can show people how big it is." She obliged.

“Hey, Claire! Go stand by the bolt so we can show people how big it is.” She obliged.

As part of the tour, we were able to take an elevator up to the observation deck of this telescope. It’s enclosed in glass, and every so often, there was a little ladder for the kids to climb so they, too, could see out.

She hopped up on one of the ladders and gasped. “Mom!” she said. “May I use your phone to take a picture? This looks incredible.”

She hopped up on one of the ladders and gasped. “Mom!” she said. “May I use your phone to take a picture? This looks incredible.”

…and she was right.

What a view!

My favorite picture from this adventure was this picture Claire took while on that tour!

My favorite picture from this adventure was this picture Claire took while on that tour!

Click the photo to see more detail!

I can only imagine how spectacular the views are at night and in the opposite direction.