Girls’ Camp at Zion National Park

I’m still trying to figure out where June went!  E went to two weeks of a coding camp to learn how to use Scratch, a programing language invented for kids; I took Mimi to the annual princess party at our rec center; and I went to Zion National Park with our church girls group.

It was HOT (upper nineties) so our hike up The Narrows was a lot of fun.  The water was pleasantly cool and it was fun to pick our way along the river bed.  In some places the water was up to my hips!  We just had about a hour to hike up and back, but I’d love to come back with N and the kids and spent a few hours going further up the river.

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The girls had a great time swimming in the river.  I really enjoyed spending time with them.  I just got called to work with them at church a few months ago so it was a wonderful opportunity to get to know them better individually.  After spending a few days away from normal life tromping around in nature (and in the heat!) with them I’m happy to say I’m now rock-solid on all of their names 😉

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Hiking the Timp Cave Trail

I’ve been trying to improve my health lately.  My teacher for the women’s weightlifting class I’m in (which is really fun BTW) told us about a program for hiking the Timpanogos Cave trail.  Since it’s the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service there’s a program where if you hike the trail up to the cave 100 times from May-beginning of Sept you get a free jacket.

I’m a sucker for big ideas and for about a week I was SO PUMPED to earn that jacket!  But then I counted the days I had to hike and it was something like 115 at the time which meant I would have to go at least 6 days a week  or do it twice a day which just wasn’t going to happen :/

I don’t have time for that!  It takes me 2 hours to drive from my house to the trail, hike up and down, and then drive home.  Most of the people whom I see hiking it multiple times are older (and probably don’t have little kids at home).  So my friend Amy decided we would get ourselves our own reward when we hiked it 50 times 😉

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It’s a pretty good hike: 1.5 miles up gaining about 1,100 ft.  At times it’s really steep.  I keep waiting for it to get noticeably easier but I just hiked it for the 13th time this morning and it’s still really hard in places.  But I’ve shaved a few minutes off my time up so that’s good.

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I normally leave the house at 6am so I’m back by 8 for N to leave for work, but last Friday my friend Amy and I took our kids with us around lunch time and went on the cave tour.  It was fun but afterwards I was wiped out.  Turns out it takes a lot of energy to cajole a whining 8-year-old up a mountain.  It took us an hour and a half to get up to the cave when it normally takes about 43 min, ha!

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I was looking forward to sleeping in this summer, but I have to get up even earlier than normal when I go hiking.  But I love it!–I definitely love it more on the way down than on the way up–but I feel so invigorated and ready for anything.  It usually wears off around 2pm when all I want to do is crawl in bed for a quick nap, but it’s nice while it lasts 😉

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Carol’s Beach

One of the great things about the Puget Sound area is that there are so many beaches.  They’re usually rocky and muddy instead instead of sandy but are still a lot of fun for kids.

One of the the highlights of visiting Olympia is getting together with my friend Carol.  On this last visit Carol packed a picnic lunch which we took down to her neighborhood beach and let the kids run around.

There was a little stream that ran under a bridge and down to the sound.  The kids had so much fun exploring and splashing in the water.

We were the only one on the beach; it was wonderfully relaxing just to sit and chat with Carol and watch the kids play–so much so that I didn’t notice the time passing and ended up with an impressive sunburn.

Adventure at Topaz Mountain

Sibling togetherness!  (Also, photobomb by N.)

A few Saturdays ago we took the kids to Topaz mountain, something we’ve been wanting to for a long time.  It’s a mountain range out in the west Utah desert with deposits of topaz and other semiprecious minerals.  It’s public land and you can take home whatever you find.

Topaz mountain is in the middle of NOWHERE and about 2 and a half hours of driving from our house.  After you turn off the main road the last few miles is rough going on a dirt road.  I kept cringing every time our minivan scraped over another large or pointy rock.  We had caravanned out with N’s parents which was fun and it was fun to spend time with them.  It was also nice knowing that if we got a flat tire or had a mishap that we wouldn’t be stuck out there all alone since there’s no cell reception.

I had kind of thought there since it’s a public site there would be some facilities, at least a pit toilet but nope!  Both of my suburban kids fussed about having to pee behind a bush but they got over it.  They were really troopers about the whole thing.

Mimi at Topaz mountain
Mimi, now one with the desert, post outdoor-pee.

N hanging out in a rare patch of shade.

We drove around to multiple sites and hacked away at the mountain for a while but didn’t find anything. But then as we were walking on the side of the road we started seeing little sparkling bits in the dirt.

Can you see the topaz
Can you see the topaz?  Click to view larger.

Topaz on the ground at topaz mountain
Ta-da!  (Yeah, I know.  It’s easier to see when the sun is glinting off it it.)

topaz crystals from topaz mountain
We ended up with a handful of little topaz crystals, these are just some of them.

Finding the crystals was fun.  As you walked slowly you would see little sparkles and then if you retraced your last step you could find the crystals and pick them up.  It was like a zen treasure hunt.  Both of the kids really got into it; Mimi even found a bunch.

This is what happens if you ask them for a thumbs up 😉

Overall, it was a fun day trip and a nice change from our usual Saturday routine.  It’s been weeks since we went and E still talks about it.  On Father’s day we were asking him if he wanted to be a dad when he grew up and he thought about it and said, “Yes.  And when I’m a dad I’m going to take my kids to Topaz mountain EVERY WEEKEND!”  So I guess it was a hit 🙂

We’d like to go out again sometime to look for geodes which are supposedly plentiful nearby.

If you go, I’d recommend doing so on a day that isn’t too hot, taking plenty of water and food and preferably driving an SUV with 4-wheel drive.

Hiking Timp Cave

Me with teammates at Timpanogos Cave

Today I woke up at 5:20am to go hiking with my workout group–I know, I don’t know who I am anymore either 😉

We hiked up to Timpanogos Cave which is quite a climb.  It’s only 1.5 miles but it is STEEP, gaining about 1,100 feet.  I’ve hiked the trail a few times but always in the morning when the cave itself is closed for tours.  I would actually like to go inside sometime.  N and I have been debating whether the kids would enjoy the cave tour and I think we might finally pull the trigger and take them sometime this summer.

I’m going to try and see if I can find some friends to hike the trail with me once or twice a week.  As much as I hate getting up early, it’s an incredibly invigorating way to start the day.

A Visitor

My neighbors behind our house keep a few chickens in their backyard. Since they don’t have a rooster (for which I am eternally grateful) I find it rather charming. E and I like to stand on our porch and watch the chickens run around their yard.

Yesterday afternoon we had a surprise: this pretty hen hopped over the fence and came to visit. Isn’t she gorgeous?

More photos of the salt flats than you ever wanted to see

I’ve been enchanted by the salt flats ever since I first saw them so getting up close and walking around on them was definitely the highlight of the (13 hour!) drive to Oregon. E had a lot of fun running around and sampling the salt.





We were just there but I’m already trying to come up with an excuse to drive the 100 miles from my house back out to the salt flats. They are awesome.

Train Ride!

Both E and my brother Steven love trains. So last week we drove up the canyon to Heber City and we took a ride on the Heber Valley Railroad. There were two trips to choose from: a 3-hour trip and 90-minute trip. We went on the 90-minute trip and it turned out to be just the right length. The ride was a lot of fun. You could sit in the open cars or in the old passenger cars. We switched between the two.

Chugging along next to a reservoir.

E and his Uncle Steven.

E liked climbing around on the benches.

The wind gives E a stylin’ do.

The fall foliage in the canyon was a nice bonus. It was breathtaking.

The only downside to the trip was that E got carsick on the drive back home through the canyon and threw up a couple of times. It put a bit of a damper on things. But overall it was a really nice outing.

If you’re local and have avid train fans in your family I think it’s worth going once. The train rides are fairly pricey ($24 for 90 minutes, $30 for 3 hours), but kids under 3 are free which helps. I don’t think we’ll be going again anytime soon but I’m glad we went this time.

Goblin Valley Photos

The trip to Goblin Valley was really fun. Thunderstorms had been forecast but they were supposed to hold off until the late afternoon. The forecast was part right: it poured during the 4-hour drive there but it stopped raining once we got to the park in the late afternoon, which was nice. But the rain had turned the soft red clay dirt into super slippery, mushy mud. We had already invested so much time in getting there that we braved the mud and climbed down onto the valley floor to poke around. The scenery was amazing.



There were a few other people braving the mud.

E clowning around with N.

My shoes after walking around on the valley floor.
The mud was really something: it sucked my shoes right off my feet a few times. We hadn’t brought extra shoes and so we ended up driving home barefoot. We wanted to stop somewhere for dinner so we first stopped at a Walmart and bought some cheap shoes to wear. Before we went into the store we tried to clean off our muddy shoes the best we could but I still felt very self-conscious. It was the first (and hopefully the last) time that I felt under-dressed for shopping at Walmart.

We had one other little mishap besides the mud: we had miscalculated the amount of gas we needed. When we got to the park we were running quite low on gas so on the way back we drove straight to the nearest gas station which was in the opposite direction than our home. It added about 45 minutes to the drive home but I think it ended up being worth since we got to see this place:

Best gas station ever!

All and all, it was a really fun trip. If you go, bring extra shoes and clothes, towels, and a big jug of water to wash up with. (There isn’t any running water at the park.) And make sure you have at least a quarter tank of gas when you get there–learn from our mistakes!