Zion National Park

Long post with lost of Zion pictures: I can’t say enough how much I love this place and I can’t stop taking pictures when I get there!

Our love for the national parks runs deep – but there is an extra special place in our heart for Zion because we spent several summers working there while we were in college. I know that park well. We drove through that park so many times over the course of three summers; day and night. I know each turn, what landmark is around the next bend and trails that weave throughout. The minute I drive into the park, there is this nostalgia that swallows me up. I love Zion.

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And that love and appreciation is being passed on to our kids. We spent a whole day in the park last week and it was surprisingly enjoyable. I say surprisingly because with 5 kids in tow most experiences are unpredictable and exhausting. But this day was nothing but rewarding.

The weather was beautiful. We’re used to Zion in the summer with it’s scorching hot sun – but October brought cooler weather which made hiking more enjoyable. We parked at the visitors center and took the shuttle (or the train as Cannon excitedly called it) up the canyon to the very last stop. With Briggs in the chest carrier and Cannon in the backpack carrier we hiked up to the Narrows. The colors and texture of that canyon are captivating. I couldn’t put my camera down.

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Once we reached the end of the riverwalk, the kids ran around, skipped rocks and played games. With Briggs sleeping on my chest, I continued to slowly move around as to not disturb him. I watched people, listened to their conversations and engaged in conversations with many people. There was a peace in that canyon that I wanted to bottle up and treasure.

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zion national park

We hiked back out, got back on the shuttle, returned to our car and drove through the park and through one of the tunnels. We parked, got back out and situated and hiked canyon overlook. This was a little more difficult than riverwalk because it wasn’t a paved trail. In fact, its trail was made up of boulders, steep and narrow areas, bridges and such. Bennett did a great job, but the .5 mile hike took some time and we slowly maneuvered the trail. But the view was totally worth it. The kids felt they were on top of the world. If you’re afraid of heights this might not be the hike for you!

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You want to know what I learned from this day? We don’t have to wait until the kids get older to have adventures. Will it be easier when they can walk themselves? Absolutely. But we don’t have to wait.

You want to know what else I learned? A lot of people think 5 kids is crazy! Mind blowing. In fact, I wish I could’ve recorded all the comments people made to us and about us when they thought we were out of ear shot. Here’s just a few:

On the trail: Did you see they had 4 kids? No, they had 5! She had one strapped to her chest as well. That’s nuts.

On the shuttle:  You don’t think those are all their kids do you? Well, they’re sitting by them, who else would their parents be.

On the trail as we were hiking in a line with one kid, then Steve, then two kids, then me: One, two, three, four. Are you the mom? Yes. Wow you are the mom! Wait, there’s number 5!

On the trail: Wow, you are a brave family!

While the kids were skipping rocks in the narrows, a couple from the Ukraine approached me. “Are those all your kids?” Yes. “Wow. Can I take a picture of you with your baby to show our kids back home?” Sure. “They will be shocked to see a family of your age doing stuff like this. They have this mindset that they can’t do anything because they have kids but you’re proving them wrong, I love it.”

On the trail: Good job mom and dad!

On the trail: Did you see all those kids? They were even carrying two of them.

We had a good chuckle after every comment. Evidently 5 kids is mind blowing to most people. And even more crazy that we would take them hiking for the day! But they were champs. Every single one of them made it an enjoyable experience. And the biggest success indicator is they all want to go back. And I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to make that happen. If you haven’t explored Zion, you are missing out!

Briggs 32 weeks…

We went to Utah last week for our fall break. We made a two day stop in southern Utah to enjoy the beauty of the red rock and our favorite national park, Zion. I strapped this guy to my chest and we walked and hiked and walked some more. We logged many miles that day and Briggs was a champ. He was overly exhausted by the time we boarded the canyon shuttle and I was second guessing our plans to hike with five kids for the day.

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But once we started on the path towards the Narrows, the movement, beauty and peace of the area lulled him to sleep. He missed the beautiful fall leaves. The narrowing canyon. The rock skipping. The aggressive squirrels. The trail games. He missed it all. He awoke two hours later as we made our way back out of the canyon. He did manage to stay awake the entire time we hiked canyon overlook and enjoyed it’s majestic view.

Hiking looks good on him. Long car rides on the other hand…not so good. In fact miserable and really bad!

Fall break and national parks…

It was this time last year that we were enjoying the beautiful red rock of Moab, Utah and Arches National Park. Our young family of four kids, with my expanding pregnant belly, hiking through the dirt and sagebrush. My older kids climbing up and over rocks and exploring. It was pretty great.

Moab National Parks

National Parks

One year later, same fall break, we’re hitting up our favorite national park – Zion. Now with 5 kids in tow, one carried on my chest, one carried on Steve’s back, (We’re ditching the stroller this time around!) I’m sure we’ll get the same crazy looks from tourists, “Are they all your kids?” Yes they are and our love of national parks runs deep. So much so, we want them to experience them over and over again. Even if its not convenient or ideal – and we’re sticking to easy hikes – no angel’s landings for this group anytime soon!

Also – Don’t forget those with fourth graders can get a free national park pass for the year. We took advantage of it last year and wish we had it again this year!

Carlsbad, California

We gathered with Steve’s siblings and spouses along with his parents in Carlsbad, California for an adult reunion. The last adult reunion was 10 years ago and we were brand new parents and Hallie joined us at the reunion. This time we had another baby but we left him in loving hands so we could fully enjoy our time with the family.

The idea of an adult reunion starts out like this: Someone throws out an idea, “I think we should all go to XYZ together.” That idea never makes it past the initial conversation. Instead a million ideas are thrown out, everyone with an opinion on how and where and when it should be done. Everyone goes home and some never think about it again, while other’s go into full research mode. After some research, a more thought out plan is presented through email. “We are going to go to this place, at this time and we’d love all who can join to join.” And people jump on board, it’s surprising how many can make it work.

This year, Steve had a sister who wasn’t able to make it – 8 out of 9 kids isn’t bad, but we really missed the one. Nobody is a number in this family!

Carlsbad, California

We spent the morning sleeping in, walking to breakfast and exploring. One morning we went on a long bike ride – our brother-in-law lost his uncle at sea a couple years back and we were able to ride our bikes to the memorial in Oceanside. It was a beautiful ride and a fun way to see the area and between the huffing and puffing of going up hills we were able to have some great conversations.

Carlsbad, California

Carlsbad, California

The afternoons were reserved for beach time. I’ve mentioned before my dislike for sand but my time on the beach was surprisingly good. When we left for Carlsbad, I had been sick for 10 days. I was able to get on an antibiotic the day before we left, but my body was still weak and tired. Afternoons sitting on the beach was some good recovery time. I think when we go again, I’ll be much more active and into playing but this time I enjoyed sitting. And conversing. And observing. Steve on the other hand couldn’t get enough activity. He was in the ocean, he was out, he was back in and had a permanent grin plastered across his face.

Carlsbad, California

Carlsbad, California

Carlsbad, California

Carlsbad, California

Carlsbad, California

Carlsbad, California

Carlsbad, California

Carlsbad, California

And as much fun as the afternoon was on the beach – the evening was even better. The sun going down, with the beautiful orange glow that seemed to  paint everything in sight. That alone was worth having my feet touch the sand.

Carlsbad, California

Carlsbad, California

Carlsbad, California

Carlsbad, California

Carlsbad, California

Carlsbad, California

Carlsbad, California

Carlsbad, California

Carlsbad, California

Carlsbad, California

The evenings were reserved for great dinners and important and meaningful conversations. This family is full of laughs and fun…and occasionally they can be serious and talk about things of a more sensitive nature. Steve’s oldest brother led a discussion the first night that went late into the night and still has Steve and I talking and pondering about. This family has such strengths and discussing opportunities to serve and be served (why is it so hard to accept help, even within family!?) was nothing short of insightful. So many great takeaways.

Another strength of this family – their ability to find, eat and then continue to discuss great food. I’m not passionate about food – but there are plenty who are and they did not steer us wrong.

Do yourself a favor – if you’re ever in Encinitas, stop by the Taco Stand. Grab yourself an al pastor taco and a side of fries. YOU. WILL. NOT. BE. DISAPPOINTED. And that’s coming from me who could take or leave food on most occasions. By far the best fries I have ever had and they came from a taco shop. And after the Taco Stand – you’re not very far from VG doughnuts where you can wash your taco down with a maple doughnut. Weird combination? Yes. But they’re close to each other so it would be silly to get the one and not the other.  It was so good the first day for lunch, we went back another day!

Carlsbad, California

Carlsbad, California

Carlsbad, California

It’s never easy to leave kids. There were a million things I was worried about. We almost cancelled our reservation on Wednesday because I had been sick so long. It wasn’t ideal to pump the whole weekend away from Briggs.  But it was worth it. We had a great time and my body continued to recover and repair. This is a really fun group – we’re talking stuck-on-a-desert-island candidates. It’s great when you consider your family friends!

Sandy Toes…

In all our marriage, Steve and I have never been to an ocean beach together.  Ever. Many ask how that is even possible and I’m scratching my head asking the same thing. But I’ll let you in on a little secret – I’m not a big fan of sand. I’ve not had a lot of experience with sand, but what I knew of it, I didn’t enjoy. Particularly, I don’t like sand touching my feet. Weird, I know.

Steve on the other hand has been dreaming of a beach vacation. He wants to go on a cruise, he wants to go to Hawaii, he wants to go anywhere with a nice beach and run through the sand and play in the water. His dream came true this weekend at a sibling family reunion in Carlsbad. Steve was a kid in a candy shop, there was just not enough time to soak it all in.

Me, on the other hand, tried to be cool with the sand on my feet as I first walked across the beach in my flip flops. I quickly realized it wasn’t necessarily the sand on my feet that I couldn’t stand, but it was the sand in between my foot and my flip flop that was like nails on a chalkboard. I took off my shoes and was much better. And I much prefer wet sand over dry sand. Although finding sand in my pockets, or around the lip of my water bottle was less than desirable, everything else was amazing; due in large part to the people that surrounded me.

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Proof to my children that I indeed touched the sand! I’ll admit, I was left wondering why we can’t have grass beaches?? 😉

 

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