Labor Day ….What Does It Mean To You?

For many Labor Day simply means an extra day off, end of summer merchandise sales are taking place at retailers, summer cabins are being closed up for the upcoming winter, or campers are getting in one last camping trip before the bathroom houses are closed down for the season. In truth, however, it was set aside for everyone to pay tribute to all working men and women out there. For me, it brings many different meanings some wonderful and some not so wonderful.

First, it means that summer is unofficially over. School is back in session, schedules need to be followed, and traffic picks up in our area due to school drop off and pick ups. UGGGG!

Second, it means that laundry gets a little more abundant. Jeans and sweatshirts mean a few more loads a week….UGGGG!

And lastly, it means that some of my favorite foods start making a comeback to our weekly menu. Beef stew, chili, and soups are among my favorite meals to have in cooler weather. Not to mention, pumpkin and pumpkin spice items can be found sprinkled around grocery stores everywhere…mmmmm….what to try first is anyones guess.

So, as we approach Labor Day weekend, which yes, for me means an extra day off like many of you, let’s not forget to reflect on this past summer and all the fun and exciting things we all did.

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You all have a great Labor Day weekend and I will be back next week with a great new hike to share with you all.

 

Monthly Health Challenge- September 2015

If you did or tried last months health challenge you should be accustomed to having many veggies in your home which will make this new health challenge a breeze.

September Health Challenge Is: Eat 3 different veggies per day.

Many times when we have a vegetable at meal times it is the same vegetable throughout the day. Let’s make meal time a bit more colorful and have a different vegetable at each meal during the day. This could be as easy as carrots and hummus for snack, cucumbers and salmon for lunch or roasted brussel sprouts with dinner.

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Or if you are really struggling to have a vegetable at each meal, pack all three together at one meal instead. Try roasted potatoes, squash, and onions for a side dish or kabobs are also a great way to mix up a few vegetables at one meal.

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It’s fresh veggie season and soon it will over so let’s enjoy every last minute of it together.

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A Look Back At August 2015 In Pictures

Wow, what a month it has been! I still find it hard to believe we pulled off such a great vacation considering the medical issues we have had in our family this summer. However, that is not all that happened in August for me…let’s have a look back.

My First Rose Water Lemonade

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My first ever gyro

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Feast With The Beast 2015 Event

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Family Vacation 2015

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Summer Sunsets

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Which now leads us all to September, when the leaves will start to fall, colors will start to appear in the tree tops, and my favorite season begins…..Autumn. As much as I dislike the cooler temperatures I do love the seasonal things like pumpkin, soups, and fall festivals. We have a pretty full calendar coming up and I look forward to sharing it all with you here soon.

Did you do something exciting in August?

Tell me about it.

 

Summing Up Our Zion and Bryce Canyon Family Vacation With Some Pointers For Others Planning A Family Hiking Trip

As you can tell from the last few posts we had an amazing time vacationing in Zion and Bryce National Parks. I credit our amazing time to a lot of research, planning, and mostly to what we learned from our guides the first time my husband and I took a guided trip to this area two years ago.

On this trip we were on our own and I want to share some pointers to help anyone else have a successful trip, as we did, to this same area..

#1 Trail Map: This is something you do not want to forget….and if you do go back for it! You are hiking in the desert where it is easy to miss a turn off, get injured, and with mountains surrounding you on all sides cell service is quite limited. We found a family on our trail through Echo Canyon miles from the trail they had been searching for. When asked if they had a trail map, their response was, NO we forgot it.

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#2 Cell Phone: Bring it just in case you would need help and are lucky enough to get a signal.

#3 First Aid: You don’t need much but you also should never be without some first aid items. We actually offered some of our first aid supplies to a family we met on the trail because they left theirs back in camp. You may not get so lucky and meet someone on some of the more remote trails and an injury could really make the hike back miserable.

#4 Headlamp: We all think and plan to be done hiking and out by sunset, although you really never know what will happen until it happens. Hiking out of the mountains in darkness can be even more dangerous than in daylight. So carrying a small light weight headlamp is a smart idea and worth the extra pack weight.

#5 WATER: I cannot stress this enough. You will need water, and a lot of water. If you are doing more than one trail in the park you will be able to refill water containers at each trail head in Zion NP.

#6 Do not feed the wildlife: There is a fine in the national park if you are caught feeding the wildlife.

IMG_2038#7 Watch your pack when you take it off: Squirrels, lizards, and chipmunks are VERY BRAVE here and they will chew a hole in packs very quickly.  IMG_2093

#8 Snacks: Bring trail snacks and don’t worry about counting calories while hiking. You will need the energy and will burn the calories quickly here with all the elevation so eat often. IMG_1818 #9 Flash flood warnings and weather: Check the park website for the flash flood and weather forecast warnings everyday. If it’s too high, choose an alternate trail for the day.

#10 Have an alternate plan: Keep in mind that accidents happen and this is a remote area so it takes search and rescue personnel sometimes hours or days to reach people in need. Have an alternate plan if you would come across your chosen trail head and find it closed due to search and rescue trying to find someone. We thankfully did our first hike into Echo Canyon on our first day because the second day the trail was closed down all day and night due to search and rescue trying to help someone.

#11 Permit/Back country Passes: Research before you hike and make sure your chosen trail is not one that requires you to have a permit or pass. Some do and some don’t.

#12 Sunscreen/Hat: Desert sun is hot, lather up and wear a hat if you can.

#13 Adequate Shoes/Boots: You will come across cactus, snakes, wildlife, dirt, rock, water, and so on. Wear adequate shoes/boots.  IMG_1992

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#14 Electrolyte Replacement: I will attest to this personally…..you will sweat like crazy here in the summer time. Prepare to have some sort of electrolyte replacement with you on the trail.

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#15 Groceries: Bring what you can from home or stop in the nearest town before arriving at the park. Groceries are outrageous here….a jar of salsa in the local store we saw was $8 compared to maybe $2 here at our home store.  Clif bars were $3.50 each. We brought all our trail food from home and thankfully did not have to purchase anything at the little grocery store near the park.

#16 Bring Ziplocs: These are priceless….great ice packs for sore muscles, water proofing personal items in the Narrows, rain protection, keeping your packs organized, carryout, sealable garbage bag, etc.

#17 Have Fun: A vacation like this takes a lot of planning but if all goes smoothly you should have tons of fun, leave exhausted, and have memories that will last a life time. I know we did, we were, and we have all of these:)

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Feel free to email me or comment if you have any questions in regards to anything you see or that we did. I will be glad to answer anything I can for you.

 

 

Our Zion and Bryce Canyon Family Vacation-Day 4 and 5

Today we all woke up pretty stiff and sore everywhere. Our plans for today was our first trip to Bryce Canyon National Park and a 3.5 mile moderate hike of the Navajo Loop, Queens Garden Trail, and Wall Street. Although, first we had to drive to Bryce Canyon NP which was through the Zion Mt. Carmel Tunnel.

IMG_2402This is a tunnel that literally cuts straight through the mountain side and is patrolled at both ends by park rangers. IT’S AMAZING!!!! You have to drive it if you are visiting the area. IMG_2118 Even if you are not hikers and are just visiting the park, this is a must see 6 mile drive. The views are absolutely stunning and I actually saw my first mountain goat…actually lets make that GOATS!!! A dream come true for me:) IMG_2358 You will pass many little pullouts where you can pull over and capture popular sights like the checkerboard mesa,  IMG_2400 wildlife right next to the side of the road, IMG_2121and some breath taking views.

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Eventually we did arrive at Bryce Canyon NP about mid morning and luckily found a parking space available near the trail head. Bryce also offers a shuttle service that is free and information is available all throughout the town.

We started our hike on the rim and made our way down into the canyon. Bryce and Zion are two completely different parks to say the least.  IMG_2263 Zion is all elevation climbing where Bryce was hiking into a canyon and back out of the canyon. The colors were so amazing that if I did not know better I would have thought I was hiking through a painting in a art gallery. It was unbelievable!  IMG_2270  IMG_2212  IMG_2198

This hike was not strenuous until reaching the switchbacks back up out of the canyon floor. These were intense, short, elevation paths that led you up and out pretty quickly.  IMG_2254 After exiting the canyon we decided to do the scenic drive through some of the pullouts throughout the park. These also were amazing and just a few steps out of our car.  IMG_2284

Again, another very successful day which ended with a drive back, showers, and dinner all before more pool time.

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Do you have specific questions regarding the park or the area? Feel free to email me and I will be happy to answer them if I can.

Our Zion and Bryce Canyon National Park Family Vacation-Day 3

Today our plans were to hike to the 3 Emerald Pools and also do the Narrows. However, nothing happens until after a hearty breakfast just like yesterday. Again, we filled our stomachs with wonderful food while being surrounded by beautiful mountains and then boarded the shuttle back into the park.

Our first hike was the Emerald Pools. The trail head is located right across the street from the Zion Lodge in Zion National Park.  IMG_2017

We started out across a bridge and immediately noticed a horse corral and riders crossing the Virgin River. I have always wanted to try horseback riding but there are not enough allergy medications in the world for this to ever be possible, so I watched from the bridge with envy. IMG_2024This trail starts out paved and is well maintained until you reach the first Emerald Pool. There is a nice waterfall and a great little area where you pass behind and enjoy a sprinkle from above while doing so…..very refreshing.  IMG_2044 It was a great photography place and a nice area to cool off before heading up to the next two pools.  IMG_2049  IMG_2052 After getting all the shots my son wanted here we headed up the trail to Pool #2. The trail at this point was no longer paved and got a bit more rugged but tolerable. It took only a few minutes to reach pool two and we were happily surprised to find water in this one along with some tadpoles. This is the dry season so we were not sure what to expect at each pool.

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After a short time here, we headed back up higher to the last pool. This is where the trail became more like rock scrambling that hiking. It completely turned to a sand trail with boulders to maneuver up and over. This was right up to my expectations, one of my favorite things to do is rock scramble….and I loved it! This stretch offered very little shade and was hot and dusty but exciting all at the same time. After a while we crossed over a hill of boulders and were rewarded with the last pool and a nice large area of shade to rest.

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IMG_2078Our son took some pictures, we all sat on the big boulders to cool down a bit and this is also where we shared a trail snack before heading back on the same trail.

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Upon reaching the trail head we again boarded the free park shuttle and headed toward our next trail which was the Narrows hike.

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This is probably the most populated trail in the park in our opinion….and I will admit, not my favorite for this one reason. However, if this is your first time I would say it’s a must see and worth dealing with the crowd. This is a completely paved trail until you reach the rivers edge. There are rental places near the visitors center to rent water shoes and hiking poles to help you through the river up into the Narrows or you can do what many do and walk right in with their hiking boots/shoes. (We brought our kayaking shoes from home) When you reach the rivers edge there is a spot to change and put your personal belongings into dry bags/ziploks etc which you must also provide yourself. IMG_2089After you are all settled you walk down the steps into the river. Hiking poles, large sticks, and trekking poles are all a good idea….it is a river and there are many rocks.  IMG_2087

You start out down river and eventually make a turn into the Narrows passage….this is where the crowd is typically enormous as it was on our day here. I actually skipped this river walk this time around, last time it was not my favorite adventure. My boys were gone about and hour and we then made our way back to the shuttle bus for our return trip to the city shuttle which then returned us to our hotel.

Again, this was a very nice day, with temps over 100 degrees which meant we were in need of showers yet again before dinner. We ate tonight at a restaurant that had some amazing appetizers.

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And since it was vacation we ended the night again pool side with views of the mountains in the background.

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Have you ever visited Zion National Park?

What was your favorite hike?

Do you have specific questions regarding the park or the area? Feel free to email me and I will be happy to answer them if I can.

Our Zion and Bryce Canyon National Park Family Vacation- Day 1and 2

Oh my….I have so many things I could tell you about that I don’t even know where to start. First, let me just say, we had the most awesome vacation that we have ever had as a family!!!!!!

Upon landing in Las Vegas the temperature was an awesome 111 degrees. As you can imagine, I was one VERY happy woman. My son and husband, on the other hand, were not so very happy when the pilot made this temperature announcement. After deplaning, taking the shuttle to the rent a car building, and picking out our rental for the week we headed through the desert toward Springdale, Utah. I, of course, picked the only rental with Utah license plate, because I have always wanted a car with this plate. IMG_1936We arrived just as the sun was setting and got all settled into our hotel room. It had been a very long day. We had been traveling since 5 a.m. so we were very happy when we finally arrived. That night our son captured a few star pictures and the milky way but it did not take long for us all to turn in for the night.

Our plan for our first whole day was the biggest hike we had planned which was to the top of Observation Point. Since my husband and I had stayed at this hotel once before we knew that they served a fabulous big breakfast which is included in the price of the room. I think our son was a little speechless to be honest when morning arrived and we walked to the lobby area for breakfast. This was not your typical continental breakfast. IMG_1941

We enjoyed this breakfast every single morning on the outdoor patio facing gorgeous mountain peaks…..if only I could wake up every morning to this view.

After breakfast we boarded the first of many shuttles into the park.

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Shuttle stops are located throughout the city of Springdale and make stops at many area businesses. We never once waited for more than 10 minutes for a shuttle. Upon exiting the city shuttle we then entered the park and boarded the Zion shuttle to our chosen trail head. These park shuttles are packed wall to wall with hikers and tourists but are the only way to travel through Zion National Park. Personal vehicles are not allowed on the trail head road ways in Zion National Park.  IMG_1944

After a few minutes we arrived at our trail head and immediately headed up the mountain by way of switchbacks. I knew by the look on our son’s face that he was amazed with the scenery, the steepness of the switchbacks, and the fact that this was going to be harder that what he could have ever imagined.

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Our goal was the top of Observation Point although, we all knew this was going to be nothing short of a miracle if we reached our goal. I had come down with some sort of nasty virus two days before leaving and don’t forget my husband was doing this trip with a fairly new herniated disc and nerve damage in one leg. Regardless, we headed up the mountain at fairly good speed taking breaks every few switchbacks. On this particular day it was 106 degrees but amazingly tolerable.

About half way up we started our hike through Echo Canyon which is by far my husbands favorite area. It is absolutely gorgeous!!!! Our son was stunned into silence at the beauty that surrounded him. It did not take him long to start snapping pictures so this offered us a little rest time in the cooler canyon.

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We departed the canyon and headed higher up the mountain for awhile longer. Upon coming out of the canyon we were now in complete sunshine and it was HOT! Our pace had considerably slowed, my cold medication was wearing off, and my husband let us know that he was starting to feel numbness in his foot at this point. We stopped under a small shade tree and had a snack and some more water. We debated trying to continue or to turn around and be happy with what we had accomplished. After a bit, we all agreed that this was a good time to turn around and thankfully we did. Once we had turned around we again reached the canyon opening and my husband asked to sit for a bit and take a break. His numbness had gotten a bit worse and that was our cue to rest for awhile.   IMG_1995

We eventually continued back down the mountain and took the shuttle back out to the park entrance, switched to the city shuttle and arrived back at our hotel for some well needed showers. After this it was dinner at a fabulous restaurant where we ate on an outdoor patio surrounded by more mountains.

To end our day we all enjoyed the desert sunshine pool side.  IMG_2015

This was a great ending for us as a family. We estimated we were about 1-1 1/2 miles short of accomplishing the entire hike to the top of Observation Point. I would highly suggest this hike to anyone that is planning to visit Zion National Park. The elevation is intense but well worth the effort to at least reach Echo Canyon. It’s an amazing experience to walk through canyon walls that just continue on forever…..or so it seems.

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Have you ever visited Zion National Park?

What was your favorite hike?

Do you have specific questions regarding the park or the area? Feel free to email me and I will be happy to answer them if I can.