Thursday, September 30, 2010

Homeward Bound (Big Bend #5)

It would have been nice to stay longer to keep enjoying this view of Casa Grande, but we had a plane to meet, and a "back to school night" to attend, so we had to pack up and say good-bye to Big Bend.We were pretty impressed that with 1600 miles to go over two days to meet the honeymooner's at the airport, they only had to wait for 5 minutes! We can blame their wait on the huge storm in Louisiana that slowed traffic for an hour or so. But when it wasn't raining, there was some beautiful country to see, and Michelle even got to add to her list of "exotic foods tried." This time it was frog legs.We'll end with sharing the traditional "see my vacation beard" photo, even if it's barely discernible.
Thanks for coming along on our vacation with us. We're looking forward to next year!

More Up and Down (Big Bend #4)

Lost Mine Trail: Possibly the premier dayhike in the Chisos Mountains, this trail serves as an excellent introduction to the plants and animals of the High Chisos. A 4.8 mile round-trip, the trail begins at 5,600' elevation and leads upward to a ridge separating Pine and Juniper canyons.
The Lost Mine Trail may have been a great introductory hike, but we saved it for near the end. And it was a gorgeous hike! Particularly at the top!!
But we finished that hike before lunch, which meant there was time for another one. As Wayne was hiking the Oak Spring Trail earlier with Steven, he noticed a spur to Rainbow Falls that wasn't marked in any of the trail literature. So, we decided to go back, and check it out.
It was a pretty fall. It would have been prettier if there was more water flowing over it, but I was still amazed that there was any water in the desert!
The final day we decided we were up for another challenge, and so we took the South Rim Trail and came back via Boot Canyon. (See the rock formation that looks like an upside-down boot behind Michelle?) Although advertised as "best enjoyed as an overnight back-packing hike," Wayne likes the challenge of doing things in one day. So we did. And had a great time.
Although there are plenty more trails to discover in Big Bend National Park, we were ready to save them for another time. For now we'll just enjoy the memories we did make.

The Drive to Santa Elena (Big Bend #3)

Okay, I don't want this to keep taking weeks, so you get a bunch of posts today, starting with pictures on our drive to Santa Elena Canyon. We were really looking forward to taking the trail into the canyon**, but the "creek" you had to cross was full and there was no way to ford it to get to the trail head. Bummer. So, we turned around and went back to the car. FYI - The family is standing where the creek empties into the Rio Grande, which forms the United States/Mexico border. As you look at the canyon, the left canyon walls are in Mexico and the right are in the US. Pretty close, wouldn't you say?) Whenever we had the chance, we stopped at some of the old buildings to explore a bit.
And then we found another couple trails to take. These were going up some canyon/washes. At one of them we got to explore both the top and the bottom.
And then there was time to stop at the Sam Nail Ranch on the way back to camp. It's hard to imagine people actually living out here in the middle of nowhere, but Sam Nail was pretty resourceful and the pump he built is still working (although his house has disintegrated a bit).
**Doesn't this sound like a great description? I guess we'll have to come back when it's not rainy season.

Santa Elena Canyon Trail
1.7 miles roundtrip
This trail begins at the end of the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive. Although a short trail, it is one of the grandest spectacles in the park. After crossing Terlingua Creek, the trail climbs several short switchbacks and then gradually descends along the banks of the Rio Grande. Hikers are surrounded by lush riparian vegetation and 1,500-foot towering vertical cliffs of solid limestone. The trail ends where canyon walls meet the river. Take a lunch and enjoy the scene.
Note: Following rains, flash floods, or periods of high water, Terlingua creek can be impassable, effectively closing the trail.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

WFMW - Perspective and Gratitude (Big Bend #2)

It's time for another post! Aren't you so happy? And I'm finding it hard to believe it takes so long to find the time to do these, but I guess that means we're keeping busy. Anyway, the theme for these pictures, taken at Big Bend National Park, is "perspective helps develop gratitude." Finding opportunities to demonstrate that to our children is something that "works for us!"This was the hike to Dog Canyon. It was sometimes difficult to follow the trail, especially after it went into the creek bed and there were no more cairns. There was also some mud to slop through. However, we were grateful those sections were short, and that it wasn't totally filled with water so we could actually complete the hike. And then it was great on our return to see the car in the distance and know we were just about done.
Then we explored a couple of dirt roads. The park map said these were easily traversed by passenger vehicles. The park map was wrong. There were a few scary stretches where you really needed 4-wheel drive - like when you're actually driving in the creek bed! However, my adventurous husband totally enjoyed the experience, and we only got stuck in the sand once, on the Dagger Flats Road. (That was once too often, but he did manage to get us unstuck.) Being back on paved roads was a wonderfully thankful moment!The last hike of the day was to Balanced Rock. It was a great little hike, and we appreciated the view of the valley once we reached our destination.
Earlier I briefly mentioned our hike to Emory Peak. You can see the pictures on that post of "far away," "closer," "there!" to show one sense of perspective. And you can just imagine the sense of accomplishment and gratitude once we reached the peak.
On this hike we were also introduced to the engineering wonder called the composting toilet. Now, ordinarily you'd think using an outhouse with no door and open to the sky would not be an experience you'd willingly choose. However, when the only option for miles around is a tree, you begin to appreciate the fact that someone lugged all these materials up the trail and constructed a privacy screen.
This is the view of Appetite Peak from partway up the trail. Here's the story about that landmark from the NPS website:
If you think Big Bend is isolated today, imagine what it must have been like in the 1930s, before air conditioned comfort and paved roads. Many CCC boys were away from their families for the first time. Because the camps were run by the Army, they had typical barracks and a mess hall. Legend has it that those complaining about food quality had to climb a steep hill before the next meal. Located directly north of the Chisos Basin Visitor Center, the hill is still known as “Appetite Peak.” This is another view of Appetite Peak. (The little point in the center.) It looks pretty tiny, doesn't it? We decided that if those CCC boys really wanted to appreciate their dinner, they should climb Emory Peak first! A sense of perspective really does affect our attitudes; the same event can be negative or positive depending on what you're comparing it to, so try looking for the good in everything and have a wonderful day!!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

WFMW - Routines and Traditions (Big Bend #1)

It's time for another "Works for Me Wednesday" over at We are THAT Family. It's also past time to get the vacation pictures posted. Kristen's helpful suggestion was to have snack bins in the pantry so your kids will always know what is permissible to eat. We did the same thing on our vacation - anything in the white crate was fair game at any time! (Yes, there was more than paper towels and plates in there; you just can't see the granola bars and chips and fruit snacks, etc.) However, another thing that works for us is routine and tradition. So, the rest of this post is really for the older brothers (although anyone is more than welcome to read along), to show them that our traditions are still intact. Of course, it would be nice if they could come along with us too, but we understand they're growing up and doing their own thing now. Here you go -

#1: Arrive at the park entrance and take a picture.

#2: Drive to the campground, find the "best" spot, and set up camp.
#3: Head on over to the visitor center and read all the displays.
#4: Start with the shortest, closest hike. This one was the "Windows Overlook" and it was flat, short, and beautiful - the best kind of introduction to the park.
#5: Divide the park into areas and start exploring the first one. We chose the Rio Grande Village area and the first hike was to the Hot Springs - an old resort out in the middle of nowhere. Wayne and the kids hiked along the Rio Grande - with Mexico on the other side of the river - and I picked them up at the other end. Actually, I started hiking from the other end and was able to meet them to get some wonderful pictures of the view.
After lunch it was time for the next hike. This one was to the entrance of Boquillas Canyon, up and over a little ridge and then along the Rio Grande for a mile or so until you couldn't go any further. It was a hot day (over 105°) and Steven didn't pack a hat. So we stopped at the little shop in between hikes to buy him one, which he then paired with the lovely turquoise hand towel to spare his neck from sunburn. Look for it in all the hiking pictures!! At least it matches Wayne's infamous turquoise hat.
Since we had an early dinner, and supposedly the best time to go to the "Window" is at sunset, we decided that would be a good thing to do. It was kind of cool walking out to the edge of the cliff, following the little creek. It's kind of hard to tell, but the upper left corner shows the water falling off where you can't go any further and the center is the gorgeous view of the distance (although my pictures don't do it the justice it deserves). If you ever try it yourself, be careful - it's slippery. And maybe start a little earlier in the evening. The last mile or two we were hiking in the dark. Although we had flashlights and a good moon, it was still a little disconcerting. All in all, though, it was a great end to a fun day, and a wonderful start to our vacation.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Happy Birthday, Princess!

We're a day late, but we wanted to be sure and wish Princess a very Happy Birthday!She requested biscuits and gravy for breakfast on her birthday, and Dad graciously honored her request, even though it had to be served at 5 AM!
Fortunately, there was time between going to the DMV to get her driver's license (NEVER go without an appointment!!!) and Dad leaving for a Scout campout to open presents.
Blowing out candles had to wait for another day.But that's okay, because that was the plan. We hope her friends enjoyed celebrating with her. (It sure sounded like they did.)
P.S. At one point in the day the question of "Where did the phrase Sweet 16 come from?" came up. Just so you know, noone really knows. Wikipedia has some suggestions that make sense, but our curiousity remains unsatisfied. (And don't you love all the dangling prepositions in that first sentence?)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Flashback Friday - Individual Time - Son #3

Wednesday was Brad's day. First we spent some time on the BYU Campus, reliving just a bit of our own early marriage days. The library may have expanded, but it's still a great place to spend some quality time together.We even saw evidence that EFY really existed and it looked like everyone was having a great time.Once we met up with Brad and Cody, the first order of business was unloading the wedding gifts we had in the back of our car. Then, after a tour of their new apartment, they opened them. They saved this gift with the pretty wrapping paper for last. For dinner, Wayne thought it would be a great idea to go try a restaurant he loved when he was a student at BYU - El Azteca. He still remembers the first time he went, over 30 years ago. He knows he took a date, but he can't remember her; he just remembers that the food was good, inexpensive, and plentiful. So, we looked up the address and drove over, and found nothing!
It's supposed to be that door under the "we buy textbooks" sign. The restaurant was on the second floor, and that's where the stairs were. (Moral of the story - check the date of the website on your internet searches!) However, all was not lost, because we remembered driving past an El Azteca restaurant west of campus (instead of south), so we went there instead.
We learned that the original owner opened a second store, and when he died, the family sold the first and kept the second, so it really was the same restaurant with the same menu - lots of food and decent prices. I guess if you're going to wait years to repeat an experience you need to expect some change!Fortunately, everything lived up to expectations. These nachos were delicious, and, even with help, I couldn't finish them all!
And then it was time to leave the newlyweds alone, at least for a couple of days!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Individual Time - Son #2

One of the things we wanted to do while in Salt Lake was spend some time at the Family History Library. The object was to find more information about Agnes Strome, Wayne's great-great grandmother. Since neither son #2 nor son #3 were available until the evening, that's what we did the next two mornings/afternoons. Unfortunately, we didn't have the success we wanted, although we did make some progress.
The continual running into dead-ends made us very happy to take a break and visit with living posterity! Thursday was David's day. Wayne was excited to give him one of the "Smith & Edwards" gadgets - a charcoal chimney. David was excited to receive it! (We made sure to test it out a couple of days later to make sure it worked properly before we left.)
We dined on another one of Elizabeth's beautiful and delicious, and healthy too, gourmet meals. Thanks again! We hope David realizes how great he has it.
Then it was time to play a gamebefore helping to clean up.
This is Elizabeth rescuing David from the "Great Freezer Avalanche" that occurred as he tried to put something back in. One of our first "discretionary" purchases was a freezer for the garage; I wouldn't be surprised if that's one of theirs as well. Of course, you need a garage first, so it might take them ten years like it did us. Oh well, making sacrifices provides great stories for the grandkids.