Washington On The Brazos

We took the kiddos on an impromptu trip to Washington On the Brazos last Friday. Thursday was Texas Independance Day, but hubs was working. So we took them the next day 🙂 We had been meaning to take them for quite some time as it is a pretty local park. I was really excited as I remeber going there when I was not much older than my son. It is one of the very few memories I have from that age. I loved it so much. And taking my kids here was a huge deal for me!

The park was EMPTY. Which is usually why we opt for weekday trips when we can. They were in the process of setting up the big celebration and reenactment for the weekend, which sadly we couldn’t make. The first stop was the gift shop to get our post card. We get a post card at every park that we go to. I just like them. Then we headed to the living history farm. Here there are costumed staff working the farm. This is the home site of Anson Jones, the last president of Texas. We looked through the house and kitchen and garden. It’s always fun to watch the kids see the difference in how we live now versus how people used to live. Then we headed to the barn. Which is what the kids were dying to see.

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There were two bulls, chickens, and two pigs The kids even got to help collect eggs, which they always love doing. They got to talk with the gentleman there about all kinds of tools, many of which they already knew about, gardening and basic living stuff. I love when they get to show off what they know. We  got to see cotton bales and they got to feel raw cotton for the first time. Which lead to a conversation about the cotton gin and who invented it and what other things he invented. Homeschooling…..always learining something. 16999062_10155190425459756_1248942068165721315_n

Isn’t this guy handsome?

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Meet the most photogenic chicken ever!

We visited Independence Hall and the former townsite. Independence Hall was a big deal for them. They enjoyed seeing where the Texas Decleration of Independce was signed. History takes on a different shape when you get to see where it happened. To stand on the spot where Independence was declared made an impact on them.

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We followed the trail down to where the reenactors where setting up camp. This is where my son got the chance of a lifetime! William learned how to shoot a canon. He found a nice old man, who is a fan of scouting, and he showed him how to use his canon.Now he is sure that we need one. Not gonna happen….

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We headed back inside and let the kids do the scavenger hunt in the visitor center. They got everything correct. Smart kids 🙂 And they learned a lot. We finished up and finally got them back in the car and headed home. But first Dadddy stopped and got them a burger, cause a burger is the perfect end to a super fun field trip!

This is the reason that I buy a state park pass every year. It gives me a perfect chance to take my kids out to learn about the world around them. More than just going for hikes. We have so many places around us where important things happened to our state and nation. I get more out of my pass than what I pay for it, not just money wise, even though it does save us a bunch, but they are getting hands on education and experiences you can’t get from books. For us a pass is wort it. We will also be renewing our national pass as well this year as we plan to hit several national parks on vacation. 🙂

Recent outings

We recently went on a quick hiking trip. We went to Colorado Bend State Park and Enchanted Rock. None of us had previously been to either of these parks. Colorado Bend had cactus every where! Much to my sons delight, he loves cacti. On the way we stopped at Natural Bridge Caverns.  We really enjoy taking the kids into the caves, they love it!

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So, that’s the natural bridge. The tours were extremely informative, great guides! Very well informed and good with kids. The tour is a little steep, but it is paced easy so that everyone can do it. This is a living cave, which means the formations are still growing. And it is wet. We got lots of cave kisses, a big deal for the kids. Unlike many of the caves that we have previously visited, this cave was quite warm. Most of the ones we have been in have been quite cold. The formations were beautiful and there were lots of pretty pools to see. And, sadly, no bats. Sigh. 🙂 However they did mention the white nose fungus problem and made sure to point people in the right direction for more information. We took two tours, the Discovery and Hidden Passages. Hidden passages is fun because you get to sit in total, absolute darkness. The kind of darkness you can’t adjust to. I have never been in such engulfing darkness. There is lots to do here, it’s almost like a mini theme park. Zip lines and adventure courses run across the park.

 

The first park we hiked was Colorado Bend. We took the Gorman Falls trail and went all the way to the water fall. Be advised, this is a strenuous trail. Mostly at the end. You have to go almost vertically down. My kids are quite adept at hiking and experience, so I was comfortable taking them, but I wouldn’t take other young kids.

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We didn’t build the cairns, but I like to photograph the ones we find. 

The trails are very nice, well maintained, well marked. Cactus is literally EVERYWHERE. It must be beautiful when it is blooming. I would highly recommend that you make sure to take plenty of water if you are hiking this in summer. A large portion of the trail has no trees, and we all know Texas is hot. So take water and some snacks, and take breaks. But the hike is worth it. The falls were beautiful. And there is a nice little place to sit and eat. You can walk up the river a bit as well. A note: there is no cell signal in the park.

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This is our companion this year: meet Vaughn.

Our last stop was Enchanted Rock. We wanted to climb a little, but we ended up just scrambling and running up and down the slopes.

We went up Summit Trail. Holy moley, it was quite steep! And windy! But not undo-able. We made it all the way to the top. The kids first “Summit” (It’s not really a mountain, but it was Summit Trail, so we gave them summit credit). After a few minutes to recover and admire the view, we descended down into Echo Canyon. We hiked into the canyon a bit and then let the kids run loose and climb the rocks. Everyone really enjoyed the rocks. We love places like Red Rock Canyon and Valley of Fire, and this is a similar landscape. Except you can boulder and scramble with more confidence after the rain since this is granite and the other parks are sandstone. So when we had used half our water we headed back and had lunch. It was really nice out,not hot, and a bit cloudy. So we took our time and ate and walked down by the stream that was nearby. A note: Summit Trail doesn’t allow pets and again there is no cell signal. Lots of kids were running up the trail as well, so it is relatively kid friendly. It is steep so make sure they take a break!  Also, we went during the week, and they were still pretty busy. The park does reach capacity on the weekends, and if they close twice, they are closed for good. So get there early and carpool if you can if you are going on the weekend!

So, that’s about it for our family trip. We did this over three days, so we didn’t get to spend tons of time in each park, but it was worth the drive!

Vacation 2016

We have just returned from our family vacation. Every year we get together with my husbands side of the family and spend a week together. This year we all met up in Arizona. We (my little tribe) had a week before the meet up to travel up there. So we made a huuuge trip of it We went to lots of National Parks, several state parks, and some fun local places. Taking my kids hiking in the beautiful, rocky, mountanious parks was incredible. We took them to Carlsbad Caverns, and walked the great room and got to do what I have waited for…we saw the bat flight. It was incredible. Such a neat thing to stop. I’ve never seen so many bats before!  Sorry, no pictures, so recording or photography of the bats allowed!

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We stopped in Roswell, NM…because, it’s what you do when you travel through NM. Then we drove through the Petrified Forest. We were able to do some hiking, but the weather was crappy. So we did find a spot where touching was allowed and took some pictures with the kids.

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Then Kaibab National forest, and too the Grand Canyon! It was sooo crowded! But we did walk the kids down to the edge and let them look into the canyon. It was something I’d always wanted to do. When we first got there, it was raining and we watched the fog raise from the canyon while we ate.  The only thing I didn’t enjoy was at the North Rim, there is ONE bathroom. Y’all….five people hiking and a huuuuuuge crowd of other people really require more than one potty. Just saying. We drove through the forest twice and never saw the buffalo they said were there..sigh. It was amazing and beautiful. 13872896_10154506904154756_334726694258987757_n13901344_10154506399964756_5845092899338813893_n13907159_10154506399959756_1267147954446600254_n

We headed off to Valley of Fire after this. This park is GORGEOUS! If you have never been…make a trip. Seriously. You won’t regret it. We took the kids way up on the rocks. They enjoy climbing. There was no rain, so the rocks were good to scramble on. They did really well and had so much fun. I love watching them be brave and go up there and feel like they can touch the sky. We spent an entire day there…hiking, climbing, finding the same visitors from our Grand Canyon trip. It was a blast. 13880404_10154509419184756_2982796328024694990_n13892065_10154509418234756_1364179991460202485_n13895354_10154509417624756_8908482893227434929_n13925080_10154509419274756_9029578526643724297_n

( a note on the pic below, I posted it on my IG. We found this in the park, however the Valley of Fire Park service request that people do NOT do this in the park!)

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The next stop is actually my favorite place on the entire planet. We went back to Red Rock Canyon. My husband took me here a little over a year ago. I love it here. My soul just feels at rest here. I took the kids to stand on my favorite place in the park. It was incredible. I took a moment to just reflect and be there. It was really hot. Which makes for really hot rocks, which are hard to scramble on. But we got a fair amount in. My oldest saw a desert fox…lucky. We hiked until we just couldn’t, then we went through the rest of the scenic drive.  I loved it. And to share it with my kids was incredible. 13892090_10154512333039756_1464041062462689689_n

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We also went to the Shelby museum, the boys LOOOVED it. My son was over the moon to see all those fancy cars. We finally headed to the house where we were staying with our family. It was super to see everyone again. We went hiking at some of the local parks, Pinnacle Peak, and Camelback Mountain. That was a tough hike, rated extremely difficult. We took six kids, three adults up. Made it just shy of the top when a few kids ran out of water. Still worth it. We went to a Ghost town ( GoldField) , rode the train and had ice cream. It was a really neat stop. We got to see a working gold mine shaft.  Went to a local train museum, twice, and rode the train twice. WHOOHOO. And then…Out of Africa. The whole family got together and caravaned down there.  We got to hold a GIANT snake. Reticulated python. She was so pretty! All of my kiddos got to hold or pet her. We saw tigers play in the water, lions hanging out on top of their houses, a bear (my son is a bear cub, so that was a big deal for him) .

So that is the bulk of our trip…. It was a great time.  The kids took all the Jr. Rangers programs at the parks. They enjoyed that very much. I am so proud of them for getting it done.  I hope that you enjoyed reading about our trip. I seriously encourage you to plan a trip to your local parks on your next trip.

Easter

Easter has come and gone. We were pretty busy. Up at 5, at church by 7, working at 8. The makeup came out really great. Phil came to help me when he got off of work. It was most appreciated. I needed a second set of hands! We had basic face makeup to do, lots of eyebrows to fill, and several bruised, bloody and beaten faces to create. All in all it turned out really well. The play was fantastic, what i could see of it. Being back stage was a very different experience for me. I have never done it before, and wasn’t sure what to expect.I couldn’t hear anything. At all. Which made the last part of my job a little difficult, but we got it done on time. But I really enjoyed working backstage. It was really neat to see my work going on stage and contributing to what we were putting out there.

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Barabbas, me, and Jesus. 

Afterwards, we changed, packed up the kids and went for a hike. It was a nice day out so we went for it. The park was pretty full by the lake, but the trails were pretty empty. We are trying to take any opportunity to hike and prepare the kids for vacation.  And we enjoy it. It’s family time for us. The kids were thrilled because the nature center was open, and they got to look at the animals in the tanks.  We hiked a short trail, and then half of a longer one. It was a little wet, and the trails in this park are pretty rooty. But they did great, they usually do. IMG_20160327_131353333

I’m not sure….but this is us.

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The deadfall, my kids favorite thing they saw on this hike. 

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We have taught the kids to hike in a single file line, usually hubby is in the front and I am in the back. They are all used to carrying their own bags and water bottles. I keep a packing list in each bag, and they have to check it before we go hiking. This time I did, because we decided the night before while the kids were sleeping that we would go. But generally, they are learning to be in charge of their own gear. Our next hike we will be adding their camelbaks into their packs so they get used to the added weight.

When we finished our hike, we drove down to see the lake and then headed home. Hubby stopped and got us some burgers. Cause he is awesome. It was a fantastic day. I can’t wait to go hiking again 🙂

First vertical experience.

We took our kiddos on their first rock climbing adventure this week. It was a blast. Hubby and I have climbed several times, enough to have bought our own gear. Cause I hate sharing shoes. It’s gross, and some people climb with no socks…no thanks! Any way, we had some free passes to Stone Moves in Cypress, Texas so we packed up the kids and made a day of it. We spent a fair amount of time at REI first..getting our kids acquainted with various hiking and climbing gear, trying shoes and harnesses on them.  It was fun, they loved it. When the gym finally opened, we were ready to go. The kids took the auto belay class and were ready to go. We started them with some boldering, and unclipped climbing. They had a line across the gym that they could climb under with no belay devices.

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Getting used to the wall. This actually became one of their favorite parts of the day.

After doing that, we practiced clipping in and falling off the wall. Auto belay is a little unnerving if you aren’t used to it. Some gyms you fall really fast and it’s scary. This gym had a nice descent pace. 🙂 Then we let them climb. And did they ever! We couldn’t keep them down! When they didn’t go up in the rope, they boldered and free climbed. They were really quite natural at it. Like they were made to go up.

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My oldest going up! She is very tall, and it was really helpful. She also is very logical and learned how to read the walls pretty well. 

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Little man was a beast! He climbed every auto belay wall! Most of them more than 3 times!

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My middle child is a gymnast, and heights don’t really bother her and she is quite strong. She climbed several of the hard walls more than once.

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Just hanging out….

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My two best guys, hanging out at the top of a wall..

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They did surprisingly well, especially for first timers. I was so impressed. And they loved it! It was so amazing, and a little scary, to see my kids just go up those walls, almost unafraid. I was so blessed to see that they had so embraced an activity that my husband and I love, and that can open so much of the world up to them. We are planning to climb in one of the parks in Nevada soon, and I am so excited to share that with my kids. There is just nothing like going up in the rocks and how you see the world from there.  The end goal of this trip was to teach them basic skills for part of our family vacation. To get them comfortable with climbing and how to work the gear. How to put on a harness and clip in properly, to not be afraid to fall when on a rope. We are now searching for the best safety gear and shoes we can afford for them. And teaching them about ropes, and knots, and going beyond just basic hiking and into some survival skills. This trip was a preparation step.  It’s such an incredible thing for me. I love sharing this with my kids, and for them to finally be old enough to really get it, and be ready to go and do these things with us.

Here’s to the outdoors, and teaching our kids to love it, and survive it!

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Meet our 2016 travel buddy! He goes on trips and outting with us and we take pictures of him. He also tends to photobomb our family pictures…keep an eye out!