Just a quick update, since I have spotty Wi-Fi and absolutely no cell signal where we’re staying. In fact, we went the whole day in Capitol Reef National Park and it was liberating. We spent yesterday exploring Bryce Canyon National Park. It was spectacular, but more to come on that later. Today we hit Capitol Reef Park, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and Petrified Forest State Park. We had an exhausting day clocking in over 30,000 steps and countless miles. Tomorrow we head northeast to Canyon Lands National Park. When I have better internet and more energy, I’ll write about each of the parks.
We’ve spent the last two days exploring Zion National Park. This is the first national park we’’re visiting this week. Tomorrow we’ll head to Bryce Canyon for our second park of the tour. Zion absolutely lived up to our expectations. We will be back. When we return, we’re going to complete the Narrows and Angel’s Landing hikes. We were unable to complete the Narrows today due to weather and the risk of flash flooding.
Before you go, here are some things to consider.
- The busy season run from April to Early October. And it is busy, plan to get there early in the morning if you’re not staying in the park.
- Buy the Interagency America the Beautiful pass. For $80 ($20 for seniors, free for military,) it gives you access to all of the National Parks.
- The Zion National Park newspaper is a good resource for planning your visit.
- Watch the weather carefully. The weather will impact your ability to complete certain hikes (like the Narrows) safely.
- Get the right gear! You’ll need good hiking shoes and socks, ponchos, jackets, walking sticks, hats, sunglasses, charger for your cell phone, lots of water and snacks. We also brought bear spray, sunscreen and bug spray
- Prepare to be flexible. Your planned hikes may need to change depending on the weather conditions. We were scheduled to do the Narrows today, but couldn’t due to the rain and possibility of flash flooding.
Some of our favorite hikes:
- Emerald Pools is a moderate hike that feature three uniquely colored pools and waterfall. It’s a busy hike, so get their early.
- The Watchman trail is a 3.3 miles moderate trail up to a beautiful viewpoint of the Towers of the Virgin, Lower Zion Canyon and the town of Springdale. This was my personal favorite.
- Riverside walk is 2.2 miles and leads to the beginning of the Narrows. It is an easy, mostly paved hike. We got to the end of the Riverside walk and decided to do the beginning of the Narrows.
- Kayenta Trail is a 2 mile moderate trail that connects the Grotto trail to the Emerald Pools trail.
Animals you may see while visiting Zion (not an exhaustive list):
- Desert pronghorn sheep
- Mule deer
- North American rock squirrel
- California condor
- Gray fox
The park has a beautiful visitor centers and numerous nice restroom facilities throughout the park. There is a shuttle system that is quite efficient that takes guests up and down the canyon to the different trailheads. If you’ve never been to Zion National Park, I’d recommend adding it to your list of places to visit.
My number one priority tomorrow is getting us safely to Bryce Canyon. We’re leaving Zion and heading to our second National Park of the trip. I’m a bit nervous as Bryce has gotten some snow over the last couple of days. Nevertheless, I can’t wait to see what Bryce and the surrounding area have to offer.
Chugga chugga blue spruce was Goalielocks’ rally cry every time he saw a blue spruce during our first trip to Utah. Blue spruces had somehow become his favorite tree, so naturally, he felt the need to call our attention to every tree he spotted in the Wasatch mountains. Consequently, when I saw spruce was the word of the day it brought back great memories.
It’s funny how a word can usher in a tide of memories. Our first trip to Utah was so much. We were a motley crew hiking the Wasatch Front for the first time and making a few mistakes. I’ll never forget hiking the wrong trail in triple-digit heat with minimal shade and a big altitude gain. I tapped out before the summit. Obviously, we learned our lesson the hard way. Thou shall start with an easy hike when first hiking at over 5,000 feet above sea level in the summer heat.
After that first brutal, yet beautiful, hike each trek got successively easier. To be clear, there weren’t any really easy hikes outside of Donut Falls. The Donut Falls hike would have been a perfect first hike. Every hike was an adventure that trip and it led to a love of hiking. I found myself being at home on the dusty trails of the Wasatch mountains. I loved being immersed in the national forest deep in Big Cottonwood Canyon.
It’s funny how memories work, but I’ll take it. The word prompt spruce took me back to the Utah trips with my boys, Melly, and my folks. That first trip, in particular, will always be special to me. It was our first adventure in the mountains and the greater Salt Lake Area. It’s the trip where my boys and I discovered our love of hiking, lavender lemonade, and Goalielock’s love of blue spruce. I am hopeful the boys and I will get at least one more trip out West before Jake moves again.
The engagement photos are in and they’re absolutely perfect!!!!! Jake and Melly had their engagement photos taken yesterday by Julianna of Murano Media. (If you are local to South Florida and need photos, I’d highly recommend using Julianna’s services.). I had planned to get them photographs as an engagement plan for quite some time. Unfortunately, there were a lot of unknowns about timing that made it difficult to plan. Fortunately, Julianna came through in a pinch.
The kids met Julianna up at a nature preserve in Royal Palm. South Florida has some incredible setting for photography. This venue was no exception. For the uninitiated, the Everglades and surrounding area are exceptionally beautiful especially at sunset. Julianna blew us all away with her professionalism and efficiency. It was an awesome experience!
As of this afternoon, the engagement photos are in. They’re just incredible. I don’t think I’ll be able to pick a favorite anytime soon! Of course the photos came in while I drove back from our trip to IKEA. We spent the morning frolicking in the Swedish behemoth of a retailer getting Goalielocks ready for his move. I saw the text come in on my watch and was super anxious to get home and check them out.
Today’s accountability tracker:
They’re here!!! That’s right Jake and my folks arrived just in time for the winter solstice tomorrow. More to the point, they’re here for the holidays! I’m so excited to have all three boys gone for a Christmas. Moreover, my parents visiting is the cherry on top! My parents flew in this afternoon, while Jake and Melly drove home from FSU. He had flown to Tally first, so she wouldn’t have to drive down by herself.
The anticipation was getting to me earlier today, so I passed the time taking portraits of the dog with my phone. Truly, portrait mode in the iPhone takes some incredible pictures. Today I was playing around with the stage lighting. It produced some super cute photos. Although to be fair, the subjects themselves were super cute. Incredibly, all three of the puppies were cooperative with the photo shoot. This rarely happens!
We ended the evening with a nice family dinner at Villa Rosana in Boca. Melody and her parents were able to join us, which was fantastic. The Mayor was quick to reserve the spot next to himself for Jake. He definitely misses having his big brother home. During dinner, the boys and Melly enjoyed each other’s company with healthy dose of laughter and riposte amongst the banter. I’m looking forward to another fun day with them tomorrow!
Today’s accountability tracker:
Last night was the Mayor’s prom. He and his teammate Danny went with Danny’s sister and best friend. The Mayor was defitjeily anxious to get dressed and get to his buddy’s house to get the festivities going. He and Goalielocks both opted for the gray suit, which looked super good on both of them. He added light gold accents to match his date’s beautiful dress.
The girls weren’t ready when we first got to their house, so we had a blast taking photos of our two hockey players. They’re absolute characters. I have to say I was impressed as my boy dropped his voice and introduced himself to all of his date’s family. Albeit, it was quite amusing that he dropped his voice and octave or two. The resulting photos of the boys were absolutely incredible. There are so many great photos, I don’t know where to even start.
When the girls came down, they were absolutely stunning. Their dresses were gorgeous. Aubrey opted for a white dress with pink and rose gold accents. Her friend opted for a blue dress. After seeing all the prom pictures from this weekend, I think most girls wore blue this year. Before heading out for pictures, the boys gave the girls their corsages. Afterwards, the girls pinned on the boys boutonnières.
The Mayor was in rare form as we took pictures outside and in the limo. He may or may not have given his buddy’s grandma a shock as he did a cup check during family pictures. Perhaps the picture was the one that captured his reaction when they told him the limo had chocolate milk. As they made there way to the limo, he did the “no pictures” pose. And then they were off!
Meanwhile, we watched the Panthers game until the limo came back to take us parents to dinner. Originally, we were thinking Restoration Hardware for dinner, but they had no more sittings available. This in spite of the fact their restaurant was half empty. Consequently, we ended up eating at True Food Kitchen in Rosemary Square (formerly known as City Place.). After dinner, we we’re all fried and ready for bed. Meanwhile, the Mayor’s prom was a huge success.
State tourney day one, or should I say night one didn’t go our way. After an almost five-hour drive across Florida (including the cluster fuck that is I-4,) we finally made it to the hotel just before 5:00 pm. The drive to Wesley Chapel is always miserable. We were lucky, however, that the weather cooperates. Our hotel was allegedly fifteen minutes from the rink. That estimate of time is apparently representative of driving at midnight because it took us almost forty minutes to get to the hotel from i-75 at 4:00 pm.
While our hotel is closer to the Tampa airport than the rink, it is a great location. There are several restaurants, a beer garden, an ice cream shop, and even a liquor store, so I guess all is not lost. Consequently, we had a great dinner at Brick City. The hubby and I shared a Margherita pizza while the Mayor enjoyed some chicken parm. I loved the pizza! I’d definitely go back. After dinner, we stopped at the beer garden to enjoy some beers and ciders with some fellow hockey parents.
We finally headed to the rink around 7:30 pm. Their first opponent of the tournament was the Makos. All year, the teams have been pretty evenly matched, so it should have been a good game. Well, the first period was good. Our Hawks started the scoring with a beautiful goal in the first. They played a solid first period. However, The second period was an absolute dumpster fire. The hockey gods were not on our side after the first period last night. The squad gave up five unanswered goals in the second period as the Makos capitalized on small mistakes. They also had all the puck last night. There was no puck luck happening for the Hawks last night.
The final score was 7-1, which was obviously a disappointing start to their state tournament. Post-game, we got the Mayor some food before heading back to the hotel. Naturally, the only thing open at midnight was fast food. Unfortunately, the fast food wasn’t so fast. Once he finished eating, he took a warm shower followed by an ice bath. We finally headed to bed well after midnight. It was a long, exhausting day. We’re heading to the rink shortly for the first game of the day. Let’s hope day two of the state tourney is not as disappointing as state tourney day one.
Another milestone moment as we picked out Goalielocks’ senior pictures this evening. I can’t believe we have two kids that are now technically adults. I say, technically because of you know, you know. The whole process took an hour or two. It was long and stressful. Thankfully, his pictures turned out well, which made it difficult to pick.
In the end, we ended up with the platinum elite package or whatever the hell they call it. Senior year and high school graduation is definitely a milestone, but boy oh boy do they bilk the money out of you. All year everyone is coming at you asking for cash. Honestly, is it okay that senior pictures are now the same price as a cheap used car? Is the cap and gown really worth the price they charge? Anyway, I can’t wait to get the pictures that I’m going to pay for by selling my kidney. I’m only sort of kidding here.
Tonight we’re just chilling at the house. The Mayor was supposed to have games tomorrow, but the Makos weren’t fit to play. Naturally, the same league that wouldn’t allow Goalielocks’ team reschedule due to a lack of bodies, gladly allowed the Makos to reschedule. Our league has different rules depending on which organization you play for or are affiliated with. It’s an absolute joke. In just a few years, we’ll be done with this god forsaken league. I look forward to blowing up some of these folks in a book about our Florida hockey experience.
Yesterday morning we set off aircraft spotting just south of base in hopes of seeing the F-35s takeoff. We had narrowed it down to a window of time they usually take off, so we knew approximately when we needed to be there. Turns out we were there earlier than we needed to be, but that was okay as we ended up seeing an A-10 flying. This was the first time I’ve seen an A-10 flying out here.
Fortunately, it was a beautiful morning for aircraft spotting. The skies were clear and the temperatures were cool yet comfortable. As we waited for the aircraft to take off there was plenty of scenery to take in. To the east, we had the beautiful mountains of the Wasatch Front. To the south and west we had the Great Salt Lake, Antelope Island and the Lakeside Mountains. The mountains of the Wasatch front were covered with beautiful, fall colors.
Before we saw the F35s takeoff, we saw the A-10 come back in for landing. It was pretty far away, but I still managed to get some semi decent pictures of the bird. Finally, after waiting for a couple hours, the F35s began to take off. They’re incredibly loud even for fighter jets. It’s an impressive sound as the takeoff over you with the afterburners on.
I brought my camera and new lens as I wanted to see how it would perform taking pictures of fast moving aircraft. The camera performed way better than I did when I tried to take a video of one taking off. Overall, I was pleased with the way photos turned out with the exception of the straight on pictures. For some reason, the straight on pictures look like shadows and lack definition. I’m not sure if it was the sun or the angle of the picture. Nevertheless, it’s something I’m going to try to figure out for next time.
After aircraft spotting, we went back to the AirBnB for brunch. The Hubby made French toast, scrambled eggs and some awesome bacon. To celebrate Jake’s accomplishment we had a mimosa toast, which was fabulous. Afterwards, we played some Phase 10 and just hung out. Jake and Mel went to the mall to pick up a couple items. Once they returned, we headed to North Ogden Park for some volleyball. Spoiler alert, I’m not great at volleyball. Nonetheless, we had a great time and worked up a nice appetite.
For dinner, we made chili on Jake’s request. While I cooked, they played another rousing game of Phase 10. Meanwhile, the Hubby ran back to Smith’s to pick up the kidney beans we had forgotten the first time we were there. Speaking of that, Goalielocks dropped his Apple Watch in the parking lot when he got out of th me car. Fortunately, we’re here in Utah and someone turned it in to customer service. Thank god this happened in Utah and not back home in Florida where people are opportunistic vultures.
We called it a night early as Mel had to get to the airport around 4:30 this morning for her flight back to Florida. We had hoped that she could push it back a day, but it simply wasn’t affordable. Today we’re going to finish packing up Jake’s apartment and hopefully go for a hike. As for our meals, it will be leftovers and anything we can eat to clear the fridge.
Yesterday we took family pictures and packed up Jake some more. The 3 mile hike and rappelling down to the waterfall took a lot out of all of us. Except my hubby who went for a badass trail run up the peak of the mountain behind our house. Meanwhile, my arms, shoulder and sciatic nerve are protesting Wednesday’s activity.
Initially, I had planned on taking the photos Antelope Island. However, the haze would make it difficult to get a good pictures. Also, the hike up to Buffalo Point is more vigorous than I remembered. By the time, we’d get to the top, our finery would be covered in dirt and dust. Additionally, it would be tough for my dad to make the hike up with his bad knee.
Consequently, I decided to take the photos in the backyard of the AirBnB. It would have been nice to find a spot where we could have the brilliantly colored maples behind us, but we couldn’t think of a spot that was easily accessible. Nevertheless, the backyard is beautiful and the mountains were to the background.
Naturally, trying to take a picture of all of us takes some time and effort. The boys aren’t always compliant or cooperative when doing photo shoots. Moreover, I don’t like myself in photos, which makes it difficult to find one I like. Nonetheless, the photos turned out fairly decent. We’re going to take a few more family pictures in the AirBnB this afternoon.
After taking the photos, we headed to Jake’s to pack up more of his stuff. We’ve made quite a bit of progress this far. No we only have his bathroom, bedroom and couch to pack up. Hopefully, we’re able to knock out the remainder of the packing tomorrow morning. This way we have the rest of Saturday to hang out and have fun.
Today we’re going to go try to see some F-35s takeoff. Each morning we’ve been in Target, we’ve heard them jet overhead. Naturally, we’re going to plan to be on the south end of the run way at that time. Hopefully, I’m able to get some good pictures with my mack daddy lens.