Travel

We survived our first family road trip to the Sierra Nevada!

Connor always hated the car seat as an infant and young toddler. Jerry and I would always joke that when we could take a true road trip (longer than our usual 4 hours to the desert to camp) we would have “made it” as far as thriving and not just surviving (insert our humor for our once high needs infant, now strong willed little kid).

We decided we would drive overnight for 12 hours to the Sierra Nevada and stay near the Sequoia National Forest one night, then drive a couple hours and stay just outside of Yosemite National Park. It was too cold to overnight camp comfortably in either place in early May, so we stayed in a hotel one night and then in a lodge outside of the park for three nights. While this was more expensive than our fairly inexpensive camping trips, it was definitely worth it for the experiences we had together that week on our first official road trip as a full family (Moonshine included of course)!

Our favorite spot to see giant redwoods up close and personal was on the Trail of 100 Giants in the Sequoia National Forest. This was our first stop after 12 hours of driving and what Connor got to wake up to; what a lucky kiddo!!! *photos below

We also visited the largest tree in the world, General Sherman which is protected in Sequoia National Park. While it is quite impressive and a must see if you’re in the area, we enjoyed being able to climb in and out of the redwoods on the trail of 100 Giants. *Photo below

After we saw all the redwoods, the next day we headed to Yosemite National Park. *Even if you’re staying right outside the park in a lodge (we stayed at Tenaya Lodge), it will take a good hour plus to drive in to the most popular hikes. So that’s two plus hours of driving just to get in and out of the hike plus the time you’ll be in the park. A few trails were dog friendly so we brought Moonshine when we could; otherwise he had to stay behind at the lodge. This is something to always be mindful of when traveling with a dog anyways but especially to national parks.

In Yosemite, we started with the Bridalveil fall trail while it was a little touristy, it was a short nice walk to experience the mist off the fall. *photos below

The next trail we did was lower Yosemite falls trail

And then we had a picnic with our jetboil cooker and our favorite dehydrated food from Outdoor herbivore the cooker and these meals have been a lifesaver for us because they’re convenient and wholesome for people who need to eat a lot and often (insert momma who is a foodie and Connor who is 4) πŸ˜‚

The next day we began with our favorite hike in Yosemite, Vernal falls via the mist trail the bridalviel fall trail mist was like a weak spray bottle compared to the mist we got at vernal! And the terrain could be difficult for many but Connor absolutely rocked it! The “steps” were steep rocks and they were soaking wet from the mist. The waterfall was absolutely gorgeous and relaxing at the top was icing on the cake. This was our favorite day in Yosemite. *we originally hoped to do the second waterfall but doing 3-4 miles total to the first and back was plenty with a 4 year old. The next time we visit when Connor is a little older, we hope to do the full 7 miles.

https://wakeexplorerepeat.files.wordpress.com/2018/05/img_0356-1.mov

On our last day going into Yosemite, we did half of the Upper Yosemite falls . This was the ultimate stairmaster and was very hot and dry. Jerry carried Connor and we powered through!

The drive home was long and difficult (we left at 10am and got home at 4am – in hindsight, maybe we should have hung around most of the day and driven back overnight while he slept but we were exhausted and wanted to get going….plus we got to sleep 6 hours this way once we got in)! πŸ™Œ

The best thing about taking this trip is other than our lodging being booked and having a rough itinerary of what we wanted to do in the forest and park, we totally played everything else by ear. If we saw food we wanted to eat, we stopped and ate. If we needed to make a pit stop, we found a place and stopped. We really lived in the moment together that week and that was worth its weight in gold! We know we can road trip with Connor and Moonshine now and we are planning more fun upcoming trips!

Battle Creek Falls Trail · Camping · Day hikes · Uncategorized

Battle Creek Falls Trail overnight camp

We kicked off our family camping season at the end of April with an overnight camp up Battle Creek Falls Trail in Pleasant Grove, Utah.

Jerry found us an awesome hidden spot to set up camp about 2 1/2 miles up.

The coolest thing about this trip was an encounter with what we now know was a ruffed grouse. When we first set up camp, I thought there was a bug in my ear! I felt this low sound deep in my ear and I had no idea what it could be! And the the boys started feeling it, too. A little later about 20 yards from our tent, I saw something flutter in the distance on a log when I also heard the sound. Could it be a bird?! We all set forth to investigate. It was so still, at first Jerry didn’t believe me there was actually a bird on a log. Moonshine chased him up into a tree and it took us a few minutes to find him again because he was camouflaged so well. He continued to flap his wings and make this sound throughout the entire night (it didn’t keep us up, we just heard it when we were awake). They have a low vibrating sound that sounds almost like an engine trying to start up hot can’t. You can really feel it, not just “hear” it which was so awesome to experience as a family! Ruffed grouse

We are looking forward to LOTS of adventures this spring, summer and fall. Thanks for always planning everything out, sweets!!! We love you!!

Travel

An epic xphiles fangirl trip to Vancouver, B.C.Β 

Cate’s Park

I have been a long time fan of the famous long running show, The X-Files, since I was a little girl. I didn’t understand much at 7 when it came out (but I still enjoyed it and watched it religiously with my family and best friend’s family) and then I rewatched the earlier shows again when I was an early teen on VHS (anyone remember those days)?! The X-Files has been a lifelong constant love (and sometimes a much needed outlet). 

Could I be any happier sitting on that same log as Mulder and Scully?!

I have been fortunate to meet many other long time fans through social media and in the last 2 years have made many trips to various comic con events and concerts (David Duchovny aka Mulder – whom in the last few years has added singer/songwriter to his long list of creative accomplishments).

My Airbnb friends and I wearing the same shirt David wore at his concert in Vancouver – we were pretty proud of this souvenir shop find!

I’ve seen David Duchovny in concert 3 times and I’ve seen him at 1 comic con and 1 wizard world convention. I didn’t start fangirl traveling until way late (since I’ve been a fan since a child) but honestly that makes me appreciate the experiences that much more!

When David Duchovny announced he would perform an acoustic show in Vancouver, B.C. and a group of us decided to plan a trip to sightsee some famous filming locations while we were in the area.  There were about 15 of us who traveled from all over the world to sightsee together. I stayed in an Airbnb with 6 other women in a little neighborhood called Kitsalano. I loved that the area was walkable, had a Whole Foods close by and the beach was beautiful (even on a typical dreary Vancouver day). 

X marks the spot! Back to where it all began 24 years ago! Episode reenactments from the pilot. 


          Scully and Mulder’s Apartments 

The house Mulder and Scully shared for some time ❀️😒

What I look like when I am so excited to see Mulder and Scully’s house up close – while running and breaking the law πŸ™ˆ I’ll say no more!

Grouse Mountain aka “skyland mountain” from the series ie: Scully’s abduction episodes, “Duane Barry” and “Ascension.” 


Reenactment from the Season 10 premiere “My Struggle” 


                         Riverview Hospital 

Capilano Suspension Bridge (not show related but a great local tourist spot)




My favorite spot on the entire trip, hands down, was Buntzen Lake aka “Lake Okobogee” from the episode “Quagmire.” 





“Amazing laughter” at Stanley Park in English Bay



And because I’m such a foodie, here are a few recommendations of my favorite places to eat in Vancouver πŸ‘Œ


I returned from my trip so excited about taking Jerry and Connor back to Vancouver this coming fall for a long weekend. I want Connor to experience Grouse Mountain, Buntzen Lake and the Capilano Suspension Bridge. I know without a doubt those are three places he would love to explore. The weather was perfect in early October; not too cold and definitely not too hot. Luckily, Vancouver is only a 2 hour direct flight from Salt Lake City! We have been looking at our budget and really trying to make changes in our grocery bill (which is the bulk of where our money goes besides regular bills). We have already made positive changes in the last week and we are excited to save for our family trip to Vancouver this time next year! 

So there is my short summary with photos of my amazing fangirl trip in the beautiful city of Vancouver, B.C. I will continue searching for the truth no matter where I go…. 

I want to believe….the truth is out there πŸ‘½
Furry best friends

Happy 1 year to our furry best friend β€


When Minnie died we were all very sad but it wasn’t long before we knew we needed to find another furry best friend for our family. Our family didn’t feel complete without a dog in our home or to accompany us on outings and Connor just wasn’t the same kiddo without a dog. Period. We knew we needed to start looking at local rescues asap. And so we did. 

About two weeks after we lost Minnie, Moonshine, a 1 year old male border collie/Great Pyrenees, mix came into our lives from a local rescue group called rescue rovers. And he had quite the rescue story. 

Apparently Moonshine lived with his brother on a ranch in Oklahoma and when their owner died, they left the ranch together to find food. They ended up at the local vet who had seen them before and knew them, which is how we know this story in the first place. Their owner who died didn’t have any other family around. The vet worked with the local rescue there and the pups were transferred to Denver and then onto SLC to a foster family with rescue rovers (his brother was adopted around the same time as him – they were not bonded so they didn’t require them to be rescued as a pair).

We told the rescue group we wanted a dog who was friendly and loved everyone and one we could hike and camp with (of course). We were hesitant at first that Moonshine was so large (and hairy) but Jerry went to meet him first before Connor and I did and he said, “he’s definitely the one for us.” A couple days later, we all met him together and as soon as we said hello to him, he flopped down and rolled onto his back so we could pet his belly. That’s when we all knew he was perfect for us. 

Welcome to the family, Moonshine!

The first couple days at home were difficult for me. I missed Minnie a lot and I was nervous about Moonshine transitioning into our home and family. He whined a lot and wanted to be on the front porch all the time and didn’t like the fences back yard at all. Now I knew he was a watch dog and maybe he just needed to see outside, so we stayed outside a lot with him. On day 3, I had been out for a bit and came home to the 3 boys out front in our large cul de sac and Moonshine was off leash, staying with them and coming when called (if needed). Moonshine was SO excited to see me and ran straight to me. I couldn’t believe he was off leash and bonded to us all after just 3 days. And our bond with him has just continued to grow this past year. 

Moonshine’s first snow with his new family – he LOVED it!
A rare nap for Connor and Moonshine keeping watch ❀
He’s always right there ❀

I love the way he looks up to me or Jerry for reassurance when he is unsure of something. I love that he loves to hike and camp as much as we do and we never have to use a leash when we’re out there. He always stays close by and if he gets a little ahead, he runs back to check on us and let us know he’s alright. I love that he waits for permission to leave the house with us, to get up in the car or to get into the water when we hike (or the streams or lake by our house). I love his deep and loud single barks to alert us when he thinks we need it. I love his dedication to Connor, his gentle and sweet nature with him and all kids and adults he meets.  I love the way he comes to me at the end of the day and snuggles against me and on my lap. I love his loyalty and devotion to us all. Jerry and I have each had many dogs in our lives and a few together but we can both honestly say Moonshine is the cream of the crop, the best of the best. We really really lucked out with him. We are all so thankful he chose us when we met him. We look forward to many more years of adventures with him by our sides! 

 

These two – be still my ❀
Day hikes

Antelope island state park

Click here for park info
Our family has been making the hour trip to Antelope Island a handful of times a year since we moved to SLC 3 plus years ago. It’s best to come in early spring or mid fall (anytime in-between results so many bugs in the air it can be difficult to walk comfortably through them). The state park is also a great place to see antelope and bison when you can spot them!


Today Connor, Moonshine and I had quite the adventure at the island by ourselves. Our favorite spot to park at is the ladyfinger camping site. There is a soft sandy path from this parking lot down to this beach which we always enjoy. 

It’s fun to find animal prints in the sand!


While Moonshine and I take this photo….

Connor was having his own adventure!

On the way back to the car, Connor told me he had to poop RIGHT NOW! So that’s not Moonshine’s poop I’m holding but it is in his poop bags πŸ˜‚ Connor kept saying he didn’t have to bring his toilet seat when we camp now and he could squat outside like us (yay – finally – no more strapping that huge toilet seat to our pack)! 


See what I mean? Hilarious!


When we finally made our way back to the car, I threw our coats in the car, my backpack and apparently my keys, too. I accidentally locked us out without realizing it! I stopped a passerby and asked to use their phone then called Jerry to tell him we needed help. Connor, Moonshine and I sat on the cold ground for about 1 hour plus until he arrived to help us out. In the whole time, no one passing ever asked us if we needed help (which was a good lesson for me to teach Connor about being observant and asking people if they need help if they look like they may). 

So there we have it – a funny adventure and a somewhat scary one (being stranded is always a little nerve-wracking) all in one outing! And I cannot believe Connor is over 4 years old and this is the first time I’ve locked us out of the car! Things just always feel a little more hectic with a kiddo and a dog in tow, ya know?! 

One of my favorite photos at the island when Connor was a little over 3 years old.

One more from a year ago….the shirt sure fits today’s experience and lesson, doesn’t it?

Day hikes

Fifth water hot spring trail – a must see and experience!

Look at the color of this water 😍


Trail info and directions – click here

In September, the boys did an overnight camp at this location in Spanish Fork, Utah and raved about how much they loved it. 

So a few days ago, I returned with them for the 5 mile out and back hike and we enjoyed a dip in the hot springs while our dog, Moonshine, kept watch. And then 4 days later I took Connor and Moonshine by myself because we loved it so much we had to go back again!

It’s a relatively easy hike (Connor let us wear him in our Tula most of the hike so we made good time) and the colors of the leaves are gorgeous this time of year. There were enough spots easily accessible for Moonshine to take a dip in the water himself which we always appreciate. We were able to filter our own water as well. Connor loves to help Jerry filter water and I am amazed that by 4 years old, he already understands the dos and don’ts and how to of filtering his own water! 

*This is a popular location so we recommend getting there as early as possible to get the best spots in the hot springs and to get a parking spot of course. 


Furry best friends

Memories of our late sweet Mins a year later

This coming Friday (on Jerry’s birthday unfortunately 10-13), marks 1 year since we made the difficult decision to put our precious Minnie (our 13 year old Pomeranian) to sleep after a short and sudden decline. 

Snuggling up with momma to stay warm; taken shortly before she got sick near the end

We had taken her to the vet 3 times in 5 days and I finally insisted on an X-ray and before the vet could even tell me what was wrong, I knew it. She had growths that had spread everywhere and that explained her not drinking, eating and throwing up when I had tried to make her something special (chicken broth and eggs). Connor was with me at the vet and he was only 3 and a few months old at the time. I openly displayed my emotions and told him the truth. Even if he did not fully accept what was going on, we are still thankful we involved him in the entire process. 
Saying goodbye on her last day home

The vet gave her a shot to make her comfortable because it was clear she was in distress and he asked me what I wanted to do. And here comes the difficult and controversial part – do we keep her comfortable at home until she does pass or do we humanely help ease her suffering? 

Having worked as a hospice social worker before becoming a stay at home parent, the decision was easy for me (and Jerry). While I believe in comfort and being pain free at end of life, I also believe physician assisted suicide should also be legal in every state for whomever is able to make that decision for themselves. Jerry and I decided we didn’t want her to suffer and maybe there was a little selfishness involved; we couldn’t give her the time and attention we would want to at the end because we still had to be fully present with Connor, too. 

We don’t regret doing what we did because we were all there together when it happened, surrounding her and I was kissing and petting her as she drifted off to sleep. 

Our last car ride together

In the last year we have talked about her often; sharing memories with Connor every time he says he misses her. We have really kept her memory very much alive and I think that’s the best thing you can do with anyone you love who passes – keep them close and never stop thinking about them or talking about them. 

I love he way he’s looking at Minnie here; he really did and still does adore her ❀

When Jerry and I met, I had a male Pomeranian, Max (3) I had recently rescued (bless his heart – he was an aggressive territorial little guy who always peed in the house no matter what we did. But if it wasn’t for him barking at Jerry when he was walking his roommate’s dog, we would have never met)! Jerry and I had been together 6 months when we decided to look for another dog. My stepdad knew someone who knew someone who needed to re-home a 2 year old female Pom. We briefly talked on the phone with the family who was fostering her until they could find her forever home. We saw one photo (she looked like an adorable tiny red fox) and we decided we definitely wanted to add her to our family. Jerry drove from Kentucky to Ohio to get her and he brought her home to us. Everyday thereafter, we would worship Mrs. Minnie Minkins aka Skinsy Minsy. 

Jerry said that was the last time Minnie ever wanted anything to do with him once she met me (this was the car ride from when he went to go pick her up)

Jerry and I have so many hilarious stories about Minnie. Like how we used to sneak her into hotels in suitcases so she could stay with us (we thought she was too much of a princess to put in a kennel when we would put our other two dogs together in one – Max and we had adopted an 8 year old husky, Chloe…both passed some time before Connor was born). But anyhow, we also had our own “Minnie language” and “mins” words we made up. “Minslarious…(hilarious)….”riminsulous” (ridiculous) 
When Jerry and I finished school and I got a job in Eastern Kentucky, we were all separated Monday-Friday for 4 months until Jerry and our other two dogs moved to be with us. Minnie kept me company during the week and on the 2 hour drive back and forth. I rented a little above garage 1 bedroom apartment during that time and I knew she was the only one who could hold her bladder if needed (with me being on the road in and out of people’s homes and facilities I really never knew what hours I would keep). All I did those 4 months was work and go back home on the weekends and I was always so thankful she was always by my side during that transition. 

Taken after grad school graduation – she really was the light of my life at that time ❀
Apparently I like to hold my babies up and kiss them πŸ˜‚
 

Our most favorite joint Minnie memory pre-Connor is every time she would finally decide to crawl out from the bed (her hiding space) and grace us with her prescience, we would sing, “there she is….Miss Aminsica” (there she is, miss America!” 

An afternoon snuggle shortly before Connor was born!
Checking out her little snoozing brother
Puppy and baby kisses!
Connor started walking at 7 1/2 months and by 10 months he was insistent on walking Minnie ❀

Minnie always tolerated Connor very well but we can’t say she ever truly cared to be messed much with by him! Connor loved to bring her in the bike trailer with him and she did really well with it; only one time did she actually jump out and take off (Jerry said he had never seen her run faster than that time)! He also liked her to be inside other items with him: the wagon, laundry baskets, boxes…you name it, he probably tried it! 

This was taken shortly after we moved to Utah when Connor was around 13 months old; the wagon was the first thing he insisted on putting her in with him πŸ˜‚
The infamous stroller/bike trailer conversion that we toted both of these guys around for 2 years.
Where’s Connor?

I really treasured the last few years of Minnie’s life. They were the most difficult for me post-partum but I also cherished a the times she snuggles up with us while Connor was breastfeeding. 

Close to Christmas when Connor was 18 months old
Snuggles and milky – Connor was close to 3 here

We will always love and miss you, sweet Mins ❀

She rests on the small table next to Connor’s bed ❀
Camping

An impromptu car camp at an unexpected place – May 2017Β 

Sometimes you get in the car and you have a concrete plan. Other times, you just pack up your gear and go. This trip was one of those times. We headed towards Vernal, Utah and we checked out a couple places we thought would work out but they weren’t kid/dog friendly (who wants to set up camp where people left shell casings and broken beer bottles everywhere)?! 

Luckily, we had seen a KOA campsite in town. We all discussed it and agreed it wasn’t the camping we had it mind but we were 3 hours from home and we set out to tent camp for the night and that’s what we were still going to do! 

The campsite was VERY kid friendly. There was so much for Connor to explore before we set up our tents, made dinner and called it a night. 

Two tents for 4 – momma by herself and the 3 boys in the other πŸ˜‚
Connor’s first time playing putt putt!
Even momma enjoyed herself!
Trying this new bike out!
Of course we were awake to enjoy the sunrise!
Connor wanted to stop and fish on the way home. We knew it wasn’t a good place to actually catch anything but the experience trying and being in nature is all that matters!
Moonshine loved a chance to get in the water!

The lesson learned from this trip is that you can always find something to do, even if it wasn’t the original plan; you just have to be open to new experiences and making the best of what you have available. 

Camping

Capitol Reef in May 2017: revisiting our first camping failureΒ 


As warmer weather approached and spring was in the air, Connor was excited to go camping again. Riding high off the successful adventure in Goblin Valley, we decided to give Capitol Reef another try. We found the same camping spot we had before and then did one better. We followed a small trail in the back of the camping area and went a couple hundred feet up into the mountains and found some terrific and secluded places to camp. We chased lizards, played on rocks, practiced climbing mountains (Connor wanted practice so when he’s older he can do it for real), ate s’mores and enjoyed a cozy night of sleep. 

The next day we went on a few small hikes in the park and looked for….scorpions and tarantulas of course! Unfortunately for Connor (and fortunately for us) we struck out on those two cheaters but still had a wonderful time looking at all the caterpillars that had recently hatched. 

We love camping in the desert for a number of reasons but none more so than it adds months to our camping calendar since it’s warmer there longer. 

Camping

Goblin Valley – April 2018

Connor taking in the beautiful scenery

Connor exploring – doing what he does best!

Connor had been asking to go camping where he could find scorpions and tarantulas. It was early spring, so the desert seemed like a great place to visit, but Jerry was still nervous about driving that far and Connor possibly not wanting to stay overnight. Jerry decided to throw caution to the wind and just go for it. He decided on goblin valley because it’s great for kids and was only about 4 hours from our home. Connor absolutely loved it! They explored for about 1 hour and then found a great campsite just a few miles outside the park to set up camp. After setting up camp, they went back to goblin valley to find lizards, beetles, a cave, beautiful scenery and of course goblin like features rising from the desert floor. They did not find any scorpions or tarantulas unfortunately (or fortunately depending on one’s tastes). The night went really well, Connor absolutely loved it and they returned home to tell Momma and Moonshine all about it (with Connor declaring he was a camping kiddo at this point)! 

Another successful overnight trip in the books!

*We decided since it was the desert and it would be warm with no water features for Moonshine to swim in, he would stay home with Heather. He doesn’t do well when it’s warm and he doesn’t have access to at least a stream of water to cool off in. We have had him almost 1 year and have never left him as a family. We have found out from experience that he has separation anxiety from Connor after a couple days time so we’re holding off leaving him as long as possible!

Best friends ❀️