Camping · Day hikes · Uncategorized

This summer is flying by!

It’s hard to believe we’re already in the second week of August. Connor starts Kindergarten on the 30th. It’s only 2 1/2 hours long but we are very aware of how back to school time means our adventure schedule will slightly change. Thankfully, we have been doing so much this spring and summer we may welcome school for a tiny bit of a break!

Jerry started the month off by doing a solo 17 mile dayhike, Dunanda Falls, in Yellowstone. It was a hike he had wanted to do for about 10 years and he finally checked that off his bucket list. He said it was a fairly flat and easy hike (and of course he loved the waterfall and backcountry hot spring he found).

Dunada Falls

A few days after that, the boys headed to camp at Wall Lake for a night.

Connor and Moonshine each at Wall Lake

While the boys were gone, I did two separate solo hikes. While I love hiking with the family, sometimes it’s nice to just have a little self care and be alone!

Catherine’s Pass near Alta ski resort

Willow Heights up Big Cottonwood Canyon in Utah

Once we were all home again, we enjoyed a good nights sleep in our own comfy beds and then packed up to head out for an overnight at one of our favorite places in Utah, Fifth Water Hot Springs . We tell everyone we know about this hike. It’s a must visit if you’re ever in Utah! This time we were lucky enough to see free range cattle on the trail and the water in the cool morning was just perfection.

Fifth Water Hot Springs in Spanish Fork, Utah

We are all getting pumped about our first family backpacking trip to the Wind River Range that’s coming up in about 10 days. It’ll be our longest backpacking trip yet! It’ll be really nice to spend all that quality time together right before Connor starts school. There is something extra special about this time in our lives. We’ve gotten to do a lot of hiking this summer but we are realistic that Jerry won’t be able to carry Connor forever on his shoulders when he gets tired and our adventures may slow down a bit the next few years until he can walk long distances on his own.

Day hikes

Cecret Lake (and our top secrets to hiking with a little one)!

This is one of our favorite local hikes to do once a summer/fall. We don’t go up Little Cottonwood Canyon more than that because it’s a watershed and we can’t bring Moonshine along. The wildflowers are beautiful this time of year. Also, you will see people of ALL ages on this trail so that tells me it’s relatively “easy” with a 1 mile hike up and 1 mile hike back down. Although, I will admit that when we first started hiking, this trail felt difficult to me. But as a more experienced hiker now, it feels like a walk to the mailbox ๐Ÿ˜‚ which makes me happy because progress is always good!! >>>>>>>> Trail info here

Anyone who has ever hiked with a little one (or two or three) or hiked next to them on a trail knows it can be mentally exhausting to say the least. But you can do a little preparation and save yourself a little trouble! Here are our top tips for hiking with a little one (or more):

* Know before you go! Check out the all trails app and read other hiker’s latest comments before you get on the trail. This will save you a lot of trouble if you need to bring something extra for mosquitos or pay to park etc.

*Wear appropriate gear (especially footwear)! It’s really irritating to hear caregivers continuously saying on the trail, “don’t get your feet wet! Don’t get your feet dirty! If kids have appropriate hiking shoes, which helps protect their feet and little bodies, getting wet and dirty won’t be an issue (it’s part of the experience)!!!!

* Pack enough snacks. And then pack some more and maybe more after that ๐Ÿ˜‚ if your hiker is anything like Connor, they’ll want to be eat before, during, during, during and after. Basically he eats nonstop. Ya feel me? *not pulling my hair out, just handing him another snack*

*Bring enough water or bring a filter if that’s part of your plan (we always make sure to drink a lot in the car before even starting)!

*Think about facilities…if your child may need to do some big business out there, bring TP, wipes, bags etc.

*If you don’t babywear, plan to give piggyback or shoulder rides if necessary.

*Encourage them to look for wildlife on the trail! This is always a hit!

*Remember that difficult journeys always lead to beautiful destinations! This is one that Connor is starting to understand well; he knows that it may be tough but it’s always worth it!

*Start them young and make it a priority! The more they experience regularly when they’re young, the more they’ll enjoy it as they age!

*Be excited! It’s contagious! When you’re excited, they will be too!

*Lower your expectations and have FUN!!!!!!!! When Connor was much younger, just being out there was enough. If we didn’t get to the final destination, oh well!!!

What are your top tips for hiking with little ones? We would love to hear them!

Camping · Day hikes · family

Silver Lake in American Fork, Utah (and how I finally learned to get out of my comfort zone)!

I haven’t always liked the wilderness. It’s true. I won’t deny it. Jerry and I have been together for 12 years and in the beginning of our relationship I went along with small hikes we had available to us when we were living in Kentucky at the time because he enjoyed it and I wanted to spend time with him and his interests. Jerry even went on quite a few 1-2 week long backpacking trips without me over the years and I had absolutely no interest in going with him.

It really wasn’t until Connor was born and we moved cross country to Utah that I started hiking more (as a family and at times by myself). And it wasn’t until this past spring that I vowed I would be much more involved because I love seeing him in his natural element and I hate missing out. Plus, Moonshine gives us a huge incentive to be outdoors, too.

Connor and Moonshine at Silver Lake last summer

Me on that same trip – my first time actually backpacking to camp!

Last summer when Connor turned 4, the boys went on a lot of camping trips and I only went on a couple with them. Connor had just self-weaned and my hormones were all out of whack so I kept fighting going, just feeling a general melancholy and wanting to stay home and be by myself. But I was missing out and I was feeling that disconnect too and I didn’t like that one bit. But how was I going to fix what was I was missing out on? Surely, it didn’t need to be as difficult as I was making it out to be.

On our overnight backpacking camp to one of our favorite local places last night, Silver Lake up American Fork Canyon, I had a huge realization that it’s really ironic that the very thing I was avoiding last year (and previously), would be the very same thing that actually brings me peace and more happiness? All I had to do was get out of my comfort zone and just camp. The world would not end if I was super sweaty and gross and didn’t get to have my normal evening bedtime routine. I could shower when I got home (and learn how to use biodegradable soap on the trip). If I didn’t sleep that well camping, I would sleep well again when we were back home. All of these “ifs” I was using as lame excuses became insignificant with the more adventures we had because they bring me true joy. This is pure happiness that has to be experienced firsthand. I am so thankful for my 3 boys who have put up with me to get to this point ๐Ÿ˜Š

Jerry and I really want to bring friends along backpacking and camping who are interested in partaking in our adventures while learning more about the hobby as well. That’s something we’re working on now as we speak. If you’re local to us and interested in joining us, please reach out and let us know!

Come and join us!!!

Camping · family

Backpacking in the Sawtooth National Forest

We did it! We drove 6 hours each way to Ketchum, Idaho, backpacked 18 miles in 44 hours and I still can’t believe Connor, Moonshine and I survived (Jerry is a very seasoned backpacker – having done the same hike last year in 13 hours, so I knew it would be easy for him)! Anyone who has ever done any hike or backpacking trip knows it’s mostly mental and not all physical. We were excited to be there for our first big backpacking trip together and we were determined to make it happen!

We started later in the day at Pettit Lake and the next day headed towards Alice Lake, Twin Lakes, Toxaway Lake and then on our final day hiked 8 miles out. We had packed for and planned to stay another night but the mosquitoes were really bad deep in the forest (and were driving all of us nuts) so we did all we could to enjoy our time there while simultaneously trying to get out!

Backpacking with a 5 year old is difficult to say the least but it’s always worth it. He understands the journey isn’t always easy but the end result is worth the work you put into it; and that’s what why we do what we do. He says repeatedly he loves camping and hiking with us when we’re on the trails and that means everything to us.

As always, we continue to look forward to our next adventures. We’ve spent one night at home as we finish up this post and we’re already planning to hit up another overnight tomorrow; sitting at home is just no fun! When the weather is nice and dada is off work, it’s time to hit the trails and camp!

Moonshine cooling off at Pettit Lake

Momma at Alice Lake

Hiking up to Twin Lakes

Twin Lakes from the top

The boys at Toxaway Lake

Resting for a few before we had to retreat to the tent for supper because the mosquitoes were so bad!

This tree reminded Connor of the Redwoods he climbed inside of in Yosemite earlier this summer!

One of the many streams/rivers we had to help one or both of the boys across! Moonshine was thankful for dada’s help!

Before we set up camp next to Toxaway Lake ๐Ÿ˜ does it get any better than this?!

The view we saw when we were finishing the 18 mile loop ๐Ÿ˜ we were so close but still too far! The last few miles were tough (especially the final one)!

Thank you for the memories, Sawtooth National forest!

Camping · Day hikes · family

Ibantik Lake Trail in the High Uinta Mountains

We have the wasatch front, a beautiful mountain range, just 30 minutes east of our house. On the other side of that range lies the Uinta Mountains, about a 90 minute drive. Last weekend, Momma had a nasty virus so Connor and Moonshine and I left her to rest and headed out for an overnight camp.

We chose Lake Ibantik as our final destination, a backcountry lake we felt would provide beauty and solitude. The trailhead parking lot was packed, but Connor and I weren’t worried, we figured the backcountry would be a lonely place despite the number of people hitting the trailhead. We came upon Wall Lake after 1 mile, a huge and beautiful lake that Moonshine enjoyed swimming in, but too crowded for our tastes. About a mile later we came upon a smaller lake with no people and plenty of salamanders. Connor really loved seeing them for the first time in the wild.

After playing for a bit, we continued our journey upward toward a saddle in the mountain. From the saddle you can see numerous lakes in every direction. We dropped down on the other side of the saddle and played in a snow patch for a while. Then it was a short hike to our final destination. We started a fire for s’mores (and to keep the bugs at bay). We also tried fishing but we’re still no good! We can’t wait to go back and take momma next time, and hopefully we’ll figure out how to be better fishermen by then!


Our dog friendly family trip to San Diego

We’re getting pretty good at traveling over night so we decided to take off 12 hours south to San Diego for 5 nights (3 in the city and 2 traveling). Moonshine came with us again, so it was essential that we find the dog friendly beaches we could all enjoy.

During our time in San Diego, we spent the most time in Ocean Beach (at dog beach – at lifeguard station 5). We loved the old school hippie vibe in the area. We arrived early in the morning and Connor got to wake up on his 5th birthday on the beach ๐Ÿ˜Š

It was also easy to find outdoor dog friendly restaurants everywhere in Ocean Beach which was awesome since we don’t leave Moonshine behind. We loved everywhere we ate; the list is as follows:

Ocean beach people’s organic market (a wonderful local organic market to grab anything you’re looking for; we grabbed snacks and breakfast items for our Airbnb here).

Raglan Public House (great burgers, fries, speciality drinks and an amazing cookie and ice cream skillet).

Wahoo’s fish tacos (it was rated very well on google reviews and it was decent; we wouldn’t go back the next time we visit though).

Pizza port ocean beach (amazing pizza – the sauce was tangy and sweet) and they had a wonderful cider on tap.

The baked bear (custom ice cream sandwiches to die for)!

Little Lion Cafe (an adorable breakfast spot with a large assortment of breakfast drinks and speciality meals). There were only two outdoor tables offered but we arrived right when they opened and got lucky to get a seat.

We also visited Coronado beach. It was not quite as large or as busy as dog beach. The vibe in Coronado was a little too affluent for our taste but it was a great place to visit nonetheless!

The last beach we briefly visited (only one time) was on fiesta island. While it’s dog friendly everywhere (no restrictions to this) there wasn’t a lot of real sand, no shells for Connor to find and the ground was pretty dirty overall. It was ok to visit but it was our least favorite and we wouldn’t return when we go again.

For our last night in San Diego, we left our Airbnb and went to downtown to stay one night at the Hotel Z (stay pineapple – a hip and very dog friendly establishment). It was in the Gaslamp Quarter which was a great central location that had a lot of great restaurants that were….you guessed it – dog friendly!

Barleymash had a large patio and great salads!

Rustic root was an upscale farm to table restaurant that was really good. Connor enjoyed his crab cake (and Mac and cheese with bacon)!

We’re suckers for ice cream so Cali Cream was a must try! The cookies and cream with cookie dough was amazing!

For our last breakfast in San Diego, we hit up Richard Walker’s pancake house and tried a Bavarian pancake (we had other items, too but who wants to see those over this)?!

And last but not least, on our last day, Jerry and Connor did a tour at the USS Midway Museum. It was a similar sized ship Jerry had been deployed on twice when he was in the Marines and Connor wanted to see it.

While I finish up this blog post, we’ve had one refreshing night of sleep at home again, are back to our normal cooking and eating at home and the boys are planning to camp tonight and give me a much needed break ๐Ÿ˜Šthere’s never any true downtime with Connor around unless he’s sleeping or gone with one of us; so until next time, you’ll find us encouraging Connor’s mission to wake, explore, repeat!

celebrations · family

Connor’s 5th Birthday “Party Animal” Bash

We originally planned to only take a family trip for Connor’s 5th birthday and then somehow in addition we ended up deciding to have around 30 people over to celebrate with us the week before his actual birthday. When you have a forever only child and 5 only comes once, well, to hell with trying to be conventional ๐Ÿ˜‚ We’ve only had one other party for him so far and that was on his 3rd birthday. The every other year big celebration is working well for us thus far!

We booked Scales and Tails to come to our house and they were a hit with Connor and his friends! This was the second time we’ve booked them and we were even more pleased than last time; they just do a phenomenal job teaching about the reptiles and engaging the kiddos.

We also had a handmade piรฑata, animal themed veggie and fruit platters (in addition to pizza, local spinach/strawberry salad and homemade BBQ chicken) animals on top of multiple cakes with party hats and a large helium dinosaur with a Polaroid camera for a party favor.

We all had a lot of fun (even though Connor was a little overwhelmed a couple times and we joked that’s how you know it’s a good party)! ๐Ÿ˜‚ We will definitely throw another party for him in the future. Next time around, we would love to do a hike with a handful of friends (but we realize it is hard to coordinate that with everyone and not all kiddos his age are interested or able). As he gets older, hopefully that will become more possible!

In lieu of presents, Connor asked for dog/cat food or toys for donations to the local humane society. He received many things and we delivered them a few days after his party. He was so proud to help! This is definitely something we want to continue doing in the future.

Day hikes · family

What intentional living means to us: actions equal priorities

A few weeks ago, we said forget all the things we thought we “needed” to do and did what we WANTED to do! We threw stuff in a pack, picked up Connor from morning preschool, grabbed lunch on the way and headed 1 hour away to our favorite hot spring hike for the afternoon. We hiked 5 miles in the pouring rain (and weren’t expecting that but loved every second of it) and then we soaked in the warm water under a beautiful cold snowfall. Spontaneity definitely leads to pure joy! Living in the moment while doing what we want and love to do outdoors is what intentional living means to us. A neighbor recently said to us that we take full advantage of the beauty Utah has to offer us and it’s true, we do, and that’s why we moved cross country to be here. If anything is a true priority, you’ll find a way to make it happen โœŒ๏ธ

Camping · Day hikes

Upper and Lower Calf Creek Falls in Escalante

We have wanted to camp in the Escalante National Monument area for some time and finally made it happen. It’s about 4 1/2 hours from our house and we left a little later than we hoped we would (such is road tripping life with Connor and Moonshine….and momma – I’m a little slow sometimes but I try to hurry)!

When we arrived at the Upper calf creek falls area around 5pm, it was thundering and raining pretty hard so we decided to go find a place to set up our tent and wait it out a bit.

That was a really good choice because it gave us something to do and luckily the rain didn’t hang around for long. We set up our tent and then made s’mores at Connor’s request. I think we’ve finally figured out the secret to success for Jerry getting a fire going; if we eat one s’more without the marshmallow heated (thinking he won’t get it going) and then he does, we have one…or two more! I love that he never gives up; he says no one in this family is allowed to give up (we’re all pretty strong willed)!

After our snack, we headed back to the hike and got going following the cairns and Moonshine; he is such a great leader for us on trails and we are very lucky he is so obedient off leash!

If you had no idea what you were doing on this hike, it may be easy to get lost. The terrain is a mix of rock and sandy trails. The evening hike was a perfect time of day to go – perfect temperatures as one would expect on a hike in the desert in the evening. Moonshine loved the pool at the end (and we loved watching him cool off as always)!

We made it back to the car as the sun was starting to set and then back to our tent right at sunset. There was a full moon that lit up the whole sky and we all slept as well as you do with 2 adults, 1 little kid and 1 dog crammed in a 3 person backpacking tent ๐Ÿ˜Š

At 6am, Connor sat straight up in the tent and was ready to go. If we were home he would have slept a couple more hours but when camping, he’s always up when the sun is up! Jerry packed up the tent while the rest of us warmed up in the car. We made a quick breakfast and drove to Lower Calf Creek Falls .

We were so thankful to start at 8am when there were still some chilly shaded spots. By the time we finished up the 5.5 miles nearing 1pm, it was getting pretty hot out (even though it was only in the 70’s)! There were lots of deer and lizards to see on the trail and plenty of breaks in the trail where Moonshine could access the water to cool down. And of course, the Falls were breathtaking and worth the entire trip.

Once again on this trip, we were reminded about the importance of lowering our expectations as traveling, hiking and camping with a 4 year old and dog is totally different than doing all of that alone as adults. We’re pretty realistic at this point but it always helps to remind ourselves to chill, just go with the flow and most importantly, to be proud of ourselves for even trying at all! We didn’t see a kiddo Connor’s age on either of the hikes we did on this trip!

To us, there is nothing better for him to have these experiences in nature. He always makes time to enjoy all the little things like climbing a tree, looking for treasures and insects, burning his marshmallows extra crisp, sitting in the sand to rest and looking for fish while Moonshine takes a dip. I never loved adventures quite like I do now seeing his excitement for all these little things (which are big things to him) and that is why we continue to make family outdoor adventures our top priority!


We miss and love you all the time, Mamรณ

Jerry’s mom, Bridget, died suddenly and unexpectedly this past December 14th, the day before her 69th birthday. Like with any loss, there has been a myriad of emotions with each family member. Jerry’s dad has been having the most difficult time which after spending 42 years together, you would except that to be the case.

He came to see us recently and it was a really good weekend visit. I immediately saw in him, how grieving is like living two lives; one where you pretend everything is alright and the other where one’s heart silently screams in pain. The best we can do for loved ones in this situation is to give them permission and the space to allow them to experience both sides and to be present with them whenever they need you.

While Jerry Sr. was here, we took him on two different hikes which he later said he really enjoyed. Jerry and I strongly believe that time in nature can help everyone in any situation (and while we know it’s not going to magically cure him of the difficulty he’s having), positive self care outlets are crucial to healing while grieving.

After our day hikes, in the late afternoon and evenings, I would cook for us all and clean up while Jerry and his dad had many heart to hearts about how they’re feeling and coping now without her here.

I grieve because Bridget was always so welcoming, loving and supportive (she always had been from the first time she met me almost 12 years ago). Also, she herself had a strong willed child (Jerry) and I felt like she was the only person who truly understood how Connor was as an infant and little kid because his father was very similar to him. It was comforting to hear her stories about Jerry growing up; I knew I wasn’t alone and that it will pass and he’ll be just as wonderful as his father.

I always thanked Bridget for raising Jerry to be the husband and father he is today because of the values she instilled in him at a young age. I am so grateful I was able to tell her that when I had the chances. A couple weeks before she died, we had spoken on the phone and talked about helping them as they got older if they needed it (which always surprised her when we said that). She would say, “Thank you, Heather, you don’t see too many daughter in laws who would do that!” We are just so heartbroken that we won’t get to spend more time with her but we will hold onto the memories we do have. And we will always share stories and photos with Connor so that he can remember her, too.