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 😊
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!
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 ✌️
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.
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 😂 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)!
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?!
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.
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.
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)!
*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!
We are playing “the minimalists” “minsgame” for the 4th time this month. Our family has been minimizing our possessions for about 3 years now (we didn’t always document what we donated, trashed or sold – this same amount or more has been given away in addition to what you see in the photos). What’s shocking is anything that’s given away NOW has remained thus far; which just goes to show that we still have things that we do not find value in that others may, which is why we are playing another round!
Connor has been our biggest inspiration on this journey. We did not practice minimalism when he was born or during infancy (although we know it would have made our postpartum time more peaceful)! We started donating items when he was around 1 but we got really serious about it when he was 3, which we felt was a crucial time in his development. Kids repeatedly ask for things, or to go shopping at OUR favorite stores when they see us constantly consuming; that’s not something we want to teach him. We are raising Connor to value time spent with loved ones, having experiences vs buying things and giving back as priorities. In our materialistic world, this starts with us leading by example.
When we began donating items, we simply explained why and he has given away many things as well. Once he gave his best friend his tricycle he was no longer using. He also tried to give him the jacket off his back which was very sweet but we had to explain how it was still adding value to his life by keeping him warm and dry!
We follow a “one in/one out” rule with anything new that comes into our lives and into our home. Connor’s toys are open ended which allow for more imaginative play. Besides riding his bike and exploring outside (of course) he enjoys renting and reading new books from the library, building new Lego creations and playing with whatever he can find in the fenced backyard.
Through the simple process of getting rid of things we no longer use, we have been able to live with more intention in our day to day lives. We have more peace, more time to spend with Connor and less stress worrying over “things” that don’t matter at all. One year ago, Heather was able to return to volunteering in a hospice house for the homeless on days Jerry is home from work to stay with Connor. She will be able to increase her time volunteering as Connor spends more time in school. We involve Connor in giving back in simple ways now and look forward to involving him more as he grows.
Living a more mindful, intentional and simple life continues to benefit us all. There has never been a moment when we’ve said “you know what, we want to go back to our old ways of aimlessly spending money that we didn’t actually have” or “boy, I sure do miss constantly picking up stuff all over the house all the time.” We shared our story here so that others who are interested in this lifestyle may find the same peace in living simply, too and in doing so, find more resources to do whatever you value most.
“Minimalism is applicable to anyone. Anyone with an open mind that is.” – The Minimalists
In October 2016, a few months after Connor turned 3, we decided to give tent camping another go – this time closer to home. We chose willow lake, up big cottonwood canyon because it wasn’t too far from our house (JUST in case we needed to leave again). The hike was just under a mile so we packed everything with us we would need in our packs and set off! The hike was easy and the views were gorgeous, especially with the leaves changing colors.
Connor was SO excited and interested in everything we were doing. He loved the seesaw, making a fire to have s’mores for the first time ever (something every child never forgets)! When we went to sleep he was as snug as a bug in a rug (but momma’s nose was freezing all night)!
This overnight trip was definitely a success and one we would recommend to anyone (except dogs are not allowed up big cottonwood canyon which is a bummer – but for good reason since it’s a watershed). Connor talked about this experience for a very long time. The spring/summer Connor turned 4, he turned into an old camping pro and it’s all second nature to him now.
In September 2015, a few months after Connor turned 2, we decided to try and tent camp for the first time. He loved rocks at the time (still does) so we thought Capitol Reef National Park in south central Utah would be a good choice. It’s about 3 hours from us so it was a doable car trip at that age, although it was still difficult (he’s an explorer – he doesn’t like to be contained for long)!
We chose a place to set up camp and everything was going well; he enjoyed playing with his 2 trucks he brought, he “helped” Jerry set up the tent, we made a fire and cooked in the cast iron skillet we brought. When it started to get really dark out there is when the trouble started. Poor Connor didn’t know what to do with himself besides repeating that we needed to go home because it was dark! He started to lose it and we couldn’t calm him down. We didn’t want to keep other campers near us awake or wake them up so we packed up and headed home.
We were a little disappointed but we were also laughing about it because we had been teaching him at home when it’s dark, we have to go inside for the night!! So we chalked it up to the experience of what it was and decided the next time we camped it would be a little closer to home….just in case. Luckily, our second time camping was a HUGE success and has been since. We’ll share more of that in our next post 😊
Our family is passionate about living a simple, intentional life with less stuff and more of what matters; the things that cannot be bought. We value spending time together and focus on encouraging Connor’s love for the outdoors.
From the time Connor started walking at 7 1/2 months, he would ask in his own ways to be outside (at that young of an age, this meant being near the door and making sounds and motions until we all went outside). When he was an infant, we naturally spent a lot of time outside to help calm him down; fresh air and a nice breeze along with movement in a baby carrier always seemed to do the trick. Or maybe he inherited his love of nature from Jerry, who is always on the hunt for the next big and exciting backpacking/camping trip. Whatever the reason – we couldn’t be happier that Connor enjoys being outside more than in, that he loves exploring new places and is always up for a new adventure.
We moved from Lexington, Kentucky to a suburb outside of Salt Lake City, Utah when he was 13 months old. We knew that Utah would be a wonderful place to raise Connor with endless opportunities in nature to discover. We have been here for a little over 3 years and while we’ve done a lot, it feels like we’ve barely scratched the surface!
We are excited to share all of our adventures here. Until next time, you will find us in our natural state; wake.explore.repeat!