Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Frozen winter wonderland at Calf Creek Falls

I am really not a fan of cold weather. But over this Christmas break I had such a brainy idea to try and hike to Calf Creek Falls with the boys (last time was about 5 years ago -- Harry was around 3 and JJ was 1). Now, Harry is a very good hiker -- tons of endurance and loves to be outdoors. JJ would prefer to veg with Dad and play video games, MOSTLY. But today I think the magic of the snow and orange striped canyon walls got to all of us. The hike is a little more than 6 miles and it was a pretty chilly afternoon. I wasn't sure if we'd actually make it to the falls. But I am very happy to report that not only did we make it there, we killed it on time! 3 hours and we were pretty much the only people in the park!!

The Williams Fam at Calf Creek Falls

I love this pic :)
The hike is such a great one -- I highly recommend to anyone out near Escalante or Boulder, UT. There is also another hike to UPPER calf creek falls -- equally awesome in different ways. But today we opted for the easier route. I was really surprised with how well both kids did -- minimal whining and lots of laughing.

They really loved this sign. I am still a little perplexed but .. ok.

No pooping, please!
Along the way to the falls, I remembered the last time we hiked this route. I was still a fairly new mom and was really worried about the sun and heat and babies and etc. But this time I was able to enjoy all of the sights..

JJ leads the way. In the sunny parts, there was no snow to be seen.

JJ tries to steal a kiss :)

Huge pictographs in the distance.

Look closely  --- you can see these same 3 large dudes on the mountain.
I quite love the fact that JJ still gets tired and needs a lift from dad. I think dad likes it, too. These are 2 of my fav pics.

I'll tell you what -- it's FREAKIN cold here in the winter! I love love LOVE these "frozen" pics. I really did feel like I was in a winter wonderland. Even the kids were acting like happy little penguins, running and sliding and ooh-ing and ahh-ing.

This kinda reminds me of a salty margarita

awesome huge icicles

Harry the penguin
I dug up this old pic of us at the falls a bunch of years ago. We have this one hanging in our living room. I always loved it. Now we have these new ones to hang up. This place rules!

circa 2009-ish

Older, Taller, Colder 2015
It's almost a new year. What are you going to squeeeeeeze into 2015?

Hundred Handprints

Hundred Handprint panel near Escalante, UT
I love, love, LOVE finding new petroglyphs. The hundred handprint petroglyph panel was our awesome find today. The hike to hundred handprints is really easy and fun. It starts at the Escalante River trail head just outside the town of Escalante.

The drive is a bit of a haul from Kanab, but... BUT! You get to drive on scenic highway 12 -- the most beautiful in the world (that's just my opinion... but uhm... check this out..)

Highway 12 just past Escalante

Stopping for photo ops :)

A windy, fun road to drive your new WRX on
Right past all of this beautiful-ness is the trail head (literally right at the bottom of this winding road part...) There's a parking lot and trail head to the left that says Escalante River Trail Head. This is where you park.

The hike is only about 1/2 mile roundtrip. There is a house on the left with a driveway to its right. Go up the driveway just a few feet and you will see a trail take off to the right.

Right before finding the massive handprints panel, there was an equally stunning panel at eye level about 300 yards away. Lots of graffiti and destruction here, though. I really get mad when I see this sort of thing. This rock art is thousands of years old. As you can see below, some of the glyphs have been stolen right out of the mountain wall.

you can see that under the bighorn sheep glyph, the rock is chipped way.

This close up shows how the thieves/vandals tried their hardest to cut these guys out. Sadly, they did appear to get some of it. I hope they fell off the cliff climbing back down.
This area of Utah is just riddled with rock art, ruins, and remnants of ancient inhabitants. As we kepts hiking, Steve was looking all around to find hundred handprints. And then, there, high above, we spotted them.

The panel is inaccessible and perched high above. How did they get up there to make this??

Panel is up high to my left. Can you see it?
This hike ranks high up there on my to-do list. First, it's short (good w/ kiddos). Second, the panel is just so unique! It also really makes my kids brains think --- how did they create those handprints? How did they get up there? It's fun to hear their answers :)

Where are you going to play today?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A wild javalina, new Subaru WRX glamour shots, and a castle and condors!

The Grand Canyon is my happy place. I'm convinced it is THE most special place on planet Earth. On our way home from Williams, AZ this year, we took a slight detour to visit the south rim. I've only been to the south rim one other time, when I ran from the north to south... going down to the Colorado and back up the other side (highly recommend!). We had our brand new blue Subaru WRX, only 2 days old, to navigate the windy forest roads to various overlooks and short hikes.

Subaru glamour shot
It was a blustery, cold morning with snow showers in the distance. I had no idea what to expect driving along this gorgeous, tree-lined road. The park was very desolate and we only saw a handful of other cars.

Harry and mom get brave to get a better view

Um, of course I'm gonna climb out to the edge. :)

I seriously love the Grand Canyon!!!!!
Towards the end of the scenic backway, we saw one final sign that said "scenic overlook, Kolb Studio" with a picture that looked like a castle. Kolb Studio once housed the offices of the Kolb brothers, who were the most prominent photographers and filmmakers of the canyon. The studio now includes art exhibits and a bookstore with great views of the canyon floor.

JJ is the king of his castle
The views here were simply jaw-dropping beautiful.

Inside the "castle" was a crazy cool spiral staircase leading to different levels and views. Can you spot the boys?

On our way back to the car, Steve motioned me to quickly come over to where he was standing, giving me the universal gesture for "shhhhhhhh, be very quiet."

Just hanging out on the side of the walking path was this cute guy -- a wild javalina!!! Though some people think javelina are a type of wild pig, they are actually members of the peccary family, a group of hoofed mammals originating from South America. (See, I learned that fact at Bearizona!) I was so completely stoked to see this scrunty looking animal I was internally freaking out.

Oh hi.

do ta do!
After that sighting, I truly believed I had seen it all. I already considered our trip a major success. But wait -- there was more! As we were driving back to Kanab and nearing Navajo Bridge (Navajo Bridge crosses the Colorado River's Marble Canyon near Lee's Ferry in Arizona) we saw these huge swooping birds flying overhead. 

California condors at Navajo Bridge
 WHAT A SPECIAL TREAT!! The California condor is one of the world's rarest bird species: as of October 2014 there are 425 condors living wild or in captivity! And we saw some!!

Gorgeous views

The wingspan of the California Condor can reach 9.8 ft and can weigh up to 26 lb. The condor is one of the world's longest-living birds, with a lifespan of up to 60 years.

I'm not sure we'll ever top this trip. I mean, maybe if we saw a wild jackalope or something. :)

Get out, live life. Seek adventure. Peace :)


Our annual trip to Williams, AZ would not be complete without a trip to Bearizona.

Entrance to Fort Bearizona, the walk-through portion of the park
Bearizona is awesome! It is only a 5 minute drive from Williams and located off of iconic route 66. At Bearizona, you get to drive into the Arizona Wilderness and witness animals in natural habitats. I feel good about visiting this park because most of Bearizona's animal population has been acquired from rescue situations. There are also free, educational programs like the High Country Raptors show (you do NOT want to miss this short, 20 minute program where you get up close with some of the most amazing birds of prey in the world!)

Uh. Hold on to your hats!

Up close and personal... see what I mean!!!?? This beauty grazed my head :)
The best time to go to Bearizona is right when it opens or around 10 am. We have found that the animals are most active at this time. We have never been disappointed. As you enter the gates of Bearizona, you are given a small gps device that corresponds with the different areas you drive through. As you cross into a new animal area, Siri's boyfriend (as JJ call him...) tells you all about the animals you may encounter.

The drive through park always reminds me of Jurassic Park, minus the dinosaurs and terror.

My favorite part -- the wolves :)


Neat albino buffalos

Cool juvenile black bear
New for 2015 is the opening of their huge crazy awesome gift center! I am not joking when I say that this building ginormous. There is a train exhibit running through the center of the store which is equally exciting for kids (and adults). There is a vast selection of gifts and merchandise (cool stuff - not cheesy). Also coming soon -- a restaurant and education center. SWEET! Can't wait until 2016!

Polar Express!

We just returned from our 5th year traveling to the North Pole (aka Williams, AZ) on the Polar Express!! The Polar Express is really the perfect Christmas treat. Each year, for those three days away from the busy life and school and work... our family can enjoy the magic of the season.

Williams Fam 2015
The Polar Express train ride is a 1 hour round trip (give or take) to the North Pole. It starts at the train station in Williams, AKA "the Grand Canyon Railway" ( Williams, Arizona is a charming town nestled at the base of Bill Williams Mountain in one of the largest Ponderosa Pine Forests in the world. When it's not Christmas time, you can ride the train to the south rim of the Grand Canyon (we need to do this!). The iconic route 66 runs straight down the middle of town.

I love our little getaway in cute mountainous Williams. We always stay at the same place -- the lodge on route 66. It's a cozy place within a block from the center of town. The town was inspiration for the Disney movie, Cars.

Each year we take a pic of the boys at the iconic Route 66 Williams, AZ sign. It really does make me a little weepy to see that Harry is nearly as tall as the W.

The Williams boys at the Williams sign :)

(throwback -- our first year)

Our first trip -- 2011
The boys were super excited and so were we. I love this pic of us at town square :)

The freaky cowboy santa is just one of our favorite sites :)

Just roaming the streets of Williams in their PJ's


Cheeeese. "ok mom, now can I get on the train?"


 The Polar Express in Williams, AZ is the MOST fun family holiday trip and here's why:

1.) Kids (and parents) wear PJ's

Allll aboard!
2.) TRAINS!!


3.) More TRAINS!

4.)  Kids are very snugly and well behaved on the Polar Express!!

JJ wonders if he'll be on the naughty or nice list?

Extra snuggles

5.) New friends are made!

6.) You get to go to the North Pole!! For Real!!!!!!! (It's magic)

7.) Santa stops by to give you a prezzy. ONLY if you've been good. So be good! (and the awesome chefs give you cookies and hot cocoa.. and dance in the aisles!!!!!!!)

When we got back to Kanab, Steve said "I wonder if the kids will want to go next year?" Here's the thing -- it doesn't really matter if you are 6 or 60, you are going to love the Polar Express in Williams, AZ. I am pretty confident we won't have to twist any arms next year. Merry Christmas :) xoxo