Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Last weekend (Sept. 18-21) we took our first trip ever to Zion National Park in southern Utah. Ryan has been wanting to go there for so long, and mentioned we should go sometime in September since the weather wouldn't be miserably hot. We kind of threw our trip together last minute, but it turned out great! We stayed in the town of Springdale, which is basically the southern entrance to the park and the gateway to Zion Canyon, where there are many of the most popular trails and monuments. We drove up on Thursday night and by the time we got there it was too late to do much of anything...we were pretty tired anyway, so we basically just crashed in our room.
On Friday we went to the Narrows. If you haven't heard of it, its basically hiking/wading through a shallow river that runs through a deep canyon. It was gorgeous! Thankfully the trail that took us to the entrance to the Narrows was paved and rather easy...Ryan carried Thomas on his back in a carrier much of the weekend, but it was nice to have a trail flat and easy enough for Thomas to walk on as much as he could. By the time we got to the entrance to the Narrows, Thomas was in the pack and had fallen asleep! It was so cute.
We were both nervous about Ryan hiking in the water with Thomas on his back and the possibility of him tripping on rocks, falling in the water, getting hurt, etc. while carrying Thomas. (Thomas is big and very heavy for his age, and I couldn't really carry him very far, so my big strong husband did all the kid-hauling during our hikes, bless his heart!) So, Ryan and I decided to take turns hiking into the Narrows by ourselves. There were lots of other people around, so if anything happened to us while we hiked we would by no means be alone. I went first, and then came back and stayed with Thomas, sleeping in his pack, while Ryan hiked in. Thomas woke up and played in the water for a little while before we left and he was loving it! He did not want to leave, especially because he found another little boy his age to play with. We loved the Narrows and were wishing we would have had the time and ability to hike further in, but it was still an awesome experience. It was fun having Thomas with us, but I think in the future I would definitely go to the Narrows without a kid in tow.
Going to the Narrows pretty much took up the whole of our day, so afterward we went back to the room and got cleaned up to go eat dinner. We took the shuttle into town and went to this great pizza/pasta place called Zion Pizza & Noodle Co. We had a fantastic pizza called the "Cholesterol Hiker"...attractive name, right? It was soooooo good though...it was piled with different meats and cheeses and was exactly what we were in the mood for. We also had their really good garlic bread with ranch and chocolate cake. Man, did that food taste fabulous after a day of hiking!
I have to say something about the shuttle system they use in Zion. Years ago people used to be able to drive through the park in their personal vehicles, but it ended up being a huge problem because thousands of cars would drive through the park each day, but there were only about 400 parking spots throughout the Canyon that people had to fight for if they wanted to stop and hike the trails. That traffic was also doing nothing for the peace and beauty of the park. So, they implemented a shuttle system that stops at every major trailhead and runs every 7-8 minutes from early morning til late at night, so you can just hop on one without having to plan ahead. Now no one is allowed to drive a personal vehicle into the park, unless they're lucky enough to get lodging at the Zion Lodge (which is right in the middle of Zion Canyon), in which case they can drive to the Lodge. There is also a shuttle that runs from the park entrance into the city of Springdale and back, and it stops every few blocks near all the hotels and restaurants...that was nice because although we could take our own car into town, there's not a ton of parking. I think this was an ingenious system...I can't imagine having driven through the park in a long line of never ending traffic. And Thomas loved taking the shuttles...he was always talking about "getting on the bus!"
On Saturday we took the hike up to the Emerald Pools. There are three different pools...the lower, middle, and upper pools...all on the same trail, and we were told it was a little bit more of a difficult hike to get to the upper pools. We just decided to see how we felt and hike as far as we could. We ended up going all the way up, but the last push to the upper pools was definitely rough! It was basically climbing up rocks the whole way, and I was so impressed with Ryan's ability to do it with Thomas on his back...it was something I definitely don't think Thomas could have handled on his own! I was so glad when we made it to the top, and the upper pool was in this nice, sheltered, quiet cove. We just sat and relaxed and ate and let Thomas play for awhile. Of course the hike down went much quicker, which I was grateful for!
After we finished that hike we probably still would have had time to go on another trail, but were too exhausted to get up the energy. So, we went back to our lodge and took Tommy swimming! We felt so bad because we had actually gotten all ready to go swimming the night before, and Thomas was all excited and pumped up about it, then when we got to the pool we found it had closed already! We really wanted to take him swimming sometime before we left. It was nice to play and relax in the pool and hot-tub, and we met an interesting couple from Australia/New York City. After swimming we got cleaned-up and were starving, so we decided to take our truck into town to find food, but within minutes of being put in his car seat Thomas fell asleep! We felt bad waking him up and didn't want to have to deal with a cranky, tired toddler at a restaurant, so we tried to think of a place we could get take-out. We were surprised to notice that Springdale didn't have a single fast food place of any kind! They were a decent sized little tourist town, but there wasn't one anywhere. We didn't know any of the other restaurants besides the pizza place from the night before, and I knew they did takeout, so we got another pizza and brought it back to our room. I thought Thomas might wake up when we tried to get him into his bed, but he was obviously just completely exhausted, because he was out for the rest of the night! Funny, since his daddy did most of his walking for him that day. =)
Sunday we checked out of our room and decided to go walk through the Zion Museum and take a super-short hike up to a popular viewing point before we left for home. We had thought about driving through some different areas of the park, but by the time we left it was about 4 pm, and we were so tired and just wanted to hurry and get our 4.5 hour drive over with. We arrived home exhausted and hungry, and so glad to be back!
One thing I have to pay homage to is the place we stayed. We are big fans of what we call "motel camping"...going somewhere where you're out in nature all day, but you can come back, shower, go out to a restaurant to eat, that kind of thing. So, when we decided to plan the trip we started trying to find a motel, cabin or somewhere to stay at, but when we first started looking, absolutely everything was booked. We realized that next time we should probably plan this kind of trip a little more in advance! But, being the tireless internet searcher, I lucked out and found a place that was brand stinking new and had literally just finished being constructed. It didn't really come up on any internet searches or have any advertising anywhere except this one random website I went to for a nearby theater in Springdale, where there was an announcement that it had just opened. It was called Cable Mountain Lodge, and since they weren't well-known yet they had some rooms available, and were also offering a big fat discount for the month of September trying to get people in. And this place was fancy! There was no way we ever would have paid to stay there without the discount. It was more of a condo-style complex with several different buildings. The furniture was all very elegant, we had a full kitchen stocked with dishes, silverware, and pots, a separate bedroom with a king bed, there were flat-screen TVs on the walls in both the living room and bedroom, there was a sleeper-sofa for Thomas, and the bathroom had a combination toilet/bidet! It was crazy! There was even a remote on the wall for it, and the toilet seat was heated! That was a little weird. I was wondering why they would spend so much to put in these weird, fancy toilets, and Ryan said it was probably for the international travelers who use bidets commonly in their home countries. (And there were certainly lots of internationals there...we heard so many people speaking in german, dutch, french, etc.) The location was incredibly convenient as well, because it was right next to the entrance to the park and Visitor Center, the shuttle access going into town, and a small market where we could buy snacks and food to take with us or eat in our room. Then of course there was the pool and hot tub. We'll probably never stay there again since its normally so expensive, but it was fabulous and we completely lucked out! It was so nice to have a spacious, comfy place to crash, clean-up and eat after a long tiring day. It made the weekend for me!
It was a fun trip and I was glad we were able to squeeze in one last excursion before summer was officially over. Summer definitely seemed to fly by quickly again this year! But I am excited for all the things fall brings.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
We had the luncheon at Willow Park in Logan, a really nice park and playground adjacent to a little zoo. It was a perfect location, especially for the kids to have a place to play, but Labor Day turned out to be unbelievably cold! When Ryan and Thomas and I went to leave for Logan it was very cold, blustery and raining. When we got there it wasn't raining, but it was quite chilly and everyone was huddled up and wearing coats. Thankfully as the afternoon wore on the sun eventually came out and it warmed up a bit. We had a nice afternoon eating, catching up, chasing the kids around the playground and walking through Willow Zoo. It was a small zoo with mostly lots of different kinds of birds, but they did have a few monkeys, some bobcats, coyotes and elk. Thomas enjoyed seeing all the animals and was so cute pal-ing around with his cousin Aiden. Tommy kept insisting that Aiden hold his hand as they walked along through the zoo and it was so cute! I love seeing Thomas make buddies with his cousins.
One silly thing was that Thomas and some of the kids ended up spending a lot of their time playing in the drinking fountain, filling up and dumping out cups of water. Thomas got soaked! It was a good thing I brought extra clothes, thinking he might get wet or dirty playing in the rain or mud!
It turned out to be a lovely afternoon and it was great to see my family. I was pleased at how many people turned up despite the dreary (at first) weather! Here's a photo of my grandparents, Cleon and Joyce Kotter. They are wonderful people and I love them so much!