Saturday, April 21, 2012

Spring Break in Bryce Canyon

As always, it seems, my best intentions go unmet! I had planned to publish these photos last Monday. My only excuse is that it was the Worst. Week. Ever. I'm not easily overwhelmed, but this past week really tested my limits! By Friday I was so cranky that even the dogs knew to stay away! I'm much better today, given my husband has returned from his week-long business trip. I tagged out of parental duties within a half hour of his arrival home!

 So, back to the trip... At Bryce Canyon there are about 13 scenic overlooks. We didn't hike the canyon, because getting to some of the overlook points was exercise enough. A lot of trails to the overviews were narrow with dangerous drop-offs. There were no barricades to confine our little rock climbing monkey child, so I was on high alert the whole time. We received some counterintuitive advice from the folks at The Lodge. Wanting to photograph sunset and then the sunrise the following morning we had planned to visit Sunset Point on Tuesday evening and Sunrise Point on Wednesday morning. Makes sense, right? Wrong. We were instructed to see the sunset at Inspiration Point and the sunrise at Bryce Point. No big deal, reservations not required! Must have been the standard instruction because both spots were jammed with serious photographers and their serious equipment all along the edges of the overlooks. I managed to squeeze up to rail to get a few shots then made way for James. Josie was not at all excited by being at Bryce Point at 6AM in the 30 degree chill! Here are some of the shots I got from Bryce Point at sunrise: Once we finished at Bryce Point we headed back to The Lodge to grab a quick breakfast. We wanted to drive the rest of the park to catch all the vantage points before a forecasted snow storm hit the area. We had to head back to Vegas by that (Wednesday) evening, as our flight home was early on Thursday morning. Here are some photographs of other parts of the Park: Natural Bridge - about 8 miles in on the Park road This was the last overlook on the park road - 13 miles in The park road is a closed loop, so we visited some of the viewpoints a second time, to see if there was a difference in perspective with the changing light. It was all so beautiful, no matter what time of day it was. The storm was starting to roll in, so we got on the road back to Vegas by 1PM. I took a few shots from the front passenger seat while we were leaving Utah: This quick trip was a great introduction to Utah National Parks. There are many more to explore. I hope we get the chance to revisit Utah. I also haven't travelled to Arizona at all, so that will be on my list too. Hope everyone has a great week ahead. I have the girl's bathroom being finished up this weekend, so I'll share the before and after pictures once the tile guy is done. See you then!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Spring Break Road Trip

What started in Vegas, ended in Vegas... our road trip, that is! We took advantage of the awesome discount airfare offered by Jet Blue and flew from Long Beach to Las Vegas on Monday afternoon. I'm a girl who loves a bargain, and the $94 round trip per person fare was the deciding factor that got us on the road. We walked around Vegas a bit upon our arrival. Josie loves *bling* so The Strip was just her thing. I will state for the record that anyone who claims Vegas is more 'child friendly' these days is pulling your leg. There are a few roller coasters and cool buildings, but unless you have a child who loves to shop (and the $$ to go along with it!) there's little for them to do. I like to gamble every now and then, but I don't think I could build a whole vacation around that activity. So, it was nice to SEE Vegas, but I think for us it will never be more than a 'passing through' place.

We headed out on Tuesday morning, driving north on Interstate 15, passing through the very corner of Arizona and into Utah. We arrived at Zion National Park within 3 hours, with lots of stops along the way to take photos. We had perfect weather for exploring the park. It was in the mid-high 80s as we took the 1.2 mile Emerald Pool trail from Zion Lodge. The hike was not a tough one and the reward at the end was a waterfall that created the Emerald pools. There wasn't a lot of snow this year, so the waterfall was more of a trickle, but beautiful all the same.

Josie got in a lot of rock climbing during the hike. She was also happy to see that she brought quite of bit of the red soil back with her ... her socks were just covered it it! Once we finished our hike, we grabbed a late lunch and rode the shuttle to the other viewing points in the park. We returned to our rental car and drove out of Zion toward Bryce Canyon, which was our next stop. Along the way, we passed through Dixie National Forest - site of the 'Red Canyon':

We arrived at Bryce Canyon within 2 hours - just in time to check into the Lodge at Bryce Canyon and then hike up to Inspiration Point for the sunset. I'll share those photos in my next entry. Right now I'm finishing up the laundry from the trip and getting the girls ready to head back to school. Maddie is down to about 4 weeks of high school now, and I imagine that 'Senioritis' will be kicking in with a vengeance! More to come tomorrow!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter 2012

We're just starting our Easter break here in Southern California. For the first time since we've lived here, our girls both had off the same week for break. Back in July of last year, I made reservations for us at the new Disney Aulani Resort on Oahu. We had planned to spend the break with the girls, soaking up the sun and exploring the island. However, the airfares from Orange County to Honolulu were ridiculous! We cancelled our reservations and decided to stay closer to home.

Blessing in disguise, actually. Josie and Maddie got the chance to spend more time with their friends and James & I had the chance to share a lovely evening with our neighbors, David and Jenny. After dinner on Saturday, Josie and BFF Katie dyed Easter Eggs. These two are quite the little team and they have a ball doing anything 'crafty' together! Here are the girls at work:

Carson is always involved in Josie's activities... Here he is supervising Katie, hoping something drops (He loves eggs!)

On Easter Sunday, David and Jenny were kind enough to bring Josie along on their family outing to San Diego. Josie and Katie had a great time together and both returned home exhausted. They saw a museum and Balboa Park among other activities. We were so happy to see Josie comfortable with spending the day without us.... she is growing up and becoming gradually more secure and independent. Of course, Maddie had plans of her own so James and I were left to our own devises for the day. We had been planning to go on a Whale watching boat for the past 3 weekends, but the weather just didn't cooperate. Sunday was the perfect day, so we went for it! It was about 80 degrees at our house, 72 degrees at Dana Point. Out on the water it was in the low 60's, but the sun kept us warm. It was a great little trip.

The coast of California is the primary migration route for a number of whale species. Grey ,Blue, Humpback and Finback whales are the most commonly observed. Finback whales are also rorqual whales; they feed on krill, euphausiids, and small schooling fish. There have also been sighting of Orca in the past 2 months. We saw one Finback, hundreds of dolphins and the noisy, but seriously hilarious sea lions. Here are a few photos from our boat trip:

The pelicans are not shy and have zero fear of humans.

As soon as our boat left the harbor, the dolphins came to visit

This was the first sighting of the Finback whale we observed

This buoy was the hang-out of the day for the sea lions. The sea was so calm... if the sea gets rough, you won't see them on the buoy.

I just love the sea lions! They are so noisy and expressive. I could watch them for hours!

We had the opportunity to witness the pelicans diving and grabbing up the fish. It still amazes me.

We're heading out this evening to Las Vegas. We'll drive to Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon in Southern Utah for next few days. I've never been to these National Parks and I've been told they are just astounding. It's forecasted to be in the 80s during the day for most of our time in Utah. Perfect weather to hike a few trails and enjoy the natural beauty offered. Very excited for Josie to see the rock formations and to have some rare two-on-one time with her parents! Maddie will be home with the dogs and hanging with her girlfriends. I'm starting to like the 'partial empty nest' we've found ourselves in !

Hope you all had a wonderful and blessed Easter. I'm hoping to post my photos from Utah, so stayed tuned!