Upper Muley Twist (again) May 2014

We decided to make another attempt on Upper Muley Twist in Capitol Reef this spring.  We had hiked it in November of 2012, but stayed in the wash because of wind and snow during our trip.  This year, we wanted to do the whole loop, including the rim trail that would give us a view from the top of the cliffs out over Halls Creek, Thompson Mesa and the whole Waterpocket Fold.

On our way to our camping spot near Studhorse Peak on the Burr Trail, we stopped at the Post, near the Lower Muley Cutoff Trail, and hiked to an unnamed arch that Dad had seen while hiking there.

bretton on lower muley cutoff desert bottlebrushThe desert was blooming.  Eden searched as searched for a completely open cactus flower, but had to settle for the beautiful variety of wildflowers that were blooming.

max and lucy in old truck

 

Our camp was near an old dugout and camp used probably for uranium mining.  Lucy and Max loved playing in this old truck.

On Saturday, we drove the few miles to the Upper Muley Twist trailhead, and then followed the hike.  Rain and wind were in the forecast for the evening and Sunday, so we started out climbing to the top of the cliffs and following them for about 7 miles to where the trail began to descend into the wash.

DSC_0051 lucy and max at strike valley vlookfrom upper muley twist(HDR)

The trail was very high with plenty of exposure, but the trail was wide and easy to walk.  There were no frightening slips or slides, but still we were very glad to finally reach the wash bottom.  Just as we thought we had reached the bottom of the wash, there was a pouroff that had to be climbed around, costing us another 1/2 mile of high climbing above the slot.  Because we were all pretty much done with being high at that point, we didn’t take any pictures down into the very narrow slot canyon that Upper Muley Canyon becomes.

The most exciting part of our trip also didn’t get any pictures taken.  Overnight, rain began to fall and then turned to snow.  We got up in the morning and packed up as quickly as possible, worried about driving home in the heavy snow over the Burr Trail and Boulder mountain.  Thank goodness the Burr trail is paved — it was very wet, and snow was beginning to stick in places.  After a nice breakfast in Boulder, we drove home slowly over Boulder mountain.  The Torrey side had received about 6 inches of fresh snow, with more falling and a stiff wind in places.  Crazy Utah May!

Now we’re calling Upper Muley conquered–for now.  Since we’ve seen it from the top and bottom, we can now move on to other hikes for a while.  The arches were as wonderful this time as they were last time, and the view from the top unforgettable.

 

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Capitol Reef in the Snow November 2013

capitol reef in the fog mom and girls snowy hike DSC_0292

 

Just a few pictures of the very snowy hike we were surprised about on Thanksgiving weekend of 2013.  For some reason, we didn’t realize that there would be snow.  We hike the Cohab Canyon trail at Capitol Reef in the snow — about 6-10 inches on the ground, and although it was cold, the views were fantastic.

Morning Glory Arch — March 2014

In March, instead of our regular spring Escalante  trip, we headed down to Needles during spring break and hiked Elephant Hill and Big Spring Canyon to Lost Canyon.  It was windy on the trail, and we were about blown away as we came to the tops of the cliffs and down over the bluffs.

On Sunday, we stopped at the Morning Glory Arch trail and hiked it for a quick trip on our way home.  It’s really funny to think we tried to hike this about 6 years ago and turned around before we got to the arch because we were so tired out.  Now it’s just a quick morning jaunt to get us going for the day — took about 2 hours including ample picture time.

lucy and eden march  2014 morning glory arch better waiting for the ladder at elephant canyon

Book Review: Before They’re Gone by Michael Lanza

Front Cover

If your summer has been like mine, and hiking isn’t happening with the frequency you’d hoped, you probably shouldn’t read this book.  It will create jealousy and sadness.  This great account of hiking with kids in America’s beautiful national parks will leave you desperate for a hike — TODAY!

In just one year, Mr. Lanza hiked with his 10 year old son and 8 year old daughter to locations in the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Glacier National Park, Joshua Tree National Monument, Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain National Park, the Everglades, Glacier Bay in Alaska, Mount Rainier National Park and the Olympic coast.  This book, half climate-change warning, half hiking journal, speaks to a desire most people have– to share the things they love with the people they love.  Unfortunately, many of the things we love, including the national parks, are endangered by global climate change.  While Mr. Lanza speaks very definitely about the way climate change is and will effect some of the world’s most beautiful places, he also talks about the wonderful character growth kids experience with frequent exposure to natural places.

Although the places they visited were probably among the most beautiful and unique in the world, many share one problem in fitting in with my hiking plans:  too many people.  Hiking in a line to see Upper Yosemite Falls doesn’t sound like a way I want to spend a day.  In fact, we spent a recent holiday hiking with many other people, and while I am glad to see others out enjoying nature, I have a hard time enjoying my day with that much noise around.  The time for me to see those wonderful sights will have be a time when no one else is around (I think I’m going to be waiting a long time.)  In the meantime, I will continue to enjoy more pristine (if less beautiful) areas without the company of crowds.

My favorite parts of this book were his details about hiking with his children.  Hearing his children try to decide which was their favorite trip must have made him so happy.  I feel similarly when my kids are making top 10 lists of their favorite hikes.  In a world where so many kids have no exposure to nature and no love of the outdoors, hearing them express their feelings is delightful.  Of course, no one loves the exertion and effort of hiking all the time, and this is reflected in his children as well.  I laughed over his “potty break” to put a little distance between him and his (stationary) children so that he could calm down after listening to the kids complain and bicker.  And his advice about feeding them often is something we’ve put to use in the last couple hikes to good effect.

I hope you find this book and read it.  You’ll enjoy it.  Have you read any good hiking books lately?  Please leave me a comment.

3 Secrets to Backpacking with Kids

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  • No pressure.
  • Destination.
  • Motivation.

The three secrets to a great backpacking trip with kids are really no different than the secrets to a hike or even great daily living with kids.  Keeping these secrets in mind, you can plan a great trip with your family.

1.  No pressure.  Remember that hurrying takes the joy away from any project.  If your lives are too hectic to schedule in a backpacking trip, wait longer.  Pushing ahead to do something you really don’t have time for will only make everyone unhappy.  Sometimes work, school, or other commitments require the days you really wanted to spend in the back country.  Release them gracefully, and move on to planning at a time which is better for everyone.

Another place to ease up on the pressure is on the amount of ground you are able to cover.  When hiking by ourselves, my husband and I like to keep moving, but the kids enjoy time in camp to explore, build “houses” and relax.  Keeping our mileage goals realistic helps everyone to have a good time.

2.  Destination.  Destination is everything in a hike with kids.  They don’t want to head out for a certain number of miles, or until they feel tired (this could happen in the first 10 feet!)  A waterfall, a great place to climb on the rocks, a lake, or even a certain view, helps kids to keep going cheerfully.  Try to research your trail well enough to find that sort of a location for your kids to hike toward, and the payoff is happier kids.

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3.  Motivation.  Pack your motivation in your pack in the form of sweet and salty snacks to be consumed at set times along the trail.  Pack your motivation in your packs in the form of a special food or card game to be used at camp.  Boost motivation from the start by helping kids plan the destination and length of the trip.

Follow these secrets, and you too can have a great trip with your kids of any age.  Do you know another backpacking with kids secret?  Please leave me a comment.

Backpacking with Kids — Naturalist Basin, Uintas 2013

Our first backpacking trip of the season finally happened last weekend.  Although we had planned two other weekends earlier in the year, one was foiled by cold weather, and another by too busy schedule.  We were so excited to make this trip finally happen.

We went into the Naturalist Basin area of the Uintas, starting up the Highline trail just past Mirror Lake.  This was the first year Lucy carried a backpacking pack with her sleeping bag and clothes in it.  She weighs about 80 pounds, and we gave her 10 pounds to carry — a good start, we thought.  She did so fabulous, we couldn’t even believe it.  No complaining at all.  In fact, the view we had of Lulu and Max for most of the trip was just their backs as they led us along the trail.

lulu and max leading the way

We made sure of the more important things . . . Max was well stocked with sugary treats.

max with nerdsWe woke up on Saturday morning with a little buck patrolling our camp site.

two point buck in campWe also spotted this beautiful bird, who was not shy at all, but showed off to get his picture taken.  We think he is a pine grosbeak.

unidentified red headed birdThe wild flowers were fabulous this year.  We climbed to high meadows in the basin and enjoyed the view before having a quick snowball fight in July.

view from blue lake

The only problem we encountered at all was the mosquitos — huge as horses and swarming to carry us off alive at our second campsite, we scurried for home early in the morning because movement was the only was to avoid them.  A good time was had by all, and after a quick wipe-off and change of clothes at the car, we were ready to buy our “reward” hamburgers in Park City.

Have you been backpacking this summer?  Where is your favorite spot to go with kids?  Please leave me a comment.

Another Great Family Hike near Escalante: The Box (Pine Creek)

On our family hiking trip to Escalante this year, we did 3 great hikes, but I can’t really recommend all of them to you.  We spent one very long day crossing the Boulder Mail Trail, including freezing in the chest deep water of Death Hollow.  I won’t recommend that one as a great family hike — it was HUGE!  But another hike, this one only about 10 miles up the Hells Backbone road outside of Escalante, I can recommend unreservedly for your family.  This easy hike up a beautiful drainage crosses a little creek through a Ponderosa forest, and could definitely done by any level of hiker.

sun coming up in the box the box -- looking upThere are two ways to hike “The Box,” which is what the Pine Creek drainage is called.  A really wonderful way to enjoy this whole trail would be to be dropped off at the top Upper Box Access point, about 19 miles from Escalante, where Pine Creek crosses the Hell’s Backbone road.  Follow the stream about 9 miles down and be picked up by a shuttle car at the Lower Box trailhead, only 10 miles up the Hell’s Backbone road.  We did not do this because after our monster hike on Thursday, we weren’t sure how much of a hike we wanted on Saturday.  Turns out, we could easily have done this as a through hike.  Instead, we hiked about 5 miles up from the Lower trailhead, then turned around and headed back to our  car.  It was a great hike, although we regretted not seeing the whole trail.

lulu crossing pine creek crossing at the boxStream crossings begin right away from the lower trailhead, and in the 5 miles we hiked, we crossed the stream 20 times. (And 20 more on the way back down.)  Many of the crossing were “rock hoppers,” and could be done without getting your feet wet (if you are coordinated–which I am not.)  There were trees across many spots as well, but all of us ended up with wet feet.  Eden grabbed a little tree to steady herself on her next-to-last stream crossing and it slowly lowered her into the stream, getting her whole side and back wet!  If only we had known in advance to turn on the video . . .

pine creekThere are many wonderful campsites along this trail, making it ideal for an easy, light (no need to carry water) overnight trip as well.

We completed our trip to The Box by driving the rest of the Hell’s Backbone road.  Of course, we had to take a picture at the Hell’s Backbone bridge, a narrow span between very steep drop-offs (Death Hollow and Sand Creek drainages.)

all of us at hells backbone

I highly recommend this trail to you and your family.  Have you started your hiking season yet?  How is spring progressing where you are?  Please leave me a comment below.

Navajo Knobs 2013

Early in March, we hiked Navajo Knobs in Capitol Reef again.  Since I’ve told you about this great hike before, I won’t write all about it again.  Instead, we let Brett be in charge of the camera, and I want to share this great picture.

picture from top of Navajo Knobs

Just showing the forever you can see from the top!

Some more hiking posts soon to come, and a little about how we wind up our homeschool year.  Hope to see you again soon!

Winter Fun: Snowshoeing with Kids

The weather broke here, for a minute, and instead of highs in the 10s we had a high of 40 degrees on Friday.  We grabbed our opportunity to go try out snowshoeing.  A local town has arranged a yurt in a canyon park to rent snowshoes, and there are several miles of groomed trails to try out.  This was my first experience with snowshoeing.  Aside from re-doing Max’s straps every 5 minutes, it was great fun, and so WONDERFUL to be outside in clear air after several weeks stuck indoors.

snowshoeing

 

lulu in snow Eden snowshoeing

resting Max

Snowshoeing is hot work.  My one word of advice (since I am truly not an expert!) is don’t dress too warmly!  The kids took breaks laying in the snow to cool off.

taking a breakWe were the only people enjoying this park in the middle of Friday afternoon (yay, homeschool!) So the quiet was wonderful, and although we didn’t see any animals or birds, really, it was just great too be listening to the quiet.

wintertime creek

snowy rock

Howdy to everyone, and hope you’re enjoying your winter.

mitten salute

Homeschooling Where You’ve Gone Before

Hiking new trails is awesome.  But hiking trails you’ve hiked before is awesome in a different way.  We recently revisited a hike that we had done twice before, once 6 years ago, and once 4 years ago.  On our first visit to Taylor Creek in the Kolob section of Zion National Park, Brett had the stomach flu.  Thinking he was just car sick, and not wanting to spoil our planned weekend, we made him hike over a mile down the trail before he nearly threw up on some other hikers and we turned around.  The second time was beautiful spring weather, Max and Lulu hiked like champions, and we finished the 6 mile hike, but it felt quite tough.  This time, we flew down the trail, and were surprised (and disappointed) when it ended so quickly.

I felt that this was a perfect allegory for our homeschooling life.  In our homeschooling life, there are so many firsts.  The first child taught to read, the first child to scream “I hate math!” , the first failed curriculum choice, the first diploma, the first college application.  Lucky for us, we also get to re-visit our decisions, not just on subsequent children, but on subsequent choices.

The first time you teach a child to read, it is frightening, challenging and exciting.  The second child you teach to read, it is not quite as frightening, and less of your self esteem is involved.  The third child, the parent has confidence that she will read at some point.

The first time you totally botch a curriculum choice is a real disaster.  You mourn the money wasted, the time wasted.  Sometimes you (mistakenly) try to push on through a rotten curriculum.  The second bad choice, you may still mourn the money and time wasted, but hopefully recognize that throwing more good time after bad (smile) is not the way to solve the problem.  Hopefully, you don’t make a third bad choice (but I have!) but if you do, you recognize and remedy it quickly.

We are in the midst of our first high school graduation and diploma writing.  We’ve visited the college Brett has chosen, and felt inadequate (and too young!) to be there, and been reassured by his easy admission with his “Floyd Homeschool” transcript.  It is reassuring to be in the middle and find out the end is where you thought it should be!  I am already looking forward to walking this road with Eden.

Of course, not all homeschool families follow the same road we are following, but as you tread where you have gone before, take time to relax and realize the learning that you have done as a parent which allows the road to get easier.

What part of homeschooling has been easier on your second time around?  Please leave me a comment below.