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.


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!

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.

5 Ways to Encourage Teens to Enjoy Hiking

While parents of toddlers long for the day that their kids will “just walk!” beside them, making hiking easier, parents of teenagers have their own challenges to face.  As kids grow older and more independent, their desire to make their own fun — outside of the family circle– can lead to diminished returns on family hike outings.  What can we do to help our teenagers maintain their enthusiasm for the outdoors and hiking?  Here are my ideas:

  • Let them choose the trail.  Does your teen have a special interest, such as waterfalls, mountain or desert hiking?  Perhaps he can look at hiking books from the library and find a place he would love to visit.  Let him be in charge of the choice and his enthusiasm will build.
  • Leave the younger ones at home (sometimes).  If your family, like ours, has older and younger children, try a hiking trip without the youngest members of the household.  It will allow you to fly along the trail or mosey without whines of boredom, and will set a much different pace than a “whole family” trip.  It might also allow for much longer distances to be covered, or steeper trails to be experienced.
  • Bring the Ipod.  I know, I know.  For the  full nature experience, you need the sound (or silence) of nature around you.  Teenagers in our society, however, are accustomed to a constant barrage of sound and stimuli.  If bringing the Ipod makes hiking more enjoyable for your teen, try to strike a compromise.  We allow in-ear music on the return trip.  On many of our hikes, this means we will already have spent 3 or 4 hours listening to nature or talking to each other, and are ready for some alone time.  For Brett, this means music, and the compromise makes our hiking trips more enjoyable — for all of us.
  • Don’t hike every weekend.  With school and other responsibilities growing, kids view weekends as their time to relax and be with friends.  If you can’t convince their friends to come along with you on hiking trips, (we haven’t been successful in this area) your teenagers will want some time at home to arrange their own kind of recreation.  Make sure they have that time.  If your schedule allows the flexibility, schedule some family hikes during the week when other kids are in school.  Then your kids will be available on the weekends for “normal” teenage fun.
  • Make it a big deal.  Let your kids know that you think their hiking is a big achievement, something to be valued.  Sometimes we make a big deal about our little ones doing long hikes, but how many teenagers get off the couch to do a 10 mile hike?  We can let our kids know that what they are doing is special.

Most importantly of all:

Don’t Give Up!

Teenagers are entitled to their down days.  It happens to all of us.  Hopefully, following this advice will give you more great hiking days, and put more smiles in your (trail) miles.

Do you have any great tips on keeping enthusiasm high for hiking?  Please leave me a comment below.

Upper Muley Twist — Capitol Reef National Park

Upper Muley Twist, in Capitol Reef National Park, should definitely be rated one of the most scenic.  After all, how often do you hike past 10 arches in 6 miles?  Last weekend, with snow flurries and wind chasing us to hike quickly, we hiked into the bottom of Upper Muley Twist.  We stopped at the first trailhead, although only about 1/10th of a mile to the next trailhead was rough (it was the first 1/10th, and we turned around.)  The first 2 1/2 miles to the real trailhead was easy road walking, and the first arches were spotted on that part of the hike.  Peekaboo Rock is the only arch found in the white sandstone, the rest all on the east, red sandstone side.


The only two arches marked on the map are Peekaboo Rock and this one, called Double Arch.


Keep your eyes peeled, don’t just stare at your feet, or you will walk right by some spectacular arches.


All of these arches are quite high on the canyon walls, as you can see in the picture below.

This one was our favorite, and is our designated lunch spot for next time we visit this hike.  It was the only one accessible to climb into, and had a wonderful alcove below it.

We definitely want to return to Upper Muley Twist soon, because we did not get to hike the rim route.  There is a loop hike that goes to the top of the canyon to see the Waterpocket Fold, and while we hiked to the top, we did not hike along the top because of the gusty wind.

We really need the perspective from the top to see the angles and beauty of this canyon.  It is definitely a “revisit soon” hike.  In the meanwhile, we are congratulating ourselves on stretching the hiking season:  this weekend was exceptionally cold and blustery for November, with 30 degree temperatures and snow squalls, along with 20 mph wind gusts.  One reason there aren’t many people pictures for this hike:  no one wanted to stand still long enough to get their picture taken.  The little kids enjoyed it, though, and Lulu bragged about wearing 3 hats!

All in all, a great trip — one we would love to repeat.

Hope you are enjoying great autumn times wherever you happen to be!  Leave me a comment below.


Happy Sunday

We headed south out of a big snow storm to spend this weekend hiking in alternating snow squalls and bright, windy sunshine.  This picture was taken looking down the Waterpocket fold from the top of the Upper Muley Twist.  I’ll be sharing more photos from our trip in the coming days.

We felt invigorated, challenged and brave as we hiked this weekend.  Hope yours was equally wonderful!


Hiking Anniversary Snapshot

Just one quick update.  Fall is hiking season, you know, which is why blogging is sparse.  Too much living to do much writing!  I did want to show you one of the places we’ve been recently.  We have a tradition in our family of hiking for wedding anniversaries.  My parents started it, taking us to Escalante area and hiking during April for their anniversary, and we have continued doing something similar for our  anniversary.  Last year for our anniversary, Shandy and I took the older kids to Druid Arch in Canyonlands.  Because the hike was long, we left the younger kids with my parents.

This year for our anniversary (18!), we all went together.  We drove through Moab in flash flood, then camped near the Canyonlands entrance.  The 17 mile hike was just as wonderful as we remembered it, and the little ones fairly dragged the rest of us the last part of the trail.

Here are a few “anniversary pictures” from Druid Arch.

I know many of you will think this is a strange, unromantic way to spend a wedding anniversary.  I don’t want to further disillusion you, but Shandy’s present to me was a framed collage of hiking pictures, and my present to him was a homemade cheesecake.  (I have a magnet on my fridge that says “Say it with carbohydrates,” and I do!)

How do you celebrate your wedding anniversary.  Do you have a romantic getaway, or do you plan something for the whole family?  Please leave me a comment.

Fall Hiking 2012

As the weather cools, we have been taking advantage of every hiking opportunity.  These are some random pictures to let you catch a glimpse of some of the beautiful places we’ve been in the last few weeks.

These are near Forsyth and Neff Reservoirs, close to Fremont, Utah.


From this viewpoint we could see all of Cathedral Valley and much of the San Rafael Swell.




Another weekend, we were able to hike the Tibble Fork and Mill Canyon loop trail in American Fork Canyon.

That same weekend, we stopped to see Cascade Springs on the Alpine Loop:

I hope that seeing these pictures inspires your own fall hiking!  Leave me a comment, let me know where you’ve been!  Have a great day!






White Pine Hollow Hike

I’ve never lived anywhere but Utah, so I don’t know if it’s the same everywhere, but Utah’s statehood day — Pioneer Day– is a very big deal here.  Everyone gets a paid holiday from work, and most of the little towns have parades, fireworks and fairs just like the Fourth of July.  Well, parades and fireworks are not really my thing — especially this year with the fire hazard– but we stole away for the day and did a lovely hike down the mountain near our home.  We had done this hike as a “girls only” hike with my sisters-in-law and cousins a few years ago, but I really did not remember it as beautiful as it was this time. We had also put it off because it is a “two driver” hike, with a car at the top and bottom of this scenic trail.

The hike begins at the same trailhead as the Mt. Nebo Scenic Basin trail, and just about 1/2 a mile from the Mt. Nebo Summit trail.  heading nearly straight north, it goes over a hill and then heads down a steep wash, following an intermittent stream as it meets more and more springs until it exits the canyon on the Santaquin Canyon road.

The drainage was very wet this year, which was surprising considering the dry year we have had.  The bushes and undergrowth was head high.  We even got into stinging nettle– fun!

Since this trail was relatively short and easy (about 6 miles,) and we had all day, there was time to make leaf people.


And eat wild raspberries (of course there’s always time for that!)


And climb a crooked tree.

At the bottom of the trail, the stream passes between rock buttresses.  In wetter years, there is no way to hike this part of the trail without wetting your feet.  This year, most of us got wet but Shandy preferred to stay dry.

After enjoying our hike, we had a picnic and collected the truck we had left at the trailhead.  An excellent way to spend a midweek holiday!

Do you like to celebrate holidays in traditional ways, or do you view them as opportunities to do the things your family likes best?  Please leave a comment  below.