Category Archives: Epic

A Dog Party

Well, this happened, we threw our dog a first birthday party!  Man did we feel crazy and super epic this weekend.  Maddie is an extreme animal lover and has really taken to our new dogs.  She begged and begged to throw our dog Jack a party.  And party we did.

She came up with the invites, activities (pet talent show), party favors and even made the birthday cake.

The party guest arrive:

Talent show, treats, and cake time

I was pleasantly surprised that all the guests were well behaved and seemed to get along.  It was way more work for us adults though having to keep up with the dogs for an hour!  I thought it was so sweet that everyone brought Jack a present.  He got so many tasty snacks and new toys!

Thanks to everyone who came.  She is already planning the next one, but we have told her  his first birthday party was enough, ha!

Outside Challenge

We have taken the no TV rule from October one step further for November and declared an “outside challenge”.  The rules are simple, as a family we have to get outside once a day together for a month… We have been hiking, playing soccer/basketball and even out to feed the ducks at a nearby park.
This Thanksgiving weekend we will go on our first camping adventure since our big trip!  It feels good getting outside, even if only for a little bit.  (John, Max and I are lucky enough to get at least 1 – 1.5 hours a day outside while we are at the school, and Ethan shoots hoops for hours before dark.  It is our girl who needs a push to get out and explore!)

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We enjoyed  a night walk outside of town to watch the super moon rise.  What an amazing sight.  Max and I ended with yoga and we all left howling at the moon!img_5754

We enjoyed playing at an empty park on a cold day.   img_5871 img_5869
I am such a kid at heart! img_5867 img_5859 img_5856

Early morning soccer game, before school.  img_5782

We have missed a few days where we were all together doing something outside.  However, it is super easy to pick back up the next day.  We have enjoyed this challenge so much that we are striving to continue this challenge as long as we can!

Our First Epic Trip – Taos Part 2

Most of the first half of our Taos adventure was leisurely and restful.  The rest of our stay was quite an adventure.

It has always been a dream of John’s to hike Wheeler Peak.  We didn’t think it would be possible, on this trip, with the younger two being so little. But, Sara found an awesome summer camp to take the younger kids.  Sara, Ethan, and John dropped them off in the morning and headed for the peak via William’s Lake.  It was a challenging hike to the top and a mentally draining hike to the finish.  It was great to get past the tree line and see that the green on the mountain side is nothing but flowers.  We enjoyed seeing lots of marmots and mountain sheep.  It was also interesting to see how windy and cold it is at 13,000 ft.  Even though this hike was extremely challenging, we all agreed we would love to do this again.
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We always enjoy rafting as a family.  Sara, Ethan, and Maddie love adventurous rapids, while Max and John like the slow float.  Since we all wanted to stay together on the river, we took the slow float.  This year the water was so low that the slow float was just a little too slow for us.  Regardless of that, we enjoyed our time together.
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We got to visit our church home away from home, St James’ Episcopal, a couple of times during the trip.  During one of the visits, we had the privilege to help the needy and volunteer with the food pantry crew.  There were hundreds of people (in this tiny little town) that needed assistance from the food pantry.  Many of the volunteers needed assistance themselves.  It was devastating to witness such poverty.  We met at 9 a.m. and put in a grueling day of work until 4:00 p.m.  All three kids said that this was one of the highlights of the trip.

The food pantry operation is currently looking for donations to buy a walk-in freezer to store even more food if anyone out there wants to give.  This church gives so much to the community including: weekly food pantry, utility assistance, fire wood, Habitat for Humanity organizing, and much more.
We really had a chance to bond as a family during quiet moments.img_7519
We had lots of outside time.img_7489
We agreed that since we would be gone for a month we were going to eat as healthy as possible.  Plus, we had a tight budget so we saved our restaurant money and our waistlines for Taos.  We enjoyed some of our favorite places to eat: Taos Pizza Outback (for the cool outside environment), Taos Cow (for the great ice cream and coffee), and The Coffee Spot (Our favorite of all).
Sadly, our trip ended three days shorter than planned.  In the middle of the night, on our last night, Sara was awoken by headlights near our camper and saw a man get out of the car.  She immediately panicked, but figure that he was stopping to use the restroom.  Without warning, he started firing a gun.  In all the confusion, we didn’t know if he was shooting at us or not.  Quickly, he ran to his car cheering to his buddy and took off.  After thinking about it, we assumed that the kids were just out pranking.  But, Sara, who has always been afraid of guns, just couldn’t get settled.  So, after a sleepless night, we decided that this adventure was over and we headed home.img_7558
We were crushed to leave this beautiful place and the freedom that this trip brought to our family.  Everything we experienced was more amazing than we ever could have planned for.  It was really hard for the parents to get home and adjust to life after the fact.  We missed our immersion into simple living, pure nature, and complete family time.  We were also more tired than expected and it took weeks to recover and for life to seem normal.  The kids, however, didn’t miss a beat!  We can’t wait for our next Epic trip…. There are talks of Disneyland, the Pacific Northwest, New England, or Asheville, NC.  We could be driving in any direction.  We are extremely thankful for this trip and our time together.

Our First Epic Trip – Taos Part 1

After we had driven about 3,300 miles we had finally made it to Taos, NM!  This was the stop that we had been looking forward to.  After seeing so many beautiful places on our trip, we were worried that Taos might have lost it’s majesty.  Although it took Sara an hour or so to get the feel, Taos was as inviting as ever.  We pulled into town and cranked up the KTAOS.img_7487img_3392
We found a cozy spot to camp in the Taos Ski Valley and started our 9 day camp out.  Once again, we didn’t have water or electricity.
Each of us picked our favorite thing to do in town.  The John Dunn Bridge is always a must see.  Usually we all love swimming in the Rio Grande.  But, sadly, after seeing such clear, beautiful water on the other legs of the trip, the water just didn’t seem inviting.  Maddie barely even stepped foot in the water.  We did get a couple of good pictures of the kids before they were begging to leave.
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We all loved taking afternoon naps.

The kids always enjoy a trip to one of the coolest toy stores around, Twirl.  I like loading up on “stocking stuffers” here while the kids play.  We actually visited here twice this trip.
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Next up, Taos Part 2

Our First Epic Trip – Pagosa Springs

After quick drive from Telluride through the San Juan mountains, we ended up in Pagosa Springs.  As we had only ever driven through here, pre kids, we didn’t know what to expect.  We didn’t have any official plans except to take it easy and rest.  As we entered the town, we saw scores of people tubing on a river that ran next to main street.  Epic Mom and the two older kiddos quickly made plans to go!

Sadly, there are no pictures of tubing since we didn’t want to risk the chance of losing our devices.  The tubing was such an adventure!  Each one of us flipped out of our tubes.  Maddie had a big spill within the first four minutes.  She made it through the first drop but then got sucked back into the tow and briefly disappeared.  Thank goodness for her life jacket.  This was so scary for her.

I would have enjoyed this better had I been able to wear my glasses.  I couldn’t see anything!  The end seemed pretty dramatic at the time.  Ethan and Maddie flipped out at the last drop.  Both kids and their tubes floated by me.  Since I was visually impaired,  I couldn’t even help them.  I began frantically screaming!  Turns out the river was very shallow at this point and they easily walked out!  After this we noticed every single person ending their ride the same way!  This spot also had a lovely hot spring flowing into it.

We were excited that our campground had a very shallow river running by our spot.  We ended up buying a tube for the kids.  They played for over two hours in the water.
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This was a very relaxing pit stop.

Next up, Taos, New Mexico.

Our First Epic Trip – Telluride

Telluride is one of those places that you can’t get out of your head once you have experienced it.  We keep thinking back on how breathtaking this area of Colorado is.  Too bad it is so far away.

After a short but scary drive (2 lane, windy road with massive drops) from Moab to Western Colorado, we were surprised by everything Telluride had to offer.  And, it was 70 degrees during the day….much better than Moab.
Telluride Colorado
After searching for a bit, we set up camp at one of the many free campgrounds outside of town.  We found a spot near a big lake.  This is the first time on our trip that we camped so deep in nature and away from light pollution.  This was also the first time that we did not have electricity and running water.  Being here made our souls feel alive.
The kids enjoyed exploring the area.
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The town had a free Gondola that ran from the edge of town to Mountain Village (the ski mountain).  This was very helpful to us since Maddie isn’t so much into hiking.  We were able to ride up the mountain and hike down 3 miles.img_3358
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Telluride also has a frigid river running through town.  If you are crazy enough, you can get in and freeze.
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This is the first place we visited where a camp fire was actually needed to stay warm.  We spent many hours by the fire.  After the first night, we learned that when the sun goes down, you go to bed.  Otherwise, it is so cold that it takes forever to warm your bones.  But, if you brave the cold, you will have an excellent view of the stars.
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Sara decided that she wanted to live here until we got a good look at the non-summer weather.  Telluride looks to have 2 seasons, cool and frozen. Besides, it is too far away from family.

Next Up, Pagosa Springs, Colorado.

Our First Epic Trip – Moab

Moab, UT was the hottest place that we visited on our trip.  We had been used to temperatures around 75-80 degrees.  We were certainly not thrilled to be back in the heat (100 degrees when we were there), but we were thankful for air conditioning at the sketchy RV park where we stayed.  We were one of the few campers that did not live at the park.  It ended up being fine.  While we really enjoyed staying in the bungalow for 3 days, we were glad to be back in the camper and so close to nature.
Arches National Park
was incredible to see.  We couldn’t stop staring at the rocks and we enjoyed picking out shapes and making up what we thought they looked like.  The size and beauty of the rock formations cannot be expressed in a photo.  Sadly, we were not able to make it to the Delicate Arch.  Maddie was hiked out…
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“Rock Energy”img_7347 img_7350 img_7352 img_7360 img_7361img_7366
Overall, the Arches National Park is a very nice place to see and we would definitely come back for a visit, just not in the blistering summer.

Next up, Telluride, CO.

Our First Epic Trip – Salt Lake City

When we were planning this trip in the late spring, we thought that it would be nice to rent a place to stay, in the middle of the trip, in order to get a break from our camper.  So, after 2000 miles of driving, we stopped for 3 days in Salt Lake City to stay in a bungalow.  It was really great to have basic amenities that we take for granted.  For example: sometimes we had electricity, sometimes not,  for half of the trip we didn’t have running water, our method of cooking was using a propane stove and fighting the wind, and getting ready for bed meant that we had to shuffle our clothes off of our beds and rearrange the stuff in our tiny camper.

The kids enjoyed getting a bit of TV time as we had been electronic free up until this point and then again after this.  The parents enjoyed being able to cook soups and beans to stock up for the next stretch of the road trip.

To help them not become total zombies, we went to an awesome park directly across the street each night.  Sometimes twice a day.
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We attended church at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.  The message was simply Episcopal, love and help your neighbor.  Sadly, several families let their children continue to disrupt the service so the cool vibes we were feeling quickly faded.

After church we went to a great museum called The Leonardo Museum.  We were all free to explore the wide range of exhibits.  We stayed here close to 4.5 hours and definitely could have stayed much longer.  Us parents were getting tired!
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We ended our stay here watching the large firework exhibit at one of the many parks having firework displays.

Salt Lake City is such a cool place to visit.

Up Next Moab, Utah.

Our First Epic Vacation – Grand Teton National Park

After leaving Yellowstone, we got to see one of the most beautiful places on the planet: the Grand Teton National Park.  The kids were so tired that they missed most of the drive (including a huge herd of bison crossing the road).  Due to the magnificence of these mountains, we couldn’t quit gaping at them.
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Then, we drove through Jackson and Alpine, WY and stayed in Star Valley, just outside of Afton.  We were mesmerized watching a farmer bail hay behind the RV park we were staying at.
Near Afton, we got to visit the Intermittent Spring.  It was a one mile round trip hike to the spring.  Although, we didn’t visit during the right season, the spring flows for a while then stops periodically. IMG_7164 IMG_7169
Next up, Salt Lake City and Moab, UT.

Our First Epic Vacation – Yellowstone National Park

We were fortunate enough to spend three days in Yellowstone National Park.  We weren’t quite sure what to expect of this place.  We have heard stories from previous visitors about how amazing it is.  Our first few hours in park were unimpressive, but as we pressed on, we started seeing the magic is this place.IMG_6837 IMG_6852 IMG_6841

Dragon’s Mouth Spring – This cave continually rumbles and breathes and was fascinating to hear.IMG_6870
A bison stopped by the mud pots to warm up.IMG_6877

Old Faithful – Luckily, after a long walk, the geyser erupted after about 15 minutes.  Although, the gift shop took a lot longer to see.IMG_6898

We got to see a herd of elk in the distance.IMG_6910 IMG_6920

Artists’ Paint Pots – The water in these hot springs reaches up to 143 degrees.IMG_6929 IMG_6932

We stood for about 20 minutes watching the mud pots splatter and pop.  It is funny how entertaining this was.IMG_6938 IMG_6944

Mammoth Hot Springs – It was so beautiful to see how the mineral deposits formed.IMG_6947 IMG_6951 IMG_6952 IMG_6956 IMG_6959

Mount Washburn and the surrounding area – Simply beautiful!IMG_6984 IMG_6986 IMG_6987 IMG_6989

The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone – We all felt that this was the most impressive site in the whole park.IMG_7002 IMG_7007

The water is so incredibly clear.  It felt too sacred to even step in.IMG_7068 IMG_7072 IMG_7073
Grand Prismatic Spring – This place was beautiful.  This is the place the Sara was most wanting to see, but it fell short of expectations due to the fact that you can’t see the colors in the same way as you can from an aerial view.  IMG_7091

We all worked together to help Max become a junior ranger and got to learn so much about the park in the process. IMG_7059 IMG_7057
We tried to book camping in the park about 2 months out from taking the trip.  Well, that didn’t work out.  So, we stayed at the KOA outside of West Yellowstone, MT.  We all enjoyed this camp spot and the mini-golf.   And, on the last night in town, we got to have s’mores. IMG_7052IMG_7010 IMG_6906 IMG_7013 IMG_7035
Poor Maddie came down with pink eye within the first few days of our trip.  Her eyes starting getting worse and we had to take her to the doctor only to find out that she was allergic to the medication eye drops another doctor had prescribed.  Her eyes continued to bother her for most of the trip.  She was a trooper though.IMG_7042
We couldn’t get over the fact that we were standing in the caldera of an active volcano.  There are so many places in the park that were magical.  Even the kids agreed that they would want to return here one day.

Next up, Grand Teton National Park and Star Valley Wyoming.