The Grand Canyon (Spring Break Recap 2.0)

John Wesley Powell, famed geographic explorer, famously stated back in the late 19th century that the wonders of the Grand Canyon cannot be adequately expressed with words and that graphic art resources are taxed beyond their powers in attempt to capture the magnificence. Despite all of the technological advances that have occurred over the past 100 years, his words still hold true. No matter how brilliant pictures of the Grand Canyon may appear, they fall short to the splendor of witnessing in-person one of the seven natural wonders of this world.

We arrived at Grand Canyon National Park mid-afternoon and used our National Park Annual Pass (currently free for military) to gain entry for the evening. We checked into the Yavapai Lodge, dropped our bags off in the room, and immediately made our way to Mather Point, which was less than a mile from our building.

Documentation of my first trip to the Grand Canyon and my mom’s 80’s hair.

I hadn’t been to the Grand Canyon since I was in grade school so I was excited to experience the park as an adult. It was Clay’s first time, as well as the kids, so we spent the next couple of hours walking around the South Rim – keeping a death grip on the children when we would venture close to edges with no railings.

When planning this little excursion to the Grand Canyon, we chose to limit ourselves to the National Park on the South Rim because of the little ones. Clay and I hope to go back again sans children and do a camping/hiking trip down to the river but for this trip, we stuck to the main trails that began at the National Park Headquarters.

As mentioned, we chose to stay in the park at Yavapai Lodge due to it’s central location to the kid-friendly trails we wanted to hike. Our room was basic, as were the amenities, but we were sleeping within 1000 feet of one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world so we certainly didn’t mind.

Not one view was the same.

After walking a couple of miles, we sat down along the edge and just soaked in the majesty of everything that enveloped us. The rock pictured under our feet was about three feet below so it made for a nice and safe spot to sit with the kids.

A woman came across us sitting along the edge and offered to take our picture because she thought it was a great shot – we really did feel like we were sitting on the edge of the world. One thing we noticed inside the park was just how there were so many nationalities, colors, races, and creeds represented among tourists. But everyone was nice, smiling, offering to take family photos, and just enjoying being in such a beautiful place. It was a shared experience – one that no one in the park that day will likely forget. This is why the National Park Service is so important, in addition to conservation, preservation, history, and heritage.

My new favorite picture of these two.

We hiked a little more before settling into a spot to watch the sunset.

Before long, the moon shined brighter than the set sun so we decided to grab some dinner in Tusayan, a little (tourist trap) town outside of the park. Our options were limited so we settled on ($8!) cheeseburgers from Wendy’s. Lesson learned – next time we will bring our own food into the park.

The following morning, we woke up early so we could do a sunrise hike. We were some of the only ones on the trail. That hike was easily one of the coolest experiences we’ve had yet as a family – it felt sacred and will definitely make the highlight reel of our life together.

The majority of the trail along the rim is as pictured. We were able to take use BOB stroller, which allowed us to cover more ground because both kids can fit in it when they get tired of walking.

Photo credit – Weston

Clay and I took turns walking out to the edge while the other parent stayed further back with the children. About 12 people die annually at the Grand Canyon and we wanted to make sure we weren’t included in that statistic. While we let our children explore and gave them a sense of autonomy in the park, we were safe about it and didn’t put them in any dangerous sitautions.

Along the trail, they had these viewing stations that the children loved. They could see the Colorado River, different types of rock formations, and a plethora of other cool things.

Weston wanted to hike out to an overhang in a place that we weren’t comfortable taking Violet so Clay took her on a little hike in the woods while the little guy and climbed some rocks and hiked over to the point.

Weston and I sat and talked and on our way back, he turned to me and said, “This was one of my favorite things I’ve ever done with you, Mommy.” Me too, kiddo. Me too.

By lunchtime, the trail was starting to get busy so we went back to our room, packed up the car, and exited the park – vowing to return sooner rather than later. We then grabbed a bite to eat at Anna’s Grand Canyon Coffee & Cafe in Williams, Arizona.

And then we were on our way. Next stop – Las Vegas!

On the Road (Spring Break Recap 1.0)

Back in December, we decided to go to California for Spring Break because our children had never set foot in The Golden State and wished to do so. And because California is an amazingly beautiful place with the Pacific Ocean, many lakes, mammoth mountains, intimidating deserts, and majestically magical woods. It’s no wonder why Americans have made it the most populated state. Our original plan of flying to California was soon abandoned when I casually mentioned to Clay that we should try and squeeze in the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas (he had never been to either) while we were out there because who needs sleep? And because my husband is my spirit animal, we decided that we should do even more so we then concocted a 10-day itinerary that involved spending over 45 hours in the car, 5 states, 3 time-zones, and 3 days at The Happiest Place on Earth.

Our first day was the longest in the car during the entire trip – by design. We drove from San Antonio, Texas to Albuquerque, New Mexico (about 710 miles), stopping for lunch in Lubbock, Texas at the Cast Iron Grill and checking out Buddy Holly’s glasses at the Buddy Holly Center.

The drive out of Texas (almost 500 miles and we live in the middle of the state!) was exactly what we pictured it to be.

With 80 mph speed limits!

I know this may be surprising to some, but eastern New Mexico looks exactly like western Texas.

But as we approached Albuquerque, we saw mountains. MOUNTAINS! Having been stationed in Kansas last year and now San Antonio until next summer, we don’t really get to see mountains unless we travel (like our Colorado trip), so seeing anything 2,000 feet above sea level is quite exciting around these parts.

We checked into our hotel on Kirtland Air Base. ordered a pizza from Giovanni’s Pizzeria, and called it a night.

We woke up the following morning excited to see the Grand Canyon later that day. But first, we needed waffles at Tia B’s La Waffleria, which may now be one of my favorite breakfast spots in the entire country – second only to Tin Pan Galley in Sackets Harbor, New York. The kids had regular waffles, Clay got the Waffle Benitos, and I ordered the Avocado, Tomato, and Pine Nuts Waffle. Yelp very rarely lets us down while traveling and that morning was no different. The coffee! The waffles! The salads! Hands down the best meal we had the entire trip.

On our way to Arizona, the landscape became peppered with buttes, mesas, and all sorts of iconic desert imagery. Having spend a large portion of my childhood in Phoenix, I appreciated the stark landscape and the memories that accompanied it.

We made it to the Grand Canyon State! In case you were wondering, Violet is upset in this picture because there wasn’t any candy at this rest area.

When we discovered that we would be passing by Winslow, Arizona, we immediately decided that we had to stand on a corner with Jackson Browne in the town of 9,500.

When Glenn Fry passed away, the town commissioned a statue of him from his glory years…check out that hair!

We don’t share The Dude’s attitude of the Eagles and don’t mind their music at all (and yes, we listened to Take it Easy en route to Winslow). While I don’t consider them a favorite band by any means, my all-time favorite music documentary is History of the Eagles so it would have been a fallacy to not stop, right? And on a related note – when the hell will Behind the Music be available on Netflix or Amazon Prime?

As we made our way toward Flagstaff, we soaked up the gorgeous landscape of northern Arizona. Thanks to my 4th Grade Social Studies class, I remembered that Humphreys Peak (pictured) is Arizona’s highest natural point (12,633 feet). I also remembered that the Cactus Wren is the state bird and that Arizona only has 15 counties. Boom.

And before we knew it, we were driving into one of the most gorgeous National Parks in the country (Thank you, Teddy Roosevelt!). But since this post is already longer than the world’s longest apple peel (172 feet and 4 inches), I’ll continue the recap tomorrow. Next up – the Grand Canyon!

The Energy of Spring

I’m sipping coffee from my City of Pawnee mug that my lovely husband gave me in celebration of my 34th year while occasionally glancing out the window at a landscape that still feels foreign. I can’t help but feel as if I don’t belong in this place that so many people love, which is an admittedly strange feeling to have.

“You may all go to hell and I will go to Texas.” – Davy Crockett

Today marks our 8-month anniversary of living in Texas, which may not sound that long to some but it when you only live in a place for 1-3 years, it becomes a more meaningful length of time. Seeing as how Texas is big and everything is bigger in Texas, it’d be an impossible feat to experience the essence of every region within the state boundaries during our brief stay. We’re determined to make the most of our time here and despite considering Texas not one of our favorite places we’ve ever lived, we want to be sure to appreciate the culture, landscape, and history of the Lone Star State. Over the past 34 weeks…

…we’ve been to the Alamo – the quintessential San Antonio attraction that illustrates the spirit of the Texas Revolution and since 1982 has unfortunately been synonymous with Ozzy Osborne. Fun fact – Ozzy Osborne didn’t actually urinate on the Alamo…he relieved himself on the Alamo Cenotaph, which is adjacent to the Alamo in the Alamo Plaza.

We also found ourselves on the San Antonio River quite a bit. Arguably the second most-popular attraction in San Antonio is the River Walk – a collection of walkways along the banks of the San Antonio River and manmade canals in downtown San Antonio.

And Historic Market Square, which is home to over 100 shops and stalls that many describe as the largest Mexican market outside of Mexico. It reminds me a lot of the markets in Puerto Penasco, Mexico, where my family vacationed when I was a kid.

Tower of the Americas is the second-largest observation tower (750 feet tall) in the United States and was constructed for the 1968 World’s Fair. It’s our son’s favorite thing in San Antonio so we find ourselves here quite a bit.

We’ve spent a long weekend up at Canyon Lake, which is about an hour outside of San Antonio.

And we’ve found ourselves driving down to the Gulf of Mexico to the Padre Island National Seashore on multiple weekends last fall.

We spent a weekend in Austin and took the kids to Sixth Street and South Congress Ave.

We went to Oktoberfest in Fredericksburg, which may be my favorite place yet in Texas, and then returned for the Christmas Market in December.

We experienced Wurstfest, a 10-day salute to sausage in New Braunfels, a German settlement organized by the Adelsverein in 1844.

On Saturday nights last fall, you could find us at the Tejas Rodeo. The rodeo season has recently commenced for the season and we’re excited to go back!

We’ve eaten our fair share of BBQ (pictured is The Salt Lick and Rudy’s) and tacos.

We’ve spent many hours at the Pearl, a downtown neighborhood defined by the river and the brewery since 1881.

We even put on our winter best and attended a minor league hockey game at the AT&T Center, in effort to escape the heat. We hope to attend a Spurs game soon and look forward to going to as many Missions (minor league baseball) games as we can this spring and summer.

And finally, we’ve hiked countless trails throughout Hill Country. It is during these hikes when I am at my happiest in Texas.

Prior to writing this post, if you would have asked me to define the previous fall and winter, I would have likely done so with a pensive and possibly even a melancholy tone. Despite exploring the area at every possible chance and trying hard to appreciate all things Texas, I haven’t bloomed here. At least I haven’t in terms of ‘bloom where you are planted‘, an oft-referenced phrase in military life. But you know what? Writing this post is helping.  Looking back at what we’ve experienced over the past 8 months has given me a newfound appreciation for this little corner of the country.

Porfirio Salinas

Currently all around me in San Antonio, flowers are beginning to bloom and trees seem to be standing a bit taller. Perhaps I should channel the energy of spring and allow myself to do the same. I may not be the most vibrant I’ve ever been but maybe that just means I’m gearing up for something so amazing that it’s currently unfathomable. San Antonio will not be one of my great loves, but that doesn’t means she wasn’t put in my life for a greater purpose. So here’s to the next year or two…let’s see what we can do, San Antonio.