20th Anniversary Trip {the Cliffside, Moki Bistro and Zion sunset}

Even with all our stops, we still managed to arrive in Springdale and check into our lodging by 4:30.

The Cliffrose is a delightful resort just a short walk from Zion's main entrance via the path that runs along the river.

We found our room quite comfortable and the view from our patio couldn't be beat!

we took time each night to sit in our pajamas, enjoy a cup of decaf or a glass of wine and admire the view!

With the lovely weather we decided to walk further into the heart of Springdale (away from the park) to catch dinner with a view.

Moki Bistro didn't disappoint in terms of the view or the meal we enjoyed.

one of my favorite meals of the trip, the mezze platter...though the hummus at Sassool is better

It was a lovely evening, so we walked back past our room and over to the park entrance just to see how long we should expect it to take the next morning.

Five minutes at a post dinner leisurely stroll.

And as if the day hadn't provided enough awe, God gave us one more moment in an amazing sunset against the rocks.

[When I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in the worship of the creator.]  ~ Mahatma Gandhi

**fitbit dashboard: 22,256 steps, 9.86 miles


20th anniversary trip {Kolob Canyon}

I have to give huge props to Ian regarding this trip.  He took researching the best Utah has to offer seriously and laid out an amazing outline for our trip.  It had a great "skeleton" of top notch places to stay and he listed everything under the sun between them so according to our moods we could do as little or as much as we wanted.

Full of zest on our first day and energized from our morning and early afternoon adventures, we decided to add Kolob Canyon ~ the Northwest section of Zion ~ to our itinerary.  This lesser known, marginally (in comparison) visited section of Zion is not connected by road, though there are long trails between the two.  

Our hour long detour (the five mile scenic drive plus our hike) provided us with a preview for some of the sweeping panorama views of Zion.  

It was truly a spectacular sight!

The green of the trees next to the red rock against that blue sky...

We thoroughly enjoyed the one mile Timber Creek Overlook Trail.

The end provided a lovely vantage point to sit and reflect upon the amazing handiwork of our creator.

And I couldn't have been better suited than to be there with my partner in life.

Our first photos in Kolob Canyon were at 2:16 and we took our last driving out of that section of part at 2:57.  What a fabulous way to spend 40 minutes of our day...four amazing sites and we hadn't gotten to where we would lay our heads for the night yet!


We're going to the zoo, zoo ,zoo...

The first winter we were parents of two, Ian's company closed the offices for the week between Christmas and New Year's Day.  Wanting to take advantage of precious bonus "Daddydays," as the kids called weekends and any day Ian didn't head to the office, we explored our (at the time new to us) city and surrounding area.

We didn't realize at the time that we were setting a loose tradition that would continue for the next eleven years.  As it turns out, while bundling was (and still is) required, the animals of North America are much more active and there are no crowds to fight if you want to stand and watch the sea lions and harbor seals for an extended period of time.  Our big two did then...

...and all six still do now!

I'd say over the years we've visited the NC Zoo at least 30 times.  And yet when we were looking for something to do as a family for a rare bonus "Daddyday" (in this case MLK Day) the zoo was suggested by the older set.  Maybe as they are getting older nostalgia is a comforting thing to them as well as to me?

Despite the cold (finally some winter weather here in NC!) we bundled up and decided to make an afternoon of it.  We left much later than we had intended, but it turned out to be a good thing this time...the African animals were cozied up in their indoor enclosures because of the frigid air.  With only half the zoo to see, we were offered half price admission and enjoyed the afternoon hours in the sunshine.

Combined with our weekly Friday 'pizza and a movie night,' along with family game night (Spontaneous chosen by the girls, Apples to Apples by the boys and a brownies with ice cream break in the middle) on Sunday, we had somewhat of a M8 hibernation weekend.


a push from your brother isn't always a bad thing...

I don't know how much longer it will last, but Daniel and I have a "5K thing" going on.  It started in the fall of 2018 when he joined the school's run club and asked me if I wanted to participate in the Jingle Bell Run with him.  Since then we've run three more 5Ks together and plan to squeeze one in early this spring before the run club finishes with the Catching Fireflies race in mid-May.

Today I postponed my training run until after school to give him the opportunity to join me and Nicholas decided to come along.

He did great for the first three quarters and then began to lose steam.

Good thing he has a great bigger brother to give him a shove.

A push can be a good thing...

20th anniversary trip {Kanarra Falls}

The summer after I finished my freshman year at Elon, my family took a two week motorhome trek across the great Southwest.  One thing that had been on our original itinerary that had to be cancelled due to threat of flash floods was to hike a slot canyon.  While that trip remains a highlight of my pre-Ian years (taking a similar trip with our kids is a bucket list they make motorhomes for a family of eight?), I was always disappointed about missing time in a narrow canyon.  

obviously not quite there yet...
 As Ian began researching for this trip, he knew we'd include Zion's Narrows in our hiking, but he wanted to find one a bit more "out of the way" in order to assure less crowds.

And so for a mere $12 each he secured us permits to hike the Kanarra Falls trail in Kanarraville, just east of Cedar City and near the Kolob Canyon section of Zion.    We didn't see many people during our entire hike, but thankfully caught a group of three just as we began so we didn't have to try to get a selfie at the sign.

Initially the canyon was deep but beautiful and we slowly made our way through, trying to avoid stepping the creek as much as possible...the sun was warm, but that water was COLD!  Just crossing from one side to the other when there was no other way gave us numb feet.

And then at about one and half miles, we got our first glimpse of where the canyon narrowed and suddenly we understood why people are in awe of slot canyons!

At this point we were near the biggest crowd we encountered all day...a group consisting of two couples who had recently relocated from big cities to southern Utah.  All four said they had grown tired of the rat race and were bored with conventional retirement so they moved to an area with tons of beautiful wilderness to explore.

We chatted with them for a bit and then graciously accepted their offer to pass them (we caught up to them right at the narrow canyon entrance) and explored further.

The sheer magnitude of the walls so close around us coupled with the amazing lighting had us all but forgetting how cold that water was.

A short way into the slot, we came upon the first falls...a fifteen foot rock jam waterfall.  A fallen tree with metal bars has been fashioned into a ladder of sorts and with careful footing and the assistance of the tethered rope, we made our way up and over.

We continued to make our way along and within a few tenths of a mile, the canyon widened briefly, providing a great spot to stop for a snack and to admire the view.

After a quick refuel, we continued on our way.  Very quickly the walls narrowed in again and we found ourselves in an area that we could easily touch both canyon walls with our arm span.  This is where a decision had to be made.  We knew we were very close to the next falls.  We also knew that the water was insanely cold.

And right here there was a spot that was thigh deep with no way around.  While it was only for a few steps, I couldn't bring myself to wade into the hole.  I climbed up on the rock to the left and watched my incredibly brave...and apparently part yeti...husband forge the creek and disappear around the bend.

He was only gone a few minutes when he came back with a photo of the upper falls to provide me information to make the decision of pressing on or just admiring it from his selfie.

Beautiful?  Yes.

So I tried again to make my way.

Got about to calf deep water and decided that if I left the sense of wonder there would be incentive to return one day...

Ian climbed up on the rock beside me like a lizard sunning himself to dry his pants.  And then, spurred on by the prospect of a real meal, we began the hike back to our car.

Some spots were a bit trickier than others.

But we both made it unscathed.  With one last gaze back into the canyon we headed out, full of awe and excitement that just our first day had already brought...and it wasn't even 2pm yet!

We were amazed to find that we had cell coverage and did a quick search on Yelp to find a place to grab lunch.  The Kanarra Falls Snackery was a perfect way to conclude an amazing first half of the day.  We shared a toasted roast beef sandwich and a bag of chips and became hooked on the combo of pear, peach and mango in a smoothie.

It was hard to leave the idyllic town of Kenarraville behind, but the day had much more to offer, so onward we pressed.


20th anniversary trip {petroglyphs and dinosaur tracks}

We had been so excited for our big trip that we talked for months with friends who had taken big trips "out West".  One bit of advice that we picked up from a couple that had gone the year before was to try to stay on Eastern time.  They said doing so would give us an earlier start in the mornings to avoid crowds in more popular areas and also would make re-entry easier when we got home to NC.

What we didn't realize is just how easy it would be to follow that advice.  Because we had been up by 4:30 on Saturday morning to catch our flight, driven from Vegas to Cedar breaks, squeezed in a sunset hike and then called the kids, we were exhausted and fell asleep what would be considered rather early in Mountain time.

Sunday morning we were up, showered and had time to kill before the early breakfast service began at the hotel.  Thank goodness for in room coffee makers!

We filled our bellies from the plentiful buffet and got ready to check out.  But our first move was to get a quick pic at the fountain that closely resembled "our fountain" from the time we lived in Grenoble.  We did get some glances from the other early morning breakfast crew over our choice of selfie spot, but even the kids immediately recognized why we had taken the time to stop.

Then we hit the road.

The open road.

The WIDE open road...

Some ten miles off the main highway we turned onto a dirt road and approached a single mountain chain stretching across the horizon.  One last bend in the road revealed a gap, carved through the mountain by an ancient river.

The Parowan Gap was a place frequently traveled by the Paiute people and they left quite a legacy to remember them by.

Upon closer inspection their pictures were everywhere.

In all there are over forty panels with more than fifteen hundred individual petroglyphs.

We enjoyed trying to decipher some on our own, but also found the detailed signs quite helpful in gaining a better understanding of the stories being told.

For the entire time we examined the petryoglyphs we didn't see any people or even hear a car on the nearby road. It was our own place to explore under the wide open Utah sky.  

While we were in the immediate area we decided to attempt to find the Parowan Dinosaur Track Site. We'd read that it was easy to miss but worth the extra few minutes as it was within two miles of the petroglyph site.  

We drove around, nearly gave up, and then by chance saw the small entrance sign off the "main" road.  Some of the dinosaur track fossils were easy to locate and others were harder to find on the minimally marked trail.  

I'm pretty sure we missed a number of them, but we enjoyed our time exploring the rocky outcropping.

Because of our early start we had checked off two sites on our list by 10am and were ready to make the short drive to our next location.

Petroglyphs and dinosaur was a great start to a wonderful day!