Saturday, August 11, 2012

Amazing Things in Austin, TX

This post is for Friday, August 10

Hi there. It's me - Sarah Ann.

First, on Thursday we woke up at our campground and drove about seven hours to my cousins' house in Austin, TX. We listened to books on tape to keep us entertained.

Today we started out by going to a natural spring swimming pool kind of thing in Austin, TX. I went with my aunt and uncle who live in Austin. We are staying at their house for a few days. The spring is called Barton Springs.

Here's me at Barton Springs in Austin, TX

Wee're all waiting for the bats.

If you look really hard, you can see little black specks in the sky. That's the bats. (The picture didn't work so well.)
At Barton Springs, we had lots of fun swimming. The water at first was cold and the rocks were very, very slippery. After we went home, we played a little and then our two cousins arrived. We hunt out at their house for a little while and then we went to see the bats. There were even more bats than we saw at Carlsbad Caverns. They were soooo nea.t There were over a million but we probably only got to see less than a thousand because I was thirsty and Christian was worn out. Then we went home and ate Blue Bell ice cream. I don't exactly know what's so neat about Blue Bell but I think it's only in Texas. It's supposed to be especially good.

Driving to Austin

This post is for Thursday, August 9.

We drive Austin. I go Aunt Laura's house.

Carlsbad Caverns

This post is for Wednesday, August 8.

This is Taylor. Wednesday morning, we drove 3.5 hours to get to Carlsbad Caverns. It was super ugly. There was just ugly desert plants around everywhere. We parked the camper at a ycky RV place with really disgusting bathrooms. If you got to Carlsbad Caverns, here's a tip: don't stay at the RV place in Whites City.

Then we drove to Carlsbad Caverns National Park. We got to tickets to tour the cave. When we went on the elevator, we were going so fast down that I had to swallow and yawn fifty times because my ears kept popping.

When we went into the cave, my mouth dropped open. It was so neat - even the first site. There was all these formations of stalagmites, stalagtites, soda straw, popcorn, and all sorts of stuff. Walking around the cavern was so amazing. We saw a rock called Rock of Ages. A long time ago, they were doing a tour with the ranger when there was a blackout in the cave. All of a suddent someone started singing Rock of Ages and other people joined in. That's how that rock formation got its name. We tried to take lots of photos of the cave but they didn't work very well because of the low light.

After touring the cave, we drove down the hill to see the bats. First, we listened to a program. A ranger told us that lots of bats were dying because of a fungus called something like white nose fungus. The white fungus would grow on the bats and make them wake up when they were hibernating. And then they go look for food, but there's no food around because they're supposed to be hibernating. So they fly around until they run out of energy and starve to death. When the bats came, they were amazing. Tons of tons of bats flew out the cave at once. I thought they sort of looked like gants except for more amazing. One bat flew right over my head. When we left, it was late. We drove down this curvy road to get to the campground. I got really sick and threw up. I won't give you the details of that. At the campsite, the electricty didn't work so we we tried to run the car and charge the battery so we could run the fans because it was really hot. It helped a little, but the fans still went out in the middle of the night.

outside the bat program - see the desert behind us

Friday, August 10, 2012

Full of Sand at White Sand Dunes National Monument

This post is for Tuesday, August 7.

From Rachel:

First I am going to fill in for Monday. Mesa Verde was soooooooooooooooooooooooooooo neat. I loved it.  What it was is ruins of houses that were built into a cliff thousands of years ago. The only way to get up to some of them at the time was climbing up holes dug into the cliffs called "toe and hand holes". There were tons of ladders. First, we all walked down to Spruce Tree house. Well, I didn't walk. I got pushed in a wheelchair. The path was really steep and going back up my parents had a problem pushing me. I tried to help by turning the wheels with my hands but I don't know how successful I was.

Sarah Ann, Taylor, and mom also went on a tour of Cliff Palace but it involved a lot of stairs and climbing so we decided that wouldn't be the best match for me with my broken foot. Dad, Christian, and I drove the circle route and got out at some stops so I could take some pictures. The dwellings were really cool. Some of them were really high up on the cliff face.

Back at the campsite, we saw tons and tons of deer. I even saw a few baby deer. They were soooooooo
cute. The bathrooms at the campground were really annoying because the lights would flick off every few seconds. If you were in there when it was dark, this flicking wasn't too helpful. That night we did laundy while I wrote postcards and we roasted hotdogs over a fire. Dad, Taylor, and I went to a ranger program.

The next morning, we got up and drove. It was a far drive. My mom kept telling us not to get our hopes up because we wanted to sled down sand dunes but we weren't sure if we would have time. Luckily, we made it there in time. During the car ride, we listened to Harry Potter and Christian watched Cars about twenty million times. I am very sick of that movie.

White Sand Dunes National Monument was basically just what it sounds like - white - snow white - sand dunes. We rented sleds there. To our surprise, even though it was really hot outside, the sand dunes weren't hot. The gypsum sand doesn't hold any heat. Sledding down them was really fun. True - it was hard to get up the steep, steep sand dunes especially since I couldn't walk. I had to quite literally crawl up. We waxed the bottom of the sleds so they would go down easier. We sat down on the sled and slid down pretty quickly. It was really fun.

After sledding, I discovered that my boot for my foot was filled to the brim with sand. I sitll haven't gotten all the sand out of it. We drove another hour and slept at some campground in which my mom forgot where the bathrooms were so we spend about twenty minutes wandering around looking for the bathrooms. I went to bed that night quite worn out after the long, long day.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Mesa Verde National Park

This post was from Monday, August 6.

From Christian.

I drive on mountains. I see deer. I see lots deer. I see houses in mountains.

We started the day with a pancake breakfast inside the national park.

Here is a mom and baby deer right by our campground.

Here is one of the cliff dwellings we got to see. (Rachel will write more tomorrow about them.)

We're looking through the windows at Sun Temple.

If you look really close, you can see the cliff dwellings built into the mountains.

Monument Valley and Four Corners

This post is for Sunday, August 5.

Hello. This is Sarah Ann.

We started the morning by driving a couple of hours to church in Tuba City, AZ.. After that, we drove toward Mesa Verde (that's a National Park).

The next stop was Monument Valley. It's a place on Navajo land. It kind of looks like Zion National Park if you have been there, but in another way it doesn't look like Zion. This place was red and flat with big rocks sticking up. We parked our trailer and went on this really, really bumpy road and saw some more of the rocks. We put a chair in the parking spot by the pop so nobody would park in front of it  The drive was seventeen miles but we only drove two miles because the road was so bumpity jumpity humpity. It was really neat and hot outside.

Then we drove some more until we got to Four Corners. There was a little bit of a line. It was not at all how I imagined it. There was pavement with a circle in the center. The lines crossed the circle and said where each state was. We took pictures of us standing in all four states at once. Then we ate some Indian fry bread. I think we ate the bread in Colorad. It was the most delicious thing we had ever tasted. We had to eat the bread in the car because the wind was blowing so hard that it almost blew the bread away.

After was gobbled the bread up, we drove some more and drove some more and arrived at Mesa Verde National Park. We sat up the pop and went to bed.

Here we are at Monument Valley

A view over Monument Valley.

We're each in a different state at four corners.

I'm in four states at once!
The end.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Visit to Grand Canyon

This is for Saturday, August 4. We have internet access for a moment - so be sure and look at the previous posts to see the photos we added - especially of Zion National Park.

Taylor here.

We left our campsite in Zion National Park pretty early and drove to Grand Canyon - about a five hour drive. But on the way, we stopped at Lake Powell. Lake Powell is the second biggest man made lake in North America. They made it to get water mostly for California from the Colorado River. Lake Powell is very pretty and really fun to swim in. It has all these red and brown mountains and cliffs around it. It's sort of like Zion but not so tall. We went swimming in the water at Lone Rock Beach. There were lots of boats there. It didn't get deep for a long time. Even Rachel got to swim with her broken foot. Christian really liked swimming there a lot.

After we were tired of swimming, we continued driving to the Grand Canyon. When we got there, we stopped at the Visitors Center and got stamps for our Passport books. We got our first view of the Grand Canyon. It was huge and very striking. We couldn't even see the ends of it because it was so big. The deepest part is three miles deep.The Colorado River carved the canyon. Next we drove to the main part of the Grand Canyon and got a wheelchair for Rachel. We ate dinner at cafeteria kind of place.

The main part of Grand Canyon was even better. At Mater's Point we saw some elk. They were super, super close. There was also a rainbow near them. We walked along the Rim Trail and Christian cried and screamed. He wanted out of his stroller but we couldn't let him out because he kept running around everywhere.

Lone Rock Beach at Lake Powell is called this because of this rock sticking out of the water.

Us at Lake Powell

The Grand Canyon

The elk was saw near Mather's Point

Here we are the Grand Canyon

another view as the sun goes down
Last, we went and looked around in the gift shop. We went to our campground, set up the pop, and went to bed.

Cedar Breaks National Monument

I am not starting out with “Rachel speaking” because I am not actually speaking at all, I’m typing.

The morning for me started out with breakfast, driving to meet our cousins at their hotel and then driving to Cedar Breaks National Monument. Taylor and some other peoples got up early and did a hike. I would have gone except my foot set rules I am forced to follow. Instead my mom took me to a ranger program last night. It was all about wilderness. I learned quite a bit.

Anyways, on the way to Cedar Breaks I rode with my three youngest cousins my aunt and my mom. We were lucky enough to see lots of big horn sheep. I was soooooooooo surprised to see them. They were pretty close too.

If you have ever been to Bryce Canyon National park you can imagine what Cedar Breaks is like. A red canyon has been eroded by water forming rock formations like you have never seen. Bright red rocks stick up looking like poles (they are actually called hoo-doos which is a very, very, very weird word).

We ate a picnic lunch before heading to the hike we were going to do. At the overlook before the hike we had some poor person take our group photo. We ended up just doing a bit of the hike because a thunderstorm was coming in. I was only going to do a little bit any ways because of my foot.

Before leaving we stopped at the visitor center to get junior ranger badges. Before we got our badge we had to take a pledge which I giggled the whole time we took it because the guy kept adding things about cleaning our room.

Cedar Breaks is really high – almost 11,000 feet in elevation. On the way down, the road was so steep that our van’s breaks overheated and were steaming. We had to pull over and wait for them to stop.

On the way back to Zion we returned my wheelchair and went to go get ice cream. The place we went to was self-serve which was sooooooooooooooooooo awesome. You get your own frozen yogurt and toppings and then they charge you per ounce.  The frozen yogurt was soooooooooooo yummy. We also drew on their giant white-boardish thing-i-mijigee.

Bighorn sheep

All of us in front of Cedar Breaks

Eating frozen yogurt with my cousins

The view of Cedar Breaks

Me with my new baby cousin
For dinner we had pizza, peas, and salad. After dinner, we had to say goodbyes to our cousins since we would be leaving early the next morning. I tried not to be too sad because we hopefully will be seeing them again at Christmas. We hadn't seen them in two years before this - that's when the last family reunion was. They live in California - which is really far away from Massachusetts.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Hiking the Narrows in Zion

This post is for Thursday, August 2.

It’s me, Sarah Ann. You've GOT to check back in a few days when we have enough internet to post our photos because they are really cool.

Wednesday was a really fun and busy day. After eating breakfast, we went to the visitor’s center to meet our cousins and take the shuttle through Zion National Park. The first stop we made was Emerald Pools. It was kind of short, but lots of fun – especially with my cousins. Zion has steep, red rock mountains everywhere. It’s really pretty – and really striking. So as usual, the scenery on the hike was really pretty and we took lots of pictures. 

We got on the shuttle again. The next hike we did was Riverside Walk – it’s two miles roundtrip. It’s the hike the leads to the Narrows. We pushed Rachel in a wheelchair and Christian and another cousin in a stroller. At the end of the hike, we ate lunch. My cousin and I named all the little islands in the Virgin River and hopped across rocks to get there. We even renamed the Virgin River just for fun. That hike was hot on the way back because there wasn’t much shade.

Next, we did the Weeping Rock hike. It’s really short but there were some stairs. There was a curved shaped rocks. This rock wasn’t red. It had water dripping from it so it looked like the rock was crying. That’s why it’s called Weeping Rock.

After that hike, we got on the shuttle again. We went to our cousin’s motel. We swam for about five minutes but then there was a thunderstorm so we had to come back in. We folded origami and played games until the storm passed. The older kids went to the pool again and swam for a longer time. Then we came back and ate dinner, took baths, and met our Uncle Jeff who was the only one of my dad’s relatives who wasn’t there yet.

The next day (Thursday), some of the adults and Taylor (Rachel couldn’t go because of her foot) hiked to Angels’ Landing. Most of them only made it to Scouts Lookout. To get the rest of the way, you have to hold on to these chains. We met the hikers at the Visitor’s Center at about 9:30. Then we drove another part of Zion – this road with lots of nice views called Mount Carmel Highway. We went through this tunnel that is 1.1 miles and when it was built was the longest tunnel in the world. We also did a 1 mile roundtrip hike called Canyon View Overlook. Rachel and the babies stayed in the parking lot with Grandma. It was a fun hike. I’m glad there was a fence and railing on parts of it because it was a steep drop and you could fall straight down with nothing to catch you.

Then at last – wahoo! – it was time to hike the Narrows. It was me, Taylor, my mom, my aunt and uncle and two cousins. We took the shuttle to Riverside Walk. We were going to do the Narrows on Wednesday but we couldn’t because it was closed because of bad weather. Bad weather in the Narrows can cause flash floods that are dangerous. This time the weather was beautiful. There wasn’t a single cloud to spot to in the sky. After walking Riverside Walk, we crossed the river and started started hiking the Narrows. The Narrows is a hike mostly in the Virgin River through the canyon with big cliffs on either side of you. We had to hike through the river almost all the time. It was so pretty that we could have taken pictures every minute. We had to wear lots of sunscreen. There were parts in the sun and parts in the shade. Most of the water wasn’t too deep – about to my knees. But sometimes it got higher than my stomach. We stopped at this really pretty place. My mom said it looked like a part of the Narrows called Wall Street. We ate a snack and turned around even though there’s lots more narrows ahead. We only did part of it. My cousins were wearing cotton so they got really cold because they were wet. We helped them warm up and headed back.

We got back to our campsite just as dinner was starting. We ate with our cousins and relatives and went to bed. It had been a busy day!

Us with our cousins in front of Checkerboard Mesa

The hike to Canyon View Overlook
At the top of Canyon View Overlook

The Narrows!

We had to wade through lots of water!

A view down into the narrows - see how NARROW the canyon is!

Zion in National Park

This post is for Wednesday, August 1. Photos will come later - the internet connection here (in Mesa Verde National Park) isn't strong enough for photos.

From Christian:

I play with cousins. I go swimming. I sleep in pop.
sleeping in pop

Watchman Tower - the view from our campground

playing by the Virgin River at the end of Riverside Walk

Everyone at the end of Weeping Rock (I didn't go)

On the Way to Zion National Park

This entry is for Tuesday, July 31.

We don’t have internet access much lately so we’re behind again. When we get internet, we’ll try to catch up. The connection we have is weak - it can't handle adding photos. We'll have to add those later - so check back in a couple of days.

Hi, it’s Taylor. This entry is going to be short because we have to go to bed soon.

We woke up at our friends’ house. We started our drive to Zion National Park. We were going to have a family reunion with the Huber side. Before that, we had a reunion with the Willis side. It’s all my dad’s side, but the Willis family is all of my dad’s mom family – lots of second cousins etc. This Huber reunion was just going to be my dad and his brother and sisters and families.

We stopped at Thanksgiving Point south of Salt Lake City to meet some other friends from Massachusetts who moved to Utah. The dad in this family is the brother of the dad of the family we stayed at their house.  We played in this weird water sculpture first. Then, we walked in the gardens. Christian was leaning over in the flowers and got stung by a bee. After that, we got ice cream.

Then we continued our drive to Zion National Park. Even before the entrance, it was really pretty. The best view in the campsite in Zion was right over the bathroom in our campsite. There you can see a giant red rock called Watchman Tower. Zion is in the dessert so there aren’t many trees but there are lots of mountains and red rocks.

Friday, August 3, 2012


This post is for Monday, July 30

It’s Rachel.

Before I get to the lucky part, I’ll tell you a little about Sunday. Instead of going to church, we decided to go to the Conference Center in Salt Lake City to see the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing and the Orchestra at Temple Square play. It’s a program called Music and the Spoken Word. It was pretty neat to hear them sing in person because I’ve seen them on a broadcast lots of times. One of the songs they sang was “76 Trombones” from the Music Man. We loved it!

My parents borrowed a wheelchair to help us get around Temple Square. Christian started saying that he had a broken foot. By the end of the day, he kept steeling my crutches and yelling, “No! I need crutches! Christian have broken foot!” Sometimes, he would even limp around the room like I do.

In the afternoon, we played with cousins. We started with cousin lunch. I made Muddy Buddies with a few of my cousins. They were yummy and it was very, very, very fun making them. I started feeling like I could still do some things with my broken foot.

Monday started out by us going to the Alpine Slides. The Alpine Slide starts at the top of a mountain and then you ride in a little thing-i-mijigy down it.  I was NOT looking forward to this. I mean I had been down the Alpine Slide and loved it. Now I was looking forward to riding the ski lift up and down, which is fun, but it isn’t a slide. My family got there an hour early and decided to explore. They had put in a lot of new things since the last time we had been there. One of these new things was the Alpine coaster. My dad took Taylor, Sarah Ann, and I to look at it, but since I’m slow on my crutches, they got there before I did. My dad talked to someone who ran it and he said that I could probably go on it after all – even though I had a broken foot. I went back down and some other people from our family reunion had arrived. Two of them were doctors and my mom talked to them about it. They said that as long as I kept my boot on I would be fine to go on the ride.

I was soooooooooooo excited as I went on the slide and coaster. On the both of them you control your speed. I was careful not to go too fast on the slide because people have fallen off the ride before, and I don’t need another broken foot. On the coaster you can’t fall off, and they said it was safer to go faster. Although you can’t control your speed going uphill, I sure went fast on the downhill portion.

That afternoon we went swimming with a bunch of other people from the family reunion. We thought the pool was closed, but it turned out it wasn’t. Another stroke of luck! I spent a lot of time spraying people with water guns. I was sad to leave the family reunion.

The most surprising thing ever occurred on the way to Salt Lake City. We were driving down the freeway when all of a sudden someone started waving at us out their window. As we pulled up to the car we recognized the driver as someone we know. The driver was an old friend who had moved from Massachusetts to Utah about four years ago. He motioned us to follow him to an exit. We both pulled over at the exit. As the people got out of the car, we saw that with him were some of our friends who currently live in Massachusetts and were just visiting Utah. What are the chances of that happening?

We reached our destination not so long after that. It was the house of some friends who also used to live in Massachusetts. They have four boys and since they moved they had a new baby girl. We had a fun time playing with them. We ate dinner and played some fun games: Pounce and Telestration. They boys all slept in the basement after some serious parent persuasion. Sarah Ann and I slept upstairs in peace. Overall, it was a very, very fun and lucky day.
Mom and Christian on the Alpine Slide

Here I am on the Alpine Coaster

Our friends we saw on the road!

Playing games with our friends from Massachusetts

A Day Trip to Salt Lake City

From Christian for Sunday, July 29

I see people sing. I play with cousins.  Rachel need crutches.