Family Hiking Milestone: 13 Miles at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

It's been four months, since our milestone hike: 13 MILES with our toddlers.  I think I have emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually have come to grips with it.  Believe me this isn't our normal deal when we hike with our toddlers but we were meeting up with some Twitter Hiking All Stars: Russ Beebe ~ Winehiker WiticulturePaulina Dao ~ Little Grunts and David Wherry ~ Hiker Adventures.

Yes, it rain a few times in California this year.
My husband had been captive to his cubicle for a couple of weeks, so an 8 mile hike sounded like a good time and a good workout since we knew we would have to carry the kids most of the way.  My daughter can barely hike 1/2 mile but my son had hiked up to 5 miles in the past, so we planned to carry them quite a bit.  Nothing that we haven't done before but...family hikers pace vs. non-kid hikers is completely different, primarily in how fast/slow one hikes.  Either way we were up to the challenge.

It was a rainy day (WHAT?!) in the San Francisco Bay Area, as we headed out to Felton in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  The second we started hiking in the rain, I had immediate flash backs to hiking in the Peruvian Andes and it put me in a great mood.  Our kids hardly ever hike in the rain, but of course they enjoyed splashing in the puddles.

Russ, Paulina and David were in the front of the pack and we were in the back.  Our kids like to play the "in-and-out game" for the first hour of hiking, until we encounter an uphill they don't want to hike.  I can't remember all the details of our hike, now four months behind me but the things that stood out in my mind were:
  • Green ~ Everything was GREEN!  The Bay Area, especially the East Bay is brown ahem...golden most of the year and only turns green during the winter rains.  In this severe drought year, there was only like a 4 week period where water was flowing in our seasonal creeks and everything was green.  It was really refreshing.
  • Big Ben Tree ~ Not really too much to say about this except show pictures.
The whole familia fits inside Big Ben. Photo Courtesy of Little Grunts.

Getting to 13 miles....

We all were having a blast enjoying snacks, resting, taking pictures and eating that we took a little wrong turn due to so many fallen trees on the trail as well as many trail markers were destroyed or removed (see WineHiker comments below).  We realized our mistake 2.5 miles out from where we should have taken our trail, putting us at 5 miles added onto our 8 mile hike.  A 13 mile hike isn't all that difficult as a day hiker, but when you have 30-50 lbs of human plus snack, water and gear every step is well....hard.  I think I really earned my hamburgers and fries that day.

I'm smiling but I'm crying inside! Photo Courtesy of Hiker Adventures

Well, there was nothing we could do but hike and hike as fast as we could because the winter daylight was short.  I don't know what happened with my children, I think God answered my prayers as we hiked along that kids wouldn't have a meltdown.  With a steady flow of candies, I mean snacks...water, being carried, singing, hand holding, my two and four year old made this 13 mile trek at Henry Cowell Redwoods.  At one point my husband carried both our toddlers because they both wanted Daddy to hold them.  Russ turned to me and said "Is that fair?" and I said, "I carried them for 9 months each, 1 mile won't kill him."

Oh by the way, did I tell you we calculated that our son hiked SEVEN of the THIRTEEN miles!
That's my boy!

I don't know what else to say about this hike, it was beautifully hard but worth every minute. It was a great family hiking milestone that we got to share with some great people.  What stands out the most in my mind now, is that the next day as my husband and I laid on our living room exhausted, Mr. David Wherry was running across the Golden Gate Bridge.  Oh someday, we will no longer be kid-carrying sherpas!  More pictures please and pass the cheese....

Group effort to get across! Thanks David and Russ!! Photo Courtesy of Little Grunts.

Lime Kline left overs....

Fun Times!

These niños....

Trail Report Detials
Who: Five Adults, Two Toddlers
Family Friendly: Very Difficult (due to distance)
Mileage: 12.9 miles, 13+ with extra walking around

Elevation Change: 2625 ft
Trails Description: Pretty much up a mountain and back down.

Trails: Bennet Creek Trail - Fall Creek - South Fork - Cape Horn - Lost Empire - Big Ben Tree (Not the Trail, the actual tree).  We continued onto Lost Empire Trail, instead of taking Big Ben Trail for the added five miles.  Continue onto Big Ben Trail and take Fall Creek Trail all the way to the Parking Lot.  

I'm glad I know what my family is capable! What is your family's hiking limit? 

Related Links and Posts:

  1. Henry Cowell State Park: Big Ben Loop #winehike by Little Grunts
  2. Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park Wine Hike by Hiker Adventures
  3. Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park ~ California State Park Website

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Hiking the California Coast: Tomales Point ~ Point Reyes National Seashore

Point Reyes National Seashore is a National Park jewel in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Point Reyes will always have a special place in my heart, because it was where we had our first family backpacking adventure.  Not only is Point Reyes a great place for family backpacking, it also has many fantastic location for numerous day hikes.

Ever since my husband and I "discovered" Point Reyes we have always wanted to hike out to Tomales Point, but we just haven't found the opportunity to make it there.  Even though Point Reyes is in the San Francisco Bay Area, it's still 2.5 hour drive to reach the trail head from the East Bay!  It was definitely worth the drive, since we had an out-of-town guest coming to California for the first time.  We wanted to show the beauty of the California coast, so off we went to Tomales Point.

Hiking the California Coast

When you think about hiking on the California coast, everyone thinks about warm sunshine, beautiful views of the Pacific ocean and cliffs.  I would say that on all our coastal hiking outings: Año Nuevo SPRancho Corral de TierraBaker BeachPirates Cove and Backpacking Point Reyes have been for the most part, completely the opposite of sunny/warm and Tomales Point was no different!

Weather Conditions ~ The majority of the hike was foggy, it wasn't until 4 p.m. that the sun FINALLY broke through the fog.  It was cold, misty, foggy and windy during most of the hike and then winds became stronger after the sun broke through the fog!  I was almost knocked down a couple times near "Windy Gap" by the gusts!  I normally bring multiple layers for myself and especially for the kids since they get cold sitting in the carriers.

Foggy trail near same location below

Fog-less Tomales Point  
I usually do not like "Out and Back" trails because I want to see new scenery the entire hike but since it was foggy one way and sunny on the way out, it was like two completely different hikes!  Everything looked different from the foggy morning hike.  We were also able to see the tide roll into Tomales Bay, which none of us have ever seen before!

Bird Rock in the Pacific Ocean
Trail Conditions ~ Tomales Point Trail is an out and back trail, 4.75 miles (one way) for a total 9.5 miles.  We were aiming to hike to the bluffs but we were not committed since 9.5 miles is a really long hike with toddlers.  We did not complete the entire trail, we opted out to not hike the last 0.5 miles to the bluffs (see trail report below).  Everything I read about this hike said it was an easy "10 mile" hike but everything takes twice as long with kids.  With that said, my toddlers LOVED this hike and the adults did too!

The trail itself was mostly single track with some wider trail sections.  It was a combination of hiking on beach sand and compact dirt.  A huge motivator to get my kids hiking and out of the carriers is SAND. There was a trail section where we were hiking uphill (with toddlers on our backs), in sand, "bushwhacking" our way through the tall wildflowers...I don't know about you but that was HARD.  I made it about 20 ft and then my daughter yelled "Ooh sand!! I want to get out!!" and I happily let her out.  My kids love to bring their shovels in case they find sand on hikes. 

Getting There ~ Tomales Point Trail Head is at the end of Pierce Point Road a 40 minute drive from the Bear Valley Visitor Center, which I highly recommend visiting.  Directions to Tomales Point Trailhead.

Abundant Wildlife

One of the main attractions of Tomales Point is the wildlife, in particular the Tule Elk.  I was hoping to see a few Tule Elk but I was surprised that we hiked all day with the Tule Elk.  Of course we always kept our distance since wildlife should never be disturb, but we took many moments to just stop and stare at these beautiful creatures.  National Park Service states that "In 2009, over 440 were counted at Tomales Point" and we definitely saw at least 50 elk during our hike.

Can you find the Elk scratching it's ear like a dog?

Seeing wildlife with kids is really amazing, so many teachable moments that I will need to write another post about it soon.  My kids haven't really grasped the concept of specific type of animals, so when we told them those animals were "Tule Elk" they just gave us blank stares.  When I told them they were kind of like deer they were a little confused because they didn't look like deer.  It wasn't until we saw the bucks with antlers, that my toddlers were satisfied with telling me that we were hiking with "Reindeer". 

Why did the turkey cross the road?
We also found some wild turkeys crossing the trail.  As we let them cross our path, I joked with our children that we were going to eat them and my son turned around and said "Mommy, we don't eat turkeys!".  Sorry buddy, we do and they are delicious!  Wild turkeys are not native to Point Reyes National Seashore, so maybe we could have eaten them...

Wildlife Proximity ~ We've had a few close wildlife encounters in the past, so we are very careful when wildlife is nearby.  As we were hiking along the ridge, a herd of Tule Elk (bucks) ran across the trail 30 feet ahead of us.  The low bushes hid the elk, so we could not see them until they were running across the trail (picture above).  Thankfully we had our "herd" of children near by and my daughter (two years old) was up high in the carrier. My daughter was able to see the herd running and said, "Daddy, that is beautiful!".

Wildflowers Galore

I have never hiked where I was completely surrounded by wildflowers.  My hiking ground is the San Francisco East Bay hills that dry up the second the rainy season stops, so all the hills surrounding me are currently golden brown with a few sparse wildflowers.  The California coast stays a little more damp due to the fog, so even our precious California Golden Poppies were out in droves!

The one flower that stopped us in our tracks was the Cobwebby Thistle - Cirsium Occidentale (spiky pink "flower").  We found it near the last mile of the Tomales Point Trail, the closer we got to the end the more abundant they became.  I could only identify the California Golden Poppy, and some type of purple lily but we were always surrounded by wildflowers.  If you have allergies to pollen, I would suggest waiting until wildflower season is finished because we were covered in pollen!

My daughter was in HEAVEN...she absolutely loves flowers, one of her favorite things about the outdoors.  It took us forever to walk through the field of flowers (about 4 ft high) because she had to stop and smell all the flowers.  I had to "part the waters" with my hiking sticks so she could walk through and not get hit in the face.

Trail Report Details

Who: Four Adults, Two Toddlers
Family Friendly: Difficult
Mileage: 8.5 miles Round trip

Elevation Change: 1256 ft
Trails: Tomales Point Trail (Out and Back) 

Approximate Time: 4 hours (Moving time) ~ 7 hours 15 mins (Breaks Included)
Method: Toddlers Partially Hiking/Carriers

I would not suggest this hike in its entirety for families new to hiking, hence the difficulty rating but if your are used to hiking with your kids this hike would be a great all day hike.  A more family friendly hike at Tomales Point Trail would be hiking to Windy Gap (approx 1 mile - 2 miles roundtrip) and exploring the barns near the trail head.  I absolutely loved this hike, from the wildflowers, wildlife to hiking the beautiful California coast, Tomales Point is a hike definitely worth the drive, effort and time.  

Have you been to Point Reyes National Seashore before?  If so what parts?

Join in on the conversation by leaving a comment here! You can also join in on the conversations on Chasqui Mom's FacebookInstagram and Twitter that is updated daily with outdoor activities and other wonderful posts and links from #OutdoorFamilies!

Related Posts and Links:
  1. Point Reyes National Seashore - National Park Service Site
  2. Backpacking at Point Reyes: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3

Chasqui Mom is on Board with the American Hiking Society

I love to hike.  Even though I do other outdoor activities, I am a hiker at heart.  Somehow in all the crazy world of social media I met the great Jennifer Chambers of Hiking Along and we collaborated on a few blogging posts together and got to know each other in the social media world of Facebook and Twitter.

Unbeknownst to me, I had been collaborating with the Chair of the American Hiking Society (AHS) Board of Directors for close to a year. When Jennifer asked me if she could nominate me to be on the AHS Board, I was a little shocked and truly honored.  Shocked in the sense of when I started "Chasqui Mom" I had no intent other than telling my stories, let alone being on the Board of Directors of the American Hiking Society.  I accepted her nomination and this past weekend I became a Board Member.

Of course being a "Board Member" of any organization sounds very rigid and boring, but when it's about something you truly love doing, in this case "Hiking" becoming a Board Member of the AHS intrigued my interest.  How I could use my abilities, background and knowledge to contribute to AHS mission.

Now, I know what you are thinking...What does the AHS do? 

AHS mission statement is...

"As the national voice for America's hikers, American Hiking Society promotes and protect foot trails, their surrounding natural area, and the hiking experience". "Mission Statement - American Hiking Society." American Hiking Society. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2014.

Yeah, But what do they do?

  1. Advocacy ~ AHS is the hikers voice to Capitol Hill.  They represent us, the "hikers," and work to protect our hiking experience, trails, etc.  In 2014, the AHS had its 17th Annual Hike The Hill in Washington DC.
  2. National Trails Day ~ AHS organizes the largest celebration of trails on the first Saturday of every June, with the local organizations and parks.  Events include, hikes, biking, horseback riding, trail work, and much more.
  3. Volunteer Vacations ~ Now everyone has a different meaning of vacation but the AHS coordinates week long vacations where, instead of lying on a beach, volunteers are working hard to maintain the beautiful trails that the rest of this nation is hiking on.  I don't know about you, but I've seen volunteers at work on the trails....that's hard labor.
  4. Resources & Membership ~ The AHS provides resources and memberships to both individuals and organizations.  Other than getting some little "perks" both the individuals and organizations get the satisfaction of knowing they are helping protect the places we all love to hike.
American Hiking Society, Board of Directors Spring 2014 Hike
Even though a Board Meeting is usually sitting in a conference room, reviewing documents, and planning for the future, I think it's still pretty awesome that the AHS Board of Directors, President Greg Miller and Vice President Peter Olsen finished our weekend of meetings with a six-mile hike to Henninger Flats Campground in the Angeles National Forrest!  And yes, they all were happy to have my family come along on the hike!

Now there is a Latina Hiking Mamá, youth leader, former law enforcement officer/accountant on the AHS Board and I'm happy to be volunteering my time for this nations hikers.

Join in on the conversation by leaving a comment here! You can also join in on the conversations on Chasqui Mom's FacebookInstagram and Twitter that is updated daily with outdoor activities and other wonderful posts and links from #OutdoorFamilies!

Kid Approved Gear Review: Honey Stinger Kids' Organic Waffles

Food and snacks, something that is absolutely essential when heading outdoor with kids. Whether we are hiking or biking on the trails you will definitely find my pack full of snacks!  The snacks sometimes determine whether the time outdoors will be a success or a disaster.

I have two completely opposite toddlers: one who eats anything and the other who only likes to eat bread, milk, bananas and yogurt.  Let's say it's a struggle at almost every meal to have my picky eater eat something.  I'm always on the look out for new snacks that my children like to eat because food = fuel on and off the trail.

I always take more than enough snacks when we head out for a hike or bike ride because I never know when my picky eater will decide to eat.  Trust me it's not a fun time when a child is low on energy, there are no more snacks around and a mile is still left to be finished!

A newest addition to my snack pack is...

  • Kid Size ~ A smaller version of the adult size Honey Stinger Waffle, suited to meet children's smaller appetites and nutritional needs.
  • Flavors ~ Two flavors: Honey and Chocolate!
  • Retail Price ~ $4.99 a box, containing 6 individually wrapped waffles. Option of individual sale of $0.89 per waffle. Purchase at HoneyStinger.com or local outdoor retailer store.
  • Nutritional Value: Certified organic ingredients and only 80 calories.

The Pluses!

Picky Eater Approved ~ If you can't hear my sigh of relief over the internet as you read this just imagine you heard it.  My kids LOVE the Kids' Organic Waffles and actually request for it went we hit the trails.  My picky eater is hesitant to try anything new but the second he saw the waffle he wanted to try "The Cookie" as my kids call it.  He scarfed down the waffle and wanted more, something I rarely hear!

Just  Like Daddy's (Mommy's too) ~ My kids are not easily fooled but Honey Stinger made the kid version waffle just like what the adults eat.  Whatever we are eating, my kids want to eat as well so the kids waffles are perfectly proportioned for my two and four year old appetite and they don't steal mine.

Organic Ingredients ~ We try to do "Organic" as much as we can in our household but that is not always feasible while outdoors, so I'm glad I can find organic snacks that my kids see as special treats.  My usual special treats are left over Halloween & piñata party candy, but my kids have chosen the waffles over candies.  I feel better giving them Organic Kid Waffles over candy.

Chocolate! ~ Those are magic words to get my kids moving on the trail.  My kids tasted both flavors which they both liked but I have purchased two boxes of the Chocolate Waffles because my kids get more excited when they hear "Chocolate" over "Honey".  I'm a big fan of chocolate and so are my kids.  Who isn't a fan of chocolate?!

The Minuses

Allergens ~ Thankfully my kids do not have any food allergies but Honey Stinger Kids' Organic Waffles do contain wheat, soy and may contain egg and milk.  Not suitable for children with allergies to those ingredients.

Chasqui Mom Last Thoughts...

I know that food is fuel, especially when doing any activity outdoors, whether hiking, backpacking or biking on the trail I will definitely have Honey Stinger Kids' Organic Waffles in my food pack.  My kids love "The Cookie" and I actually finally had a chance to taste the kids version and they are just tasty.  The waffle isn't the only Honey Stinger kid product, they also have Kids' Organic Chews which will be reviewed soon!  I give the Honey Stinger Kids' Organic Waffle the "Chasqui Mom Seal of Approval" for on and off the trail snacks!

*I would like to thank Honey Stinger who provided this product for the purpose of this review.  As always these are my true and honest opinions.

Join in on the conversation by leaving a comment here! You can also join in on the conversations on Chasqui Mom's FacebookInstagram and Twitter that is updated daily with outdoor activities and other wonderful posts and links from #OutdoorFamilies!

Related Posts and Links:

  1. Honey Stinger Kids' Organic Chews Review + Giveaway!

Out of this World: Vasquez Rocks & The Pacific Crest Trail

Vasquez Rocks, the Pacific Crest Trail and this hiking family. On a quick trip down south to the greater Los Angeles area I decided to do a little solo hike with my toddlers at Vasquez Rocks.  All I knew about Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park was that an episode of the original Star Trek was filmed there a long time ago.  FYI, I only knew that fact because I watched a Big Bang Theory episode that was fake filmed at Vasquez Rocks so I researched it and Vasquez Rocks was a real location.

Vasquez Rocks is part of the Department of Parks and Recreation County of Los Angeles but it is a 20-30 drive east of Santa Clarita, California.  You can't really tell that Los Angeles is a desert until you leave the main metropolis area and can see the natural environment and really enjoy the beauty of  it, like Vasquez Rocks.  You can see this parks main features from the freeway and it is actually on the outskirts of Agua Dulce, California.  Off the freeway the drive to Vasquez Rocks is very rural and ranch-like, we even saw a buffalo on one of the ranches.

The Interpretive Center looked like a space ship to my kids.  It has a modern look to it, I'm assuming it was designed to compliment the rock formations but not only was the design modern it had a LEED Platinum Certification.  Layman's terms means that this center has the highest level of being "Green" which is fantastic!  The Interpretive Center had a diagram of Vasquez Rocks, a few reptiles and spiders, as well as a Hollywood history of all the movies that had been filmed at Vasquez Rocks.  Outside the center was a small area that housed some native birds.

The Pacific Crest Trail at Vasquez Rocks

The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is a trail that runs from the border of Mexico/California to just across the Canadian border.  Almost every hiker that I know dreams of hiking the PCT, so any time I get a chance to hike on it, I do! Even just one mile on the PCT with my kids, satisfies my future dream just a little bit.  I didn't even know that the PCT went through Vasquez Rocks until the day before visiting so I was pleasantly surprised when I saw it on the map.  FYI: I brought EXTRA snacks and food just in case I ran into a PCT thru-hiker but I didn't run into anyone except some tourists.

We started out on the PCT (AKA the Geology Trail - 0.9 miles) near the Interpretive Center.  From the beginning there were giant rocks right along the trail which made the hike terribly slow because my kids had to explore every rock, hole and "mini-cave."  I'm not complaining, I want my kids to explore but I'd prefer they explored at least 100 ft down the trail vs. 10 feet down the trail! But alas the caves must be explored and my patience must be tested constantly on the trail.

We hope that someday we can do hike the entire PCT as a family, but probably not all in one sitting! PCT section hiking is more up our alley, but it won't be for a few more years until our little ones can hike longer distances and carry a pack.  Either way, I was getting a little nostalgic with the idea at some point in the future I was to return to Vasquez Rocks and remember that I had been there before with my babies.

It took a little while to get into the groove of hiking but everyone enjoyed the little 0.9 mile hike on the PCT.  There was exploring of the caves, playing with the sandy trail and even touching of the spiky Yucca Whipple-Our Lord's Candle.  My son has a fascination with prickly plants, I just make sure they aren't poisonous before he touches them.

The Geological Trail had many markers with the descriptions on the pamphlet, sadly I'm so busy with the kids on the trail I never get a chance to see what the markers are all about, but the geological formations are just amazing to see all along this tiny section.  When we had reach the famous section of the Vasquez Rocks, my kids starting yelling with glee, "Those rocks are Crocodile Rocks!!" and indeed they did look like crocodile heads.  One of the great things about hiking with kids is the fact that they help you view the world in a beautiful imaginative way.

The famous Vasquez Rocks are really neat, they are giant slabs of rock shooting out of the ground!  We hiked along the back side of the rocks and I was a little saddened by the graffiti and trash I found along there.  I picked up as much trash as I could but still I don't understand why people have to put "I was here" on these beautiful rocks.

The Pacific Crest Trail continued but my children could not, so once we reached the picnic/parking lot area for viewing the rock formations, we headed down another trail back to the Interpretive Center.  There is a dirt road which you can take to iconic Vasquez Rocks but we opted to hike on the PCT.  I almost took the dirt road back but decided to stay on the trail and I'm glad we did because we saw some hieroglyphs and a Road Runner, which of course was too fast to snap a picture of it!

Vasquez Rocks is a great park, truly felt like I was in a different planet! Great rock formations, family friendly trails, a great "green" center and it has the wonderful Pacific Crest Trail.  My suggestions would be:
  • Take lots of water! We visited on a cool day but it is still in the desert and it got very warm.
  • If you have time check out more of the longer trails, such as in SoCal Hiker's visit.
  • Visit the Interpretive Center! It's a really neat place and the employees are very informative.
  • Please take children on the Pacific Crest Trail.  You don't have to be a backpacking ninja to hike on the PCT.  Even a 0.9 mile hike is worth enjoying the PCT with your family.
Trip Report Details
Who: One Adult and two toddlers
Mileage: 1.8 miles (0.9 miles on the PCT)
Time: 1 hour (51 minutes to be exact)
Elevation: 7 ft - very flat
Family Friendly: Very Easy

I truly had lots of fun with my kids at Vasquez Rocks, knowing that it was a hideout for the California Bandido Tiburcio Vasquez (hence the namesake) and with all the Hollywood film history, makes hiking at Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park out of this world!

Join in on the conversation by leaving a comment here! You can also join in on the conversations on Chasqui Mom's FacebookInstagram and Twitter that is updated daily with outdoor activities and other wonderful posts and links from #OutdoorFamilies!

Related Posts and Links:

  1. Family Desert Hiking: Devil's Punchbowl Natural Area
  2. The Pacific Crest Trail Association
  3. SoCal Hiker: Hiking the PCT in Vasquez Rocks

Pirates Cove Adventures with Amigos~ Guest Post on Latino Outdoors

Queremos aventura, algo diferente! My friend, Lorena has caught the "Outdoor Adventure Bug" as I call it.  I had to find a hike that lived up to our previous adventures like Rancho Corral de Tierra at Golden Gate National Recreation Area.  We tossed around ideas like Mt. Tamalapais, Pinnacles National Park, and the Santa Cruz Mountains, but nothing sat well with me.  I literally spent days looking for an adventurous place to hike, especially since Lorena and her husband Eliu had just returned from an Anniversary trip to the sierras trip and then I found Pirates Cove....

If you want to go there....
The 5.9 mile loop hike starts at Tennessee Valley Road in Mill Valley, which has a dirt parking lot, bathrooms and picnic tables. Start hiking on Tennessee Valley Road and take a quick right onto Fox Trail which is an uphill 1.0 mile hike to Coyote Ridge.  Fox Trail turns continues to Coast Fire Rd for 0.9 miles, which has FANTASTIC views of Muir Beach.  Turn left onto Coastal Trail for 1.0 mile to Pirates Cove spur.   NOTE: Pirates Cove spur is very rugged and steep, please take caution.

Return back up the spur and continue straight up the stairs and head to the right for 1.1 miles on an uphill hike on Coastal Trail.  Continue on Tennessee Valley Trail on a 1.1 downhill hike back to the parking lot.

Mileage: 5.9 Miles
Elevation: Approx. 1,800 ft
Elapsed Time: 6 hours 28 minutes (Including Lunch Break)
Group: 7 Adults & 2 Toddlers
Family Friendly (Difficulty Level 1-10): Level 6

Related Posts and Links:
  1. Latino Outdoors: Pirates Cove Adventure with Amigos
  2. The Hidden National Park - Rancho Corral de Tierra

Join in on the conversation by leaving a comment here! You can also join in on the conversations on Chasqui Mom's FacebookInstagram and Twitter that is updated daily with outdoor activities and other wonderful posts and links from #OutdoorFamilies!

Family Desert Hiking: Devil's Punchbowl Natural Area

On a little trip to the greater Los Angeles area, we decided to get out of the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles and headed out for a desert hike at Devil's Punchbowl Natural Area in Pearblossom, California near Palmdale.  The park is very remote, far away from the "main civilization" of Palmdale, on the skirts of the San Gabriel Mountains.  We arrived on a perfect fall day but I could imagine how hot the park gets in the middle of summer.

Devil's Punchbowl Visitor Center
The parking lot was pretty empty and I was not expecting the visitor center to be open at all, so I was surprised to find it open and was glad we decided to check it out!  There was no mention on the website that the visitor center had animals so it was quite surprising to see all the live spiders, snakes and insects as well as some taxidermy animals.  The ranger was very happy to show us the around the tiny Visitor Center, gave us a little lesson on the Honey Ants that you can eat alive.  We didn't want to eat them but apparently they taste sweet, like candy!  They also had a neat Animal Track Chalkboard Art.

RATTLESNAKES ~ The ranger told us the baby rattle snake (collage featured above) was born a few days prior to our visit.  He blew air into the vent which made the rattle snakes shake their rattles, something we've never experienced!  My son cried to leave but he still wanted to see the snakes, intriguing fear!

Punchbowl Loop Trail (1 Mile)
I don't know why I still have the belief that we could quickly hike five miles with our toddlers, but we opted out to hike Punchbowl Loop Trail which started in the Visitor Center/Picnic Area, the ranger suggestion.  The canyon looked deep, deserted and dry which would be great to find a dry creek bed for the kids to play in, so down we went into the canyon.  How can long can one mile take?

With having to touch every rock, spiky bush, sand piles and climb every rock my children encountered this one-mile loop took us a whopping two hours for this family of four!  It was a beautiful day to hike, the weather would get nice an warm when the sun was shinning and would cool off when the sun hid behind the clouds.  We sat took pictures, let the kids roll around in the trail, though after visiting the visitor center I was a little paranoid of snakes!

The Dry Creek Bed
We took a little off shoot trail down to the dry creek bed before head out of the canyon.  Earlier the ranger explained to us that normally there is "some" water all year round but the minimal rain has cause the creek to go dry.  A little sad but a dry creek bed is also fun to explore with little ones.  There were amazing sand rock formations as well as seeing how the creek has shaped the boulders over hundreds of years.  My kids also love sand and the creek bed provided lots of soft sand for them to play with, better than a playground sand box!

Lunch, climbing boulders, throwing rocks, playing in the sand and maybe some napping in the dessert sun took place in that dry river bed.  There may or may not have been some "Flash Flood" survivor reenactment ala Bear Grylls down in the creek bed, just in cased it rained on us.  Having so much fun in the creek, we reluctantly packed up and started hiking up hill out of the canyon.

Up and Out of Canyon
Hiking up hill is always a little challenging with toddlers and we had about 0.5 miles left.  My kids can barrel down the mountain on a slight down hill, but throw in a little uphill with a tiny bit of warm temperature and they wilt!  It's rather irritating how long it takes to hike up hill, knowing that my son has the ability and energy to hike five miles...it's a mental block he has but then again he's only four.

We got to see the creek from a different perspective going up the trail and saw lots of birds hanging out in the canyon rocks across the creek.  We coaxed the kids with candy all the way back to the parking lot.  My son sprinted on the flat sections of the trail but then wilted then instant we hit an uphill section.

Taking an Uphill Break!
My only complaint about Punchbowl Loop Trail is the trash I saw thrown into the canyon near the parking lot.  If you start hiking near the Visitor Center (counter clockwise on the trail map) it's very clean until you start hiking up hill towards the parking lot.  So many cans, bottles, food wrappers...I always pick up trash on the trail but there was so much thrown into the canyon.  Seems like a place people come to hangout after hours to drink.

Trail Report Details
Devil's Punchbowl Natural Area - Trail: Punchbowl Loop
Mileage: 1-1.5 miles (extra to the creek bed)
Elevation Change: 343 ft (per Strava)
Time with Toddlers: 2 hours
Family Friendly: Yes - Check weather!

Devil's Punchbowl has lots of geological features, Native American history, as well as being very near by the San Andreas fault and other smaller faults.  It's a great small park to visit if you are in the Palmdale area!  For more information please visit their website at Devils-Punchbowl.com or visit their Facebook Page.

This was our first time hiking in the desert! Where have you been desert hiking with your family?

Join in on the conversation by leaving a comment here! You can also join in on the conversations on Chasqui Mom's FacebookInstagram and Twitter that is updated daily with outdoor activities and other wonderful posts and links from #OutdoorFamilies!

Family Hiking Adventure Completed: 2013 Trails Challenge

In the beginning of 2013, I signed up for the Trails Challenge through Regional Parks FoundationEast Bay Regional Park District, (EBRPD) and Kaiser Permanente.  Its a program to promote "Healthy Parks, Healthy People" for Bay Area Residents to explore the parks as well as promoting healthy living!  Each year the program comes out with a list of specific trails in parks that must be completed: Five of the listed trails or 26.2 miles (marathon) of trails.  We completed the challenge by hiking but the challenge can also be completed by biking the trails.

Last year I was unable to complete the challenge due to travel and illness but this year not only did I complete the five trails but we did it as a family, hiked over 26.2 miles in East Bay Parks!  We also had a lot of fun exploring my local East Bay parks.  Here's a little overview of all the parks we visited this year!

Mileage: 2.5 Miles
Memorable Fact: This was my FIRST time hiking solo with my two toddlers.

Mileage: 5.2 miles
Memorable Fact: Never seen the hills so green.

Mileage: 3.4 miles
Memorable Fact: We hiked very close to cows!

Mileage: 7.1 miles
Memorable Fact: Accidentally hiked in the dark, heard coyotes and it's the HARDEST hike I've done in the East Bay hills.

Mileage: 3.1 miles
Memorable Fact: The Four "Famous" Trails Intersection are on this hike.

Miles: 2.6 miles
Memorable Fact: The longest 2.6 miles we hiked with our toddlers, great views of the SF Bay.

Miles: 2.5 Miles
Memorable Fact: First time hiking along the quarry.

The Trails Challenge is a great way to explore East Bay parks, stay healthy, a great way to get motivated to get outdoors.  Living in the San Francisco Bay Area is a very urban environment but we definitely get outdoors in our surroundings.  National and State Parks are great but local parks are my go to places almost on a daily basis.  Can't wait for 2014 Trails Challenge!

Do you have a favorite local East Bay Regional Park? For those not in the East Bay, what is your favorite local park?

Join in on the conversation by leaving a comment here! You can also join in on the conversations on Chasqui Mom's Facebook and Twitter that is updated daily with outdoor activities and other wonderful posts and links from #OutdoorFamilies!

Gear Review: KEEN Alamosa WP Toddler Hiking Shoes

Photo Courtesy of KEEN
We are truly a hiking, outdoor loving family and one of the most important pieces of gear is quality footwear.  I had been researching toddler hiking boots and shoes for our youngest daughter, who was starting to hike more this year.  I had mentioned to my husband that I wanted to purchase our daughter KEEN shoes and on road trip break my husband purchased our daughters first hiking shoe:

KEEN Alamosa Waterproof (WP) Toddler Hiking Shoes
Sizes Available: Toddler 8-13
Size Tested: Toddler 8
Retail Price: $65.00
Testing Location: California
Colors: Gargoyle/Purple Heart (Featured)
           Gargoyle/Strong Blue
           Dark Earth/Bossa Nova
           Black Jester Red

The Pluses!

Sturdy Shoe -We have many outdoor adventures from backpacking, day hiking and camping, to long days at the park and the KEEN Alamosa Hiking Shoe still looks as good as the day we bought them, except with a little mud on them.  The leather and non-marking rubber outsole truly make this shoe sturdy on the outside.  The bungee cord style laces are great for quick "installation" on a squirmy toddler.

The KEEN Alamosa Hiking Shoe is also a little "chunkier" than regular toddler athletic shoes which is great for keeping little toes warm in the San Francisco Bay Area winters which really don't require "winter boots".

Backyard fun!

Waterproof and Moisture Wicking - Whether you are in the back-country or having a great day at the park, getting soggy feet is not fun for anyone especially toddlers.  I like for my children to fully enjoy the outdoors which means puddle jumping and walking through "muddy mud pits" is a must!  These shoes are great for the hot summer months with their moisture wicking lining and for the rainy season with it's waterproof capabilities.  My daughter has almost fully submerged these shoes and the insides have stayed dry!  On one occasion the shoes were submerged under water but the insides dried very quickly.

Splashing around Pirates Cove, Mill Valley, CA
Lighter than Hiking Boots - I was very concerned with the weight of hiking boots for my toddlers and in particular for my daughter.  My son is very active and the weight of shoes never affected his walking/hiking abilities.  My daughter is completely different, even with certain weight of casual shoes she had difficulty walking so I knew I needed to purchase KEEN shoes because they made hiking shoes for toddlers.

The KEEN Alamosa WP Hiking Shoe has all the qualities of Alamosa Mid WP Hiking Boot but in a shoe form, which makes it lighter.  My daughter is able to run on the trail, backyards, beaches and in the park with ease!

Trail running anyone? Pacific Crest Trail - Vasquez Rocks

The Minuses

None!  I truly have no "minuses" about this toddler hiking shoe.  It was absolutely the perfect footwear for a hiking toddler.  One might think that $65.00 might be a little expensive for a toddler hiking shoe but it is truly worth every penny, it will outlast many children in a family.  I've seen KEEN shoes go on sale at the local outdoor retailers like REI but they sell fast, so be ready to buy quick!

Chasqui Mom's Last Thoughts...

I am 100% satisfied with our purchase of KEEN Alamosa WP Hiking Shoe for our hiking toddler and highly recommend this shoe not only for hiking but almost any outdoor activities.  We purchased this KEEN product and as always these are my honest opinions.

Join in on the conversation by leaving a comment here! You can also join in on the conversations on Chasqui Mom's Facebook and Twitter that is updated daily with outdoor activities and other wonderful posts and links from #OutdoorFamilies!

Related Posts and Links:
  1. Official KEEN Site
  2. Will My Next Hiking Boots Live Up To My Next?

A Tale of Two Mountains: Hiram Peak VS Ellis Peak [Guest Post by Nate Rische]

On our last attempted backpacking trip for this year, our good friend and fellow blogger Nate Rische of In The Absence of Something Substantial accompanied us to the Lake Tahoe.  Unfortunately, I became a victim of altitude sickness and we were not able to backpack on the Tahoe Rim Trail.  On the other hand, Nate was able to hike up to Ellis Peak, enjoy the beautiful views of Lake Tahoe and mark off another peak he bagged!

I’m not Chasqui Mom. I’m not even a mom. And thankfully, because that would be awkward; I’m a guy. But while the chasqui were running up and down the Incan Empire, my ancestors were fierce warriors in Bohemia (the region, not the artists) known as the Chod. So you can call me Chodové Warrior. You might also remember me as cheese-tester-guy.

So much of Chasqui Mom is about hiking as a family, and it may seem odd for a single guy to guest post. You’re thinking about it all wrong; I may be single, but I love to spend time outdoors with my family.  Unfortunately my blood relations all live far away, so I don’t get as many opportunities to get out with them. That just means I have to get out with my other family. Wonderful people like the Chasqui Family.

Nate carrying my daughter on a backpacking trip - Chasqui Mom
Don’t laugh; try to take a couple of toddler’s backpacking, and you’ll appreciate the need to invite along a guy like me, a pack mule willing to weigh down his pack with your extra gear and throw kids on his shoulder when necessary.

I’m not a mountain climber. I mean, I’d sure like to be at some point, at least a little bit. It’s on my to-do list, and you know how that goes. Unless you already climb mountains, in which case you don’t because you’re a little bit better about those to-do lists than I am.

So when I get the opportunity, I like to get what I can.

A bit back, I went camping at Highland Lakes, way up in the Sierra Mountains in the Stanislaus National Forrest. In fact, I think my quote about the location was, “Wow, this is remote. When the Chinese invasion comes, this is where I’m coming.” While driving out there, we watched the thunderheads roil on the horizon. We arrived at the campsite with enough time to set up my tent before it started to hail. Good golly, it hailed. Then rained on and off through the afternoon, evening, night, and even into the next morning.

Those of us camping had desired to hike along the Pacific Crest trail, but illness from one of our campers had cancelled that plan. We had the day and nothing planned. When the rain cleared up in early afternoon, I looked up at Hiram Peak towering over us, and knew what I had to do.

Hiram Peak - August 2012

There was no trail, so I surveyed the mountain and made my initial ascent along the west side, approaching from the smaller of the two Highland Lakes. I had a choice to go around the south or north side for the second half of the climb. The south side looked easier, but the north side remained in view of the lakes and campground. I erred on the side of caution, and took the north route. I circled around a plateau along the north side, and started my ascent towards the peak on the east side of the mountain.

Once I hit circled around on the east, there were gorgeous views of groves and valleys stretching on the southeast side of the mountain, scenery that we couldn’t see from our camp ground. I circled around on the east/south-east, and as I climbed the shrubby undergrowth gave way to a very loose rocky terrain. The summit itself was all rocks, boulders, stones, and rubble, everything in between. There was no clear path, and as I zig-zagged up towards the summit it got steeper and steeper.

Heading up to Hiram Peak
About 150 vertical feet from the summit, I took stock of where I was and what I had left. The terrain ahead was rough, and I’d seen great views already. I still had to climb all the way back down, and I made a decision. I’d done enough, I was satisfied to turn around. Or so I thought. I went back down. I thought I was happy. It was good enough.

I was wrong. I had been so close. I could have made it, I should have finished. I didn’t. I’d taken the easy way out.


Fast forward a bit. We were set to go backpacking on the Tahoe Rim Trail, when one of our group succumbed to altitude sickness. I’m very grateful that altitude sickness is not something with which I’ve had much trouble. Cancelling our plans to backpack, we instead decided to setup camp nearby, but the afternoon was still open, and the trailhead to Ellis Peak beckoned.

I made the initial climb up to the first ridge, and an outcropping of rocks stood away from the trail. I climbed to the top, and looked out over the Lake Tahoe valley. To my right, Ellis Peak loomed.

I followed the trail as it led up the ridgeline, turning into furious wind, threatening to blow us over. Seriously, gale-force winds blowing up from the lake along the north side of the peak. Thankfully, we crossed over to the south side for the final ascent, and the mountain shielded us from the wind thereafter.

On the north face, in the wind, it was frozen cold. In the wind shadow, it was comfortable, and the sun streamed through the pine forest.

The trail led first to Ellis Lake, which is sort of a misnomer, because a lake there is no more. Simply a very large, grassy divot tucked in a valley before the real ascent started.

According to the trail map, the peak was only ½ mile away, and several hundred vertical feet above.
I wasn't going to quit this time. Following the trail, it turned up. And up. After a good climb, we reached the “peak” of the trail. I looked over, the actual peak rose above us another 150 feet, but the trail went no higher.

I wasn't going to regret again.

I climbed those final 150 feet and looked over the peak. It was astounding; climbing up the south side of the peak it was perfectly still. But peaking over the edge and looking down the north side, the wind threatened to knock me over.

Ellis Peak View

The view was spectacular. As beautiful as any I’d ever seen before, with all of Lake Tahoe stretching out before me. I’d say it took my breath away, but that was probably just the wind.

Sometimes you think you’ve seen all you need to see, and that little bit of effort at the end isn’t worth it. You’re good enough. Maybe you’re thinking of the climb back down, or what you’re going to cook for dinner or whatever.

You’ll never regret staring out over the top of that mountain, even if it costs you a little more. Good enough isn’t, and you’ll always have unfinished business with that mountain.

At least until you do something about it. And maybe the view at the top isn’t any better than you’ve already seen. That isn’t the point; the whole idea isn’t about what you saw, but what you did. Or did not do.

My lasting memory of Hiram Peak is staring up at the top from below.  But from Ellis Peak, the whole world was at my feet.

Hiram Peak, I will see you again.

Have you ever had a "trail regret"? What did you do to overcome it?

Join in on the conversation by leaving a comment here! You can also join in on the conversations on Chasqui Mom's Facebook and Twitter that is updated daily with outdoor activities and other wonderful posts and links from #OutdoorFamilies!

Gear Review: Teton Sports Escape 4300 Ultralight Backpack

Any parent knows that when you leave the house to go anywhere with kids you have to take a multitude of things to keep the kiddos happy.  Recently when hiking alone with my two toddlers I noticed that my regular day pack was starting to show its age, as well as busting at the seams with our "gear" for our little mid-day hike.

A Mom's Daypack!
Teton Sports Escape 4300 Ultralight Backpack is normally used for backpacking trips or if you have lots of gear, like a mom hiking alone with two toddlers.

The Pluses!

Size - The size (4300 cubic inches/70 liters) is great for carrying everything a mother carries in a diaper bag, plus gear for hiking:

  • Diapers, Wipes, Toiletries
  • Change of Clothes and Sweaters
  • Snacks, Lunch and Toys
  • Hydration Pack and Water Bottle
  • First Aid Kit
  • Picnic Blanket
  • Baby Carrier (i.e. ERGO, Boba, etc.)
Pockets - I love all the top pockets but my favorite pocket is the front right pocket on the adjustable belt.  It's large enough to comfortably hold ANY phone size, plus a car keys as well as having small candies easily accessible.

Unisex - I'm very particular about having products fit to a women's body but "unisex" gear usually fit men better than women.  I loved 99% of the Escape's fit on my small framed body (5 feet tall), in particular the shoulder straps.  

Lightweight - 4.75 lbs! 

Rain Fly - Bright yellow rain cover is attached in the bottom compartment! I consider a great plus because most companies sell the rain fly separately.

Cost - MSRP $159.99

The Minuses

Adjustable Waist Strap - As I mentioned before, I am a really small framed, petite woman and even though the waist strap is for 28"-45" waist, this strap fits my waist just a tiny bit too big.  That is why a said I only love the fit 99%.

Escape 4300 Ultralight Backpack in action at Sunol Regional Wilderness

Chasqui Mom Last Thoughts...

I really like the Escape 4300 backpack, it's a really great spacious, lightweight backpack for day hiking with two toddlers and even though the waist strap fits me a little too big, the winter months are coming when my waist might get a little bigger! I never thought I would have to use a backpacking backpack as a day pack but I'm glad +TETON Sports was gracious enough to send me this backpack at no cost with no review required.  Thank you +TETON Sports for providing me a great new day back and as always, this review is my honest opinion.

+TETON Sports has a great video about getting to know you Escape 4300 Ultralight Backpack, check it out!

Related Posts and Links:

  1. Teton Sports: Escape 4300 Ultralight Internal Frame Backpack
  2. Will My Next Hiking Boots Live Up To My First?
  3. Gear Review: Vasque Breeze Ultradry Hiking Boots

Hiking Along Quarry Lakes Regional Recreation Area

Quarry Lakes Regional Recreation Area is a local East Bay Park located in Fremont, California.  In all my years of living near by we have never visited this park!  I've seen it hundreds of times, driving by it and seeing it from above on BART (the train) but once again the 2013 Trails Challenge brought us to a nice little park.  If you would like to read about our other 2013 Trails Challenge hikes please click here!

Quarry Lakes is a very family friend recreation area, activities including hiking, biking, swimming, fishing, picnicking, boating, dog walking as well as hosting many organized walks and running events!  Quarry Lakes is located near the Niles District near the border of Fremont and Union City surrounded by a residential area, there is a $5 parking fee.

Our 2.5 mile hike started on Old Creek Trail (about 1 mile) near the Boat Launch parking lot, the trail is just a gravel path wide enough for bikes, walkers and hikers.  There are lots of benches around the lakes to take breaks!  As parents we've recently decided that our son will no longer be carry on our hikes since he's weighing 40 lbs or more and our backs can't take it anymore, so our hikes have significantly been shorten and have very little elevation.  Long story short Quarry Lakes is a great place to for my son to hike!

Along Old Creek Trail we saw Canadian Geese!

We skipped rocks!

And most importantly played in the dirt! My Dirt Angel Girl!

We made it to the Western Pacific Trail which follows the BART Tracks....my son got excited and screamed with glee every time a train passed by!  We saw a little lizards and lots of vultures flying above.  It was a great easy hike to stretch our legs, complete another 2013 Trails Challenge hike and get outdoors!!

Related Posts and Links:
  1. Chasqui Mom's 2013 Trails Challenge Hikes
  2. Quarry Lakes Regional Recreation Area - East Bay Regional Park District
  3. Regional Parks Foundation - 2013 Trails Challenge

Implosion Hike...What's Not to Like?!

Saturday, August 17, 2013 was the last day Warren Hall stood at California State University East Bay (CSUEB) in the Hayward Hills.  As a 2004 CSUEB graduate (formerly known as Cal State Hayward), I wanted to see where I had many computer, accounting, french classes and the building where I paid thousands of dollars go down into the ground.

Photo Courtesy of +Paul McWilliams of Not a Moment to Lose
We decided to hike out to the hills south of Warren Hall at Garin Dry Creek Regional Park, a short 1.5 mile hike to where we wanted to set up.  The implosion was schedule for 9:00 a.m. so we woke up early, got the kids ready and headed out to Garin Dry Creek at 20 minute drive.  Garin Dry Creek is a very family friendly park for hikers, so far in the past year we have visited this park five times with our toddlers!

Our toddlers were terribly cranky that morning and everything was a struggle...getting out the door to hiking this very easy hike.  My three year old son has done more difficult hikes than this 1.5 mile hike but he was just not a happy hiker that morning.  My daughter also wanted in and out privileges from her carrier and she was not happy that we did not grant her those privileges.  I was a little worried that we were going to miss the implosion because we only had one hour to make this 1.5 mile hike.  I know that sounds ridiculously slow but if you have ever hiked with toddlers one mile an hour is usually a normal pace.

All the hikers, mountain bikers and photographers that we encountered on the trail had the same idea to go up on the hills behind Warren Hall so there was a steady flow of people around us.  We started our hike on Old Homestead Trail (0.25 miles) to Peak Loop Trail (0.8 mile).  As we arrived to the intersection of Peak Loop and Vista Peak, we saw all the spectators on the hills ready with their camera and I saw top floors of Warren Hall.  As we turned up a slight hill we heard the implosions go off and down came Warren Hall...I was a little irritated that we weren't situated to take pictures but I did see the building go down with my own eyes.

Thankfully, I had a Google+ friend +Paul McWilliams who was stationed down at a parking lot on Mission Blvd and he was able to take the moving picture above.  My kids were a little scared when they heard the implosion but they soon calmed down and made it up the hill so we could see the smoke disappear.  We talked to other bystanders, saw a rancher and his daughter ride by us on a horse and once everyone had left we decided to get closer to see the wreckage.

We continued back on Peak Loop Trail for another 0.44 miles when we realized that the hill in the distance were we saw a lot of spectators was actually not in Garin Dry Creek but on CSUEB property.  It seemed like it was an impromptu trail and we thought about crossing the little valley to get to it but decided against it.  We weren't planning on doing an actual hike but we ended up hiking in a new section of Garin Dry Creek that we've never been too, Ziele Creek Trail!

Beautifully Red Poison Oak ~ Ziele Creek Trail
I don't know how many times I can say this, but Garin Dry Creek is a very family/toddler friendly park difficulty wise, except for all the poison oak around the shaded Ziele Creek area.  If your child understands what poison oak is then great, but my son does not under completely understand what it is.  He's starting to understand not to touch it because it can hurt him.  He actually grabbed a whole branch but didn't get a rash. On the other hand, my husband who barely brushed some poison oak had to deal with rashes for almost two weeks.

We actually got a little turned around as well as some other hikers across the creek due to the fallen leaves on the trail which made it disappear...technically we weren't lost but I can see how easily you can lose the trail.  I guided the hikers across the creek to the trail and then we found the actual trail which was a little bit above us on the hill.  Back on the trail we continued trucking along Ziele Creek Trail and eventually found a dead deer carcass in the semi dried up creek.

In our first hike at Garin Dry Creek, we saw a large buck in the distance and I've heard of mountain lion sightings at Garin Dry Creek, so I know there is lots of animal activity in this park surrounded by urbanization.  All along Ziele Creek we found animal bones (well I hope it was animal bones) so it was quite surprising to find a whole small deer carcass that looked almost like it recently was alive, that nature for you.

We eventually emerged from the shady Ziele Creek Trail (1.13 miles) and headed on a familiar trails, Peak Loop and Old Homestead Trail for another mile or so.  My son hiked the entire 4.4 mile trek and my daughter was carried so we actually hiked much faster than we normally do.  My son can hike about five miles when there's hardly any elevation change but my daughter is not so much a hiker yet.  She's a lover of dirt, the first step of becoming a hiker!

Trip Report: Garin Dry Creek Regional Park

Who: Family - Two Adults and two toddlers
Mileage: 4.4 miles
Elevation Change: 1,031 ft
Family Friendly: Moderate

An implosion hike was a great way to see Warren Hall go down and spend our Saturday morning with our kids.  Just for fun here's a close up NBC's video of Warren Hall's last stand!  Thanks for the memories Warren Hall and for giving us one more family memory to add to our list!

Related Posts and Links:
  1. Not a Moment to Lose - Paul McWilliams
  2. Garin Dry Creek Regional Park
  3. A Chilly Hike at Garin Regional Park
  4. New Year's Day Hike: Garin Dry Creek
  5. WATCH: Cal State East Bay's Warren Hall Imploded
  6. California State University East Bay, Hayward
  7. East Bay Regional Park District - Garin Dry Creek Pioneer Regional Park

Three Days in One: Salkantay to Andenes Camp

Back in 2007, my husband and I took our first real adventure to Peru where we visited the Amazon Jungle and hiked to Machu Picchu. This is a series of post I've been writing about since I started this blog.  The first post on this particular day can be found at: The Savage Mountain, Nevado Salkantay.

Getting ready to come down Salkantay!
Tuesday, October 17, 2007
We started heading down Nevado Salkantay and it was cold, rainy, windy and muddy but it was much better than hiking up the mountain!  I was very glad to have some energy back and could hike again.  I learned a very good lesson on my way down the mountain to never buy cheap gear! Half way down the mountain my cheap poncho broke....I tried  to fix it but I just got wet.  Never again will I buy cheap gear.  I also wished I had a Balaclava because I had to hold up my scarf around my face to protect my face against the freezing cold wind the entire trek down.

This was the longest portion of the trek in my memory, my zombie trek.  I was cold, wet, hungry and I felt super disconnected I was just walking because I had no choice.  Sit down and rest in the pouring rain or just keep hiking, I chose the latter.  The energy that I felt early was gone, probably because I had barely eaten anything and I started singing to motivate myself to keep walking.  Once we got off the actual mountain and were hiking on flat ground I just wanted to be in our lunch tent!  I don't remember who else was walking with us except Jesse (my husband) and Edwin (one of our guides) but it was foggy, raining so we couldn't see too far ahead of us.  I kept asking Edwin, "How much longer?" and he would say 15 minutes, an hour or so later we finally saw the red tent in the distances and we made it.

We ate our delicious lunch in the pouring rain in a slowly forming swamp, we all sat there talked, recovered from the mountain we just came down.  The guides told me I looked like the women from Puno because my cheeks and nose were so red but after a few days had gone by we realized my nose was burned from the freezing wind.

Rosy Nose and Cheeks!

Jesse made me a make shift poncho out of a garbage bag which of course I wore for about two hours and it never rained....fail.  A group member later remembered she had an extra poncho that she let me borrow for the rest of the trek.  The rest of the afternoon we walked through a beautiful green valley as the rain slowly let up as the sun came out.

Garbage Girl....
Everyone felt good and was in good spirits when we made camp, except the Australian who became sick at the top of Salkantay, he ended up riding the horse all the way to camp.  I felt really bad for him because he really wanted to hike but he couldn't stop throwing up and just looked awful.  I was in his situation the day before so I knew what he was feeling.

Beautiful valleys

Goodbye Salkantay....

Andenes Camp
This day felt like it was three days in one! First getting to the pass at Salakantay, making it down the mountain to our lunch tent, and then walking through the green valley to our second camp at Andenes.  Even though it was a very tiring day, this was one of my favorite days because of the changing scenery from the rocky pass to the green lush valleys.

Related Posts and Links:

  1. Chasqui Mom: Peru Posts
  2. The Savage Mountain, Nevado Salkantay.

Family Urban Hiking at Miller Knox Regional Shoreline

I love exploring the not-known and underdog parks of the Bay Area.  A couple weeks after we had recovered from our last backpacking trip in early July we decided to go on an local hike.  I had already completed the five required trails the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) lists in the 2013 Trails Challenge but my husband needed one more to complete the challenge, so we headed out to Miller Knox Regional Shoreline in Richmond.

Old Country Road to West Ridge Trail
When I think of Richmond lots of negativity pops up in my mind, gangs, shootings, high murder rates so when the EBRPD listed this hike of course I was very interested because I didn't even know there was a shoreline park in Richmond and second of all after reviewing Miller/Knox's website I saw that it had a beach! Just because a place has a bad reputation don't be scared to go exploring and in this case urban hiking!

Urban hiking might mean different things to people but to me it means exploring parks in the immediate urban area, such as the San Francisco Bay Area as well as "hiking" in large cities like San Francisco!  You can definitely get some good hikes and elevation change with the hills in San Francisco!!

Driving to Miller/Knox was a little different because as soon as we got off the freeway it was very industrial, followed by million dollar homes, boats on the Marina and then a pond/playground park at Miller/Knox.

The hike began at Old Country Road Trail with an immediate somewhat steep climb (20%).  We had decided after our last backpacking trip that my son's time of being carried in a carrier had ended, so we were going to choose easier hikes, but somehow we keep ending up picking "steep" hikes. Oh well, my little three year old boy is a crazy good hiker for his age.  This section was very tiny and my daughter was also very determined to hike so we let her slowly climb the "mountain".

The views going up Old Country Road were fantastic.  It was still a little foggy around the coast but we could see the tops of Golden Gate Bridge, city views of San Francisco, Angel Island, Mount Tamalpais, San Rafael Bridge and the actual Bay was looking great that day.  Hiking by the Bay is a little tricky because the weather is so finicky, when the wind is blocked it gets rather warm, then it's very cold and breezy, then the fog could roll back in at any moment.  So even if it's a sunny day I always dress in layers, bring sweaters and jackets when hiking along the Bay.

The Pond at Miller Knox
Mount Tamalapais

Can you see the tops of Golden Gate Bridge?
We made it to the top of the first hill and took a little break and enjoyed views of the marina below us.  My son climbed the only tree at the top of the hill while my daughter played in the dirt and my husband decided to Zillow the houses in the marina, quite expensive I might say.  There were apartments, townhouses and single family homes in this tiny marina.

We had seen the hill we were going to come down when we first started the hike and I had wished we had brought our hiking poles but we hadn't.  At the steepest point it was a 42% grade (down hill) hike and our kids were determined to hike it themselves, so while my husband and son made it down pretty quick I spent my time trying to help my daughter to not slide down hill.  I am notorious with falling down on the trail, even when I'm just standing still, I know it's ridiculous.

West Ridge Trail (left) Old Country Road (right)

At this point, I know why the EBRPD categorized this hike as moderate due to all of its hills.  I read a little later that this used to the a Richmond Rambler Motorcycles trails, which makes sense with all the hills.  Now it's open to hikers (w/dogs), equestrian riders and mountain bicycles on specific trails.  We huffed it up to the second hill, called False Gun with even more great views of the Bay but didn't stay too long because the wind was almost knocking us over!

I love dirt!
Heading up to False Gun
We left False Gun and headed on to a "hiker only" trail called Crest Trail. We had a little confusion there because there was fence blocking an obvious trail that had the "Restoring Land" sign and hikers hiking on the forbidden land.  We didn't go over the fence...headed on the correct trail that had a switch back that took us back to where we thought we were going to in the first place the radio towers.

Crest Trail to Radio Towers
It was much less windy once we came off the ridge so we were able to warm up, but once we started up to the radio towers again the wind picked up with a furry!  My son is a great hiker but if temperature is a little to warm or he's a little out of sorts then he will drag his feet.. The second he saw the radio towers, he yelled "Mommy let's go see the spaceship!!".  Sure enough that helped him get to the top.

It's a Spaceship!!
It was almost all down hill after the radio towers so my son got into his hiking groove and my daughter fell asleep in my ERGO carrier.  With all that cool wind blowing in her face she had no other choice than to fall asleep! It was a really gentle down slope on Marina View Trail, behind a large water tower all the way down to the old Richmond Ramblers Motorcycle building off of Dornan Grove Trail.  Dornan Grove Trail ends on Dornan Dr (paved street).  We continued hiking on the street for a few minutes before getting back on Old Country Road (trail) again.

Chasqui Mom
Richmond Ramblers Motorcycler
There were small sections through the hike where we found blackberries, but once we got back onto Old Country Road, we were surrounded by a forest of blackberry bushes!

Didn't you know Batman also hikes?!
Blackberry Forest!!!

It was a quick easy up hill again towards the Old Country Road spur we started on and soon we were off to explore Keller Beach, which will be coming soon!

I'm sure glad that we decided to do a family hike in this urban park.  Miller/Knox is just another reminder that you really don't have to drive far our of the urban environment to enjoy the outdoors.  Have you found treasure parks like Miller Knox Regional Park in your urban world?  What did you like the most about your urban hike? Please leave your comments below!

Related Posts and Links:
  1. Bears, Waterfalls and Decisions at Hetch Hetchy
  2. Miller Knox Regional Shoreline - East Bay Regional Park District
  3. Tilden Regional Park - 2013 Trails Challenge Completed!
  4. Wordless Cooley Landing, East Palo Alto

The Hidden National Park - Rancho Corral de Tierra

Have you ever heard of Rancho Corral de Tierra?

Well there it is, Peak Mountain at Rancho Corral de Tierra, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (National Park Service) in my San Francisco Bay Area backyard, a National Park that I did not know about and I bet a lot of Bay Area residents don't know about it too.  A few months ago we were driving down Highway 1 from San Francisco and I saw trails above Montara (south of Pacifica)and told my husband, "I want to hike there!".  I pulled out my phone to find out what park that was but it didn't show the "green area" which designates a park other than McNee Ranch State Park, which was next to the area I wanted to hike in.  I thought it must be private property and forgot about it.

Labor Day Weekend was coming up and my husband had seen an article on an addition to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Rancho Corral de Tierra only to find out it was where I was wanted to hike a few months earlier.  I started researching for hiking trails, seen if anyone else had written a post or been up there with toddlers but I couldn't find anything in the particular section we wanted to hike.  Only a very rough "trail map" by the National Park Service with a warning about steep, eroded trails.

"Rancho Corral de Tierra", Map., July 2013., National Park Service. Web. 12 Sep. 2013.
If you haven't noticed by now, we like adventure and when we figured out that this was a "rarely visited", underdeveloped park we were immediately intrigued.  Before I even start writing about our hike, I would like to state that we knew this was NOT a kid-friendly hike and I would not encourage beginner family hikers to hike this mountain.  With that said I know our abilities, my husband and I are strong hikers/backpackers (for years) as well as my children's limitations. We felt that we were capable of doing this hike with our children.

Rancho Corral de Tierra Farallon Trailhead
Finding the trailhead was a little difficult, I kind of eyeballed it and we decided to meet up with our friends, Eliu, Lorena and Esdras at Montara State Beach.  Then we drove a few blocks across Highway 1 to 2nd Street and Farallon/Kanoff Street.  Low and behold we found the trailhead and the end of Kanoff Street.

I normally don't put our GPS information at the beginning of a post but it is needed as a point of reference as you read about our this hike.  The Farallon Trailhead is where the black arrow is located. 

We started our hike (red line) heading northeast from the trailhead towards McNee Ranch State Park, on Farallon Trail. That is the last trail name that will be written because there were no more named trails in this park! If we continued on Farallon Trail it would have taken us to McNee Ranch State Park.  

Peak Mountain shrouded in Fog
The beginning portion of the trail was dried up grass fields and low lying coastal plants. 90% of the trail was uphill until we reached Peak Mountain.  I guess I knew that it was going to be all up hill but the fog had rolled in so we couldn't see HOW much of the trail was uphill.  We made it to the top of our first hill and took a break to figure out where in the world to go next.

Not even THE steep hill!

Siri, Where are we?
With no trail markers, we weren't lost but we really didn't know where to go next, my husband pulled his GPS, I inspected my phone and we still couldn't figure out with certainty where to go so we made and educated guess and headed east down the hill. But before we left the top of our first hill we saw our first and only wildlife during the trip.  I believe it was a Garter Snake, the specifics I would not know but if you can identify this snake please leave me a comment!

Garter Snake?
In the picture below, the trail is visible but at the time we didn't know where we were going. The trail eventually started on the right middle side of the picture, followed the ridge to the pine trees, followed the ridge and to the left you can see a faint trail going in between some power lines to Peak Mountain on the left side of the picture.

Looking for the trail.
But before we actually reached the first ridge, we came down this hill and walked into a forest of pine trees that reminded me of scenery at Point Reyes National Seashore.  We found an illegal "campground" or a dump site...a fire ring with broken mattresses, recliners, tires, trash, remnants of illegal fireworks and last but not least condoms hanging in the trees....thanks people who probably don't love the environment.

From Left to Right: Esdras, Lorena and Eliu

All of our hiking buddies were our musician friends from church.  From the right we have Eliu who plays and makes guitars, Lorena (who has hiked with me before at Tilden Regional Park) is a great singer, and Esdras (on the left, who plays almost every instrument) is a piano player and our worship leader.  We had Mexicans, Salvadoreans, Peruvians and my husband who is an "Honorary Latino" (he's Caucasian) hiking and exploring at an unknown National Park, Fantastic!
Lorena, where's the trail?
We followed what we thought was a trail but ended up turned around in some tall grass bushes and decided to turn back to where the had trail split off.  If you look at the map above, we turned back in the middle of the trail (red line) where there is a tiny loop and headed south through the forest.  I pulled out my phone again to check out Google Earth, to see if we could find our way to the "actual" Rancho Corral de Tierra.  I don't know if at this point we were on private or county land but we continued on through the pine forest.  My husband was the first to emerge from the forest and he started laughing and says, "Come and look at this!" and this is what we saw....

Up we went....


This was the steepest trail we've ever done with our children, I've never had to actually use my hiking poles to jam into the ground so I could pull myself up mountain.  I did that quite often on this hike!  My son was having a blast, crawling on all fours at some points saying, "Mommy, I'm rock climbing!", not really buddy but ok!  The circled area is this steep section, a 50% grade (pictured below).

We all survived the steep section and relieved to find a flat trail/fire road at the top, still not knowing if we were going the correct way (trespassing signs were around us) we headed north on the trail and we were finally happy to see that our efforts had paid off and we had found the elusive Rancho Corral de Tierra!!!

It took us a little while to find the actual entrance with possible trespassing, but we were determined to find it and we did.  I felt like I could finally relax and enjoy the steep hike!  The hike went along the ridge line along the tall grassy bushes, by the pine trees, and followed the ridge.  During sections of the hike Lorena and Esdras would race up the trail and I'd though to myself, "Is that how much energy I had when we didn't have kids?" Hah! I told them they would pay for it later with being sore...

My daughter was being carried most of the time since the trail was too steep for her but steep trails seem to energize my son, until he actually gets tired from hiking straight up a mountain.  We still didn't know where we were going exactly but at some point I turned to my husband and said, "I think we are going up that mountain between the power lines...".  My husband said, "I think we are too..."

It took us four hours reach the top of Peak Mountain at 1,825 ft from sea level.  The last half mile, my husband had to come back from the peak because my son was too "tired".  When we reached the peak, my son ran around like a wild mountain child...he wasn't tired and hike most of the way down the mountain.  We had amazing views of the Bay Area, from Point Reyes National Seashore, Golden Gate Bridge, Mount Tamalpais, Mount Diablo, Mission Peak, Half Moon Bay and of course the Pacific Ocean. (View pictured at the beginning of the post).

We had a Curry Chicken Wrap (without Curry) or as my husband dubbed them on this trip, "Mountain Tacos", Trader Joe's Salami, Cheese and Banana Chips for lunch and took our glamour shots on Peak Mountain!

Photo Courtesy of Lorena Armas

We could see the other peaks and the actual trails from McNee Ranch State Park that had many hikers on it.  We did not see any hikers on this side of the mountain until we were hiking back and saw a couple of hikers on their way up to Peak Mountain.  After lunch, we packed up and headed back down to sea level also known as sliding down the mountain. All of us at some point almost fell down or in may case slid down the trail on my rear end with a child strapped to my back, ouch!  There a no switch backs on this trail, 1,800 feet straight up a mountain.

None of us wanted to go down the extreme steep section near the fire road so we headed down the fire road which eventually dumped us in a residential neighborhood, so we "urban hiked it" to our cars through the streets.  We actually saw an alpaca farm, Alpacas By the Sea walking through the neighborhood which was nice to see!

Our friends said if we had shown them the mountain we were going to hike in the beginning they would have been very intimidated and I told them if it wasn't for the fog covering the mountain I would have been intimidated too!! Seven hours, 6.3 miles maybe some bumps and bruises but we all made it to Peak Mountain in Rancho Corral de Tierra - Golden Gate National Recreation Area!  It was an adventure.

Related Posts and Links
  1. Rancho Corral de Tierra - Golden Gate National Recreation Area - National Park Service
  2. Rancho Corral de Tierra - Map by National Park Service
  3. Tilden Regional Park - 2013 Trails Challenge Completed
  4. The Ever Changing Point Reyes National Seashore
  5. Curry Chicken Wrap by Backpacker Magazine
  6. Montara State Beach - California State Park

Will My Next Hiking Boots Live Up to My First?

Eight years ago, I walked in to my local +REI and purchased my first pair of boots, +Merrell Continuum Women's Hiking Boots.  Up until then those were my most expensive footwear I had ever purchased, vaguely remember the price...about $180.00 but my husband (then fiancee) told me, "Trust me they are worth it..." and they sure were.  I wasn't a big outdoors person back then as I am now, but if I can contribute piece of gear that helped me grow into LOVING the outdoors it would be these boots.

I have never had an issue with my +Merrell Continuum, maybe I lucked out and picked the perfect boots and I know without a doubt that these were greatly made.  I have so many memories attached to my boots, they have traveled with me, been with me on arrest and search warrants, firing range, law enforcement training, camping in Mexico and most importantly hundreds and hundreds of miles on the trail in the United States and Peru.

My +Merrell Continuum are currently in "ok" hiking condition but one of the front toe seams recently ripped when a branch hit the seam perfectly and the soles are starting to peel away from the sides.  I can still hike in them but I am most certain that the waterproofing has been compromised.  They will get a few occasional hikes in but the Bay Area "Rainy" (I'm being sarcastic) season is approaching and don't want to risk testing the waterproof issues on them.

I recently asked my fellow outdoors connections what boots they recommended and now I'm torn!! There are so many options now!  Will my next hiking boots live up to my first?  Based on my needs and the recommendations I've received I'm actually thinking of getting two types of boots for the following reasons:

  • Day Hiking Boots: For shorter easier hikes, not carrying too much weight (30lbs and under).
  • Backpacking and Longer Day Hiking Boots: I normally carry 40-50 lbs when backpacking and lesser weight during longer day hikes but during certain times of the hike I usually end up carrying my pack AND one of our children.  The weight I carry (child and backpack) usually ranges from a minimum 30-80lbs, so I need a hard boot.
+KEEN has been highly recommended and of course I will be looking into +Merrell again, for day hiking boots.   For backpacking boots, I'm leaning towards the Asolo TPS 520 GV Women's Hiking Boots but I'm still looking into others.  My husband has the Asolo Men's version and he absolutely loves them, so much that he sent them to get resoled to a cobbler in Seattle, Washington.

Until then, a little photo montage of where my boots have taken me over the last eight years....

The Inca Steps on the Inca Trail - Peru

The clay muddy hills of the San Francisco East Bay Hills.

The steep trails of Rancho Corral de Tierra in the Peninsula.

Of course, Chasqui Mom's and any hiking boot mecca - Machu Picchu.

I want to cry just writing about my boots...is it weird that I have such en emotional attachment to a piece of gear?  Do you have a emotional attachments to gear? Also, if you have any recommendations on Day Hiking and Backpacking Boots please leave a comment with your recommendation, I would really appreciate it.

The Colorful Colorado River Trailhead, Rocky Mountian National Park

Our first hike in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP)  was an easy one but gorgeous one.  We were itching to get exploring since we had been in the car for a few days and had been running errands our first day in the Colorado.   We stayed in a cabin in the Grand Lake which is in the west side of RMNP, not the main entrance which is around Estes Park on the east side of the park.

We were still adjusting to the altitude so we wanted a short and easy hike so I searched the internet for family friendly hikes and found this wonderful organized list of RMNP hikes by RockyMountainNationalPark.com.  The hike was listed as 3.7 miles one way but we weren't attempting to hike an almost 8 mile trek with the kids on our first day.  We decided we go out as far as we felt comfortable and turn back, I had been dealing with some post-root canal tooth pain so I wasn't keen on pushing it.

We picked the Lulu City trek which started on the Colorado River Trailhead.  The trail it self was fairly flat other than the initial two switch backs at the beginning of the trail.  We never made it to Shipler's Cabin or Lulu City, but like I mentioned earlier we just wanted to get out and hike.  The trail was very beautiful, open meadows with hundreds of wildflowers, that followed the Colorado river.  I was really amazed with all the "green" around me because I am so used to hiking in dry summer San Francisco East Bay hills.

Earlier in the day it hailed on us (we were in our cabin), a rare thing for Californians to experience, so the trail had tons of puddles for my children to splash in!  Thank you +Hi-Tec USA for making awesome boots!  My son was breaking in his brand new Hi-Tec Reno Waterproof Jr. Hiking boots for the first time in Rocky Mountain National Park!  They still have some mud on it, the way it's supposed to be!

I'm so used to California "brown" summers that I was in love with every mushroom, fern and wildflower that I saw.  Including the Colorado State Flower: The Rocky Mountain Columbine (2nd flower pictured), which stopped me dead in my tracks and I said, "That's the most beautiful flower I've ever seen!" It was all by itself in between some trees.

My son hiked most of the day and my daughter hiked small portions of the trail but was mostly carried.  We made it to a very large open meadow on one side of the trail and a very rocky portion on the other side of the trail and decided to take a long break.  My son climb on every rock he could, my daughter played in the dirt, while us parents tried to relax and snooze on the rocks.

We weren't sure how far the cabins were but decided we were going turn back after our break.  After we finished the hike we were figured only 0.3 miles away from the cabins from the large meadow.  Oh well, there will be a next time!  We could see all the dead trees that were infected by the "beetle" along the trail and it was very prominent across the meadow on the mountainside.  The rocky meadow was very picturesque and I wish we could have stayed for the sunset but we were all getting hungry and looking forward to having dinner at The Grand Lake Lodge.

We quickly packed up and headed back down the trail, stopped for a few breaks so the kids could skip rocks on the Colorado River.  We also saw some elk in the far distances in a meadow.  I was so excited to see wildlife since we had seen fresh tracks earlier in the day.  We saw some moose and more elk on the drive back which was nice as well, but there something more exciting about seeing wildlife when there is nothing in between you and the animal.


I'm a "numbers" person so I always include our hiking information...about 3 hours averaging 1 mph.  Some day we will hike faster!

9,300 ft is a big difference from hiking in the San Francisco Bay Area.  I loved it!!

Our 3.6 mile trek in Rocky Mountain!

We had only seen a tiny portion of Rocky Mountain and I already fell in love with the park as well as the "Never Summer Wilderness" which was across the valley, on the trail we hiked.  The name made me laugh, is it really "Never Summer" there?  Off we went to the Grand Lake Lodge where we enjoyed our delicious dinner and view of Grand Lake and Rocky Mountain National Park!

Related Posts and Links:
  1. Summer Road Trip 2013
  2. Dinosaur National Monument, Oh My!!
  3. Favorite Family Hikes in Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park by RockyMountainNationalPark.com
  4. Rocky Mountain National Park by National Parks Service
  5. Grand Lake Lodge

Dinosaur National Monument, Oh My!!

What fun we had at Dinosaur National Monument, in Utah!  Our first intention was to camp at Green River Campground at Dinosaur NM on our second night of our road trip, but due to a bad storm and cranky toddlers we opted out to stay in a hotel in Heber City about 2.5 hours east of Dinosaur NM.  It worked out for the best since the kids (and parents) got to take a swim in a pool!

Sorry National Park Service, about my son climbing your sign....I guess that is what happens when you put a three year old in climbing gym, that has been sitting in the car for a few hours.  We had calculated our break correctly and stopped to see DINOSAURS!  My kids were ecstatic, especially since my husband recently gave our son a dinosaur book and he's been memorizing all the names.  Our boy was ready to see the Allosaurus!

I was terribly fascinated with this mountain rock formations, apparently that how rocks are in Utah.  I love California but Utah has some pretty cool locations that I definitely want to go back to.  My only complaint is the lack of available coffee locations that stay up past 7 p.m.

How cool is a ANY visitor center with a dinosaur in front of it?! I wish I would have recorded my kids faces with the saw the "real" dinosaur.  My daughter was terrified and my son screamed, "I WANT TO RIDE IT!!!" Sorry buddy....

We did a little shopping at the Visitor Center and purchased our new National Parks Passport, an Apatosaurus which my son named him "T-Rex" (ironic) and a stuffed Stegasaurus for our little girl.  Then we took the "Roller Coaster" (the Tram, but it's cooler if you call it a roller coaster to toddlers) up to the Quarry Hall Exhibit Center.  I wish I could have read all the signs, learned more about the history and taken better pictures but we had a little boy that saw a giant wall with Dinosaur bones in it that looked very climbable...so here are a few.

It was truly fantastic to see how perfectly the dinosaurs fossils were preserved.  I think we know there were dinosaurs that roamed the Earth because we learn about them in school, read about them in books, see them in movies but seeing these fossils with my own eyes made me really understand that these creatures were truly alive.  They roamed the same land I was roaming with my own children thousands and thousands of years after these creatures died.

Well since the dinosaurs roamed the earth so must we! Of course we decided to hike back down from Quarry Hall Exhibit Center to the Visitor Center on the Fossil Discovery Trail!  It was quite warm high 80's maybe even low 90's so we hiked a very short distance.  Just enough so we could all stretch our legs before the next couple of hours in the car.

The beginning of our 1.3 mile hike!

The only shade we found!  Loving all the rock formations.

Below is our little jaunt on the trail at Dinosaur National Monument on Strava.

Everyone got a little exercise and most importantly the kids got to run around and burn some energy before getting back into the car for the next few hours!  I really wish we had more time to spend at Dinosaur NM but with a time crunch to get to Colorado, we had to say goodbye to the land where dinosaurs once roamed. Apparently there are nice auto tours, hiking, camping and river rafting at Dinosaur NM.  Hopefully we will have a chance to come back some day and enjoy it more.  Until then I leave you with a desert flower....

Related Posts:
  1. Summer Road Trip 2013
  2. The Colorful Colorado River Trailhead, Rocky Mountain National Park

Summer Road Trip 2013

Just getting back from our whirlwind family road trip to Colorado!  Have too much to write about but here's a little glimpse of our trip all around the west!

The Loch at Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Visiting the Allosaurus at Dinosaur National Monument, Utah.

Elk at the Alpine Tundra at Rock Mountain National Park, Colorado

A quick stop at Arches National Park, Utah

A little camping at Castle Rock Campground, Fishlake National Forest, Utah

A jaunt on The Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada!

A desert stop on the Pacific Crest Trail, in California.

Three National Parks, one national forest campground, two hotels, a cabin and a SUV were our homes for the last week.  So many stories, lessons learned and best of all lots of fun!

Related Posts:

  1. Dinosaur National Monument, Oh My!!
  2. The Colorful Colorado River Trailhead, Rocky Mountain National Park