24 July, 2015

Wagner Road Trip 2015 - Vacation Recap

Okay, okay... so, I've been gone an entire year... but, a friend asked me if I was going to blog about our recent road trip and I told her I would. So, without further ado... here's a quick recap of our Wagner Road Trip 2015!

First stop, the Pacific Northwest. Mount Rainier was beautiful and we saw it on a (mostly) cloudless day...something I'm told doesn't happen too often! The wildflowers were also just starting to bloom. The Grove of the Patriarchs trail was phenomenal... So many massive trees!

Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park off the Pacific coast was beautiful. The rugged rocks off the coast are called sea stacks. The water was cold and as you can see, we definitely needed warm clothes. The starfish, sea cucumbers and sea anemones could easily be seen because it was low tide. The bottoms of the rocky sea stacks were covered with them!

Hiked through the HOH Rain Forest of Olympic National Park. Lush and green! It's amazing how the landscape can change so dramatically!

Possibly one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. North Cascades National Park was a definite favorite. The water in this picture was truly turquoise (No Photoshop needed here!) Roaring waterfalls were at every turn from the melting snow. It was very beautiful! (My heart goes out to the victims of the recent ice cave collapse that occurred in North Cascades National Park. Such a tragedy.)

Words can hardly describe the beauty of Glacier National Park in Montana. We hiked and explored as much as we could in our two short days there. The bear in the picture was foraging alongside the road and we were lucky to be close enough to get a great picture of him. The picture of the reflected mountain is a totally legit picture taken by me.

White water rafting in the Salmon River. Randy's friend owns a rafting and guide business in Stanley, Idaho and he invited us to spend the afternoon rafting! So much fun! 

Arches National Park in Moab, Utah is one of the most extraordinary places I have ever been. What must have occurred here thousands, upon thousands of years ago to form these incredible arches and rock formations is truly mind boggling. If you ever have the opportunity to visit this national park, it is well worth the visit! 

Canyonlands National Park in Utah was such a stark contrast to Arches NP. Canyonlands is literally across the highway (or the Moab Fault) from Arches. After checking out all of the canyon overlooks, Randy convinced us that his GPS tracked a "shortcut" back to Moab that was only 18 miles. Um, that shortcut was an off-road 4x4 trail that was NOT a shortcut at all. We spent over two hours off-roading on Little Canyon Road. Fun? Maybe for Randy...

Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado has been on my bucket list of national parks for quite some time. These cliff dwellings were established approximately 800 years ago. And trust me when I say, they were under a cliff overhang, over a deep canyon! The Ranger guided tours were very informational and interesting. Hard to imagine people actually lived there!

And finally, 

Thank you to this guy for researching, planning and plotting our road trip adventures for the last four years! 25 National Parks and counting...

08 July, 2014

Wagner Road Trip 2014 - Zion and Bryce Canyon National Park

Before we headed out of Zion, we had another mini-hike planned for the morning. 

The Narrows Hike in Zion is a very popular hike.  However, you need wading boots because you are definitely going to get wet. The very nature of the Narrows Hike is trekking through the Virgin River between the narrow canyon.  We knew in advance that we would not be hiking the Narrows, but it was possible to hike up to the Narrows entry point.

Here we are at the beginning of the Narrows Trail.

Here's where you enter the water and where our hike ended.

On the way back, we stopped off at this pool to check out the fish.  The water was so clear.

I love how the water streams down the canyon wall like condensation. The wall was filled with beautiful flowers, honeysuckles and greenery.

We headed out of Zion and made our way to Bryce Canyon National Park also in Utah.  I've seen pictures from Bryce Canyon but the photographs of the Hoodoos pale in comparison to the real deal.  There is just no way to describe it.  One of the more visually stunning parks I've ever been to.  

Starting our trail at Sunset Point.

Making our way down to Wall Street.

Inside Wall Street.

Making our ascent from the Queen's Garden.

Still hiking UP from the canyon.  It was hot!

We headed back to our cabin and took a nap.  It was a long 3.5 mile hike in the noon-day sun.  We needed a break! 

We had dinner at a local pizzeria near our cabin.  We had a running joke the whole trip and it was that the people who work in National Parks are on "Mountain Time" or "slow-as-molasses-running-uphill in-the-winter" time.  I think we waited for our pizza for about 45 mins.  Not the model of efficiency I must say.  But, it was good and we beat the dinnertime rush.  (Thank goodness!)

After dinner, I headed back to the canyon to check out the Hoodoos once more.  The sun was lower in the sky so you could make out more detail of the Hoodoos in the shade of the canyon.

The square shaped hoodoo on the left is Thor's Hammer.  The tallest hoodoo in Bryce Canyon and one of the most recognizable hoodoos in the world.

Close up of Thor's Hammer.  It looks like it could topple at any moment.

The cabins that we stayed in at Bryce were beautiful and decorated so lovely.

The next morning we headed out quite early because we were facing an 11-hour drive to Albuquerque.  On the way out, we stopped by the National Park sign and took our obligatory picture. 

We arrived in Albuquerque at dinner time, ate local Mexican food and went to bed early.  We had another long drive ahead of us... this time 12 hours.  We made it home by 8:30 p.m. that evening and we were so glad to be home.  

Our road trips are a lot of fun.  There is a lot of pre-planning involved, but once we hit the open road, it's nice and relaxing.  I hope that before the girls are too much older, we can plan one more BIG road trip.  Thinking about Washington, D.C. next.  Maybe in a couple of years.

07 July, 2014

Wagner Road Trip 2014 - Zion National Park

We left Sequoia National Park and headed back to Vegas. This time around, we didn't stay on the strip, but rather in a hotel and casino off the strip.

Interestingly enough, it was the weekend of the Comic-Con (Comic Book Convention) that was held at our hotel.  There were people dressed like comic book heroes and apparently, the less clothes they could get away with... the better?

Um, it was definitely NOT something we planned.  In fact, I bet we would have seen less scantily clad people had we stayed on the strip!  Needless to say, there was no reason to hang out Vegas the second time around.  So, the next morning, we headed out to Zion National Park in Utah and arrived in time for lunch!

After lunch, we headed out on the biggest hike of our lives - Angel's Landing, which is also one of the most famous hikes in the U.S.  Randy was prepping us for this hike for weeks.  Talking about how awesome it would be, but also, that it was going to be hard.  We headed out on the hike around 1:00 p.m. on a blazing hot day.

Here we are seeking shade shelter after about the first 15 minutes.  Thank goodness for Camelbaks full of water!  (If you are ever planning a trip to any National Parks invest in Camelbaks.  They are work every penny!)

Still blazing sun, but look at that trail.  It's steep and strenuous!
Beautiful view, though.

Ah, a bit of shade! Little did we know, we were about to head into "Refrigerator Canyon" where the wind blows between the canyon walls, where there is plenty of shade and no steep grades.  Perfect way to prepare for the final ascent.

Here we are in Refrigerator Canyon.

We met a hiker during a quick break and she said that we were almost to the top.  We just had to navigate "Walter's Wiggle" which is 21-sharp turning zig-zag switchbacks.

Finally, we made it to the sandy plateau of "Scout's Lookout" where we ended our hike.  The hike to Angel's Landing continued another .5 miles, but sadly it required hanging onto chains, while climbing, to reach the top.   Oh, and did I mention, there's a sheer cliff on each side?

  Randy checking out the remaining portion of the trail.  However, he didn't make it too far.  The girls were near tears when he even 'thought' about hiking the remaining trail.

The girls taking a break at the top of Scout's Lookout.

This sign posted did not help Randy's case of continuing the trail.

On our descent down Walter's Wiggles.  Kyla and Randy navigated the switchbacks better than Elisan and I did, so they got quite a head start on us.

Elisan loved the wind erosion against the canyon wall.  It was pretty!

Elisan and I working our way down the trail... slowly but surely.

Here's the remaining portion of the trail.  Looks fun, right? 

Look how shaded the picture above is.  The sun was finally behind the mountain and the way down was much more pleasant than going up.  Once we were safely on the ground, we took the shuttle back to our lodge and watched more World Cup Soccer - U.S. vs. Portugal.

After the game, we ate at the Zion Lodge restaurant called Red Rock Grill and it was delicious.  After we ate, we took a leisurely walk to the Lower Emerald Pools.  

Check out the water fall we were walking under.  It was lush and green in the lower pool area.  

Here they are wrapping up our evening stroll! 
We headed for the bed soon after.  
We were all dog tired!

06 July, 2014

Wagner Road Trip 2014 - Sequoia National Park

We caught a glimpse of the Sequoia trees while in Kings Canyon, but I wanted to write about these ancient trees in my entry about the Sequoia National Park.

My family visited this park when I was four years old and honestly, I don't recall much about the trip.  I do remember seeing photos of our trip in the family photo album and I really wanted to bring the girls to see the Sequoias.

To learn some interesting facts about Sequoias, this website offers some quick facts and information regarding the largest living things on earth!

Elisan standing in the fire scarred trunk of a living Sequoia.

One thing that I learned about Sequoias is that the NEED fire to help them grow.  A controlled fire burns the underbrush.  The heat from the fire opens up the Sequoia cones and seeds virtually rain down onto the newly cleared (burned) ground where the seeds can take root.  Sequoia trees by design are fire resistant, so while they can burn, they don't die.

Surprisingly, this is NOT a Sequoia pine cone.  This is actually a Sugar Pine Cone.

This egg-sized cone is a Sequoia cone.

Climbing Moro Rock, a granite monolith inside Sequoia National Park.

The view from (not quite the top of) Moro Rock.

General Sherman Sequoia tree.  The largest living thing on earth!

Being silly on the Redwood Canyon Trail.

A giant Sequoia amid the forest.

Another interesting fact about Sequoia trees is that they only grow in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Read below:

"All naturally occurring groves of giant sequoias are located in moist, unglaciated ridges and valleys of the west slope of the Sierra Nevada range in CaliforniaUnited States.  The giant sequoia is usually found in a humid climate characterized by dry summers and snowy winters. Most giant sequoia groves are on granitic-based residual and alluvial soils. The elevation of the giant sequoia groves generally ranges from 1,400–2,000 m (4,600–6,600 ft) in the north, to 1,700–2,150 metres (5,580–7,050 ft) to the south. Giant sequoias generally occur on the south-facing sides of northern mountains, and on the northern faces of more southerly slopes." 

The Big Stump Basin, standing on the Mark Twain Tree Stump.

The Big Stump Basin is a quiet reminder of how man can enter a completely beautifully preserved area and destroy it for profit and gain.  The Big Stump Basin was home to the Smith Comstock Lumber Mill that was in business during the 1880's.  

I loved Sequoia National Park.  It was beautiful, fascinating and a joy to revisit.