Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Twins are 8

Last month, the Cort and Reid turned 8.  Some of you have been reading about them on this blog since they were four months old!  Most of the time, they get along well (like in this picture, they were listening to some music together).  It's Cort and Pierce that do all the arguing in our house.

Cort and Reid are often up to some sort of antics.  Here, they were banished outside because of the brass instruments that they truly cannot play.  This is my uncle's old trumpet and Paul's old saxophone.  Instruments of torture for this mom's ears!

The week after they turned 8, it was back to school.  The only thing Cort requested for his birthday was blue hair.  So we made that happen.  He loved it, and couple of weeks later he was back to normal. 

Cort and Reid are in 3rd grade this year.  Pierce is in 5th.  I can't believe we'll have a middle schooler next year!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Camping at Holliday Lake State Park

Before the boys returned to school, we took a four day camping trip at Holliday Lake State Park.  I ran an ultramarathon there years ago, and always thought it would be a nice place to camp.  The day we arrived, the entire place was empty except for one RV (by the weekend it was almost completely full).  So we got the pick of the tent spots - #14 (which was good because some of them are right on top of each other). 

The boys rode bikes around the camping loop while Paul and I got things set up.  We successfully figured out how to hook up the tent garage with the rainfly, so we were pleased that we weren't total idiots this time (unlike our garage setting up FAIL at Fairystone). 

The lake was exceptionally clean, and no one woke up during the night sick with stomach pain and vomiting this time around.  More success!

The boys can't get enough swimming during the summer months.  It's one of their favorite activities. I enjoyed running the trails in my spare time (and Paul biked them).

On Friday we took a side trip to get in some history at Appomattox Courthouse.  It's only fifteen minutes away.  Here are the boys in the jail.  They were suitably impressed by the big chain bolt in the floor and walls.

The little village was simple and quaint.  There were people in period dress telling stories throughout.

The picture below is the backside of the McLean house (brick).  The parlor inside is where Lee and Grant met to end the Civil War.  The guides were excellent and I think the boys were able to realize what a monumental moment this was in history.

We walked all over Appomattox Courthouse.  So many interesting things to see!  But eventually, we headed back to our camp.

At Holliday Lake, we attended five ranger programs.  The rangers were so knowledgeable and the boys adored their programs.  Below, the boys are learning how to build fire by a number of different methods.

Another day, we attended a critters of the lake class, and the boys caught water scorpions and minnows and other tiny lake life critters by net.
We had such a great time!  Now, we can't wait to go again.  Hopefully we can try a camping trip sometime this fall. 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Kayaking Down the James River

This summer when the boys were at camp for a week, Paul and I did a kayaking trip down the James River one day.  Paul dropped me and the kayak off around Horseshoe Bend in Buchanan, then drove to Twin River Outfitters, where they gave him a ride back.

The trip covered what you see on the map, plus some, for about nine total miles of paddling.  Most of the rapids were class 1, but there were some class 2 rapids about 15 minutes in.  Luckily, the guy at Twin River told us to take the rapids all the way to the left.  We did so and were fine (the people just after us ended up capsizing when they didn't move far enough to the left to go over the ledge). 

 
 
It was a beautiful day for kayaking.  We saw lots of fish in the river and birds.  Often, the railroad tracks ran right by the river.
 
Paul and I would much rather go do some outdoor adventure than go out to eat or to the movies.  We've always loved to be out in nature.

I had strained a shoulder the day before the trip doing some major garden weeding, and I was worried about how it would hold up.  But it performed fine.  I did lots of stretching throughout to keep it loose. 

At our final destination, you could see a swinging bridge.  This bridge has been there for many years.  Paul and I decided to walk over to check it out once we got the gear loaded up.

 It's a little creepy.  I cannot imagine people riding horses over this thing.  It really did swing when we were crossing it.  But I guess back in the day people did ride horses and mules across, and paid a 5 cent toll to do so.  The original was built pre-Civil War, and burned by the Confederates in an attempt to prevent the Federal troops from crossing.  So it's been rebuilt a couple of times (there was also a flood that washed it out at one point).
 
It was interesting to cross.  I can't imagine I would ever convince my horse Francie to do so though! 
 
It was nice to get a day to get out without the boys.  We missed them tons, but we sure had fun without them for a few days.   



Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Saguaro National Park

This is my last post to share from our trip to Tucson.  On July 4, after a visit to the Arizona-Sonora desert museum, we decided to drive through Saguaro National Park.  I'm a huge fan of the national parks, and wish I could visit all of them.  There are so many I haven't seen!  Because Pierce was a 4th grader this past year, he had a pass to get himself and his family into any national park for free.


The saguaro cacti were everywhere!  Little birds often live inside the cacti, and I enjoyed watching them flit about.  We had fun visiting the gift shop, and Pierce got his National Parks Junior
Passport stamped.  Then we went driving through some scenic loops.


It was stunningly beautiful, and remote.  We did see a couple of other cars out, but it didn't seem like a good place to break down!  Hiking trails were everywhere, and I hope we can go back one day when it isn't quite so hot to check out some of them. 
This dirt road came to a sign that said high clearance vehicles only, and we ended up turning around because we were in Paul's parents' Honda Fit.  Definitely not high clearance! 


The rest of our scenic drive was on pavement, but certainly no less impressive in beauty.  After all this fun, it was lunchtime.  It was certainly a grand way to celebrate July 4th. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

When we were in Tucson, we left early one morning to visit the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.  The drive there was one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. Happily, the museum opened at 7:30 am, and we were right there at 7:32, ready to go.  It gets hot quickly! 
I've been to a lot of zoos and museums in my life.  But this was by far one of the best.  Stunning beauty, natural scenery, and lots of hands on experiences for the boys.  They started with a cave exploration, and the boys had so much fun I thought we'd never get them to move on to the next exhibit.


All of the animals in the museum can be found naturally in the Sonora desert.  The boys were very interested to see the wide variety of rattlesnakes.  Luckily, this mountain lion was behind glass.


We did the half mile desert loop hike next.  You will notice that the boys are geared up with their own water sources, hats, and sunglasses.  Even though it was already extremely hot, we were able to manage the heat just fine thanks to these preparations.  They had free refillable water sites in the zoo and they even had sunscreen in the restrooms! 


The desert hike was so beautiful.  We saw numerous birds, little lizards doing push ups, and javalina.
The terrain is so different from what we are used to in Virginia.  We never got tired of checking out the plants.

Later, we found a cactus garden, and we hiked through that, too.


Paul took a fun picture of different cacti in the cactus garden.  I especially liked the little stumpy hedgehog cacti (not pictured here).


Pierce looked out at the views through an owl's perspective.


And Cort navigated a tunnel designed just for kids - no adults could fit through those narrow crevices:

The boys had the most fun at the stingray exhibit.  It was cool with hands in the water, in the shade, and the stingrays had such personalities!

One stingray, dubbed Slappy, would flap water in your face as it passed.  They did not seem to mind the gentle touch of human hands.

We wrapped up our visit with a hummingbird garden.  It was an amazing morning, and if you happen to find yourself in Tucson, I'd say it is a must-see! 

Readers, what is your favorite museum or zoo?

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Oracle, Arizona and Biosphere 2

While we were in Arizona, we took a trip to Oracle.  There, we toured an historic ranch house at the Oracle state park.
The boys enjoyed seeing the big ice box used by the original family.  I liked some of the paintings and decorative details. 
Here, the boys are attempting to match the skull to the animal track.  They did a fairly good job.

Branding irons, hanging on a wall.  I knew what they were immediately, due to all the time I spent in Texas riding horses on a ranch. 
 
After our tour, we headed to Biosphere 2.  This facility was a closed experiment where a group of eight scientists attempted to live self-sufficiently for 2 years.  They did make it 2 years, but air quality was compromised, and they lost significant weight because the food they grew had to be rationed so much. 
 Impressive, isn't it?  Perhaps you remember the mid 90s movie Bio-Dome, with Pauly Shore?  I watched it in college.  It was one of those intentionally stupid movies that were a hit with college kids.  It was certainly based on this experiment (sadly, they were not playing Safety Dance on repeat inside).

During our tour, we learned that their coffee bean plant only grew enough beans to brew each of them one cup of coffee once every two weeks.  Rough, huh?  It does make you think about the limited resources on earth and how the future might have to adapt.

They tried to create different ecosystems inside.  This is a picture of the ocean, which has waves, but they sound kind of mechanical. 

Today, since this is open to the public, it is no longer a closed system.  However, they still do much scientific research here.  The picture above is from the rainforest section.  When the scientists were locked in, it had animals like monkeys and lizards.

Going down through the basement was eye opening.  The pictures I took didn't come out that well, but one of the strangest parts to the structure is a huge lung to expel air, should pressure build up too much. 

 
Finally, you can see a rain barrel system they have set up.  This was in the desert section of the structure.
 
The tour was lengthy (90 minutes - long especially for little boys) but I did find it informative and thought-provoking.
 
Me, personally?  I felt a little stir crazy in there.  I like having access to the outdoors!  But I'm glad I got to see it.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Hiking Catalina State Park, Arizona

My in-laws live within a couple of miles of Catalina State Park in Arizona.  One morning we got up very early for a hike there.

 Yet again, I was stunned by the beauty.  I don't think I would ever grow tired of these amazing desert landscapes.

 It was very hot, even though we got going early.  Pierce seemed to struggle the most in the heat.  He couldn't believe how hot it was!

 Paul invested in a new sun hat, having run over this other one with the tractor by accident.  He was overdue for a new one.

 Reid and Grandpa Bob take a rest and enjoy the overlook after hiking up a bit of a grade.
 
 
 Here the boys come up another long grade.  We didn't see as much nature on this hike as the one in Honeybee canyon, but it was also hotter on this day.

Another amazing overlook!  We took along plenty of water, so everyone made it through our hike just fine!  From there, we headed out for some more fun adventures, so stay tuned for next week.