Category Archives: Doing

Unschooling John Muir and Squirrel

We found this book at our local library with a great story about John Muir in Yosemite, and his interactions (mostly fictional) with Floy Hutchings (Squirrel). Her father operated an inn and tour guide business in the Valley, and John Muir worked for him when he first came to Yosemite.

The kids loved seeing photos of themselves from our trip to Yosemite last summer. in the places he could have been–“Here’s a picture of you playing in the same river John Muir is relaxing beside. The exact same river!”

It’s really cool to see them make connections between their own lives and what they are reading. Also funny to point out to them that they were having so much fun playing in the Merced River that they completely missed the fact that Yosemite Falls even exists.

And maybe this view help develop his idea that glaciers formed the landscape?

Olmstead Point – always carry a stuffy

[Amazon affiliate link included]

Want To Try Trainerroad For Free?

Quick and to the point, if you’d like to try out Trainerroad for a month,  just leave a comment to this post with your first and last name and I will hook you up. The email address you use will have to be legit, but it won’t be displayed–I just need it to fill in the information on the TR side. First three commenters get them.

No catch, and they don’t have an affiliate program (yet), so I don’t get a dime for it. I just strongly believe in their product and want to help anyone who’d like to take it for a test spin.

Horrible pun.

I’m a huge fan of Trainerroad, although you wouldn’t know it by reading this blog lately. Actually, you wouldn’t think I’m a huge fan of much of anything by reading lately.

Still, when I am training (and why am I such a lazy bum right now?), I can’t think of a better investment I’ve made in my fitness that Trainerroad. I was riding a ton about a year ago–well, at least a ton for me–and I saw tremendous results not only in my cycling, but also in my running.

Yeah, being a strong cyclist takes you a long way towards being a strong runner.

I even did the Sufferfest Tour of Sufferlandria in 2014. What has happened to me?


Every Wave…

Black and white of the beach snapped at Torrey Pines State Park in San Diego, California
Every wave leaves behind a beautiful pattern in the sand
And every wave destroys another beautiful pattern in the sand
I reckon that’s supposed to be some kind of metaphor.
Or maybe it just looks cool.

National Parks Tour – Grand Canyon


After our February trip to Death Valley National Park, we were all pretty excited to go to see The Grand Canyon. As an added bonus, we were taking the scenic route via Flagstaff, AZ to visit some of our best friends, which paid unexpected dividends later.

We left Las Vegas in the late afternoon for the drive to Flagstaff, and we loved how the scenery seemed to change every 30 minutes or so as we changed elevation.

2015-03-21As we arrived in Flagstaff, 4 of the 5 people in the Adventure Van were worked into a fevered pitch by the sight of a Chik-Fil-A sign. It was the first chance to eat that stuff since September, and we fell off the gluten-free wagon (again) to take advantage.

The kids were excited to see old friends, but crashed pretty quickly after we got to their house. The next morning we were treated to pancakes (glad we were off the wagon) and cartoons while we got everyone prepped for the day. Flagstaff is cold in March.

We piled into our cars and headed toward the Grand Canyon. First stop, Desert View Watchtower. The only other time I’d been to the Canyon, I’d come straight from Las Vegas, so this was new to all of us. I don’t think the views are as “grand” here, so it doesn’t make the impression for first time visitors the way Mather Point does. But, while not as impressive for The Missus, the kids loved the tower, and we spent a good deal of time here.

Which brings me to a couple of things to consider regarding the downside of taking young kids to the Grand Canyon. Our kids really like to hike and experience things hands on. At the Grand Canyon, there are big crowds, and it’s sometimes tough to keep your eyes on them to make sure they are staying safe. There are also limited opportunities for them to hike, but luckily we were able to remedy this.


Our next stop was the Visitor’s Center. Again, really crowded. But we at least needed to get our passports stamped and let the kids pick out a souvenir.


Now the good part. Our friends are both biologists who work or have work for the Parks Service. Luckily, one of them spent lots of time working at the Canyon and knew just the spot to get away from the crowds and allow the kids to rampage. We took a nice mile long hike through the forest to a secluded part of the south rim. Really nice because their kids are the same ages as ours, and it gave them an opportunity to climb around on fallen trees and do lots of exploring. Plus, the quiet and uncrowded spot was nice!


Before heading back the next day we decided to check out Sunset Crater National Monument in Flagstaff. Really cool, and zero crowds! There’s an amazing lava flow to explore and a short but steep hike to the top of a crater with beautiful views. It was the perfect stop to stretch our legs a little to prepare for the drive back to southern Nevada.


National Parks Tour – Death Valley

Death Valley National Park

Ussie at Badwater BasinSince it’s so close, we decided to make our first big “National Parks Family Trip” venture to Death Valley in a single day. January and February are the prime visiting times for this park, and it still wasn’t very crowded. Maybe people have the idea that there isn’t anything to see here, but that’s not the case at all. As soon as we arrived at the visitors’ center and saw the campground, we wished we made it a two day trip. This place is absolutely amazing. There’s a ton of cool stuff to see in Death Valley, even with little kids, and we’ll definitely be making another trip when the weather cools off again in the late fall.

Death Valley Stamp

At the Furnace Creek Visitors’ Center we bought each of the kids a National Parks Passport book to collect cancellations–we plan on hitting a lot of parks, and wanted them to have something they could use for their rest of their lives. I hope they’ll try to see as many of the Parks as possible. And hopefully, this is the first stamp of many we’ll collect in 2015!

Pupfish at Salt Creek Interpretive Trail

Our first stop was at the Salt Creek Interpretive Trail. We love to see stuff that you can only see at one (or at least only a few) places in the world. Believe it or not, there are fish in Death Valley. This trail is a boardwalk that crosses Salt Creek several times, and it gave the kids a chance to get a close up look at the Death Valley Pupfish. They were stranded in Death Valley at the end of the last ice age and have adapted to this environment. Pretty cool!

Death Valley Pupfish

Sand Dunes

Hiking the Death Valley Sand Dunes

The first time I ever came to the Mojave Desert, I was surprised that weren’t at least some sand dunes to see. I was just looking in the wrong place. For our next stop, we visited Death Valley’s Sand Dunes. This was definitely one of the highlights of our visit. You go for a couple of miles on these dunes, and when we come back we’ll definitely come armed with more water and some snacks. The kids had a great time running down these–almost as good as playing in snow. Almost.

Death Valley Sand Dunes

Badwater Basin

Badwater Basin at Death Valley National Park

This was the stop I was most excited about personally. Being here in January, I can’t imagine getting out of the car here in July, much less running 135 miles from here to Mt. Whitney. Temperatures were in the upper 70s for us, but it felt much hotter, even with a little bit of an overcast sky. The girls had fun pretending the salt flats we were walking on was snow–any chance they get to play “Elsa and Anna”. It was a little tough keeping them off the untouched cracked sections. I’m sure that was very tempting to them. What kid wouldn’t love to feel that crunch under their feet?

Salt Flats at Death Valley National Park
DSC_0476Because of its proximity to Las Vegas, Death Valley was the first on our long list of National Parks we want to visit while we’re living out West. One of the best things about living in Las Vegas so far has been the proximity to so many amazing things we never had access to on the East Coast, and we’re taking full advantage.

If you’re ever in Vegas on a cold day and want to see something cool, I’d definitely recommend a quick road trip to Death Valley. Much closer than the Grand Canyon, and you can enjoy the warm sunshine on a cold winter day.

We’re also enjoying the Ken Burns documentary on the United States National Parks (my second time watching) and found this great companion to the show.


We can’t to return to Death Valley this November or December. It’s such an easy drive from Las Vegas, and stopping in Pahrump for dinner on the way back was a treat as well!

White Rock Loop Trail Run

My intention was to write a long descriptive post about how awsum this run was. Unfortunately, I haven’t had much time to blog, and have now forgotten most of the details.

That’s a good thing, because the sooner I forget how much this run beat me up, the sooner I’ll go out and do it again.

Enjoy the photos!!!