Wednesday, April 6, 2016

California Vacation 2016

We survived (and enjoyed) another vacation with two young children!

This was the first time in nearly 10 years that we didn't spend a good portion of our nights in a tent. When we road trip with the boys, we drag along all our camping stuff and do occasional nights in hotels to break up drives, do laundry and catch a swimming pool. Since we were flying to Las Vegas to start our adventures, we decided it wasn't worth the hassle to haul all our camping gear for only a few nights of use.

The worst travel of our trip was the first day with Teddy tired and crabby about being contained for most of the flight when there were obviously all these cool people on the plane that he'd like to hop around to meet. We followed that flight up immediately with a couple hour drive to Joshua Tree National Park. Teddy was done riding after about 40 minutes, which made the remainder of the drive miserable. Teddy got so worked up that for the first time ever he vomited because he was so upset. On the bright side, that set the bar pretty low for keeping the rental car clean for the rest of the trip since he had christened the brand new, fresh-out-of-the-bag carseat.

Dave spent the first week pretty lethargic and miserable. It's a bit more challenging to find the effort to haul 35 pounds of child on a hike when you only have an appetite to eat dinner each day. Despite that, we still managed to have a good time exploring Joshua Tree. Joshua Tree is the 40th national park that Dave and I have explored together since we got married in 2006, so we had AJ capture us by the sign.

40 national parks (not including monuments and such) in less than 10 years.

From there, we explored Channel Islands National Park. We took a boat ride to Anacapa Island and spent the day exploring the beautiful vistas, looking for sea lions and even spotting a whale. The boys enjoyed splashing in the ocean.

The views from Anacapa are stunning!
The day before we went to the island, Teddy spent probably close to an hour walking while holding our hands because he loved the water! He kept leading whoever had his hands back into the ocean to splash, play and laugh.

This boy loves the water!
Fortunately Dave started feeling better mid-trip, which made our next stop in Yosemite even more enjoyable. Both boys have been to Yosemite two years ago just before Teddy turned one when we explored most of California's national parks. It's one of our favorite national parks, so we were excited to make a return visit and spend Easter in God's country. We avoided the crowds for the day by going to Hetch Hetchy, which is a much less visited part of the park. The hike across the dam, through the tunnel and up to this waterfall was probably AJ's favorite hike of the trip, and Teddy couldn't get enough of the splashing into the waterfall.

What a great way to spend Easter, hiking in this gorgeous country.
From there, we headed to Death Valley. We were a bit disappointed that Scotty's Castle, is a beautiful castle-like home, was closed because of damage from a flood last fall. We were hoping it might be open by the time we got there, but it's probably going to be years before it's open again. Death Valley was the place that far exceeded our expectations. We got to play in sand dunes, which both boys loved. We hiked into twisty slot canyons that had AJ running through them like a maze and Teddy giggling most of the way. We saw amazing views, enjoyed slightly cooler temps (like 70s and 80s instead of 90s, which is a benefit when schlepping kids on your back).

I dumped about 1/2 cup of sand out of his shorts at his next diaper change.

And, there was a pool at Death Valley, filled with warm spring-fed water, which meant 2 days swimming in a true desert oasis.

Best dollar investment of the trip was this floatie ring.
Our last park of the trip was Zion, which was another return visit for Dave and I. It was new for the boys, though, so AJ got his 4th junior ranger badge of the trip. Zion is one of the prettiest places on earth, in my humble opinion. We spent a couple days hiking and taking in the views.

We really love our children to haul them up these switchbacks!

And then yesterday we caught a 5:30 a.m. shuttle to the airport to fly back to Milwaukee. We dropped 50 degrees in temperature in 24 hours. We managed to vote and get 3 loads of laundry done last night before collapsing into our beds with AJ playing away still. (He's 2 time zones behind, so he he had lots of energy left to play.)  Today is back to work, which is a break for me from this wonderful vacation.

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