Big Bend Nat'l Park: Birthdays, Canyons, & River Crossings To A Foreign Land

I'll be honest with you. Big Bend National Park in Texas was never on our radar. In fact, I'm ashamed to admit that I didn't even recall that it was a national park or know what the place had to offer in terms of things to do for families. It feels crazy saying that now after having been there and loving the diverse experiences this park allowed us to discover. Perhaps we never went because of its remote location, or maybe because it was a lesser known national park. All I know is I have a long-lost hometown friend to thank for urging us to go (you know who you are, girl!). We are so glad you shared your stories, photos, and tips with us because Big Bend has so much to offer people of all ages. Hopefully this post will give you a little glimpse into the fun things to do in this huge national park. Here, we'll explore a free natural hot springs on the US/Mexico border, walk across the Rio for an epic day in Mexico, and take in the wonders of the Santa Elena Canyon. Also, the boys turn FOUR!

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Our Unforgettable Day With Baja's Gray Whales

Many memorable experiences have happened because of this year-long trip. I often wonder if it weren’t for this "pause" that we're on, would we have even seen or experienced this much in our entire lifetime? There are definitely times that have reinforced the precise reasons for why we are taking this year together as a family. One moment that stands out is our remarkable boat trip through Ojo De Liebre, a lagoon that embraces thousands of gray whales each winter. I've reserved this post for them. This was undoubtedly a once-in-a-lifetime, holy-crap-did-that-just-happen moment. Without further ado, here is our up close and personal day with the gray whales in Guerrero Negro, Baja California Sur!

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A Photo Journey Through White Sands Nat'l Monument

We were standing atop the crest of a giant mound of sand and for as far as my eyes would reach were white, wavy rolling hills sprawled out in front of us. With a view as magnificent as this, I fantasized that we had accomplished something grand. It gave me the sense of domination. My hair whipping in the wind, my ankles tickled by the granules that were blowing across them, and us perfectly placed in the middle of it all with 360 degree views of amazing! No trails to hike, nothing to see or do, no hidden attractions. Just here to witness the sand, and only the sand. We were beyond thrilled to finally be experiencing the glory of White Sands National Monument!

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Baja California, Mexico: Our Entrance into the Baja Peninsula

"Have you ever been? Have you seen the recent news? Read the latest travel warnings? You’re bringing the boys? Be careful. I used to go to Baja back when it was safe, but now, I’ll never go again." These are just a few things people were saying to us before we left for Baja, Mexico. As I'm sure you can imagine, we were not totally psyched given all the "glowing" reviews. In fact, we were so nervous we almost threw our plans to visit out the window. Ultimately, we made the decision to go and are so thankful we didn't cave in to the fear.

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Reflection: Final Days In Hawaii

Two months in Hawaii served as a delightful respite from "Spudlife." Here, we were able to have a bit of a routine which we will admit to craving after 5 1/2 months on the road. Some habits and routines were welcomed back in our life, while others were a reminder (and at times a struggle) of the white noise we did not want to re-introduce back into our life. Those are the type of distractions we've worked so hard to let go of during this journey. Looking back though, we found ourselves contentedly entertained much of the days at the beach, exploring the island in a variety of ways often with visitors by our sides. This was the perfect place to chase warm weather and among all the places we've been, could be a contender with Oregon and Island Lake, Canada for "favorite spot." When the feeling of sorrow rushes over me when we're about to leave a place as special as this, Chip reminds me it's best to move on wanting more. I suppose I can agree with that.

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7 Honolulu Highlights for Families

It's official. Honolulu has stolen our hearts. All four of them. The whole island of Oahu, really. But there is just something special about this city. The energy of the people, the crescent shaped beach lined with elegant older hotels, the hustle and bustle of a city with the laid-back lifestyle of a beach destination, the most delicious tasting food, the numerous activities in water and out, and last but not least the inviting and mesmerizing turquoise ocean. Then there's Diamond Head, a prominant dormant volcano standing proud (and remarkable) over her city. Close your eyes, reach for that invisible mai tai, and envision yourself on the beach. Queue the Hawaiian music...now. 

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Oregon Part 2: Creepy Campsites, Giant Pancakes, & Puddle Jumping!

If you read part one, you've likely gathered that Oregon has captured our hearts. We have more to share as we wander inland to Portland before being drawn back to the coast. We continue that pattern a few times, experiencing the national/state forests then snaking back out for sun, sand, and sea. In this section of our trip we encountered the rain Oregon is notorious for. Surprisingly though, we made the most of it and at times actually enjoyed it. Or, perhaps that's what sentimental memories do to a person - forget the annoyances and remember the pleasures. Either way, I'm diving in to Central Oregon and just like the northern half, it did not disappoint. 

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A Christmas Eve Workout (I Mean, Gift!)

I had been dying to take the family on a kayak ride since before our plane even landed on Oahu. One of my favorite memories when we'd come to Hawaii would be our kayak day in Kailua. So naturally I had visions in my head of being able to provide that same memory for the boys (I know, they're only three but...). Finally though, on that 24th day of December we accomplished that memorable kayak ride together.

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Aloha

I warned you that it wouldn't be long before we were throwing surf, sun, and sea stoke your way. I tried to hold off for as long as possible but with snow in the forecast (on the mainland, of course), now seems like an appropriate time. So turn your space heater on high, throw on that tank top that's been collecting dust since August, and envision yourself seated at the base of a palm tree with a coconut drink in your right hand and some sunscreen in your left.

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Halfway Between Here & There: Stat Edition!

The second half of our trip is upon us, which I can hardly even believe. We are taking it up and over the 6th month hump by ditching Spud for 6 weeks(ish) and hopping on a plane. Where to, you ask? To the palm tree laiden, shave ice devouring, bikini clad state of HAWAII, of course! Cue joke about taking a vacation from the vacation now.

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Thanksgiving All Month Long

November 1st hit and for the 30 days that followed we were lucky enough to spend it surrounded by friends and family all throughout and around California. The timing couldn't have been more perfect with the holidays on our heals. Our hearts were definitely aching for familiar faces and familiar bear hugs. Our route this month took us from San Luis Obispo to see Chip's bro/gf to Long Beach to see Durango friends to Anaheim to see Chip's immediate family then finally, to Newport Beach to see aunts and uncles. We are so grateful to have had all this quality one on one time with the great people you'll see below. It was priceless.

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Road Tripping: Central Sierra Nevada

This section of California is hands down the best part of inland California. Perhaps the WHOLE state (of what we've seen, anyway). That's a tall order, I know. But since Oregon already won best coastline, we were seeking some new scenery that might win us over in the heartland of CA. And this area did just that!

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Standing Beneath Giants: California Redwoods

We were awestruck by the energy and beauty during our travels through the California Redwood parks, we decided they deserve a post devoted solely to them. The Redwoods have been sitting in my bucket list for over a decade waiting patiently for me to make the trip. I always heard people speak of these grand trees and couldn't wait to be standing at the base of them peering (way!) up. Driving down the California coast we were lucky enough to visit three different redwood areas: Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Avenue of the Giants, and Humboldt Redwoods State Park.

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Amateur Video Edition: Oregon in a Nutshell

I am still having a hard time processing our time in Oregon. It is hard to come up with new words and phrases to describe yet ANOTHER place that we've been to that is so remarkable. This one, however, blew our socks off. So far off that they're still in the trees dangling somewhere. Maybe that means part of my heart is still there. I think it might always be. 

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Oregon Part 1: Northern Coastline Must-Sees

One of the most exhilarating feelings on the road is the day we cruise into new territory. For us, that typically involves windows rolled down, excitement in our voices, and music bumping as we drive along about to cross a state line or border. We had a memorable last night in Washington but were thrilled to be taking the route into Oregon, a bucket list destination we've both wanted to visit for years.

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Seattle or Bust: 48 Hours in the Big City

We were so pumped to be rolling into Seattle knowing that we would have a hotel to stay in for two nights. Actually, "so pumped" does not accurately describe our excitement. In the days leading up to this city life our bodies were feeling tired and worn out (also stinky), not to mention an unexpected visitor graced us with his presence in Spud (a mouse!). We never did find that mouse but we regained our mental and physical energy in this vibrant city which we ended up exploring for 48 hours on the dot. The sights, food, people, and even weather are something to write home about so here we are...

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Washington Was...

To our faithful readers (eh um, that's you friends & family!!)  :-) ,

For those of you that know me, then you know how much I enjoy blogging about life, adventures, people, and places. I pour my heart and time into a blog post. And anyone who has done something similar knows the time and energy it takes to keep up with it. I'm afraid with Washington though, I am unable to devote much time (for now). You see, the sun, sand, and sea have been calling my name ever since we hit the beautiful West coast last month. I'm finding it harder and harder to pull myself away from time with family and am doing my best to soak it all up, so to speak.

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Musings From Spud: 10 things We've Learned on the Road

Well, here we are. I can hardly believe what I'm about to write, but we have officially spent a third of the year on the road. Crazy to think we drove away from Durango on June 15th with knots in our stomachs but excitement in our hearts. All in a short amount of time has been everything we hoped it would be, and sometimes more. Sure, we have rocky moments with kids in tow but at the end of the day we wouldn't want to be anywhere else. With the constant change we've surely had many opportunities for growth over the last few months. So we compiled a list. You know I love me a good list! Behold the list of: 10 Things We've Learned on the Road...

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O Canada! Part II: B.C.

Before we throw more Canada stoke and photos your way, feel free to check out Part I. As mentioned in that post, we left off having stayed several unplanned days in the Waterton Lakes National Park area. On a sad note (sorry!) we learned just weeks after visiting, a massive wildfire spread throughout the park. Firefighters were able to preserve some but the landscape has dramatically changed. A necessary process for forests and land, but hard to swallow the change given we were just there. Back to it...We were just as excited to continue on our Canadian road trip along Highway 3 and into British Columbia. Read on, though, because Canada wasn't all sunshine and unicorns...

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