Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Grand Canyon/Hoover Dam/Four Corners/Missouri/Indiana/Home

Our trip up, the Grand Canyon.  We had a several hour drive this day.  We left early morning, around 5:30 or so? After a grocery store stop and breakfast we were on our way again. Yes, yes we did eat in the parking lot at the grocery store.  Perfect place.  Well, not really, but it worked fine. Ha ha.
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On our way to the Grand Canyon we made sure to swing by the Hoover Dam.  It was so fun see palm trees in California and the Las Vegas area. I miss seeing them from my mission.
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We arrived at Hoover Dam that afternoon.  First we parked and went on the sidewalk/lookout that is south of the dam.  This is the view:
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My grandpa Thompson worked on this dam.  He may have very well looked like this while at work!  Lee was able to tour the Hoover Dam during an Army/Optometry conference a few years back.  He'll have to clarify that...can't remember.
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We arrived in the Grand Canyon around 6pm or so in the South Rim area.  We set up camp, and ate all in about a 1/2 hour and hit the road again to see the sunset over a lookout point.
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We barely made it!
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What was fun is that where we entered the park, you couldn't see the canyon at all, or even landscape clues that there was a big canyon/rock formations ahead.  We drove on the road and saw pine trees to our left.  Through gaps in the trees you could see the canyon here and there, but not a lot.  I could just imagine someone approaching the canyon from the south for the first time ever, not knowing what was there.  What a big surprise they would have had!   Now if you approach the canyon coming from the East, and maybe the North that would be a different story.  But the way we came it was quite hidden.
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That night we were able to have a fire and roasted marshmallows.  Clark got another game going too.  The next morning Lee and I each took showers...$2 each.  We didn't have to kids take showers because I didn't want to pay for all of them; I'm sure they didn't mind though! We went on two hikes that morning.  One down into the canyon for a little ways (2 miles total) then hiked along the South Rim for a couple of miles.  What fun overlooks.  We ran into some LDS church members too--they saw some of our BYU apparel.  
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It was nice and hot.  I don't know how Elden and Cal can wear long-sleeved shirts in the hot sun.
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So pretty!
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That was pretty much all we did in the Grand Canyon.  A quick stop; though I'm glad we hiked around a little.  After more bathroom breaks and lots of water fill-ups we were on the road again.  The Chevy needed another oil change because of all the traveling we had been doing.  We just had one done July 7th, and then got another one done August 12th.  We found a place in a tiny town that did oil changes.  Thankfully they carried synthetic oil too.  And the name is perfect! We got slurpees and waited for the oil change to be done.
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What next?  Yep, we hit the road again.  The last tour-isty stop for this trip was the four corners.  Which is far away from anything!  We waited in line three different times for pictures.  First, one all together.  I really wanted separate pictures of each kid at the Four Corners.  I doubt we will ever go there again and wanted to document it!
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I jumped in....the ladies taking pictures for us were confused with my phone's camera...
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Second time in line I got pictures of some of the kids.
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Cal did push-ups all the way around.
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Shanna tried out hand-stands in all four states.
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Soo....little story, maybe embarrassing?  Probably not.  More like exasperating. So Clark took this picture of us.  I just. about. died.  Okay, not really. But, can't even see the four corners!
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One more time in line....
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We had to do something crazy....  While waiting we saw some kids doing some cool stunts so we had to think of something, and so did some of our other kids from the above pictures. 
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One of my "things" is to visit all 50 states.  I've visited 48 thus far, along with Lee. I traveled quite a bit growing up, and I loved it. Clark, Cal, Shanna, Haley and Elden have done 46, plus Canada.  They still need Montana and North Dakota. (Though technically with Elden, I'm not sure about Arkansas and Louisiana...I get mixed up with all the other kids and all the other travels we've done.  I know for sure the other kids have been in those states. But this winter we will go to Arkansas and Louisiana on our way to Mississippi for the holidays, just for safe keeping.)  I want to get Alaska and Hawaii under our belts before Clark heads out on his mission.  A few of my future goals have to deal with travel and vacations. 
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It was fun to see some cacti out west too!
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We enjoyed being out West and enjoyed our adventures there!  On the way back we stopped at my brother Sam's in St. Louis.  It was fun seeing his family and getting a tour to his new home. Originally we planned to spend the night, go to church with him, then leave right after for home.  But I realized we'd arrive home around 5am Monday morning.  We decided to head further along the road, spending the night at Stephanie's in Indiana.

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We got in to her place a little after midnight and went to church the next morning.  After church we took off for home.  On Saturday Lee bought a gas can for extra gas for our trip.  It was nice that we didn't have to stop and buy gas on Sunday! We were worried about getting home, but it worked out fine.  And funny enough, we saw our friends the Whitings on I-64 or I-81.  They were returning home from a trip out West.  So fun!
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Sam sent us off with some yummy snacks.  This root beer was a little weird.  Like sweetened, yeasty, teryaki pop/soda.  What do Virginia's say? Pop or soda?  I have no clue...
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We arrived home that evening.  It was great that the house was in tact and no weird flooding or break-ins happened while we were away!  A spider decided to take over the mail box area though.
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Usually when I come home from a trip I'm a little sad.  It's sad saying goodbye to family that I know I will only see a handful of times a year. And I'm sure coming back to "reality" plays a part too, plus all the unpacking and cleaning that is inevitably ahead.  But this time coming home, I realized that I truly was glad to be home!  Also, I was yet again thankful for the safe travels we were blessed with.  I'm always so thankful to come home safely from yet another trip.'s been terrific!  Sad to see you go....

Friday, September 23, 2016


After a fun, brief day at Yosemite, we traveled further south and east to visit the Sequoia National Park in California.  We got off at a good time that morning, hit up a grocery store and gas station, then headed to the park.  On the way in we saw gas for over $4 a gallon.  What???  I feel for you Californians living out in the country!

When we initially drove into the park we didn't see any giant trees, but did after driving for a little while.  Our main stops for the day were to see the General Sherman tree, hike up Moro Rock, and go through the Tunnel Log. The trees were so huge it was mind blowing.
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Big trees have big pinecones!
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We hiked down to the General Sherman tree for a family photo, then continued on the trail for a little hike on Congress Trail. General Sherman is the largest tree in the world.  So cool!
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There were a few fun places for the kids to explore and climb around.  And thankfully this park wasn't as busy as Yosemite.
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The trees are curved in because of the photo option we did.
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It's better to just go in person, but see how huge they are?!
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Next up was Moro Rock. Lee's nephew Aaron actually told us about this, and I'm glad he did.  It was a fun, short, thrilling hike! Here is a picture from the sign at the parking lot.  This photo is from the early 1900s I believe.
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Hmmm...quite safe, right?
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The hike was short, as I mentioned, but very steep.  Thankfully it's all paved and whatnot with handrails everywhere.  The views from the top were amazing.
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We went all the way to the end!
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On our way to the campsite we saw a great view from down below of Moro Rock.
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Next stop was easy....driving through the Tunnel Log.  I wasn't sure if the Chevy would fit, but it did!
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We were able to camp in the park at Potwisha Campground. Down below our campsite was a river with lots of rocks.  We were at the campground about 5:30/6:00, so we had plenty of time to set up camp and play.  The kids had a blast down there. 
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Elden was jumping rocks and accidentally fell in.  After that all the kids wanted to get wet.
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Lee and a couple of the boys were doing rock jumping contests and I couldn't really look.  I was thinking about broken bones and how we were hundreds of miles from a regular hospital.  Everyone made it out alive!  Though maybe we should have been more concerned about the bears.  There were bear boxes at each campsite.  We had to put all food and smelly things, like lotion, in the bear box.  Kind of annoying....  And again, no fire that night because it was so dry.
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A lava tree.  Just kidding. But it looks like the tree melted over these rocks! 
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The kids pulled out a game to play.  Hard to beat playing games at night by the light of a lantern!  Hopefully they have fond memories of this trip.  One good thing about camping for Lee and I is that we actually go to bed at a decent hour, ha ha.  I think we were all asleep by 10:30 or so.  Usually, sadly, Lee and I stay up much later.  I really need to work on that!
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Overall it was a nice day and I was really glad about the evening downtime.  Oh, and we got ice cream cones at this park, since we missed out in Yosemite.  Yum!