Sunday, November 4, 2018

And Just Like That

And just like that...

It was November...

Twas the morning of Daylight Savings. Fall back everyone. I woke up at 3:30 AM this morning, spent some time scrolling through my phone, and then somehow convinced myself that because it was daylight savings day, 3:30 AM is a perfectly reasonable time to get out of bed. And so I did. Coffee at 4:00 AM, yoga at 4:30, Blogging by 5:00, and Gilmore Girls on Netflix at 5:30.

Something is different about this fall. With a much, much busier work schedule for me that has me working late most nights, and an unexpected surgery for Jeremy that put him out of commission for a couple of weeks,  October was just a giant blur. The fact that we even managed to get costumes on the boys for Halloween and have an enjoyable night out... Well even that is a shocker. But somehow we managed to survive the month. We managed to have Halloween decorations up inside and out. We managed to get the boys to judo practice twice a week, and Lex to piano once a week. We managed to feed everybody, and host a couple of sleepovers. We went to a birthday party, carved pumpkins, and made an apple pie. We managed to get some yard work done and keep the house relatively clean. We managed to attend the boys' parent teacher conferences and even cook a handful of homemade meals. Looking back, I have no idea how we did it. The one thing we did not manage to do - take any pictures, apparently. I looked back at my phone to see what pictures I could share in this post and I found a handful of videos from judo, a set of Halloween pictures, and well, that's about it.

Darth Maul and Draco Malfoy (representing Slytherin house). Here is a look at the best (and only) pictures we have from Halloween. Heaven forbid both boys actually look at the camera at the same time (with the exception of the first picture).
We managed to find an old costume that fit Eli (barely) when he decided the day before Halloween that he was in fact not going to be wearing the knight costume that he asked for and we had purchased weeks ahead of time. 

So I'm hoping November will be a little different. My work schedule won't change much, but Jeremy is heading back to work soon which will makes things a little more normal. We have family coming in just a few weeks for Thanksgiving and I am ready to get these holidays underway. I can't remember the last time I flipped the calendar to November and didn't already have most of my Christmas shopping done. But with the way things have been, I actually just ordered the first thing from Amazon yesterday. Amazon probably was wondering what happened to me.

For November, I'm taking a deep breath, remembering to be thankful.... always... and enjoying every minute.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Rock Bridge State Park (Devil's Icebox and Sinkhole Trails)

Finally, fall! I savored every day of summer, believe me, I did. This summer was one for the books for sure. But now that we've been teased with some days of fall weather, followed by days that feel like summer again, I am ready for full on fall. Fall temperatures, fall food, fall scents, and fall HIKING! And a couple of weekends ago, I got my fix. On the first weekend of fall, the weather settled nicely into the 70's with beautiful blue skies and a breeze. Absolutely perfect for a weekend outdoors.

It has been years since we hiked to the Devil's Icebox at Rock Bridge State Park. We've hiked probably every other trail around the area, but we've steered clear of that one simply because there are always

so. many. people. 

And we just don't like hiking in really crowded places. For one thing, our boys are loud. Just naturally loud. So every conversation we had on the trail was in earshot of a dozen other people. Also, on narrow paths, you always have to decide "Do I pass?" "Do I let them pass?" "Should I speed up or just get off the trail for a minute?" Whatever. We went anyway.

On this particular day, on the first cool weekend of fall, this trail system actually wasn't too bad. Shocker. Don't get me wrong. There were lots of people. But it wasn't miserable.

 There's a creek right at the trail head, which means we weren't walking for even a minute before we were taking a detour to explore the rocks and wildlife below.

 And then we were off.

Most (if not all) of the Devil's Icebox Trail is boardwalk. And most of it is on an incline/decline meaning upstairs/downstairs, depending on your direction. To start, it's up and up and up.

A little flat area.

Looking back down after completing this steep climb - Whew!

After that, the incline is gradual.

The whole point of this trail is the Devil's Icebox cave at the end of the trail. We went here when the boys were younger, but didn't go too far in, because we didn't bring a flashlight. You can explore one end of the trail (enter cave, turn left), but not the other side. There are bats in this cave that are victim to White Nose Syndrome, caused by a fungus. The park limits access to the cave to help protect the bats.

The boys looking down into the crevice below before me made our climb down.

And then down the stairs we went.

 Time to explore.

At this point, there was still light entering from outside the cave, so we walked a little further. But the second it started getting dark, I bailed. I have an irrational fear of depths. Depths of caves, and depths of water. I won't ever go deep sea diving, and I will probably never go deep into a cave.

But the boys were up for the adventure, so they trekked on without me (mocking my fear on their way), taking their flashlights and exploring a little further.

I waited for them at the top of the cave entrance, waiting to get this picture of them from above.

We discovered this little guy on my water pack.

And then we were off. So glad we have Jeremy to carry all of our important gear for us. What would we do without him?

We found a connecting trail for the Sinkhole Trail, checked the map, and decided it was the perfect distance to round out our hike. Blazed in green.

 We got off the trail for a little while and explored around under the famous rock bridge. It is an incredible geological feature. We are so lucky to live in this area and can explore places like this.

Once again, there were places to climb, and we were glad that we had flash lights to get up higher on the rocks inside the rock bridge.

 The boys walked across the ledge on the other side of the bridge, before we hiked back to the sinkhole trail.

 Back on the trail, away from all the tourist attractions, there were far fewer people and a wide open trail. That's more like it. The natural terrain, rather than the boardwalk, are much more our preference when it comes to trails.

Eli is almost always, always our hiking leader. He sets a good pace, and has a good eye for wildlife that he can point out to the rest of us before they scurry away. But every once in a while, he lets someone else be the leader so he can walk with daddy.

Lex got to be the leader for a little while, and when I told him to turn around so I could take his picture, this is what he gave me.

We came across this huge concrete silo that we had to stop and investigate.

And then hit the trail.  We ended up taking the white connector trail to cut a little distance off of our total hike, which turned out to be the perfect amount.

The first hike of the season was a perfect family outing. Perfect day. Perfect everything. Here's to a season of many more more hikes! 

Until next time.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

How to Beat the Heat AND Get Your Nature Fix Over Summer

There is nothing I love more than being outdoors. I love trails and trees and fields and open skies and well, you get the point. It's our family thing. We hike.


Summer hiking is just not our thing. For many reasons. First, many (not all) trails become really overgrown in the summer. Also, because the trees have their full foliage, many of the beautiful views we love are blocked. Not that that's a reason to not hike. But you know what is a reason? Summer bugs. And also the heat. What I don't like is walking in the heat of the sun, through knee high weeds, surrounded by bugs. 


I couldn't possibly go all summer without a nature fix. I crave the outdoors, so fortunately we have figured out some outdoor things to do in the heat of the summer.

1.) Go where the water is.

Hello there creeks, ponds, rivers, and backyard sprinkler. We love going to the creek and have spent a few afternoons there swimming, skipping rocks, and looking for wildlife. The best tip I can offer about going to the creek is to bring water shoes or shoes that you can wear in the creek. It just makes it easier to get around. We usually don't stay in one spot - we will walk up and down the creek bed looking for places to explore.

2.) Sunsrise, Sunset

Obviously it's going to be cooler if you're up early or out later when the sun isn't right overhead. One of our family's favorite things to do in the summer is to go to the river and watch the sunset. It's just the perfect way to end a summer evening. After we hang out and watch the sun set, we head home with the windows down, playing our favorite music, and enjoying a nice, cool, country drive home in the moonlight.


3.) Night Sky

I'm a sucker for all celestial things. Two of my favorite apps on my phone are Daff Moon, which is simply a moon phase tracker, and Sky Map, which acts as a hand held planetarium. One of our favorite things to do in the summer (or anytime, really) is to wait until the boys are in their pajamas all ready for bed, and then surprise them with a night excursion to the country to look at the stars, the moon, the sky. We have a couple of favorite spots, away from any light pollution, where we can just park the car and sky gaze. Recently, there was a meteor shower on a night when the skies were supposed to be really clear. We waited until dark, surprised the boys with a nighttime adventure, and headed to the country. We laid a mattress and blankets on top of the van, laid back, and saw one shooting star after another. It was one of the best nights of the whole summer.

4.) Find Nature Indoors!

We are fortunate to be so close to an amazing nature center.  We visit there often. We've gone early in the morning to walk the trails before the sun is blazing, and we've gone in the heat of the day to do some indoor bird watching and learn about conservation in Missouri all in the comfort of air conditioning.

On one of our visits, it must have been just before feeding time, because the snakes were all incredibly active. I've never seen them so restless! Eeeek.

5.) Watch for perfect hiking weather and be ready to roll. 

Even the hottest summer months usually offer at least a little reprieve from the heat. We are constantly watching the weather for that break from hot weather so we can hit the trails at just the right time. When we do hike in the summer, we look for wide trails that we know are well maintained through summer months. Either that, or we look for trails that go straight to the creek.

We have a hiking backpack ready to go at all times. If the weather dips unexpectedly, we are ready to grab our gear and go. Must haves for summer hikes include bug spray and sunscreen. And of course, lots and lots of water.

The point is, there is no excuse to go all summer without appreciating what nature has to offer, even when it's hot, humid, and miserable. Go in the morning, go at night, go indoors, go outdoors - just go.

Here's to looking forward to cooler weather and more comfortable hikes!