Friday, May 31, 2019

May Round Up

I spent the afternoon poolside, watching the boys go between practice swimming underwater and cannon balling from the edge. I stayed under the canopy reading Nomadland, by Jessica Bruder, which happens to be our community's "One Read" book for the summer. I doled out one dollar each to the boys, their daily pool allowance, which they both spent on sour candy. After hours in the water, I wrapped them up in towels, and stopped by the store for everything we needed for marinated, grilled chicken, and a giant salad. Now I sit, watching What About Bob, the quintessential sseasonal movie. And just like that, we landed in summer. Big. deep. breath.

This month has been a huge month. First we had to finish out the school year, which was totally insane.  There was also a new puppy and the road trip to Ohio. Boy Scouts meetings wound down, while baseball geared up. And finally, we jumped 2 feet first into summer vacation, with a family road trip to the woods of Kentucky. 

Here's a walk down memory lane.

At the beginning of the month, I got to chaperone Eli's 2nd grade field trip to Runge Nature Center. I love getting to do things like this with the boys, especially when it's something outdoorsy like this. Eli and I got to spend our whole day together.

May the Fourth: Also known as Star Wars Day, and also the day that we brought home our new puppy, Daisy. 

I wrote all about Daisy's first days on this post here. Since that post, Daisy has really settled into a routine around here and is just about house trained. She and Kylo are just the sweetest together. Although, I think she might drive him crazy sometimes, he would never actually let on to that and allows her to do just about anything.



The only recipe I posted this month was also made on May the Fourth for the Kentucky Derby. I wrote about these Kentucky Hot Brown Sliders, here.  

Shortly after May the 4th...

Lex went on his 3rd grade field trip to a cave, which turned out to be the only field trip he got to attend. this year. Just days after this picture, he got horribly sick. More on that in a minute.

Mother's Day weekend, the boys and I made an undercover road trip to Ohio to a.) surprise my mom for Mother's Day, and b.) celebrate my brother's 40th birthday. I made sure to get my annual Mother's Day picture with the boys while we were there.

On the way back home, Lex came down with a fever, so we kept him home from school on Monday. Tuesday was his class's park day, but he was still running a fever, so he missed that. I was so bummed for him. He tested negative for strep on Tuesday, but still had a fever Tuesday night. He missed his awards assembly on Wednesday. On Thursday, he was tested for mono and told to stay home until the results came back.

His whole class made him get well cards when they found out he was going to have to miss their big field trip to the pool on Friday. He tested negative for mono, and sprung back to health over the weekend, but we will be talking about this one for a while. What a horrible week to be sick.

Eli finally was able to use his flint and steel from Santa to start his very first campfire in the back yard. Jeremy got a video of it. I was one proud mama. He's been trying for weeks! The secret was dryer lint.

Just for the fun of it, I used some of Jeremy's scrap wood to make little fairy doors for the base of the trees in the back yard. It's whimsical and I love it.

At 2 years old, Kylo is finally leash trained! We didn't work with him on a leash that much when he was a puppy, and boy did that make training him difficult once he got bigger. I dedicated several consecutive days to walking him around town, and in no time, he wasn't pulling my arm off anymore.

Lex had his end of year piano recital, and the only picture I managed to get was this one of the boys doing their best to ruin said picture.

And then guess what happened. Eli got sick with a fever too. With just one week of school to go. He missed the entire last week of school including field day. Poor guy! He was totally bummed, and I was one exhausted mama after 2 consecutive weeks of sick kids.

Lex made it back for the last week, and got to participate in his class's ice cream party.

School got out on a Thursday, which was Eli's last day with a fever. Friday we packed up all our camping and hiking gear. Saturday, we left for a weekend in London, Kentucky.

The first night, we spent time skipping rocks into the lake.

And also splashing around.

On Sunday, we hiked Van Hook Falls trail. All 5.1 miles of it. I wrote a full write up of the trail here. Because my mom hiked with us, we got some family pictures along the trail.

Saturday night, the boys played with cousins and we grilled hamburgers and ate s'mores. Sunday morning, we headed for home.

But not without a stop at Cumberland falls. I posted several pics of that outing here. 

Between Kentucky in Missouri, we pulled off the highway in the town of Santa Clause, Indiana. We had never been but it's been on our list for a while. We were shocked to see roller coasters in the middle of a field when we pulled into town. I didn't know that a theme park was the the big attraction in this town. We drove to some shops and wandered into the Christmas Store.

And guess who we saw in the middle of June! Santa asked the boys about their favorite presents last year, and let them write their names on the Nice List for this Christmas. We checked out a world map that has pins representing people all over the world who have visited this shop. Santa also told us that the high school has an art contest every year for designing the Christmas post mark for the year. The winner's postmark is used through the month of December, then retired after the season. Isn't that cool?

After a successful outdoor weekend, we arrived back home and the next day bought a pool pass which we intend to use daily, or as close to it as we can get, for the rest of summer.

And finally, I was invited to an outdoor yoga class with baby goats. They were so stinking cute! You could just pick them up and hold them like babies. The yoga part was awesome too.

We are all ready for summer. Bring the heat.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Cumberland Falls

After an outdoor weekend skipping rocks in the lake, traveling by ATV, and chasing waterfalls, we couldn't leave the state without detouring off our route to see Cumberland Falls. It's a must see attraction in Southern Kentucky.

I spent a lot of time in Kentucky as a kid, and our trips almost always included a trip to these falls. I couldn't tell you how many pictures I have of me in various stages of life right in this exact spot. Jeremy has also been there several times since we've been together forever and this is just a thing we do when we go to Kentucky. For our boys, this was their first time seeing a waterfall this big and it was the perfect way to end our weekend.

You can visit this website for all the details about the falls and the area around it. There are resorts, campgrounds, and places for white water rafting and ziplining really close by. It's a beautiful drive to get to the falls and there's a gift shop right on the grounds.

Here's our photo dump of our quick stop at the landmark location.

That rainbow was awesome.

There are several viewing decks at different places. Even though we visited on a holiday, it did not seem crowded and it was easy to get pictures.

Love that the boys spontaneously posed like this on our way to one of the lower decks.

I have been to these falls during drought years when it is not nearly this powerful. After our hike at Van Hook Falls trail the day before with trickling falls in the woods, this massive fall was everything.

And with that, we ended our long weekend trip full of outdoor adventures. Here's to kicking off summer with a splash! Hoping for many more experiences like this!

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Sheltowee Trace Trail and Van Hook Falls

For months now, I have dreamed of packing up the family and going to Kentucky for an amazing hike. I grew up spending summers in Kentucky, but we mostly traversed the waterways via boat, and played euchre by the light of lanterns around a campsite with 75 of our closest relatives. Never once do I remember hiking, but I do have a very strong connection to that area and couldn't wait to explore the forests that are so familiar from the perimeter. In fact, when we settled in Missouri, I frequently said how much it reminded me of Kentucky. And guess what! Daniel Boone thought the same thing when he passed through Missouri. It reminded him of the forests of Kentucky too, which is why we have forests named after him as well.

So anyway, months ago, I started looking for a trail that we could hike over Memorial Day weekend, when we would have time to travel to Kentucky. I started pinning ideas to a Pinterest board for Kentucky trails and almost immediately was drawn to this trail to Van Hook Falls. The website boasts about the multiple waterfalls and creek beds and is moderate terrain and length. Perfect for our hiking family. I dug deeper and found that the trail head was actually just about 15 minutes from where our family stays! This was perfect.

So off we drove to Kentucky, an 8 hour drive in all. It's nice because it's a different route than we take to Ohio, and I love seeing different parts of the country. The fields of Indiana and Illinois are so restful, and I love driving over rivers. On this trip, we drove over the Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio Rivers.

As for hike preparation, this write-up of the trail by Jeremy Patton was perfect for out of state people like us. We knew exactly what to expect and what to look for along the trail. The All Trails site was also helpful, particularly because the comments were spot on. The most helpful comment said to bring swimming clothes (which we did), and hiking boots (which I didn't - and totally regretted). Let that be a lesson to us all.

So off we went into the woods, thick with green, and all downhill.

But the path was beautifully cleared even when the woods seemed to be closing in on us. I love it when state parks put this much care into trail paths.

Sections of the forest ground were covered in ferns.

Along the way, we crossed several creeks. Around here when we cross creeks, we often have to build our own rock bridges to get across. But on this trail, every single creek had a well constructed, very steady rock bridge already put together. It was so much fun!

"Into the forest I go to lose my mind and find my soul." -John Muir

Just like the web pages said, the first third of the trail is pretty easy, although it is downhill. And since this trail isn't on a loop, you'll be climbing back up that hill at the end of this 5 mile hike.

And before we knew it, we came across the first of several waterfalls. None of the waterfalls were rushing, but I'm glad that they at least weren't all dried up. It was so magical walking through the woods and hearing all the flowing water.

My mom took this hike with us, which meant we had a photographer to get pictures of the whole family for a change! We didn't pass up any photo opportunity.

 The second part of this trail became a little more rugged along the trail. There were lots of tree roots and rocks sticking out of the ground which made me really wish I had taken the advice to wear my hiking boots. Ankle support would have made this a little less difficult. We were constantly reminding each other to "look down," and "watch out for..."

But still, just look at this path. It's so inviting, protruding rocks and all.

Just a few states away, but some of the vegetation seemed so different from what we have around here.

Rocky staircase up the path.

 Love this picture of all these majestic trees, with not much growing underneath them.

Another waterfall and little watering hole where we stopped to play for a while.

About this part of the trail we started passing by rocky overhangs (for lack of a better term) that were also great for exploring.

 Another small waterfall.

Jeremy found himself a walking stick, which was so good that he brought it back to Missouri with him.

As we trekked on, the trail went from open...

to dense...

And then even denser. At times, it felt like we were walking through a jungle.

 At this point, we were in the final third of the hike which is by far the most difficult. There were some really steep downgrades.

But some really cool places to explore.

By this time, we were starving. Because we explored so much, it took us a really long time to get this far. And also, it was hot, and we were getting tired. But we knew from the trail app that we were really close to the end so we all pushed on.

Right about here, we came across a stream where a lot of people had stopped to play. The boys were really wanting to stop too, but we were 1/10 mile away from the Van Hook Falls - the end of this hike. So we trekked on, with the promise to stop and swim when we passed through.

This bridge looks like it's going into a secret forest.

This last part was one of the trickiest parts of all. We had to climb over and down boulders.

And the boys loved every minute.

And finally, finally, we were there. We saw the Van Hook Falls. It was by far the tallest fall on the trail, and although it was somewhat anti-climatic since you can only view them from afar and there wasn't much water, we were so glad we made it to the end.

 One of the best parts was that we were the only ones in the area (everyone else must have been at that swimming spot we passed). There was a bench overlooking the falls which was the perfect spot to stop for lunch which consisted of chicken salad wraps, granola bars, and water. It absolutely hit the spot.

Here's my mom, Jeremy, and Lex resting on the bench. Eli was off exploring.

There was a spot where you could climb down a little further to get closer to the falls so we checked it out for a while.

And then after we were fed, rested, and changed (Lex and I both changed into shorts while we were here), we headed back. Our hiking app said we had gone 2.58 miles, so that meant we had that far to get back to our car, and most of it would be uphill.

 But not before a little swim.

The boys loved sliding down the waterfall.

 And then back up, and up, and up for 2.58 miles.

We were exhausted. Our legs and feet were sore, it was hot, and we were all sweating buckets. But we continued, barely stopping for 2.5 miles straight. I was so proud of everyone.

 Someone was totally tuckered out. We probably had 1/10 of a mile to go at this point, but it didn't stop him from collapsing in exhaustion.

 And finally, we made it back to the trail head, all exhausted... but we did it. 5.16 miles. And we survived to blog about it.

This trail is definitely in the moderate difficulty category. The terrain and inclines, along with the giant boulders at the end are all worth noting. The waterfalls were incredible and would be even better right after a rain (although then the trail would be muddy, so there's that). Even in the heat of the summer (late spring), the shade kept the trail fairly comfortable. My advice is to definitely plan to stop and swim at the end of this trail. It's a great way to refresh yourself before heading back up the trail. Even on this holiday weekend and a parking lot full of cars, the trail was very sparsely populated, which is our favorite kind of trail.

Happy hiking from our family to yours. Hope your summer is full of adventures!