Thursday, October 8, 2015

Grandma Ginger's house

This year was the fifth year that we have spent 2 weeks in Galena at my mom's house. It started when Sierra was just 3 years old and Jason was going to be out in Montana for several weeks working on classes for his Masters degree. Rather than hang out in Virginia, I took the opportunity to spend some time with my parents. We have now come to really appreciate the low key time away from home and the quality time the girls get with Grandma Ginger. I think she mostly likes having us around for a couple weeks, but we definitely introduce a level of chaos she isn't used to on a day to day basis. 

My mom has FIVE (!) grandkids. Actually, now she has six, because my youngest sister had a baby a few weeks ago. And in February, she will have seven, but that's not the point of this post. You try and get five kids ranging in age from 1-10 to look at the camera and smile at the same time. Ha ha! This is the best I got. 

We took a trip to the Mississippi Riverboat Museum. It's a Smithsonian museum right across the river in Dubuque, IA. Very cool.

Up close and personal with some river fishes.

The otters are so playful and fun to watch. 

Girls on a boat.

Girls in a hut.

Girls riding animals.

Girls in a canoe. 

Girls in a homemade sailboat.

While we were in town this time, the Dubuque County Fair was going on. This is a little fair, but still a lot of fun. I used to enjoy going when I was a kid.

Aurora was determined to see a pig at the fair. It was the one thing she kept requesting, over and over again. She wanted to see a pig at the fair.

Success! Glad we can make dreams come true!

Ponies are fun, too!

And tractors! It's not a country fair if there's not a photo with a tractor!

The big girls wend on the ferris wheel with daddy, and Aurora had some Grandma time.

During the two weeks we were in Galena, Sierra and Kaia had daily swimming lessons. They both did great and advanced to the next level when we come back next year!

Ozark National Scenic River Way

Just ten days after returning from our Big Summer Camping Trip, we were packed up and headed out for another camping trip. This time, we were camping with Grandma Diane and Grandpa Butch at the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. We did a similar trip last year and were able to use Butch and Diane's kayaks to get out and float on the river with the girls one day. 

We were looking forward to that experience again, but this summer's theme of RAIN got in the way. We arrived Thursday afternoon for a long weekend. Thursday night, it rained, and rained, and rained, and RAINED. All night long. It was intense. I wish I would have taken "before" and "after" photos of the river near our campground because it rose A LOT. The water got so high that the river was closed to all traffic Friday. It was still closed most of the day Saturday, but they did begin opening the northern most portions (far from us) late in the day. 

Since we couldn't kayak, we wanted to go see some other sites in the area. There is a short hike that leads down to an opening to an underground cave with a below ground lake. 

Unfortunately, the sheer volume of water from all the rain meant we mostly just saw the flow of the water because it obstructed the view into the cave where we could have seen the lake.

The girls are looking at a bug or some other creepy crawly. I love that they are so comfortable in the outdoors. "Nature princesses" they call themselves.

After that, we went to visit another spring, but when we got to the trail head, we learned the spring was a half mile down the trail. And the trail was completely covered with rather deep water. 

We were camping at Round Spring Campground, so the next morning, we visited Round Spring Cave. 

Very, VERY cool cave formations in this cave. I'm so glad we got to see it.

Watch your head! Low ceiling! Can you see how far Jason has to duck down in the back?

The girls were thrilled that they got to see some cave salamanders.

I don't have photos of the afternoon because I was swimming and didn't want to bother with my camera, but we went to Rocky Falls and did some swimming. This was the one place that actually benefited from the abundance of water. It was SUPER crowded though because it seemed everyone who actually wanted to be floating down the closed river was swimming at Rocky Falls. Sierra found that she could float on her back with her life jacket and be taken for a little ride in the shallow stream that flows away from the falls and swimming area. And there is a nice little side area with shallow water that was perfect for Aurora. 

Not what we expected, but definitely a good trip. 

Big summer trip: Shenandoah National Park

Hmm, guess I never finished up the "Big summer trip" series. It was great to visit Shenandoah National Park again because when we lived in Virginia, we made it there about once a month or more, in all seasons. It was "our park." Well, our park must have been angry with us for leaving, because even though we saw a ton of rain on this trip, Shenandoah was the one time we had a day that was a complete washout. A soaking, steady rain all night and all the next day. 

We did manage a slightly damp hike to Dark Hallow Falls before the night rain kicked in. It's an easy hike with a lovely waterfall as a reward at the end. 

Those are big steps for little legs. Aurora, like her sisters, is a determined little hiker though, and she wanted to do it herself.

More dunking heads in waterfalls. I guess it's refreshing? I didn't partake.

Glad Grandma Ginger was along on this hike to get this photo for us.

Back at our campsite, there were some deer. Clearly, they had been around humans too much because they didn't have much fear. The girls named them Deerly, Deerla, and Deerina.

They're so sneaky, aren't they?

After an all day rain, the sky finally cleared in the very late afternoon, and we decided to venture out on another waterfall hike to Lewis Falls. Jason and I had planned on a much longer hike to the tallest falls in the park, Overrun Falls, but the rain would have made for a miserable day.

Columbines are one of my most favorite wildflowers.

Sierra is checking out the sign post and keeping us on track.

The falls, in the late afternoon light. Jason and I reminisced about another time we did this hike and it POURED rain. We were half way through the hike (with a small Sierra and Kaia) and it didn't matter whether we continued on or turned back. We had about 2 miles to push through. We tried to keep the girls as dry as possible, but the rain that day several years ago was relentless and we were all soaked.

THIS is what Shenandoah looks like!

The girls spotted a salamander on the hike out.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Big Summer Trip: Lake Anna State Park, VA

Part of the reason we chose one of stops to be Lake Anna State Park in Virginia was because it is just under an hour from where we used to live. The park itself is nice with some trails and a lake beach, but we also had the opportunity to visit our former home and see some friends. 

Everything tastes better when you're camping! Pancakes for breakfast.

We visited Woodberry Forest and the big girls played dress up with Sophia.

Aurora was in the kitchen looking for snacks.

That afternoon, we went to the Woodberry Forest pool and met some more friends. Then Sophia came back to camp with us to spend the night.

"Don't go too deep!" said. Their definition is different that mine.

Sierra and her buddy Sophia.

We had to make sure Sophia got the whole camping experience, which of course includes making s'mores. 

Daddy helping Aurora catch lightening bugs.

Camping is for the dogs!

The next day, Sophia's family came out to Lake Anna and we spent the afternoon at the beach and had a picnic dinner together.

Events included pole climbing. Sierra was an expert.

Jason had lots of help building a fire.

The kids throwing "poppers" at the ground.

 We love this family!