Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Trip Home

After 8 weeks of vacationing, we had to return home so I could begin work on Monday (two days ago). We decided to take the northern Montana route instead of the southern Idaho route. The time was almost identical and this choice was more scenic. This allowed us to stop at another national monument, Grant-Kohrs Ranch. I think Sonya enjoyed the Smokey the Bear binoculars given to her by the Forest Ranger best at this stop.

Chosing this route also allowed us to stop at my grandparents museum in Polson, Montana. I haven't been there since well before my mission in 1997. It was great to spend the evening with them and let them get to know Sonya and Karren a little more.

Now I am home and back to the grind. Only 6 2/3 years until I am eligible for my next sabbatical .... sigh!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Yellowstone National Park

Karren, Sonya and I spent two days and nights in Yellowstone National Park where we experienced:

1) Animals:

2) Geysers

3) Hot Springs

4) Cute Sonya Moments

5) Stubborn Beasts Blocking Our Road

6) And Restful Nights in Our Log Cabin

Visiting More Family and Golden Spike National Historic Site

A week ago Monday, we had a really fun visit with Grandma Woffinden and Sonya had a blast with her dolls. Sonya has really become a girly girl and so she just loves Grandma Woff's doll collection.

A week ago, we headed north to Yellowstone but stopped on the way at Golden Spike National Historic Site and at Uncle K's.
Pictured here is a replica of one of the trains present during the ceremony in 1869:

and Karren and Sonya placing a chocolate Golden Spike in the exact location where the actual Golden Spike was inserted:

Sonya really loved her Uncle K, almost as much as Uncle Bon. In fact, she kept calling him Uncle Bon. Uncle K's house is now one of the locations Sonya asks to visit (Grandma's house (for any number of Grandparent's houses: Wilde, Mangels, Woffinden, Glee, Doris), Sonya's house (for home), Sydney's mom's house (for the Barkers), and now Uncle K's house).

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sunday Family Time

On Sunday, all my local brothers and sisters came over along with their children. Sonya got to see all eight of her living cousins (three are on the way via K, Ned, and Becky). Karren made a gluten free dinner to accomodate my mom and Shannon's allergies and the kids played hard together.

On the play structure with Ashton, Ian, Jaime, Sonya, and Sage:

Sonya and Ian:

Ring Around the Rosies with Uncle Bon is always a favorite! Here he plays with the 5 youngest (Ashton, Seth, Sonya, Talia, and Zach).

The respective eldest children of each family: Sonya (Cameron), Ian (Ned), Sage (Becky), and Jaime (Desire).

Dinosaur National Monument - Fossil Side

So the cool quarry visitors center was closed due to the unstable hillside. Instead, we walked around the park looking for fossils, after being shown what to look for in the rocks by a ranger. We saw giant tails still intact, lots of little scraps of bone, and this femur bone of a cephalopod dinosaur. Cool!

Along the walk there was an area of fine shale rock littered with fishy remains. Here, Cam is holding a section of fish scales still glittery. Once exposed, they don't last very long.

We dropped by a temporary visitors center to get Cam's National Park Passport Cancellation stamp (a new obsession of his...groan) and hold a few fossils. Here, we show where on the body each one belongs: a stegosaurus spike, an imprint of dino skin, and a vertebrae.

We hiked through the rest of the canyon in the afternoon. Petroglyphs (ancient graffiti) could be found all over the high stone walls. Experts say that there is no way to interpret the drawings of these paleoindians because they and their language are extinct. I, however, found these historical snapshots self explanatory.
See that guy directly above me in the stone (I'm mimicking his position to help you identify him. He is obviously an alien, a powerful one, with a huge torso and little legs. He explains that he is from a far away galaxy (look to the galaxy spiral in the upper left corner; this symbol next to this guy is in many of the other petroglyph sites as well.) He and his alien people are fascinated by earth's animal life (the goat next to him), the pleasant-looking humans (see the normal non-alien looking guy?), the unique horticulture (see the potted plant on the far left), and the pretty sunshine of this planet that make it all possible (see the sunshine next to the plant).

Everything was great until the big alien guy got jealous of our planet and the peaceful desert paleoindians and decided to "probe" everyone and everything to find out what made them different. The photo below (again, I pose in the position of the offender to help you identify him) shows a warrior and/or alien scientist going forward with his multi-pronged nasal probe. OUCHY! It was a dark time in human history! Other nearby petroglyphs show how this lead to the peoples' eventual extinction and a the desert being taken over by giant lizards (as often happens when human are not around to interfere.) Sadly, there is not enough room on this page to show the rest of these panels.

In the evening, we went through a fabulous natural history museum. It showed tons of fossils, and explained the geology of the Utah area.

My favorite discovery in the whole museum was this little 'side note' next to a stegosaurus skeleton. Here is a hip bone with a mysterious cavity in it. Scientists believe that this may have been a separate brain in the lower half of the body. As explained on other labels, the dino brain was so small and far from the heart that they wondered how it got enough blood to function. Solution: butt-brain. I think this is something missing from our evolution... I know several people who could really benefit from this additional organ! Can you imagine: "Hey Sonya, why are you drinking out of the toilet after I told you not to three times already? I think it's time to turn on your butt-brain today, sweety..."

Dinosaur National Monument - Canyon Side

Thanks to my parents watching Sonya for two days, Karren and I were able to escape to Vernal, Utah. We arrived, checked into the Landmark Inn Bed & Breakfast‎ and then continued on to the Canyon side of Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado. We were able to do an amazing hike on a finger of land jetting out over Echo Canyon and the Green River. Along the way, we spotted fresh cougar tracks and Karren feared for her life.

Despite the danger of being eaten alive, we were able to see breathtaking views,

hang off cliffs,

and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

The Bed and Breakfast we stayed in was really nice. The room had an enormous jacuzzi which Karren now wants to put into our house. I don't think it will fit. The bed was comfortable and the decoration was great. The breakfast was average though, but hey, it's breakfast.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Spending time in Utah

We left nice and early to travel to Utah on Monday. The trip was long and Sonya was tired of driving half way there. She kept asking for Grandma's house and Sonya's house. We stopped in the Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument and played in the museum.

Since arriving in Utah, we have spent lots of time with the family.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Yosemite National Park

We planned on spending two days in Yosemite, but it sadly had to be cut to one. The day we arrived, it was beautiful. We settled in and enjoyed the beauty of the area.

Just as the sun set, we finally started to get an idea of what fun we had coming in the days ahead. As we snuggled into our unheated yurt, the girls started getting cold and we all crowded into our double bed.

At 5:30 AM, we heard rain and it didn't stop there. At breakfast, we chatted with others to find out that the temperature was supposed to drop and the constant rain would turn into snow. We were sadly unprepared for snow and heavy rain. The forecast showed that it was supposed to drop to a chilly 13 degrees. Karren and I looked at each other and realized that we would need to leave early due to our total lack of preparation. Luckily, we had a bus tour at 2 PM where a guide would show us the sites in the valley. The rain caused low visibility, but we could see some and learned a bunch about the park.

We will definitely have to go back to Yosemite during the summer months.

San Francisco

Last weekend, I visited San Francisco for the first time (Karren had been there many times before). We stayed at the Golden Gate Hotel which we loved. It is a Bed and Breakfast Inn where the rooms are nice, the staff is amazing, and the breakfast is simple.

On Saturday, while waiting for Sarah and Steven to arrive, we visited the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park.

We then walked over and met up with the Connells where we boarded a boat for Alcatraz Island. Notice our fabulous hair! :)

We thoroughly enjoyed the Alcatraz Cellhouse Audio Tour and saw amazing views of the city.

That evening, we ate at the Cheesecake Factory with our good friend and Sonya's honorary Grampa, Tom.

On Sunday, we spent the entire morning in Golden Gate Park where we saw a lake with ducks and turtles, trees, grass, swings, and ate lunch.

After Sarah and Stephen left, we went to the Golden Gate bridge area. Sonya and Karren stayed in the car and slept while I quickly ran around the Presidio of San Francisco. I was delayed and returned later than expected to a worried wife. After being scolded, we walked to Fort Point where we saw seals off the dock near the warming hut and walked out to the fort. Sonya was tired and cold, so we didn't walk across the bridge. It will have to be left for a future visit.