Small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.


What's In a Name?

You may or may not have noticed that there is a little change on this blog. The name of the blog. I've chosen my favorite bible verse as the new name...

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:13-14

There are a million things I could say about this verse and yet it is so hard to actually verbalize. When I first read Matthew, these words just seemed to pop out of the book right at me. They resonated with me in a way other verses just didn't. For me, it means doing what is right for ME and MY family. I think in today's society it so hard to stand firm in what we know and believe for ourselves when so many outside sources say the opposite and make us question ourselves. And in the sense of the blog, I don't just mean what is "right vs. wrong" in the macro sense, but the micro sense too. What is "right" for me and for us as a family, might be completely wrong for someone else and that's ok. It's not about comparing or being better than others, but about what doing and being what you are meant for.

I am a believer in Jesus Christ, but I am not one to evangelize this belief mainly because I believe that a person's faith is personal. This blog will never be a "religious" one. It will never be the focus or topic of my every post, but my personal journey of faith and my religion are the focus and purpose of my life. Therefore, I want that expressed in some way to everyone who comes here.

Like Jason Mraz says "our name is our virtue". So what is in a name? Everything. Enough said. I hope that this blog grows and prospers and I want the purpose behind it come through in a small way. In the same way, I hope that people who know me understand that my personality, outlook on life, and attitude are all built on my faith. It makes me who I am and it makes this blog what it is. Our journey may not always seem conventional, it isn't supposed to be. This blog is our life, our path, the one we know is right for us, a narrow gate.



This National Park really needs no introduction.

One of the places we were most excited about visiting while we lived out here in California was Yosemite. We had planned on camping in the park for two nights upon getting out here, but our plans had to change when I discovered I had two interviews within the first two days of us arriving. Instead, we decided to go to Yosemite our first weekend here, but the fires in the area had other plans. So we watched the news, waited, and this week things were finally starting to improve. Saturday, when we woke up, we checked the parks cams and things looked good so we headed out. From our house to Yosemite is only 3.5 hours away! It's like a dream come true for us to be so close to such an amazing place.

We knew when we arrived that there had been fires and we had seen Mesa Verde National Park years earlier after a large forest fire, but none of that really makes it any easier to drive through an area that has been burned. It wasn't long after entering the park that the devastation came into view. 

Now fires are two fold. In one instance, they are devastating. They torch thousands and thousands of beautiful acres of lands. They sometimes destroy homes and businesses and, worst case, take the lives of humans (usually firefighters trying to contain it). They are often started by people, but sometimes nature itself can cuse these conflagrations with random lighting strikes. On the other side, they can be nature at work. In the redwoods for instance, fires are part of the natural process because they clear out the forest floor from ferns and allow young redwoods to spring up more easily. Most large redwoods are not even affected by the fire due to their size. The Jack Pine for example, needs fires because the heat allows the pine to open up and release the seeds. As amazing as nature is, the burned areas of Yosemite have left the area looking dead, parse and just plain sad.

So as we drove into the park and down into the valley the evidence of fire was everywhere, but the park is almost 750,000 acres and as we continued down into the valley the scenery quickly changed.
Our first stop in the Valley was at Tunnel View. It is the perfect place to go first as it gives a beautiful view of both El Captian and Half Dome. Upon arriving however, we realized that it wasn't really a good day to visit after all. The visibility was really low and from tunnel view we could barely make out half dome.

We were pretty sure that the haze was smoke, but having read that all the fires in area were under control we really were not sure. Adam was really disappointed, but the granite rock faces that we could see were so amazing that I was in awe. That, and the fact that we can come back almost anytime, it didn't dampen my spirits. Landon also enjoyed it and we talked about which rock he could go climb. I told him the big one (El Captian), but he decided he was too little and needed to get bigger first. 

After we took a few pictures and explained to Landon how the rocks were formed, we headed over to the visitor center. It use to be that we would never waste time going to the visitors centers, but we bought Landon a National Parks Passport book to get stamped every time he visits a park and so we have to go there to get them stamped. We figured it is a good way to get him excited about going places and it will be something he will cherish as he gets older. With the exception of visiting Haleakala National Park in Maui when he was 9 months old and Arches National Park on our drive out (because we waited to late to get it and the visitors center was closed) he can have all the stamps from every National Park he visits. We think it's something he will come to really appreciate as he gets older. After getting his book stamped, we visited the Ansel Adam's gallery, the local post office, and had lunch at the deli. I was surprised how nice the vistor's center was and now that we've been visiting them I understand how worthwhile they are. There are all kinds of classes and tours you can sign up for from there. Things we are noting for future visits. I loved the old post office building too.

I can just imagine people at the turn of the century sending "post" from there. While we were there we also spoke to a Park Ranger about the visibility. He said it was due to the King Fire which was burning 150 miles away!!!! We read about the fires on our way out and the King Fire has burned over 50,000 acres and it's only 5% contained at this point. It amazed us how a fire so far away could have such a huge impact there. We heard that the smoke may even reach San Francisco. If you want to see more pictures of the King Fire check THESE pictures out by The Atlantic.

We decided the best thing to do would be to head out of the valley and up to higher elevation in hopes that it cleared up some. As we drove out of the valley with the rocks soaring above it was impressive to see a whole perimeter of trees perfectly perched on the edge seemingly tempting fate. You can just barely make out their silhouette.

As we made our way out of the valley heading to Mono Lake, we came across a pull off with a great view which was aptly named Valley View.

Despite the low visibility this view was still mighty impressive and a place we marked on the map to visit again when the waterfalls are strong (in the Spring). We spent quite a bit of time here with Adam taking pictures and Landon and I playing on the rocks near the water. Being a pull off there are tons of people coming and going through this spot and yet you become so mesmerized at the scene in front of you it almost feels like you are back in 1901 and there isn't another person around for miles. From the picture above that Adam took you can barely see El Captian on the far left of the corner behind some trees. Here is another picture, be it not as good, from my phone which gives you a better look of it. The rock faces are just absolutely stunning! It's not just any rock either, but granite rock. You can see the rocks in the creeks and around and it is all granite.

I also took a panoramic just to try to get the idea of what it looks like 360 degrees. As always, it never does it justice.

After we had spent a good bit of time, we left the valley floor and started to climb. As we started to climb from the valley floor our temperatures quickly began to drop. We went from 90 degrees all the way down to 42 degrees. As we climbed we reached another lookout point called Olmsted Point. By this time, the weather was starting to turn and as we pulled in it began sleeting/hailing on us. Lightening and thunder started on the road ahead. It sounds awful, but it made for the most beautiful misty scene at the Point.

We agreed that it reminded us of the Smoky Mountains that we had visited in June. Once we got back in the car from this point on the landscape became different, but equally gorgeous. Rocks had small groupings of trees seemingly growing straight from little rock cervices sometimes even horizontally. Instead of looking up the rock faces, we were face to face with them right outside our window. We drove past Tenaya Lake and given the current conditions a gorgeous mist was settling over the water. Despite the rain, we knew we had to pull over and with an umbrella Adam snapped some pictures. It was breathtaking!

We continued on and came into Tuolumne Meadows which was the place we were supposed to camp a few weeks prior. Already at 45 degrees in the late day we knew our we had missed our chance to camp here this year. It was so pretty though and now we know that we want to go back and next Summer and be sure to stay at least a night or two. Adam realized that we were officially in the High Sierras a place he always thought he would love and want to explore in depth and he was in heaven as we drove along with this idealistic scenery in front of him.

It wasn't far past Tuolumne that we left Yosemite and crossed into Inyo National Forest. Once in Inyo, we began to descend down towards Mono Lake. I watched as the road dropped down drastically a few feet from our car. 

We reached the lake not long after the sun had set, but by this time it was pretty dark. Adam had wanted to photograph the salt pillars that build up in the lake, but given the dark stormy skies and the lack of sun it was too dark by the time we reached the water. 

We opted instead to sit and watch it for a bit while Landon played in the sand. It was a really pretty lake and a place we would like to visit again when we have more time. 

After a bit, we got back into the car for drive back home, which from this spot was almost 5 hours. Once we turned on the 108 and entered Stanislaus National Forest we saw a sign that read 26% grade slope, another not long after alerting that cows were free range and could be on the road for the next 4 miles and another which said that next 24 miles were constantly curved. By this time, it was 8pm and completely dark. It is impossible to describe just how hilly and curvy the road was other than to explain that we passed the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center. By this time we were in some serious mountains. There were reflective markers all along the roadside over 10 feet tall in some places. These markers are used to find and plow the road after large snowfalls. When we got to an elevation of over 9,000 ft we saw signs that the roads would not be plowed during snow. Just another place to add to our list of places to explore.

It was after 1am when we finally got home. While it wasn't the exact day we had planned, it ended up being a wonderful/unexpected visit to Yosemite. We were able to get our bearings of the park and get an idea of where we want to visit/hike and what we can fit into a day. We know we will be going back often and next Summer I want to get the permit to climb half dome as well as spend a few days camping in Tuolumne Meadows.I hope the next time we visit the fires don't disrupt our views, but in such a magical place any visit is worthwhile.


One Week In

We've been in the area for one week now and what a busy week it has been. Things have been moving quickly for us and we've been going, going, going.

Adam started his job Monday and being the first week it's been a little light. He had a half day on Monday, orientation Tuesday and Wednesday, and the office was closed Friday for a nationwide outreach day. The good news about that is that we've been able to do a lot more than we normally could during the work week. The bad news is that he still hasn't gotten a real feel for the office here yet. I'm sure he will love it, but next week they are sending him to Dallas for more training which means it won't be until the following week that he will really start getting his hands dirty (figuratively of course).

His first full week at the office, will also be my first week of working. I must be meant for long distance, because my all day interview went well and they've offered me a position. I feel so fortunate to have found a job so quickly. And once I had an offer in hand, the apartment looking became serious as did the search for a pre-school for Landon.

Thursday night we checked out a place that we really liked, put in an application and were approved! It's a nice, newer apartment in South San Francisco and we will have a whopping 1,134 sq ft!!!! For everyone on the east coast that is nothing, for California it's a big number. The biggest issue we've met and now overcome is that they allow our furry son too. I never thought I would be an apartment dweller, but it's just as exciting as when we purchased our house way back in 2008. The flexibility that we've had since selling our home to just pick up and move when opportunity strikes has been worth the price. And speaking of price, California gets you good in the wallet. For what we will be paying in rent, we could have purchased a $600k house! OUCH! But honestly, we are at a stage where owning just isn't for us, the freedom of moving to Europe in a few years will make that monthly payment manageable. And the way we see it, if we ever move ANYWHERE else in the country, everything will seem dirt cheap!

On top of the cost increase, there are a few other things that are VERY different to us. For example, paying for bags at the store. I paid 10 cents for a bag at Walgreens today and most grocery stores require you to have your own bags or charge. Recycling, they take it to a whole new level here. Our apartment complex has about 10 different trash cans so you can sort your trash. Sorting, is not something that I am use to at all and I struggle with it. The SF health tax at restaurants. It's only 2%, but the first time we ate out we noticed it. Turns out it is to pay for health care for the poor. Of which there are a lot. Homeless people are everywhere in the downtown area. The roads is another one and in many different ways. I think people drive here better than they do in Nashville, but Adam disagrees. We are living downtown so maybe it is worse here, but people have no problem cutting you off.  Some of the on ramps have traffic lights that tell you when to proceed. There are a ton of different highways and so the splits and merges are crazy and confusing. Also, you have to be hands free with the cell phones or they will ticket you, but the worst for me is the motorcyclists who lane split. Which means on the roads they will ride in between cars on the lane dividers. I swear one day I will hit one (inadvertently).

Lastly, the SF lifestyle is something that we are not use to. We visited a beach the other night, which happened to be clothing optional. There were a number of people taking the optional approach. Driving last weekend we saw our first publicly nude person on the street as some sort of parade or protest. Nudity is very common place here and this weekend might be the biggest nude fest of them all because it is the Folsom Street Fair. Unlike the name implies, this event is not for children. It's actually a leather and BDSM event. Needless to say, while we are finding that there over a million things to do here, there are also a lot of very non-kid friendly things and places.

Speaking of things to do, there really is a never ending amount of things to do. Think I am lying? I'm keeping track of things as I read/hear about them on my pinterest page and it's growing exponentially by the day. Check it out HERE. And it's not because we a new to the city, it is just so diverse. We could hike the trails for years here and still have thousands to explore. There are tons of museums, events, theaters. There are another million things to do/see/explore within a three/four hour drive and then there are the beaches. This family could spend hours and hours a day at a beach and never grow tired of it. Especially Landon. He's started wanting to wear his swim trunks 24/7 in hopes we will go to the beach soon. And we've only explored 2 so far.

The water is pretty chilly and so he likes to play at the water line, get a little wet and then roll around and play in the sand. Even just walking down the beach with us makes him happy as a lark. I think he will grow up having a love of the water like I do.

Landon loves the beach, the water, the sand, all of it, but he also loves our apartment. Adam's work put us up in corporate housing for a month so Saturday we moved into this place.

We are on the 12th floor of Rincon Towers located just a block from the bay. I know he is happy just to be staying in one place more than a night, but he also loves the view. And so do we!

He is constantly looking out the window and talking about the boats on the water or the shooting the people on the streets below. He likes all the noise and lights and commotion, but none of us can get too comfy, because we can't afford the price tag of these apartments after our free month is up. So for now, we are enjoying it while it lasts. Corporate housing was a God send just because of the logistics of moving across the country to a city we've never been to (unless you count when I was 3). We would have been happy to be put up anywhere, but this place is the icing on the cake. And the best view is at night. The bay bridge comes alive at night. Recently, 25,000 LED lights were installed to create a never repeating light show. We sit on our couch or lay in bed night totally mesmerized by it. I'll have to be sure and get a video of it, but here is a picture Adam took the other night of it all lit up.

Once we move, I might have to frame this picture just to remind me of the magical month we spent here. Best of all, Adam can walk to work, we can walk to 1,000 different restaurants, and places. The piers are just a stones through away, and the new baseball stadium is only a few blocks. So if you want to visit, now is the time!!!!! This fairytale ends promptly on October 12th.

So needless to say, our first week has been lots of work and lots of fun. I'm going to share more about the places we've been soon, but I wanted to update everyone on the basics. It's hard to keep everyone up to date when so much is happening so fast. Now that we are in a fun, new city and I'm unemployed (at least for one more week), I'm really motivated to keep blogging. Hope you keep reading!


First Impressions

They say first impressions are everything and if you read about our journey out to San Francisco you know that the first impression of California left a little to be desired. Our first impressions of San Francisco were not disappointing per se, but we came here to live, not for vacation, and upon arriving there was some business to attend to first.

As we came into the peninsula on Wednesday night at sunset we could just barely make out the faintest outline of the city. You would think we'd be so giddy with excitement that we would have spent the next few hours driving all around the city, but that just wasn't the case. Yes, we were giddy. Yes, we were excited. Yes, we wanted to explore every inch. BUT, we were also tired...very tired! We were tired of driving, and sitting, and being confined in a car. Most importantly though, it was after 7pm and I had an ALL DAY interview the following day. So we arrived on the peninsula via the San Mateo bridge, checked into out hotel in San Mateo, ordered pizza, and went to sleep. It was the first time we had arrived at a hotel before 10pm on the whole trip.

At 8am the next morning, Adam, Landon and our trailer, dropped me off at the office. They headed over to nearby Pacifica and walked along the beach and around the trails as they waited to check into our next hotel.

After a nice walk, they checked into our next hotel in the Half Moon Bay area and Landon took a nap while they wanted for to pick me up.

When my marathon day was over, they picked me up and instead of having a night of fun, we spent the next few hours finally ridding ourselves of the trailer that, in the city, felt like an accident waiting to happen. Adam's company gave us corporate housing for a month in a fully furnished apartment so when we rented our u-haul trailer, we also got a month of storage. We took the car downtown (our first real glimpse of the city!) and began the back breaking process of unloading it. It was a lot more work than we realized given that we had to take our goods by cart through an indoor storage facility, down an elevator, back to the other side of the facility and into our five foot high unit. It was not fun and was only made worse because we were crunched to get it all done before they closed at 7pm. By the time we were finished (at 7:30), we were hot, sweaty, tired, and DIRTY! Starving as well, we decided to head to the hotel and find some quick food on the way.

From his morning drive, Adam knew there was a taco bell on the way. Right on the beach, this taco bell had no drive thru. So we went inside, ordered our Mexican pizza and sat on their deck, on the beach, watching the ocean...AT TACO BELL!!! It was the funniest thing to sit on the beach at a Taco Bell with a million dollar view. Afterwards, we found the way to our hotel and settled in.

The next day, we took it easy in the morning, had a nice long lunch at Panera, then it was off to another interview for me. This interview was much shorter and once it was over it was FINALLY time to play!!!!!

We decided to do the most quintessential San Francisco thing we could; Drive across and photograph the Golden Gate Bridge. We headed downtown and as we got near the water, we turned a corner and there it was in all her glory.

I was surprised how stunning the bridge is. I don't know of any metal structure that has ever impressed me in such a way. We wanted to go to the Marin Headlands, which meant we had to cross the bridge, YAY!

Our inaugural trip across was thrilling. Seriously! We I was giddy with excitement as we crossed. And I was so surprised at just massive, absolutely huge it was!

Originally thought to be un-buildable because of the foggy weather, the 60+ mph winds, and strong ocean currents, construction began in 1933 and took four years to complete. It also took $35 million and the lives of eleven men. The bridge spans 1.2 miles and was painted International Orange which was thought to blend well with the natural surroundings. To give you an idea of the girth, the bridge sways 27 feet to put up with wind conditions. The two large cables on either side contain 80,000 miles of steel wire (enough to circle the equator three times). Above the six lanes of car traffic there are walking/bicycle pathways on each side that offer great views of the city and Alcatraz. And despite all of this information, you just have to see of the two great towers to really get an idea of how big it is.

Once across, we pulled to the Vista Point with the rest of the gawkers to snap a few pictures.

Then we proceed to the Marin Headlands to get a higher view, avoid the crowds and generally explore the area. Known for some amazing views and great trails we had noted this was an area we would want to explore before coming out. We started up the hill and pulled off along away at a few different vantage points. The higher we climbed the colder and windier it became. Evident by this family snapshot we took near the top.

And once you reach the top, there is only way to go, back down.

We slowly climbed down and around the area and as we snaked further away a new stunning sight opened it before us. 

We could see seals in the water below, but because of timing were not able to hike down to get close enough to take pictures of them. The lighthouse in the area was also closed, but we knew this was a place we'd be visiting again so we didn't cry too much. We did take a short hike out near the lighthouse to capture a big picture of the bridge with the panoramic view. 

Then we continued around on the one way road. Once used as a military settlement and fortification, there are a number of bunkers, batteries, and military observation sights along the way. There is also the remains of an old fort and an old Nike Missile launch pad. Basically, a ton of places for my boys to explore in the future. As a bonus, there is some camping available which is something we will have to do in the future as well. As we came across the backside we encountered the most stunning beach.

Seemingly uncrowded, we made a note to add this beach to our future beach places. Before heading back across the bridge we made one last stop at Fort Point for a different view of the bridge from the pier below.

BEAUTIFUL is all I can say! So pretty indeed that we asked someone to take our picture.

So as the sun was setting we headed back across the bridge for our final night in a hotel as a transient family on the move. The following day, we would settle into our semi-permanent home and start to get a since of normality to our lives again. Although we were not able to do so right away, I really enjoyed out first "excursion" in San Francisco. The San Francisco Bridge is an iconic symbol of the city and it was right up our alley to be able to spend our first hours enjoying the city outside and enjoying nature too.

And just incase you didn't get enough of the bridge we took a video going across. Here's a feel of what it is like to cross this bad boy.


Nashville to San Francisco, Part 4 (The End)

Part 1 HERE
Part 2 HERE
Part 3 HERE

I got so caught up sharing our whirlwind day in Arizona in Part 3 that I completely forgot to include my favorite picture of the day...

While Adam took pictures over the Grand Canyon, Landon asked to see the GoPro, went to try to stand like his Dad, and started "snapping away". Technically, the GoPro was off and the camera was pointed toward him and not away, but he was so excited to share that he took pictures too that it melted my heart.

But despite his cuteness, Landon was really growing tired of road tripping and being crammed in a car together for 5 days was starting to wear on us all. It was time we stopped lollygagging and got to San Francisco. As we drove late into the night with Landon sound asleep in the backseat, the excitement of actually entering into California kept this co-pilot awake for the entire drive (a first!).
As we entered into California, I really wanted to stop and take a photo at the sign, but it was located on a bridge with no place to turn off. Oh well, it was still awfully exciting!

As we continued on with our first few miles in our new home state we started to see signs saying "stop ahead, all cars must pull over, inspection ahead". Sure that it would not include him, Adam slowed as we came to a border crossing type inspection area. He rolled down the window as a woman approached and she told him this was part of the California Agricultural Department and she had to inspect his trailer. Not sure what to expect, Adam got out and unlocked the trailer for her. She proceeded to tell him that she needed to check for ants while he tried to explain that the trailer was jammed packed to the brim. She took her flashlight and examined the corners of the the inside of the trailer, asked if we had any plants or produce, gave us this awesome little certificate and sent us on our way.

We had a nice laugh about it once we were back on the road. We decided we could start making a list of reasons why California is bankrupt and that can be the first on our list. We also decided when we drive the Jetta into San Francisco we should have an ant farm in the passenger seat just to see what happens.

Like we predicted, it was a little after 2am when we finally reached our hotel in Hisperia just outside of Barstow. The next morning, we got up and headed out right away. And this was our first real glimpse of California. The most desert looking place we had been thus far...

Not far outside of Bakersfield, the area became very pretty as it became less flat and more hilly. We discovered on this trip that all landscapes carry beauty just in very different ways. 

In the same area, we added our number 2 reason for California's money crisis...

Kansas showed us some spectacular windmill farms, but California is home to the broken, poorly maintained farms. And although these windmills are much smaller, even the newer large windmills we passed were obviously not maintained and, at best, had stopped turning. It was pretty sad.

Not far after the hills and broken windmill farms, the area flattened out and for the next few hours we passed hundreds of miles of groves. We were obviously in the heartland of California's crops and it was stunning how big these groves were. Millions of acres no doubt and they seemed to mostly be lemons and walnut trees along our route. 

Sometimes, we would breach the top of a small hill and these groves would extend as far as the eye could see, in all directions. Mind you, that is pretty far in this environment.

Along this route we also came across hundreds of signs about the 'government produced drought'. Almost as sad as that, was the feeding farm we parked next to when we pulled off to switch drivers. Not realizing what it was at first, we quickly smelled the tens of thousands of cows next to us with not much room to move, but plenty of food to eat. At first it was just the smell that disgusted us, but as we drove away and saw that this farm also extended for miles and as far as we could see, it was a pretty disgusting sight. I've always wondered where my Dad's cattle go when they sell at market, and while I know his are not moved across the country, it wasn't exactly pretty to see it in reality. That being said, it wasn't enough to keep us from trying the much anticipated, In and Out, for lunch.

I have to admit, it was pretty good for burger and fries. By this point, we were more than ready to get to San Francisco, the day had been interesting to say the least. Landon even started keeping watch with his new binoculars he got at the grand canyon.

 Just as the sun was starting to set we came near the city of Livermore and the entire scenery changed. We went from a flat desert landscape to one that was very hilly and green.

 It was the perfect time of day, minus the sun almost directly in our eyes, to be welcomed to our new part of the world. We also got our first glimpse of the amount of traffic we would potentially face with 6 lane expressways on either side opening up.

 The timing was perfect, and we all got our first glimpse of the water just as the sun was setting.

 And I thought I would be able to capture that perfect minute just when the sun has gone at the horizon while we were crossing the San Mateo bridge onto the peninsula, but instead we spent about 5 minutes at the toll on the bridge counting our change to be able to pass. We had $14 cash on us and willingly went through the cash only lane at the tolls mistakenly thinking the toll would be $5. Little did we know, the toll is $5 per axles which with our trailer was a total of 4 axles of $20. So with only $14 it was a harrowing experience to count our change and come up with the remaining $6. Just as the cars were really starting to honk at us, we scraped together the last dollar, apologized profusely, and headed across the bridge.

Just above the rear view mirror you can see the outline of a big hill. If you follow that over to the right, just past the center of the picture you can see another dark area, that is the city. It was just barely visible to us as we crossed although it doesn't show up in the picture very well. Despite our embarrassing moment, it really felt like we were being welcomed home by the sky and sea and we knew that the journey was over (and just beginning) and no matter what, we had made the right decision.


Nashville to San Francisco, Part 3

Part 1 with days 1& 2 are HERE, Part 2 with day 3 is HERE

Day 4. When we woke up we checked the weather on our phones and since it was raining we decided we should skip the Antelope Slot Canyon Tour and go straight to the Grand Canyon. But, just before we left the room Adam opened up the window only to find out it wasn't actually raining. Who would have thought to not trust technology and just look out a window for the weather? The clouds did look a little ominous, but the slot canyons were something I've wanted to see for a long time so we decided to at least drive out to the area and see what the tour company had to say. Regardless of the results, we were excited to see what the day would hold!

While we knew the light coming into the canyon wouldn't be the stark rays that make the canyon famous, I was still very excited when I found out the tours were still going (at least for the hour we had our reservation). At the designated time, we boarded the back of a truck with 11 other tourists and our Navajo guide drove us the three miles in the desert sand to the canyon's opening.

There two canyons in the area (the Upper and Lower) and we toured the Upper canyon. Known for its smaller openings and a wider base, the upper canyon is easier to maneuver throughout, but doesn't have the stunning beams of light like the Lower Canyon. Since it was overcast we didn't miss out on the beams at the lower canyons and, given the circumstances, we probably had the more enjoyable day since the wider base makes the crowds more manageable. As you walked through the canyon the opening became more and more narrow which makes for some amazing shapes, but also for a claustrophobic's worst nightmare.

 Eventually, the space becomes so narrow that it goes from the size of a large room to a small slit only big enough for one person at a time.

Despite not having the perfect lighting I was really excited to see this in person. It is something I have wanted to see in person for a long time and it didn't disappoint. Our guide told us that the Navajo give the tours as a way to share this sacred canyon with the rest of the world. A few years ago, National Geographic asked to film one of the yearly floods. The Navajo gave their permission, but, without telling them, National Geographic mounted three cameras into the walls of the canyons. Despite being mounted, the flood was so violent that it ripped all three cameras off the walls and they were never found. The Navajo believe that this was a sign. They view this place as very sacred and take great care that nothing or no one disturbs it. And it's true, you can't help, but feel a sense of  specter and awe inside these canyons. It almost feels like a secret world that we really shouldn't know about.

When you get to the most narrow part it suddenly opens up into a large clearing.

And then it's back inside the way you came to get back into the jeep, which, not surprisingly, was the three year old's favorite part.

Once we arrived back at our car, we headed to nearby Horseshoe Bend. By this time the weather was begining to turn rainy and the wind was really starting to pick up. Since the hike to Horseshoe was only a mile, we put on our coats, grabbed a few umbrellas and decided to go for it. The short hike through the desert is all downhill in the sand which is a little easier on the way going than it is coming back.

And even if you know it's coming, it's pretty crazy when all the sudden you reach the ledge and right smack in front of you is this...

Aptly named, Horseshoe bend is a famously photographed area in which the Colorado River snakes around a monumental rock and creates the effect of a lucky horseshoe. What they don't tell you is how intimidating it can be to standing (LITERALLY) on the edge of the rocks looking straight ahead at this amazing sight and straight down into a 1,000 foot drop. Not only did I see multiple people scared to death to go near the edge, there is no fence or tiered drop off, but I was actually worried about the lack of fear in Landon and really nervous to be near the edge with him. When I asked him if he realized how dangerous the overlook was and he replied with a staunch NO! I realized it was time for us to back away.

So while Adam took a few pictures, Landon made "pancakes" with the sand a good 50 feet from sure death.

Of course he was happy and cared very little for the amazing site just a few feet away. Horseshoe bend really is an amazing site to see, but doesn't require a long stay. When Adam was finished, I went back over and snapped a panoramic with my phone just to try and get it all in.

The area in the front left is part of the ledge and on the front right you can see people out on another ledge. It's a shame that pictures can't adequately express how impressive it is. It's really one of those, see it to believe it type places. And just like the slot canyons, the rain held off, the sun came out and we were so happy we went for it.

Once back in the car, Landon settled in for a nap, while we drove a few hours to the last and biggest site of the day...

Knowing we still had to make it to CALIFORNIA, we didn't have nearly the amount of time we would have liked, but that is the story of this roadtrip. We drove up the South Rim and made our way along the pull outs. While we would have loved to do some hiking, like all the way down from the rim, we were content with the views we had before us.

Grand doesn't even begin to describe it. Not only can the camera not even begin to adequately frame this beast, but even the human eye cannot possibly take it all in. We slowly made our way to visitor center to get Landon a National Parks Passport, something that Adam let slip past us at Arches, and as we came back out the sun was starting to set on parts of the canyon.

It was absolutely stunning!!!!! And I cannot wait to go back, spend more time exploring the rim, hiking the area, and rafting on the river below. I know it's a trip that Landon won't be ready to do for a number of years, but when he is, we will be sure it's a great one! This was no doubt my favorite part of the entire roadtrip and I can't wait to make more memories here.

So as the sun set, we said our goodbyes (for now) and started a 6 hour drive to CALIFORNIA!!! We knew we wouldn't be arriving to our hotel until after 2am, but getting to do and see what we did during the day made the long drive at night totally worth it. On top of that, as the night grew darker and the miles kept adding up, the saddness of saying goodbye to the Grand Canyon and Arizona faded and our excitement to arrive in California began to grow.