Thursday, August 29, 2013

Height of the Land, Coos Canyon, and Angel Falls

Yesterday Josh and I had a rare day off together to get out and explore. We decided to take the Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway which starts in Madrid, goes through Oquossic, and heads towards Byron.

8.13 Height of the Land Scenic Overlook
Our first stop was at Height of the Land, located just off Rt. 17. It is a scenic overlook that offers panoramic views of Mooselookmeguntic and Cupsuptic Lakes, as well as a few smaller bodies of water. Also, the Appalachian Trail crosses Rt. 17 here and so it's a great spot to day hike from.

Even though it was a hazy day, the landscape was gorgeous. The lakes are spotted with heavily forest islands and occasionally you'll see a perfectly secluded sandy beach. One cannot help contemplating how beautiful this region is. The overlook certainly lives up to its name.

8.13 Coos Canyon
Once we were on the road again, we began our search for the Bemis Road, which takes you to the Angel Falls Trailhead. Of course we missed it. We had been so busy chatting that we were nearly to Coos Canyon when our mistake was realized. So, naturally we had to go see Coos Canyon.

The Swift River cuts through the town of Byron through the gorge known as Coos Canyon. The water worn stones walls are stunning. Sometimes smooth and rolling then sharp and severe elsewhere. The water is the perfect for swimming and there are swimming holes for everyone.

8.13 Coos Canyon
We scrambled along the rocks and then soaked our feet for a little while. Wu had to swim. He also got to feel a real current, which didn't seem to slow him down. We were a little disappointed by the amount of litter. There were shoes, clothing, bottles, even a backpack strewn about.

After taking our fair share of photos and wishing we had brought our swimsuits, we were back on the road. Trying to find the Bemis Road was easier when traveling back towards Height of the Land. We were able to find it easily (i.e.- we only turned around once!).

8.13 Angel Falls Trail
We had heard the Bemis Road was in rough shape. It is. Though the trailhead to Angel Falls is only 3.6 miles off of Rt. 17, it took us at least 20 minutes. I didn't notice a sign, but we knew we were in the right place because we suddenly came across 4-5 cars parked in three pull-offs along the road.

8.13 Angel Falls Trail
The trail is 0.8 mile long and begins as an old two-track that curves slowly down to a large open area. There is a giant rock, spray painted from previous visitors. At this point there are two roads that continue on. The trail to Angel Falls is marked with red swaths and is on the left.

8.13 Angel Falls Trail
It didn't take us long to realize what a beautiful area we were in. As we made our way towards the falls, there were several stream crossings. The trail changed from wide and easy to narrow and demanded greater attention. We were enchanted. The moss was so brilliantly colored it seems as though we were in a tropical rainforest at times.

Near the falls we began to catch glimpses of our destination. We heard the brook running. At the top the trail opens up and you can really take the waterfall in. The water, Mountain Brook, drops 90 feet over the horsetail falls making Angel Falls one of the tallest waterfalls in Maine. The way the water moves diagonally across the rocks was awesome. Water rushed over fallen pieces of the rock face. It was a really peaceful place.

8.13 Angel Fall
We rested, photographed and explored just a bit before hiting the trail back. We would have stayed longer but it was a popular spot and there were several other parties trying to enjoy it as well. The hike back down was pure serenity. Without other visitors in earshot we were able to relax and go at our own pace.

As it often does the hike back seemed to be more difficult. I'm not sure if it was that the footing was trickier or that I knew our day was coming to a close. Either way, it didn't slow the planning of our next adventure... coming back soon with our little one in tow.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Daggett Rock, Phillips ME

Daggett Rock is one of those cool places that you occasionally hear about but never seem to be able to get yourself to. It's located on the Wheeler Hill Road in Phillips and now that we live in this neck of the woods, it seemed that we should check it out.

8.13 Looking through a split
On Friday Eli, Memere, and I made the trek over. It wasn't a surprise that the tar and dirt road leading to the trailhead isn't well maintained but thankfully it's passable and the trailhead is only 2.3 miles in. On the left side there is a faded wooden sign marking the old two track that leads to Daggett Rock. On the right is a gravel parking area that easily holds three cars.

The walk in is about 15 minutes and is a slight incline for most of the way. It is easy walking. We strolled up it without any problems, even with Eli on my back. (It would be possible to bring a jogging stroller, if that helps to gauge the difficulty!)

8.13 Memere trying some bouldering
Daggett Rock sits in a small opening that is surrounded by thick trees. It seems that the trees are cut back occasionally and briars are kept at bay by the visitors. The rock itself is 80 feet long, 30 feet wide and 25 feet tall. I read accounts that it could weigh over 8000 tons and that it traveled all the way from Saddleback Mt. in Dallas Plantation.

The granite rock is split into three pieces and there is enough space to walk in-between. Someone built a makeshift ladder so that you can climb atop one of the pieces. 

We took it all in as we rested, snacked, and hydrated in the shadow of the rock. It was a perfect day to be exploring. After snapping a few photos we headed back down the hill to the car.

Daggett Rock is a seriously big rock. It's an unsual, quirky find and if that's your thing, than it's worth seeing. It is also a great spot to do some bouldering and geocaching! If you like to learn about the local lore behind Daggett Rock, check out the Maine Geological Survey.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Maiden Voyage of the Davis Family

This adventure began nearly two years ago in 2011. That Christmas Josh brought home a canoe. It was a perfect present for our impending family. We had a baby on the way and were determined to keep getting outside as a family.

We made plans to get it out on the water last summer. Our intentions were good. We were naive. Between our newborn and jobs our hands were full.

Fall came and went. Winter dragged. Spring was here and we were packing to move to Maine.

Finally summer was here and it seemed as though another season would pass us by. Then the other day we kicked it into overdrive. We bought straps and reliable rope. We practiced lifting the canoe and tying it down. We decided where to try it out. We packed and loaded. It was awesome.

The next day we headed out to Toothaker Pond. We were there, unloaded, and in the canoe in 25 minutes. In the stern was Josh, while Eli and I sat in the bow. We cruised along the shoreline. Though the water was smooth we still wanted to be cautious.

We had hoped to find a place to go ashore and picnic but it didn't work out. We snacked a bit in the canoe and took it all in: the shoreline covered in dense trees, a few camps spot the shoreline, a small lighthouse jutting into the pond and the blue heron feeding in reeds.

8.13 Looking across Toothaker Pond
As we were relaxing the wind began to pick up. We followed the shoreline around the entire pond and made our way back to the put-in. We pulled out, thought to take a photo, and packed it up. Though were hadn't been out for long, we had enjoyed our time on the water. It was a successful attempt to get our whole family on the water and it has inspired us to get out again. 

Hopefully that will happen before next summer!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Center Hill Trail at Mt. Blue State Park

The Center Hill Trail at Mt. Blue State Park is a great place to escape to if you have a few hours or an afternoon. It is located in Weld, a few miles from the town center on Center Hill Road. The parking area is up a short tarred road that is marked with the classic brown and white signs.
7.30 Center Hill
We parked and were immediately struck by the view. The nature trail is about 0.5 mile long and is easy hiking. At the trailhead were self-guided tour guides that gave details about different locations on the trail. The entries were brief, interesting, and added an unexpected aspect to our adventure. 

7.30 Center Hill
One of the stops was atop a granite boulder that overlooked Webb Lake. Then the trail brought along side a bog. It seemed unusual to see a bog on top of a mountain. We walked through a mature spruce forest, learned about lichen, and how to identify a red oak.

It was a simple, relaxing walk. It took us about 45 minutes to complete the loop. It had been the perfect way to spend an afternoon. We'll be back- maybe with a pair of snowshoes!

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Sandy River & Rangeley Lake Railroad

On one of our recent explorations we came across the Rangeley Lakes Railroad. We were short on time so it was added to our "To Explore" list and hoped to visit soon.

7.13 RL & SR Railroad
We made it back on the 20th, arriving a few minutes before the train was scheduled to leave. Josh bought us tickets while Eli and I checked out the platform. The tickets ($6 per adult) were punched as we boarded.

It was easy to find the seats we wanted since we were the only people there. We opted for the caboose for the first length of our journey. It was a perfect ride. One of the volunteers shared details of the original rail line.

7.13 Enjoying the scenary
The tour brings visitors down the track to the original roundhouse, then stops and allows for some exploration. The original engine turnabout still works and there are engines and cars to see. We were able to go throughout the roundhouse and inside a couple cars that are being renovated. 

7.13 Restored Cars
Soon we were heading back down the tracks to the station. We opted for an open air car for the scenery. The whistle blew and the train hummed its way back.

Even though it was a quick escape, we all enjoyed riding the train. We are hoping to visit again in the fall as the leaves are changing and enjoy it in the crisp mountain air of Maine! If you would like to visit, please check out the Operating Schedule

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Tis the Season: How to Remove a Tick Safely

Living and playing in the Northeast one needs to be particularly aware of how to avoid ticks and also how to safely remove them.

I cannot possibly count the number of ticks I've removed over the years. The thought makes me cringe. The first few I ripped off in a moment of panic. Then as awareness on Lyme Disease and other tick borne diseases spread I learned how to do it right.

Anytime you, your children, or pets have been outside it's important to check for ticks. Even if you were only in the yard. Ticks often lay in wait on the tips of leaves or blades of grass and can be picked up by simply brushing against the plants.

You'll want to check along hairlines, behind ears, armpits, behind knees, waist lines and between legs. Ticks will take advantage of the harder to reach areas and are often difficult to see.
Taken from the Tick Removal Page

If you need to remove a tick:
  • Grab a pair of tweezers. The finer the point the better.
  • Tweeze the tick as close to the skin as possible. Try to keep the tweezers parallel to the skin.
  • Pull upward, away from the skin, with even pressure.
  • Go slow. You are trying to remove it as one piece.
  • If the tick breaks apart, use the tweezers to remove the head and mouth parts.
  • Afterward clean area with alcohol or soap and water.

Keep an eye on it for awhile. If anything unusual occurs talk to a doctor! You know your body better than anyone! If you would like to read more I recommend the exploring the tick information page.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

July 4th Weekend Cascade Gorge Hike.

This weekend we celebrated the 4th of July by checking out a hiking trail we've been hearing about. The Cascade Stream Gorge Trail is located just south of Rangeley off of Rt. 4 off a side street that's just across from South Shore Drive. Since we had to be in Rangeley that morning we figured it'd be a good time to do it.

We loaded up the car with Eli's mountain of gear, our gear, and Wu's gear. About mid-morning we hopped in and took off. I drove while Amanda navigated and told me about the area. Eli played most of the time with his teddy bear and Wu sat in the back, the crazy waiting to be unleashed.

When we arrived it took us a bit to figure out how to park. I guess everyone else had the same thought as us. We unloaded and chatted with some folks who were heading back to their cars. They were nice people and were impressed with how Amanda was going to hike up the hill with Eli on her back. I have the best family.

The falls are located all along the trail. It's name is dead on. It is a cascade. We followed a beautiful trail along the water going uphill the whole way. The vegetation is a lot different than what I'm used to. Back in the Black Hills the hills are covered in pines and aspen with little undergrowth. Out here, the trail was covered in mossy rocks and heavy undergrowth with woven root systems protruding out of the ground as we walked up.

There were mats of moss that felt like it was going to let your foot sink down into a wet muddy trap, but the moss always held. So much so, that we stopped on our way down and had a break and let Eli get out of his pack and feel the ground. He loved it.

There were so many amazing views and we even saw a fly fisherman on the water. Wu did a great job after he calmed down. He's still not quite accustomed to a leash. He barely pulled and listened very well. He did so well that we let him go swim... kind of. The only place we felt comfortable letting him get in was a small pool behind a boulder. It only went up to his chest but he seemed to enjoy it.

Once again, Team Davis has succeeded. We had a blast and watching my son grow up outdoors is one of the best parts of being a dad. He is always happy and can't wait to get outside again. That's our boy. I am lucky to have such a great family and I'm glad we live our lives the way we do- outdoors and loving it!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A quick step out: Small's Falls

One of our favorite waterfalls in Maine is just down the road in Township E. The plain sign along the road doesn't hold any clues to the majesty that is Smalls Falls. The Sandy River drops from pool to pool as it cuts through the granite for about a tenth of a mile.

We were lucky enough to visit on a perfect afternoon. Since it was a weekday there weren't many people about. The place was nearly all ours. We parked, got Eli geared up and Wu leashed and headed towards the falls.

Our favorite thing about Smalls Falls is that there is another waterfall that people often overlook. It's easy to become sidetracked at the first waterfall but if you are vigilant and willing to hike a bit then there is more to see.

Well worn, unmarked paths lead into the woods and will eventually lead to the second channel of the Sandy River. The paths lead directly to the water and flat rocks to relax on undisturbed.

We hiked around this area for awhile taking pictures and letting Wu take a swim before heading back towards the top of the first waterfall. Then we hiked around there for a bit, taking in each drop and pool of the waterfall. 

Smalls Falls turned out to be a great afternoon escape. It was nice to be out as a family with our feet on the trail and Maine air in our lungs. We think we were smiling the whole time. It won't be long before we are visiting again. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Swiftwater Rescue on the Piscataquis River

Since we've moved back it's been go, go, GO! Months ago I thought it would be a good idea to schedule a Swiftwater Rescue course during our first week of being in Maine. I will say it may not have been my best idea ever.

The course is set up to run through scenarios that happen in whitewater. Sometimes people get tossed out of a boat, sometimes a kayak gets pinned against a boulder, and sometimes a person gets foot entrapped. Any of these things could really ruin a day.

A Swiftwater Rescue course teaches techniques for each of those situations. It's a course for people who want to work in water. I was looking more for the course to give me more confidence on the river.

Barrows Falls. 6.13
Now, I'm not a strong swimmer. Not. At. All. In fact, I'm terrible. When we rolled up to Barrow Falls on the Piscataquis River I was overwhelmed. Immediately thoughts were running through my mind that I was in over my head. Or I would be. I almost had myself convinced that I wouldn't actually need to get into the water for the class. Oh, I was so wrong.

The two days that followed were some of the most intense days of my life. I think it was a combination of exhaustion from moving over 2100 miles, maybe that I hadn't slept on a real bed in a week or that I was pushing myself to my emotional and physical limit, that somehow pushed me through the course. Early on there were moments when I hit panic mode but towards the end I realized that I just didn't have the energy to care. I just had to do it. It was kind of an awesome feeling.

By the end of the course I had not only gained my certification in Swiftwater Rescue but I'd also grown as an individual. I had physically and mentally challenged myself and I came out on top. Though I did have some bruising and a blister or two.

For more photographs or to learn more about Swiftwater Rescue please check out Northeast Guide Service.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Pack. Drive. Fly. Organize. Breathe.

If it were only that simple.

At the end of May, we packed up our house and prepared to move 2100 miles to Maine. With so many miles to cover we decided to take two routes. Josh drove. Eli and I flew. We all ended up having an adventure.

We are finally settled into our new home in the Rangeley Lakes Region. It's just about heaven. The trees are thick and the birds sing all day long. We couldn't ask for a more peaceful place to live. 

Our goal now is to start exploring Maine and the Northeast. We hope to rediscover Maine and find the hidden wonders that this region has to offer families and others seeking solitude in nature. Then we'll come back here and tell you all about it!

Friday, May 3, 2013

AVEX Brazos AUTOSEAL Water Bottle Review

The AVEX line of innovative water bottles was recently brought into our sights. Having been loyal fans of another top brand, we were surprised by how much we enjoyed using our new AVEX bottles. AVEX offers several styles of BPA-Free water bottles for everyday use. Check them out here.

Josh first tested the 25 oz. Brazos AUTOSEAL. Of course I had to try it out too.

Things we love: 

On the trail with AVEX.
  • One handed drinking- perfect for parents of small children (you need a hand free to wrangle!)
  • Drinking ease- We drank 3x more because it was so easy (and fun) to push the button.
  • Sleek look- Taller and thinner than other bottles. 
  • Fit- The 25 oz. actually fit into car cup holders (no more rolling around on the floorboards)!

Things we'll live with:

  • Pressure buildup in the bottle (from changing elevations) can cause it to spray when the spout is opened. There is no way to avoid it because of the design (but it can be fun every now and again!).


This bottle alone has made us convert to AVEX. It is hands-down the best water bottle that we have ever used and our go-to brand for future purchases!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Outside Challenge Week: Day 7- Mt. Roosevelt


Enjoying the view. 5.1.13
Today was the culmination of a weeks worth of outside family adventuring. Getting out each day hasn't been easy. A few evenings it was tough getting out the door but the rewards have been countless.

This evening we headed into the Black Hills to Mt. Roosevelt, a favorite spot of ours. The road to Mt. Roosevelt isn't plowed throughout the winter so we weren't sure if we would even be able to make it through. Thankfully, most of the snow had receded and there was evidence that many vehicles had been up through. The road was clear.

We parked and got Eli wheeled up and released Wu. The trail was easy going until we were 2/3 of the way and we ran into snow. It wasn't a huge patch so we portaged Eli over. Then hit another patch of snow and we took to the woods. Eli loved going off trail. Apparently it was very exciting.

His off-roading face! 5.11.13
The ground around the tower was clear of snow. The trees opened up and the sun beat down upon us. We took the Friendship Tower in.

The last 4 years (since we moved here) have brought a lot of change to the Roosevelt's Friendship Tower. When we first visited it was sealed off to visitors but in true Black Hills fashion, the gated door had been altered so that one could squeeze through. Then a year or so later construction began to repair the mortar and then to reconstruct a staircase. Then the roof was put on to protect it a bit from the elements (but it's not historically accurate).

Mt. Roosevelt's Friendship Tower. 5.1.13
We were hoping to follow the loop around but snow covered the rest of the trail. We opted to take the trail back the way we came but instead of blazing trail in the woods we portaged Eli over the snow patches. It was kind of awesome and we felt like we could do anything.

After working our way through several hundred feet of snow patches we were back on gravel. It was all downhill from there and our hike was over before we knew it.

Our seven day adventure was complete and we asked "why stop there?" Why not challenge ourselves to do this everyday as a habit? I think we will.


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Outside Challenge Week: Day 6- Centennial Trail

Getting out today was a challenge. By the time Josh and I arrived home we had both passed through brief periods of snow. The wind was roaring and the temperature was in the 20 with wind chill. After the glimpse of summer this past week it was difficult to get ourselves outside to enjoy some open sky time with our family.

Once we were packed up and Wu had literally been wrangled we headed over towards Bear Butte State Park. We picked up the Centennial Trail at Bear Butte Lake.

The moment we opened the doors it was apparent that we should have headed into the hills. The wind pushing across the prairie was fast and cold.

On the Centennial Trail. 4.30.13
Eli was bundled up and snuggled under a few blankets. Then over the top of his stroller was a clear jacket that blocks wind and rain. Josh, Eli, Wu, and myself set out on an adventure.

We went as far as we could before the cold set in and the wind carried our high spirits away. On the way Wu did manage to jump a Gold Eagle. It circled above us and I'm sure it was contemplating the cost/benefit of going after Wu.

It wasn't too long before we were worried that Eli was getting cold. When we returned to the jeep Josh reached under the wind jacket and it was warm and still. Our baby was just fine.

We on the other hand we wind blown and exhausted. It didn't turn out to be the outing we were expecting but it was still a success.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Outside Challenge Week: Day 5- Spearfish Creek & DC Booth

  Today marks the fifth straight day that we have made it outside for an adventure! We once again headed to the Spearfish City Park for a walk.

  We started out heading in the opposite direction of where we went earlier in the week. Eli was getting very tired on the way in, but once we got him into his stroller he was wide awake. Wu was just as crazy as ever.

  The path ended up following Spearfish Creek most of the time and took us through a few of the other city parks. At one point the path goes under one of the main roads. It runs almost eye level with the creek and something about it was spectacular to me.

Before I could get too caught up in the awesomeness that was the path, Wu decided to jump right in the water. He'd had enough and his crazy just took over. There he was, still on the leash being swept down the creek and here I am holding on to the other end. Well, needless to say I go taking off along side him trying to keep the line from getting caught in creekside vegetation. After a little bit I just decided to yank the line over and guide him towards the shore so I could grab him, but once he got to shore he just climbed on out and jumped right at me. Because the path goes under the road it is actually lower than the creek and when Wu jumped he ensured that I would be covered in most of the cold snowmelt water that had sunk into his thick fur. He hit my leg and trotted off like this was no big deal..... Then he jumped in and did it again..... and again.

  A little further up the path sticking out of the opposite bank was a car. Just sitting there sideways exposed by the erosion. It almost looked like it was placed there intentionally, but I couldn't tell for sure. Nothing surprises me in the Hills anymore.

  We made it about a half mile further and wound our way back in the direction of the jeep. On our way back we saw a guy Kayaking down the creek. Eli thought this was awesome. He just stared at the guy and didn't move. When he looked up at me he had a big smile on his face. We also saw a fly fisherman who looked like he was having the time of his life.

  We ended up walking pass the jeep and touring the DC Booth Fish Hatchery again. It was nice to see how they were adding more paths and see all the giant trout. By the time we reached the jeep we were exhausted. Eli and Wu? Not so much. Eli was laughing the whole way to the jeep and talking and babbling at us. Wu was just full of energy still and wouldn't shut up about it.

  The day was a huge success in my books. I have really enjoyed spending this time with my family. I cant wait for our next adventure. I am a lucky man.

Outside Challenge Week: Day 4- Stratobowl, Cubfest and the Outdoor Campus

Today has been a very exciting day! We've had Cubfest, at Bear Country USA in our sites for a few years now. With our impending move we thought that it was about time we checked it out.

By 9:30 AM we were in Rapid City. Somehow we managed to get ahead of schedule and so we used the extra time to check out the rim of the Stratobowl, a historic location for the launch of hot air balloons.

We didn't really intend to hike the distance in. In fact, we only wanted to let Wu run a minute to get some of his crazy out. But the trail was too perfect and we wanted to see what was around the next corner. It was incredibly windy but thankfully most of the hike was in the woods. We ended up looking down on the Stratobowl. It was an awesome sight.

By 10:30 AM we were parking at Bear Country USA. There was a weekend long event that lets the public get up close and personal with little bear cubs. Who doesn't want to get their paws on a cub?

With perfect strolling weather we explored. Eli got to see two huge bears relaxing and playing in a pond. He really enjoyed that. Then he saw his first burro and ponies. He got his face painted- a mustache. But the most fun of all was had when he loved on the bear cubs. After waiting in line he was getting a little fussy until he saw the cubs ahead. Then it was eyes and ears forward and he was on the prowl. He had a bit of a run in with one of the cubs when it opened its mouth just as he stuck his hand towards it. It was adorable.

By 1 PM we were at the Outdoor Campus walking the trails that weave through their acreage. Wu got to go swimming and we enjoyed the quiet. We headed inside to explore and Eli was so excited. He let everyone know how much he liked the aquarium. Then he finally went through a 6 ft. tunnel that he's been too shy to do on our previous trips. We were so proud.

By 2:45 we were home just in time to get out of the rain storm that popped up. Eli napped the day off, wiping most of his mustache with it and we relaxed. It was a beautiful and exhausting day!

It must have been the mustache! At The Outdoor Campus, 4.27.13

Outside Challenge Week: Day 3- Whitewood City Park

Another hectic day! Eli and I spent the morning hiking over in Wyoming at Ranch A with a set of friends. After a long nap we were ready to hit the street with Josh when he got home.

After wheeling up (our new term for getting Eli in the stroller!) we headed to the Whitewood Park. It's a few blocks away and has a playground. We were looking specifically for toddler swings. And we found them.

Eli hadn't been on a true swing set yet so we fixed that. I'm not sure he really enjoyed the experience. He seemed very serious and not very relaxed so we tried a few runs on a small slide. He liked that quite a bit. So we moved up to a bigger slide. He and I rode to the bottom and Josh caught us. I had forgotten how much I love slides!

Of course we had brought Wu. He was being a good dog just hanging out while he was waiting for us looking forward to the walk home.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Outside Challenge Week: Day 2- Spearfish City Park

This last week we challenged ourselves to get outside each day for an adventure. Even if we were working all day or exhausted, we got out as a family to have some fun! Here is a little about Day 2!

Josh and I had both been feverishly busy all day. We pulled into the driveway within just a few minutes of each other. Ten minutes later had the jeep packed up (stroller, water and Wu) and were on our way. Since it was later in the afternoon we went to the Spearfish City Park.

We parked just north of DC Booth Hatchery and walked the bike path along the dried creek bed into the mouth of Spearfish Canyon. There were quite a few people out enjoying the path with their friends and pets. We walked for a couple hours taking in the sunshine and ended up at a new bridge that connects Spearfish Canyon to the City Park.

 Wu headed into the creek whenever there was water. Eli was wide awake and sweet the whole time. When Josh and I weren't wrangling one or the other we were soaking up the warm weather!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Outside Challenge Week: Day 1 - Alkali Creek Trail

With 70 degree weather finally here, we decided to take a late afternoon hike. We headed over to Ft. Meade Recreational Area in Sturgis and played on the Alkali Creek Trail.

There was a more snow than we were expecting (which was none) but we hiked through it like champs. The sun was shining so brightly and the air was almost muggy from the evaporating snow.

Wu broke trail and even though that used a lot of energy it didn't seem to slow him down. Josh carried Eli on his back. Eli tried out his new Julbo sunglasses which he wore the entire hike, along with his hat! I took pictures and tried to stay on my feet.

At the half way mark we found a place to sit and relax. It was our first hike that we've been able to put Eli on dry ground to appreciate the sticks, pine cones and needles, and leaves. He would pick up something, eye it, show Josh and then show me. If it was small enough, he would try to eat it. Our boy is getting to smart!

We aren't sure if we were even on the Alkali Creek Trail. It was a little confusing without footprints to lead us through but we managed to loop back to where the Jeep was parked. It wasn't the longest hike but a good hike doesn't have to be a marathon. In the end, we were all happy hikers!

Here are a few pictures from the day!

amanda4684's Eli album on Photobucket

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A Spring Exploration of Devil's Bathtub

With the end of a long weekend upon us, we felt the urge to get outside one more time. We cruised over to Spearfish Canyon and hiked into Devils Bathtub. It's a favorite hike of ours and that we've only done in the summer (directions on how to get there can be found here).

All winter long I've been worried about the condition of the trail and especially the stream crossing but apparently that was all for naught. The snow was packed and the crossings were solid (mostly). It seems that winter had spring just begun their yearly battle for the area.

Wu led the way most of the journey. For about 5 steps, Josh was actually ahead of him. I think that's a record. He would run into the stream, then out to roll in the snow and race on. I can't count how many times he actually did that. He was happy to be out on an adventure, especially one that let him swim.

Josh carried Eli on his back. They were both pleased to be out on the trail. Eli gets really calm in his carry pack. A few times he started smacking his lips and he was very interested in touching the rocks and tree bark. He would reach his arm out and we'd stop, pull of his mitten and let him explore. It's the most amazing feeling watching him learn while enjoying nature. We hope that these moments build the foundation for a lifelong love of nature. They certainly bring us together as a family.

When we reached Devils Bathtub we didn't dare to traverse further. The trail was steeper, slicker, and narrower. A bad combination. We took a few moments to take it all in and decided it was the perfect day for our little escape. The sky was blue and the sun warm. We were out enjoying the Black Hills as a family. It doesn't get better than that.

On the way back, the trail was a little more treacherous. The creek crossings were melting and breaking up in a few places. Where the trail was ice was quickly becoming slushy ice. By the time we reached the car, Eli was asleep, Wu was soaked, and we were a couple of happy parents.