Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2009 at Double the Adventure

2009 has been quite a year for my family. It started with a move from Northern California to Southern California which is essentially like moving to an entirely different state. We suddenly had a whole new world to explore and couldn’t be happier doing it. Ben started intensive therapy for his autism spectrum disorder and made huge strides. He is in preschool now and is doing a  great job. We couldn’t be prouder. Mari is working hard at improving her speech and coming up with new words every day. She is also a dancing diva extraordinaire and did great in her first recital (which you can watch here. Its adorable. I promise).

This blog is dedicated to exploring the world around us with our kids and we did some serious exploring this year. Here are some of the great things we did:

-We explored lots of Southern California beaches from San Onofre to Torrey Pines to Crystal Cove to Marina Del Rey. (Read about some of those amazing beaches here.)

- We went to Arizona, twice. Once to Tucson and once to the Phoenix area. You can read about some fun things to do in those areas here (with more to come soon!)

- We discovered lots of great Orange County Parks (read about them here), California State Parks (check them out here) and National Parks (explore along with us here)

-We took a 24 day road trip from California to Canada and back down through a bunch of National Parks. It was amazing and I am almost done writing about it all! You can read about it here.

-Paul and I got away and took a nice vacation on Oahu (well he worked most of the trip while I explored). I found lots of great things for families to do on the island and you can read about them here with more to come soon.

We also lost Tuesday, a child that will live on in our hearts and minds forever. May God bring peace to her family and help continue to do great things in her memory.

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and look forward to sharing many more adventures and ideas with you in the future. I have high hopes for a total blog redesign as well. Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Lyon Arboretum

Hawaii’s native plants and animals are in peril. The island chain is known as the “endangered species capitol of the world”. Half of Hawaii’s plants are seriously threatened. Because the islands are so isolated, many species that are found nowhere else on earth have evolved. As the human toll on these islands becomes greater it is important to continue to have places the protect these beautiful species and provide refuge to native species. The Lyon Arboretum, run by the University of Hawaii, is a great place to see these very special plants in a tropical rainforest setting.

The arboretum is also a great place for a family hike. There is a 1.5 mile roundtrip hike to Aihualama Falls located on the property. Along the way you can take in the smells, sites, and sounds of the botanical gardens. The day I went the falls weren’t running very fast but it all depends on how much rain the mountains are getting at the time.

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The birds seemed friendlier here. Maybe because they knew they lived in a protected paradise. One bird in particular followed me from tree to tree, chatting away with me. It was like I was Snow White and the bird was doing a Disney duet with me.

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If you visit the Lyon Arboretum be sure to climb up the hill and take in the few from Inspiration Point. It has a Zen like quality to it. There is nothing like gazing out into the lush beauty of the rainforest.


There is a very nice meditation garden on site as well. I had a great time watching the frogs and enjoying the peace and quiet.

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If you would like to escape the hustle and bustle of Waikiki and get back to nature for a couple hours check out the Lyon Arboretum. If you would like more information click here.  

Friday, December 18, 2009

Manoa Falls

If you are vacationing on Oahu and looking for an easy hike to a beautiful waterfall, the Manoa Falls hike may be the hike for you. It is close to Waikiki, just behind the University of Hawaii in a beautiful tropical rainforest. Since this is a rainforest, the trail will most likely be wet and muddy so proper footwear is encouraged ( I wore flip flops, as usual, and was sliding quite a bit on the plank portion of the trail).  It begins with a walk through a bamboo forest which quickly turns into lush rainforest. Mosquitos are plentiful in  the forest so bug spray is a must. The walk is absolutely beautiful and short enough for the whole family to enjoy (1.5 miles round trip).

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The reward at the end of the trail is the 150 foot Manoa Falls. Its a beautiful waterfall and it flow is dependent on how much rain the Ko'oaus Mountains are receiving at the time.


If you  would like more information on this hike, including directions from Waikiki, click here.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Makapu'u Lighthouse Hike

Many people who vacation on Oahu never leave Waikiki. They are content sipping mai tais on the beach or shopping for aloha shirts one of 37 ABC Stores in the area. They never take time the time see the rest of Oahu; the real Oahu. There is so much more to Oahu than the usual tourist traps. The Makapu’u Lighthouse is one of those places.

We visited the Makapu’u Lighthouse one evening after Paul finished work. We had a couple hours of daylight left and we were hoping to climb up to the top of Diamondhead and catch the sunset there. Little did we know, the trail to Diamondhead closes well before sunset. We remembered a hike that Paul’s cousin had told us about and headed towards the most southeastern point of the island near Hawaii Kai. We parked at the trailhead and started heading up the paved trail.

The trail climbs a total of 500 feet but it is an easy climb. I know our three year old children would have no problem with this trail. During the winter months, this is a great place to spot migrating humpback whales as they cruise through the Molokai Channel. We were hiking in August so while whales were not within our view, the Island of Molokai was.

The further we climbed, the more dramatic the scenery became. It was hypnotizing to watch waves crash into the rocks hundreds of feet below us. I felt like I was standing on the edge of the world.

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As we got towards the top, we were able to see the windward side of the island, including Kailua.

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Of course, one of the biggest highlights of the hike was the lighthouse itself. It sits perched on the edge of the island, warning passing ships that land is closer than they may think. The lighthouse is now automated and off limits to the general public but the views of the lighthouse and the surrounding seas are well worth the hike.




For more information on this hike click here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Road Trip 21- Park City

You know what I love about Wyoming? It is still almost completely wild. The drive from Grand Teton National Park to Park City, Utah was filled with vast wilds. We drove mile upon mile without so much as a car passing us. We saw multiple herds of pronghorn antelope running through the sagebrush towards the shelters of the forest. We took in enormous skies and expanses so grand that only God could have created them.  I think its a good thing that Wyoming’s winters are so harsh and inhospitable. Its keeps most people from wanting to settle up this beautiful part of the country.

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And so we drove from one amazing  part of country to the next. On this day our destination was Park City. Originally, it was just meant to be a stop over. Park City is a winter sport destination and not a summer vacation spot, right? Wrong! I had no idea there was so much to do in Park City. We stayed in the fantastic Hotel Park City and could have spent a week just on their grounds. Our cottage was gorgeous and the view was amazing (If you would like to read more about the hotel, read my review here).

We ended up spending most of our afternoon at the Park City Mountain Resort. There are so many fun things to do there from mini golf to zip lining to alpine sliding and coasting. We opted to take the kids down the alpine slide. It is one of the longest slides in the world and the only way to get to the top is to take the ski lift. To most people this is no big deal but for me, it was a huge deal. I am incredibly afraid of falling and heights and hanging above the trees for the 10 minute ride was excruciating. I couldn’t freak out because  than the kids would freak out which in turn would cause me to freak out even more. So I held onto Mari with a death grip and instructed Paul to do the same with Ben. I felt my stomach doing flip flops and my pulse race but I kept a smile on my face and pointed out all the cool things we could see from the lift. Maybe I wasn’t really trying to comfort the kids. Maybe I was trying to comfort myself. Either way, I survived.

Mari was less than excited about getting on the slide with her Dad but once she got on the slide she laughed and squealed. Ben was happy the whole way down with me. It was a ton of fun and having the ability to brake when you felt like the slide was going to fast was very reassuring.


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Paul was trying to encourage me to try the zipline but in order to do so I would have to go back on the ski lift and that was certainly not going to happen. In hindsight I wish I had sucked it up and tried the zipline because our plans to zipline the next month on Oahu were thwarted by the fact that there were no zip lines on Oahu. Doh!

My kids played mini golf for the very first time in Park City. Ben was an immediate pro and Mari was much more interested in carrying around her ball and checking out the course decor than actually using her club to hit the ball in the hole. This is not to say she didn’t enjoy the experience, she just had a different approach to the game than most.


One of my biggest regrets is that we just didn’t have enough time in Park City. I wanted to check out the Olympic Park, take hike, and spend some time in that beautiful Hotel Park City pool. Alas, another trip from another time. We still had two more National Parks on our radar…

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Honolulu Zoo

Nearly every morning of my stay in Honolulu this past August I was woken up by a loud screech. My neighbors thought it was birds. I knew better. Our hotel was across the street from the Honolulu Zoo and the source of that screech was none other than the gibbon, a loud swinging primate with a flair for attracting attention.

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I was on a weeks vacation without my children. Literally steps away from the beach with no kids to keep in mind while planning my daily activities. What did I choose to do that first day in paradise? I went to the zoo. Yes, I am a zoo freak. What can I say, I love spending time with the animals. It was across the street from my hotel and the gibbons were calling me. The beach could wait a couple hours. 

There are over 2000 miles separating the Honolulu Zoo from the next zoological establishment. These islands are isolated and there are no mammals native to the chain. The zoo is a great place for tourists and locals to go for a view of animals that live across the seemingly endless span of blue water.


I arrived at the elephant enclosure just as bath time began. No, we aren’t talking suds and water. We are talking dust, lots and lots of dust. The elephants seemed to be having a gay old time grabbing trunkfuls of dirt and leisurely tossing them on top of their heads.  I have to admit it was quite nice to just sit on a bench a enjoy the show without having a child pester me the entire time.

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While at the zoo I experienced something I have never experienced before: tortoise intercourse. Yep. You read that right. I saw two tortoises getting it on. It was…..ummm….educational.

Oh yes, I am going there. I am giving you a collage of tortoises engaging in intercourse. Enjoy!

Note the male tortoise collapsed and apparently passed out post coitus. True to the male gender from species to species it seems…

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I also spent some quality time with an African wild dog. It was just me and the dog for a good 10 minutes. At first he hung out towards the back of his enclosure but after some gentle coaxing from yours truly, I managed to get him to come hang out against the plate glass window with me.I know he is a wild animal but he reminded me alot of my own pooches back home. He was nice enough to listen to me whine about how I missed my kids and act only slightly indifferent to my very presence.

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I know in the past I have said that if I were a zoo giraffe I would want to live in the Santa Barbara Zoo with their massive ocean view enclosure. I think Honolulu runs a close second.  I really liked how they put the giraffes, zebras, and rhinos in the same enclosure. It gave the exhibit a more authentic savanna feel.

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If you are in Waikiki, take a couple hours and check out the Honolulu Zoo. Its right across the street from the beach so you can explore the zoo and than take a dip in the ocean. There is a great children’s zoo on site and plenty of fantastic animals to see. If you would like more information click here.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Road Trip Day 20- A Teton Sunset

The sunset I experienced at Grand Teton National Park was one of the most memorable of my life. Paul and the kids were back in our cabin trying to get some rest and I had my first moments to myself in about 20 days. Well, not entirely to myself. I did spend way too much quality time with about a million mosquitos. I chose to take in the view from a spot known for moose sightings. While I didn’t see moose I did mange to see a couple beaver, lots of waterfowl, and one of the most amazing sunsets I will ever experience.

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If you would like to see more fantastic travel photos check out Delicious Baby’s Photo Friday here.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

McCormick Railroad Park

When I think of Scottsdale I think of world class golf, superb spas, and upscale shopping. Scottsdale certainly knows how to do leisure time right. It also knows how to create one fantastic park for kids!

The McCormick Railroad Park has everything a little kid could ask for in a park: a really fun  railroad, a carousel, a train museum and two awesome play areas. For $2.00, passengers can take a ride around the park on a miniature train. Little ones can even sit in a cargo section in the back and pretend to be livestock. During the holiday season, the area along the track has some really fun decorations (we saw them setting up some of the displays while we were there).

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For one dollar your child can take a ride on the carousel. My kids can never get enough of the “up and down” and having one in the same spot as a train is beyond exciting.

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The play areas are so much fun. There is one area set up like an old west adobe complete with jail and stagecoach.

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The other playground features an enormous playscape complete with multiple slide, swings, a rock wall, and lots of shade for those hot desert days.

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We didn’t have time for the train museum that day but for only $2.00 it is certainly worth checking out if you have a train lover in your group. For more information about  the McCormick Railroad Park click here.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Three Travel Secrets- Outdoors in the OC

When most people think about taking a vacation in Orange County with their kids they think Disneyland. Yes, Orange County is home to the Happiest Place on Earth but there is so much more to OC than Mickey Mouse. What I love most about Orange County is that there seems to be an infinite number of things to do outside. The next time you and your family take a Disney vacation consider taking a day off from the theme park madness and enjoying some of these outdoor treasures that Orange County has to offer:

1. Fantastic Family-Friendly Hiking Trails: Whether you take a hike in in a coastal canyon, a stroll around Newport’s Back Bay or explore Saddleback Mountain in search of Holy Jim Falls, you are destined to find a piece of Orange County that few tourists every see. Orange County is still wild. You just have to know where to look.

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2. Beautiful beaches just waiting to be explored: Enjoy Orange County as it has been for generations at Crystal Cove State Beach, explore some fantastic tide pools at Little Corona Beach during low tide or have the ultimate Southern California beach day at Huntington. Either way, make it down to the water. Orange County beaches are nothing short of spectacular.

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Eric's pictures Huntington Beach

3. Get out on the water: Did you know that gray whales are thought to use Dana Point in Orange County as a landmark during their great winter migration from the Bering Sea down to Baja? Hop on board a whale watching cruise in Dana Point Harbor and see one of these mighty beasts for yourself. Don’t be surprised if you see dolphins and sea lions along the way. If you would rather to the paddling yourself, rent a kayak and explore Newport Bay. This ecological reserve is a birders paradise and the perfect place for first timers to learn how to paddle.

This post was inspired by Caroline at Kids Go West, who gave me a little shoulder tap in a game of blogger tag that began with Katie at Tripbase. Caroline shared some great things to do in Maui that are a bit off the beaten path but well worth the trip. She then tagged me and other bloggers to share their travel secrets. I will be tagging a few more fellow travel bloggers because I can’t wait to read what secrets they are willing to divulge.

The goal is to create a virtual index of some well kept travel secrets from travelers all over the world. Katie from Tripbase is keeping the list as bloggers keep the tags going.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Road Trip Day 20- Grand Teton National Park- Inspiration Point

It all started with a boat trip across Jenny Lake. First there were sprinkles. Then, just as we picked up full speed the torrent began. Stinging rain hit our faces as we did our best to shield the children. It was freezing and we were soaked. And then, as quickly as it started, it was over. We pulled up to the dock and felt the warmth of the sun dry our hair and bring smiles back to everyone’s faces. We had a climb ahead of us. We were hiking through Cascade Canyon to Hidden Falls.

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The scenery was amazing. As we walked up the trail the Tetons seemed to almost be within reach. Maybe if we stretched our arms a little bit further we could just touch them. Their jagged peaks rise above the landscape with such prestige it was hard to keep our eyes on the trail in front of us. The kids seemed to have an extra skip in their step as the wound their way up the side of the mountain. Maybe they knew they were on their way to someplace special.


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We reached a bridge that crossed a rushing creek and headed towards the sound of falling water. Hidden Falls suddenly appeared into view, truly hidden from the main trail. They were beautiful, the weather was beautiful and we were feeling ambitious. After letting the kids play on some rocks near the falls viewing area, we decided to take a chance and head further up the trail.

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A few people who were coming back down advised us not to take the trek. They said there was no way a two year old could make it to the top. I said they didn’t know my two year olds. We started the climb, rising a total of 417 feet to Inspiration Point. Yes, it was a big climb but my kids never complained and truly loved every step they took up that trail. Towards the end there were some switch back that weren’t for the faint of heart but we kept our kids on the inside of the trail and they did just fine.


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When we reached Inspiration Point, elevation 7200 feet, we were met with a round of applause.  A tour group applauded my kids for making the climb and everyone reached out to give Mari and Ben high fives. I was so proud. I try to never underestimate my children’s abilities. My son, who spent a year in physical therapy, just climbed a mountain. My daughter, loves the outdoors as much as her mom, practically ran up the side of that mountain.

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We took our time and enjoyed the view. My kids sat on the giant boulders and gazed down at the lake below. They pointed to the tiny dot of a boat that they had cruised in on. Then we said our farewell to Inspiration Point and headed back on down the mountain. That day, my kids were my inspiration. And I think they may have inspired a few others along the way.

If you would like to see more fabulous travel photos check out Delicious Baby’s Photo Friday here.