Pecos National Historic Park

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Visited: March 2018

Duration: 2-3 hours

Accommodations: Santa Fe, NM (located 25 northwest of the park)

Pecos National Historic park holds years of history. It preserves the archaeological site of a 15th century Pueblo, Spanish missions, the crossing of the Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico Ranch history, A.V. Kidder’s excavations, and the Civil War Battle of Glorieta Pass.

The Visitor Center is a great tool to visualize all the different history this place represents.  We grabbed some Junior Ranger booklets at the desk and headed into the museum. This place has a great gift shop as well.

Cicuye/Pecos Pueblo (1350-1838)- a fortress that grew into one of the largest and most powerful pueblos. It was home to 2,000 people and grew four to five stories high. The Pecos fortress housed kivas, which you can go in that were connections to the spiritual world.  Here is Hunter climbing down into a kiva.

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For Cross and Crown (1541-1680) – Spain was determined to colonize these lands and convert the Pecos to Catholicism. They destroyed the kivas, smashed statues and banned Pueblo ceremonies. In 1621 Fray Andres Juarez arrived and acknowledged their beliefs while trying to educate and convert them. Under his direction a large mission church was built and relations between the two groups improved for a time. Here is a picture of what remains and what once was.

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Revolution, Rebirth, and Decline (1680-1838)- After years of the Spanish trying to eradicate every aspect of ancestral Pueblo life, Po’ pay, a Pueblo religious leader wanted to put an end to the Spanish domination. They rose up and drove out the Spanish which did not solve the other problems they still had, water shortage, poor crops or raids by Navajo and the Apache. By 1838 the last few remaining Pecos moved.

From 1821 to 1880 the Santa Fe Trail was a major commerce and travel route through here. Thousands past through here on their way west. You can still see the wagon ruts cut into the earth.

Glorieta Pass (1821-1862)  The Confederate army held this field but learned that Union troops destroyed all their supply train, this forced a retreat back to Texas, The Battle of Glorieta pass marked the end of Confederate ambitions to control New Mexico.  If you ask at the visitor center a Ranger will give you the Glorieta Battlefield tour.  We opted out of this and instead did the walk around the park. It was an easy walk with 1.25 mile gravel path.

Ruins, Rodeos and Ranches (1915-1991)- From 1915-29 Alfred V. Kidder excavated at Pecos Pueblo and revealed more than 600 years of human occupation. He is considered the originator of the first comprehensive, systemic approach to North American archaeology. In 1925 the area was purchased and Forked Lightning Ranch was created. In 1941 it was purchased by a Dallas Oil man and rancher. In 1991 it was parceled to the National Park Service.

So much history here it is unbelievable.  The Junior Ranger program was very educational and fun.  The self-guided walk around the park is beautiful with plenty of ruins to explore, and plenty of benchmark signs to go with.

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Back at the Visitor Center and we have earned our badges and patches.  This Park Ranger was exceptional!  He really did a great job getting the kids involved in this park.  I love it when these guys love their job.

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Junior Ranger earned and we are off! If you love history, this place is a must in New Mexico!

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Patches, badges and Cancellations at this park were awesome!! What a great place.

Thanks for stopping by and checking out our National Park Trip Season 3 Spring Break. Don’t forget to check out our other stops in New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Missouri that we hit on this trip.

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Great Sand Dunes National Park

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Visited: June 2016

Duration: 4 hours

Great Sand Dunes was a pit stop on the road home from Mesa Verde National Park.  A co-worker had told me it is a must do for the kids. I figured we could at least burn off a bit of energy before the long ride home.

We drove the scenic route from Farmington, New Mexico to Sand Dunes following Highway 160. Some of the most beautiful scenery is along this route, so glad we took it. I could live here and I wouldn’t regret a day of it.

We rolled into Sand Dunes around lunch time and stopped at Great Sand Dunes Oasis for a bite to eat and rented some sand sleds. Headed to the visitor center for info and maps.

Great Sand Dunes National Park is home to the tallest sand dunes in North America. It didn’t take long to discover that this park has a ton to offer, from hiking, backpacking, car camping, camping, fishing and hunting. It is an outdoors-man’s dream. We came to shred the dunes.

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Not far from the visitor center is sand dune parking with bathrooms and foot washes.

We walked through Medano Creek and hiked up the dunes.  This is a pretty good trek and hiking up the dunes is great exercise.

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Beautiful scenery all around

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We got our sand sledding on and spent several hours doing so. I will say, it is not easy to do.  This sand is very course and hard to sled down. Make sure to keep your board waxed otherwise you aren’t going far. We struggled with this for awhile.

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We did have a blast. This place is totally worth a stop if you have a few hours to a day. I wish we had more time to explore the whole park but this experience had us a bit exhausted and ready for the ride home. I think we will be back to do some fishing and camping.

Warning:  It is a bit windy on the dunes, try not to have too much fun smiling and laughing or you might end up like this! LOL

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Great time here at this park. Got our cancellations and we are heading home. Have you been here?  What parts did you enjoy?

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That wraps up National Park Trip Season 1. Just look what I started. 🙂

Mesa Verde National Park

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Visited: June 2016

Duration: 1 day

Accommodations: Kokepelli Cave Bed and Breakfast, Farmington, New Mexico.

Mesa Verde National Park is what inspired our very first National Park trip, and the rest is history. Hunter was studying cliff dwellings in Social Studies in the 5th grade. His teacher asked if anyone in the class had ever visited a cliff dwelling and nobody had. I asked Hunter if he would be interested in going, it isn’t that far away and it would be fun to see something you have learned about already. He was really excited for this National Park, it was full of history and we love to learn!

We stopped off at the Visitor Center and got all of the info we needed. We tried to do a tour of Cliff Palace but they were full for the day and only had openings for the next day. That’s okay we decided to head out to the Step House and do a self guided tour of one of the many cliff dwellings located in the park.

We drove the whole length of the park road to get to the Wetherill Mesa Information station, this takes awhile to get from one end of the park to the other so just plan your time.  We had a picnic lunch before heading out on the trail for our cliff dwelling tour. It was a relatively short hike to reach the Step House. There you can buy a tour brochure and do a self guided tour, but we were lucky enough to be one of the only groups there so the park ranger gave us the full tour and took our pictures everywhere we wanted as well. What a deal!!! She was full of information and answered all of our questions. I’d say we lucked out on this stop.

Step house photos

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We finished up in this area and then headed back driving down the Chaplin Mesa road.  We pulled over at all of the pull offs but our favorite view was the view of Cliff Palace from across the valley, by Sun Temple.

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These dwellings are absolutely amazing. Back to the visitor center to earn our Junior Ranger badges and we can head back to the Cave hotel. I think we would have enjoyed this a heck of a lot more if the kids weren’t so interested in getting back to Kokopelli’s and hanging out in the cave more.  It was pretty amazing, you can check out our stay in the cave here.

We loved this National Park and would recommend it, if you are in the area.  Have you been here?? Fun place to learn history and get some great photos.  This part of Colorado is gorgeous, lots of scenery and great places to visit. Next up, Great Sand Dunes National Park. Check back soon.

Grand Canyon National Park

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Visited: June 2016

Duration: 1 full day

Accommodations: Thunderbird Lodge (I do not recommend)

We spent a full day here at the park on the South Rim. We started off with an overpriced breakfast at Bright Angel Lodge. We walked the rim trail in the morning stopping at the Visitor center for Junior Rangers and cancellations. Everywhere we went was absolutely packed with people and tourist shops.  Not what I expected at all after visiting Arches, Bryce and Zion. We stopped and got some great pictures of the canyon along the rim trail.

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We went to El Tovar for lunch and ran down to the General store to fill up on food for the rest of our trip.  A little shopping in the afternoon at the Grand Canyon village shops and the kids are ready for naps.

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After our naps, we headed down to Shrine of the Ages for our evening ranger program called Twilight Zone. We did everything in the dark, learning to use our other senses because we couldn’t use our eyes. We also learned how some living things fluoresce and we pretended to be able to fluoresce using gum, pretty cool trick I didn’t know.  This was a great program put on by Ranger Andy, I would recommend this if you have Junior Rangers earning their badges, this is one of the programs you complete to earn it.  Even the adults LOVED it in our group. We had a dark and spooky walk back along the rim trail to our hotel. It didn’t help my kids were hiding in the timber making cougar and mountain lion sounds. We didn’t know grandma could walk that fast!! LOL.

In the morning we visited Vercamp’s Visitor Center to receive our Junior Ranger badges and we were off to Four Corners Monument.

We didn’t spend long at the Grand Canyon, too many people and really not much to do, that we could find. It was gorgeous, but I think I would rather spend my time at the North Rim or Havasupai, a little less crowded and a lot less touristy. Have you been to the Grand Canyon? What did you think?  It really wasn’t one of our favorites. Maybe we will try it again some day.

Zion National Park

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Visited: June 2016

Duration: 2 days

Accommodations: Cable Mountain Lodge, Sprindale, UT.

Zion National Park, this was the park I was most looking forward to on National Park Trip Season 1. It brought 0 disappointments.

We started our morning out leaving Bryce Canyon and heading to Zion.  We found a great German Bakery about half way in between the parks. What a great surprise. It was beyond delicious. We then headed to Zion. We arrived at the east side of the park and traveled the Zion Mount Carmel Highway. Highlight for the kids was the Tunnel. If you plan to do this I would add about an hour on to your trip, this takes some time but we thought it was well worth it. We headed straight to Springdale, the town we will be staying at for the next 2 nights. Check in at our hotel, which is in the most perfection location. Walking distance to everything.

We walked over to the visitor center to gather information for our visit. We strolled down the Pa’rus Trail that lead us to the Zion Nature Center, where we did enjoyed a fantastic Junior Ranger Program, Dino Discovery. The kids made molds/fossils of dinosaur footprints and learned all about dinosaur prints found here at Zion. There was a great Junior Ranger display here for the kids to enjoy. We then embarked out on a scavenger hunt to finish up the Junior Ranger book.

Hot and ready for the pool we headed back to the hotel to relax.

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Day 2

We started this day off early and still had to wait in line for the bus. Not for long though, this National Park is organized and the bus system is fabulous (compared to other parks we will visit).

We rode the bus all the way to the end of the road, Temple of Sinawava and will work our way back hiking and riding the bus. The first trail we went on was Riverside Walk, this gets you to the trail to go to the Narrows which was our plan. This was a gorgeous trail that was paved all the way until the Narrows trail starts.

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When we got to the narrows entrance there was a park ranger standing there warning people not to go to far in because of possible flash flooding. We headed out a little ways but turned back and decided to explore other places in the park.

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We hopped back on the bus and took it to the next stop.

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We rode the bus to The Grotto, and walked the Grotto trail to Zion Lodge. A great easy hike with fantastic views.

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We ate lunch at Zion Lodge and played on the front lawn before crossing the road and doing the Emerald Pools Trail. This trail was tons of fun with great overlooks but not many pools as the name implies, just some dripping water so don’t expect too much unless you are here in the spring. Check these awesome views on this trail. Also great photo ops of many different cacti along this trail as well.

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After several great hikes and a wonderful day in the park we hopped back on the bus to take us back to the Visitor Center to get our first ever Junior Ranger badges! How exciting!

We really wanted to tube the river while we were here but we ran out of time. This place was an amazing stop on this trip so glad I took the advice of coworker and didn’t miss this park.

Thanks for visiting, have you been to Zion? Did you love it as much as we did?

Hunter and I want to go back and do the Narrows and Angels Landing hikes, any others you recommend?

Bryce Canyon National Park

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Visited:  June 2016

Duration: 1.5 days

Accommodations: Bryce Country Cabins, Tropic Utah

Our third park of National park trip Season 1, and our most favorite.  We left Moab in the morning and got to Bryce Canyon right after lunch.  It was a beautiful drive down Hwy 89.  Lots of windy streams that followed along with the road surrounded by beautiful tall evergreens. Utah has to be one of the most beautiful places in the USA.

Our first stop in Bryce was at Bryce Canyon Lodge, this was the check in point for our Mule ride through the canyon.  We booked this through Canyon Trail Rides. Before we knew it we were on our mules and off into what would be some of the most spectacular views I have seen on a mule. We own mules and ride all over the midwest, this was so different and unique I couldn’t stop taking pictures. Just look at these views! We definitely aren’t in Iowa anymore.

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Our trail boss was Josh, he did a magnificent job leading us around and teaching us all about the wildlife at Bryce and how there has never been a fire at this National Park. The trees have been struck by lighting and that is why they look like this, the kids found all of this very interesting. Fun and educational way to see the park, I highly recommend.

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After our wonderful trail ride through the park we stopped off at the Visitor Center to gather some info on what we wanted to do the next day. We watched the short film. We grabbed Junior Ranger books and took them with. But we thought doing the “Hike the Hoodoos” challenge appeared more captivating to us than the Junior Rangers so we didn’t complete those books.

We checked in to Bryce Country Cabins, unloaded our things and headed into Tropic for some outstanding pizza at The Pizza Place. Great food, excellent atmosphere and a beautiful view. Great choice by us 🙂 We headed back to our cabin to enjoy. I had a few adult beverages on my swing behind my cabin with a little fire, the kids played on the play set with some other kids. A perfect relaxing evening.

Day 2

Up and at em. Cereal for breakfast on our deck. Then we headed to the park.  I happened to notice a trail head on our way last night from Bryce in to Tropic. This trail was on the Hike the Hoodoo challenge.  When we hit it, in the morning there were very few cars there (just how we like it).  This was the Mossy Cave Trail and was my absolute favorite trail we embarked upon on our visit to Bryce. It had everything, a cave, streams, waterfalls, hoodoos, vegetation and more.  I couldn’t ask for anything else.

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Streams
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Waterfalls
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Hike the Hoodoos Benchmark
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The Cave

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Hoodoos Galore

This trail was amazing.  I highly recommend it.

We then headed into the park and drove all the way to the end of the park road. This is called Rainbow point and held another Hike the hoodoos challenge trail we did called The Bristlecone Loop trail. This one wasn’t as awesome as the Cave trail but still had stunning views and pretty cool stops on the way. Short trail for kids or people who aren’t hiking fans. Very easy and mostly flat trails. Check out some of the sites we saw along our hike here.

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Canyon Overlook
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Cool tree
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Bristlecone loop Hoodoo Benchmark

We hopped back in the car and proceeded to wind our way back along the park road stopping at all points of interest (there are 18 of them).  Natural Bridge and Fairyland point being our favorites.

We grabbed a quick bite to eat at a not so great place (I won’t mention the name). Headed back into the park for our 3rd and final hike to complete our challenge. This time we did the Navajo Loop Trail. This trail was awesome, a little challenging in that we didn’t bring water, but we made it. We went down the hard way and came up the easier way. We met lots of fun people on this trail and took our time enjoying the views.  They were unreal on the this hike. Check it out.

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Heading down the trail. All switchbacks.
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Navajo Loop Benchmark
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Down in the depths of the hoodoos
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Working our way out
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Wall Street
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Up the switchbacks

What a great trail. We felt accomplished after this. We walked along the rim trail to check out Thor’s hammer and just enjoy time outside at the park until dark. We made a pitstop for Ice Cream and shopping on the way out of Bryce. Great little stores to walk through. We then called it a day and headed back to Tropic for a good nights sleep before packing up and heading to Zion.

We stopped off at Dixie National Forest on the way to Zion the next day. The Visitor Center was awesome.  Great park rangers and the kids got frisbees, chapstick, stickers and lots of goodies from them.  It is worth a stop 🙂

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Bryce Canyon was everyone’s favorite park of Season 1 trip and it is easy to see why.  I would recommend a visit to Bryce Canyon for everyone.  Trips can range from 1-7 days. You can see a lot of things with a 1 day trip, but if you have time you could keep busy for 5-7 days and get to see much more. I hope you all enjoyed our trip, please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions because I’m sure this will be a park we revisit. Thanks for stopping by!

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Another cancellation in the books!! This was our car decal we all earned Hiking the Hoodoos!!

Illinois

National Park Trip Season 3 (Summer edition) started July 2018!

Illinois State Line Sign was the first state line sign we stopped at on this trip. We will end up getting 12 this year. Which will give us a total of 31 so far. Not too shabby.

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This sign was easy to get. It is located on I-80 east coming from Iowa and heading into Illinois.  We took the Illinois Rest Area exit and parked the car along the edge of the road and walked over to the sign.

We then pulled into the rest stop for a snack and bathroom break.  This was a very scenic and unexpectedly great stop. We walked around and stretched our legs, this was the half way point to our first stop of the trip so this worked out perfect 🙂 If you have a chance I suggest this rest area. Check it out.

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National Park Service Sites in this state:

Lincoln Home National Historic Site

Pullman National Monument

 

We are just passing through Illinois on this trip but I will add these sites when we do stop and visit them. Check back.

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