Everglades National Park

I don’t know who replaced my baby with this big kid but 😭. We are loving this age, he’s turned a huge corner from years of screaming and no sleep. I can’t call him easy but life is getting easier. He packed his own backpack yesterday, demanded his hat and even dressed himself. We figured out at the end of the day he was commando by choice. 🤣 Funny story: a few weeks ago he dressed himself in all blue and I told him he looked like a giant blueberry. A few days ago I was walking in to Whole Foods with he and Jude. Z and Jude were both dressed in blue and he announced they both looked like blueberries. Then he took a long look at me and announced I looked like a rotten banana. 😆 Thanks kid! 😂🤣

It’s been 3 months since we stepped foot in a national park and we are super excited about this one!! Day 1 was pretty incredible!

Everglades National Park is huge! We are talking 1.5 million acres and 5 visitor centers HUGE. It definitely took some planning to prioritize our time here. We started our day at the Coe visitor center. Taryn and Jude are in it for the incredible bird watching here!

While the big kids were super excited about this park, I’ll confess I had my reservations. It’s *always* a challenge keeping kids safe in national parks. There are cliffs and drop offs, big water, canyons, you name it. It’s rarely what I would call “safe”. But never have I ever had to break out my special “omg my kid could be swallowed whole by an animal” anxiety. We kept our little guys very, very close because we had some close encounters with alligators…

Our first stop near Coe Visitor Center was Anhinga Trail at Royal Palm. Lots of other families recommended this one! Less than a mile on a boardwalk, easy and beautiful! The real adventure was discovering upon arrival that we needed a tarp to cover our truck because the Jurassic size vultures EAT CARS. 😳 Well, not the actual car, but they eat rubber linings destroying the seal. We will show you in our YouTube video but y’all, this freaked me out. They were chowing down on one when we arrived. 😣 Everglades National Park is not for the weak.

Our first and only alligator sighting at Anhinga was this little baby. He was only about 2 feet long! He was just over the edge of the raised boardwalk and easy for the kids to see close up safely.

Our next stop was Shark Valley. We took an hour drive north because I booked a tram tour. We really struggled on deciding between a tram tour and an airboat tour. Shark Valley has been closed for weeks due to high water levels. They just reopened this past week. We opted for the tram only because it was cheaper than the boat. We are spending a lot on adventures in the next month. I’m so glad we chose the tram!! It was a 2 hour ride and we learned SO much! Total road school win! Not only that we saw over a dozen alligators close up! Some a little too close for comfort honestly. The 3rd photo is the biggest one we saw at over 10 feet long! This YouTube video is going to be a good one! Head up to my stories to see Jonah’s reaction to the first big alligator sighting 🤣 Also, editing these photos freaked me out just as much as seeing them in person. Alligators freak me out but I also really enjoyed the tour. It’s conflicting 😂 Plus the big kids saw TONS of birds. This is a bird haven and they loved every minute!

You can check out our Everglades Youtube video here:

2021-04-03T22:43:54-05:00January 19th, 2021|My Family, Jason, Jonah, Jude, Lyndsay, National Parks, Taryn, Zachary|

Hot Springs National Park

Yesterday we loaded up and took a bunch of empty jugs to Hot Springs National Park in hopes of getting some water. This NP was our first stop out of Texas when we launched two plus years ago. During our first visit we learned that there are huge fountains available to the public to get free (healing) water. Because national parks are still closed we didn’t know if the fountains would be blocked off. They were not and oh my goodness was it busy. Not the park or spring, but the fountains. There were people filling up entire truckloads and hundreds of containers at a time. Way busier than our first trip through when the park was open and crowded. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by that. This spring water has so many healing properties, boosts the immune system and aids in respiration. We parked, filled up our containers and walked to the spring where no one was around. I forgot my camera so these are all iPhone pics. The kids loved returning here and reminiscing over how much has changed and all the experiences they’ve had on the road since our first stop. ❤️

2020-05-24T14:50:12-05:00May 15th, 2020|366 - 2020, My Family, National Parks, RV Life|

Top 5 Favorite Campgrounds from 2019

I recently asked a few favorite fulltime family bloggers if they wanted to share their top 5 favorite campgrounds from 2019 and I am so excited they said yes!  Click on their logos below to see their fave campgrounds this year as well.  Thank you Way Beyond The Norm, Incredible Dash, Prodigal Overland (more coming soon) for sharing!  I am definitely saving these for the future!  Scroll down to see our favorites from 2019!

Way Beyond The Norm Blog
1. Four Mile Creek State Park, New York
collage of photos of four mile creek state park near Niagara Falls

Four Mile Creek State Park is a 248-acre state park located in the Town of Porter in Niagara County, New York. The park is at the mouth of Four Mile Creek on the shore of Lake Ontario, approximately 15 miles north of the Niagara Falls.  While the RV hookups are electric only, the site itself, combined with the location and campground, makes this one of our top picks for 2019.  We stayed for 4 nights and filled up our fresh tanks with water at the park before getting settled in.  We backed in to a very large, well maintained, field for the kids to play in.  It was so nice knowing they had room to move and play soccer, nerf gun wars, etc.  We were there on 4th of July weekend and the park was totally full, but we still had plenty of room.  It really shocked us how quiet the park was even on a holiday.  People were out enjoying themselves in every spot, but nothing out of control or loud parties until 2 am.  We loved that!  It was a short walk down to the shoreline to see the sunset every evening and we definitely recommend taking it in as often as you can.  Niagara falls is just a short drive away, it was so nice to be able to pop over there multiple times during our stay. We also drove out to Tuscarora Beach at Tuscarora State Park to hunt for seaglass.  I highly recommend going in the evening, it was stunning and successful!  See our Niagara Falls YouTube videos here.

Location:  Youngstown, NY 14174
Website:  Four Mile Creek State Park
Cost per night: $36.00

2.  Hershey Thousand Trails in Lebanon, Pennsylvania
collage of photos at hershey rv park thousand trails in pennsylvania

While many people hit this destination for the chocolate themed amusement park, that’s not what we loved about it.  My kids are allergic to milk so we didn’t even go.  Honestly, this campground was so great, we didn’t miss it a bit.  This area of Pennsylvania surprised me!  The green rolling green hills and spring blooms were so beautiful and unexpected.  We loved the heart of amish country!  We had a back in, full hookup, spot with a little hill behind it that the kids loved rolling down.  The weather was perfect and Thousand Trails had a lot of activities in the park over Easter weekend.  The kids quickly made friends and we spent so many hours outside.  The kids also loved fishing.  View our Hershey YouTube video here.

Location:  Lebanon, PA 17042
Website:  Hershey Thousand Trails
Cost per night: $0.00 with our Thousand Trails membership

3. Letchworth State Park in Castile, New York
photo collage of letchworth state park in new york state

Letchworth State Park is a 14,427-acre state park located in Livingston and Wyoming counties in New York. The park is roughly 17 miles long, following the course of the Genesee River as it flows north through a deep gorge and over several large waterfalls.  With abundant hiking trails and overlooks, it is easy to see why this State Park was rated #1 in the nation!  While the spot was electric only, it was spacious, wooded, and felt very private.   We were just passing through and really wish we had planned to stay here longer.  Book early as spots go quickly!  View our YouTube video about this stop here.

Location:  Castile, NY 14427
Website:  Letchworth State Park
Cost per night: $33.50

4. Ocean Lakes Family Campground in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
photo collage at ocean lake rv campground

Our favorite thing about Ocean Lakes Family Campground was the location!  Our RV was parked just steps away from the ocean and we had such easy access.  Myrtle Beach is a great little town and this campground is right in the middle of it all.  This is a true family campground / resort with a big pool, water slides, an arcade and planned activities.  The arcade came in very handy on rainy days!  My favorite part was hitting the beach with our homeschool lessons.  It was easy to just wander over for a bit whenever we felt like it.  This campground is huge and very, very popular so book early!  View our YouTube video about this stop here.

Location: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Website:  Ocean Lakes Family Campground
Cost per night: $44.00

5. Holiday Park Campground in Traverse City, Michigan
photo collage of sleeping bear dunes and holiday park campground

Traverse City was one of our favorite stops of the year!  Close to Sleeping Bear Dunes, it’s a great location.  We loved the friendly people and big spots in this campground.  Total bonus that we had access to the lake and swimming!  One of my favorite memories from the year was watching the little kids (and Jason) paddle around in the little boat provided by the campground.  Not technically inside the campground, but still worth the short drive, is the city park and splash pad, my kids had a blast!  Check out our YouTube video about this stay here.

Location: Traverse City, Michigan
Website:  Holiday Park Campground
Cost per night: $57.00

Honorable Mentions

We visited 69 campgrounds in 2019 and it was so hard to narrow down to our top 5 faves!  We are so lucky to have stayed in some really great places.  I thought I’d share a few more as honorable mentions just in case you want to check them out.  These include:

Tiki RV Resort
We stayed here while visiting Mackinac Island in Michigan.  We loved it so much we extended our stay!  Also, we got 50% off our rate with our Escapees discount!

Cherry Hill
This is the best park close to Washington DC.  It’s not cheap, but it worth it.  Tip:  ask for a spot away from the noisy road.

Gettysburg Farm
This is an awesome farm in the Thousand Trails system.  My kids loved the farm and it was close to Gettysburg National Park.

Rippling River RV Resort
When we hit the Michigan Upper Peninsula we landed at a KOA that was so awful we turned around and immediately left.  We landed at Rippling River RV Resort and I am so glad we did!  Big sites, close to the river and hiking, and if you bike there are tons of trails right next door.

Gulf State Park
This is a gorgeous state park right along the shores of the gulf in-between Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama.  You can easily ride your bike to the beach.

photo collage of laclare creamery harvest host

Harvest Hosts in a membership program that gives you access to businesses, museums, farms and golf courses around the country that allow you to boondock or dry camp on their land for one night for free.  This was such an incredible stop for us!  We were told to park right next to the goats for the night, we visited the viewing area while the goats were milked and shopped for a few items in their shop.  We loved it so much we dedicated an entire youtube episode to it.  Check it out!

Location: LaClare Creamery in Malone, Wisconsin
Website:  Harvest Hosts / LaClare Creamery
Cost per night: $0.00 with Harvest Host Membership

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2020-01-29T22:34:07-06:00January 29th, 2020|My Family, Camping Adventures, National Parks, RV Life|

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park! We were so excited that we set up the RV and jumped over to the visitor center to grab some Jr. Ranger packets real quick. But you know what happened next? We got pulled right in to that park for a quick peek. And then we just wanted to get out of the truck a second. And then we were hiking to the overlook. It happens every.single.time! We just can’t resist!

Yesterday was a pretty simple day for us. We were all a little tired so we just drove around Bryce Canyon, stopping at the different scenic view points.

The Natural Bridge at Bryce Canyon. There was a clearly defined path out there with a sign saying it’ll cost you a $100 fine. I’ve seen enough photos on Instagram to know lots of people risk it lol.

Views for days.

We absolutely love our spot at Ruby’s Inn just outside Bryce Canyon. We are literally one minute from the park entrance and our spot is HUGE. We were all so surprised at the space, being Thousand Trails members we know they would squish 4 families in this one spot lol. We have a huge grass pad, firepit rock area and a spot wide enough to park next to the RV. Spaaaaaace is such a luxury, y’all!

We were supposed to go hiking yesterday but decided to lay low instead. That meant a drive around Bryce Canyon and cooking brinner over the fire. Because we all love bacon more when it is cooked outside. Jonah and Jude played big frisbee until it landed on a big Class A next to us. Thankfully they weren’t cranky and encouraged Jude to climb up and get it.

Our first hike this morning lead us to a mossy cave and a beautiful waterfall.

The view going down….
We really wanted to hike the switchbacks taking us down in to Bryce Canyon. But we totally overdid it and paid for it. The view was completely unreal though. By far the hardest, yet most rewarding, hike we’ve done yet. I started to get worried when very physically fit people were struggling on the way back up. Our fitness trackers tell us we hiked 4 miles, almost 10,000 steps and 24 flights of stairs.

The view going back up.

This little guy followed us around at the top of the canyon. I’m pretty sure he was asking for food as he came right up to us, stood up, and waited.

The light vs dark going down was pretty dramatic mid afternoon. Can you spot Jason with the little boys?

We felt tiny.

Bryce is like nothing we have ever seen!  We made so many wonderful memories here and I think it’ll end up being one of our fave parks of the year.

2020-01-07T00:57:18-06:00April 25th, 2018|My Family, Jonah, Jude, National Parks, RV Life, Taryn, Zachary|

Grand Canyon National Park

It’s big.

Jason has been talking about taking a trip to the Grand Canyon since we first met. It was really cool to see his dream come true today. This is one of the adventures he’s really been looking forward to and was high on his bucket list.

Keeping it real here. Our morning was filled with a bunch of different PTSD triggers. The weather was rough including 50 MPH wind gusts all day long (gosh that takes so much out of all of us). And Zachary only wanted to run everywhere and cried a lot of the day. Traveling with kids can throw some curve balls but I’m so thankful I have this guy at my side to field them all. On the plus side, Jonah did great! We wore him in the toddler Tula in all the places with dropoffs or no rails (this photo isn’t one, there is a large area of rock behind them). We totally could have done the stroller but we weren’t sure going in and decided to play it safe and wear both of the boys. Best decision ever! Thanks to everyone who gave us the advice to wear him, it saved our sanity on an otherwise challenging day.

It was grand.

Some day when the little kids are big we will all go rafting down the Colorado. Until then we will have to enjoy just this tiny little sliver of it…

Jonah really loved the Geology Museum. He got to get out of the Tula and take in the views.

Another Junior Ranger badge earned!

 

2020-01-04T15:05:51-06:00April 17th, 2018|National Parks, Jonah, Jude, RV Life, Taryn, Zachary|
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