We Fell In Love With Utah - Part I - Bryce Canyon NP

Spring Break was insanely late for us this year. The Catholic Schools coincide the break with the Easter holiday, and this year Easter fell super late into April. Which meant we had plenty of time to plan a Spring Break adventure not soon to be forgotten.

Back in February Scott and I spent some time at Zion National Park (I blogged about the half marathon we ran). After hiking several trails - realizing many were easy and paved - and discovering Bryce Canyon National Park wasn't too far from Zion, we decided it would make for the most adventurous Spring Break with the kids.

Fast forward to late April. We secured a cabin smack dab between the two parks. Our car was loaded down with all things outdoorsy and hiking, and we were off.

Eight hours of driving later we pulled up to our cabin, which was nestled in this very small community, within the tiniest of towns. One step out of the car and we were greeted with the embrace of crisp, clean mountain air and open spaces that are completely foreign to our kids.

The kids were absolutely beside themselves when they saw we had the smallest pile of snow to play in. Of all the things we saw and did, I'd venture to say that seeing and playing with snow was the highlight for them. That's not to say we didn't see and do some pretty epic stuff...

But, before a single step on a single trail, we did what any sane person would do. We got a fire going in the fire pit and made ooey, gooey s'mores.

The first full day of our trip was spent within the saturated oranges and vibrant vermilion of the Hoodoos in Bryce Canyon National Park.
Our first expedition led us to Mossy Trail. That took us right to a stream and waterfall, which seemed to be made precisely for kids. Marcus and Julia could have spent the entire trip splashing in the brisk water, tossing rocks, and making muddy castles. Mossy Trail also led us to, well, a wall covered in moss, hence the name I suppose.
Mossy Trail is actually outside the entrance to Bryce, but within the park itself (if that makes sense). The trail, round trip, was about 1.0 mile, and very easy. Exactly the kind of hike you want when you've got kids on the path.
After a considerable chunk of time along Mossy Trail we made our way to the Park entrance.
If you've never been to a National Park, take full advantage of the visitor center. Grab souvenirs, stock up on last minute items that you may have forgotten, and talk to the park rangers! A ranger noted we had smaller kids in tow and mapped out our *entire* visit according to our family's abilities.
The Rim Trail was our main hiking focal point. In it's entirety it's about 3 miles. But we *quickly* discovered our extended stay at Mossy Trail had eaten up a solid portion of energy and excitement. So, we altered our hiking, cut the distance in half, and still saw the most incredible, out of this world landscape we've ever set eyes upon.
Hoodoos stood sentinel over the sprawling valley beyond. The rocks looked as if some giant decided to make drip castles amongst the mountains. The colors so bright and vivid it didn't seem real, they surely came straight from the palette of God. We were left breathless by the beauty, and felt transported to another planet.
The rim trail left the kids with tired legs, so we hopped in the car and took the park rangers advice and drove through the park, stopping at the most notable vistas for a few oohs, ahhs, and photos ops.
We stuck to all the ranger's  suggestions and saw everything we could have possibly dreamed of.

It comes as zero shock that Julia fell asleep before we'd exited the park.
We were looking for some time to kill before grabbing a bite for dinner. A quick break at a road side stop left Marcus, Scott and me tossing around a baseball.
Thirty minutes later, Sleeping Beauty still hadn't roused. Scott mentioned a near by reservoir, and we said why not.

As we drove down the 7-mile gravel road we were surrounded by views of mountains, a sleepy stream, open spaces, and patches of mountainous forest. It was the epitome of nature.

We spotted pronghorn, which we learned are the fastest mammals in the western hemisphere.
And as we pulled into a spot where we could check out the reservoir Marcus pointed to a very large nest tucked into a dead tree, looming just over the water. First guesses had us thinking perhaps bald eagles? But a little investigating (thanks, Google), we discovered we were looking at an Osprey nest. We're not real versed in birds, so we did a little research on Osprey. We learned Osprey were greatly impacted by the DDT use in the 50s and 60s. Coastal Osprey have successfully recovered, however, inland populations are still very low. The Osprey population in Bryce has been recent, but successful.
So, long story short, Marcus spotted a nest of a not-so-common bird. And that may have been the biggest highlight for me, personally.
Per the usual, rock throwing and splash making was the reservoir hit.
One last stop in the most insane meadow for another quick toss of the baseball, and we were officially exhausted from the best day outside.
Oh, and there was a thunderstorm headed our way, so we figured that would be a good time to wrap things up, grab some food, and prep for day two...


Big Girl Room + Prints From Mpix

Portions of this post are sponsored. 
However, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

This has been about four months in the making... Act surprised.

In January we pulled the trigger and converted Julia's room from nursery to Big Girl. At first I was really apprehensive of the whole deal. She'd never tried to climb out of her crib, and the idea of taking away that... um... cage?... aspect was frightening. It's not a mystery Julia has a mind of her own. The thought of her staying in a bed by her own free will didn't seem likely. However, at 3.5 years old, it was time. She had to learn the ropes of an actual bed at some point.

Alas, the Big Girl room was inevitable.

The vision of her room began months prior to any changes. I wanted to keep things light and airy with pops of color and rainbow accents. I also wanted to try and incorporate a few items from her nursery decor.
The bed and dresser were easy purchases. White seemed an obvious choice. Though, with my filth-prone daughter I still question that decision on the daily...
An old, dark mahogany colored nightstand was taking up valuable real estate in our garage. I pictured it with a coat of bright paint and hardware from Julia's old dresser. Once revamped, I placed on the bed stand an OK to Wake clock (we're still trying to get the hang of that thing), a rainbow LED projector that may be the coolest thing ever (and horrible to photograph - just pretend the room is dark and you see a rainbow projected in the room over the ceiling and wall), as well as the sweetest 4x4 framed print (more on that soon).
Bedding and sheets took more of a concerted effort to find. I wanted the feel of rainbows without anything gaudy or obnoxious. After endless hours scouring different sites I landed on bedding and pillows that still makes me smile every time I walk into Julia's room. The sheets do have actual rainbows and unicorns on them. But the grid print and muted colors fit my vision.
I also have to toot my horn on the way we now store bows. Before, bow storage was madness, and just looking at the way bows were lying around gave me anxiety. This clear makeup storage kit takes up minimal space on the dresser, I can see almost every bow without opening it, and it forces me to really keep the number of bows we have in check. Only the bows we love and wear the most stick around. The rest are history.
I did hang on to a few items from nursery: a couple of framed prints, the mirror, the butterfly lamp and shade, the book shelves we made from dish drying racks and paint, and the curtains.
A small Disney tribute can be found with the silhouette of Julia, which we had made during one of our Disney visits.

The hardest part? Finding things I loved in which to hang on bare walls.

This rainbow tapestry is beautiful, hand woven, and with the most perfect color combo.
Last, but certainly not least. The thing I feel ties the whole room together, and kind of puts a bow on it all... The prints over the bed. I found the prints themselves from this cute indy shop way back in February. But it took me a few months to decide just how I wanted them displayed.

Mpix, yet again, came to the rescue for all my print needs. I wanted the Love You Mean It prints on poster size paper, and of a quality paper that would last. Mpix had all the options I could ever dream of. After playing around on their site with different sizings, frames, and styles, I landed on 12x18 poster prints.
I also used Mpix to print the most adorable 4x4 photo, with frame, to place on Julia's nightstand. The quality of all the prints are second to none. The 4x4 frame is incredibly sturdy, and I know it will all stand up to the rigors of Julia. I'm starting to get the itch to give Marcus' room a good update/sprucing, and once I jump in feet first with that I'll utilize all of Mpix options to complete his room as well. Now through April 24, Mpix is offering 30% (!!!) off all cards and small prints (up to 8x10)!
And, because I'm a total nerd, I've linked all the items (or similar ones) below just in case there are any inquiring minds.

Print services - Mpix (poster prints, 4x4 framed print)


Vacation Races : Zion Half Marathon

It's been a minute - ok, it's been about two years - since I put my big girl panties on, laced up my running shoes, and signed up for a half marathon. It was high time to get motivated to run more than 3 miles. Scott doesn't understand why I need a finish line to push me to run 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 miles on Saturdays. Call me crazy, but I don't understand why you'd do anything other than train for a race to run those kind of miles?

May it be noted that Scott had never participated in races further than 10ks, and he swore he'd never run a half marathon, sooooo, there's that.

Anywho... for the longest time I'd been seeing Vacation Races pop up in my social media feeds, and they always captured my attention enough for me to click on their links. Then I started seeing the Zion Park Half Marathon more often. I couldn't resist. I told Scott about the race, how epic it would be to run amongst that kind of beauty, and proceeded to ask (beg) Scott if he'd run with me. To my surprise he agreed.

We trained (separately, his idea of an easy "jog" is more like my idea of sprinting), and before we knew it, we were ready for the race.

Weeks out, leading up to race day, we'd been religiously checking the weather. From what we'd heard, late February in Utah was pretty mild and sounded perfect for racing (think highs in the low to mid-60s). Welp. Mother Nature had entirely different plans for us. As we drove to Utah we experienced snow and near freezing temps the entire drive. We kept hoping things would warm up. Spoiler alert. They didn't.

Courtesy of Scott, we stayed in an RV at an RV resort (which is an entire post on its own, and don't worry, that post is coming soon) conveniently located right at the start line of the race.
Race morning came, we rolled out of bed, piled on layers of clothes, and stepped out into darkness and a bitterly cold temp of 11 degrees, accompanied by wind. It was unimaginable cold. The second coldest start I've experienced (the first coldest was in Hutchinson, KS, and a 9 degree start). For several miles I was seriously concerned my fingers may freeze, even with running gloves. It was so cold that many of the water jugs at the aid stations had frozen, and many people's camelbaks - Scott's included - had frozen during the run.

I should also mention this was a trash-less race. To those who've never experienced a trash-less race, when the event planners tell you to bring your own water source, BRING THEM. Camelbaks or running water bottles. I didn't bring one, nor did I think I'd need the hydra flasks the race provided. By mile 3 I realized a trash-less event meant that there were NO water cups at the water stations - that's where personal equipment was to come in hand. By mile 4 I was mentally trying to prepare myself to run 13.1 miles without a single drop of water, in frigid temps, higher elevation than I'd ever run in, and some pretty legit rolling hills. By the grace of God, at the mile 5 aid station I was able to secure the. very. last. hydra flask.

If you see one of these at packet pickup, TAKE ONE! KEEP IT! CLIP IT ON TO YOUR PERSON on race day! You can thank me at the finish line.

As the race moved on, the cold was almost a silver lining. Running was the only source of heat, so putting one foot in front of the other was more than welcome. 13.1 miles is never easy to run, but even though the weather didn't cooperate, and my pace was the slowest I've ever run, the miles seemed to slip right by.

And the scenery. Calling it beautiful is a gross understatement. The course ran along Highway 9, the outer edge of Zion NP, and almost the entire course gave breath-taking views of cliffs, buttes, and always the presence of The East Temple (for those who've never visited, that's the 7,709 summit that's impossible to miss if you're traveling on 9). Runners were constantly stopping to take photos of the landscape. It was just incredible. I really wanted to join the ranks of photo takers, but I honestly could not feel my fingers for seven miles. The best I could muster was one single snap at the start line.
As much as warmer weather would have been welcomed, the snow capped tops of the buttes and ridges gave every view a touch of indescribable magic. Throughout the race I thought of pinching myself for a couple reasons: 1) are my fingers still working? 2)Are limbs frozen? 3) Is this place even real?!

This may have been the first finish line I crossed and didn't cry. Finish line temps had crept up to a balmy 21 degrees, and I was fearful the tears would either freeze my eyes shut, or freeze to my cheeks. But, that's not to say I wasn't beyond thankful for another opportunity to test the limits of my body and mind. The finishers medal was also a pretty spectacular bonus.
Looking back I can honestly say I loved the race from start to finish. The event was so well organized, race planners kept runners informed at all times, and on the running end of things, everything went off quite smoothly. Would I willingly sign up for a race in that kind of cold again? No. But I'd love to run Zion again, when temps are more normal, and with a hydra flask securely in hand.
I'm now trying to convince Scott we should run every single Vacation Race offered. Because what's more awesome than lacing up to run a half, and then turning around to strap on hiking boots and check out some of the most gorgeous land this country has to offer?