Colorado Springs

Jared is one of seven siblings so this year we did our first family reunion.  Jared and I were in charge and being the engineer he is he plugged everyone's address in and Colorado Springs was the center point outside of the east coasters.  

We rented a historic house in downtown Colorado Springs and it was perfect.  We spent the week hiking Garden of the Gods.  Erin did her first rock climb with Aunt Brittany.  Jared took Eliza white water rafting and Ike and I went to the cliff dwellings.  We spent an afternoon at the penny arcade, Ike celebrated his 5th birthday!  And Jared and I found Blue Bell Ice cream.  We enjoyed games and dinner together as an extended family and it was just a great vacation.    

 (our pregnancy announcement)

Washington DC

Time for our yearly post?  We do more than travel!  We survived a brutal winter, I think between Dec 15-Feb 15 we had 37 days below zero.  By the end of school we had 11 snow days and were ready for summer!  That being said the summer has been beautiful and soon the kiddos start back to school.

This spring Jared took me to DC for a week.  I have always wanted to see the Cherry blossoms and luckily we caught the very last week.  We flew in and headed to the DC temple to do a session.  I finally got to see the original mural that spans the interior wall.

We then spent three days doing the mall, renting bikes, puking in the occasional garage can (thank you morning sickness) and just enjoying some time together.  My top two favorite spots were the National Cathedral which we got lost on our bikes riding up there and missed our tour.  I put my pride aside and played stupid tourist and scored a tour with the architect on staff.  My second was Arlington Cemetery.  In a city where the pace exceeds human decency Arlington provided a place of reflection and awareness.

We met up with two sets of friends from our Houston Days.   We did dinner in and game night with Millers and dinner at an Irish Pub and  Mt Vernon with Milenkovics.  So good to see everyone.  It was a fast trip but we loved every  minute of it!


Family Vacation Devils Lake State Park, Wisconsin

Our family vacation this year got downgraded from Colorado to Wisconsin.  However not a bad change at all.  I was so impressed with the area and the park.  We spent a week in August exploring close to home.

We booked a teepee at Devils Lake State Park.  It was nice not to have to deal with tents.  The teepees sleep 6 and had cots and have a huge secluded campsite.  We spent the week hiking, took the kids horse back riding for the first time and enjoyed numerous glens and the lake.  The nature center had GPS units the kids nature exploration bags to check out, which the kids loved.

Geologically this is where the glaciers stopped (think of a snowplow) leaving 400 foot piles of massive pieces of broken stone.  The CCC built stunning trails through these rock slides in the midst of corn fields.
Our Teepee
One of the pieces of broken granite, you can see the scratch marks from the glaciers sliding over it.
 The kids did so well on the trails.  Balanced Rock was a 400ft assent on uneven stone stairs.   Beautiful trail design.  Needless to say the kids slept very well this day :)
Balanced Rock Trail

Trail Steps
Where is the trail??
Devils Doorway - We made it to the top!
View from the top of the ridge
Our second day we took the kids into the Dells to go horse back riding for the first time.  Erin was adamant that she was not getting on a horse for fear of death and dismemberment.  Jared put his foot down and made her go.  When she mounted her horse, she turned around with a gigantic smile on her face. Eliza had her own horse also and did very well for her first time and age.

We spent one afternoon at Parfrey's Glen.  We had hiked a few county park glens and the kids were tired.  We were about to turn around, the trail was nothing special but Eliza wanted to keep going and this is what we found.   Photos do not do it justice, to give you an idea of size and depth click on the panoramics below.

Kids exploring Parfreys Glen
Parfreys Glen
After four days we headed to Madison for a night.  On the way we stopped at this roadside art place.  Sadly it was closed but they did have a few sculptures on the side of the road.

 We spent a morning at the Madison Zoo and then toured the Wisconsin state capitol before heading home.
Ike was scared to death of this guy :)

Costa Rica - Day 7&8 - Paradise on a Dirt Road

We left Jaco and traveled another hour south along the coast to Manuel Antonio National Park.  We had debated about going since we had read it was typically overpopulated with tourists.   But decided that we would regret not going so we saddled up the Yaris and headed out.  Pulling into the park we were met by an entourage of tour guides and parking lots hosts bidding for our cash.  This didn't put me in a great mood and then the first mile of the trail was on a gravel road with groups of tourists, guides and the occasional government car....so much for wildlife.

And then we hit the "front of the brochure", the white sand beaches of Manuel Antonio.  We spent the afternoon hiking the less populated trails and ran into a great troop of white-faced monkeys.   Also a 280' tree (which was not properly labeled).

And then we headed to the white sands paradise of Manuel Antonio. We would have stayed longer but there was a storm a brewing (when you look around and all the Ticos have left you know its time to head out).
Manuel Antonio Beach

The drive was about forty minutes north and then turned on a gravel road that held  stunning views and a serious 17km drive up the mountain.  We passed through a small village, saw the agriculture side of the region.  We seriously bottomed out the car once but managed to escape any major damage.
Agricultural fields
View on the mountain road

Mountain road panoramic
Our last night we stayed at the Paraiso Carlisa Eco Reserve.  We were the only guests on 100 acres of preserve.  Story behind the place a wealthy European had built the chateau for his family and when the children grew up they wanted nothing to do with the area.  They went on to build several villas for research and tourism.  The The best western took it over for a while but because of the location it was unsuccessful.  Our Villa was appx 800 sq/foot, it was huge (for $40/night).
Our Villa Bedroom
Villa living room

Villa patio
Lodge porch
The next morning we were awoken by the monkeys on the roof. I stepped outside and saw a half dozen monkeys looking curiously back at me.  We ate breakfast on the chateau porch watching all the wildlife.   Then the Ukrainian college student (who was one of the five staff members on the whole property and very excited to see human life)  took us on a guided tour of the preserve.  We walked through the animal rehab center and then down through the pastures to the waterfall.  We didn't have the time to do the horseback ride to the big waterfall (which was our one regret) because the clouds were gathering and we had to get the Yaris back on paved roads before the rain came. 
Animal Rehab Center
Animal rehab
Ginger!  They had at least 20 varieties in the garden.  The flowers were about 24" tall.
Waterfall on the preserve
This was by far our favorite place we stayed on our trip, so far off the beaten path it was a slice of paradise.
videoWe left the Eco Lodge at 1pm and started our 26-hour trip back home.  This was (one of the better) bridges we crossed on the gravel road.  At least this one had all of its planks.

Mountain road panoramic 2
Racing the storm to the paved roads
Interstate back into San Jose
 We then had a four hour drive back to San Jose in torrential rain, the first really hard rain we saw all week.  Again hit rush hour and prayed that we could get the car back in one piece.  AND WE DID!  I have never been so happy to return a rental car.  We stopped at dinner and then caught the shuttle back to SJO airport around 7pm.  Our flight didn't leave until 1am but San Jose is not a safe place after dark so we sat at the coffee bar listening to the crazy man sitting down the row from us sing rap songs.  We were happy to get through security and no longer listen to him, lucky for us he was on our flight.  Last time I saw him he was stopped with three guards at Customs in Florida.  We arrived in Chicago at 10am, found our civic with hub caps still attached and drove the final four hours home to hugs and lots of little smiles.  I would trade the ocean and mountains any day the laughter and love at home.  A big thanks for grandparents for making it possible.