Monday, December 29, 2014

Port Isabel Lighthouse - Port Isabel, Texas

Description:  This is the only historical lighthouse in Texas that is open to the public.  It is only 50 feet tall and stands on a small knoll.  Despite it's small size it is a charming place to visit.

Location: 421 East Queen Isabella Blvd Port Isabel, Texas

Cost:  The basic price to tour the Port Isabel Lighthouse and Keepers Cottage is $3 for Adults, $2 for seniors, and $1 for students from kindergarten all the way to college (college students must have ID.) Children under 4 are free; however, children must be over 48 inches tall and over 4 years old to climb light house so this free price really only applies to the Keepers Cottage part of the tour.

For only a few dollars more you can tour the the Lighthouse and Keepers Cottage as well as the Treasures of the Gulf Museum, and the Port Isabel Historical Museum.  Prices for the "Combination Site Tour" are $7 for adults, $5 for seniors, $2 for students, and free for children age 4 and under.

The lighthouse is a State Historic Site, but it is managed by the city of Port Isabel.  That means you will still have to pay the admission fees even if you have a Texas State Park Pass.

Operating Seasons and Hours: Open every day from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. (There is some reconstruction going on.  You might want to call (956) 943-2262 to see if the Lighthouse will be open during your visit.)

Official Website: and

Date of Visit: Sunday November 2, 2014

Recommendation: The lighthouse is only a block away from the Queen Isabel Bridge that connects South Padre Island to the main land.  If you are going to visit South Padre Island you should stop and check out the lighthouse.  However, it's probably okay to skip the tour because you can appreciate the lighthouse just fine from the ground.

This was the first stop on the second day of the Texas Coastline Road Trip that my husband and I took our kids on in November of 2014.  We'd spent the first day of our trip travelling from Fort Hood, Texas down to the city of Port Isabel.  We'd arrived at the Port Isabel RV Park in the evening just before sunset.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Texas Coastline Roadtrip

I usually start planning my family's annual roadtrip style vacation about 6 months in advance.  But in 2014, for various reasons, I didn't start planning it until about a month before the vacation.  We didn't know that Brandon's vacation time would be in November until about August, and then it wasn't until early in October that we decided where to go.  We figured we had the best chance of having good weather on our November vacation if we headed south to the Texas Coastline.  

With less than a month to plan our trip I started scouring my free copies of the Texas State Travel Guide and Map.  I made lists of the places I wanted to visit.  I visited websites for the places that sounded interesting. I made more lists of the places that fit our limited budget.  I reserved five campsites and one hotel room.  And I hoped for good weather.  

I worried that our vacation would suffer from the limited amount of time I spent planning it.  Instead it turned out to be our best vacation ever - and that is saying a lot. 

We traveled a total of 1441 miles over 7 days.  I don't have an exact total amount of money that we spent on our vacation, but I know it was under $1,000 including food and gas.   Oh and we had our four children ages 4 and under along for the fun.  

If you are looking for ideas of fun and inexpensive things to do and see along the Texas Coastline, then this post is for you.  I've written a post about each of the locations we visited.  Click on the name of the place to be taken to the post with all the details. 

Port Isabel/South Padre Island Area
Places we visited
Port Isabel Light House
This is the only historical lighthouse in Texas that is open to the public. It is only 50 feet tall and stands on a small knoll. Despite it's small size it is a charming place to visit.

Port Isabel Park Center RV Park and Campground
This RV park has as grassy area set aside for people who like to camp in tents instead of trailers. The park is located a less than a mile from the historic area of Port Isabel, and is a short drive from South Padre Island.

South Padre Island Beaches
South Padre Island beaches are famous for their white sands and clear blue ocean water. What's not so well known is that most of the beaches are free. The beaches that do charge an entrance fee are only $5.00. If you are looking for an inexpensive vacation destination it really doesn't get any better than a trip to the beach.

Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Site - Brownsville
This grassy prairie is where the first battle of the US-Mexican War was fought in May of 1846. Today you can walk along interpretive trails and view the location of various parts of the battle.

Places we could have visited if we had more time
(Click on the link and then scroll down to the "Places Nearby" section.)

Port Isabel Historical Museum - Port Isabel
Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge - North of Port Isabel
Ilsa Blanca Park - South Padre Island

Corpus Christi Area
Places we visited

Corpus Christi Harbor Bridge
This bridge rises to a height of 243 feet above the shipping channel of Corpus Christi. The clearance under the bridge is 138 feet. There are a total of six lanes of traffic that cross the bridge. If you are brave you can cross the bridge using the pedestrian walkway that is squeezed in alongside the guard rail.

North Beach
The North Beach area of Corpus Christi is a small section of land between the Corpus Christi Shipping Channel and Nueces Bay. It is connected to Downtown Corpus Christi by the Harbor Bridge. Waves from Corpus Christi Bay wash onto the seaweed free beach. Picnic tables are anchored in the coarse sand. A sidewalk runs the length of the two mile long beach and connects restaurants, hotels, vacation homes, and stores to landmarks like the USS Lexington Aircraft Carrier and the Texas State Aquarium.

Mustang Island State Park
Mustang Island is one of the barrier islands between Corpus Christi and the Gulf of Mexico. The beach at this state park is a haven for visitors who want to see the undisturbed version of the Texas Coastline without driving too far from civilization.

Port Aransis Ferry
Texas Highway 361 uses an unusual feature to connect Port Aransas to the mainland. Ferry boats that can hold up to 20 vehicles work to carry passengers across the Corpus Christ Channel. The short ride across the channel is provided for free. It's a fun way to enjoy a ride on the water without paying any money.

Places we could have visited if we had more time
(Click on the link and then scroll down to the "Places Nearby" section.)

USS Lexington Aircraft Carrier
McGee Beach
Cole Park
Corpus Christi Navel Air Station and Corpus Christi Army Depot
Port Aransas Beach

Rockport Area
Places we visited

Goose Island State Park
Unlike the most of the other beaches in Texas, the beaches around Rockport, Texas have rocky shores. Goose Island State Park is situated on one of these rocky shores. It doesn't have a swimming beach, but instead has a very long fishing pier. Away from the shore there are many coastal live oak trees that provide ample shade. The most famous live oak, The Big Tree, grows about a mile from the main part of the state park. The Big Tree has been growing for over 1000 years.

Places we could have visited if we had more time
(Click on the link and then scroll down to the "Places Nearby" section.)

Texas Maritime Museum

Houston Area
Places we visited:

Brazos Bend State Park
Brazos Bend State Park is less than an hour away from busy downtown Houston, Texas, but it feels like it's a whole different world. The park's 5000 acres are home to wildlife such as many species of deer and birds as well as alligators who roam free through some areas of the park. In addition to the animals, the park is full of large Live Oak Trees practically dripping with Spanish Moss.

NASA Rocket Park at the Johnson Space Center
Rocket Park is a stop on the Johnson Space Center Tour in Houston, Texas, but it is also available to the public for free. The park contains a Mercury-Redstone rocket, the Little Joe II rocket, as well as some other large equipment from the 1960's space program. The most amazing thing on display is an actual Saturn V Rocket which is housed inside a giant climate controlled building.

Battleship Texas State Historic Site
The USS Texas is a very rare battleship. She is the only surviving ship that served in both World War I and World War II. She is also the only Dreadnought style battleship that has been preserved. When she was commissioned in 1914 she was the most advanced weapon in the world. Now she serves as a reminder of the technology and the people who used it to help defend our country.

San Jacinto Battlefield
Texas declared independence from Mexico in March of 1836. In April of that year the decisive Battle of San Jacinto was fought on what is now the outskirts of Houston. The Texans won the battle and secured freedom. 100 years later the State of Texas built a monument and a museum on the battleground as a memorial to the battle. A visit to this site will help anyone gain a greater understanding of Texas history.

Fred Hartman (Baytown) Bridge
This double suspension bridge spans the Houston Shipping Channel to connect Highway 146 between LaPorte and Baytown. The diamond shaped towers rise to a height of 440 feet, and support the six lanes of traffic 178 feet above the water.

Places we could have visited if we had more time
(Click on the link and then scroll down to the "Places Nearby" section.)

Houston Museum District
Sylvan Beach Park

Houston Port Authority Boat Tour
This free boat ride takes you on an hour long tour of the Houston Port Authority.   The tour will take you past large shipping vessels, and give you an understanding of how important shipping is when it comes to imports and exports.

Galveston Area
Places we visited:

Galveston Island State Park
Galveston Island is the closest island to the city of Houston. The island is a popular place to get away from the routines of city life. There are numerous ways to relax, but perhaps the best way is to visit one of the island's many beaches. Galveston Island State Park has beautiful natural beaches that are homes to many plants and animals. The park spans from the bay side with its calmer waters to the beach side where you can play in the waves of the Gulf of Mexico.

Stewart Beach 
Galveston Island is known for its relaxed beach atmosphere. Large waves from the Gulf of Mexico crash onto the sandy shore tempting you to stop and stay a while. One of the most accessible beaches on the island is Stewart Beach. This large beach has plenty of amenities including restrooms, showers, and beach umbrella rentals. There are also trained life guards on duty. The sand along the shore is kept seaweed free so there is ample room to stretch out on a blanket and enjoy your day at the beach.

Texas Seaport Museum 
Located near the Galveston Cruise Terminal, the Texas Seaport Museum preserves a time when people sailed out of Galveston Harbor on much smaller ships. Inside the museum you can view displays of items that were used 100 years ago when Galveston was a bustling port for shipping cotton. Outside the museum you can take a self guided tour of the Tall Ship Elissa - one of the oldest sailing vessels left in the world. As you walk the decks of the ship you can imagine what life would have been like for the sailors who called the ship home.

Harbor Tours
The Texas Seaport Museum provides tours of Galveston Harbor aboard the Seagull II. These hour long tours are an excellent way to see dolphins swimming in the water as well as learn more about the Galveston Harbor.

Galveston Ferry
The channel between Galveston Island and the Bolivar Peninsula is too large to build a bridge across. The Texas Department of Transportation uses ferries as a cost effective way to connect State Highway 87 across the channel. These ferry rides are free and can hold up to 20 cars. The ride across the channel takes about 20 minutes which allows you enough time to get out of your car and take a stroll around the ferry. Chances are you'll even see dolphins while you are crossing the channel.

Fort Travis Seashore Park (on the Bolivar Peninsula)
These days Fort Travis Seashore Park is a nice place for a picnic. But years ago this was the site of military fortifications that ensured our country was ready to defend against attacks. These gun batteries are still intact, and are on display alongside the picnic tables and barbecue grills.

Places we could have visited if we had more time

(Click on the link and then scroll down to the "Places Nearby" section.)

Galveston Mansions and Historical Places
East Beach and Seawall Urban Beach
OceanStar Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum
Seawolf Park

One thing that helped us save money on this vacation was to buy a Texas State Park Pass for only $70.00.  I added up all the entry fees for the state parks we planned on visiting.   The cost would have been $66 for my husband and I (our kids would have free admission because they were under the age of 12.)  I decided that the park pass was a good idea because not only would it grant us entry to all the state parks that we wanted to visit on this trip, but we could use it all year long to visit other state parks.  Visit this link for all the details about obtaining your own Texas State Park Pass.

Here is a map that roughly shows our route.  You can click on it and zoom in to see the details.


I hope this list helps you as you plan your next adventure!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

5 Ways to Have Fun at the Beach - Without Getting in the Water

For our most recent vacation Brandon and I decided to take our four little kids on a beach themed road trip. Our vacation would be in November, and we figured we had better chances of having good weather if we went south to the Texas coast.  Spending time at the beach sounded relaxing.  We assumed that our kids would enjoy playing on the beach and wading in the water.  

Imagine our surprise when we arrived at the beach on South Padre Island, and our kids refused to get close to the waves.  They didn't want anything to do with the water.  They weren't too sure about the beach either.  They were scared of the seagulls that circled our picnic food.  Within a few minutes our 4 year old twin girls were asking if we could leave. 

This was a problem because we planned to visit at least one beach each day of our vacation.  How could we have a fun beach vacation if the kids didn't like the beach?  

Over the next few days Brandon came up with several tricks for helping the kids have fun on the beach.  He was hoping that the kids would have so much fun on the beach that they would eventually try out the water too.  That didn't happen.  But thanks to his efforts the kids did have a good time and made great memories of our vacation.  

So here are some ideas for you in case you find yourself with a child or two - or four who won't go in the water.

1. Dig a Hole and Fill it with Water

Brandon figured that if we could get the kids used to the idea of playing in ocean water, they would feel more comfortable playing in the actual ocean.  He dug them a hole and then brought buckets of water to fill up the hole.  Our twins especially liked this "little swimming pool."  They did this at the first beach we visited on South Padre Island.  Playing in the hole helped them enjoy that beach.  We were able to stay a lot longer than had seemed possible at the beginning.   

Several days later Brandon dug another hole for the kids to play in at the beach at Galveston Island State Park.  They enjoyed playing in this hole as much as they had the first.  

2. Look for Shells

The beach we visited in Corpus Christi was steeper than the island beaches.  Digging a hole wouldn't work as well  on that steep slope.  The kids started out hiding under a picnic table.  There were more seagulls flying around, and my girls refused to get out from under the table.  Brandon coaxed the kids to sift the sand and look for shells.  That was pretty easy because the sand was made up of crushed up sea shells.  Soon our girls were out from under the table and helping find "baby sea shells."

3. Play with Toys

The beach at Mustang Island State Park was probably my kids' favorite beach.  A lot of that was due to Brandon's idea to get some of the toys out of our car.  He grabbed a truck and then built some sand walls for the truck to smash into.

After our kids caught onto that idea, he grabbed a toy bus and a toy plane.  Soon our three oldest kids were running up and down the sand dunes playing all sorts of games with their toys.  One of my daughters later told me that they were pretending the white sand was snow.
Looking back, I wish we'd brought a kite on our trip. Every beach we visited had a constant strong breeze that would have been great for kite flying.

4. Throw Rocks into the Water

My son has an obsession with throwing rocks into water.  I'm convinced he's a human divining rod.  When he senses water he picks up rocks and starts walking in the direction of the water.  This happens everywhere we go.

Goose Island State Park doesn't have a sandy beach.  Instead it has a long fishing pier.  We walked out to the end of the pier, and brought a bucket of rocks for our children to throw into the water.  My son was so happy. Then we walked back to shore and let our son throw rocks into the water for at least half an hour.  He was in heaven.

All four kids liked throwing rocks into water at the marina that was part of the Port Isabel RV park where we stayed during the first two nights of our vacation.  Even my 13 month old enjoyed picking up rocks and lobbing them over the small retaining wall.  This is how we kept them busy while one of us cleaned up breakfast or dinner.  

5. Build Sand Castles

Sand castle building is probably the most obvious activity on this list.  Our kids made a few sand castles, but it never turned into a concentrated effort.  They are all still at the ages where they'd rather smash a sand castle than build one.  Any time I tried to build something my girls would come "pretend like they were dogs" and dig through the pile like they were trying to bury bones behind them.

I'm including building sand castles on this list because I know it is something that most kids enjoy.  Honestly, I prefer to build with sand rather than swim.  Especially when the water is cold like it can be in Utah.  The picture up above is of castle my husband, siblings, and I built years ago during a visit to Bear Lake in Utah.

I hope this list gives you some ideas of fun things you can do with your kids on a beach.  If your kids say they don't like something, don't give up hope.  Keep a positive attitude and see if you can find something that your kids enjoy doing.  Remember sometimes its the most simple things that they remember best.

What fun things have you done on a beach?

If you liked this post you should stay tuned to this blog.  I'll be sharing some more tips on how to make vacationing with kids easier.  I'll also talk about the beaches and other places we visited during this years beach vacation.   

Monday, November 17, 2014

Best Beach Vacation Tip

A few weeks ago my husband and I took our four little kids on a beach themed road trip.  We visited beaches along the Texas coastline.  We stopped and played on beaches in places like South Padre Island, Corpus Christi, and Galveston Island.  

Cleaning up from all our fun in the sand was easy thanks to a trick I read about in an issue of Better Homes and Gardens.  Here's the trick:

Rubbing baby powder on your skin will help the sand come off easily.

All you have to do is put a small amount of baby powder in your hand, and then rub it on the sandy parts of your skin.  The sand will come right off.  It's so simple. 

I tried this out last year when my kids loved playing with our back yard sand table.  They'd come back in the house with sand all over their bodies.  It would even be in their diapers.  I rubbed the baby powder onto their bums to see if the trick would work.  I was so surprised by how easy the sand came off.  I made sure to keep a bottle of baby powder handy every time they played with the sand table. 

This year, when I packed for our vacation I made sure that we brought a bottle of baby powder along.  I kept it in the car.  Every time we came back from the beach my husband and I would take a minute to rub baby powder on the kids.  And voila, we have sand-less kids again. 

If you liked this tip you should stay tuned to this blog for the next few weeks.  I'll be sharing other tips from our beach themed road trip.  I'll also talk about the different places we visited.  Trust me, you don't want to miss these posts.  This was one of the best vacations we ever went on - and that's saying a lot. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Natural Bridges National Monument - near Blanding, Utah

This national monument is home to three majestic natural bridges that were carved from the rock by water.  Overlooks connected by a scenic drive give visitors an easy way to view the bridges.  For the adventurous, there are trails that lead from the top of the mesa down to the bridges.

Location: About 40 miles west of Blanding, Utah

Cost: $6 per vehicle.  Camping is $10 per night.

Operating Seasons and Hours: Open year round.  The visitor center hours vary slightly based on the season, but basically it is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Official Website:

Date of Visit: Tuesday, May 18, 2010

This was the second stop on the fifth day of the Southern Utah Road Trip that my husband and I went on for our anniversary in May of 2010. We left the Hite Marina area of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and continued driving southeast on Highway 95.  We drove for another 41 miles and came to the Natural Bridges Visitor Center.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area - Hite Marina

Hite is a remote location with spectacular scenery.  The blue water of Lake Powell shines in stark contrast to the red sandstone cliffs.  Highway 95 takes you to an overlook where you can view the landscape from high above.

Location: At the confluence of the Dirty Devil and Colorado Rivers.  This is where Lake Powell begins.

Cost: $15 Entrance fee is good for 7 days.  There is a $16 fee for boating, and a $6 fee for camping.  If you are like me, and just want to check it out, then you can view the area from the highway overlook for no charge.

Operating Seasons and Hours:  Open 24 hours a day all year long.  You can launch a boat at anytime when lake levels are high enough.

Official Website:

Date of Visit: Tuesday, May 18, 2010

This was the first stop of the fifth day of the road trip that my husband and I took around Southern Utah in May of 2010.  We left Goblin Valley and drove south along Highway 24 to Hanksville.  Then we drove south along Highway 95 to the Hite Marina area of Lake Powell/Glen Canyon.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Goblin Valley State Park - Utah

The landscape of Goblin Valley State Park is devoid of plant and animal life.  Instead it is home to hundreds of oddly shaped rocks known as hoodoos or goblins.  A visit to this place is like taking a trip to another planet.

Location: Goblin Valley is located in the center of the northern part of Southern Utah, about 35 miles south of Interstate  70.  The closest civilized area of any size is Hanksville, Utah located 30 miles to the south.  I'm not sure if Hanksville can be considered civilization though. The population is barely above 200 people.  The other "close" city is Green River which is 50 miles to the east.

Cost: Day Use Fee is $8. Camping fee is $18 with an additional reservation fee of $8.

Operating Seasons and Hours: The park is open all year long from 6:00 am to 10:00 pm.

Official Website:

Date of Visit: Monday, May 17, 2010 and Tuesday, May 18, 2010

This was the fourth and final stop of the fourth day of the road trip that my husband and I took around Southern Utah back in 2010.  We left Capitol Reef National Park and drove about and hour and a half to Goblin Valley State Park.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Capitol Reef National Park - The Highway 24 Area

Description:  Highway 24 cuts though the heart of Capitol Reef National Park giving you easy access to petroglyphs, pictographs, natural bridges, pioneer era buildings, and spectacular overlooks.

Location: Near Torrey, Utah.  Which is about an hour an a half away from I-70.

Cost: $5.00 per vehicle. The pass is good for 7 days.  Camping is $10 per night.  Back country permits are free.

Operating Seasons and Hours: Open year round. Visitor center hours are 8:00 to 4:00 7 days a week.

Official Website:

Date of Visit: Monday, May 17, 2010

This was the third stop on the fourth day of the Southern Utah Road Trip that my husband and I went on for our anniversary in 2010.  We left Anasazi State Park Museum in Boulder, Utah and drove about an hour to reach Capitol Reef National Park.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Anasazi State Park Museum - Boulder, Utah

Description: This small museum in Boulder, Utah has several artifacts from the Anasazi Indians. There are ruins of Anasazi dwellings behind the museum.  There are also some life-size replicas of what the dwellings would have looked like when they were in use.

Location: 460 Utah Highway 12 Boulder, Utah

Cost: $5 per person. $10 per family, $3 for seniors

Operating Seasons and Hours: Open every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year.  The museum is open from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm from March 1 to October 31.  And from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm from November 1 to March 1.

Official Website:

Date of Visit: Monday, May 17, 2010

This was the second stop on the fourth day of the Southern Utah Road Trip that my husband and I went on in 2010.  We drove from Escalante Petrified Forest State Park in Escalante to Boulder, Utah via Highway 12.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Utah Highway 12 - from Escalante to Boulder

Description:  This 29 mile stretch of Utah Highway 12 connects the towns of Escalante and Boulder.  The road runs through a rough, untamed land.

Location:  Between the Utah towns of Escalante and Boulder.

Date of Visit: Monday, May 17, 2010

Driving on this road was part of the fourth day of the Southern Utah Road Trip that my husband and I went on for our anniversary in May of 2010.  We left Escalante Petrified Forest State Park in Escalante and drove to Anazasi State Park in Boulder.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Escalante Petrified Forest State Park - Escalante, Utah

Millions of years ago this area was home to many large trees.  After those trees died they were turned to stone.  Remnants of those stone trees are plentiful throughout this state park.  A fairly easy, mile long hike will take you past many pieces of petrified wood. 

Location: 710 N. Reservoir Road Escalante, Utah

Cost: $8.00 Day Use Fee, Camping starts at $19.00

Operating Seasons and Hours: 7:00-10:00 Summer 8:00-10:00 Winter.  Closed Christmas Day and New Years Day.

Official Website:

Date of Visit: Monday, May 17, 2010

This was the first stop on the fourth day of the Southern Utah Road Trip that my husband and I went on in May of 2010.  We left Ruby's Inn at Bryce Canyon and drove an hour east along Highway 12 to Escalante Petrified Forest State Park.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Bryce Canyon National Park - Day Trip Ideas

This National Park is made up of several amphitheaters carved from sandstone.  The elements have shaped the sandstone into stone pillars.  You can appreciate the odd scenery from trails and overlooks along the edge of the amphitheaters or you can hike down the trails and walk among the stones and pine trees.

Location: Bryce Canyon National Park is located in the center of Southern Utah.  The nearest town of any size is Panguitch which is 30 minutes away.  Bryce Canyon is about 90 minutes from Zion National Park, and 3 hours and 15 minutes from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Cost: The entrance fee is $25 per vehicle, and is good for seven days.  Back country permits are required for over night hiking trips.  They range from $5 to $15 depending on the size of your group. Camping at the developed campgrounds starts at $15 per night.

Operating Seasons and Hours: The park is open all year long.  However, since the park is located at 8000 feet above sea level it has snowfall into the late spring and starting in the early fall. 

Official Website:

Date of Visit: Sunday, May 16, 2010

Bryce Canyon National Park was the destination on the second day of the Southern Utah Road Trip that my husband and I went on in 2010.  We left Zion National Park, passed through Red Canyon on Highway 12 and arrived at Bryce Canyon in the evening.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Red Canyon - Panguitch, Utah

This small canyon with red rock is relatively unheard of.  But pretty much anyone who travels to Bryce Canyon will go through the two stone tunnels in this area.

Location: Red Canyon is twelve miles west of Bryce Canyon National Park and seven miles east of Panguitch, Utah. Highway 12 runs through the lower part of Red Canyon. (This is not the same Red Canyon that is located near Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Northeastern Utah.)

Cost: Free

Operating Seasons and Hours: You can drive through the canyon along Highway 12 all year long.  Many of the trails are accessible anytime.  The Visitor Center opens in April.  The campground opens in May.

Official Website: Red Canyon Campground website:

Date of Visit: Saturday, May 15, 2014

My husband and I passed through Red Canyon during the second day of our Southern Utah Road Trip in 2010.  We left Zion National Park after climbing Angel's Landing.  We drove for about an hour and a half before we arrived in Red Canyon.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Angel's Landing - Zion National Park

This post is a bonus feature to my earlier post about Zion National Park.  When I wrote about my visit to the national park I wanted to include some pictures from my hike up to the summit of Angel's Landing.  Soon I realized that I had so many pictures from that hike that I might as well give the hike its own post. 
One of the most adventurous hikes in Utah, Angels Landing is not for the faint of heart.  The trail takes you from long switch backs in the hot sun, to a canyon with cool breezes.  From there you navigate 21 tight switchbacks known as Walter's Wiggles.  This brings you to Scouts Lookout.  From there you have the choice appreciate the view and then turn around, or you can continue up to the Angel's Landing Summit.  The trail becomes increasingly difficult, requiring you to hold onto chains during some parts.  The view and the sense of accomplishment that you receive at the top are worth it.   

Location: Halfway up Zion Canyon in Zion National Park.  Take the park shuttle from the Visitor's Center to the Grotto shuttle stop.

Cost: Admission into the National Park is $25 per car.  There is no additional fee to hike up Angel's Landing.

Operating Seasons and Hours: Because of the steep drop offs along the trail, this hike should only be attempted during daylight and when the trail is dry.  Check current trail conditions at the Visitor's Center.

Official Website:

Date of Visit: Saturday, May 15, 2010

Recommendation: This hike should be on every hiker's bucket list.

Hiking to the top of Angel's Landing was always on the list of things to do on the Southern Utah Road Trip that my husband and I went on in 2010.  Both of us looked forward to challenging ourselves on the strenuous and dangerous trail.  After we'd completed the hike Brandon and I made up a morbid game called, "Will They Survive?"  As we hiked down the lower portions of the trail we'd pass hikers in flip flops and carrying a small water bottle (if that).  We would try to guess when those hikers would realize they were unprepared and turn around.  This post is to help you know what to expect so you don't try to climb up Angel's Landing unprepared.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Zion National Park - Day Trip Ideas

Description: The Virgin River has carved this beautiful canyon from red sandstone.  The canyon is full of lush vegetation.  The park has numerous hikes of varying degrees of difficulty.  Even non hikers will find something to do at either the Visitor Center, the interpretive center, or Zion Lodge. A free shuttle bus connects you to everything in the canyon for most of the year.  

Location: Southwestern Utah, less than an hour east of 1-15.  St. George is the nearest large city.  It is an hour away from the park.

Cost: Admission to the main part of Zion National Park is $25 per private vehicle.  Admission is valid for 7 days. If you want to hike into the Zion Wilderness you will need to obtain a Zion Wilderness Permit.  Those cost from $10 to $20 depending on the number of people in the group.

Operating Seasons and Hours: Open 24 hours every day of the year.  Some areas of the park may have reduced hours during holidays and less busy times of the year.

Official Website:

Date of Visit: Friday, May 14, 2010 and Thursday May 16 - Saturday May 18, 2019.

In 2010 this was the third stop on the Southern Utah Road Trip Brandon and I went on. We left Cove Fort and drove 2 hours to the entrance to Zion National Park.  We passed some interesting scenery on our drive, but nothing prepared me for the beauty inside the park.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Cove Fort - North of Beaver Utah

Cove Fort is the only LDS pioneer era fort that is still standing. And it's free to visit!

Location: Where I-15 and I-70 meet. Cove Fort isn't located in a town.  The nearest towns are Fillmore (35 minutes to the north), Beaver (25 minutes to the south), and Richfield (40 minutes through the canyon to the east.)

Cost: Free

Operating Seasons and Hours: 8:00 am - dusk from April to October.  9:00 am to dusk from October to April.

Official Website: or

Date of Visit: Friday, May 14, 2010

This was the second stop on the Southern Utah Road Trip that my husband and I went on in May of 2010.  We left the Territorial State House in Fillmore, Utah and drove 32 miles down to where I-70 meets I-15.  This is the location of Cove Fort.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Packing Tips: Air Mattress Pump

I bought a new air pump for our air mattress a few weeks ago.  Our previous pump plugged into the wall - which was great when we were using it at home.  But it wasn't so great when we were camping.  Trust me, it's embarrassing to have to fill up your air mattress while plugged into an outlet in the bathroom.  I was very happy when that pump finally quit working, and gave me a reason to go buy a new pump.  

The new pump has a battery that charges.  As long as it's charged I can use the pump where ever and when ever I need to.  I took the air mattress and pump on a recent camping trip.  During the trip the box that came with the pump fell apart.  I was worried that I would loose the little electrical cord that I need to charge the pump.  I decided that I'd make sure the cord and the pump couldn't be easily separated.

I decided to fasten the charger cord to the pump with Zip-Ties.  You could also use string, yarn, twisty-ties, or similar items.
The process was fairly simple. I started by plugging the cord into the pump so I wouldn't make everything too short by accident.  Then I gathered the cord in my hand and secured it with a Zip-tie.  After that I took a second Zip-tie and threaded it through the loops in the bunched up cord.  I also threaded it through the handle of the pump.  Then I pulled everything tight.  
I figured that 9 times out of 10 the pump won't need to be very far away from the electrical outlet while it is charging.  So it's okay to fold up the length of the cord.  On the off chance that I do need the whole cord I can always cut the Zip-Ties and replace them with new ones later.  

I trimmed the ends of the Zip-Ties to reduce the amount of loose ends.  The trimmed edges ended up sharper than I expected.  I worried that they could hurt someone or damage the air mattress.  I solved that problem by melting the ends with a match.  (Sorry this picture isn't better focused.  I was more concerned about not burning myself.)
After I secured the cord to the pump I decided it would be a good idea to store the pump and the air mattress together.  I did this several years ago with a different pump and air mattress, but for some reason I stopped doing that and used the bag for something else.  

I needed a bag so I found an old pillowcase in the bottom of the draw where I store linens.  It's was an ugly pillowcase, but I'm okay with that because I plan on taking it camping where it will probably get dirty anyway.  I loosened some stitches in the casing around the end of the pillowcase, and used a safety pin to slip in a ribbon to act as a drawstring.   

I like the peace of mind of knowing that everything is together.  Next time I need to pack the air mattress for a trip I won't need to worry about forgetting the pump or the charger.  You should try this yourself.

PS. Here are two things to keep in mind about re-chargable air mattress pumps.  

1. They have to be charged for about 10 hours before the first use.  So you can't just buy one at the store and expect to use it right away.

2. They won't work while charging.  In fact, some models don't even work if the cord is still plugged into the pump.  So if your pump is fully charged- but won't work- make sure the little plug is unplugged from the pump.  

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Territorial Statehouse - Fillmore, Utah

For a brief time Fillmore, Utah was the capital city of the territory of Utah.  Plans were drawn up for a large capitol building with four wings and a dome.  However, only the south wing was completed before the legislature moved the capitol city back up to Salt Lake.  Today the building is a museum housing artifacts from the early days of Utah's history.  

Location: 50 West Capitol Ave Fillmore, Utah.  Fillmore is located along Interstate 15 about two and a half hours south of Salt Lake City.

Cost: $2 per person.  There is a family rate of $6 for up to 8 people.

Operating Seasons and Hours: Tours are available 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Saturday except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day.  The grounds of the Statehouse are always accessible.

Official Website:

Date of Visit: Friday, May 14, 2010

Recommendation: A good place to stop and stretch your legs.

The Territorial Statehouse was the first stop on the Southern Utah Road Trip that Brandon and I went on to celebrate our third wedding anniversary.


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