Monthly Archives: November 2013

Rock Star Paddling

lee hunter on the water 2

The Rio Vista whitewater park in San Marcos, Texas is AMAZING…  The water is a consistent 72f (20c), the air temps are warm all year round and they have stadium lights so you can paddle at night. WOW WOW WOW

Ben Kvanli at the Olympic Outdoor Centre generously allowed us to camp in his yard about a block away from the whitewater park and on the banks of the San Marcos river. We got there Thursday afternoon and arranged to paddle with him that night – what an experience!!!

We wandered down the trail and hit the water just after 7:3o pm. The park has 3 waves with the first one having a 6 foot slide into a wave. We have a bunch of paddling goals for the year – Hunter getting his combat role, Lee  & Hunter becoming comfortable with drops and all of us spending more time in the water and having fun. The park was a great opportunity to play on the slide and get some time in the water. Doing it all in the dark made it soooo COOL!!!

Hunter also got to experience gates and the tutelage of Ben (Olympian), which was a great gift. He gained lots of confidence and came out of the water with a huge smile on his face.

Wandering in the dark at Carlsbad Caverns

family with lanterns

Carlsbad caverns was our 3rd cave experience of the trip, after Great Basin National Park (Nevada) and Horne Lake Basin (Vancouver Island, BC).  This was definitely the biggest and the best!

In Great Basin National Park we did a ranger lead tour and learned alot about the world of caves. I thought we’d mix it up a bit this time and so we did a ranger lead tour of the Left Hand Tunnel, which is conducted by candle lantern. It was great fun and really helped give you a sense of what the original exploration environment was like.

lee hunter 750 ft underground

This national park is a great example of the changing philosophies within the National Park system. It has 2 elevator shafts and used to have a full restaurant and retail store 750 ft below ground at the base of the elevators. The logic at the time was to make the cave more accessible to the public vs the core preservation of the cave, which is what we experienced in Great Basin.

Both Tim and Hunter tackled the junior ranger program (Tim doing the 13yrs and older version) and we all had alot of fun. It really helps make for a great learning experience while you are in the park. This was definitely a great family experience. We spent about 5 hours here but could have easily spent the entire day if we hadn’t needed to continue our travels south east…


exploring the mysteries of Roswell – still not a believer

hunter lee aliens


If you’re going to drive through south eastern New Mexico, you have to go to Roswell and the UFO Museum. I’m not sure what I expected, but it was fairly small in size and a bit hokey in approach. We spent an hour reading through alot of the materials and giggling at the pictures.

The blocks around the museum have an assortment of Alien related things that can only make you smile!

Valley of Fire National Recreation Area

valley of fire landscape


After spending the night at a rest stop in Socorro, New Mexico we headed east on highway 380 towards Roswell. It was mid morning and we hadn’t had breakfast yet and needed a stop. Just around the corner we saw the sign for Valley of Fires National Recreation Area so we pulled in. What a pleasant surprise!!!

valley of fire fordo


It is a small campground and recreation area at the side of the Malpais Lava Flow. The boys enjoyed the flat asphalt with their skateboards and we took the time to do the interpretive trail as well.

Approximately 5,000 years ago, Little Black Peak erupted and flowed 44 miles into the Tularosa Basin, filling the basin with molten rock. The resulting lava flow is four to six miles wide, 160 feet thick and covers 125 square miles. The lava flow is considered to be one of the youngest lava flows in the continental United States.

From a distance, Valley of Fires appears as barren rock but when you walk through the nature trail there are many varieties of flowers, cactus, trees and bushes typical of the Chihuahuan desert. Animals include bats, roadrunners, quail, cottontails, mule deer, barberry sheep, and lizards. It’s also a virtual birdwatcher’s paradise with great horned owls, burrowing owls, turkey vultures, hawks, gnat catchers, cactus wrens, sparrows and golden eagles.

Crystal gazing at the Petrified Forest National Park

hunter arms full petrified wood


Petrified Forest National Park is another lesser visited national park located in the North East corner of Arizona as you head towards New Mexico. The Hedderman family had stopped at the park a few days before us and raved so we thought we would spend some time in this self proclaimed “science park” while on our way to New Mexico.

After the highlights of discovering Route66 I wasn’t sure if there would be the patience and focus required for this visit. With a Junior Ranger badge on the line, Hunter snapped right to it and got to work. They also had a Junior Paleontologist program so we signed Tim up so he could be part of the learning as well.

hunter tim paleontologists

We enjoyed the historic information and education on what forms petrified wood. There are some great trails there and we explored a few short ones, only because we ran out of time to catch the longer ones initially planned.

It was incredibly quiet with few people there and drastically different landscape that you see in most other places.

Hunter and Tim both successfully completed their programs and got badges. Hunter also got his first patch, which was a big hit and has sent him in search of more!

hunter petrified forest jnr ranger