Wrapping Up 2016

A camping Christmas trip with our family ended 2016 in a delightful way!

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2016 is now in the “books,” and 2017 has already seen our first snow of the winter season and of the new year.  Thankfully, it was nothing like the mega storm that introduced 2016 to us, and we only received about an inch this time.  My back starts hurting just looking again at some of the photos from last January and remembering all the snow Hubby and I shoveled for three straight days.  Ugh!

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Girly Girl had lots of fun in the foot of snow we received the first week of January in 2016.
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The foot of snow caused lots of issues for the next two weeks in our city and area, but it was so very pretty, too.

It’s been several weeks since my last post, but all is well, good in fact.  I just took a little break to enjoy the Christmas season and take a few things “off my plate” for a bit.  I also had more holiday prep work to do this year, due to our ten day Christmas and New Years trip to the mountains of far West Texas.

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Spending “golden hour” at the top of Skyline Drive on Christmas Evening with my family is a precious memory now.  We captured some great photos of family and scenery here.
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Sunset at Davis Mountain State Park on Christmas evening with historic Indian Lodge in the distance was absolutely gorgeous.  We had the view all to ourselves, something I will always remember fondly.  This was literally the last ray of sunshine on Christmas Day. 😉

 

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The Belt of Venus is always so beautiful in this area, and it was lovely once again on Christmas evening.

All our kids joined us for a long Christmas weekend in the Davis Mountains, and they all departed for home on Tuesday afternoon after lunch, driving to El Paso together then catching their respective flights.  It was a most enjoyable holiday for me, and I think for all of us.  After all, what mama doesn’t like to have all her kiddos with her for the holidays?

We secured our daughter and son-in-law a room at the historic Indian Lodge (see photos below) during their stay, which was just a mile away from our RV in the state park, and our son stayed with us in the RV.  With all the additional space inside now, as compared to our previous RV, we were all quite comfortable, even with the dogs who slept on their nice, new beds next to him.

By cooking some dishes ahead of time, I was able to serve all our favorite holiday foods in the RV… tamales for Christmas Eve, sausage toasts and eggs for Christmas morning, and ham, turkey, cornbread dressing, black-eyed peas, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and yeast rolls for Christmas dinner.  We even enjoyed a Christmas morning picnic together at our site for breakfast, which was a real treat!  Truly, the weather was gorgeous the entire week we were there.

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Our festive picnic table at our site for Christmas.  Snoopy and Woodstock helped to light up the holiday nights at our site, along with three mason jar lanterns on the table.

 

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It was a real treat to have a visit from several mule deer late each afternoon during our vacation week, with our first visit on Christmas Day!  We also saw several javelina at our campsite on our first night, as well as some great birds all over the park during our stay.

Following our picnic breakfast, we opened gifts inside the RV in our comfortable living area, which was so much fun.  As usual, the dogs each had a gift of their own to start things off, and I can say that we all received some very nice gifts.  My family was especially good to me, but the real treat for me was just having everyone together for a few days of fun.

The weather was gorgeous in far West Texas the entire week we were there, which certainly helped make our trip more manageable and truly enjoyable.  We even ran our air conditioner for a bit on a few afternoons, too.  I’m sure some friends may think we’ve lost our minds spending the holidays in our RV, but we enjoyed our time in the Davis Mountains with our family more than anything we’ve done for the holidays in many years.  With all the cooking done ahead of time, meals were easy and tasty with minimal clean-up needed afterward, leaving quality time for visiting, hiking and playing games together.

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My long, long shadow during a walk in the park late on Christmas afternoon.  I feel so at home here now and have even entertained the thought of retiring in this very remote area that holds some family history for me.

After the kids left, Hubby and I enjoyed a few days all by ourselves, followed by two days with two friends who made their first trip to the area for the New Year’s weekend in their RV, the same friends we’ve started traveling with a bit over the past year.  We enjoyed showing them around, and they also spent some time on their own at the McDonald Observatory, which we have seen many times on previous trips.  Hubby and the friends hiked from the state park to the national park, and I picked them up there after we all toured the fort area together on New Years Eve.

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We always enjoy a quick visit to the national park in Fort Davis.  Just before our trip, I also learned that a family member, now deceased, actually lived at this fort for a time when he was a young boy!

Our holiday trip was pretty much perfect for us, spending time both with family and friends, as well as quality time alone.  We even made new friends, a couple close to our age that just recently started their full-time RV journey, and we exchanged contact information with them.  It was delightful to visit with them off and on all during our vacation week.

Hubby and I opted to dine out a little more on this trip because there are some really good restaurants in town.  Rumor has it we dined at our favorite Mexican food restaurant three times during our week in the area and that our waitress knew what we wanted to order as soon as we sat down on our second and third visits.  We dined there on the evening we arrived with our son, for lunch with all the kids on Tuesday before they left, and again with our friends on New Year’s Eve.

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Cueva De Leon is our favorite restaurant in the area with the best chips and salsa and chile rellenos to die for! 🙂

We also dined at three other restaurants in town during our stay, which was a nice treat for us.  All were very good, and two were new to us.

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We ate lunch at Poco Mexico for the first time… yummy!
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We made a return visit for burgers at the Fort Davis Drug Store and Hotel.  My green chile and Swiss cheese burger with homemade onion rings was awesome!
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We enjoyed delicious panini sandwiches at The Porch, a new restaurant for us that serves breakfast and lunch and is part of the historic Hotel Limpia.

(On a side note, I couldn’t disagree more with the Trip Advisor restaurant ratings for Fort Davis restaurants, especially the #1 pick listed right now.  We’ve tried that place twice and are not at all impressed with it.  We won’t try again.  In our opinion, after many trips to the area, Cueva De Leon is by far the best in town.) 

Hubby and I also drove to both Alpine and Marfa on separate drives.  We had to make a quick trip to Alpine with our son on Christmas Eve morning in search of a new coffee pot, after ours unexpectedly died on us.  Thankfully, we found one at the big hardware store, the last one on the shelf, because we would have had a crisis on our hands without a coffee pot!

Our scenic drive to Marfa on an overcast day after the kids left was nice, and we saw the pretty courthouse there, along with the historic Hotel Paisano and the whimsical El Cosmico campground south of town.  On their drive back to El Paso, the kids stopped for photos at Prada Marfa, too.

Hubby and I also enjoyed a Thursday evening presentation at Indian Lodge where the hotel manager told us all about the history of the lodge from the CCC era to date, and she also pointed out several of the original furniture pieces from that time period, marked by the metal strappings at the bottom of each one.  It was a nice evening with other hotel guests and campers, complete with hot cider and cookies by a warm fire inside.

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I’ve seen this beautiful table at Indian Lodge on each trip to the area, but it was interesting to learn that it is one of the original pieces from the CCC era.

She also shared that Indian Lodge will close in September 2017 for four months for exterior resurfacing, just in case anyone is planning a trip to the area and would like to stay there.

The week prior to our trip was a fun and busy week, too.

Prior to Christmas, I also hosted my second annual cookie swap on the Monday evening before Christmas.  It was a big success once again, with two new participants this year, in addition to those returning from last year’s swap.  This year, we actually decorated cookies together for the first time, and it was so much fun, even though it was more prep work for me.  I think we will have to keep doing this in future years, if only for the laughs… which were many!  Those ladies pretty much destroyed my kitchen decorating cookies, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

After the cookie swap, I was able to provide some awesome cookie platters to my elderly neighbor, to Hubby’s side of the family during our evening together the next night and to the state park staff on Christmas Eve morning, while also saving lots of cookies for my family to enjoy during our trip, too.

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Christmas cookies are a tradition with us, and swapping cookies with friends makes the tradition even more special.  This tray included cowboy cookies, snickerdoodles, holiday thumbprints, peanut butter with chocolate kisses, cardamom cream cheese cookie press cookies and decorated star sugar cookies that we all decorated together.  I also made a few other types of cookies not shown here, including oatmeal with fresh cranberries and chocolate chip, and I totally hoarded the white chocolate and cranberry cookies that one of the new ladies brought to the exchange!

Just before we departed on our Christmas trip, we spent a delightful evening with Hubby’s side of the family on Tuesday evening, including some family members from the Dallas area.  The big home-cooked meal was a real treat for all of us during those last busy days before Christmas, with meatloaf served as the main entrée.  It was our first opportunity to gather together in our nephew’s new home with his precious wife and girls, and they were good sports to host everyone while still in the process of moving in.  They wouldn’t have it any other way.

I didn’t have an opportunity to celebrate a friends Christmas with my two special friends here before we left on our trip, but we are hoping to finally get together one evening this week.  I have grown accustomed to this fun tradition over more recent years and definitely missed our fun gathering.

I trust you all had a wonderful Christmas and wish you all the best in 2017!

 

Around Angel Fire

So much fun, so little time!

In my previous posts, I’ve shared some of our adventures in the Enchanted Circle area of New Mexico.  Most of these were places that we visited on day trips away from our RV base camp at Angel Fire, but today, I want to share about our fun time in Angel Fire.  I previously shared about our visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which is located just outside Angel Fire, too.

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New Mexico’s Famous Enchanted Circle

We stayed six days and five nights at Angel Fire RV Resort, which is part of Angel Fire Resort properties.  This year-round RV park opened in May 2015, and it sits a few miles away from town, just off Highway 64.  We were referred to this park by another RV friend who was quite impressed by it on a previous trip, and we opted to stay here because it was also centrally located for day trips to Taos, Eagle Nest and Red River.

The best option for us to drive to the area was Highway 64 from Cimarron, and the pass between Cimarron and Eagle Nest was very do-able in the RV, although *very* crowded with traffic on Labor Day with many people leaving the Enchanted Circle area to go home.

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Angel Fire RV Resort – one of the pretty paths in the park

Angel Fire RV Resort guests are granted full access to all resort amenities, no matter where they are located in the area.

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Angel Fire Resort Hotel at the ski area. RV Resort guests are permitted to use all resort facilities, even at the hotel.

Hubby played golf at the resort on our first day in the area and received a discount, and we were also given two free passes to ride the chairlift to the top of the ski mountain, compliments of the resort, worth $24.  It’s definitely worth taking these free and discounted items into account when deciding where to park the RV in this area.

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Gorgeous flowers were all around the RV park, and we felt that we were camping in a flower garden.

RVs older than ten years must be pre-approved to stay at Angel Fire RV Resort.  Since ours is more than ten years old, I sent a few photos to the RV resort office by email, and we were immediately approved for our stay.  I will also share that this is definitely the most expensive RV park we have ever stayed in at about $70 per night, but after our awesome experience there, we would do it again in a heartbeat for a special vacation week such as this.  If we took a nice vacation, stayed in a hotel and boarded the dogs, we would spend almost $60 per night just on boarding, so being able to bring them along on a nice vacation helped to justify this nightly rate.  Plus, we had them along for the fun!  After all, we are dog people.

We truly loved the spectacular views from the park, especially on the surreal foggy mornings we enjoyed our first few days there.

All the RV park amenities can be found on their website.  What we enjoyed the most was the pad site itself (long and level), nice views of the area, gated security (since it is just off a busy road), outdoor hot tub, gorgeous landscaping everywhere in the park and the big, grassy “Bark Park” to let our dogs run off-leash a few times each day, which was a lot of fun for all of us.

While this is already a beautiful RV park with amazing landscaping and flowers, it’s going to be even more beautiful in a few years as the trees grow taller.  There are a lot of trees in the park, and it should be a stunning place, for sure.

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View of Angel Fire Ski Area from our RV site, slightly zoomed in
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Evenings were just beautiful as the sun set with a mostly unobstructed view of the brilliant colors

The large conference center on property is really nice.  It also houses another camper restroom/shower facility with an outside entrance.  This was the closest restroom/shower facility for us, and we opted to shower there on two days, just because it was so very nice!  Just outside the center, we also enjoyed simply rocking in the nice wooden rockers in the evening after the campfire was lit.

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Conference center in the RV park for gatherings and concerts

To say the pups were happy at the “Bark Park” is an understatement!  Next time, I will bring their Frisbee along.  Having this nice dog park made us realize how much we wish other RV parks would consider adding one, too.

On the food front, there is a nice, well-stocked grocery store in Angel Fire, which is good to know since we discovered that there are only a few restaurants in the area.  On the morning we departed for home, we also filled the RV with gas at a pump at the grocery store, too.

We dined out twice in Angel Fire and certainly enjoyed our food both times.  We enjoyed a good pizza at Angel Fired Pizza for lunch.  This restaurant is located on the second floor of a shopping center next to the grocery store, and we had a great view of the ski mountain as we dined.  We also ate breakfast at The Bakery and Café at Angel Fire on our last full day in the area, and it was so good!  I had a huge breakfast burrito, and it was almost more than I could eat, but somehow, I managed to eat the whole thing.  They are not open for dinner, just breakfast and lunch.

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My huge breakfast burrito at Angel Fire Bakery and Café with green chile gravy and salsa on the side.  I. Ate. Every. Bite!

Trails in the Angel Fire area allow dogs, something that is actually a bit rare for many areas in New Mexico.

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Deer Trail in Angel Fire
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Trailhead in Angel Fire

We really enjoyed hiking one of the resort trails with the dogs one cool morning, and this trailhead is located just behind the Angel Fire Visitor’s Center in town.

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Hiking on a clear, cool morning with the dogs

The resort golf course is very pretty and is located just outside town.  Hubby enjoyed playing the course, even though some brief rain showers interrupted play for a bit.

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Angel Fire Country Club
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Driving range

The resort lake, which is just past the golf course, is also a pretty place to visit, picnic, fish or rent a paddle boat.

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Monte Verde Lake – Angel Fire Resort

One of the highlights of our trip was using our complimentary tickets from the resort and riding the chair lift to the top of the ski area.  In years gone by, we brought our kids skiing here on a few occasions with other families from our church, so it was a bit surreal to ride the chairlift with no snow on the ground below us.  It was even more awesome to ride it back down with the fabulous views of Angel Fire below us, growing closer and closer as we approached the base of the lift.  Truly, the views riding back down were just fabulous!

In the warmer months, Angel Fire Ski Resort transitions to Angel Fire Bike Park, offering a large selection of downhill bike trails.

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Big map at the top of the mountain

On the Friday we visited, there were several cyclists riding the chair lift up with their special bikes to ride the trails back to the bottom, and I admit that it looked like a lot of fun, too.  The trails are rated by difficulty, just like the ski trails in winter.  We could probably ride the green trails and may have to give this a try before we get much older.  If we opt to do that, we will rent our bikes and other gear at one of the local shops nearby.

We dined at the outdoor grill at the top of the mountain for lunch.  On the day we were there is was not too crowded, so it was a pleasant experience for us with great views.

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View of Eagle Nest Lake and the town of Eagle Nest from the top of the ski mountain
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Lunch cooked outside at the top of the mountain made for a great dining experience

At the top of the mountain resides an 18-hole disc golf course.  We walked over to the first two holes after lunch, and it looks like a lot of fun.  Just be aware that the altitude might take a bit to get used to.  I started to feel pretty lightheaded while we were there, so we decided to forego any further exploration and head back down the mountain.

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Map of the 18 hole disc golf course at the top of the mountain
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Look at the rough on this Frisbee golf course!

The resort also offers a zip line at the top of the mountain for those inclined to even more adventure.  I’m not sure I’m ready for something like this, but I might could be talked into it, too.

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Zip Line at Angel Fire Ski Resort – It’s straight down the mountain from here!

We also made a quick afternoon drive to check out Coyote Creek State Park to the south of Angel Fire.  This state park is remote, very pretty and has some hookups, but I doubt we ever take our RV there, since RVs are not permitted on the road between the park and Angel Fire… and for good reason.  Vehicles over ten feet are not permitted on this road that is quite narrow in one stretch.  Visitors to this state park must drive their RVs in from the south instead.

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Entrance to Coyote Creek State Park, south of Angel Fire
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A few RV sites on the river at Coyote Creek State Park

The drive to and from the state park was beautiful on a narrow and winding road through the tall trees, and we even stopped at one pullout to let the dogs get in the creek.

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Old abandoned log cabins on our drive

Girly Girl jumped right in the water, but Big Red wanted none of it.  Fortunately, we brought along some old towels on the drive.  Carry old towels is something we actually do most of the time when on vacation, especially when bringing the dogs with us.

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Big Red wouldn’t get in the water
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Girly Girl has always loved playing in the water and jumped right in

We had a great time re-visiting this area after many years and look forward to returning again in the future.  Our experience with Angel Fire RV Resort was so good that I suspect we will continue to base camp there, even if we stop over at Cimarron Canyon State Park for a night or two and maybe a night at Eagle Nest Lake State Park on the way next time.  I also hope to spend a little more time in Taos and Red River next time, if possible, especially Taos.

We didn’t actually drive the Enchanted Circle highway between Taos and Questa, and that was our plan for this trip due to time constraints.  On a future trip, we hope to complete the circle and visit that area, too.

I have one more post to share to complete my posts on this great trip, sharing some sights we saw on our drive to this area, especially Capulin Volcano National Monument in northern New Mexico.  Look for that one soon!

For more good, detailed information on visiting the Enchanted Circle, please check out the article below.

Legends of America – Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway

Fair Week

One of my favorite weeks of the entire year is fair week.  Typically, the weather is cooling down, and we may even receive beneficial rains, which proved true in a big way this year!  I have a little rain update toward the end of this post, too.

While my parents were really not fair-goers, I began going with my friends on school days back in the 60s, and I have been attending the fair almost every year since then.  These days, I seldom even venture into the area where the rides are, though, as we mostly just enjoy the area where the local food vendors and the exhibits are located.  The fair does not charge to get through the gates until after lunchtime, which helps to support the efforts of all of the local food vendors and their respective charities.

I have been taking my elderly mother out to the fair for lunch every year now for a while, and even at 93, she is still able to walk that area on her own with the help of her walker.  I am so grateful for her good health and how she recovered so well from her fall back in January, and we had a nice time together at the fair on Monday once again.  We sat in “our booth” inside one of the larger restaurants and enjoyed some less-than-healthy food, as I am taking a week-long break of sorts from my diet for the fair and for our upcoming camping trip with friends on Wednesday.  Honestly, I enjoy a burger without the bun as much as a traditional burger these days, but we both enjoyed traditional burger and a very few curly fries for lunch.

I have posted several times about my fair experiences in recent years, including the year not long ago when I won two blue ribbons for my photography.  I have not entered any photographs since that year either, as it was quite a bit of work to prepare the photographs and get them framed properly.

As always, our main incentive to attend the fair is to partake of the amazing apricot fried pies.  They are legendary here, as they are made by members of a local church.  Church members make and freeze them over the course of the entire year to have enough to sell during the nine days that the fair is open, and they are cooked on site at the fair.  I purchased a few extra pies to take with us on our upcoming RV trip tomorrow, and I will just have to hike a little more this weekend to work off those extra calories, which should not be hard to do at all.  I planned this break back in January when I talked myself into starting my diet but only if I had lost at least 30 pounds.  I am now close to 40 pounds down, and my blood pressure has dropped 40 points, so I am enjoying a guilt-free week of enjoying a few foods that will once again be off-limits for a while next week.

My previous posts and pictures about the fair can be found here.

My celebration treat - a homemade apricot fried pie!
My celebration treat – a homemade apricot fried pie!

Our area has recently received some much-needed rainfall from the remnants of Hurricane Odile, and two of our watersheds are up significantly.  Lake J. B. Thomas was 1% full and is now 43% full!  Lake Alan Henry, which is a significant water source for us, was 53% full and is now up 8.8 feet and is 76% full!  There are other reservoirs that desperately need water, but we are so thrilled about the rise in these two lakes, especially Lake Alan Henry.  The water gain at Lake Alan Henry over the past week equaled the entire evaporation loss in the worst year of the drought in 2011, which is just absolutely amazing to see.  In that year, the lake lost 5.5 billion gallons of water due to evaporation alone, but over the past week, the lake’s storage capacity increased 5.54 billion gallons.  The drought continues, but we are ever so thankful for the blessing of ten days of much-needed rain!  Many prayers have been answered, and we will continue to pray for more rain and an end to the drought.

It is wonderful to see everything so green again, and we will enjoy our upcoming weeks of fall temperatures and beautiful landscapes until winter finally sets in later on.  I absolutely love this time of the year, and we are very excited to be traveling in the RV again this week to one of our favorite camping destinations!

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Magnificent Big Sur

In my previous post, Two Days in Kauai, I shared about the first part of our big celebration trip back in May.  However, I failed to mention exactly what all we were celebrating.  We opted to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary a month early, as well as my birthday and Mother’s Day which fell during that same week.  On my actual birthday, we ate breakfast by the ocean in Kauai, ate dinner in San Francisco and saw our daughter and son-in-law again for the first time in several months.  Even though my 56th birthday was shortest one ever, due to the time we lost crossing time zones, I have to say it was probably the best one ever!  Now, back to the second part of this fun trip!

This second part of our celebration trip took us on a fun weekend excursion through Big Sur with both of the kids.

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Map of Big Sur Area

 On that Friday, our flight from Lihue, Kauai to San Francisco International Airport, arrived about 9 pm.  Thankfully, this flight was the total opposite of our flight to Kauai a few days earlier, as I shared in a previous post, and with a good tailwind behind us, we actually arrived almost an hour early.  This gave us time to grab a late dinner at the airport before the our daughter and son-in-law arrived to pick us up and take us to our hotel for the night.  It all worked out perfectly, and we had a great visit in the car on our thirty minute drive to the Hilton hotel near their apartment.  I couldn’t have asked for a nicer way to end my birthday than to see my girl once again.

The next morning after a quick breakfast at the hotel, we all headed directly south to Monterey via Highway 101 from the San Jose area.  From there, we continued to head south on scenic Highway 1 through Carmel and on to the Big Sur area.  On previous trips to the area, we spent quite a bit of time in Monterey and a little bit of time in Carmel, as well as driving the famous 17-Mile Drive through Pebble Beach.  I love this beautiful area, and this was our first time to venture further south from Carmel.  The kids frequent the Big Sur area on weekends to hike and to go backpacking, so we had two very knowledgeable tour guides, for sure.

 Our plan for the weekend in Big Sur was to basically drive the entire length of Highway 1 to Ragged Point, which is at the southern end of Big Sur, have a nice dinner, spend the night there, and then begin our drive back to San Francisco on Sunday with a few stops on the way.  It was a perfect itinerary and could not have been nicer.  The views around every turn in the road were picture postcard perfect and did not disappoint.  This was also the first time that the kids had driven all the way to Ragged Point, so the southernmost end of Big Sur was new to them as well.  While I found our overnight lodging in Ragged Point, our son-in-law was in charge of planning most of our sight-seeing stops, and he did a great job!

Our first stop on Saturday was in Monterey for lunch, and our favorite place to dine in Monterey is Fisherman’s Wharf for seafood.  Sadly, I cannot specifically recall the restaurant where we dined, but the food was wonderful once again, as was the company.

After a quick stop in Carmel to get gas for the eighty-mile drive each way through Big Sur, we then stopped at the Big Sur Bakery and Restaurant in Big Sur.

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Big Sur Bakery and Restaurant

We just wanted to grab a quick cup of coffee, and the others also had a little sweet treat.  I was good and passed on the sweets, although it was quite tempting to indulge right along with them.  It was worth a stop here just to see all of the beautiful landscaping at this quaint little place, too.  It is not a big restaurant, but the landscaping is amazing, and I could have spent even more time just taking in all of the unique plants growing there.

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Beautiful landscaping at the Big Sur Bakery

We then drove to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, where we parked on the side of Highway 1 and walked along a scenic trail to view the famous McWay waterfall on the beach, where we were certainly just one of many groups of people doing the exact same thing.  This is such a gorgeous sight that is not to be missed when in this area, and we very much enjoyed the short hike to the overlook where it can be best viewed.  Click on the picture of the waterfall below to see it larger, too.

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Driving through Big Sur on scenic Highway 1
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McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
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Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

From there, we continued driving south on Highway 1, pulling over occasionally to take pictures and taking a few short walks at sites the kids had previously visited and wanted us to see.  We also crossed two scenic bridges, including the famous and frequently photographed Bixby Creek Bridge, and also passed through a newly completed tunnel along the way at Pitkins Curve, too.

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One of the scenic bridges along Highway 1 through Big Sur

Around 6 pm, we finally arrived at our destination for the evening at the beautiful and quaint Ragged Point Inn, where thankfully, we had reservations for Saturday night.  We discovered a couple of months prior to this trip that reservations for lodging are an absolutely must in the Big Sur area, as almost every lodging option there sells out on weekends.  While Ragged Point Inn is a bit more expensive than some other places, we were thankful to get reservations there for the night, and it was well worth the price, in our opinion.

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Sunset at Ragged Point Inn

Ragged Point Inn is a gorgeous place that sits right on the edge of the cliff.  Pictures just cannot do it justice.

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View from the front door of our room at Ragged Point Inn
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Beautiful landscaping at Ragged Point Inn
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A neat picture spot at Ragged Point Inn
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Secluded pond at Ragged Point Inn
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Garden walkway at Ragged Point Inn

We enjoyed dinner at the hotel restaurant that night just after sunset as a belated birthday dinner for me from the kids.  The food was absolutely fabulous, too.  The kids also gave me a beautiful pair of emerald earrings, which was very special, since emerald is my birthstone.

The next morning, we all met back at the restaurant for yet another great meal together, then daughter and I stayed behind with our coffee cups as hubby and son-in-law hiked the steep trail down to the beach below.

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Restaurant at Ragged Point Inn
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The hike down to the beach below at Ragged Point Inn is quite steep!

It was so nice to have an hour alone with my girl, and we had a great chat.  I would have loved more time alone with her, but as this was just a quick weekend trip, that would be our only time to visit together alone on this trip.

After the guys finished their strenuous hike and after daughter and I finished our nice chat, we all headed back north through Big Sur, retracing our drive from the previous day back to San Francisco.  We stopped for about two hours at a Limekiln State Park, where we hiked two stunningly beautiful trails through some nice sequoia trees to a waterfall, then to the old lime kilns.

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Creek in Limekiln State Park
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Our hike took us through the sequoia trees and beside babbling creeks in Limekiln State Park.
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Plaque on a bench in Limekiln State Park – a great quote by John Muir
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Hiking through the sequoia trees at Limekiln State Park
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One of the old lime kilns at Limekiln State Park
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Waterfall at Limekiln State Park
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Waterfall at Limekiln State Park

The trail crossed the creek several times, which is something I’m not used to on a hike, for sure.  Thankfully, son-in-law let me borrow his hiking stick, or I would probably have landed right in the water more than once.

After we finished our hike on the beautiful trails, we walked down to the beach and just enjoyed a few more minutes there, sitting on the big rocks, listening to the waves, and visiting with a fisherman who had just come in from a fishing trip.

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Beach at Limekiln State Park
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Beach at Limekiln State Park

After our wonderful hike at Limekiln State Park, we made one last stop for a late lunch at Nepenthe, which is a great place to dine outside while experiencing the fabulous view along the coast.  While we waited for our table, we enjoyed shopping at the Phoenix gift shop on the lower level and found some unique souvenirs.  The food was great, and we would definitely stop here to dine again when we go back to this area.

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Menu at Nepenthe
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The view from our table at Nepenthe

Sadly, Nepenthe was our final stop of the trip before the kids dropped us at our hotel near the San Francisco airport around 7 pm.  We had to catch a very early flight the next morning, and the kids still had to drive back to their own town and get ready for work the next day.  Hubby and I ate a quick dinner at the hotel, repacked our bags for our flight home, and headed to bed.

Our celebration trip to Kauai and Big Sur was such great fun for us.  While we were a bit concerned about being on the move so much during the week, we both found it to be a non-issue this time.  Our weekend RV trips give us plenty of opportunities to get away and just relax for a few days, so our week-long on-the-move sightseeing trip proved to be a nice change and a memorable experience, for sure.

We also celebrated our actual 35th anniversary here at home on June 16 by dining out at one of our favorite local steak restaurants for dinner together.  I just could not ask for a nicer anniversary celebration this year, and I will always treasure these special days of celebration together!

P.S. – I just found this great link for a one-week itinerary to travel the grand circle of San Francisco, Yosemite and Big Sur that would be a fabulous trip!

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Two Days in Kauai

“Two days in Kauai is better than no days in Kauai,” or at least that is what I kept telling myself after we had to change our outgoing flights due to inclement weather in Denver last month, causing us to lose the better part of a day on this fabulous island.  We actually had three nights and two and a half days there, after the flight change, and we made the most of our brief time there, especially since this was our third trip to this special island.

On this particular trip, we wanted to just get away for a little relaxation and relaxed sightseeing before heading to the bay area of California to see our daughter and son-in-law, and that is exactly what we did with our brief time on the island.  As it turned out, this is actually an itinerary that I would highly recommend to others that might have only two or three days on the island, with the possible exception of quick visits to Poipu Beach,  Waimea Falls and/or Wailua River State Park, all of which we have seen on previous trips to Kauai.  Unfortunately, we had to cancel a planned lunch visit at Gaylord’s at Kilohana near Lihue on our arrival day, since our flight did not arrive until 7 pm that night after the flight was rescheduled.  We hope to go back again sometime and dine there and see this beautiful place that came highly recommended by a friend.

To see a good map of attractions on Kauai, including most of the attractions listed below, I recommend checking out Frommer’s map here.

In an earlier post, I shared about our experience at LAX and our subsequent flight to Lihue, both of which were definitely not pleasant.  But despite those experiences, we were just thrilled to finally be back on Kauai once again around 7 pm Hawaiian time, as it had been six years since our last visit there.  Kauai is one of those special places that we “connected to” right away back in the 1990’s, and we will likely try to return for a visit as often as we can do so for the rest of our lives.

Welcome to Kauai

The Marriott:  We spent our first of three nights on Kauai at the beautiful Marriott hotel and resort, which is only a ten minute drive from the airport.  This is a truly fabulous hotel, and it was even gorgeous at night.  We opted to stay here on our first night for two reasons.  We had never stayed at this gorgeous place before, and they had a $199 special for that night.  We also wanted to visit Waimea Canyon State Park and Koke’e State Park before driving to Princeville, where we would stay the next two nights, so staying near the airport saved us quite a bit of driving time.  As it turned out, staying here was also a God-send for me, because I was so sick at my stomach when we arrived that I don’t think I could have made it on the longer drive up to Princeville anyway.  I was never so glad to see a bed and some nausea medicine in my life.  😉

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The Marriott near Lihue, Kauai

After finally taking some medicine to help settle my stomach, I slept like a baby that first night.  The next morning, we ate breakfast by the amazing pool with a great view of the ocean just in the distance.  Despite the fact that my stomach was still a little “iffy,” I enjoyed a good Eggs Benedict and a cup of Hawaiian coffee.  Eggs Benedict is my favorite breakfast food, so things were now off to a great start.

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View from our room at the Marriott
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Breakfast by the pool – what a view!

After breakfast, we took a long stroll around the property, and we had a particularly nice stroll along the beach and through the beautiful garden.  The hotel put out cups of fish food for the Koi fish, so we grabbed a small cup and fed the fish for a few minutes, along with several other hotel guests.

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Garden at the Marriott

After winding up our tour of the property, we opted to go ahead and check out of the hotel to continue with the rest of our time on the island, starting with out next stop at Waimea Canyon State Park.

Waimea Canyon State Park:  The “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” is a must-see in my opinion, and it is an amazing sight.  We stopped once again at the popular lookout point where Waipoo Falls can also be seen in the distance at the far left in the photo below.  Photos just cannot do justice to a place like this, as the canyon continues to the right, all the way to the ocean several miles away.

Waimea Canyon and Waipoo Falls
Waimea Canyon and Waipoo Falls

After taking a few more photos, we then continued on up the mountain to Koke’e State Park and the Kalalau and Pu’u o Kila Lookouts.

Koke’e State Park / Kalalau and Pu’u o Kila Lookouts:  The view from the Kalalau and Pu’u o Kila Lookouts, which are only about a half mile apart, still remain the most impressive views of nature that I have ever seen, without a doubt.  The dramatic drop from the 5000 foot lookout points directly to the Pacific Ocean below, and through the beautiful Na Pali Coast State Park land, is nothing short of breath-taking.  While many people stop at the Kalalau Lookout and never proceed to the end of the road at the Pu’u o Kila Lookout, we actually prefer the fabulous view at Pu’u o Kila.  You are not confined to a small area behind a fence, and you can actually see a more unobstructed view up there.  This is also where the Pihea hiking trail begins.  If you bring small children along, be especially careful at Pu’u o Kila, as the terrain is much rougher and there is no fence to protect people from falling over the edge.  It is a very long way down, too!  Wear good tennis or hiking shoes at Pu’u o Kila, or just visit the Kalalau Lookout if wearing flip flops.

Kalalau Lookout at Kokee State Park
Kalalau Lookout at Kokee State Park (panorama)

As we spent some time up here at Pu’u, our view was partially obstructed by clouds once again, just as it did on our last visit here, but the clouds did not bother us.  Literally being up in the clouds at this place is an unforgettable experience on its own.

Pu'u o Kila Lookout
Our family was literally up in the clouds at Pu’u o Kila on a previous trip!

After leaving the lookout, we made a brief lunch stop at the cozy little restaurant in Koke’e State Park and enjoyed both a good sandwich and the wildlife there, including many of the famous wild chickens that are now found pretty much everywhere on the island.  “What’s Up with All the Chickens? A Bit of Kauai History!” tells more about how this plethora of chickens on the island came to be.  Trust me, they are everywhere!

After lunch, we drove about two hours, which is about as far as you can drive around the island, up to the amazingly beautiful Princeville resort area on the north shore to check in at the Westin resort for our next two nights on the island.  The entire area along the northern part of Kauai from the small town of Kilauea to Haena State Park at the end of the road is nothing short of paradise to me, as the scenery is absolutely spectacular.  Just think of the scenery in Jurassic Park and that is what you have here, as that movie was filmed not far from this area.

Princeville Resort:  Princeville is a large resort area on the north shore, and this is where we like to stay on the island.  The small town of Hanalei is a short drive to the west on the other side of Hanalei Bay, but the resort area actually has a nice little shopping area with a good grocery store nearby, too.  More information about Princeville can be found at the link provided.  If you want to stay at a top hotel, pull out your wallet and stay at the St. Regis on Hanalei Bay.  We dined there on Mother’s Day on our previous trip, and it was fabulous.  I would also highly recommend the fun activities at the Princeville Ranch nearby, too.  On our last trip, my daughter and I took a guided horseback trip with them through some beautiful inland countryside, followed by an energetic hike to a hidden pool and falls where we even went swimming.  It is a special memory that I will always treasure with her, and we had a fabulous time.

Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas:  This was our first time to stay at this beautiful resort, and our second time to stay in a condo in Princeville.  After our first trip to Kauai in the 1990’s when we stayed with our small children on the east coast, we knew that we would most enjoy our time here on future trips by staying in the Princeville area on the north shore, especially if we could rent a cozy condo.  Condos are the most prevalent lodging option in Princeville, and staying in a condo absolutely fits our style for a laid-back vacation like this.  We previously rented a larger condo for the five of us in our family from The Cliffs and Princeville and would absolutely rent from them again if we took everyone in our family back again.

Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas
The Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas
Nene Birds
Some endangered Hawaiian Nenes wanted to come in and join us for breakfast in our condo
A long waterfall can be seen in the distance behind the Westin resort
A long waterfall can be seen in the distance behind the Westin resort

Kauai North Shore General Store Pizza:  After settling into our condo, we drove to the shopping center in Princeville and ordered a couple of take-out pizzas from the Chevron station (aka the North Shore General Store).  Yes, we ordered pizzas at the gas station store!  This is something that I read about online from another traveler, and we decided to give it a try.  The small store actually has a brick pizza oven in the back, and we found that we were not the only ones ordering take-out pizzas that night.  They cooked our two small pizzas while we bought a few items at the grocery store nearby, and we just picked the pizzas up when we were done.  This was the first pizza that I had eaten since I started my diet back in January, and it was so good!  After dinner, we took a quick walk around the property, and at 9 pm, which still felt like 2 am by our time at home, we headed for bed.

Hanalei Bay:  We did not have time to visit Hanalei Bay on this trip, but I grabbed a quick photo of it from the lookout point on our drive to Ke’e Beach.  We visited this beautiful spot on our previous trip six years ago, including Mother’s Day brunch with my whole family at the amazing St. Regis Resort there, and that will always remain one of my most precious memories ever!

Beautiful Hanalei Bay
Beautiful Hanalei Bay (panorama)

Ha’ena State Park / Ke’e Beach:  This is my favorite beach in the entire world and what I like to call my “happy place.”  It is such a dramatic view to see the tall mountains that literally sit right on the ocean at the end of the beach.  This is where the famous Na Pali Coast begins, including the epic hiking trail that goes for about eleven miles along the Na’Pali coast.  Ke’e Beach is as close to a perfect place on this planet as anywhere I have ever been, and if it was possible to go and not have to almost fight for a place to park, it would be absolutely perfect.

Ke'e Beach Mountains
The beautiful mountains and lush greenery at Ke’e Beach
Ke'e Beach
Ke’e Beach is protected by a coral reef and is a great place to swim and snorkel.

Hanalei Valley Lookout:  This famous view can be seen just off the side of the road in Princeville.  On our previous trip, my husband and I actually drove along the road seen below for several miles through the back country on a beautiful drive.

Hanalei Valley Overlook
Hanalei Valley Overlook

After our morning at beautiful Ke’e Beach, we came back to the resort, ate the rest of our pizza from the night before, and enjoyed a couple of hours at the pools on the property.  We also enjoyed visiting with another couple from Texas for much of that time, too.

Infinity Pool at the Westin
Infinity pool at the Westin
Oceanside Pool and Hot Tub at the Westin
Oceanside pool and hot tub at the Westin

Anini Beach:  After our nice, relaxing time poolside at the resort, we decided to check out a new-to-us beach nearby that we still had not seen on our two previous trips to Kauai.  The drive to Anini Beach was a beautiful drive, and if we ever go back to Kauai and stay at Princeville, I think we will definitely try to spend some time at this nice beach and possibly try some snorkeling.

Hanalei Dolphin Restaurant:  We discovered this great seafood restaurant in Hanalei on our previous trip in 2008, and we did not hesitate to go back and eat there for our last dinner on the island on this trip.  Once again, the seafood was delicious, and the sunset ambiance along the Hanalei river was so very nice, too.  On our previous trip, in addition to dining here, we also purchased fresh fish from their fish market at the back of the building to grill back at our condo.

Dolphin Restaurant in Hanalei
The Dolphin Restaurant in Hanalei is one of our favorite places to eat in the area.
Dolphin Restaurant on the Hanalei River
Dolphin Restaurant on the Hanalei River

Hanalei Shopping – Ching Young Village:  After we checked out of our condo the next morning, we took advantage of our remaining time on the island to first buy a few souvenirs in Hanalei at Ching Young Village, where we also purchased some souvenirs on our previous trip.  We found some good quality shirts and hats at a small store there once again.

Kilauea Lighthouse and National Wildlife Refuge:  This is yet another of my favorite places on the island, and I’m glad that we found a few minutes to stop here once again before we had to leave for the airport.  I’m very fond of lighthouses and do not get to see them very often.  This is such a beautiful and peaceful place, and it was a perfect farewell stop for us.  It is one of the most scenic lighthouses in the world, and the bird watching is magnificent, since it is also a wildlife refuge.  It is a popular stop for tourists, for good reason.  We arrived just before 10 am and waited outside the gate until the refuge opened for the day.  That was a great time to visit, since there were few others there that early in the day.

View of Kilauea Lightouse
View of Kilauea Lightouse
Kilauea Lighthouse
Kilauea Lighthouse
Kilauea National Wildlife Refuge 1
Kilauea National Wildlife Refuge
Kilauea National Wildlife Refuge 2
“Bird Island” at Kilauea National Wildlife Refuge
Kilauea National Wildlife Refuge 3
Kilauea National Wildlife Refuge

Lihue Airport:  One of the best things about arriving and departing from Kauai is the airport itself, in my opinion.  You know you are in paradise when the main areas of the airport are open-air and have beautiful flowers growing all around.

Beautiful flowers at the Lihue Airport
Beautiful flowers inside the Lihue Airport

We grabbed a quick bite of lunch in one of the restaurants at the airport before boarding our next flight to San Francisco and the rest of our trip.  We would soon meet up with our daughter and son-in-law for a beautiful weekend in Big Sur for the first time!

Leaving Kauai
Leaving Kauai

If you would like to read the first post in this series, please read The Flight to Kauai, and if you would like to read the last post in this series, please read Magnificent Big Sur. 🙂

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