Whitewater Lake

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Whitewater Lake isn’t far from where I live.  We had such an amazing afternoon there, and so I wanted to share some of the pictures I took.  This was one of the most perfect ways to spend one of the last few days of summer.  My girls had a blast watching the turtles and the muskrats that were floating on the surface of the water.  They even tried to make their own fishing poles while we were there and attempted to catch some fish.  Overall, it was a very fun day and I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to spend this time with my girls.

Day 20 of our 21 day adventure

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We slept in this morning, and oh how glorious it was to finally be able to get some much needed rest. We have another full day of driving ahead of us though and so we can’t really dilly dally all day long. So… after quickly checking out of our hotel, we are now on our way to Urbandale, IA.

IMG_2593After a couple of hours of driving, we spot an Air and Space Museum and decide that we can’t possibly pass this up. We both love airplanes and if I hadn’t joined the Army, I probably would have joined the Air Force. I have always had a fondness for anything related to space as well. So this is the perfect place for us to spend an afternoon.

IMG_2619I am completely amazed by the sheer size of some of the aircraft. It’s hard to believe that something this large can actually make it off the ground. I’ve seen plenty of airplanes in my life, but these are huge! After making our way through the self-guided tour, we stop in the gift shop and buy some much needed space ice cream and some other small trinkets that we are sure that our girls will like.

IMG_2604We are back on the road within a few hours and still making good time, even though the traffic has picked up. After arriving at our hotel, we are surprised to find that our room resembles at hospital room. We are in a very crowded district here in Urbandale and after settling in, we try to figure out what to do for dinner. Neither of us really wants to venture out into the traffic, and fortunately we find out that there is a very nice restaurant within walking distance of the hotel and so we decide to eat there for dinner to avoid the traffic on the roads.

IMG_2633The place turns out to be quite charming, its country style suits me. The place is called the Machine Shed and honors the American farmer. I am very surprised at how amazing the food is. The people here are really friendly and this is such a great way to end our day. We’ve had an amazing adventure so far and this will be our last dinner on the road. Tomorrow we head for home. Ahh… Home Sweet Home! I can hardly wait!

Day 10 of our 21 day adventure

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It’s 6:00 a.m. and stifling in our room! After checking the thermostat, I realize why it feels so hot in here; it’s 80°! I quickly call maintenance and a man shows up within a few minutes to check everything out. It turns out that our room needs a new condenser unit and until then, we are without AC. Lovely… I think to myself. The good thing is, we aren’t going to be in our room very long today and the maintenance guy promises that by the time we get back, everything will be fixed.

IMG_0950We hurriedly get ready so that maintenance can come and do their thing. We escape to the bagel shop to pick up a few sandwiches to take with us for lunch. After ensuring that we have plenty of water and supplies for the day ahead, we make a beeline for Red Rock Canyon where we will be hiking for the majority of the day.

IMG_0946I am surprised to see that the temperature has dropped about 20 degrees and I notice storms on the horizon that seem to evaporate as quickly as they appear. After driving for about 30 minutes, we are finally at our destination. The rock formations are filled with color and radiant in their beauty. As soon as we find the first look-out site, we stop and begin to explore. The first area is steep and there isn’t much of a trail. The valley below us is full of large boulders and there are quite a few people climbing down into the deep gorge. Brian and I begin to climb down the rocky path over-looking a large ravine. We’ve only been here 10 minutes, and already the rain has begun. We find a shallow cave to crouch under and wait for the rain to quit. It isn’t long before it’s bright and sunny again.

IMG_0896I am excited to see what’s next and we travel further up the road. After finding a quiet picnic area and finding a place to park, we take a look around. We spot some potential trails, but nothing that looks like they are very well traveled. After closer inspection, I spot what looks like a trail leading back through some brush and rocky bluffs. The trail is hard to follow and at one point the trail seems to come to an abrupt end. I scoot myself up over a large boulder to get a better look and notice a small trail continues just beyond the thick brush and boulders that are blocking our way. Up over the boulder we go; tree branches dangle down all around us and it’s a tight squeeze through the low lying limbs. Eventually we manage to find the narrow trail and follow it until we reach a narrow enclave that now really does end abruptly.

IMG_0974I notice how beautiful the walls of the rocks are here and looking up I can barely see the sky because of the narrow rock walls that surround us. I notice some pegs that are hammered deep into the stone and realize that we are standing in the middle of what must be a very well-known climbing spot. There are climbing pegs everywhere. I wonder how anyone can scale these walls. The way the walls curve inward, would make it hard for anyone to get a foothold. The stone is cut so smooth, that without the pegs, I am sure nobody would be able to climb these walls. After spending a few minutes soaking up the scenery, we decide to head back to the picnic area to eat our lunch. It’s starting to sprinkle again and the rain feels refreshing.

IMG_0981After eating, we find our way back to the car and stop several more times to get out and take pictures. Eventually we spot a place that looks like a great hiking spot and opt for the 2.5 mile hike. The trail is narrow and very steep; weaving its way up and down through the valley. Before long, we realize that we have been hiking for quite a while. The trail has been forking off into different directions and we are convinced that we have lost our way. The only thing we can do is to find another trail to take us back. Unfortunately every way we turn, just seems to take us deeper into the valley and away from our car. With no other ideas and unsure of which trail we originally took to get us this far, we decide to go off the trail and walk back in the same direction in which we came. It’s slow going because the sand is soft and heavy. With every step we take, we sink further into the ground. Fortunately, we can see the road from where we’re at and so we are able to find our way back using the road as our guide. At last we return to the car, beaten down from the sun and tired from walking through the heavy sand.

IMG_1004I surprise even myself when I suggest that we stop at one more look-out. We stop at a place that overlooks the entire valley of Red Rock Canyon. The area is very open and treeless, with just a few small bushes scattered about. I decide to climb down from the look-out area to see what else can be found. All of a sudden, I notice several rocks stacked up in various places. I realize quickly that we are in what appears to be a memorial area. There are several rocks with names carved into them, with smaller rocks stacked on top. I decide to participate and gather up some stones to create my own rock sculpture. I feel sad for the people whose memories cover this place. I even wonder to myself if there are actually people buried here. The way the rocks are set up everywhere, it looks like there very well could be people buried beneath them. It’s an eerie thought. After contemplating such things, we are now heading back to the resort.

IMG_0988Back in our room, I notice that the temperature is now even higher than it was before we left. The maintenance guy assured me that everything would be taken care of, but obviously something is still wrong. I inquire at the front desk and learn that the problem was never reported by maintenance and so nobody had done anything to remedy the situation. The maintenance guys are great and fix the problem right away. Now everything is working again and we are happy to have a break from the warm Nevada air. The staff is very kind to us and surprises us with two boxes of chocolates for being such good sports about the whole thing.

IMG_0991We are finishing up the night with a quick trip to Red Rock Casino. It’s a short distance from where were at and the place seems less crowded than Las Vegas Boulevard. Still… we’ve been here an hour now and our luck isn’t panning out. It’s time to head back to the resort and call it a night. It was a great day, but an exhausting one too and I am thankful to God for air-conditioning right now!

Day 6 of our 21 day adventure

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Just taking one last look around the room to make sure that I haven’t forgotten anything. It’s with a heavy heart that I leave this glorious place. Being a princess for a day was so much fun. A last long look out of the tower window will have to tide me over until the next thrilling moment occurs. With a sigh, I am determined to have another grand adventure, even though this one here at the Luxor is now ending.

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Brian and I pile into the elevator with our mounds of luggage. Watchful eyes scrutinize our every move and I am thankful when we finally make it to the check-out desk. With a quick exchange of information and the final bill paid, we head out to the find the car. A wall of thick steamy air suffocates us within seconds of leaving the air-conditioned sanctuary.

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We finally spot our car and hurriedly throw everything into the trunk. We scurry back to the casino to escape the inferno that engulfs us. I immediately feel a cold chill as if ice water is pouring over me from head to toe. I look down to grab my sweatshirt, which I had slung over my purse earlier in the day. Now it seems, to my dismay, that it is nowhere to be found. After taking a few minutes to retrace my steps, and still not finding my sweatshirt, I wonder if it’s worth going back out into the stifling heat to look for it. I explore all of my options, quickly rifling through them in the work center of my brain. Ding! The answer comes to me, and I race to find the nearest security kiosk.

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I feel stupid as I explain my pitiful situation and know that I am secretly the biggest cheapskate alive. I mean a sweatshirt… of all things to report as missing… The poor lady in front of me is missing her laptop, and here I am practically crying over a plain black sweatshirt that I purchased from Goodwill.

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After explaining the discouraging downfall to my otherwise perfectly wonderful day, and filling out about a gazillion forms after pleading my case, we are finally on our way to that grand adventure that I was so hopeful to find today. I can’t shake feeling disappointed in myself and wish that I could just start my morning over. Why I get so irritated over the little things in life, I will never understand. Is this just me or does everybody get like this from time to time?

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After a while, I finally start to forget about the disappointing events of the morning as we happily gamble away our hard-earned money and shop at the same stores where celebrities often frequent. After looking at the price tags in the shops at Crystals, I am really depressed now. How can people afford such lavish things? The frivolity of such extravagant items seems to me to be almost embarrassing. I think to myself, how can people spend gobs of money on such unimportant things when people are starving in China? Seems to me like being a princess isn’t really all it’s cracked up to be. I’m kind of glad that I will most likely never find out.

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It’s now 3:00 p.m. and time to find our car, so that we can brave the Vegas traffic and find our timeshare which is off the beaten path. I know what you’re thinking… Yes, we were wrangled into buying one of those. I loathe the day we signed the contract for our timeshare and now we are forced to take a vacation every year, or by default, forfeit our timeshare “points” i.e., hard-earned money.

We finally find the resort and decide that it’s better than we expected. The resort is surrounded by small shops and is within walking distance to the strip, if you don’t mind walking in 116° weather. After exploring our room and situating the luggage, we head downstairs to the concierge desk to buy show tickets. Tonight we are seeing the show “Diva’s” and I am really looking forward to our first opportunity for real adventure.

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The day is progressing better than at first and we decide to head out for dinner. We opt for driving back to the strip, rather than trying to walk through the thick humid air. It doesn’t take us long to find parking near the LINQ; however, finding a restaurant that doesn’t cost a fortune is nearly impossible. We finally settle on the “Nook”, which is reminiscent of a delicatessen and seems like a good choice for low budget families like us.

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We order gyros and fruit tarts for dessert. The food is exquisite and tastes like heaven. After filling our bellies, we sit back and relax and watch the chefs preparing food from behind the counter. Some of the chefs are flinging pizza dough into the air, while others are carefully arranging garnishes on platters. This place may not be Trumps Palace, but the chefs sure could work there!

After being entertained at the Nook, we head out to Caesars Palace to see the show Diva’s. The theatre is decked out in red velvet and screams sexy. Frank Marino is the star of the show and has us laughing so hard, that I am about to pee my pants. The alcoholic beverage I just drank isn’t helping matters either. I never imagined that a female impersonator could deliver such a thrilling performance and I linger after the final curtain call hoping for more.

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At last though, the show is over. We file out through the crowds of drunk, excited people, each hoping for a chance to see Frank Marino in person. Sure enough, there he is, greeting everyone as they make their way out of the theatre. I am tempted to stop, but find myself hesitating because my shyness overtakes me, and once again I lose an opportunity to be someone I’m not.

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It’s 2 a.m. when we finally crawl into bed. The LINQ, which is a huge observation wheel, is all lit up and can be seen from our window next to the bed. As I lay back, I think back over the past six days and feel happy and content that we are finally getting away from it all. A part of me feels guilty for enjoying this time away from the kids, but most of me is jumping for joy. Fifteen more days left to enjoy the vacation of a lifetime. Ahhh… I hope the time lingers and that the fun continues.

Day 4 of our 21 day adventure

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After three days of exploring our country from dawn until dusk, today we are taking it easy. It’s 11:00 a.m. and we just finished eating breakfast here at the Sleep Inn, in Idaho Falls. We only have a four-hour drive today, with our final destination being Orem, UT. We are excited to make our way to Orem, which is just outside of Salt Lake City. We are planning to stay in Orem for a couple of days so that we can get a good feel for what the area is like. I am hopeful that this may be another place that we can add to our list of possible places to move to.

IMG_0534 copy for WPUnfortunately, the drive to Orem, is leaving me a little bit disappointed. The traffic reminds me of big city living and It’s hard to navigate through the streets due to the high level of traffic on the roads. Thankfully, it doesn’t take us long to make it to our hotel. The unfortunate part is, our hotel is being completely renovated both inside and out. The ruts in the street are so deep, that driving through them is difficult. When we enter the hotel, the lobby is completely torn apart and the hustle and bustle of construction is happening all around us. We are quickly regretting our decision to stay here for two days, but are trying to stay positive. After attempting to check-in an hour early, we are told that we will have to wait.

IMG_0552 copy for WPWe decide to head out and explore the area while we wait. I remember reading about a place called Bridal Veil Falls and so we decide to see if we can find it. After about 20 minutes of driving, we have made our way to the entrance that leads to the falls. A bike trail weaves its way around the base of the hills and we walk along the bike path, taking in the beauty of the trees and listening to the rushing waters of a creek that flows alongside the trial. It’s nice to be out of the city traffic and away from the construction work, but the temperature is over 100 degrees and quickly zapping the energy right out of me. The walk is easy though and it doesn’t take us long to find the base of the falls.

IMG_0546 copy for WPThere are quite a few people here and some are actually trying to hike all the way up to the top of the falls with small children. I have to admit, it’s making me a bit nervous watching the hikers climb their way to the top. There isn’t a path leading up to the top of the falls and the terrain is extremely rocky and steep. The falls are beautiful, but it is definitely not tranquil here. There are about 100 people trying to cram into the water that is accumulating at the base of the falls. It doesn’t take long for me to feel overwhelmed by the heat of the day and the crowds of people, so we head back after a taking a short walk past the falls.

Photo Credit:  www.byubites.com
Photo Credit: http://www.byubites.com

The traffic is even worse on our way back to the hotel, and after checking in, we decide that we need to plan something different for tomorrow. After talking it over, we agree to head to Las Vegas a day early and we decide to make reservations at the Luxor hotel. After making reservations and cancelling our extra day in Orem, we head out to find a place to eat dinner. After driving around for a while, we finally settle on Smash Burger. Their food is okay, but not something to write home about. After finishing up dinner, we head over to the local mall which is located within a mile of our hotel. After perusing the shops, we decide to head back to the hotel to watch a movie. Today wasn’t the most memorable day, but we are certainly looking forward to tomorrow and excited for the days ahead.

Day 3 of our 21 day adventure

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The alarm goes off, it’s 4:00 a.m. I am eager to start another day and so is Brian. After getting ready and packing the car, we head to the front desk to check-out. The staff is friendly here at the Comfort Inn and they offer to serve us breakfast early. It’s only 5:00 a.m. and my stomach doesn’t quite feel like it’s ready for food yet. But how can I really pass up a free meal? We sit quietly in the dining room; eating and catching a quick news update from the small television over in the far corner.

It’s 5:15 a.m. now, and our final destination of the day is Idaho Falls. The first thing we do is stop for gas and pray for safe travels as we begin our twelve-hour journey. Before long, we pass through Cody, WY. This is the city that I had originally wanted to stay in and I notice the Buffalo Bill Museum is located up ahead. I consider stopping at the museum, but I know that we already have so much planned for today. I shake the idea out of my mind and continue on. As we near Big Horn National Forest, we come across the city of Sheridan. The view of the mountains from here is unbelievable and I wonder what living here would be like. Just as we reach the base of the mountain, we find ourselves in a small town called Dayton. I begin to file away these places in the back of my mind as potential retirement communities for when we are eventually old and grey.

IMG_0318 copy for WPAs we head up the mountain pass, the towns below become mere specks off in the far distance. It feels like we are the only people who exist on the earth right now. The view is breathtaking from up here and we stop several times to get out and take pictures. I am mesmerized by the tranquility and the views of the valley below. I don’t understand why the mountain is so void of people and I wonder if it’s like this all the time. We wind our way along the tree-lined mountain pass. The pine forest completely covers the landscape for as far as the eye can see. I have never seen so many perfect looking trees in one place before; the colors are bright and vivid, and each one is like a delicate piece of artwork created by a master artist.

IMG_0345 copy for WPAs we near a bend in the road, we start to see the beginning of a lake coming into view. We notice signs for a picnic area and decide to pull over and take a look around. The climb up to the lake area is easily accessible, and when we reach the top, we are thrilled to find that we have the entire lake to ourselves. The lake is completely still and eerily quiet, except for an occasional fish releasing ringlets on the surface of the water. The tranquility of this place reminds me of what I imagine heaven will be like. A soft breeze blows gently across the water and gives me goosebumps. I sense the presence of God all around us; it’s surreal and indescribable the way that this place is making me feel right now. I am tempted to ask Brian if we should renew our vows here. We have been planning to renew our vows somewhere along the way, and it seems like there could be no better place on earth. Something holds me back though and I remain silent, lingering in deep thought. The enchantment is soon broken though, and I remember that we still have so many more places on our agenda. Grudgingly, we walk back to the car and say goodbye to one of the most beautiful places on the face of the earth. We vow to come back someday, perhaps eventually to live out the rest of our days.

IMG_0369 copy for WPAfter driving a little farther down the road, we are now at a place called “Shell Falls.” I can hear the roar of the falls up ahead and run to get a better look. I am now standing in front of the 120 ft. high falls. The water is hitting the granite rocks in the bottom with such force, that the water is spraying back up into the air, forming rainbows in the streaming sun-rays. I didn’t think that anything could compare to the beauty of what we had just seen by the lake, but now I am not so sure. We look around and notice some short hiking trials and decide to explore even more. After taking a million photographs, we head back to the car to continue on our journey.  About an hour has passed and we decide to stop at a visitor center. IMG_0414 copy for WPIt feels good to stretch our legs after our long journey and we walk up to a large dam that overlooks a beautiful lake. After a short tour through the visitor center, we are on our way once more. Shortly after, we drive past a strange looking house, overlooking the road from the top of a hill. IMG_0426 copy for WPThe house looks abandoned and Brian decides to take some pictures. The house leaves us wondering about the history behind it.

After several hours of driving, we are finally nearing Yellowstone National Park. A restaurant up ahead seems inviting and we stop for lunch. After relaxing in the lodge style atmosphere and then perusing the gift shop after a hearty meal, we finally make it to the entrance of Yellowstone National Park. I am excited because I have been here before, and I begin to reminisce about vacationing here with the girls when they were little. As soon as we head through the gates though, I realize that I am not seeing what I remember. Apparently Mother Nature has played a cruel trick on us. Wildfires have completely ruined the spectacular views that once graced this magnificent place. I am shaken by the devastation that is rapidly unfolding all around us. The farther we drive, the worse it gets, and I wonder if the park will ever be able to recover the beauty that was once here. After reveling in such beauty and splendor earlier today and comparing it to what I am seeing now, I am in disbelief and wishing that we hadn’t come here. I am suddenly reminded of a graveyard and sadness begins to overtake me. We keep hoping that around the next bend, we will see some sign of beauty that hasn’t been lost, but unfortunately, that isn’t what we find. IMG_0435 copy for WPAfter driving around for a couple of hours, searching for a part of the forest that isn’t scorched, we find a hiking trail near the lake and decide to stop and explore on foot. Unfortunately, we are greeted with a warning sign that bears are in the area and so the trail has been closed. IMG_0443 copy for WPAfter getting back in the car, we decide to drive a little bit further to see if there is anywhere else we might want to explore. After a little while longer, it becomes apparent that the devastation is never-ending and we decide to head out toward the Grand Tetons.

As we continue on, the Grand Tetons come into view and I am relieved that these mountains are still as beautiful as I remember. Along the way, we find a stopping point near a lake and hike up above a small beach to get a better view. IMG_0505 copy for WPThe mountains look hazy in the background, because of the humidity. People are laughing and having a good time; some are standing over by a small dam, taking pictures and playing in the water. Then there are a few people down below on the beach, playing in the sand. We have found our own little spot, up and out of the way, but I still find myself wishing that we were alone again, like we were this morning at the lake. It has been such a long day and the hours of driving are starting to wear on us.

We head out for the last time today; making our way to Idaho Falls where we will stay for the night. After getting a bit turned around, we finally find our way to the hotel and are pleasantly surprised to find that they are offering us a free dinner. We only have about an hour before dinner ends, so we quickly unpack the car and head down to the dining room for dinner. Soup and salad are what is being offered and I am glad that I am not very hungry, since the food on the buffet is almost gone. After such a long day, we talk about the things we have seen so far and the places we’ve been. We’ve had enough memories already to last us a lifetime.

Field Trip to Old World Wisconsin

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IMG_0051My family and I recently visited Old World Wisconsin, which is located in Eagle, Wisconsin. IMG_0054  It just happened to be the first day that we hadn’t had rain in weeks, and the weather was perfect!

When we first arrived, we were ushered to the gift shop to pay the entrance fee and receive our map.  Then we proceeded to the tram which took us to our desired location. IMG_0012                                                       Old World Wisconsin consists of many historical buildings that are situated on 600 acres.  The historical site is broken down into different ethnic farms and villages.

The first stop we made was to the German and Polish farms. IMG_0013  We had fun spinning flax into thread.  We also took a tour of the woodworking shop, where we got to use some woodworking tools which were originally used in the 1800’s. IMG_0039

After that, we made our way back to the tram and headed over to the Clausing Barn Café; where we enjoyed an all-American meal of hamburgers, chicken strips, brats, and grilled cheese sandwiches. IMG_0090

After we finished our meal we decided to walk to the 1880’s Yankee village and proceeded to explore the town. IMG_0106  We learned how to wash laundry on an old washboard.

We visited the blacksmith to learn how to make horseshoes.  We even shopped in the general store, where we bought Earl Gray tea, a hand-made wooden fan, and a small chalkboard. IMG_0147

Finally, we decided that it was getting late and we knew that the site closed at 5 p.m.; so we walked over to the Caldwell Farmers Club Hall to play some last-minute games; and peddle a reproduction tricycle around a small track.  On our way out, we headed back to the gift shop and bought some beverages for the road.  IMG_0161We had such a fun day, and we look forward to going back again soon.   We only visited about half of the villages before we had to go, so we are looking forward to another trip back soon to see the remainder of what we missed.

To get more information about Old World Wisconsin, go here.

Our Latest Adventure

Just wanted to share our most recent trip to the park with all of you.  It was quite muddy that day, but at least there weren’t too many bugs lurking about.  We had a blast despite ending up with mud caked to the bottom of our shoes. 🙂

Monroe 7This was the start of the path leading into the woods from the children’s play area.  Every time I see a path like this, I feel inspired to write something  about it.  The woods were so tranquil and quiet.  The only sounds that could be heard were the faint rustle of the leaves in the wind and the birds merrily singing nearby.

Monroe 5Along the path, we spotted this tree off in the distance.  I wanted to get a closer look, but it was so far off the path and with the ground being so muddy, this is as close as I could get without getting stuck forever!  I wonder if an animal lives here.  It sure seemed like a cozy little place to snuggle up and take a nap.

Monroe 4These plants to the left, covered almost the entire forest floor.  Not sure of their name.  They were about 3 ft. tall, with tiny white flowers at the tips, and because of their height, it made it impossible to veer off the path too far.

Monroe 1Here’s a better view of the flowers that were perched at the top of each plant.  Like I said, I am not sure what these were, but they were a beautiful sight for sure!

Monroe 9   The trees didn’t quite have all of their leaves yet, so you could really get a good view of the entire forest and all of it’s hidden secrets that laid scattered about.  I enjoyed watching the butterflies fluttering by, and my girls were looking for curious things to collect.  I think the only thing we really collected though, was about 2 inches of mud on the bottoms of our shoes!

Monroe 11   This was the end of our journey through the woods and I decided to take a picture of the sun peering through the trees as we made our way back to the play area.  It is always hard to leave such a peaceful place behind and I felt a bit sad when we had to leave.  The good news is, that we can go back another day and have another adventure waiting for us once again!  I am already excited just thinking about it!