Looking Forward to 2019

What a year 2018 was- we honestly never stopped to catch our breath, phew!  We were busy doing BIG things all year and feel so blessed by all that has happened in our family.  We are looking forward to more adventure and some down time in 2019.

Our hope for 2019 is to experience more of our corner of the globe and enjoy the place we’re in.  Emmylou is growing and changing so quickly, so we look forward to soaking in each day and new experience with her.  We hope to take lots of walks with Penny out bush, camp out, take in more Outback night skies and go fossicking.  As for travel, in the coming year we have planned a South Pacific cruise (we set sail in just a few days!), trip to Adelaide, weekend with family in Alice Springs, trip back to the States and have some other trips in the works.  We’re looking forward to it all!

This year has been busy but I’ve enjoyed documenting our adventures and look forward to writing more updates in 2019.  We appreciate you following along!  Although this blog mostly serves as my diary a great log of this time in our lives, it’s nice to know others are enjoying it too.

May your new year be filled with adventures, big and small.  We wish you all the best in 2019!

Happy Trails,

K, J, EL & P

Thank you Hannah Millerick for the beautiful photo!

Life Lately

I figured a little update of what’s going on in our corner of the world is due. Although we’ve had lots of great adventures, we’ve also settled into a routine. We’ve been in Alice for almost 2 months, so here’s a look at our life lately.

The Cruiser has become a new hobby and project for the man of the house.  Jon’s enjoyed adding lights, a roof rack and other accessories to our bush vehicle.

We’re antsy to get our camping gear to really test it all out! In the meantime, he’s enjoyed taking it Out Bush with the 4WD group and to Tin Can Hill.

We’ve also taken a few trips to the local hardware store- Bunning’s- and they have a sausage cook-out every weekend.  It’s a totally Aussie thing to get the sausage, which comes in a slice of bread instead of a bun.  We had to indulge during one of our trips!

Jon continues to enjoy his new job and went on his first TDY (temporary duty) to Melbourne. He spent a couple nights in the city and this is the only picture from that trip, so cheers!

Clearly work trips aren’t all that bad in Australia! 😜 On that note, the biggest difference Jon has noticed with work down here is how dedicated the Aussies are to their time off. He’s enjoyed adopting that mindset and “leaving work at work.” It’s also been a nice culture shift with the evenings at home being much busier with our girls!

Speaking of our girl- Emmylou is growing like a weed! We just went to her 4 month check up and she’s doing great- she continues to top out the percentile charts for height (no surprise there) and hold steady around the 50th percent for weight.  She’s already outgrowing her 6 month outfits!

She’s officially sleeping in her own room and we have been in serious sleep training mode (hello, 4 month sleep regression).   She’s loving bath time and going on walks with Penny in the pram.

She’s also become a true, Aussie baby- she wears a Wondersuit most days (because they really are better than any American onesie!) and doesn’t leave the house without her sunhat.  We’ve hit some tougher weeks since we arrived with teething and growing pains, but overall she’s very happy, healthy and spirited!

We joke that she “woke up” at three months from her sleepy, newborn days. She’s a great baby but isn’t as laid back as originally advertised. 🤣 She loves to chat and is very good about using expression to communicate- she clearly knows what she wants and how to get it. It’s pretty entertaining but we’re surely going to have our hands full with her- she’s a ham! 😋

She continues to love being outdoors, has learned to enjoy her car seat (with the help of all the toys), and thinks Penny is hilarious. They are really an adorable pair.  Penny and the robot vaccuum are Emmylou’s favorite tummy time entertainment.

Penny has adjusted well to life Down Under and loves her little sister. She sniffs her diapers/whines if they are dirty, kisses her face, lays with her while she plays and barks if we don’t respond quick enough to her cries.

She’s patient, gentle and the sweetest big sister! We sometimes feel as if we have 2 babies when they’re both whining, though. 😛

Penny has definitely missed chasing squirrels and frequently dreams of them during her naps. She’s taken to chasing birds and it’s pretty hysterical. She seems to get great satisfaction from running them out of our yard and I don’t miss the crazy hound barking up a tree. It’s a much quicker and quieter process!

Speaking of the yard- she LOVES it and spends most of the day outside! She moves back and forth between sunbathing and napping in the shade. It’s totally her happy place.  Clearly I woke her from a good nap to snap this picture.

She’s also (finally) figured out that the yard is a great place to go to the bathroom. 🙌 After avoiding messing her outdoor space for a month, she has discovered the joy of going in the privacy of her own yard. I gave her treats and photographed the first one! #proudmama 😂

I have been enjoying the many playgroups, a newborn parent support group and a couple of girls nights. The women and families here are so wonderful. Emmylou and I are never short on a friend to play/chat with, walk with or go to Target with (somehow it’s not the same but has the same dangerous effect #buyingallthewondersuits 🙄).  The weather has been so nice, we have enjoyed getting a cuppa with some other mums and bubs in town.

I’m adjusting to and enjoying being home with Emmylou and have found mothering to be the hardest and most rewarding job there is. I have been getting out of the house and working out most days, which helps me feel engaged and accomplished. I am taking a few graduate credits this fall to maintain my teaching license back home and also began tutoring a sweet Year 1 student in reading.  The days fly!  I’m also enjoying finding activities to stimulate Emmylou’s development. #teachermom #sensoryplayforthewin

Our weekends are usually pretty busy so we’ve made it a point to relax (sleep regression and nap boycotts hit us all hard). There’s always something to do so we’ve enjoyed being busy and but also slowing down after a crazy 4 month stretch . Finding a balance between social time, family time and down time has been important.

We usually video chat with family on weekend mornings and find those slow mornings to be the best! We share happy hour and coffee, which works out well with the time change and Emmylou is awake and engaged. Using our EchoShows has been the best; it’s almost as good as being together.  Emmy is really starting to interact and “get” that her Grandparents are in the box.  They are starting to get some of these faces and we all melt!

We’ve got an exciting September ahead with the ball (Mommy and Daddy’s first big night out!), Jon’s birthday and a family day event at work. We are also working on planning a fall trip, so there’s lots more to come! My next post is about our trip to the Kangaroo Sanctuary, so stay tuned.  As always, thanks for following our #upwardhoundadventuresdownunder!

Happy Trails,
K, J, EL & P

Tin Can Sunset Picnic- Alice Springs, NT

For our 3rd anniversary, we chose to keep it simple.  Since Emmylou was born, we have been going non-stop (moving, visiting Sydney, new job, new home); a simple picnic at sunset seemed just right!  So on 8/8, we packed up the baby, dog and some food and wine for an evening Out Bush.

On our wedding night, we snuck out with our photographer to take a few pictures at sunset.  It is really a sweet time to reflect and it’s becoming a tradition (see the post on our 2nd anniversary sunset picnic here).

As a couple, we have been blessed and challenged so much this year!  I would say year 3 had both the greatest risks and rewards for our marriage and we are a stronger couple because of it.  It was also the year we became a family instead of a couple, so we had lots to celebrate!  Soaking it all in over a gorgeous, Outback sunset was absolute perfection, if you ask me.

We had a magical evening together and enjoyed spending time with our little family outdoors.  Before we left Virginia, I had secretly gotten a wedding album from our amazing photographer.  After 3 years, we have the most beautiful book to savor that perfect day!  We enjoyed looking through the album and reading a few, sweet cards while the sun set.  We even spotted a few roos!

If you haven’t done a sunset picnic near you, I really hope you will.  Jon and I so enjoyed the peace and quiet time away from the usual nightly chores.  It turned out to be a pretty awesome and romantic date (even with the baby and the dog along)!

Here’s a video of our celebration, which I think captures the magic of the evening, perfectly.  Cheers!

Happy Trails,

K, J, EL & P

Tin Can- Alice Springs, NT

During our first weeks here, we quickly decided that the car we originally bought was NOT going to be big enough to get Out Bush the way we hope to while we’re down here.  Most places you visit within driving-distance require 4-wheel drive and a higher clearance because most of the driving is on trails/off-road.  Jon ended up buying a Land Cruiser from one of our neighbors, and now we are SET!  It is a great vehicle to take out Bush and is in pristine condition…to say Jon is happy is an understatement- here he is giving a Cheers to his new toy!

Our first trip Out Bush with, “The Cruiser,” (as we are affectionately calling it) was with a few families to Tin Can.  This is about a 10 minute, trail drive from our neighborhood.  Although you are within miles of home, you feel like you are far from everything (which you kind of are).  It’s totally my kind of hang out- there’s a fire pit and the perfect spot to watch the sunset.  Here’s a picture looking down on our set up for the evening.  Clearly white SUV’s are a thing down here. 😛

Our first ride Out Bush made sweet Penny so nervous!  She was so confused why it was bumpy and literally glued herself to the back seat.  Once we arrived, she realized it was a pretty sweet spot and she was jazzed for the rest of the night (as you’ll hear and see in the video).

Emmylou managed the ride just fine in her car seat, but we’ll have to hold off on some of the more intense trails until her neck support is fully-developed.  (Jon went out on a trail the following week that he said was much more bumpy and that he wouldn’t take the baby or dog out there.)  We were so excited when we arrived to find this view!

Some of the kiddos took me to the top of the hill and soon I learned why this place is called, “Tin Can.”  There’s a flagpole at the top of the hill with a tin can on the top.  Unfortunately, the tin can had fallen down but we got the idea.  The 360 views are just incredible.

Did you spot the tin can on the ground?

Penny enjoyed soaking in the views!

We all brought something for our fiesta and, of course, the evening ended with s’mores.  It was a blast to all hang out, watch the gorgeous sunset and see the kiddos enjoying the evening.  This introduction to Bush life was seriously all I needed to love living here!

Here’s a video of our first trip to Tin Can; surely there will be many more to come!

Happy Trails,

K, J, EL & P




Simpsons Gap and Standley Chasm- West MacDonnell Ranges

Our first outdoor adventure Down Under was to 2 spots near Alice Springs: Simpsons Gap and Standley Chasm.  Both are just out of town (30ish minutes) and are just the intro to all there is to see and do nearby.  This was our first trip, “Out Bush;” a term that we’ve picked up quickly and describes the wilderness perfectly.  I used to say, “In the Bush,” or, “In the Outback,” but true Aussies just call anything out of town, “Out Bush.”

Some friends graciously offered to tour us around these two local spots and we had a great time with them and their sweet kiddos!  Emmylou was a little cranky on this day but we still had a great time seeing the sights, despite the usual baby party fouls (crying, pooping, etc…).

Simpsons Gap was absolutely gorgeous!  We even saw black-footed rock wallabies (which look like tiny kangaroos).  We didn’t get any pictures or videos because we had to leave the Gap very quickly…a certain baby was screaming her head off and scaring all of the wildlife away- hah!

After hanging at the Gap for a bit we headed to Standley Chasm.  We hiked in to the Chasm (very short walk) and finished off the day with lunch at the little cafe in the park.  We didn’t take many pictures that day but I did get some good video- enjoy!

Happy Trails,

K, J, EL & P

Sequoia National Park, California

Over spring break, Jon and I headed out to California for a fantastic week of adventures.  We began in LA, spent some time in Sequoia National Park, spent a day in Yosemite and headed to the central coast before driving back to LA to head home.  It was quite the week!  This post is about our time in the Sierras, which was amazing and wild!

The night before we headed to Sequoia National Park, we stayed in Visalia, California and tried out the Bravo Farms Smokehouse and the Sequoia Brewing Company.  We highly recommend both!  The food was amazing, beers were great and the brewery’s atmosphere really gets you into the Sequoia mind-set.  There are old photos of the park and the bar has trees behind it.  Even the beer names are inspired by famous sites in Sequoia and Yosemite!  It got us “in the spirit” and very excited to see the Giant Forest the next morning!





We headed to the park bright and early to arrive just as the visitor’s center and museum were opening.  Our drive it was spectacular; the scenery changed from sweet-smelling farmland to the large foothills of the Sierra’s.  California has so much to see!  Since we drove a fair amount on this trip, we were able to see the variety of landscapes in the state and each was beautiful in its own way.

When we arrived in the park, the rangers at the visitor’s center were excited to tell us about the Giant Forest and mentioned rain having made the roads slick the day before.  We all agreed it was a beautiful day and they sent us on our way, up the mountain.

As we drove up the mountain and climbed in elevation, the temperature dropped from the mid-50’s to the mid-40’s.  It also got cloudy and started raining.  Giant Sequoias only grow between 5,000 and 8,000 feet of elevation, so you have to drive up to see them and they are very special!

When we entered the Giant Forest, the temperature dropped into the 30’s and the rain quickly changed to sleet and then snow.  SNOW!  In April!  We parked at the museum and got out to start our day.  At that point, a ranger drove up and asked if we had snow chains, since they were expecting a HALF-FOOT of snow in the Giant Forest that day…and of course, we did not have chains and our tiny rental car did not have snow tires…so, back down the mountain she sent us…away from the museum we had just arrived at, and out of the Giant Forest!  We both were looking at each other like- you have got to be kidding!  But, Mother Nature won out and we headed down the mountain to avoid being snowed in. :0

On our way down, we stopped quickly to snap a few photos with some trees on the side of the road.  These roadside trees were awe-inspiring but we felt disappointed to miss out on seeing the Giant Forest.  The snow was coming down heavily (there was already about an inch sticking to the road) so we hustled to get down safely.  We were pretty bummed but also realistic; we knew we would come back someday (in the summer, of course) and see the biggest trees.



From Sequoia, we decided to head up to Yosemite.  We had hopes it may not be snowing there…but it was.  It snowed above 5,000 feet off and on, all day long.  It was a beautiful day at the lower altitudes, though, so we did a fun hike just outside of Yosemite and visited the South Gate Brewing Company.  We also bought snow chains for the next day in Yosemite, just in case! 😉



Happy Trails,

K, J and P

Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite National Park is a place every one MUST visit in their lifetime.  It is SO spectacular!  We had the best day in the park and luckily the weather cleared up (no snow, unlike in Sequoia).  Since we had the time change working in our favor to be up early, we left for the park at 3:30 am to make it for sunrise at Tunnel View and to beat the crowds.  This was the BEST decision!


708B97FC-8D9F-4852-BFF8-CBF7F26EFF01Side note, we arrived for the sunrise and it was SO cold.  Like 20 degrees cold (in April)!  We had over an hour to wait for the sun to come up, so, while Jon stood outside in the freezing cold/windy air, I sat in the car with the heat on and ate breakfast (#priorities).  This is yet another example of how tough and dedicated Jon is.  He stands fiercely for what and those he cares for.  He stood outside, freezing, to capture the first glimpse of the sun shining onto Yosemite Valley while I sat all warm and cozy in the car.  Man, do I love my husband! We have him to thank for these amazing photos (but I captured the best one with him in it). 😉 F55D6649-4ADA-4B5F-8DA5-67D5A26FD76D

On another note, I packed a variety of layers for this trip (fleece buffs, gloves, hats, warm pull-overs and raincoats).  Jon and I both wore every. single. layer.  In the beginning of the day we had on everything and as it warmed up, we slowly peeled off the cozy layers.  April in the Sierra’s is still winter (which surprised me).  Because of the high altitude, ice and snow are expected into May!  So, if you plan a springtime visit; take our advice and pack layers!  Also, we didn’t end up needing our snow chains, after all. 🙂

Obviously the sunrise was stunning; watching the sun breathe life into the valley below was unlike any other sunrise I’ve experienced (I did actually get out of the warm car to watch).  Tunnel View is a stunner no matter when you see it, but there is a certain magic that comes from watching the sun’s first rays illuminate the steep valley walls and gleam onto the valley floor.  It was a magical first glimpse at a truly, breathtaking place.


See what I mean?!  Our head start on the day helped to make the rest of the day run smoothly.  We were the only people at Bridal Veil Falls and Lower Yosemite Falls when we went to visit (it was so easy to park and view, which is rare).  It was so great to see these sights without the crowds.





We ended up leaving our car parked at Yosemite Falls and taking the bus to the Vernal Falls trail head, mid-morning.  This is when the crowds started to arrive and our pace slowed down.

The hike to Vernal Falls was moderate (paved but uphill most of the way).  Once we got to the falls, we decided not to trek up the stone steps that are covered in mist from the waterfall because they were a sheet of ice (#safetyfirst).  We enjoyed the view of the falls from the bottom (still amazingly beautiful) and ate for our picnic lunch.



D9ED468B-D57B-4CA7-BDD1-9A522716E8EESide note:  “Popped” have to be my most favorite hiking snack and how about that view!?

After Vernal Falls and our lunch with a view, we made our way to Mirror Lake via the trail on the valley floor and then to the Majestic Hotel.  The hotel was amazing; it was so neat to see!  We then made our way back to the car and headed home.  We were exhausted and mystified by our day in Yosemite.  It is an incredible park!




Yosemite Valley has been made super-accessible.  I can see how people mis-judge the wildness of the park just based off their experience on the valley floor.  At times, it almost felt like an outdoor version of Disney World because it was so visitor friendly.  Our day in the valley was amazing, but we know we were in the “tourist trap” of the park. Next time, we hope to explore a bit more but will do so with a rich respect for nature and the wildness of the Sierra’s.


Happy Trails,

K, J and P

Camping at Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks, WV

This past weekend we headed out to camp at the Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area in the Monongahela National Forest.  I had read about this area here and here, so it was at the top of my summer camping list!  There is SO much to do there; hiking, backpacking, camping, climbing…it’s also much less crowded than the places we usually go to (Shenandoah).

Penny was not going to miss this trip; she packed herself into the truck! 🙂


We camped at Seneca Shadows campground, which is right next to Seneca Rocks.  We really enjoyed the campground and location!  We camped with Jon’s brother, Justin, and his girlfriend Britney. We had such a great weekend together!  There was no cell service at the campsite, so we really enjoyed relaxing and each other’s company (which is the best).

It was raining when we arrived Friday night, so we set up camp and ate dinner but I didn’t take any pictures (fail).  Saturday morning the weather cleared up and the “BioLite Brothers” made us some delicious breakfast burritos (or in Justin’s case, a breakfast quesadilla 😉 ) and coffee.





After breakfast, we headed to the Seneca Rocks Discovery Center to plan our day.  We decided to go to North Fork Mountain for an out and back hike along the ridge (trail 501).  We decided to park and hike 1.8 miles up to the ridge from the 507 trail head.  This hike was mostly uphill/downhill and was moderate.  Much of trail 507 was overgrown, so we hiked through grass or thick brush most of the way.



Once we got to the 501 trail, we only hiked along the ridge for a few minutes because a rain shower rolled in.  Luckily, we got to experience this, breathtaking view before the rain began.





Penny (and the rest of us) were pretty tired after the hike, so we spent the afternoon relaxing around our campsite.  The “BioLite Brothers” made us some delicious tacos for dinner and the ladies made s’mores for dessert.  It was a great, relaxing day in beautiful Monongahela National Forest.  That’s what camping is all about!





The next morning, we cooked breakfast, packed up camp and headed to the highest point in WV, Spruce Knob.  Spruce Knob is a must-see view!  It is easily accessible (drive to the trial head off of Forest Road 104, park and walk .2 (flat) miles to the ranger tower and the view was incredible!  After taking in the view and a picnic lunch, we all hit the road to head home.







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It was such a fun camping weekend!  We can’t wait to get back to the Monongahela National Forest to explore more (Dolly Sods, backpack around Spruce Knob/Seneca Creek); there’s so much to do in the area!  If you are not a camper, look into these cabins to stay on Spruce Mountain or these, which are closer to Dolly Sods and North Fork Mountain.  They looked so cute and would be a great alternative to camping.

I made my first movie of our camping weekend using the Google Photos App (which I’m obsessed with); check it out below!

Happy Trails,

K, J and P

Shenandoah Sunset Picnic

For our 2nd anniversary, Jon and I wanted to do something simple and fun to celebrate.  Since our anniversary was on a Tuesday, we couldn’t camp and were limited to after work hours.  We decided to head out to Shenandoah National Park for a picnic at sunset and it was the perfect anniversary date!

The weather cleared during the afternoon and we arrived at Signal Knob overlook, in the northern section of the park, just as the sun was beginning to sink toward the horizon.  We had a few minutes to eat before the actual sunset, which was great. Be sure to look up the sunset time before heading out and leave yourself a good hour to picnic beforehand.  You want to be sure to allot time to relax and get geared up to see every stage of the sunset.


I prepared a simple picnic supper to enjoy.  Even though we weren’t the only ones at the overlook for sunset, we definitely had the best spread. 🙂  Packing the picnic was easy (we had veggie pasta salad, garlic bread and tuscan bean salad) and it was delicious!  We also brought a bottle of white wine and our GoVino wine glasses (which are amazing).




Even Penny enjoyed the sunset picnic!  I packed her dinner and she sniffed around while we enjoyed the scenery (although she was fairly preoccupied with the bear that was lumbering around the woods on the opposite side of Skyline Drive #allthesmells).  She barked at deer, soaked in the mountain air and slept like a baby the whole way home. 🙂











I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the Blue Ridge sunsets are truly special.  These old mountains pack a gorgeous glow in the last minutes of each day.

If you live near a park, farm, field or mountain, I encourage you to do your own sunset picnic!  It was the perfect, mid-week vacation to get out into nature and enjoy each other, away from the stress and distractions of daily life.  Jon even said he forgot it wasn’t the weekend! 😛

It’s hard to believe we have been married for 2 years; time does fly!  I would say this was a perfect date in both of our eyes and was the best way to celebrate of our anniversary.

Happy Trails,

K, J and P

Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico

To kick off our New Mexico weekend, Jon and I drove out to Carlsbad, New Mexico to see the famous Carlsbad Caverns.  We flew into El Paso, Texas late on Thursday night and got up bright and early Friday to drive out to Carlsbad.  As we drove out to the Chihuahuan Desert, it was pouring!  This surprised me, since it’s the desert and all, but it rained pretty much all. day. long!  Luckily, the caverns are the perfect place to visit in the rain, since you are underground!

As we pulled into Carlsbad, which is a tiny town, I saw this guy and HAD to have my picture taken.  I really wanted to visit the famed, Roswell, New Mexico but we didn’t have time.  So, this was the closest I got to an alien encounter. 😛


After I cheesed with the aliens, it was time to see the caverns!  It’s funny, as you drive into the National Park, the landscape is no different from what you’ve seen for the past few hours on the highway.  The real views are below the surface!

After parking, we decided to hike into the caverns through the natural entrance (think walking into a giant cave) though they had an elevator straight to the bottom.  We highly recommend hiking in!  Most of the experience is made on your hike in.  It is downhill, a flat/paved trail (even fine for wheelchairs or strollers) and you can take the elevator back up, so it’s well worth the time and energy!  It was still pouring and we didn’t pack rain gear for this trip (go figure it would rain when we visit the desert), so we walked quickly to get underground!


Looking up and back at “the hole.”  The natural light was SO bright and quickly faded as we hiked deeper into the cave.


As you hike down and in, the atmosphere of the cave changes your sensory awareness completely.  It was SO quiet, dark and still inside!  They encourage silence or speaking at a whisper volume and it totally makes sense; you don’t have to speak loudly because it is so quiet!  The cave is void of any weather (no temperature changes, no wind, no rain) so it is in a constant state of peace.  I found this surprising (I have never been inside a cave before) but so refreshing!  All you hear is the dripping of water on the cave walls and a few bats.


Along the way down, there are tons of stalactites and stalagmites that resemble things.  Some are labeled and it’s fun to imagine what the explorers were thinking when they first discovered the caverns.  This wonderful place was formed when sulfuric acid dissolved the surrounding limestone, leaving behind the magnificent caverns!  The constant dripping sound inside the cave reminds you that the caverns are continually growing and changing.  As rain water seeps down through the rock, formations are built, drip by drip.





The “Lion’s Tail”



This ladder was used by the original cave explorers…I’m not sure I’d want to go down that ladder into the abyss…



Carlsbad is truly a place you have to see to understand; I’ve never been anywhere like it and pictures definitely don’t do it justice!  Jon had been to caves/caverns in New York as a kid, but said this was a whole new experience.  The sheer size and vastness of the caverns is awesome.  We both felt like we were on a different planet (maybe the aliens had gotten to us)! 😛 If you’re ever in El Paso, make the trek out to Carlsbad- it’s well worth the time!

Also, we stopped off at Guadalupe Mountains National Park on our way back to El Paso.  It was still pouring, so we weren’t able to hike, but the park looked really cool!  These two parks could make a perfect day trip from El Paso!

Happy Trails,

K, J and P