Moving Part 6: Penny’s Trip Down Under

We’re SO glad to say that Penny is finally home and and our family is, once again, complete! It’s been a long few weeks without her but we couldn’t be more thankful to have her here with us! Her trip went off without a hitch but we worried about her and missed her like crazy.  I even made a video of our sweet reunion that’s at the end of this post. 🙂

To prep, I added a few extra things to Penny’s (massive) crate. First, I wrote a letter about her (basic likes and dislikes) and taped it to the top of her crate. Since she can’t talk, I introduced her to each of her handlers that way. 😉 We also taped a bag full of food and a bag with her harness, leash and health certificates to the top of her crate. Inside of the crate, I lined the bottom with newspaper, added her bed and 2 blankets (I get cold when I fly, maybe she would too?!). All of these linens were familiar to her and had her/our smell on them. We also gave her 2 frozen water bowls so they wouldn’t spill all over her and she’d have water throughout her travel day.

Jon took her to the airport bright and early.  His Dad was so sweet to go along to help and snap these pictures for me!

She was SO good when it was time to get in the crate and say goodbye- our sweet, brave girl!

Her entire trip over was about 2 1/2 weeks, between flights, boarding and quarantine time. She left early in the morning to dodge the hot mid-day temps in DC. She then flew through Minneapolis and onto LA. We were thankful there were no issues with this specific leg of her trip because of the heat. Most of the country was experiencing temperatures in the 90’s-100’s and airlines will not fly pets if the temperature exceeds 85 degrees. She barely made it out of DC and through Minneapolis- both cities had a local temperature of 83 degrees when she was taking off! Phew!

Once in LA, she boarded at the wonderful Kennel Club LAX for a long weekend before heading down under. During her time at the Kennel Club, they sent us daily pictures and let us know that she was enjoying snuggles and giving kisses. She was in great hands and seemed to be in good spirits! We can’t say how much we appreciated the friendly staff at The Kennel Club LAX and can’t recommend them enough!  We will definitely use them again on Penny’s trip home!

After getting these pictures, we joked that Penny thought this was her casting call in LA…she’s totally posing for these!!  While in LA and waiting for her departure to Melbourne, Penny was seen by a vet to be officially approved for export. ✅

Penny had a late departure from LA and flew to Melbourne through the night (and day) to arrive in the early morning to the quarantine facility. Once checked in and approved (initial checks took around 2 days to complete), she spent the standard 10 days in the quarantine kennel.

We did not hear much during this part of her trip but were assured she was doing well. Thankfully we were traveling, moving in and settling during this time, so we were busy (otherwise we would have been a wreck worrying about her every second)! Every night after we would put Emmylou down, Jon and I would say to each other how much we missed Penny. Since Emmylou’s arrival, our evenings spent with Penny have been pretty sacred. We usually spend that time as a couple and snuggle our first baby (enjoying the peace). 😊

Once she was released from quarantine, Penny was boarded at a kennel in Melbourne for one more night before catching an early flight to Alice Springs the next morning. They sent us this picture and we all couldn’t wait to go pick her up!

When her plane landed, we anxiously waited for the airport employees to bring her to the cargo pick-up. When we first saw her she was stuck inside the crate (they seriously zip-tie those things shut!) and we began talking to her. She started softly whining and wagging her tail right away. 😍 They got her out of the crate and she came right to us, very anxious to go outside! Honestly, the reunion was sweet but pretty anticlimactic…she was happy to ride in the car and gave Emmylou tons of kisses in her car seat (which we missed getting on video, sadly). ☺

We quickly stopped at the Alice Springs sign to snap some pictures and headed home! When we arrived, she sniffed the house and whined at the door to be let out into her backyard- she was so excited about the yard! She sniffed around and promptly passed out in the warm, Outback sun.

I brushed her and I’m pretty sure she lost a few pounds of fur…she must have been doing a lot of nervous shedding (poor baby).  Other than that, she seemed a bit dehydrated and tired, but no worse for the wear!  We couldn’t be more thankful that she made it down here safely and she seems super happy to be here with us!

Shipping a dog internationally is no small feat but we feel it was SO worth it!  Now that her trip down has ended, the real adventures can begin…

Happy Trails,

K, J, EL, & P

Moving Part 5: Home Sweet Home, Alice Springs

G’Day!  We’ve made it and begun settling in to Alice Springs.  We flew from Sydney to Alice Springs on Quantas Airlines (Australia’s airline) and they required Emmylou to buckle into my seatbelt.  We thought she looked so cute wearing her first airline seatbelt (and I swear she’s saying, “I got this, Mama!”)

From start to finish, this baby was a SUPER traveler!  She slept through a fair amount of our travels and adjusted to the time change in a few days (just like us).  She was seriously perfect and we couldn’t be more grateful!  Here’s a bit more baby travel spam for good measure. 🙂

Stepping off the plane was SO exciting…we I took all the pictures to commemorate the moment.  It was also a bit surreal to arrive in the place (I’ve never even visited) that would be home for the next few years!

Our first week here has been busy (unpacking and gathering necessities) and exhausting (kicking off the new normal with jet lag in tow).  It’s also been exciting and a lot of fun!

Jon got right to work on Monday and has been really enjoying his new position.  He is loving the laid-back atmosphere at the site and happily traded his suit and tie for blue jeans and hiking/work boots (he was even given a hard time for wearing khakis on his first day on the job 😜).  Here he is with Emmylou one afternoon after work.

Emmylou and I have been trying out the many playgroups in Alice Springs.  Every day we are out and about with other mums and bubs (Aussie terminology is my new jam).  Even if EL sleeps through the playgroup, I am SO appreciating the social time and getting to know other moms.  Everyone has helped us to acclimate to the social scene in Alice- both base-related and local- and we couldn’t be more appreciative of their warm welcome!  I am looking forward to watching Emmylou learn and grow in such a wonderful community. ☺️ Here we are at Tiny Tots playgroup this week.

In addition to our new routines, there were some other serious adjustments to navigate right off the bat- a new landscape and climate, new (and dangerous) wildlife/pests and, of course, driving on the other side of the road.  I would say Jon took all of these new realities in stride, while I made a spectacle of each and every one of them. 😬

Landing in Alice was such a novelty for me (the red mountains, the bright blue sky) and I took to taking pictures like a tourist…Jon was embarrassed but I really couldn’t help myself! 🤣  Here’s a peek at our house, car (with a roo-rack) and neighborhood:

The weather every day is pretty much the same- cool in the morning, warm in the afternoon and not a cloud in the sky (I literally haven’t seen a cloud since we landed here…not one little cloud).  Talk about vitamin D, there’s no lack of sunshine here!  We definitely need to up our sun protection but I don’t think I will miss the dreary/rainy east coast days!

We came home to find a hilariously Australian (blunt) letter from the pest control company wishing us luck with the local pests.  Essentially, anything is sprayed will be “bug-proof” for 6 months and everything else is fair-game for (poisonous) spiders and other pests to make their home.  Looks like we’ll wait to get outdoor furniture and a sand/water table until just before the exterminators come!  It also warned that insect sprays will not kill bugs on the spot, so not to freak out if the giant cockroach you just sprayed continues to crawl or fly around for a while…So far we’ve only seen the webs of redback spiders but they are around.  As for snakes, we have not heard too much about them but the “Snake Man’s” phone number is on our fridge so if I see one, I’m calling him!  (Somehow this feels like Ghostbusters). 😳

Although this sign is right across the street from our neighborhood, I am VERY disappointed to report that I have seen NO kanagroos or wildlife, with the exception of birds.  I was pretty jealous when Jon came home from work and said he saw 2 kangaroos at the site.  For now I just have to enjoy the local bird-watching…this bird was so brightly colored and beautiful so I had to snap a picture.  Someday I will look back on this post and laugh at myself for taking all of these goofy pictures.  😜

Penny is going to be heartbroken to find there are no squirrels and really no critters to chase…perhaps she’ll settle for birds in their absence?  We’ll see!  Speaking of Penny, she has been released from quarantine in Melbourne and flies to Alice Springs tomorrow!  We can’t wait to get her home!

The last major learning curve of the week (for me, at least) has been driving.  The first time I was behind the wheel was a terrible flashback to my driver’s ed days…which is a time I NEVER wanted to revisit.  I am a good/cautious driver, but let’s just say it took me a while to get the hang of driving.  Flipping to the other side of the car and the road has sent me right back to when I was 15.  I would say our marriage hit an all time “low” when I was behind the wheel for the first time.  Jon suddenly morphed into my dad, slamming his non-existent brake and clenching his teeth as he muttered, “You’re VERY close to the curb over here,” and, “You’re doing great…?”  😬 We all survived (Jon’s blood pressure eventually returned to normal) and our marriage is unscathed but it was truly a humbling experience! 😂

I am happy to report that after just a few days here I was able to drive myself and Emmylou to the Tiny Tots playgroup and even shuttled a friend and her bub there later in the week!  🙌 Luckily the learning curve at 29 is quicker than when it was at 15!

So far we are really enjoying Alice Springs and our new home.  The best thing so far has been the wonderful neighbors and people we have met.  We’ve been showered with welcome treats, cups of coffee, beer, visits and so much more from the families here.  It has truly been a warm welcome and made us feel at home right away.

I will post pictures of the inside of our house as soon as our shipment comes with our things (in a couple months) and we are settled in.  For now we are exploring our new area and are so excited to welcome Penny home! 😊

Happy Trails,

K, J, EL & P

Moving Part 4: Welcome to Australia!

We made it into Sydney bright and early. It took a while to collect all of our bags and get through customs but it was still before 9 when we got out to a taxi.

Our first impression of Australia was: BRRRR! We had to quickly unpack Emmylou’s warm jacket because it was cold! We weren’t expecting that but also may be in shock since we left a heat wave in Virginia. Emmylou didn’t seem to mind the cooler air (40’s in the morning with highs in the mid-60’s during the day) and seemed to love snuggling up in her fleecy coat and hood. 😍

We took a cab into the city and checked into our hotel to get ready for the day. We were tired but the second we got into our room and saw this view, we knew we had to get out and explore!

Sydney is a beautiful city! We stayed in Old Sydney in a section of the city called, “The Rocks,” which was perfect to walk around and had lots of great little restaurants and shops. It’s also right between the Opera House and Harbor Bridge, so the sights are unbelievable.

After showering, we walked around The Rocks, bought Emmylou some Australian animal art (she finally gets a nursery when we arrive in Alice ☺) and ate pancakes. (Just a tip, when jet lagged you have to really convince your brain it’s morning and pancakes definitely helped 😜)

Once we had some pancakes and caffeine we were ready to take on Sydney! We walked down to the Bridge and enjoyed the gorgeous views. (Obviously we were not up for the bridge climb with Emmylou in tow, but perhaps we’ll give it a go when we come back someday?! Jon was up for it but I was less enthused with the idea…😬)

We figured Emmylou would fall sleep while we walked around but she hung in like a champ! She took a few, short naps in the stroller (pram) but enjoyed the sights along with us (she’s seriously a dream baby). She LOVES being outside, so a walking tour was right up her alley (and fresh air definitely helped keep Mommy and Daddy awake)!

After gazing at the Bridge we headed around through the wharf and to the Opera House. It was a sunny, cool afternoon so it was perfect walking weather. We shared a champagne toast next to the Opera House and enjoyed this view. 😍

It felt like the perfect welcome to Australia!

Sydney is filled with people from all over the world and everyone is very friendly! We feel like it’s a combination of European/Scandinavian and American…but totally has a unique feeling. It’s also an eclectic blend of old and new architecture, which we enjoyed.

After our toast, we went into the Opera House and scoped it out as much was open. We would love to come back to Sydney at some point to come to a performance- the Opera House is so beautiful!

We were dragging a bit at this point in the afternoon, so we grabbed a cappuccino and walked back towards The Rocks. We ended up eating an early dinner at a German restaurant and enjoyed their biergarten. Sweet baby girl was SO tired, she couldn’t hang in any more.

After dinner, we headed back to the room to crash. We all slept from about 6pm-3am, which is typical with jet lag. Emmylou ended up sleeping a few hours more while Jon and I blogged. 😊

Day 2 in Sydney was met with a beautiful sunrise (talk about room with a view)!  We headed to breakfast at The Rocks Cafe and enjoyed some delicious food and a dreamy cappuccino! The food in Sydney has been so fresh (similar to eating farm to table in the US).

After breakfast we headed to the wharf at Circular Quay to catch the ferry to Bangaroo/Darling Harbor.

We enjoyed the Darling Harbor area but I thought it was a bit too touristy. We ended up having a yummy lunch and going to the Australian Maritime Museum to see an exhibit on James Cameron (which was fascinating). We saved the zoo and aquarium for when Emmylou would appreciate it (and not sleep through it).

Someone was very sleepy…jet lag definitely got the best of her!

On the ferry ride back we caught these views and the sun was beginning to go down. Days are short here, just like they are during winter at home!

Once we were back at Circular Quay, we enjoyed the Bastille festival that was going on. We ate crepes and a stroopwaffle (I was obsessed with this food truck and had to have one). YUM! The festival scene was perfect because we were tired and didn’t want anything fancy. We even bought some fun art for our new, Australian home!

Even on our sleepy walk home we enjoyed the magic of Sydney!

We loved our time in Sydney so much and look forward to exploring much more on another visit. Penny has safely arrived in Melbourne and has begun her 10 days of quarantine. 🙏🏻 Thank you all so much for your prayers and well wishes! It has meant so much to our family to have so much love and support as we kick off this crazy tour!

Happy Trails,
K, J, EL, & P

Moving Part 3: And They’re Off!

We’re (finally) off to Australia! This day has been a long time coming and I think everyone is ready to get this part over with! We spent the weekend with both sides of our family and it was wonderful but we all dreaded the final goodbyes. We’re very excited but sad to be so far from family. We plan to visit home as soon as possible since Emmylou’s growing like a weed!

We arrived at the airport with 5 suitcases, 1 duffel bag, 2 tote bags, 2 backpacks, 1 purse, a stroller and a car seat. We also carried on Emmylou’s SnuggleMe cushion and SwaddleUp to sleep in. I tell you, that kid is a lucky traveler! She’s also really easy/portable at 10 weeks so we’re super grateful for that. She was ready for her adventure (complete with her themed outfit)!

On another note, many have asked about getting Emmylou’s passport photo…it was as challenging as you can imagine 😜 We took her at 4 weeks and thanks to a very patient employee, we ended up with this adorable keepsake.

For our flights down, we ended up with 2 seats (Emmylou as a lap child) to Houston and 3 business class seats to Sydney 🙌🏻. The flight left late in the evening so we treated it like normal bedtime for all of us. Emmylou was already fast asleep when we boarded; sweet girl was SO tired from a busy day of travel. She didn’t know we were just getting started…

We set up Emmylou’s seat just like her crib and she ended up sleeping through the first half of the (16 hour) flight!  Jon and I got cozy in our jams and we all settled in for some sleep. 😬 It wasn’t a full night of rest but worked out pretty well!

For the second half of the flight we alternated between playing with her in her seat, changing diapers and her napping while we watched a movie.

She also woke up in time to catch the last few scenes of Star Wars with Daddy 🤣.

She was a dream traveler! The toughest thing was knowing we’re leaving behind her consistent nighttime stretches of sleep due to the time change (somehow Emmylou was born knowing day/night and has been a super sleeper). Surely we’ll all get back on track within the first couple weeks here.

We’re excited to land and explore Sydney for a couple of days before making our final flight to Alice Springs. We’re also thinking of sweet Penny, who takes off about the time we land. We will hear updates about her trip and quarantine soon!

Happy Trails,
K, J, EL & P

Moving Part 2: Ready…Set…

Penny was the first to kick off our move, heading to LA for a weekend before flying to Melbourne for the 10 days of quarantine. She traveled well (via Minneapolis) and managed to “hold it” the whole way. We seriously can’t believe how disciplined she is and we pray that she will let herself go on the way down to Australia (and not feel like she has to hold it). Don’t you wish you could talk to dogs and explain to them it’s ok?! Upon arrival she was a bit wide-eyed but has settled in well at the kennel.

Penny has been boarded while she awaits USDA approval and her flight to Melbourne. According to the fantastic staff at The Kennel Club LAX, she’s been enjoying snuggles during her stay 😍. I’ll be sure to post all about her trip in its entirety once she arrives in Alice.

We have spent the weekend with both Jon’s family and my parents. We had such a nice visit with everyone and so appreciated all of their travels to see us off. There was a final crunch of packing, changing our address, porting our phone numbers and many other tasks. It was SO nice having family there to support us and love on Emmylou (and us) before we headed down.

Next up are the final goodbyes and big trip! See you Down Under!

Happy Trails,
K, J, EL & P

Moving Part 1: Let’s Get This Party Started!

As we transition out of the townhouse playground of Northern Virginia, Jon and I feel excited and ready…there have been definite signs that it’s time for bigger and better things. For example, our favorite Mexican restaurant (the place that put me into labor with its spicy salsa bar 🤣) is relocating and shut down! I don’t know about you, but no tacos= no bueno for me! Also, our AC in our house has broken twice since we brought Emmylou home (in swampy, hot summer weather, of course). Although these are small hurdles, we are taking them as a sign that it’s best we just move to Australia. 😜

Packing up was fairly uneventful- we took the minimalist approach and are only taking that which we need and storing the rest.   The movers came to pack and move us out in 2 days.  We did have 600 pounds of air shipment to pack and mail down on our own, which proved to be more work than we anticipated.  We ended up air-shipping down a lot of our things…which will be nice when we arrive but was overwhelming at the time (those customs forms are a bear)!

The most dramatic reaction to a box being packed was, not surprisingly, Penny’s! As we stuffed her food bowls, bed, toys and beloved blanket (binx) into a cardboard box, she looked on with concern. She sniffed the box as we loaded it up and went back inside to pout (laying on the carpet just isn’t the same)! I suppose moving affects us all in different ways. 🤣 We reassured her the box would meet her in Alice, but we’re not sure she got it…

Jon has been the hero of this move; managing the coordination of paperwork, scheduling and planning, while I have been the captain of the home front; keeping the 2 month old alive (and flourishing, I might add) and packing during nap time. Penny has been working hard to decrease the squirrel population in our neighborhood and keep all delivery trucks far from her baby sister. If our mailman is reading this, we’re SO sorry you were never able to become friends.

Thanks to the packers/movers, moving day was a breeze (thank goodness it was breezy because the AC was out and it was 100 degrees) and the girls seem to be coping with the transition just fine! #allthenaps

After moving out, we have been in a (not-so-pet-friendly) hotel.  Penny and Emmylou have been real troopers in the small space and dealing with the heatwave.  Jon and I have been so grateful for our family and friends for their support (texts, visits and encouragement) as this transition phase has been a bit more stressful than we anticipated.

Penny departed this morning and flies through Minneapolis and LA to Melbourne (more details on her trip to come).  Please keep her in your prayers the next couple weeks as she travels and is quarantined.  We can’t wait to see her in Alice in 14 days!  Our last few days here will be spent soaking up time with family. 😊

Happy Trails,

K, J, EL & P

We’re Headed Down Under!

No really…

It’s been far too long since our last post, but let’s be honest, there’s been LOTS going on in our corner of the world. First, and most importantly, meet the newest member of our pack, Emmaline Louise!! Born on April 28th, this dream baby has made us parents and Penny a big sister! We’re all smitten with sweet Emmylou and, yes, Penny is the best with her! Here’s some photographic evidence/baby spam…

In addition to our new addition, we will be embarking on a new adventure as a family. We are headed Down Under for a couple of years, as Jon will be working new a position in Alice Springs! We know the question on all of your minds is: will Penny go?! And, YES, of course (it wouldn’t be an Upward Hound Adventure without her)! She’s set to depart in a couple of days and we’ll meet up with her, post quarantine, in Alice.

To say that we feel blessed would be an understatement. We plan to share our many amazing adventures with you through this blog! We’re calling it, “Upward Hound Adventures: Down Under,” and think it has a nice ring to it (thanks for the idea, Linda)!

We look forward to sharing this amazing and unique opportunity with all of you and encourage you to get out of your comfort zone along with us- head to a new place or take on a new challenge- life is too short to pass up a new adventure.  And to channel my inner-elementary school teacher:

So really, in a week we head Down Under to begin this amazing adventure as a family of 4.  I usually wish you all, “Happy Trails,” at the end of my posts, but, this time, I’m wishing it to ourselves…traveling with a 9 week old and dog, we’ll need all the help we can get. 😜 Follow us as we embark on this great opportunity and please keep our family in your prayers as we transition to the land Down Under.

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