Tag Archives: Grand Canyon

Light Pollution {Spin Cycle}

We were stopped at a red light. The soccer fields next to me were dark, but I could the lights of the planes lining up to land at O’Hare Airport. Every time I see the twinkling of those artificial stars, I’m in awe. To think that hundreds of people are up in the sky, traveling here for business or pleasure or are just coming home, is amazing.

Straight ahead of us are all the lights of Lutheran General Hospital, with the cross shining at the tip-top of the building. My children were born there. The parking ramp is also glowing. I can even see a huge house across the field that is decorated with an abundance of Christmas lights.

I’m surrounded by artificial lights. As I sit in the car, Ed is in the driver’s seat waiting for the red light to turn green. I look up at the sky, wondering if I’ll see any stars. I don’t. Is it because of the clouds, or because the bright lights are shining too loudly to see any stars?

I’ve been to places where the lights don’t shine so bright. Where you can look up and see the stars in a dark night sky without the halo of the city ruining the view. Where I can see the Milky Way and it really does look like spilled milk. Where I can imagine Abraham being truly awestruck when his God told him his offspring would number the stars.

I’ve made my children stare into that space, that milky, twinkling space full of stars. We were at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, and it was way past the girls’ bedtime. But I kept them up anyway. We stood in the middle of the courtyard by our cabin, tilted our heads back and simply gazed at the stars.

Back home, I teach them the rhyme: Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight. I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight. We strain our eyes to see that first star after the sun sets and twilight descends on the city.

The wishing star is very difficult to spot. We’ll try again tomorrow.

Grand Canyon morning

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Picnicking {Spin Cycle}

Our family loves a good picnic; or as Fancy Nancy would put it, we dine al fresco! Every once in while, I’ll call Ed and tell him to meet us at the roller slide park after work. I make pizza pasta salad* and buy Cheetos, and the girls and I arrive early so that they can play on the playground before Ed gets there.

Most of the time, our picnicking happens during a road trip. I pack sandwiches, fruit and veggies so that we can stop at a picnic area to eat lunch instead of eating fast food.

Sometimes, the weather doesn’t cooperate and it’s a bit cooler than we expect. We just bundle up and eat outside anyway.

roadside picnic

Sometimes, we can’t find a picnic table. So we pull over in a turnaround on the side of the highway to Fairbanks, Alaska, and eat in the back of our rental van.

picnic in a van

alaska picnic

Sometimes, we can’t find a picnic table, so we use a rock instead.

Hiking in the Rocky Mountains, CO
Hiking in the Rocky Mountains, CO
Lunch at the Grand Canyon
Lunch at the Grand Canyon

And sometimes, there’s nothing like a hot dog in your own backyard!

hot dog

*I don’t have a recipe; I just make some rotini noodles, throw in some pepperoni, grape tomatoes, mozzarella cheese chunks, onions, green peppers and black olives, and toss it all with a vinaigrette. Voila, pizza pasta salad!

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North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Our summer vacation was 10 days long, and we went to so many places and did so many things, it’s taking me a long time to write all about it! We started at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, then drove around the canyon to the North Rim.

One of the first things we noticed when arriving at the North Rim was that it was quieter than the South Rim. There were quite a few tourists there, but it definitely wasn’t as crowded. One of the first things we did was pick up the Junior Ranger books for the girls. They wanted to go find a bug to watch for a minute, which was one of their Ranger activities. We went out by the lodge and listened to the sounds in the Ponderosa forest at the edge of the Grand Canyon. Lily started following a grasshopper, and it made such a loud whirring sound compared to Midwestern grasshoppers. Emmy tried to observe a fly, but it was not cooperative at all! We wandered down the point out into the canyon; it was a narrow strip of blacktop that extended past the lodge while the edge dropped off into nothing. Scary but gorgeous.

North Rim lodge

The lodge has two large porches with a lot of chairs and benches, and a huge fireplace. It’s cool up on the North Rim since it has an elevation of about 8000 feet. We spent a lot of time at the lodge sitting out on the porch, looking at the canyon, listening to a ranger program, and gazing at the stars.

Did you know that it never gets dark in Chicago? It looks dark outside when the sun sets, but there’s always a glow in the sky that makes it difficult to see the stars. Grand Canyon National Park, on the other hand, is one of the best places to go star gazing. We let the girls stay up to look at the stars. Not only did we spot the Big Dipper, but we could also see the Milky Way and how we teeter on the edge of an unfathomable expanse of stars swirling away from us. It was such an amazing sight to see.

I haven’t even told you about my favorite place yet. I’ll tell you about it tomorrow. Don’t forget to write about your summer vacation, and link up for the Spin Cycle! Your link will show up both here and on Gretchen’s blog, Second Blooming!

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Getting Around the Grand Canyon

I had grand plans of hiking with my family to the snack shop at Hermit’s Rest for lunch. The South Rim Trail is a a clearly marked trail and many of the miles are covered with blacktop. The longer we hiked, however, the more I realized that the actual mileage to Hermit’s Rest was longer than it appeared to be in our National Park guide. Ed and I had plenty of snacks and water for all four of us, but no lunch!

Fortunately for us, (and even more lucky for our two little girls who were getting hungry) there is a free shuttle bus along this trail. The stops are frequent and well-marked. The buses are roomy and air-conditioned. During the middle of day, which is when we found ourselves needing public transportation, there was standing room only on the buses. Since the ride between viewpoints was short, standing up was not a problem. In fact, the girls thought it was fun to stand while the bus was moving! At one stop, the shuttle was so crowded we had to wait for the next one. We didn’t have to wait long. During this busy time, the buses come along every 10-15 minutes. Since these buses are totally run by Grand Canyon National Park, the drivers are very friendly and also have a great sense of humor. When someone spotted a large elk in the woods, the bus driver made sure to slow down and let everyone have a chance to see the antlered beast.

At the end of the trail, we were finally able to sit down and eat some sandwiches at Hermit’s Rest. We bought them from the snack bar, which offered prepackaged food–nothing fancy, but just what we needed!

Lunch was not fancy, but it tasted good to us!
Lunch was not fancy, but it tasted good to us!

The next day, we literally needed to get around the Grand Canyon. We were driving from the South Rim to the North Rim, which is a distance of about 10 miles as the raven flies. In a car, however, we needed to drive down into the desert, cross the Colorado River, and drive up to the North Rim, a distance of over 200 miles! The roads are all two lanes highways, but the traffic was very light. Ed and I loved seeing the terrain change. We were driving through the flat desert, over dry washes and rocky ground with hardly any vegetation. Cedar Ridge was a lovely oasis of short green cedar trees. As we drove past Vermillion Cliffs we were indeed driving past stark, lovely pink cliffs that rose straight up out of the flat land. As we drove up to the Kaibab Plateau, the elevation became higher and higher and we were soon surrounded by green meadows and aspen forests.

In less than four hours, we were checking into the lodge and rocking on our front porch at the Grand Canyon North Rim. I think every vacation needs to have a rocking chair!

Rocking chairs on the front porch
Rocking chairs on the front porch

Where have you been rocking lately?


A Grand Vacation

We’ve been on a little trip. A couple of weeks ago, Ed, the girls and I flew to Las Vegas, rented a car and drove to the Grand Canyon. It was the first time I have been there, and it really is GRAND. My stomach still does flip flops when I think about walking to the edge of the rim and looking down. It was a long, long way down. I was behind a fence, and it was still terrifying. Poor Lily and Emmy had their hands squeezed in a death grip by their father and me every time we were close to the edge. The Grand Canyon is completely and totally drop dead gorgeous. The sight of this immense hole in the ground is just amazing. I took picture after picture of the Canyon, knowing that they would never do it  justice, but I just couldn’t help it. I just kept taking them!

Lily taking pictures of the canyon that is grand!

Ed and I loved how the Canyon kept changing. The shadows in the morning were so different from the shadows in the evening. Clouds passing overhead made dark spaces and one afternoon a thunderstorm settled into the canyon, scaring Emmy with its thunder and lightning.

storm in canyon
Storm clouds in the the canyon

The plateau at the top of the Grand Canyon was also surprising. Since it is about 7,000 feet above sea level, the temperatures were very pleasant, even in August. We were surrounded by a forest. As you go into the canyon, however, the temperature rises and the desert takes over. We ventured very little below the rim; the hike down is too much for two little girls…and probably too much for Ed and me as well! Maybe in a few years we’ll go a little farther.

Mule deer grazing in the forest at the top of the Grand Canyon
Mule deer grazing in the forest at the top of the Grand Canyon


Hiking a short way into the canyon...watch out for mules!
Hiking a short way into the canyon…watch out for mules!

I have so much more to tell you…stay tuned! 🙂


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