Sunday, January 3, 2021

Our Year in Pictures

2020, it's been real, what a roller coaster of a year you've been. Not all bad though, there were some good times and some rays of hope. I'll take them... but I'm ready to move on. Who's with me? All of our plans though... They didn’t happen. Instead of grandiose journeys, we found ourselves sticking close to home. Covid19 forced us to slow down and find our thrills in different ways. We went camping a lot! It's all about the silver linings, it is not? (see? Maybe I have done some growth this year after all). 

I, for one, cannot wait to get back on the road and travel again (whenever that is going to be). I miss a ton of things: The planning for a new trip; the rush of getting on a plane and arriving in a new city. Whenever that time comes, we'll be ready. For now, I leave you with a look of our year in instagram pictures 

January - We started the year with a trip to visit family in Kansas (boy, am I happy we were able to do that)

February - For my birthday; we celebrated with the funnest trip to California's Low Desert for some hiking, national park exploring and star gazing. We also went yurting to one of our favorite state parks, Fort Yargo State Park.

March - We spent the day hiking in Sweetwater Creek State Park before Covid restrictions went into place

April - With Covid restrictions in place we, like the rest of the world, stayed home, hibernating. I documented the simplicity of being home, the mundane, the meaningful stuff we take for granted (I took a picture a day and documented our quarantine in instagram if you care to check it out). However,  not all was fun, Mark and I (like many other in this country) got sick. We think it was Covid19 but we will never know, we were not able to get tested. Fortunately for us, we recovered quickly

May - Still under self imposed Covid restrictions (our state was opened for business, to the outside world, most things went into a new normal), we celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversary at home. No fun trip for us to celebrate the occasion, but were able to find joy in tackling projects around the house

June - We summered like the best of them while camping at Hard Labor Creek State Park. Hikes, kayaking, wild flowers, bonfires and grilling. The best Summer has to offer

July - We went away for the 4th of July long weekend to Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina to a hike-in retreat. We explored the area, took naps, read a lot and ate yummy meals

August - Our trip to the Outer Banks got derailed by hurricane Isaias, so instead we packed up and off we went to Topsail Hill State Park for camping at the beach. Always a blast at that place. We took bike rides, walks on the beach, and overall relaxed.

September - For labor Day Weekend, we packed our bags once again for more camping at the beach in Topsail Hill State Park (yes, again!). This yearly tradition is the best. We had a blast

October - For Fall break, we went on a trip to the north Georgia mountains and stayed at the super fun Gateway House (crash course to staying in an RV). We had fun taking V's Senior pictures, hiking, and exploring the area. Additionally, the husband and I took a solo hiking trip to the hike-in we adore in North Carolina 

November - We celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday camping in Victoria Bryant State Park. It was awesome and lucked out with very nice weather

December - We tried our best to embrace and celebrate the Christmas holiday. We decorated, went to the botanical garden to take in the lights and colors of the season, baked up a storm, made Christmas ornaments (to commemorate the year) and even were able to squeeze a camping trip once again to Fort Yargo State Park. This place is a gem, we love it there

Like I said before, camping was our saving grace this year. It was good to be out in the outdoors. Thank God for small favors

If this year has taught me anything it's that we should continue with our adventures for as long as we are able to. 2021 comes to us with a new set of challenges. Not only is Covid still going around but this is V's last year in high school. Sooner rather than later she'll go on to do her own thing. As of now, we have no idea what will happen.... We are taking it one day at a time... Here is to dreaming of the good times...

I want to embrace the change of scenery; I want to rent a boat and explore a cove; I want to eat an empanada (insert any other types of food here) while walking down a quaint street; I want to order food without knowing what we are getting and being so surprised by how good it was; I want to spend hours in a market getting picnic supplies because we have to try it all; I want to ask for directions from the lively locals or give a ride to another clueless traveler; I want to buy a bottle of the local wine direct from the barrel with the makeshift aluminum foil cap; I want to drink it while watching the sunset on a park bench; I want to engage with the locals who always want to know about us (biracial family, traveling with kids); I want to take a hike and find a hidden lake, sit on the grass and just be... the 4 of us. Together. All the experiences that one can only get when away from home, friends, tv, phones. I am grateful because we've been able to do that, I treasure these memories, I am hopeful we will be able to make some more, soon, I hope

All that being said, this little experiment of doing a blog has run its course (I started back in 2009 when I suddenly found myself unemployed and being thrust into full time mommyhood, see first post here). Even though I had slowed down the blogging significantly over the last few years; I've had so much fun documenting our family adventures. But as our kids are getting older (again, one will be going into college soon!) I feel the need to give them some privacy. Of course, I will continue documenting somehow. For now, you can still find me on instagram

Please stay safe and healthy during this strangest of times, sending love and positive vibes to all of you out there. Peace out

Elena

See all the previous "Year in Pictures" here

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Photo Journal - California's Low Desert

A birthday, a romantic holiday, kids out of school... A perfect storm for a getaway to a sunny locale (since it does not seem to stop raining around these parts)

Let's get started:

Jet setting in Palm Springs

We started our day with a delicious breakfast at Kings Highway at the ACE hotel
These two... We call it a good day if only one of them is grumpy. When they are both grumpy, watch out...
I don't know why this view of the restaurant reminds me of the painting "Nighthawks" by Edward Hopper. Do you see it?
A little driving around, checking out the mid century architecture. This whole town is just so unique and beautifully posh...
Can I get one of those houses, please?

Another Palm Springs signature sights... The windmills... They are really something. You know we had to stop



Palm Springs has always seemed to me like this idilic place to hangout and I was totally right (only in the winter though... I can imagine being here in the summer, wowza)

Ok, on to Joshua Tree National Park
Let's summarize our adventures in Joshua Tree National Park
  • Cruising the park in a convertible - See above (car rental mistake, our gain)
  • Leisure hikes and rock climbing. Joshua Tree National Park offers a unique and so, so beautiful landscape
  • Weather perfection... Beautiful blue skies and chilly evenings that nothing more than a light jacket or sweater could remedy (thank god for that, because at the end, I forgot to pack M's jacket and I was really worry that he was going to spoil our time with all of his whining)
  • Picnic dinner of tamales bought from the back of a truck in a parking lot, because... we are fancy that way (best tamales ever, by the way)
  • Getting stung really badly by a cholla cactus (still having flashbacks about it, if you go to Joshua Tree, do yourself a favor and stay far away from those little devils)
  • Ending the day stargazing in said convertible (we really hadn't planned how we were going to do the stargazing, the convertible came really handy...)
Here are some scenes...





Lots and lots of stops for pictures







Panoramic views of the badlands from Keys View
Ah happy, happy me before I got attacked by the evil cholla cactus... I cried friends, there were lots of tears and blood. I hate those little suckers
Continuing on... On our way to Anza Borrego State Park, we made a few stops along the way... Here are some pictures, be ready though, this part of the desert is quirky as hell... Lots of interesting things to see

Bombay Beach at Salton Sea Recreation area





 My partner in crime... She likes to take pictures almost as much as I do
Next stop, Salvation Mountain. Ever since I saw the movie "Into the wild" I wanted to visit Salvation Mountain (if you haven't seen this movie, you should check it out, it's really beautiful). Salvation Mountain is really something else. It is a colorful sight to behold in the middle of the desert. It was so cool that we got to visit it... Check it out






The old man that built this shrine has since passed on but his folksy legacy is still here for us to enjoy. Check it out if you get the chance

Anza Borrego State Park: We spent our time leisurely in tiny Borrego Springs. We did a nature walk and a sunset hike. Ah friends, the desert can be so beautiful... As the sun begins to set, the mountains turn pink and the weather turns chilly. We capped off our evening with another picnic and more star gazing. You see, Anza borrego is situated in one of the few dark sky communities in the US. Two nights in a row of star gazing!!! No phones (no signal anyway), no (much) noise -we had the kids with us after all - just us and our thoughts... It was enough to take your breath away.

"Even today the most jaded city dweller can be unexpectedly moved upon encountering a clear night sky studded with thousands of twinkling stars"

Carl Sagan

Here are some pictures:


The town is littered with gigantic metal sculptures everywhere. It makes the desert scenes even more striking (more on instagram)
A desert in bloom... V could not help herself







We got back to the car just at the end of the daylight. The desert can be very disorienting and you could get lost really easily. It's best to be back before it gets too dark (again, the nights can get really dark in these parts, that is why it makes for a great dark sky community).

I am really happy with how we spent out time in California's Low desert. We could not help but think how awesome it will be to camp in the desert (in the winter, obviously). Maybe one day we'll get to do that, for now, our Georgia, Tennessee and Florida State Park will have to do

More awesomeness from California:Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks here, San Francisco here and Napa and Sonoma Valleys

And for more US National Parks check out these posts:

Glacier National Park
Crater Lake National Park
Big Bend National Park - This too is a great place for stargazing
Everglades National Park
El Yunque National Park
Grand Canyon and Sunset Crater National Parks 

For more pictures of our family travels check out these posts and for even more pictures, check out my instagram at planandplay1