Hello all! My name is Crystal. I am an Okie, born and raised. I currently live on 80 acres close to Shawnee. The better half and the 2 monsters, I mean boys, and I all live on the farm together.
My family consists of the better half and the kids, 2 boys and 2 girls. (We are a blended family.) They range in age from 12 to 22. The oldest has moved away and started her own family. The second oldest is our college girl. The boys, well they are giving me a lot of grey hair.
I am a civil engineer, practicing in construction management. I manage transportation construction projects. (As you can see, between work and home I am constantly drowning in a pool of testosterone.)
Nature and traveling are my passions (after my career and family of course). I try to plan a big vacation trip every year with several weekend trips throughout the year. Almost all of these trips are strongly nature themed with AT LEAST one hike worked in if possible.
Any tips, tricks, or just experiences I will share as I go along. Feel free to contact me or comment for any questions! I am always happy to help!!
As my youngest and my annual fishing approaches, it dawned on me I have not yet blogged about our last trip! I have several things I wanted to share to keep people from making the same mistakes we did!
Little man and I headed down to Beavers Bend for his very first fishing trip. We got a cabin that was close to the best fishing spots with a kitchen, thinking we might be walking distance from it. (This was not the case. There are none that close.) We got a cabin from the state park.
If you haven’t been to the Beavers Bend Park, it is a pretty park with activities year round. Winter has fishing, hiking, and camping. Summer has fishing, hiking, camping, floating the river, and lots more in the family activity area.
I highly recommend you go to private cabins. The state park cabins beds were awful. I do not think they had been replaced in decades. Then there was the fireplace. After filling the entire cabin with smoke the first night we noticed this old discreet note on one of the walls that said you had to build the fire in the back 6″. There was also no TV and no cell signal. (I know I know we are supposed to be on a fishing trip but in February it gets dark early and you spend several hours in the cabin.) The plus side was it was only a short drive to the “bend.” It also had what seemed like never ending hot water.
The fishing was not that great when we went. Part of it was us, but part of it was the trout were not biting. Even the fly fishers (we were rod and real) were not catching much. I recommend getting a guide if it is your first time here. There are several in the area that have great reviews.
The fish are well stocked here. As we were standing in the almost clear water you could see them swimming around. The weather was just weird that weekend. Everyone I spoke with said that had to be why we didn’t have much luck catching anything. (That is another thing, everyone here are friendly and happy to help and share the fishing spots.)
I also highly recommend getting waders or mucks with felt or spikes, or even both. This was the first time either of us had fished on mossy rocks before. We both wore our mucks and fell in. Of course yours truly, fell in the first cast of the entire weekend. I refused to go back and change till I was pretty sure I was 100% frozen.
We ate at the Grateful Head pizza place. This is a part of a chain, but in the 2 I have been in do not have that chain feel. The food was extremely good. The salads were unique and fresh. The pizza combinations were also unique, but they also had the normal pizza. It had a great atmosphere, especially to those of us who are dead heads. Beware though, the portions are HUGE.
Overall it was a good enough trip, we are trying again. It may have just been the company, but I am definitely looking forward to doing it again.
My son turned 16 last September. To celebrate he and I took a back packing trip. We went to Wichita Wildlife Refuge near Lawton, Oklahoma. It was a great trip that I think we will always remember.
To do this you have to get a back country permit to camp. You contact the ranger station and the extremely nice ranger will send you the info. You then send it back and he emails your permits to you. They only allot so many a day so do not wait, especially if you have a certain day you want to go.
We parked in the gated parking at the Sunset picnic area, first thing and took off hiking. You can park inside the gate if you want your vehicle locked up at night or outside if not. In this area there are small hikes for the casual hiker and little ones in this area. They have a pretty bridge, water falls, and fairly clear trails.
As you hike out to the back country area you have to keep an eye our for signs. They are not easily seen. I recommend downloading the satellite images on your maps app before even entering the park. This will help to navigate the provided map (that comes with your permit) to the actual terrain.
There are several places you have to cross the water. Most of them you can rock hop if there hasn’t been a lot of rain recently. My son and I just wore our waterproof hiking boots and tried to stay out of the deeper water. (Of course one of us fell in after saying “I won’t fall” and it wasn’t me. )
Finding somewhere you can set up your tent in the designated area can be a bit of a challenge. The area is very rocky and in some areas muddy. I highly recommend bringing a tent with a small foot print. We found a spot for our tent that had a pretty good wind block (it is super windy up there) and mostly dry ground. On both sides of our camping area we had a very short walk to amazing views.
There are trails of various lengths in this area. However, he and I prefer to just pick a top and rock hop up to it. (I would say rock climb but we aren’t tying off or going that extreme.) We spent hours just climbing around seeing how high we could get till we got tired and decided to call it a night.
We cooked our hiker meals and climbed up to the peak to watch the sun go down. If you have not eaten the hiker meals, most of them are actually pretty appetizing. (I prefer the ones where you heat water and hydrate everything in the package instead of using pans.) His meal was chicken and mashed potatoes. I was extremely skeptical of it. His chicken was dang good though. It was like a very moist baked chicken breast.
That night we curled up in our bags and laughed and joked like 2 little kids. If you have teenagers you can really appreciate how special this was. It was a great time that I will always feel blessed to have with the little turd.
The next morning was extremely gloomy. We decided to call it early and head over to have some Mear’s burgers. If you are in the area this is a MUST HAVE. I have waited in line for over an hour before for one and I don’t ever wait in lines.
Their burgers are fresh beef that they raise themselves right there in Mears. Everything they have is pretty much amazing. (I personally recommend the seismic burger.) The best part is the desert. Make sure you save room. They have homemade cobbler they bring out in a huge bowl with a heaping scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream on top. He and I couldn’t even able to finish one bowl that day.
If you haven’t ever been to Wichita Wildlife Refuge you should go. There are so many things to do here. There are tons of hiking trails of all lengths and severity. It is also a great place to view the wildlife. Many bikers enjoy the ride through here. Then there is Mount Scott. At one point in time Mount Scott was the tallest mountain in North America. It is now barely big enough to be a mountain but you can drive to the top and see for miles and miles in every direction. Next time you are in the area, check out the refuge, it is well worth your time.
The Broadmoor Seven Falls is near Colorado Springs, Colorado. The 224 steps to the top can be very intimidating, especially to those of us with asthma. It is well worth the climb (and calorie burn). The fam and I really enjoyed our afternoon here.
A little trick for those of you with asthma. Get a can of oxygen. (You can purchase these at the gift shop but cheaper on Amazon ahead of time.) I got a little winded a few times but a quick puff and I made it to the top in about the same condition as the kids! (Disclaimer: I am in no way a medical professional so you might want to consult your doctor before doing this.)
The view from the top of the stairs is awesome. (I didn’t grab a pic for some reason.) You are able to see the whole way down the falls from the top. The people look like ants! However if the stairs is not in the cards for you, you can also take the elevator up to the platform and catch a good view from there.
The kids had a blast feeding the giant cat fish and the littlest even got to hand feed a squirrel (at least until the staff got on to him lol). They climbed all the stairs and played around so much they were completely quiet for the several hour ride to the hotel that night. Ahhhhhhhhhh!
We stopped at Garden of the Gods on our way back from Yellowstone. For those of you who don’t know it is near Colorado Springs, Colorado. It is a free park that is absolutely beautiful.
Let me start by saying this was not my first time I had been here. It has changed a lot since I had been here almost 20 years prior. (Yes I know I am showing my age.) It was still just as beautiful though. They had just made it more handicapped accessible, with concrete walkways and there were fences to keep the little ones back off the rocks.
This park has many cool rock formations. (My favorite is the kissing camels.) These formations are pretty to even the non geo nerds like me. The best part is there is room to climb around on the rocks. It is really a great place for people who get into extreme rock climbing.
All 3 of my boys (this is including the grown one) climbed around like a couple of monkeys. I am not sure they were supposed to go as high as they did without being tied off, but no one stopped any of us sooooooo…….
We spent several hours just climbing and hiking around the park. It was a little crowded but a great way for the kids to get out of the car and burn off some energy. As an added bonus it was free! I recommend you stopping in here and checking it out if you are in the area.