Monday, September 1, 2014

Summer of Camping!

We started our summer off with a bang! We had been talking for years about getting a travel trailer to do more camping with the kids. Our 14 year old car was dying a slow death so we decided the timing was right to get a new car and the trailer. After that, we spent the summer camping as much as we could. We took many long weekends and visited various State Parks in Florida. It was a blast. So far, we've been able to keep up with our once-a-month camping schedule. The hardest part is reserving far enough in advance to get a spot. The State Parks fill up fast in Florida, especially in the Winter months. One of our favorites was when we took a week off and visited one in the Keys. It was a long haul down there but so beautiful and relaxing. We're looking forward to our "5th grade weekend breaks" to visit some in the Winter months when our weather is amazing.

Here are a few of pictures of our fun adventures!

The photo diary is below:

Hammock Beach Vacation


Anastasia Camping Trip
Swim Meets


Bahia Honda Camping Trip
New Camper   Oscar Scherer Camping Trip
Lake Louisa Camping Trip   Miscellaneous



Hammock Beach Vacation (back to top)

We took our family vacation this year at Hammock Beach. Memaw and Pawpaw were able to join us which was a nice treat. We spent the week in the sun and water (and playing a mean game of Monopoly).


Bunny ears.


"Ah, good to be back."


"I love running on the beach."


"How do you do a handstand, Dad?"

So relaxing!




Daddy's girl.


"Ocean, how we've missed you."




Our beautiful babies.


That's our happy boy.


The girl has crazy muscles without even trying.




Daddy braved the water slide.


"Mom, take my picture."



"No hands."


Of course, its not a water vacation without some underwater pictures.



"Check out my water gun."


Sierra photo bombing.



Free bird.


"Who is that in the middle... oh that is what mom looks like."



"Check out my air."


Action shot!



"It's a little windy out here."


More handstand practice.



Pawpaw and Sierra digging for crabs.


"Yeah - Memaw and Pawpaw came to play with us."



Boogie boarding man.


"Did you find anything?"



"Take the picture already... the sun is in our eyes."





They even got MeMaw on the slide!


"The girls."





1 -2 -3 SMILE!



Say Cheese!


Big smiles!


Skull eyes.

Taking a break.



Practice makes perfect.


We love this place.


It was a relaxing week.



Love this seafood restaurant on the coast.

"Memaw bought us a new boogie board so we didn't have to share!"



"Hurry so we can go in the ocean"


Hangin' on the lazy river.



Family :)


Thumbs up!



Memaw can't get enough of the slide.


"Ah - its cold"



Laying down = faster!





Daddy fun times.


"Memaw, keeping pulling me."



Strolling on the beach.


Weird but cool jellyfish thing.



Digging for shark teeth.


Ghost crab.



St. Augustine trip.


"We're pooped... when do we go eat?"



Fake love for Mom's camera.


The Higgins' at the fort.


Good game of keep-away.


"Can you tell Kai lost keep-away?"


Memaw figured out how to go really pokey down the slide.



Swim Meets (back to top)

Swim season was fun this year. Kai and Sierra continue to improve in all their strokes. They are not breaking world records, but its a fun activity with their friends (and summer exercise).


I'm a cool dude.



Kai's dives have come a long way.











Sierra's dives are full of flare.




All star meet - Butterfly

All star meet - Butterfly



All star meet - Breaststroke

All star meet - Backstroke


All star meet - Backstroke


"What are you looking at?"


"Ah - there is the dive"




Some is funny Breaststroke


Nice head down.



Soaring through the air.


Kai and Kyle

Waiting for the awards.


Kyle, Jack, and Kai


The no-touch hug.


Jack, Sierra and Kai.



Check out all our awards.



New Camper (back to top)

As of June 2014, we became the proud new owners of a new travel trailer and SUV to pull it. It was a big day and we have already put it to lots of use. There are many state and federal parks in our future.

Practicing in the parking lot of the local high school.

Training day.

Didn't look as big on the lot but quite long to pull.

View #1

View #2


View #3

Kai and Sierra's bunks


Master bedroom


Lake Louisa Camping Trip (Clermont) (back to top)

For our first trailer camping trip, we decided to stay close to home and go to Wekiva. We get a call the day before that they are having "sewer" problems and all water will be closed off through the weekend. Bad omen! We made the best of it and quickly found another State park not too far away. It was hot and we didn't have a swim area but we still have fun and LOVE the trailer.

She's a beast in the driveway.


Game night in the "dining room" has proved to be fun (Dick - thanks for the monster checkers)!


Jim and Forrest... the old girl is enjoying coming along with us.


Comfy bed!


Our first dinner... hot dogs and Mac N Cheese.


Hot hike!


Forrest walking Sierra !


It was cool to see the flowers open up in the mornings and close in the afternoon. Got a pretty shot while it was open.


Our camping site.


Our camping site from the other side.



Sierra has eagle eyes. She spotted this little frog outside the bathroom (near the door hinge)


A cool bug (Sierra called it a leaf bug).



Our nature spotter.


These flying grasshoppers were everywhere. A few of them posed for us.



Our Florida lizards...


We found a nearby lake to cool off in.



We can't go hiking without a little geocaching.





Forgot the bug spray... poor Kai's blood is like candy to them.



Our navigator.



Anastasia Camping Trip (St. Augustine) (back to top)

We lucked out at the last minute and got reservations at Anastasia State Park in St. Augustine Florida. In the summer months, we tried to find camping spots with some swimming area so we weren't completely cooking outside. This one was a gem. The camp sites were really nice and the beach was very secluded. Also, we were close enough to drive into St. Augustine for the July 4th fireworks which was cool.



Nice evening walk in the ocean.


Movie time!


Sierra spotted this little guy camouflaged in the leaves.


It was the season of spiders. These guys were everywhere.


This girl Loves the outdoors.


The light looks cool on this palm frond.


Our campsite. Nice and cozy, tucked in the woods.


Catching minnows (or as she pronounces it... nimmows)


Nice, quiet day at the beach.


Dad chillin' out (trying to stay out of the sun so he doesn't get grumpy)


"If only the temperature was 10 degrees cooler... it would be perfect."



Kai decided to bury himself.


They caught several minnows.



Boogie boarding fun.


Nice ride.



Checking our St. Augustine on July 4th.


Everybody in their July 4th clothes.



"Check out the cool old ship in the background."


Ready for the fireworks.



Beautiful sunset.


The bridge is getting busy.


Dad and Sierra watching the show.


It was cool watching the fireworks next to the fort.



It was a great show!


Time to head out before the crowds get nuts.



Merlin was glad to see us come home (and sit under the umbrella while it dries)

Finished the weekend doing our own fireworks in the driveway.




Daddy gets excited for fireworks.



Smoke bombs.


Sexy legs.


It was a grand display.


The grand finale.


Bahia Honda Camping Trip (Keys) (back to top)

Oh my... what to say about this one. We LOVED Bahia Honda. Maybe it was the laid back Keys way of life, maybe it was too much sun, or snorkeling for hours on end. I'm not sure but what a super relaxing week. We were there during mini-lobster season when anyone can catch the Florida lobsters before commercial season starts. We even learned how to clean them. However, given we didn't have a boat nor would non-seafood eating dad participate (i.e., Mom would need to clean them all), we decided to not partake. Maybe on a future trip...

Dad unhitching the trailer (rearview monitor on the Escalade)


Sierra stretching her legs and practicing some tricks.


We stopped in a KOA on the way down to break the trip up. Florida is a REALLY LONG state.


The campground was next to a drive through Safari.


The lions didn't come to close (and were behind a 2 layer fence).


All the other animals were roaming freely.



It was super cool to see how close they would come to the car.


The zebras were gorgeous.


These three were only a sampling of the MANY zebra pictures.


Had to include the baby...



The rhinos were a little scary. People didn't have a problem waiting for them to cross the road.


Big and beautiful.



The monkeys were on an island. We found out that they can't swim so it keeps them contained.


Majestic giraffes.



After our safari, we went to the park to se some more animals.


This little guy stopped for a picture.



Ah... water mister.


You could feed the birds in the sanctuary.



They loved Dad (or maybe it was because he had all the nectar).


It tickles..



"I think they're getting ready to kiss."


We forgot swim suits in the camper, but Kai was able to go down the slide in his short.



Sierra wasn't able to do the slide, but she enjoyed cooling off in the splash pad.


This old guy was cool (and big).



We are almost there!


There is our exit!



Our home for the week.





It was easy to get used to.



Oh my goodness - the sunsets!



Every night was like a painting.



Odd looking flower.



The 3 more important people in the world (to this photographer)



After hiking up, we're finally to the top of the bridge.



Another sunset.





Sunset reflection in Dad's glasses.


Handsome Kai.



Pretty Sierra.


We snorkeled quite a bit in this water. Found lots of hermit crabs and small conch.


This is the life!


"Can we come here again tomorrow?"



Appetizer time.

On one of our bike trips, we spotted this green iguana.



The downside of this park (this time of year) is the abundance of seaweed. It was smelly on the opposite end of the island.


The shell.



Ghost crab.


There were new sea turtle nests every other day.



The entrance to the state park.


We were at a restaurant and spotted this green guy in running up the tree. He's camouflage.



Nice walk on the beach.


View of the tarpon feeding in the black mass of fish (view from the bridge).



The colors every day were AMAZING. Blue skies, green/blue water. Every day was a postcard.


Snorkeling time.



"I'm smiling - take the picture."


Little floating bums.



Love the hermit crabs.


Tons of snails.



It was like swimming in a fish tank.


More hermit crabs



Kai scooped up some crabs.


"Check this one our Mom."



More fishies.


Cool blue crab.


Snorkeling over the seagrass.


Daddy snorkeling.


Dad relaxing.


Swimming/snorkeling from the bay side.


Chilling outside the RV.



We found this awesome, big crab. Dad wouldn't let us keep it for the fish tank though.



Sierra holding the awesome crab before we released it.


There he goes. Bye Mr. Crab.



Night crabs... cruising around the beach after dark.


The ocean side of the island after dark.



Bayside the next day.


The day mini-lobster season opened, they had an educational event at the park. The kids played a game to try and win the lobster gear.



This cool guy can't fly anymore/


Checking out the critters the marine biologist brought.



A Florida spiny lobster ... no claws.


The kids got to touch it.



The ocean side of the island.


"Cool dude."



The water was really that blue/clear.


Snorkel selfie.



The fish.


Digging for creatures.


Face and rear.


"What are you looking at?"



"I'm ready to snag something."


"Poor fish.. watch out"



Kai and Sierra found this rock and tried every day to catch the fish.


I think Dad might have let them bring him home if they had caught him.



They tried different strategies everyday.


The fish outsmarted the every time.



This is how Daddy does the Keys... in the water under an umbrella.


All that is missing is a beer.



We had to be careful not to step on a sea urchin.


Brave fish.. very territorial. This was part of their strategy. Sierra would give him a foot and Kai would come in from behind.



Sea sponge (filters the sea water).


Here he is again... they gave him a work out.



We found a bunch of conch buried in the sea grass.


They were huge.



Many times they had algae on the outside and were in the seagrass so they were camouflage. We got good about finding them.

Look how big it is next to Sierra's foot.



We chased this cow fish for a while (Sierra tried to net him to no avail).


Love this view of the beach and bridge.



Baby conch.


More hermit crabs.. wish Dad would have let us bring some home.



Picture from our snorkeling trip out to the reef.


We thought we had seen a lot next to the island, but this was something else.



HUGE fish swimming everywhere.


Sierra ready to see some big ones.



God's fish tank.


School of fish swimming over a ravine.



The girl is a natural.


Need to take the selfies so there is evidence of Mom on the trip.



Big blue guy.


This was a very cool (very big) version of one we've had in our tank.



Shark... He was way down. Still freaky enough to make the hair stand on your neck.



Parrot fish. Very colorful.


Barracuda under the boat.



"I'm glad I missed the shark."


Snorkel free - 4 days of snorkeling ... time to rotate to goggles.



"Hola Mom"


She's always been able to smile so big underwater!



There is our big, blue tang.


Not sure what type of fish this is but he was cool.



You could swim so close to them.


We saw a lot of these guys closer to the island.



It would have been easy to spend hours here.


Bubble man.



The boys on the boat ride back.


Smile girls!



Almost home.


The campsites from the boat. We didn't get a water one.. maybe next time.




Did we mention the sunsets were amazing!


Fishing time.



We don't know what we're doing. We tried shrimp and worms.


But we looked cool trying.



Oh my - another sunset and view of the bridge.. never gets old.


Another day of snorkeling in crystal clear water.. Key West this time.



"Coming to get you mom."


Check these out!



More really big fish.


Looks like a brain.



Wish we had this guy for our tank.


Hello Mama!



Minnows, minnows everywhere.


Trying to catch "nimmows" with her hands (we forgot the net)



This is love. Dad knows how much Mom loves wildlife pics. We chased this guy.


Mom - the iguana stalker.



And there is the shot!


Bottom of the good ole US of A



We had to do the touristy thing (waiting in-line for this particular picture) while in Key West. I think we were the only people speaking English. Good thing the "sign language" for "take my picture" works in any language.


We ate at a voodoo BBQ place.


Creepy painting .. dead chickens and skulls.


"Hurry... another iguana.. let mom out of the car."



"1-2-3 Say cheese"


"Ah - a poser"



Dad is always a good sport about going to seafood restaurants. He can usually find something on the menu. The first place we stopped had nothing but seafood... so we had our drinks and left. We found this next place which was perfect. Happy hour specials... sampling of lots of seafood and non-seafood appetizers and drinks. Fun for all.


Full bellies, great company = happy girls.



Huge tarpon swimming in the marina.


Being nice and posing for mom.



Ready for our Kayak tour.


Cooling off, while waiting on the lady to come undo our kayak.



Sierra is our navigator.


The boys boat.



"Stop looking at me and keep paddling."


Strategizing about catching Mr. Fish.




"He's biting my toes, get him Kai."


We were hoping to find one of these empty but no such luck. All had occupants.



He's ready to protect his turf again.


Here is another conch hiding in the sea grass.



Sierra ended up stepping on one of these sea urchins. Good thing we had tweezers.


We almost caught this cow fish (Sierra did) but he got away. It was like chasing Dory from Nemo. He kept turning around looking at us to see if we were still behind him.



The boys taking a break.


Forrest is pooped out (so is Dad).



It felt wrong fishing when all the fish were tropical. It was like catching things out of a fish tank.


Luckily we didn't have too much luck.



We lucked out and found this sea turtle coming up for air.


Kai caught one!



It was our only catch of the trip, but at least it was one.


He got it off the hook and threw it back.



More sea turtle.


Quick air break before submerging for good.



Sierra kept trying. She almost snagged a cow fish but no luck.



Oscar Scherer Camping Trip (Osprey) (back to top)

Our last trip of the season was Labor Day weekend. We went to Oscar Scherer State Park over on the West Coast of Florida. It was a nice camp ground and a close drive to the west coast beaches.




Nice wooded spot that backed up to a canal.


Sierra was on her bike as soon as we unpacked.


These fish were in the canal behind us (we could never figure out what they were). We tried different kinds of bait but nothing worked.



Sierra trying out the dog crate to make sure it was setup right for Forrest.


It was tortoise heaven on this trip.



On most of our bike trips around the park, we saw a bunch of these gopher tortoises


Great subjects.. they don't move very fast :)


Sierra waiting for him to cross the road.


He hasn't make it very far.



Nothing like biking in the sand in 90+ temperatures in your bathing suit.


Lovely butterfly posing for us.



Kayak trip on the canal.


The boys right before they splashed us.



"Mom stop taking pictures and paddle"


Neat reflection.



We kayaked in the canal that ran behind our campsite.


We took an afternoon and headed to the beach.



West coast beaches... beautiful but not too wavy.


Boogie boarding isn't much of an option so we repurposed the nets and played ball.



Caught it.


Kai buried himself again.



Dad chillin' under the umbrella again.


"Oh no, the rain is coming in."



Now it's pouring.. we had to wait out the rain storm on the beach.


Not sure what this is, but it was pretty color.


Miscellaneous (back to top)

In addition to all the fun described above, we had lots of other miscellaneous adventures (see below).


Bye bye Jeep. After 14 years, it was time to move on.


We were sad to give her up. Lots of memories (including 10 years with the kids) in this Jeep.

"We'll miss you."


Last ride to trade her in.


He looks sad now (in a fake way) but was smiling in a big way when we picked up the escalade and he had his own volume controls and seat warmer.


Happy Fathers Day!


The Lego war. We submitted to the Lego magazine. We're waiting to see if we make it in.


Kai's solution to not getting germs in the family movie soda.


Our tickets to Sierra's Frozen Musical Theatre production.


The Frozen program she made us.


Inside of program.


The big show.


She had so much fun.


Sierra and her teacher.


It's that time of year again. We packed up 30 backpacks this year for church.


The shopping takes longer than the packing. The packing goes pretty quick once we get our assembly line setup.



Ready to go!


First day of 5th grade.



Last year of elementary.


Ready to conquer another year.



Ok - non goofy one for mom.


Kai was chosen as a safety patrol guard. He had a choice of bringing home his sash to get a picture or having mom go to school and photograph him in action. He chose to bring it home :).




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