Friday, June 2, 2017

Waiting, Camping, and Lord of the Rings...Only 2 of Those Are My Favorite Things

I wish I had more news to offer up on the adoption front, but alas, things are still moving pretty slowly for us. However, I have been in contact with several other families from our agency who have seen their cases start moving very quickly so I'm hoping for some good news soon. If all goes well, Dylan will be here before the end of the year. Fingers crossed and good vibes only!

In more news on the adoption front, we're starting a fundraiser to help us cover some of the adoption expenses. I'm not going to lie, international adoption is expensive. (If you want specifics, I'm not shy, so feel free to ask and I will happily give you the break down.) Anything we can put towards these costs is incredibly helpful. We've partnered with Gobena Coffee to sell some of their delicious caffeine, I mean coffee (as well as mugs, t-shirts and more), with 50% of the proceeds going towards our adoption expenses. It's good coffee for a great cause (and it makes a great gift as well!). If you're interested, here is the link Jensen Adoption Fund and, if not, that's totally fine. Prayers and positive vibes are also very welcome!

Anyway, on to some fun camping memories/suggestions for camping with kids at one of our favorite places...Black Canyon of the Gunnison! Enjoy :) 

Ahhh,'s one of our favorite activities to do as a family as well as one of the cheapest ways to explore our lovely planet. It's important for us to not only save some dough when traveling but also to fully experience as much as we can at each place that we visit. One way we save cash is by bringing almost all of our own food (the kids' allergies pretty much require that anyway). We also tent camp whenever possible. It's not glamorous or even comfortable, but we love getting to see new places and that's what makes it possible.

The cheapest lodging...$30 for 3 nights!
The picture above is at the Black Rock Campground at Joshua Tree National Park. I'll cover that trip in detail in a future post but mostly I'm just providing a little glimpse into our tent set-up. For warmer climates we prefer layering blankets on our air mattresses but colder climates definitely call for our cozy sleeping bags. And Black Canyon, though super warm during the day, definitely got chilly at night. 

If you haven't heard of Black Canyon of the Gunninson National Park, you're not the only one. It's a pretty under-the-radar destination, which is nice for a National Park. So, if you're looking for something in the Rocky Mountains that isn't as crazy as Rocky Mountain National Park, or an alternative to the Grand Canyon, this quiet park is the place for you! I really do think this is one of the greatest parks for Introverts ;)

Black Canyon NP is located off of Highway 50 on the Western Slope in Colorado. Fun fact: It's actually closer to Montrose, CO than Gunnison, CO, but it's named Black Canyon of the Gunnison after the Gunnison River that carved this canyon.

There's an amazing space called the Curecanti National Recreational Area that runs along Highway 50 for quite awhile. It's a beautiful area that's mostly known for water recreation but there are hiking, camping, and bird watching opportunities there as well. We stopped briefly to check it out and do Jr. Ranger Workbooks.

Driving up to Black Canyon was gorgeous, the Western Slope is truly a unique pace. But, honestly, I had no idea what to expect when we pulled up to the first viewing area. It. was. magical.

It's obviously not as big as the Grand Canyon, but it's depth and the sheer rock walls combined with the darkness make it an incredibly dramatic place. It looks like something out of the Lord of the Rings which, if you know me, that's a very good thing...

Now, hiking at the Black Canyon is not for the faint of heart, especially on the rim trails. We found out after we returned that a young man had fallen from one of the trails and died while we were there. This is heartbreaking and terrifying, especially when trying to hike those types of trails with young kids. Honestly, had I known how close the Rim Rock Nature Trail was to the edge I wouldn't have hiked it with the kiddos but it really was a gorgeous hike with stunning views (and we made it to the Visitor Center from our campsite safely).

Living life on the edge...literally.
For families with small kids (or uncoordinated adults, like myself) the Cedar Point Nature Trail would be a better hiking option. The South Rim Road Scenic Drive is another fantastic option that shouldn't be missed. It's a relatively short drive that goes along a 7 mile stretch of the canyon and has several pull-off areas where you can take a short hike to some really stunning scenic viewing areas.

Less perilous nature trail.
Painted Wall on the South Rim Scenic Drive.

Our campsite was one of the best parts of the whole trip - and undoubtedly the best campsite we've had at any campground. We stayed at the South Rim Campground in the A Loop, which I highly recommend. The sites are large and private and bathrooms are close...a great combo for families with noisy kids who have small bladders. Small disclaimer here: This campground only has vault toilets as they have to haul their water in. Not ideal, but they do a good job of keeping them pretty clean.

View from the campsite.
There was a ton of space around our site and lots of wildlife stopping by to check us out. As fun as it was to check this place out during the day time, the night sky was quite possibly the best part of the entire trip. There was a really great night sky program put on by the park rangers and a local astronomy club was there with telescopes. We had our telescope and camera on hand to join in on the fun as well. We're not professional photographers by any means (and night sky stuff is tricky) but here are a few photos we were able to snap.

Overall, a fantastic trip to a beautiful place that the entire family enjoyed. I have a feeling we will be heading back there soon!

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