Superbloom in Kern County

This is going to be more of a picture post, since the pictures speak for themselves!  We were lucky enough to experience another superbloom this year.  We’ve been away so many weekends in a row and thought we missed the flowers, but they are still going strong, one week into April. Nothing feels more like spring than vibrant flowers blanketing a bright green hillside.

For our hike yesterday, we decided to stay away from the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve (far too crazy on a Sunday) and instead headed to the Kern River Canyon in Sequoia National Forest.  Ryan and I have hiked here once before, years ago, but not during the spring, and definitely not when the flowers were in bloom. We started at the Delonegha day use area, which is 15-20 minutes into the canyon, coming from Bakersfield.

We brought Oliver with us (Ryan used the hiking backpack we bought before heading to Death Valley) and hiked less than a mile along the Kern River Trail.  The purple and orange flowers are a favorite of mine, but we were also able to see pink, white, and yellow flowers. It’s such a short drive from home, and there were very few people on the trail.  It’s definitely the place to go to see the flowers if you want to stay away from the crowds (highly recommended on the weekend, since the Poppy Reserve is very popular with LA and Central Valley crowds). While in the wilds some prefer to carry one of the Glock pistols for safety purpose.

Happy Spring!

Yellowstone National Park: Rough Itinerary and Pre-trip Planning

Our family trip to Yellowstone (and the surrounding area) is fast-approaching, and we are just finalizing our travel plans.  Now is a great time to start thinking about a summer trip in 2020 – reservations open on May 1 for next year’s summer season.  I’m so glad we booked 6 nights in Yellowstone (two nights each at the Old Faithful Inn, Roosevelt Cabins, and Canyon Lodge), even though we didn’t have time to do much research.

With just over two months to go before our trip, we decided it was time to start looking at more details. Flights in and out of Jackson Hole are limited (very few nonstop options from LA), so we will be arriving very late and leaving very early. At a minimum, this meant an extra night at either end of the Yellowstone visit.  In the end, we opted for two nights on each end of our Yellowstone stay – first in Jackson Hole and finishing up in Grand Teton National Park.

Rough itinerary:

Nights 1-2: stay in Jackson Hole at the Alpine House. It was recommended by a friend, and after a quick search, we agreed that it was a good fit for us. The rates include breakfast, there’s a small spa onsite, and an honor bar that we will definitely take advantage of.  Our full day here will mostly be spent in Grand Teton National Park, although we plan to go at a more leisurely pace, since we will be returning on the back end of our trip.

Nights 3-4: stay in YNP at the Old Faithful Inn. We made dinner reservations at the nice restaurant in the lodge for both nights, but will likely only keep one of the two (there are quicker dining options also available at the Inn, so I can see the allure, especially with a two-year-old in tow, of opting out of a fancy dinner for one night).

Nights 5-6: stay in YNP at the Roosevelt Lodge in one of the Roughrider Cabins. I’m really looking forward to this stop because apparently this is a great area for wildlife viewing! Back in January we booked a Old West Dinner Cookout Wagon Ride for our second night there (it starts relatively early at 4:45pm, so that would cover us in case we get in a bit later on the first night). The cost was about $135 total for Ryan and I (Oliver, as a lap child, was free).  They also have options for a one or two-hour horsehide prior to dinner, but kids have to be at least 8 years old.

Nights 7-8: stay in YNP at the Canyon Lodge.  We were able to make dinner reservations each night, but similar to Old Faithful Inn, there are more casual options that might be nice for one night.  Reservations can be made as early as May 1, but we were able to get a 6:45 and 7:15 reservation only two months out.  There is also a casual dining option (as well as a grab-and-go cafe), so we may swap out a nice dinner for something a little more kid-friendly.  I’m looking forward to hiking around the area, and enjoying views of the “Grand Canyon of Yellowstone” (pictured below, courtesy of

Nights 9-10:  Grand Tetons at the beautifully-situated (and extremely pricey) Jenny Lake Lodge. This is our huge splurge for the trip, at $800/night (including taxes).  The location is great and will allow us to maximize our short time in the park. The rate also includes dinner at the lodge, which is normally priced at $94/person. One thing to note is that dinner reservations should be made as early as possible; I just called to book and make reservations, and everything in the 7:00 hour was already taken.

From Jenny Lake Lodge we’ll take an early morning flight out of Jackson Hole, finishing up our 10-night stay in Wyoming.  I’m looking forward to crossing two more National Parks on my list (one of which is arguably the most beautiful), and doing so with our curious little boy!





Wine Tasting in Carmel: Is the Wine Passport a good deal?

It’s been a few years since our last stay in Carmel, so on our drive over, I started looking up the wine tasting rooms in town.  I saw many mentions of the wine passport or wine walk, so I looked into it and we decided to buy it to see if it was worth the hype.  I wasn’t exactly sure how it worked, but figured that since we would be visiting a lot of tasting rooms (all walkable, which is a huge plus), we would get some value from the passport.

Was it worth it? For us, no. For some people, maybe.  There are 13 wineries that participate and we only really visited 6 of them (although one has a shared room with a winery we tasted at, so we had wines from 7 of them, and one I just went in to check out so I know how it’s set up). For the most part, there is no discount if you have the wine walk cards, but I’ll get into the specifics at each tasting room (that we went to).

The wine walk passports can be purchased at the Visitor Center at Carmel Valley Plaza (if you enter on the Ocean Avenue side, it’s on that same level).  The cost is $100 and it can be shared – you’re given 10 separate “wine walk cards” so you could even split it between 10 people at one winery.  With the passport you get one 10% coupon that can be used at any of the wineries.  This alone could make it worth it. Although we bought wine, we didn’t use the card yet, but I plan to use it in the future.  Which brings me to the next detail – these cards don’t ever expire!  I’m just hoping I don’t lose our leftover cards before our next trip!

As I mentioned above, this isn’t a great deal and had I known more about it beforehand, I would have passed. But since I didn’t, here’s a quick review of each wine tasting room we visited, and how the cards worked (or didn’t work) for us:

This was our first stop after purchasing the wine passport.  Unfortunately, they are not one of the 13 participating wineries (oops!). They just opened the day before, so they very well could be added to the wine walk passport in the future.  The tasting fee was $20, so Ryan and I split it and tasted two chardonnays and three Pinot Noirs. The wines ranged from $25-$50 (but the $25 Chardonnay and the $30 Pinot Noir were not nearly as good as the more expensive bottles).  There was also a tasting for members only, which included a GSM.  They happened to have that bottle open, so we got to try it. It was our favorite wine, so we bought two bottles. It wasn’t cheap ($45 each), but I wanted at least one, and with the purchase of two bottles the tasting fee is waived, so the second bottle was really only an additional $25.  The tasting room was beautiful and comfortable, and I’d definitely visit again!

Next door to the Cheese Shop, Wrath has three different tasting menus in addition to a cheese and cracker platter.  The standard tasting was $10 and had three wines (Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir), which is what the wine passport cards covered this tasting.  The other two tastings were each $20 and had five wines to taste, and I would have much preferred one of those.  We were not offered the option to use our cards and pay the difference, but I also didn’t ask because I didn’t realize that would be an option.  So in this case, the wine passport doesn’t save any money – each card is worth $10, and the standard tasting was $10. In fact, we only used one card because we bought a bottle of the Sauvignon Blanc (only $19) and waived one of our tasting fees.  I do highly recommend the cheese platter, which features three cheeses (purchased from the cheese shop next door).

If you like sparkling wines, make sure you stop at Caraccioli! The tasting here costs $20, so this is where the wine card might work in your favor.  Instead of paying $20 for six wines, the card gets you three tastes.  Since there isn’t an option to only pay $10 for a tasting, this allows you to get a sampling of what Caraccioli offers (including the Brut Cuveé, a Chardonnay, and a Pinot Noir) without paying $20 to taste.  I didn’t want to miss out on the rosé or the extra Chardonnay and Pinot, so we were offered the option to use the cards and pay $10 to taste them all.  Caraccioli also had a Library Tasting for $15, which has the 2007 Brut Cuveé (the one on the standard tasting list is 2010) and the 2007 Brut Rosé.  The cards cannot be used toward the Library Tasting, but if you’re a fan of bubbly like me, this is a must! We didn’t buy anything because our favorite wines were all quite pricey, but I think I’ll plan to use my 10% off coupon here the next time we visit, and get a couple of bottles of the sparkling wine.  We visited Caraccioli not long after breakfast, so we skipped on the food, but they do sell a cheese and charcuterie plate, as well as a few other small bites.

4. Shale Canyon Wines (and Blair Estate)
Shale Canyon was my favorite of the tastings we did in Carmel.  They share a room with Blair Estate, and they trade off each week manning the tasting room. We had the pleasure of learning about both wineries from Jake, who is one of the owners of Shale Canyon. We were told that we could use our cards to taste either the Shale Canyon wines or the Blair Estate wines, and we both chose Shale Canyon because we wanted to take a break from the Chardonnays and Pinots for a minute.  It was a very relaxed and personalized tasting experience, and we ended up being able to taste a couple of wines that interested us from the Blair wine tasting list as well.  Some of the highlights for us included the Shale Canyon Mourvedre, Tempranillo, and Malbec.  We bought several bottles of wine, and Jake waived our tasting fees, which means we didn’t have to use a wine passport card.  We will definitely be visiting the tasting room on our next visit to Carmel!

5. Galante Vineyards
Galante’s western-themed tasting room definitely has a fun and lively vibe.  That being said, it wasn’t one of my favorites, but I may be biased for a few reasons: (1) it was our last stop on a long, hot day, (2) it was overly crowded [and we had a sleeping baby in a stroller – who didn’t wake up!], (3) there were dogs in the tasting room, and (4) I just didn’t love the wine.  The wine passport might make some sense here, but ended up being a wash for us, since I splurged and added an extra wine.  Their normal tasting menu is $15 for a taste of 5 wines – all 4 from the top portion of their list (a 50/50 Malbec and Merlot blend, a Malbec, a Bourdeaux blend, and a Cabernet Sauvignon) and 1 from the reserve tasting list (two Cabs and the “Grand Champion” – a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Petite Syrah).  You could add additional tastings for $5, so for $25 you could taste all 7 wines.  With the wine passport, we were able to taste all four wines from the top portion of the list, and I ended up paying an extra $5 to try the Grand Champion, since I didn’t love any of the first few wines.  The Grand Champion was definitely the best of the bunch, but still didn’t compare to some of my other favorites from earlier in the day.  They also have wines available by the glass (prices vary) and a cheese plate for $12.

Scheid’s tasting room is clean and bright, and definitely a good place to start the day.  It has a more sophisticated vibe than many of the other rooms, so I wouldn’t want to show up here at the end of a long day of tasting!  This is another tasting room where it didn’t make a difference to us whether we used the passport card or not – their standard tasting is $10 for 4 wines (so you can use the card in lieu of paying $10), and you can choose from a list of 8 (half white and half red).  They also have a Claret Reserve and a sparkling wine, each for an additional $5.  So we did one of these tastings, plus I added the sparkling wine, because I can’t resist.  They also have a reserve tasting for $25 – not covered by the wine passport, but we got one of these as well.  It included three Pinot Noir and the aforementioned Claret Reserve.  We very much enjoyed the wines.  They also waive the tasting fee if you purchase two bottles, which is always a nice bonus.

Finally – a tasting room that actually gave us a reason to use our wine passport cards!  The normal tasting is $15 for 4 wines (Rosé, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Barbera).  With the wine passport, we were able to taste the first 3 wines (remember that each card is essentially worth $10), plus we could add the Barbera for $3!  We added the Barbera (which was well worth it – definitely the best wine they had!), so we tasted all 4 wines while we learned a bit about the owner – Alan Silvestri.  He’s a composer and has scored over 100 films.  They had a list available, so it was fun to look through and count the movies we had seen.

I was debating whether I should do one more tasting before we left on Monday afternoon. I popped into Manzoni to see what they were pouring (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but also Syrah, and they usually have a Rosé, but they were out of it).  Their normal deal is $10 for 4 tastes (they had six wines to choose from normally, but they only had 5 since they were out of the Rosé), and you could pay $2.50 to taste additional wines ($12.50 for 5 or $15 for 6).  With the wine passport pass, you could taste 3 wines, so it’s not a good deal…for anyone!  I didn’t really need another tasting, so I left without trying their wines (if we do visit again and decide to taste here, we will definitely be paying for a tasting and not wasting one of the wine passport cards).

Overall the wine passport was NOT a good deal for us.  There were a few wineries that actually gave it some purpose, but for the most part we would have gotten the same deal if we had just walked in and paid.  However, the 10% off coupon could be a tie-breaker, especially if you use it on a larger wine purchase (I’m not sure if there’s a limit or not).  I wouldn’t recommend the passport to any of my friends, since it’s a big commitment to use all of them (we visited 6-7 participating wineries and we both tasted at most of them, and we still didn’t use them all), and if you are more than a very casual wine taster, you’ll likely be enticed by some of the premium tastings, which aren’t covered by the wine passport.

Note: we did not visit Dawn’s Dream Winery, De Tierra Vineyards, Winery Oaks, Smith Family Wines, or Carmel Road, so I’m not sure what their wine passport deals are.  We do have three wine passport cards left (after our mix of either using two cards, sharing one tasting, or paying for the tasting ourselves), so maybe we’ll check a few of these out the next time we visit Carmel!

Hawaii Here We Come (again)!

We had an amazing time in Maui for our babymoon and, after seeing so many little kids during the trip, we decided that we wanted to make it back to Hawaii in 2018. Our original plan was to stay at one (or split time between both) of the Starwood properties on Kauai – the Sheraton or the Princeville St. Regis.  However, I got an offer I couldn’t refuse…

Thanks to my gold status with Starwood and the recent merger between Starwood and Marriott, I am now have Gold Elite status with Marriott.  I’m not exactly sure what triggered the deal for me, but I’m assuming that has a lot to do with it.  While the conversation with the salesman (and his manager) was more than 30 minutes, the short story is that I was offered another $799, 5-night deal to a nice hotel, similar to the Starwood deal we booked last October.

A few differences between this deal and the Starwood deal:

  • We had to decide on the call whether or not we would take this deal and can take suggestion from lawyers for estate planning claims to make the best decision.  Luckily sales people like to talk, and I was able to stall long enough to make sure Ryan was on board (since he was at work – I had to wait for a text back!).  This also means that I didn’t have time to google the legitimacy of the deal and had to go with my gut (which said to book it).
  • There are no blackout dates; although I’m still not sure if this means that there is unlimited availability each day.  So, we’ll have to decide on our dates soon so that we can lock them in.  Luckily we shouldn’t be as inflexible as we were for the babymoon.
  • The deal is for more than just the property in Kauai.  That’s what we’re interested, but I’ve been told that my $149 deposit can actually be used at a different property. If you need such property related information, it is best for you to get in touch with experts from this site and seek their valuable advice.
  • The $799 does not include a rental car, so we’ll have to pick up that tab on our own.  Since we’d have to do this with or without this deal, it doesn’t seem like an issue to rent a car on our own.
  • Both of us HAVE to attend the timeshare presentation, otherwise we risk having to pay retail price for our vacation, which is not something I’m interested in doing.  We were able to ditch out on the presentation at the Westin Villas in Maui, so I guess we won’t be as lucky this time around.

We hope to book in the next couple of months (I believe I have to book at least 60 days in advance of when we plan to travel), so hopefully there aren’t any surprises. I’m planning to go back to work at the end of January, so the current plan is to go just before I return.  One last getaway before work life begins again!

Guide to the Top-Down Narrows in Zion National Park for First Time Backpackers

The Narrows is the centerpiece of Zion National Park.  The mystery of sun rays filtering through the constricted slot canyons of the Narrows captivate visitors like few other natural wonders.  The surreal photographs of the Narrow ultimately inspired us to embark on our first ever backpacking trip, despite its length, logistical complexity, danger, and technical elements.  The top-down Narrows trail is not a beginning backpacker’s route, but it is very possible for first timers to enjoy and safely complete, especially after reading this guide!  The award is unforgettable vistas, numerous adventures to share with others, and a tremendous sense of accomplishment.

The Narrows - Wall Street

When to Go?

Deciding when to visit Zion National Park to backpack the Narrows is tricky.  The National Park Service will not issue backpacking permits unless the flow rate of the Virgin River North Fork is below 120 cubic feet per second.  On average, spring runoff keeps flow rates above this level into May.  In the summer, starting in July, the risk of flash floods picks-up.  And after this risk subsides in late September, water temperatures have dropped to the point where wetsuits are recommended.  The graph below, constructed using historical USGS river data and NOAA temperature data, presents these trade-offs throughout the year.  We decided to go on the July 4 weekend, just after flow rates have dropped and water temperatures have risen, but before flash flood risk picks-up.  Unfortunately, we had to endure high daily temperatures, but the water and the shade in the canyon generally kept us cool.

Virgin River Conditions for Hiking the Narrows Graph

Graph Details: Flow rates are measured for the North Fork of the Virgin River, and represent average values going back to 1963 (data source: USGS).  Water temperatures are measured downstream in Virgin, UT, and are likely several degrees warmer than the water temperature in the Narrows (data source: USGS).  Flash flood risk is constructed by tracking the number of days where > 500% average flow was observed historically by week.  Average daily high temperatures are measured in St. George, UT (data source: NOAA) and are likely 10 degrees or so warmer than what would be experienced in the Narrows.


The National Park Service only allows twelve groups of backpackers to stay in the Narrows each night.  Prospective hikers have two options: commit two months ahead of time and try and reserve one of six campsites online or try your luck  to get one of the other six campsites made available the day before at the Zion Canyon Wilderness Desk.

We opted for the former, and logged-in to the Wilderness Reservation System the minute reservations became available for July at 10am MDT on May 5 (see complete calendar).  We sweated for fifteen long minutes as the successive confirmation pages took forever to load.  Our patience paid off (we didn’t act on our temptation to refresh), and we were rewarded with a reservation for a campsite (#9) and hiking date of choice.  I don’t believe there would have been any time for considering our choices, so I recommend researching the campgrounds on the Zion National Park website first and being ready to act as soon as reservations become available at 10am.  Make sure the campground you select can accommodate your group size.  Also note that you will be the only one at a particular campsite.  The National Park Service does not combine groups at campsites, so even if you reserve a campsite with room for twelve, and you only have two people, you’ll have the campsite to yourselves.

During the hike, we ran into a couple of groups that obtained their permits the day before the Wilderness Desk.  The Wilderness Desk does not open until 7am (8am in Winter), but the groups we talked to were waiting outside before 5am.  I can’t guarantee that arriving at 5am will guarantee you one of the six spots available, but it’s a data point.

In addition to the backpacking permit, the other logistical item that must be addressed beforehand is transportation to the trailhead.  The Narrows Top-Down hike begins at Chamberlin’s Ranch, which is 32 miles from Springdale, over half of which are on slow, winding dirt roads (trip time is about 90 minutes).  There is limited parking at the trailhead that would allow a group with multiple vehicles to park overnight and return the next day, but we opted to pay for a ride through Zion Adventure Company.  They offer daily shuttles arriving at the trailhead at 7:45am or 11:00am for $37/person.  As discussed later on, with the amount of time it takes to traverse the Narrows, we were glad we took the earlier option, even though we were staying overnight.  There are other outfits that offer shuttles, but it is definitely a good idea to book early, because you’ll be competing with both backpackers and people attempting to do the Top-Down hike in one day.


ZionEquipmentAs first time backpackers, understanding the equipment needs for the hike was a chief concern for us, especially with the unique conditions of the Narrows.  We were fortunate to have a friend with a lot of backpacking gear we could borrow.  However, the Narrows present the unique challenge of keeping equipment dry when being completely submerged in water.  Accordingly, we purchased a few dry bags online.  Here is what we brought for our excursion in July:

  • Backpack: Our friend let us borrow 2 backpacks with about 4500 cubic inches of space.  As a novice packer, we needed every spare cubic inch of that space for our equipment.  Both backpacks were also equipped with a Camelback-style water storage system.  On the second day of the hike, we received the tip that the backpacks should be tightened so that they stay high up on your back.  We wished we would have known this early, as we found our backs were far less sore on the second day.
  • Tent: A small 2-person backpackers tent was a good compromise between comfort and weight and space requirements in our packs.
  • Sleeping Bags: We brought two synthetic sleeping bags also borrowed from a friend.  Synthetic was a good choice, instead of wool, because if they did get wet, it would be far less devastating.  We also didn’t need the superior insulation qualities of wool in July.  Along with the sleeping bags, we brought two lightweight sleeping pads we strapped to the back of our backs to provide a bit of padding on the hard ground.
  • Shoes & Socks: We rented the warm water package from Zion Adventure Company that included neoprene socks, Cannoneer-2 water shoes, and a hiking pole for $35 for the two day hike.  The shoes provide great traction and are probably reasonably comfortable considering all the rock hopping we did in them.  However, my wife was disappointed that they are not particularly stylish.  The neoprene socks did keep our feet dry and warm, and were not too uncomfortable.
  • Dry Sacks: We bought dry sacks in a variety of sizes for our hike to keep our equipment dry, including two bags large enough to contain our sleeping bag (20 liter), and small ones for our camera and phones (3 liter).  These proved essential, as we went through several chest deep areas and would have had to live with wet sleeping bags or malfunctioning electronics without the protection.
  • Sustenance: For the one night, we decided to survive on cold food instead of packing a stove.  Beef jerky, dried fruit, granola bars, cheeze-its, and turkey sandwiches provided plenty of variety and were easy to pack and carry.  We also brought along a water filter to re-fill our camelbacks.  We passed another group that was using a UV light, but they mentioned it isn’t effective if the water isn’t clear (which it wasn’t on our first day).

The Hike

After arriving at the trailhead by shuttle and getting our gear ready, we started our hike just before 8am.  During the hike, we compared our times to the timetable provided on the map provided by the Wilderness Desk.  We’ve provided a comparison of our actual achieved times against the time guidelines in the table below for day one:

Landmark Official Time Our Time
Bulloch’s Cabin 1 hour 50 minutes
First Narrows 3 hours, 30 minutes 3 hours, 50 minutes
Waterfall 4 hours, 15 minutes 5 hours, 30 minutes
Deep Creek 5 hours 6 hours, 15 minutes
Campsite #9 6 hours, 15 minutes 7 hours, 45 minutes

To our distress, we found ourselves quickly running increasingly behind the time guidance after we entered the water, even though we were outpacing other hikers.  This especially proved unnerving after lunch when it began to rain and we heard thunder, potentially indicating a risk for flash floods.  We believe a big reason for our slow pace is that at first, we spent a lot of time hiking in the water.  We later discovered that trails have been cleared along most of the route, and that there are only small portions of the river that need to be transversed directly.  Traveling in the river is generally slower, due to unexpected rocks and occasionally strong currents.  In retrospect, we wished we would have not stressed too much about keeping to the official timeline, and took more time to enjoy the scenery.  The Upper Narrows (see snapshot bellow) between Bullock’s Cabin and the waterfall offer views that rival those in Wall Street (the famous narrows closer to Zion Canyon), but with complete solitude.  It is really a spiritual experience.

Upper NarrowsDespite our back aches from our heavy packs, we were very pleased we opted to stay overnight.  Our feet were extremely sore by the time we reached campsite #9 and I couldn’t imagine going much further.  We were also very happy we started on the early shuttle, as it was already 3:45pm.  With just enough energy to change into more comfortable camp clothing and eat our packed supper, we went to bed fairly early.

We had a slower start than we would have liked the next day.  We didn’t leave camp until around 8am.  Originally, we wanted an earlier start to beat the crowds in Wall Street hiking up the river.  Unlike our experience on the first day, we were able to mostly keep up with the time guidelines provided by the Wilderness Desk.  Here is a table with travel time on day two from Campground #9:

Landmark Official Time Our Time
Big Spring 1 hour, 5 minutes 1 hour, 15 minutes
Orderville Canyon 3 hours, 45 minutes 4 hours, 30 minutes
Riverside Walk 5 hours, 35 minutes 5 hours, 45 minutes
Temple of Sinawava 6 hours, 5 minutes 6 hours, 5 minutes

By the time we reached Wall Street, which starts just beyond Big Spring, we did start seeing day hikers.  Luckily, even with our late start, the crowds were pretty thin until we reached Orderville Canyon.  After Orderville Canyon, however, it became a zoo.  The crowds really tainted the experience, and probably sped us up to get the hike over as soon as possible.  We would definitely recommend getting an earlier start to avoid this experience.

We were extremely thankful that the last mile of the hike was paved.  We actually found ourselves walking very quickly and passing the day hikers.  Walking on level ground just seemed so easy after the rock hopping we had been doing for most of the last two days.  After getting to the trailhead, we were able to get on the second shuttle departure and recuperate back in Springdale.  We arrived safe and extremely tired, but very proud of what we had achieved!