Finals on the Fifth

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It’s hard to believe a year has passed since we last watched the World Cup, and probably like many other Americans, we had no idea the Women’s World Cup was going on, let alone that the USA was playing in the finals today (and won!). Even if we had kept up with the tournament from the very beginning, we would have had trouble finding any online brackets to make our picks like we did last year. Unlike the NCAA Tournament and the Men’s World Cup, media networks don’t promote a Women’s World Cup bracket; this is part of a larger sports disparity, according to a great article in the Columbia Journalism Review, in which women make up 40% of all athletes yet receive only 4% of all sports coverage. We regret that we didn’t give the women their fair share of our soccer enthusiasm, but we couldn’t be happier about the outcome of the tournament :)

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A Dip in the Swimming Hole

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We’d heard hints of some good places to swim around our rental for the summer, but we had little success in uncovering the details of how to actually get there. The other day though luck was on our side, and a stroll down a dirt road in our neighborhood led us into the National Forest, and a trail chosen at random took us past a lovely swimming hole, cold and clear.

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Now that the secret was out, we found ourselves splashing around every chance we got. After breakfast, after lunch, even after dinner…it didn’t really matter. We also raided our local dollar store to buy anything water-related we could get our hands on.

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A week has passed, and thankfully we have found some balance and are now making time for some activities best suited for OUT of the water. Our local librarians likely would have frowned upon us reading while submerged up to our knees, and believe me, we were tempted. While this might not be THE swimming hole, for us it’s everything we were hoping for :)

Sequoias and Serenity in King’s Canyon National Park

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After our trip to the Sierra Nevada Mountains last year ended up being less than stellar, we’ve been determined to take another trip to spend among the giant sequoia trees that grown on the western slope of this range. Living in California for the summer, we didn’t have too far of a drive to spend two days camping in King’s Canyon National Park. Adjacent to Sequoia National Park, King’s Canyon may not have the superlatives of its neighbor (it has the second largest tree in the world, General Grant, while the largest is General Sherman in Sequoia), but it does have plenty of opportunities for a quiet stroll beneath the largest trees on Earth.

Our first excursion after arriving was to the General Grant Grove area. The size of the sequoias is hard to appreciate until you’re standing next to one, and we had plenty of chances to get up close and person with these magnificent trees. While the living trees are certainly the stars, the massive remains of fallen trees were a treat to explore as well. The trunk behind General Grant made for an awesome natural playground, and the kids spent countless minutes climbing up through its well worn remains and sliding back down again.

Next, we settled into our campsite at Azalea Campground, right next to Grant Grove. We luckily happened upon Site 57, which is probably the best camp sight we’ve ever stayed in. Much of the campground felt cramped, but our site gave plenty of space and privacy, with a big rock outcropping behind it for the kids to explore to their heart’s content. The previous occupant left plenty of firewood, so each night we cooked dinner over the fire while the Younger Fives prepared elaborate skits and songs to liven things up.

The next day we decided to take a hike off-the-beaten path at the Redwood Canyon Trail, a short drive from the campground which required about a mile and a half down a dirt road, which was in pretty good shape. Unlike at Grant Grove, we didn’t see a single person the whole day we spent at Redwood Canyon. The sequoias here were not the celebrities of the forest, but they still looked as huge as any we had seen. We also had a good lesson on how sequoias grow by examining the cones, which when they dry out (often after a fire) release seeds, which soon grow into seedlings. The peace and beauty of this grove was incredible, and we happily spent the day with no destination wandering beneath (and sometimes into) the trees, crossing streams and enormous logs along the way. We felt so fortunate that the stars aligned for this visit to the sequoias and that we had the privilege to walk amongst these gentle giants.

Settling Into the Children’s Forest

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After a few weeks of camping and taking care of doctor’s / dentist’s appointments in Las Vegas, we are now officially settled into our rental in the San Bernardino National Forest for the summer. The Younger Fives are excited to spend the next several months taking gymnastics, acting, and soccer classes as well as hiking the many trails in the area.

DSC09155Even more exciting, we were delighted to discover we are living practically next door to The National Children’s Forest, a 3,4000-acre forest replanted, trailed and signed with the help of children after the 1970 Big Bear Fire. The trails are very kid-friendly and provide opportunities to examine enormous pine cones (including the largest in the world from the Coulter Pine) and climb lots of interesting boulders.

We’ve rearranged our work and homeschool schedule to give us a chance to explore just about every afternoon, so we’re eager to spend much of our daylight hours out and about in the forest. By the end of the summer, we might just be able to identify all the pine cones and types of rock we’ve seen in our first week here :)

Climbing and Crawling into the Past at Mesa Verde

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A view of the mesa from its base

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Panoramic view from the drive up the mesa

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Spruce House, a self-guided tour

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Spruce House, with rock blackened by cooking fires

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Looking down into a kiva, which would have originally been covered

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The inside of a restored kiva at Spruce House

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Climbing out of the restored kiva

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The starting 32-foot climb of the ranger-guided Balcony House tour. All the kids did great!

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Original wooded beams from Balcony House, c. 1278

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Working toward a Junior Ranger badge at the Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum

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