Cruising through Glacier Bay National Park. I have to start this post by stating unequivocally that this day was filled with unparalleled natural beauty, the likes of which I have never before experienced in my life.
Additionally, what made this day truly spectacular was that my husband and I were able to observe the quiet, serene beauty surrounding us at our leisure while the children hung out in the boat’s kids’ club with a National Park ranger and a representative of the native culture. The kids learned about the park and were read a story about the Tlingit culture. They even took the kids outside to do their own glacier viewing. And after all that, they earned Junior Ranger badges! We love the Junior Ranger program offered by the National Park Service.
Quiet reflection gave us the following moments:
We ate lunch with a glacier right outside our window. After lunch, the kids were much more chill.
Check out part 4 here. Follow our adventures from Day 1 here.
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is part of the National Park System. Being from the Chicago area, I’ve been visiting the Indiana Dunes since I was a kid. This year, we took the kids to Chellburg Farm (part of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore) for Maple Sugar Time, where we learned first-hand how maple sap is harvested and turned into maple syrup.
We started with a ranger-led hike down a trail from the visitor’s center. The ranger made sure we all understood how trees got their nourishment. Early spring is maple sugar time because the trees have sucked all the nourishment from the ground and haven’t used it yet to make leaves or start growing in the new season.
Continuing on the trail, we saw a demonstration of how Native Americans made maple sugar from the sap of the maple tree. They would tap the tree with a wooden spigot and collect the sap in a bark basket. The sap would be transferred to a rock with a bowl-shape, into which a fiery rock would be submerged to boil off the water, leaving the syrupy sap behind. This was further processed into dry sugar for easy transport.
Further down the trail we saw how early settlers boiled the sap down to syrup in a succession of hanging cauldrons.
We were then given an opportunity to “tap” a tree just to see if we could do it.
We then visited the boilery that the Chellburgs used to process the sap into maple syrup. They used a succession of metal pans.
In the Chellburg farmhouse, we were given a taste test to see if we could tell the difference between real maple syrup and the fake stuff from the grocery store. We could definitely taste the difference!
After learning all about the process of making maple syrup, the children earned their Junior Ranger badges.
And the family took a hike to enjoy the natural beauty and history of the Indiana Dunes.
As stated in an earlier post, we decided to stay in Camp Verde, AZ, about 2 hours south of the Grand Canyon. We stayed so far away because we did not plan early enough to stay (affordably) any closer. It was Fourth of July weekend and EVERYTHING was booked! Even campsites. My advice: If you plan on visiting one of the famous National Parks on July 4th weekend, plan ahead, like WAY ahead.
That said, we had an AMAZING time at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. From what I’ve read, the South Rim is a little more family-friendly than the North Rim, so this is where we decided to explore. Our first stop inside the park was the Desert View Watchtower. This was the first stop for many people entering the park from the Southeast entrance. It was quite crowded. Personally, I would recommend skipping this first stop and moving on to one of the many other lookouts along the road, just because of the number of people that were there.
We had a wonderful time. The visitors center is great. I think the kids learned more about geology than they’ll learn in the next few years at school. They also participated in the Junior Ranger program that you’ll find throughout the National Park system. Well worth it.
One tip that will make your stay at the Grand Canyon much easier:
Park your car and use the shuttle buses to get around. You’ll be glad you did.