Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Lake Tahoe Trip

Sand Harbor, Lake Tahoe
For summer vacation this year we decided to head back home and go to Northern California for a couple weeks. This was our first time back since moving to New Mexico two years ago and we set out to cram a whole summer's worth of activities into a two week trip. We had a long list of things we wanted to do but after a couple of days the itinerary kind of went out the door. We decided we didn't have to do everything that we could think of but just the things we (the kids) enjoyed the most. This resulted in us spending the majority of the trip on a lake or river. We haven't been able to find anything quite like the lakes and rivers were were used to in N. California so we wanted to make sure we spent as much time on the water as possible (8 days of our trip was spent at a river or lake).
Aidan enjoying the view at Sand Harbor

One of our favorite lake spots is Sand Harbor on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe. It is truly one of the most beautiful places that I've ever been to and it was great being able to experience it with the kids for the first time. We were a little concerned about the water being too cold for them to swim but I should have known better; the kids were going to get into that water no matter how cold it was. As it turned out, it wasn't as cold as I remembered it and it was quite refreshing (cold yes, but definitely tolerable). The other concern was the crowds. I knew Sand Harbor was a popular spot but I was still surprised to see the parking lot just about full when we arrived around 11:00 in the morning (on a week day). At 11:20 when the grandparents arrived, the parking lot was full and they were turned away. Unfortunately, they couldn't find any other place to park and couldn't join us for the day. 

Brennan with his swimmies
Even with the crowds, we were able to find a nice spot next to the water with a little beach and some rocks. The kids had a great day playing in the sand, climbing on the rocks, swimming and floating on a rafts (you know, all the normal stuff you do at a lake). One other activity that Lake Tahoe has, that you don't find everywhere, is catching crawdads. There were several groups with little "fishing" poles and some kind of bait (bacon?) and they were catching buckets full of crawdads. I remember seeing crawdads from my other visits to the lake, but I didn't realize how popular it was for people to catch them.

Rylie on the raft
Aidan, Brennan and Peyton rafting
After spending the day on the lake we decided we had to come back... so we did a week later. Although, this time we decided to go rafting on the Truckee river, which comes out of Lake Tahoe. This was the kids first time rafting and they weren't sure what they were getting themselves into. Fortunately, they had a blast. The Truckee river is not quite white water rafting... it is a 5 mile gentle ride with places to get out and swim/picnic on your journey down the river. The only real excitement comes at the end where there are a bit of rapids. That was the favorite part for the kids. They thought it was so funny because we were going pretty fast, got spun around and then got stuck on a rock. There was 9 of us on the trip (3 adults and 6 kids) and there wasn't a raft large enough to hold all of us (and our coolers) so we actually had two rafts that were tied together. This didn't work out too well because we got stuck a few times (we were too wide to avoid all the rocks sticking up) and the kids kept jumping back and forth between the two rafts. When we got stuck at the end, we actually had to detach the two rafts to free ourselves. But we still had fun, so much fun that it was over before we knew it (it took about 2 hours). As we were looking for a place to stop and have a picnic, the rapids suddenly appeared and then we were done. Oh well. Afterwards, we drove up to the lake and had a nice picnic on a beach that I hadn't been to before.

Aidan at Lake Tahoe

Peyton shows us his sandy hands

Sand Harbor

Brennan, Peyton, Aidan and Rylie

Brennan and Peyton playing with a bucket

Rylie enjoys the ride

Rylie, Dad and Aidan cruising down the river

Aidan and Rylie enjoyng the ride

Truckee River

Brennan having a good time on the raft

Monday, September 26, 2011

Pumpkin Patch!

When we moved to Albuquerque two years ago we heard that the pumpkin patch in Moriarty, NM was supposed to be great. So one Saturday morning in October we loaded up the family and drove an hour out into the country to McCall's Pumpkin Patch. Unfortunately, we had a miserable time. It was a mob scene, the kids had to wait in long lines for the activities, we were unprepared for how cold it was going to be and the wind was blowing a constant 30 mph. Last year when fall rolled around, we decided to stick to a local pumpkin patch and had a great time.
The kids at McCall's Pumpkin Patch (2011)
Brennan emerges from the tunnel
Well, two years had gone by since our trip to McCall's and we decided to give it another shot. We went this past Saturday (opening day) and our experience was completely different than before. We had a wonderful time, the weather was perfect, not many people were there, there were lots of great activities for the kids (with no lines!) and everything was fresh and green (corn was still growing in the corn fields and we cut the pumpkins right off the vine!).

Brennan slows to a stop
The first things the kids wanted to do was the slide that goes through a "mountain" (hill). There are two tunnels that go through the mountain and shoot you out at the bottom (one slow, one fast). The kids could do this all day. When they got to the bottom, they would run back up to the top and do it again. They had the biggest smiles on their faces as they came flying out of "Rocky Mountain Mine".  The tunnels are big enough for adults so even mom and dad were able to try it out.

Peyton had so much fun!
Aidan looks to hold off Rylie
One activity I don't remember from two years ago that was a big hit (maybe it was there but the lines were so long that we never bothered trying it), was the race track. They had the coolest pedal powered 4-wheelers (they call them pedal karts) that I had ever scene. Aidan and Rylie would race around the track and they could race as long as they wanted since nobody was waiting in line. These 4-wheelers were a little big for Peyton and Brennan but they did have a smaller track with smaller pedal karts that they were able to do. One thing that I should mention is that all the activities are free with your paid admission. Tickets cost $10 for children and adults (although, children under 3 are free).
Mommy goes for a spin around the track

Corn maze entrance
What pumpkin patch is complete without a corn maze? The corn maze at McCall's was epic. It's 16 acres of fresh corn that took us 30 minutes to work our way through (and we took the easier of the 2 paths). Before you enter you are given a map and as you go through the maze you try to figure out clues which will lead you down the correct path (otherwise you might not be able to find your way out again). We did make several wrong turns and had to back track a couple times but eventually we made it out. Somewhere in the center there is a platform that you can climb up and view the maze from above, but our trek never led us to it.

When we came 2 years ago, all the corn in the maze was dead and brown and much of it had been trampled over. This time it was green and all the stalks had corn growing on them (I felt like picking some to take home but didn't think that would go over too well).
Reading the clues

Brennan on the hay ride to the pumpkin patch
To get to the actual pumpkin patch where you can pick a pumpkin you get to go on a hey ride. You climb up on a wagon full of hay pulled by a tractor and drive for about 10 minutes out to the patch. I've never scene such a large pumpkin patch. Acres and acres of pumpkins everywhere (all of which were still growing on the vine). The pumpkins came in all shapes and sizes and they even had white ones to choose from (which we did). We had so much fun walking way out into the field finding the perfect pumpkins but then we realized we had to carry the pumpkins we chose all the way back to where the tractor dropped us off. Some people who had obviously done this before, brought along a wheelbarrow to carry their pumpkins (tip for next year, grab a wheelbarrow before getting on the hayride).

The pumpkin patch!
The last time we came, the pumpkin patch was dead and all the pumpkins were just lying out there in the dirt. This year it was all green and we got to cut the pumpkins off the vine. I didn't see the price chart before heading out to the patch so I was a little concerned that the pumpkins we chose would cost more than I was expecting. Fortunately, the price for the four pumpkins we chose wasn't bad ($15 for 3 average sized pumpkins and 1 large pumpkin). Apparently if you come during the week, you get a free pumpkin with your ticket purchase.

Besides the few activities described above, McCall's also had many other activities. We were there for 5 1/2 hours and we still didn't do everything. Here are some of the other activities they have to enjoy:

  • Animal Alley
  • Bunny Farm
  • Goat Bridge
  • Pumpkin Cannon
  • Pumpkin Sling Shot
  • Cow Train
  • Duck Races
  • Spiderweb
  • Hay Pyramid
  • Hay Tunnel
  • Jumping Pillow
  • Corn Box
For a family of 6 the cost for a for a full day of fun came to $120. It was $60 for the tickets, $15 for the pumpkins and we spent $45 on food and drinks. One tip with the drinks: get the souvenir cup for $3.50 and then get $1 refills the rest of the day.

We had a great time this year and look forward to coming back next year (on opening day again). For additional photos of our great day, see below.

The kids look for a way out of the maze
They finally made it to the end
Brennan and Peyton looking for pumpkins
Brennan, Aidan, Peyton and Rylie 
The kids search for the Great pumpkin
Brennan finds a pumpkin
Brennan deep in thought
Aidan finds his pumpkin
Brennan measures himself 
Pumpkin canon!