San Diego, Zoos, and Dolphins

Being out in Arizona has been an absolute blast.  We have been able to explore so many different places!  Over Columbus Day weekend we had the opportunity to visit Will’s brother and his family in San Diego for a few days.

San Diego 2018

Friday

We left pretty early in the morning, making sure to get in a good breakfast, and of course running into more of our dinosaur friends on the road.  If there’s one thing I’m going to miss about the desert, it’s how many dinosaurs there are hanging around.

Lunch was, obviously, a very satisfying stop at In-N-Out.  I’m already internally crying about the east coast not having my animal style burger fix.

We got to the Shugart house in late afternoon and had a fantastic evening catching up with John, Kristina, and our nieces.  The boys burned things, we ate Mexican food, and our hearts were happy.

San Diego 2018

Saturday

We indulged in the traditional Shugart breakfast the following morning.  I love my cheesy eggs, fancy bacon, and delicious waffles, but this girl canNOT get enough potatoes.   They’re so good!  Will is also hardcore into potatoes for breakfast so our marriage was basically a match made in heaven.

San Diego 2018

SeaWorld

Some of you may not know this, but I actually used to live in San Diego.  For almost five years I called southern California home and I lived right across the bay from SeaWorld San Diego for some time.  I could almost see their evening fireworks display every night during the summer from my back patio.  

Despite being so close, I never visited while I lived there, so taking the opportunity while we were in town was top of the list.  Having now visited, I highly recommend going to SeaWorld if you have the opportunity.  It is the best aquarium you have ever been to on steroids.

The Sea Lions were great.  You could buy fish to feed them and the birds would always swoop in to try and steal them.

San Diego 2018

I have always seen pictures and videos of these cool underwater walkways at aquariums but have never been in one before!  It was so cool!  Even though I am usually terrified of sharks, it was just so awesome that I wasn’t afraid at all.  

We saw several types of sharks just sitting still on the bottom.  I didn’t know they could do that!  Apparently certain species of sharks can keep water moving through their gills by a pumping motion of their pharynx, so they don’t have to keep moving.

San Diego 2018 San Diego 2018

After we saw the sharks, we went to the Dolphin Encounter show.

San Diego 2018

I’m not super into splash zones or walking around in sopping wet clothes, so Will was a champ and let me hide behind him when the dolphins soaked us.  Besides that it was an excellent show.  It was fun to see the relationship between the dolphins and trainers.  There was even a big whale that took part in the show, and its personality was so cute.  It reminded me of a giant golden retriever.

San Diego 2018

Next up we rode some rides.  The one on the left is the first rollercoaster Will and I have been on together!  I had plenty of anxiety leading up to it while we were waiting in line because we didn’t put our phones in the available lockers.  Anyone else with anxiety get super stressed about the small things sometimes?  Will saved the day with his pockets, and despite lots of screaming on my part, it was a seriously excellent rollercoaster.  

I bowed out on the Atlantis ride, though, because I was a little cold and didn’t feel like getting wet again.  

San Diego 2018

I hung out with my niece as everyone else took turns riding.  We made sure to stand outside the splash zone while we watched everyone come down, and then went to look at the fishies and sting rays for a while.

San Diego 2018

My five year old niece took the photo on the right.  She’ll be a photographer in no time.

San Diego 2018

As the afternoon turned into evening, and the unnaturally chilly San Diego day seeped into our bones, we stopped by a Starbucks for coffees and hot chocolates to warm up while we waiting in line for our next adventure.

Confession time: Will’s fave from Starbucks is the caramel frappe.  He claims this is the best one he had ever had.  Way to go, SeaWorld Starbucks.

San Diego 2018

Their Orca show has, apparently, changed a lot.  It is now primarily an educational show where they teach you all about the different kinds of Killer Whales and absolutely no one gets in the water with them.

San Diego 2018

After the show, we went down below to watch the Orcas swim for a little while.  

Will and I have taken to getting magnets for every state we have been through, or for significant places we have visited.  We also like getting Christmas ornaments, but in SeaWorld we opted for the Orca fridge magnet.  They are seriously majestic animals.

San Diego 2018

I can’t pick a favorite thing we did in SeaWorld because it was all really good.  I definitely recommend a visit the next time you’re in San Diego.

When we left the park, we grabbed some dinner and then went back to John and Kristina’s.

San Diego 2018

Sunday

On Sunday morning we went to church, where they had coffee and donuts available beforehand.  That’s my kind of church!  

Afterwards, we went out for brunch to Broken Yolk with the Shugarts and Kristina’s family.  You can never have too much breakfast food.

San Diego 2018 San Diego 2018

San Diego Zoo

Okay, if you think me never going to SeaWorld while I lived in San Diego is bad, listen to this.  Will had never been to a zoo before.  In his life.  Ever.  

When we heard that we knew that we absolutely needed to visit one of the best zoos in the world—the San Diego Zoo.

And don’t worry—I definitely changed into good walking shoes before we went in the park.

San Diego 2018 San Diego 2018

It was so COOL to get to share that moment with Will.  His first time seeing rhinos, giraffes, elephants, lions, gorillas, etc.  He even broke out his phone to take his own pictures and video, which does not happen very often, folks.

San Diego 2018 San Diego 2018

The gorilla was so cute!  A woman played a gorilla video on her phone and it just sat there and watched the whole thing.  

We power walked through Africa, the arctic, stopped for some ice cream, and ended at the orangutans, which were my favorites of the day.  Will’s favorite was the gorilla.  

San Diego 2018

After a few hours in the zoo, Will and I took off for a little while so that I could show him all of my old stomping grounds.  We drove up to north county and I showed him a few places I lived, worked, and shopped for groceries, before we headed back south to Pacific Beach.  We drove by my old townhouse and then parked and ran to the beach just in time to watch the last rays of light from the sunset.  It was such a special moment to be able to share with him.  

San Diego 2018

Still feeling all grateful and mushy, we stopped at a restaurant called Fat Fish by the pier to get dinner.  It was super delicious and special.  

San Diego 2018

Monday

We had a great and relaxing morning with the family before we got back on the road.  We stopped a few hours into our drive to spend a some time with the sand dunes.  Will had never seen sand dunes before!  Yet another cool moment to share with him!  They were pretty big, and super white.  It doesn’t take greenery or oceans for something to be beautiful.  

San Diego 2018

We had a fantastic trip and whirlwind weekend with the family.  There is so much to do in San Diego, it actually became overwhelming for me at one point because I realized that there is so much I want to share with Will.  I’m so grateful that we had this time with family and with San Diego before we head back to the east coast.  It did a lot of good for my soul.

Have you ever been to San Diego?  What was your favorite part?  The food is pretty high on my list!  If you enjoyed this post, please give it a like and don’t forget to join the family by hitting that subscribe button if you haven’t already.

Until next time,
Jamie out

a saturday spent banding hummingbirds

Did you know that southern Arizona boasts the most diverse types of hummingbirds in the United States?  A couple weeks ago, Will and I went with our friends to the San Pedro House, just outside of Sierra Vista, to visit this historic ranch house where they tag hummingbirds.  In fact, we went on one of the last weeks that they do it because of migration season.  A lot of hummingbirds pass through southern Arizona on their way to Mexico.

hummingbird banding in southern Arizona

The area is significant for world bird conservation, and according to Bureau of Land Management, it has been “officially designated a globally important bird area.”  

While I’m not super into bird watching, and the San Pedro House boasts a good amount of walking trails and scenery, this time we went specifically to see the hummingbirds.  It was actually pretty incredible and interesting.

hummingbird banding in southern Arizona hummingbird banding in southern Arizona

The scientists and volunteers said that the best times to study the hummingbirds are around sunrise and sunset, because that’s when they are out and looking for food.  It was super interesting to watch!  

They used a simple drop cage to essentially catch the birds and then, ingeniously, got the public in on the studying by allowing them to gently and carefully carry the birds over to the people banding them.

hummingbird banding in southern Arizona hummingbird banding in southern Arizona

You could tell the poor things were scared, but everyone was very gentle while handling them and they made sure to feed them before setting them free.  Carrying the little hummingbird was wild!  Its wings were beating so fast that I could feel the air movement.  

hummingbird banding in southern Arizona

There was a seating area under the tent where they were tagging the hummingbirds so that you could listen and learn.  One of the volunteers was super great—she spent a lot of time with us to answer our questions and tell us all about what they eat, when they eat, what their mating is like, and how their lives change as they mature.  

hummingbird banding in southern Arizona hummingbird banding in southern Arizona

Will got to carry over the last bird of the day!

hummingbird banding in southern Arizona

She was pretty young.  The females usually lose their color and turn brown once they get older.  You can see in the photo how green she is.  This one had been caught three times that day already.  

hummingbird banding in southern Arizona hummingbird banding in southern Arizona hummingbird banding in southern Arizona

After we learned all about her feathers and how to tell she’s female, we set her free!  Not before a quick photo-op, though.

hummingbird banding in southern Arizona hummingbird banding in southern Arizona

I wish we had time to do more exploring around San Pedro house!  It’s right on a riverbed and is home to about 300 species of birds, not to mention the other animal life that are drawn to the water in this desert.

Do you guys like learning about animals?  I think of all birds, hummingbirds are probably one of my favorites.

If you enjoyed this post, please give it a like and don’t forget to join the family by subscribing if you haven’t already.

Until next time,
Jamie out

our disastrous first camping trip together

Our first time camping together was slightly spontaneous and outrageously under-planned.  We did little to no research, left much later than we intended to, brought no smaller bills to pay for our camping spot, and ending up setting our tent up with the use of flashlights and the very last bits of orange on the skyline as the sunset had already passed.

our first time camping together our first time camping together our first time camping together

Parker Canyon Lake

The camping spot was actually super cute and had a great view.  It’s five or ten dollars a night, all the spots have easy access to the bathrooms, and the break in monsoons had left the place nice and green for us.

As far as we could tell, the camping sites were first come first serve.  We packed up some odds and ends for breakfast, brought some extra water, and then stopped at Subway to grab dinner on our drive out.  Unfortunately, our navigation took us the long way to get there so it took twice as long as anticipated.  We watched the sunset during our drive instead of from our campsite.

Despite a somewhat frustrating start to our spontaneous camping trip, we made the most of it.  We resolved to be a little more prepared next time, because a camping trip without firewood (and s’mores) may not even be a camping trip at all.  

our first time camping together our first time camping together our first time camping together our first time camping together

Despite having purchased my tent almost two years ago, I had never actually used it.  It was super nice to break it out and realize that the six-person tent is huge for just the two of us.

Will is a very experienced and avid camper and backpacker.  He has all the gear.  Despite having brought all of it to Arizona with us, we unfortunately didn’t plan well enough in advance to use most of it.  The consequence of spontaneity, I suppose.  Hopefully in a few years we’ll have this down to a science.

our first time camping together

We woke up a little after six, as you do while you’re camping, got dressed and ate breakfast.  We didn’t bring any kind of camping stove or firewood, so I made do with a few creative food items from our hotel room back home.  One item on my wish list is definitely a french press, or at minimum instant coffee and a means to heat up water.  Your girl had the worst migraine of her entire life later that afternoon and starting off the day with zero coffee didn’t help.

our first time camping together our first time camping together

After we ate breakfast, we packed up the tent in the already eighty degree weather and then drove down to the lake to take in its views and enjoy its peace for a bit.

our first time camping together our first time camping together

Items I added to my camping wish list:

  • Table cloth
  • Bug spray
  • Tiny broom
  • Mallet
  • Better stakes 
  • COFFEE

Let’s be real.  It was NOT the best camping trip in the world.  Hopefully we’ll do better in the future, but hey, not every adventure and spontaneous trip is going to be golden.  Despite some loud neighbors (who arrived after we did and left before us as well—what a whirlwind!) the camp site was great.  You can rent boats at the lake, go fishing, or even swimming.  It seems like a great way to spend the weekend, honestly!  Next time we’ll arrive earlier, bring fire wood and coffee, and it will be ten times better.

Any suggestions for whirlwind camping trips?  I’d love to hear some easy ideas!  I’m used to tent trailers and campers, so tent camping as an adult is new to me!  I need all your advice in the comments!

If you enjoyed this post, give it a like and don’t forget to join the family by hitting that subscribe button below.

Much love,
Jamie out.

a very old castle

Montezuma Castle National Monument

Labor Day Weekend Part IV

Let’s be honest, Will and I had a very successful weekend trip.  We visited the site of a volcano, witnessed the sun rising over the Grand Canyon, and hiked almost thirteen miles along its rim.  Come Sunday morning, we were beat and ready to go home.  

We ate breakfast at the hotel, packed up, and then took some quick shots in the wild flowers beside the parking lot because we forgot to take our traditional selfies with our National Parks Passports that weekend.  

Montezuma Castle National Monument

We got on the road pretty early but encountered a detour as we searched for Starbucks and my Pumpkin Spiced Latte fix.  We enjoyed the first part of our drive through Flagstaff as we discussed the future and what life is going to be like once we are back in North Carolina.

What we did not anticipate or plan for was almost being out of gas, but then deciding to push it and drive thirty more miles to get cheaper gas, and then seeing a sign right beside that gas station for a National Monument just six miles down the road.

“Let’s do it!”  We were so excited.  

We decided early on in our trip planning that we didn’t want to go to a National Park because “we might as well since it’s right there.”  If we aren’t feeling it, we aren’t going to go—the passports aren’t an obligation.  But this castle opportunity was just too good to pass up.

Montezuma Castle National Monument
(proud moment as my husband is getting really good at this posing for the camera thing)

Montezuma Castle National Monument

Structures like this capture my heart.  I absolutely love learning about and exploring places where people actually lived.  Old houses, forts, castles—you name it, I would probably love to explore it.  Case and point—Will and I met at an outing where we explored an abandoned school house (read about it here).

Montezuma Castle National Monument Montezuma Castle National Monument

In order to see the castle, you have to go through the Visitor Center, which was ridiculously busy on Labor Day.  We patiently waded through the crowds to stamp our passports and then to read about the history of the 800 year old cliff dwelling and its inhabitants.  The diagram above is a map of the castle floor plans, which the public is not allowed to explore any more.  Back in the day a lot of vandalism occurred and visitors would take pieces of the castle as souvenirs, so in an effort to preserve the history, we can only look at it from afar these days.

Montezuma Castle National Monument

Montezuma Castle was named one of the first four National Monuments in 1906 by President Roosevelt.  He called it a place “of the greatest ethnological value and scientific interest.”  The well preserved site has been protected ever since.  Early visitors could actually climb up to the castle using ladders (I’m so jealous), but as of 1951 we can now only gaze at it from paved paths.  

What is super interesting about the site is 1) why the inhabitants built so high up into the cliff, and 2) why they randomly disappeared and moved on after living there for several hundred years.  Learning about the people who once made this place home is the benefit of spending some time in the Visitor Center before jumping outside to see the structure.

Montezuma Castle National Monument Montezuma Castle National Monument

It was super interesting to see up close.  It made us wonder about older generations who had to climb ladders to get home and what inspired them to build in the cliff face in the first place.

Montezuma Castle National Monument

As you can see, it’s pretty high up from the ground.  At least this would offer protection from elements and predators.  

Montezuma Castle National Monument Montezuma Castle National Monument

To the left of Montezuma Castle is another structure, “Castle A” that was excavated.  Because a lot of artifacts were lost when Montezuma was looted, the second dwelling offered a lot of information and understanding for anthropologists.  

Montezuma Castle National Monument

This diorama was another cool picture into what life would have been like living in a cliff 800 years ago.  Check out their website here for more information and photos.  

Montezuma Castle National Monument

We headed straight home after the castle to get some much needed rest and relaxation before heading back to work that week.

Next up in our adventures—our first camping trip together!  Join the family and hit that subscribe button so you don’t miss the next post.  If you liked those castle photos, give this post a like and let us know in the comments the favorite historical site you’ve ever visited!

Until next time,
Jamie out

Read More:
Labor Day Part I 
Labor Day Part II Labor Day Part III