Points, Miles & Life

Travel adventures on this earthly pilgrimage

The Easiest Hike in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

**Trying to play catch-up on these final posts from last year before launching into more recent adventures!**

After saying au revior to Las Vegas, honestly hoping it is the last time I ever visit that enigmatic city, the kids and I drove the half hour to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

The kids complained nearly the entire time we were in the park. I wish I could say otherwise. It was “too hot” at about 82 degrees. And totally dry. I barely felt it, and I’m a wimp when it comes to the heat. Yes, these are the same kids that come from Costa Rica where the temperature routinely got this high.

Oh, the pain of the blazing desert sun! Next time we’ll visit in July so that they know what *real* heat is. They may hate me for these photos later, but I find them too funny. Their faces at Death Valley were also priceless (SEE: 3 Tips for Hiking with Kids in the Desert).

I have been giving more thought to what I post about my kids, either on various blogs or on social media, something that is definitely important to think about in this day and age. Check out this post from The Deal Mommy about respecting kids opinions about their online presence and persona (since you, as their parent, are creating and/or influencing it). Ours are not yet online, but they will be eventually.

Main points of interest at Red Rock Canyon NCA

Our first stop was at Calico Hills, a popular spot for photos and hiking. Or I should say “hiking”. It was little more than a short walk down the hill and then back up, but the kids acted like it would be the death of them.

Luckily, I knew better. Our short walk turned out to be enjoyable enough, as we saw some cool desert flora and a lizard. The red rocks themselves are stunning as well. Which is why everyone visits this spot.

Our next stop was at the vista point for the view. It is at nearly the highest point along the road and provides a view of Calico rocks, the surrounding hills, and the Las Vegas basin way off in the distance.

The Easiest Hike in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

The final point of interest was Lost Creek Canyon Trail. We had a brief break, though, for lunch, which consisted of sandwiches, hastily made in the car. Then we all set out across the dry creek beds to see what was in store for this short hike. The trail starts out clearly marked, bordered by rocks.

Easiest Hike in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

I knew that the trail isn’t long. But it didn’t matter how long we would be hiking. The kids wanted none of it. I might as well have offered them the Bataan Death March. The promise of a waterfall was the only tool I had to spur them on. How I hoped it wouldn’t be lame.

The first “fall” (what I thought was a fall) we came to was pretty lame. But I could hear more water falling up the creek, so I was hopeful. The path became less distinct but still fairly easy to follow.

The whining began again, and rather than deal with it, I just kept walking and let the kids catch up. Hope returned after we passed another group who said the real waterfall wasn’t too far ahead.

We’d barely been walking 15 minutes, which does make this an extremely short hike and probably the easiest hike in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

Everything is worth it at the end

Finally, we were greeted by a ribbon of water falling forty feet into a lovely pool below. The kids complaining turned to laughter as they ran to the edge. The pool and surrounding rocks were even in the shade, so we could enjoy the vista without the desert sun beating down on us.

Easiest Hike in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

The kids and I made our way around edge, clambering over the rocks to get closer to the waterfall. Soon they were throwing rocks into the water, hiding from each other, and doing all the sorts of kid things they are supposed to in a fun outdoor place like this.

I just sat down and enjoyed being there. It had been an easy hike, but one that is well worth the minimal time it takes to get to this lovely spot. When I finally informed the kids it was time to keep moving, they protested. How quickly their perspective changes! We settled on staying another half hour, which meant we would get into Pahrump later than I wanted, but everything would still work out fine.

The last twenty minutes consisted of my daughter chasing her brother with a bottle of water trying to get him wet. Always the instigator, he had tried to push her into the pool below the waterfall and it was payback time.

Conclusion

The hike out was just as pleasant. I highly recommend Lost Creek Canyon / Children’s Discovery Trail as one of the best and easiest hikes in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area for families. It’s an easy 1.2 to 1.5-mile round-trip, depending on how you do your out and back, as you can make a sort of loop that still includes the waterfall. We’ll be back again if we pass through the area. It sure beats visiting Vegas!

Seattle in 11 Photos

Seattle is a city I have visited a few times now, but it is always a pleasure. My son and I spend to packed days sightseeing before moving on. Photos for now. Stories to follow.

Hong Kong with Kids Day 3: Ding-Dings and Dim Sum

Our last day in Hong Kong started a bit slow. The past two had been busy, and I had gotten the kids up quite early the day before so we’d have plenty of time to enjoy Lamma Island, and also to beat the forecasted poor air quality (SEE: Hong Kong with Kids Day 2: Lamma Island Adventure). We would also be up late that night since our flight home wasn’t scheduled to take off until 12:55 a.m. It was going to be a long day, so some extra sleep was warranted.

We made it down to breakfast about 8:45. Jason and Nancy Francisco met us there. At the time Jason was also a contributor at Points with a Crew, and is a father of four (although it was just him and his wife on this adventure). I wanted them to meet the kids, even if our visit was short. It would also likely be goodbye. We’d both been winging it day-to-day with plans, and we didn’t know if our paths would cross again. Jason and I had talked for a while the previous evening. They’d spent a few days in Taiwan and then a few more in Hong Kong, eating their way around those cities. They are definitely foodies. Jason’s personal travel blog is great, if you want to give it a read.

Parting ways, they headed to the Tian Tam Buddha while we had a date with yet another ferry ride between Kowloon and Hong Kong. But this time we headed to Wan Chai instead of Central. Our walk through Mongkok was as eclectic as ever. You can find anything here.

Parks and ding dings

After a metro ride to the Tsim Sha Tsui station, we walked to the Star Ferry dock yet again. The ferry to Wan Chai runs slightly less frequently than the one to Central, but it is still very regular. These Hong Kong ferries are never-ending fun. With skyline views on both sides, I could ride it for half the day and be content. And it wouldn’t even break the bank. At $5.90 HKD (~$0.75 USD) for all three of us, there is no way this activity will dent your wallet!

It turned out Wan Chai isn’t as great a place to land. Unless you like construction. I thought we could walk along the edge of the water toward Victoria Park, but we had to make our way over a highway and into the crowds at Causeway Bay.

We meandered through the concrete jungle and shopping district of Causeway Bay for a bit. I’ve been to a number of cities, but I will admit that there isn’t any city quite like Hong Kong.

Finally, we arrived at Victoria Park. The kids enjoyed a break on the playground. It was a bit farther of a walk than I’d estimated, and the kids were happy to rest and play for a bit.

I try to work park visits into daily activities whenever we are visiting a city. The kids usually need a rest, and I find that I also enjoy these green oases amid the hustle and bustle. Hong Kong Park, which we visited on our first day in the city, is probably still my favorite (SEE: Hong Kong with Kids Day 1: Exploring from Kowloon Bay to Victoria Peak).

Now it was finally time to ride one of the historic trolleys, affectionately known as “ding dings”,  through Hong Kong. These historic double-decker trolleys were first put in service back in 1904, and they are still running. The nickname “ding-ding” comes from the bell they use in lieu of a horn.

We all loved the ding-dings. Sitting up on the upper deck, feeling the breeze, and watching the bustle is a great way to experience Hong Kong. You really get a feel for the energy of the city.

If we didn’t have to step off when we did, I figure the kids would have been content to ride it to the end of the line.

Our ride lasted all the way from Victoria Park to a little past Central from where we walked to our lunch spot: Kau Kee. This Chinese noodle restaurant is one of the top spots in the city. Jason gave me the short list of spots to try, and this was one of two we would hit during our last day.

My plan was derailed when we rounded the corner and encountered a ridiculously long line for the Hong Kong hotspot. I abhor lines. We’d obviously hit them during the lunch rush.

I waffled over whether to stay and wait it out or to move on. Even though the restaurant has a fast turnover, I figure we’d be there upwards of an hour. Not exactly ideal. It’ll have to wait for next time we are in Hong Kong.

Luckily, we were fairly close to a metro station, so we jumped on that, headed for Kowloon. Next stop was the Yuen Po Street Bird Garden. But not before browsing the flowers along Prince Edward Street.

Misadventures and poor planning

The Yuen Po Street Bird Garden was about as I expected it. Disorganized, messy and often noisy. The kids were grossed out by the containers of worms and crickets kept as food for the chirping and squawking. It was a fun little street, worth a few minutes if you are in the general area already.

Then the difficulties of family travel struck. My kids have this awesome ability to go from 0% need for a bathroom to 100%. All of a sudden my son had to go now. It took several minutes to find some facilities. I banked on the mall nearby to have some bathrooms, and we were not disappointed. Unfortunately, we burnt extra time, and I also bought the kids a snack, as we were by this time way overdue for lunch. But lunch was still next on the agenda.

I opted for a taxi to Tim Ho Wan, being pressed for time and hungry still. We arrived maybe 12 minutes later, taking longer than expected due to the Hong Kong traffic flow.

It was then I realized my dire miscalculation. Typically, I have always kept a reasonable enough cash reserve, but as this was our last day, spending most of the rest on a taxi wasn’t a huge deal. We’d have just enough for a bus or metro back to Kowloon station.

But there was one thing I missed: Tim Ho Wan does not accept credit cards. After all that, I had to run and find an ATM or exchange kiosk. This endeavor took another 20 minutes.

Michelin-starred dim sum

At least it was all worth it. We walked into the dim sum restaurant at 4:10, still beating the dinner rush. There was a nice lull in the restaurant and we were seated immediately. I placed an order for some steamed pork buns, shrimp dumplings and another type of dumpling.

The pork buns are just as amazing as I’d heard they are. The shrimp dumplings are also excellent. It’s no surprise this place has one Michelin star!

The other thing about dim sum is that it just comes out when it’s ready. Actually, this is pretty much typical for Chinese restaurants in general. Don’t expect your order to be timed to come out together. The server just brought the plates out, piping hot, one by one as items were ready. The first round wasn’t enough, so I ordered more of most of the items.

The damage for our Michelin-starred dining? A mere $166 HKD, about $21.50 USD. For three. Now that’s awesome.

Goodbye, Hong Kong!

Our final stop was the ferry terminal for one last blast across the channel and back, this time as the sun was setting so we could catch the lights. We hadn’t stayed out late any other night, but since we had to be up in order to catch our flight, it was the perfect way to say goodbye to the city.

As we headed back, I couldn’t help but think about how quickly the time had passed by during our trip through both Beijing and Hong Kong. Five days in Beijing isn’t enough, and three days in Hong Kong barely scratches the surface. We’d definitely seen a lot, but there is still so much to explore in both locations.

Disembarking in Kowloon, we opted for the bus back to the Hilton Garden Inn Hong Kong Mongkok to fetch our bags. The front desk kindly directed us to a much easier bus for getting ourselves to Kowloon station to catch the Airport Express. I wish I would have known about this on our way in. Actually, I don’t. We would not have had any Hong Kong cash yet.

We made it to Kowloon Station a little after 7:00, still hours before our flight would take off. No matter. That is what airport lounges are for. And we were flying business, which meant lounge access naturally came as part of the deal. A late dinner, some school, a sleep, arrival into SFO, another sleep, and a drive later we were home!

Goodbye, Las Vegas. Let’s not ever do this again.

*Our road-trip posts are nearly a year dated at this point, but I decided that I want to wrap them up.*

I don’t understand the appeal of Las Vegas. “Let’s visit this city in the desert, gamble all our money away, shop till we drop, and leave happy!” Um. No. Let’s not.

And I never really thought about it being a place for kids, either, although there are some who say otherwise.

Why I planned a night in Vegas

Traversing the southwest from Tucson to Sacramento didn’t necessarily mean we’d have to pass through Vegas. However, my preferred route pretty much ensured we would. Besides visiting Hoover Dam, I also wanted to hit Death Valley, and Vegas is right along the route between those two.

But it was more than just the route that dictated our stop. I knew that Paris Las Vegas has a faux Eiffel Tower, and it would be the perfect stop for my daughter who had been dreaming of seeing it (she didn’t know at the time I’d re-planned our trip to the real Paris).

So we would spend a night in Vegas. Glamorous, risque, smoke-filled Vegas. I knew the minute we checked into our hotel this was probably a mistake.

Bad smells and broken fountains

From the moment we entered the Westgate Las Vegas Resort and Casino, I could tell this wasn’t for us. It had been a while since I’d been in a casino hotel, my last experience being a quick trip to Reno for a work conference. My daughter, who has a keen sense of smell and no tolerance for odors she finds repulsive, immediately wanted to leave. I’d forgotten that you can smoke indoors in Nevada casinos. What savages.

At least the kids had fun in the pool the next morning. And the hotel was nearly free, as I’d used my Expedia rewards for the first time.

We made sure to stop by the Bellagio fountains, to see their musical show. As luck would have it, they were broken. It was very obvious that something was up, and two guys headed out in a boat to take a look at the problem. I opted to wait, just in case they would start working again shortly.

We waited. And waited. And just when I was ready to give up, the fountains came to life! We’d waited almost 50 minutes by that point for the two minutes of action. I have to admit it is pretty cool.

When the show ended, my daughter exclaimed, “that was it?!” Yep. Not impressed, mainly because we’d waited so long. At least we then headed off for Mexican food in the depths of Planet Hollywood. You can kinda almost pretend you’re somewhere else for a little while.

I take that back. You can’t at all. Everything is so totally fake.

Adios, Las Vegas!

I will be perfectly content if I never visit Vegas again. It is a city that should never have existed in the first place, a desert enigma. What else could exist in an arid desert bowl, miles from any water source. But thanks to gambling, modern infrastructure, and people silly enough to call it home, it has become one of the major tourist destinations in the country. But it isn’t for me, nor for the kids.

We took off into the midday sunshine, headed for Red Rocks National Conservation Area, where we would have a nice hike amid beautiful scenery.

Visiting the Grand Canyon in May – What’s with the Snow?

Back last spring (I know…just getting around to writing some of these posts!) the older two kids and I had an adventure across the desert southwest of the United States. Some of our stops included Saguaro National Park and a nice resort hotel in Phoenix, as well as an afternoon of hiking in Sedona. It wasn’t the sort of road trip where you get to linger. We had to press onward each day.

The day finally came where we would be visiting the Grand Canyon. But it didn’t go at all how I imagined.

Snow? In Arizona?? In May?!?

It was quite blustery during our afternoon of hiking in Sedona [SEE: Easiest Sedona hike (with a view)]. The rain started just as we were on the final stretch back the car and it continued as we wound our way northward and upward to Flagstaff. Funny thing about Flagstaff: it’s at an elevation of almost 7,000 feet. And while it had been a perfect 70 degrees in Sedona, it was now snowing. Snowing! Nothing was sticking, but it was still snow. In Arizona. In May.

When we woke up the next morning, it was still cold and lightly snowing, but there still wasn’t really any accumulated on the ground.

However, as we continued toward the Grand Canyon, we *did* start to drive through real snow. Eventually, the kids couldn’t take it any more and we had to pull over. This was their first time really experiencing the snow. It was not at all part of the plan.

The Grand letdown

I became a bit concerned about our visit to the Grand Canyon. What if it was cloudy and snowy and we couldn’t get a view of the canyon? Does this happen from time to time? I imagine it does. Here we were, in the middle of a trip that would stretch over 1,000 miles of driving, and we may miss our one chance to see the Grand Canyon!

My fears were realized when we parked at the Canyon Rim lot. It was difficult enough to see anything that far from us, as it was quickly obscured by the fog/clouds.  We stopped by the visitor center first, and I hoped that conditions might improve and we’d get a view of the canyon.

But no such luck. Once we were done in the visitor center and wandered over to the lookout point, all we could see was cloud.

I was bummed. This is not how I expected our first visit to the Grand Canyon to go. Who knew that May would be such a poor time to visit?

The kids wasted no time in making lemonade from the lemon of a day we were given. They were enjoying a delightful romp in the snow.

A brief breakthrough

We slowly walked west toward the geology museum at Yavapai Point. The location is normally another picturesque viewpoint from the South Rim, but…there was nothing but cloud to see. However, after spending about 15 minutes in the museum where we got to see a cool model of the canyon, the clouds all of a sudden broke for just a few moments and we had a glimpse of the canyon below! Everyone inside rushed to the window.

It wasn’t a full panoramic view, but it was our first real taste of the Grand Canyon. The viewing window in the museum is great, as it provides a great vantage point while simultaneously letting you stay warm.

We spent a little while longer at the museum and were able to see a bit of the canyon on a couple more instances. Eventually I decided that things probably weren’t going to get much better and we might as well keep moving along on our trip. The breaks were very brief.

Chasing the sky

However, when we arrived back at the car, I could tell that the clouds around us were breaking up a bit. We hadn’t had a good view of the canyon except for those brief moments at Yavapai. But the sky looked slightly better toward the east, and the ranger had told us that there was supposed to be a slight lull before things worsened later in the afternoon. My gut told me that we would be able to have a better chance at a view at one of the viewpoints to the east.

So I started chasing that small patch of blue sky moving slowly eastward. We were eventually able to park at a crowded viewpoint. The gambit paid off. We were treated to this:

Things got even better when we made our way to the next vantage point, which is aptly named Grandview Point. The view was pretty grand, and we finally were able to wonder at this natural marvel.

We took a brief walk down the trail from Grandview, enjoying a couple different vsantage points of the canyon. If not for the clouds looming to the west, you might think there was nothing wrong with our day at the Grand Canyon.

I’m *so* glad we didn’t give up completely. Even though we were only able to enjoy this view for about 20 minutes, I was glad to have seen the Grand Canyon. We’ll be back again, I’m sure. At least the first time wasn’t a complete failure.

Conclusion

It was then time to move on. We had a dinner date in Kingman with friends, and with a few hours of driving to go, I hoped to make it there in time. The poor weather dissipated as we got further from the Grand Canyon, and eventually we were back to the sunny skies and pleasant temperatures that were much more familiar to an Arizona spring.

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