canyonlands national park

After our day in Arches National Park, we decided to push our luck with our five-year-old daughter by spending another day hiking in the heat and admiring rocks. Canyonlands is a huge national park, so we only saw a small section of it, called the Island in the Sky. Below is the view as you enter the Island in the Sky – spectacular!

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We enjoyed a short hike to Mesa Arch, admiring the blooming prickly pear cacti along the way. Mesa Arch may very well be one of the most amazing natural sights I’ve ever seen. A huge arch like this, formed along the edge of such a canyon, can only be described as incredible.

We also went on a slightly longer hike to overlook Upheaval Dome, a meteorite impact crater. It is difficult to appreciate the scale and scope of many of the views at Canyonlands through photos; Upheaval Dome is about 5 km in diameter.

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After the Upheaval Dome hike, our daughter was just about done with hikes to see more rocks. We stopped to enjoy a few more amazing views along the road, and then headed to Moab for some well-earned shave ice.

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arches national park

We visited Arches National Park at the beginning of June. It was rather hot, surprisingly uncrowded, and of course, spectacular.

We spent the longest time climbing around and enjoying Double Arch.

We also spent quite a while enjoying Sand Dune Arch. Our daughter loved playing in the sand and exploring the hiding spots between the rocks.

Delicate Arch, the most famous of the arches, looked pretty amazing from a distance, but required a significant hike that we did not have the time or energy for. Maybe next time!

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cotopaxi

After concluding our work in Quito, we traveled by bus for a brief tourist visit to the Cotopaxi area. Much of the two hour drive was on a rough cobblestone road, through beautiful farm country.

We stayed at The Secret Garden Cotopaxi, a truly unique hostel/paradise overlooking several volcanoes. Gorgeous flowers and adorable llamas abound. When we arrived, we learned that a baby llama had been born there just that day!

After settling in and having a delicious chickpea and rice lunch, most of our group headed out for a guided waterfall hike. We divided into two groups: the “fun/hard” hike (mostly hiking through a small river to the waterfalls) and the “easy” hike (mostly hiking on land to the waterfalls). I of course opted for the “easy” hike, which honestly wasn’t that easy for me. We still had to hike through part of the river, and there was some steep and slippery hiking on land. With the altitude, all of this was rather challenging for me, but the experience was awesome.

All meals are included when you stay at the Secret Garden, and nearly everything is vegetarian and grown in their substantial gardens. I failed to take any photos of my delicious meals and snacks, but the Secret Garden folks did an amazing job accommodating my vegan and gluten-free dietary restrictions.

quito

I spent about a week in Quito, Ecuador in May. It was a work trip, so we only had a little time to explore the city, but I loved what I saw. At an elevation of 9,350 feet above sea level, it may be a surprise to some that much of the city is in a valley, nearly surrounded by volcanoes and mountains. The photos below are from my hotel and near my work site.

We had a chance to explore Old Town Quito one night. The beautiful historic center of Quito is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with some buildings dating back to the 16th century!

We also had a brief stop at a tourist market. As we left Quito for our next adventure, we got a great overview of the sprawling city.

I had some concerns about finding vegan, gluten-free food I could eat in Ecuador, but I ended up really enjoying most of my food options. Below are photos from my lunches at work, and I also really enjoyed a Korean restaurant near the hotel for dinner one night.

There were also many unique fruits and juices available. Apparently, because of the many microclimates in Ecuador, you can find a huge variety of produce from different locations. We found the tamarillo, or tree tomato, served in different ways in a number of our meals.

surprise cake

For her fifth birthday, my daughter requested a strawberry cake with purple frosting and a candy surprise inside. The candy surprise inside the cake was something she had seen on one of her favorite shows, Creative Galaxy. The surprise cake was actually not much harder to make than a regular cake, but way more fun to cut open and serve!

 

After assembling the layers of the cake, I just cut a hole in the middle of the cake, dumped colorful candy in to fill most of the hole, and covered the top of the hole with a small piece of the cake. With frosting covering the top of the cake, the surprise was well concealed until the cake was cut open for serving!

rocky road ice cream

This is probably the most decadent ice cream I’ve ever made.

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I adapted the recipe from this one as follows:

Mix the ingredients below together, then transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker.

  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

After the mixture has thickened in the ice cream maker, add 3/4 cup vegan mini marshmallows (I cut most of them in half) and 1/4 cup sliced almonds. Turn the ice cream maker back on until the marshmallows and almonds are mixed in well. Garnish with more marshmallows and almonds as desired.

There was a little bit of ice cream left over, so I used it to make popsicles, which were also amazing!

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cache la poudre river

I snapped a few photos of the Cache la Poudre River flowing through Bellvue while I was there for a work retreat in early May.

moonrise over a flowering plum tree

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st. vrain state park

We went to St. Vrain State Park on a sunny morning in mid-April. The Pelican Pond Nature Trail loop was a perfect low-key walk for our group. The beautiful old trees were just beginning to get their leaves, and we enjoyed the panoramic views of the mountains, and some bird watching.

This park seems to be immensely popular for RV camping and fishing as well.

sheep cupcakes

I made these adorable sheep cupcakes for Easter, based on these directions.

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I used my favorite chocolate cake recipe (German chocolate cake from the Babycakes Covers the Classics cookbook), and store-bought frosting to save a little time.