Thinkery – Austin, TX

After our trip to Big Bend we drove to Austin to pick up our youngest and my MIL to spend a few days in Austin! We had such a great time exploring Austin with the kids – touring the capital, swimming in Barton Springs, eating at some many amazing restaurants, shopping on South Congress and checking out Austin’s AMAZING children’s museum – Thinkery!

This is probably the coolest children’s museum that we’ve ever been to! I wish I took most pictures to show off just how amazing it was. Some many awesome hands on exhibits for the kids to play with. And great for a wide range of ages! Our 2 1/2 year old all the way up to our 11 year old absolutely loved it! You could spend the whole day at this place without ever getting bored. Here’s a couple photos that I have and I’ll add our little quick Austin vacation video at the end, which is as always, my favorite way to capture a vacation!

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Our 8th move

IMG_2951This week we’re moving into our 8th home together since getting married almost 13 years ago. The continuous amount of kids we kept having while leaving in Cali is responsible for 3 of those moves. But this one has me the most bitter because we only have 8 months left here on recruiting duty. Annoying! We rent our current house and the owners want to sell, we begged and pleaded to them to let us stay the remaining time that we’re here but they are just ready to get rid of the house. So after a couple stressful weeks of searching for another rental within the same school zones for our kids we found a house and will be moving this week!

The worst thing about this move is that we don’t rate a TMO move so we have to move ourselves. Whomp whomp. I hate hate hate packing! Just like I’m sure the large majority of people do as well, but man it’s such a pain. Whenever we PCS to a new base the Marines will either pay for a  company to move our stuff (TMO move) or you can do a DITY move and get reimbursed for moving yourself. We ALWAYS pick TMO when we have the chance lol. It’s pretty much the best thing ever. Hopefully everything works out with our next move and we won’t be packing ourselves up again lol.

But as much as it sucks to pack, honestly I love moving! Even just moving .4 miles away I’m pretty pumped to get to decorate a new house and it’s sort of made this last year on recruiting duty move along even faster. I can’t believe it’s already May and we should be moving somewhere new in January! We should be finding out where we PCS to sometime this summer hopefully. Fingers crossed we get to live in our next house more than 2 1/2 years which is our current longest streak!

5 Kid Friendly Hikes in Big Bend

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Hiking with kids can be challenging! Going into our Big Bend trip I knew there were some awesome longer hikes that we’d love to do but they just weren’t a reality for our 11, 9 and 6 year old children. Whenever we plan a trip I like to head to pinterest/the internet and find different areas that we’d like to see and visit but when searching “Big Bend” and “children” I didn’t find much! So here is a quick post of the 5 best hikes that I’d recommend when visiting with children!

Rio Grande Village Nature Trail – .75 mile loop

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This was one of my favorite sunset views! This is an easy hike with a bit of climbing upwards but on an easy path and the views are well worth it!

Hot Springs Historic Trail – 1 mile round trip

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Bring a swimsuit and take this easy flat walk to the hot springs! The kids loved it and enjoyed swimming in the river. We went here twice during our trip and highly recommend it!

Santa Elena Canyon Trail – 1.7 miles round trip

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Come here and expect to get a little wet! The kids loved skipping rocks and playing in the water. We then hiked along the edge of the canyon. It’s a bit of a climb up but nothing too tiring. You don’t have to do the whole thing even, you can hike up and walk along the trail a bit and still get a great view!

Grapevine Hills Trail – 2.2 miles round trip

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This is the trail you take to see the balanced rock! This trail is 3/4 easy and then the last 1/4 is hiking/climbing UP. My 6 year old needed Daddy’s help a good bit while climbing the rocks so I would imagine this one would have been tough had we come years ago when the kids were smaller. The end is well worth it!! But walking this trail with the kids definitely felt MUCH longer than 2.2 miles lol. But it’s one of the shorter long trails, so if you only pick one long hike I recommend this one!

Fossil Discovery Exhibit

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And last but not least go visit the Fossil Discovery Exhibit!! This isn’t a hike, though you can walk around a bit around the building, but this is definitely worth visiting if you have children with you. You’ll learn about what Big Bend used to look like years and years ago and see some pretty cool dinosaur bones!

(And one more thing I think you should do while in Big Bend!)

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If you’re able, definitely plan a river trip! This was the highlight of the trip for all of us and definitely something I’d recommend you do if you can 🙂 There are a few different places that offer river tours, we used Far Flung and highly recommend them!

We loved our trip to Big Bend! Taking the kids to beautiful places and letting them explore is one of my favorite things to do. One of the best parts about my husband being a Marine is that we get to move all over the country and explore places we probably never would have seen otherwise. Can’t wait to take the kids somewhere again!

Big Bend National Park – Day 3

Our last day in Big Bend we went to Santa Elena Canyon! This was really cool to see, again it’s right on the border of the United States and Mexico. IMG_3856-Edit-Edit

The kids loved playing in the river and skipping rocks! The weather also happened to be perfect this day! While playing in the river I saw something move out of the corner on my eye and realized it was a SNAKE. IMG_3863-Edit-Edit

That thing was pretty big and was probably right next to me and I didn’t even notice it haha. Thankfully it just slithered away across the river. IMG_3857-Edit-Edit

There’s a trail that follows along the edge of the canyon here too. You’ll get a bit wet so it’s a good place to bring river shoes if you have any.

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That’s a couple pictures from the walk back, the views were awesome!

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The kids played a bit more in the water and I took a ton of photos of the same view apparently lol. Afterwards we drove to a near by rangers station and ate lunch on their picnic table and then the kids turned in their Jr. Rangers packets and got a badge a patch! Definitely stop by one of the stations and pick up an activity book if you have kids along with you! Later in the evening we went back to the Rio Grande Hot Springs Trail and swim in the hot springs and river. It was a nice relaxing way to end our trip! We had such a great time on our first camping trip and can’t wait to do it again some time. If you have any questions about visiting Big Bend comment below!!

Big Bend National Park – Day 2

We started off day two with an early wake up and drive to Far Flung Adventures to canoe down the Rio Grande! This was one of the top things we wanted to do during our trip and it didn’t disappoint! We did a half day trip through Far Flung and it was so much fun. The kids LOVED it and they all said it was their favorite part of the trip as well. It’s a bit pricey, honestly everything is pricey when you have a lot of kids lol, but is definitely worth it if you can swing it.

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Getting pictures while canoeing by myself with an 11 year old was not the easiest task lol. As soon as I’d pull out my camera from the dry bag, inevitably we’d be heading right towards the banks! But I’m glad I grabbed a couple, the scenery was awesome. The United States is on the left and Mexico is on the right, we canoed right down the border!

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We stopped about half way through and took a quick snack break. We stopped on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande, so the kids can officially say they’ve been to Mexico!

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Loved, loved it! Even got someone to take a picture of all of us…

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We ate lunch in Terlingua which is a tiny tiny town outside Big Bend and then headed to the Balanced Rock trail. We read that it was only 1.2 miles (meaning 2.4 there and back) and we figured it’d be a nice and easy hike with the kids.

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These little guys were everywhere during this hike!

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3/4 of the hike is flat and then the last 1/4 mile you’re hiking up the mountain to get to the balanced rock. I’m not sure if we’re just super out of shape but this hike for sure felt longer than 1.2 miles lol. I figured it’d take us about an hour total there and back. Not so much…. It took us around 2 1/2 hours! We of course had little kids with us and stopped for a snack at the top plus a couple water breaks but after this hike I knew we probably didn’t have a 3/4 miler in our future this trip haha. Maybe next time 😉

Later that evening we drove over to the Rio Grande Village Nature Trail. This was a great easy hike to do with the kids and ended up being one of my favorite views from the whole trip! I didn’t get many photos this evening but here’s the sunset view!! All the heart eyes on this one!

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Big Bend National Park – Day 1

Big Bend was even prettier than I thought it would be! The mountains are beautiful and we really loved our trip. We camped out at the Chisos Mountain campground which I had made reservations for about 4 months prior. This campground only takes reservations part of the year, so keep that in mind if you’re planning a trip there yourself. Big Bend is HUGE, like seriously it could take you almost 2 hours to drive across the whole thing. The Chisos Mountain campground is right in the middle and we definitely recommended camping there if possible. The Rio Grande Village campground is at the far east end of the park and you will be driving a very long way to a large majority of the sites and hikes. Even from the Chisos Mountain campgrounds we would have to drive 45+ minutes to the various hikes. IMG_9627-Edit

Right down in the middle is where we camped! I didn’t know how “in the mountains” we would be til we got there! We were literally right in the mountains and it was awesome. IMG_9641-EditIMG_9639-EditIMG_9632-Edit

The first day we arrived in the afternoon, set up camp and started dinner right away. Having never camped before I was a bit worried about cooking solely on a grill (no campfires are allowed at Big Bend!) We tried to bring as easy of meals as we could and thankfully they were all delicious and everyone was happy!

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That evening we went to the Hot Springs Trail which was a nice easy trail to start with. We didn’t swim this evening but ended up going there our last night as well and swimming in the hot springs and the Roi Grande and it was so refreshing! Definitely a nice easy trail to head to if you have children!

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At the start of the trail we saw these trinkets for sell that are from people across the border! So crazy! They “hide out” in a little hut right across the river and I guess come over every now and then to collect the cash. I’m sure the rangers don’t really want you to buy from them but the kids thought they were so cool and we did end up getting a couple on out last visit.

Still working through the rest of the photos but I’ll be back with more soon!

Our first camping trip! – Big Bend National Park

We just returned home from our first ever camping trip! We spent three nights tent camping at Big Bend National Park in the Chisos Mountains and loved it! Going into it I wasn’t quite sure if we would survive or not but I’m happy to say not only did we survive but we’d do it again! I have lots of photos to go through and VIDEOS even (my favorites!) and can’t wait to share them all. For now, here are some pictures from their new Fossil Discovery Exhibit. The kids LOVED this place. It was actually the very first thing we did after driving into the entrance and I’m so glad we stopped to check it out. It was filled with information about what the park looked like millions of years ago and various fossils that were found in the park. It was also a page in the kids Junior Ranger packet that they had a blast filling out so another reason to stop by as well. If you’re ever at Big Bend, definitely stop by and take a little break from the heat and learn more about the park!IMG_9588-EditIMG_9591-EditIMG_9596-EditIMG_9598-EditIMG_9605-EditIMG_9608-EditIMG_9616-EditIMG_9623-Edit

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