Every summer, my extended family (parents and siblings) gather together. It’s a different location every year, we usually pick up an VRBO in Idaho or Utah that can accommodate our group. It’s the only time each year that we’re all able to gather and the only time I see my sister who lives on the east coast. It’s a week my kids look forward to every year – they love time with all their cousins.
Although the location changes every year, the theme is always the same: Play hard.
Sun up, to sun down we play hard. We are always in need of a vacation from our vacation because they can be physically exhausting. 🙂 And if there is a moment of light that isn’t already planned, you better believe there will be a group at the tennis court. I need to start taking lessons just so going to the tennis court to join in the fun is an option for me!
We spent a day at Bloomington lake (which I wrote about here).
We spent an afternoon at Bear Lake – it’s lower than I’ve ever seen it which means the beaches were beautiful and long and nice sand. We played every sand/lawn game imaginable and took kayaks out for a little adventure. (My brother owns every lawn game and each year he teaches us something new. This year we learned Kubb and Ramp shot and both were great beach games – add to that the regular games we play like horseshoes, Spikeball and bocce ball and there was never a dull moment.
We spent one afternoon going to the Minnetonka Caves – just a short drive from the northwest side of the lake where we were staying. This was a guided, paid 1.5 hour tour that is only open during the summer. Bennett dubbed this as his highlight Bear Lake activity. It was interesting and the tour guides were great. 440 stairs into the cave…which means that many stairs coming out as well! But Briggs’ little legs handled it without complaints. It was a chilly and consistent 40 degrees in the cave which meant pants and sweatshirts to stay comfortable. They were very cautious about COVID and required masks so that humans don’t pass COVID to the bats in the cave. The irony was not lost on us. 🙂 They also wouldn’t allow children under two to enter because it’s unsafe for them to wear a mask so we had to do some swapping so someone could stay behind with my sister’s baby. There’s another cave in the area that is an ice cave and isn’t guided and we thought that would be a fun one as well but we didn’t make it there this year.
These cousins played at the pool together, they made bracelets (lots of bracelets), they had air soft gun wars, they played all their other made up games and they stayed up far too late. There was never a dull moment and there were tears shed when it was time to close another reunion chapter.
They have no idea how good they have it to gather every year the way we do – they have special relationships with one another because of the time invested. It’s always a highlight of every summer.
One of our adventures during our time at Bear Lake this summer included a day trip to Bloomington Lake, a cold mountain lake. It was a quick 1/2 mile hike to the lake, but the dirt/gravel road to get to the trailhead could use some improvement. We had a high clearance vehicle, although I saw several sedan cars in the parking lot – I’m not sure how they made it on that road!
The short hike was easy and beautiful and it opened up to a small lake with a rope swing and some rocks for cliff jumping. I was surprised with out busy the area was, but even busy we got on the rope swing and had plenty of time without feeling rushed.
Not surprising at all, Bennett was the first to hop in line for the rope swing…but he had never done it, so he was looking for some pointers. We quickly ushered a cousin to the front of the line to show him out it was done. As soon as he saw how to do it, he was ready to go.
After several rounds of the rope swing, the older kids trekked around the lake, over the boulders, and then swam to the cliff area. They had to earn their cliff jumping experience! And I just watched from afar, trying to pick out which kid was jumping when and then I saw a backflip and I knew that was Steve. All his diving days as a kid pay off in these situations.
Our afternoon scenery was beautiful. With so many fires every where, the air had been smokey for weeks and the higher we climbed in elevation to reach this trailhead, the more clear the air was – truly a breath of fresh air.
We passed several people as we hiked in and everyone said how warm the water was this year. I was so hopeful and convinced I would do the rope swing – I love rope swings! And then I felt the temperature of the water and realized if I jumped in, even on this warm summer day, it would take me forever to warm up so I gave it hard pass! 🙂 I can’t imagine what the water feels like on a cold year.
Our road trip during the summer gives us focused time as a family that is hard recreate anywhere else. Our time on the road forces us to throw schedules and routines out the window in search of adventure and time with family and friends.
If you know me even a little bit, you know that I thrive on schedules and routines but for a few weeks every summer we beat to a different drum and I love it. (I love it even more now that my kids are getting older and it’s easier to throw some schedules out – harder when I had babies).
We jumped around for a couple stops before landing at my parents house. I think the only major adjustment was having the sun stay up so late into the evening. I explained to Briggs that the sun in Idaho is different than the sun in Arizona – they play by different rules. The first day we were there I was trying to put him to bed at 9 – an hour past his bedtime and through his tears he was pointing outside telling me that the sun was still up and not bed time. We adjusted quickly. The sun was out until 10 o’clock at night – which means many nights bed time was after that.
We played in parks multiple times a week – the weather was mid 80’s and by night time it cooled off nicely. This was my view for nights on end.
We picked fruit and ate more than we harvested.
We sought adventure by hiking the hills in search of treasures.
The boys went fishing (Hallie willingly opted out of this activity) and my dad patiently taught my boys how to cast.
We played make believe – over and over again.
We floated the river with cousins – a beautiful afternoon.
We played with cousins…again and again and again. And just when I thought my kids would be tired of them, the last night we were there my brother’s family came and kidnapped them for just a little more time. Everyone has a buddy.
I always leave Idaho with a hard drive full of pictures – I want to capture everything! More pictures to come…
Our summer roadtrip is always made better when we can meet up with friends along the way. Last summer, we made a side trip to Washington to see my college roommate and her family. This summer, they drove from Washington to see us in Idaho.
We planned a day together (which my kids claimed was not enough and I totally agree) and we enjoyed every last minute until it started to get dark and it was time to head home.
We sat at a picnic table while our kids ran around and we talked and talked. Before long we realized it was well past dinner time and no one was complaining because they were all happily entertained with eachother.
We never tire of our time with them. We never run out of things to discuss – and our conversations have depth and laughter. The best of both worlds. Every time we see them we lament the fact they live so far away – we would spend weeks with them if we could. Some years we have to settle for a single day – a day well spent.