Yellow Van Travels: A Family Travel Blog

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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Review: Eddie Bauer Stowaway Backpacks

When you are traveling, especially while you are hiking, one of the most important items to have is a good backpack. Enter in the Eddie Bauer Stowaway Backpacks.
Eddie Bauer Stowaway Backpacks Title Card

We purchased these backpacks earlier this year and we have been so happy with them! We bought them after our Grand Canyon trip. On that trip, we used another Eddie Bauer backpack (similar here) that was great, but it was a little much for what we needed.
Eddie Bauer Stowaway Backpacks

These Stowaway backpacks are lightweight, collapsable and the two different sizes are perfect for what we need on our hikes and while traveling.
Eddie Bauer Stowaway Backpack large

Ben has the smaller, sling style backpack. It has one large pocket and one smaller pocket on the front of the bag. On the strap it has a small mesh pocket that perfectly holds a cell phone. It also has a water bottle pocket on the side that is perfect for carrying your water bottle or a yellow van. In this backpack we usually carry our DSLR camera in the larger main pocket. It makes it super accessible for me to pull out the camera while we are hiking since I am the main photographer. We also put our selfie stick and Gorilla Pod in the main pocket. In the smaller pocket, we usually keep the yellow van.
Eddie Bauer Stowaway Backpack small with Yellow Van

I have the larger, normal style backpack. It has one large, main compartment as well as two smaller pockets on the front. One pocket is towards the top of the bag and is a half circle style. This pocket is perfect for holding small things that you don't want to get lost. I usually keep my phone and charger, battery pack, and chapstick in this pocket. The other small pocket has a vertical zipper that opens into a pocket that takes up most of the front of the backpack. In this pocket we liked to keep maps and sunscreen. The main pocket held all of the random things we might need on the hike like sweatshirts, hats, a gallon water jug and snacks. My backpack also has two water bottle pockets on the sides. One always held my Atlasware water bottle while the other one often held a can of sunscreen.
Eddie Bauer Stowaway Backpack large

One of our favorite things about these bags is that they are collapsable; they fold in on themselves to create tiny pouches that make it so easy to store! Instead of taking up the room of a normal backpack in our closets, they fit nicely into our box of travel items. Sometimes when we travel, we don't need the backpacks for the actual travel, but rather for an activity once we get to our destination. It is so nice to just throw them into our suitcases and then unfold them when it's time to use them. When folded up they have a nice handle that you can clip a careener to and then clip the folded up back onto another bag as well.
Eddie Bauer Stowaway Backpacks packed up

We are so pleased with these Stowaway backpacks from Eddie Bauer. They are very high quality, lightweight, and don't take up too much space.
Eddie Bauer Stowaway Backpack large

**We did not receive any compensation for reviewing these backpacks. We just think they are a great product**
*This post contains affiliate links*

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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Chimani Arches and Canyonlands National Parks Apps Review

As you have probably noticed we had a fantastic time down in Moab visiting both Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. The area is absolutely amazing and full of beautiful places and natural wonders. There is so much to do though that it can be a little overwhelming, so for both parks I used the respective Chimani apps to help plan and carry out our adventures. I used the apps on a iPhone running iOS 9, but they are also available for Android.

These apps function very similarly to the Chimani Grand Canyon app that I reviewed a while ago, but it was my first time using the new interface that they updated too. And I have to say that it worked ok, but not as well as I was hoping. The new interface looks nice, but finding what I wanted wasn't always simple, more on that in a minute.

The Arches app and Canyonlands app are almost identical in form and function, only the specific information is different, so I will treat them as one thing for the sake of this review.

App Organization 

When you open the app you will be presented with a menu screen like the one shown below.

Chimani App Menu

 There are a bunch of different categories to help you out so it is suppose to be easy to find what you want to do. Unfortunately I was not always sure where different activities would show up, for example the line between auto touring and hiking is very blurred with some of the same locations showing up in both places. That confused me for a bit, but I guess it makes sense if it is an attraction that can both be hiked to and seen from a pullout or parking lot. If you are not sure what category a particular attraction or activity might be found under chances are that it is under multiple.You can also use the search feature if you want to find something specific.

The menu grid is easy to navigate, although all the topics can also be found in list form under the side menu. One thing I wish though is that you could arrange the sections in the order that you most use them. For example the tab trip planning was not something I used, so if I could have replaced it with the hiking tab that would have been more useful to have at the top of the screen. 

Planning Your Trip

These apps are very useful in planning your trip to the parks because they will tell you how difficult the hikes are and about how long to expect on each. There is a section of the app called "Trip Planning" but I did not find this to be useful at all. It doesn't really help you to figure out what you want, so I would avoid it.

The best thing to do is just go look at the sections of things you like to do, in the case of these apps mostly hiking. When you find an activity that you want to do on your trip, or might want to do, just bookmark it by tapping the bookmark in the upper right hand corner of the details screen.

Chimani App Item Detail Screen
Now I'll do you a favor and tell you where to find those bookmarks later, since it is not apparent from the app itself, in fact I did not figure it out until after we had already come home from Moab. From the Home screen tap the banner at the very top, the one that says the name of the park and shows your rank (normally scout). This will take you the "My Chimani" section of the app where one of the sections is "bookmarks." This will make your trip much easier. Simply bookmark the activities that you want to do and then you will be able to easily find them while you are in the parks. This will prove useful when using the maps as well. 

Chimani App Bookmarks Screen

Maps in the App

When using the app on are trip I thought the map portion of the app was virtually useless because it looked like this just a couple big orange circles and numbers.

Chimani App Map Zoomed Out
You have to zoom in for individual places to appear and when you do you are so close that you can't see it in relation to anything else.

Chimani App Map Zoomed In
For this reason I relied mostly on the park guide that the rangers give you when you come in for navigating.

Chimani App Map with Unclustered Pins

Since the trip though I have figured out how to make the map portion much more usable, which is good since some National Parks are no longer handing out the park guides to save paper. In the settings section of the app (at the very bottom of the side menu) turn off cluster map pins.

Although this still is not perfect (it would be nice if you could set some filters) it is much more usable. If you have bookmarked any spot it will appear as a tan pin making those easier to find. I hope to see more improvements to Chimani's maps in the future.

Also remember that you can download the maps to the app before you head out so that if you run into dead zones (you will) the map will still be available to you.

Badges and Account

As mentioned above there is a section of the app hidden in the title banner (also appearing on the side menu) called my Chimani. This is the area that stores your bookmarks and also your badges. Because I couldn't find this portion during our trip I never used it. So I don't know a lot about the badges, but it appears that if you hit the plus icon on an activity or place in the app then you will get the badge for that thing. I tried it on a bunch of the things we did down in Arches, but never got close to leveling up my rank, so I think the "verified" visits must be worth more, but I haven't tried since I am not on location currently. The badges are a nice way of keeping track of what you have done though.

Sum Up

The Chimani apps are really useful, despite a few drawbacks they will help make your trip to Arches and/or Canyonlands a lot better. You can't complain too much about something that is free. If you use my tips in this post it should work out even better than it did for us on our trip. Remember that Chimani has apps for most of the National Parks, but they all have different features depending on what the park has available (such as shuttle bus schedules in the Grand Canyon). 

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Corona and Bow Tie Arch

On our last day in Moab, we did not go to either of the national parks. Instead we went a little bit out of the way to a free hike to two amazing arches. While it is probably the most difficult hike we did while in Moab, the view was definitely worth it.
Corona and Bow Tie Arches Title Card

How to Get There:

From Arches National Park, head South on Highway 191for about half a mile. Then turn right onto UT 270 S. Keep left and stay on the road for about 7 miles. You will see a small parking lot to the right where you can park and get to the trailhead. If the parking lot is full, there is another parking lot on the left side of the road where you can park. 

Once you get to the trailhead, there will be a sign with specific details for the hike. You will start out climbing a trail that is pretty steep until you get to some railroad tracks. As you cross the railroad tracks, you will see a pretty well marked trail that leads all the way to the arches. 
Yellow Van on railroad tracks on hiking trail

Once the trail switches from dirt to mainly slick rock, you are about half way to the arches. As you start hiking on the slick rock, you will encounter some different types of experiences on the hike. First, you will come to some cables that will help you travel up the steepest part of the trail. Shortly after that there is a small ladder to climb up to the last part of the trail. 
Yellow van inside cairn arch on Corona and Bow Tie Arch trail

What You Will See:

Once you get to the top of the ladder, you will have a nice view of both arches. This is a good spot to take pictures because you can get you and your family nicely framed with the arch. As you finish your hike you will come to Bow Tie Arch first. This arch is smaller and slightly more difficult to hike up into, but it can be easily enjoyed from below. After you pass Bow Tie Arch, you will see Corona Arch. You can hike right under the arch and it has a nice open area to sit down and take a rest. 
Meagan in front of Corona ArchBow Tie Arch

Sum Up:

Bow Tie and Corona Arch are two beautiful arches. While this hike is more on the harder side, it is still doable for most families. At 3 miles round-trip, make sure to bring water and snacks as there is no water on the trail.

Title: Corona and Bow Tie Arches Summary Card; Location: Moab Utah, Season: All; Time: 1 and a half to 2 hours; Cost: Free; People: All ages, not accessible;  Weather: Sunny, Cloudy, Windy

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Garden of Eden in Arches National Park

Arches National Park is home to an alien landscape, you will hear that several times if you watch the intro video. One of the locations that exemplifies this with almost no exertion on your part is the Garden of Eden. Why is it alien? We just aren't use to seeing monoliths of rock rise out of the landscape naturally like this. Trees, yes; mountains, yes; giant pillars of rock, no.

Title card: Yellow Van at the Garden of Eden

How to Get There:

The Garden of Eden is found at a small parking lot just off the road to the Windows Section. It is easy to stop and see it either on your way to the Windows and Double Arch or on your way back from them. Just take the turn east at Balanced Rock and drive about a mile. If you are headed towards the Windows it will be on your left, if you are coming back it will be on your right.

Rock Pillars in the Garden of Eden

What You Will See:

Rock landscape in the Garden of Eden

The main thing to see at the Garden of Eden is the towers of rock and a few more complete fins. It is more of a look out than a trail, although you can go a little ways in. When we were there we saw some rock climbers on Ham Rock which is located just a short way from the parking lot. I love rock climbing, but I think being on top of a pillar like that would make me pretty woozy. Be aware that if you want to climb in the park you need to get permits from the visitor center.
Closer to the Rock Pillars

Ham's Rock with Rock Climbers on it

Just off from the parking lot is a much smaller boulder that I did climb on. It is a fun boulder that children should be able to do easily. This is also a great place to get some photos of the Arches landscape. We were not able to be there for sunset but I have heard that it is a good and easy place to observe the sun setting.

Ben on a boulder in the Garden of Eden

Yellow Van with the Garden of Eden landscape

Sum Up:

Yellow Van with Ham's Rock

The Garden of Eden is any easy stop off, and since it is essentially a lookout it also accessible, which is a rare find in Arches. You can stay as long as you want but most people probably won't stay more than thirty minutes, and you can enjoy it in as little as ten minutes.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Double Arch in Arches National Park

Double Arch was by far my favorite hike in the Windows District of Arches National Park. And it was probably my second favorite hike of our whole time in Arches. (My first favorite was definitely Delicate Arch.) This is an easy hike and is really quite a sight to see. Everyone can do this hike and once you get to the arch there are definitely ways to make it more difficult if you want. After your hike, don't forget to stop over at the Window and Turret arches
Hiking Double Arch in Arches National Park

How to Get There: 

Head North from the Visitor's Center and turn right after you pass Balanced Rock. As you enter the Windows District, you will pass Garden of Eden on the left and will continue down the road until you come to a parking lot that will loop around. The Double Arch trailhead is on the North side of the parking lot. But when we were there, parking was pretty terrible. We would suggest parking wherever you can find a spot and then walk to the trailhead. There are restrooms in the South side of the parking lot near the North and South Window/Turret Arch trailhead. 
Double Arch from the trail

Once you're on the trailhead, you follow the sandy dirt path to the arch. You can see the arch pretty much the entire way on the trail. The trail is half a mile round trip, perfect for families with all ages of children. 
Double arch from underneath

What You Will See:

Once you get to the base, you will see the tallest arch located in the park. You can climb right up inside of it. When we were there, it was a pretty toasty afternoon and Double Arch provided plenty of shade relief. One of our favorite things to do was to lay down underneath the arch and look straight up at it. It is really quite the sight. 
Ben in double arch

If you are feeling more adventurous (like Ben was) there are places inside the arch where you can boulder your way higher up for pretty spectacular views. I was not feeling up for the steeper climb, so I just sat underneath the arch in the shade. 
Double arch from below

Sum Up:

This is a super easy family hike that we suggest everyone do. It is easily accessible to pretty much everyone and once you get to the arch, there are areas to challenge yourself if you wish. With only a half mile round trip distance, it can be a quick hike to see the tallest arch in Arches National Park. But you can also spend quite a bit of time hanging out and climbing underneath the arch.

Location: Moab, Utah Weather: all kinds Time: 20-30 minutes Price: free with park admission Family: Families including babies

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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Windows Section in Arches National Park

On the eastern side of Arches National Park there is an area that is almost magical in the imagination it inspires. This is the Windows Section. And while not as iconic Delicate Arch, or as massive as Landscape Arch, it does deliver the most arches for your trip of any stop in the park. Three arches can be seen between the two windows and the turret, and since Double Arch is actually three arches that brings the total to six arches for one stop. In this post I'll focus on the North and South Windows and Turret Arch. Meagan will cover Double Arch in another post.

Title Card for the Windows Section of Arches National Park, showing the yellow van facing the windows

How to Get There:

Balanced Rock is your landmark when navigating to the Windows Section of Arches National Park. Just make sure that you take a right just after passing this acrobatic monolith as you head North and you will be on the road that terminates in this amazing section of the park. 

The end of the road will bring you to a large parking lot loop, which when we got there in the early afternoon was almost completely full. The loop consists of an upper area nearer to the Windows and Turret Arch, and a lower area nearer to Double Arch. The two sections of the loop are connected by a fairly steep stairway path. Unless you get there early, or have accessibility concerns, I suggest parking wherever you first see a space. You will probably want to visit both areas anyway, so it really doesn't matter which you are closer to. Just make sure that when you want to go to the North and South Windows and Turret Arch that you go through the upper side of the parking lot.

What You Will See:

There is one very important thing to take note of when hiking the Windows and Turret Arch, that is there are two trails that will take you around the Windows, an easy trail and a primitive one. The primitive trail is significantly longer and more difficult than the easy trail. 

They way we went was to take the easy trail, and when it forked we went right to Turret Arch.

Full image of Turret Arch

Turret Arch:

This arch is a lot of fun because it is quite large and you can get right inside it. If you can't make it to Delicate Arch then Turret can be a nice substitute. There are basically two routes you can take to get inside it from the trail. The first is to walk along a ridge and shimmy around an outcropping. The second is to just go down from the trail into a small basin and cross it over to the arch. The second option is much easier, but not as apparent to us or most people that we saw there. 

Meagan inside Turret Arch
Meagan in Turret Arch

Inside Turret Arch you will have to climb a small wall to get up to the other side. Its not particularly difficult but small children may need some help on the way down. On the other side of the arch there is a pretty expansive basin with some cool ridges and towers.

Looking out from inside the Turret Arch gives you an awesome view of the Windows and lets you see why they are called the Spectacles. 

South Window:

After Turret Arch we came around the trail to the South Window. It was easy to see that we could not get into the window without rock climbing gear, which would probably have been illegal and we didn't have it anyway. But I saw people up in it, so I concluded that if we went around the rock fin that houses  both Windows we would be able to get inside it. 

South Window in Arches National Park

That turned out to be correct, sort of. Going around the fin to the south put us on the primitive trail, which is still pretty flat. It took us a few minutes to get around and when we did we saw that the South Window was not a cliff on this side, but did have a pretty steep scramble to get to it.

Ben in the South Window
Ben in the South Window

Meagan opted not to try and get up there. But of course I had to. I went up the right hand side and came down the left and I think that is probably as good a route as any. It was pretty steep in places, and the arch itself is not that wide. It was pretty windy when I reached it and so I laid down to look at it. 

North Window:

North Window from the Primitive Trail

When I came down from the South Window we decided to continue on the primitive trail to see the North Window. The climb up to the North Window looked considerably easier than the South one, but still not super easy. Meagan stayed down again while I went to explore. When I reached the arch I found that I had come to it in a much more difficult way, if we had stayed on the easy trail we would have just walked straight into the arch with almost no scrambling. 

North Arch seen from below
North Arch seen from below

I went back down and had Meagan come up so that we could just go out on the easy trail rather than going all the way back on the primitive trail. 

Suggested Route:

Based on our experience in the Windows Section we don't suggest you follow our route to the arches especially if you are coming with children or have accessibility issues. Instead we suggest that you take the left fork on the easy trail and come into the North Window first, then just view the South Window from the trail, then proceed on the trail to Turret Arch. The Windows Section hike is quite easy if you go this route. 

Sum Up:

The Windows Section is a fantastic and easy hike. Even the part of the primitive trail that we were on was not very difficult. We highly suggest this and the neighboring Double Arch as great family hikes. There are pit toilets located in the middle of the parking loop, but if it is a busy day you may need to wait in line for them. The excursion in the Windows Section should take you anywhere from 1 to 2 hours depending on how long you spend in the arches.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Hiking Landscape Arch in Arches National Park

Landscape Arch is the longest arch in Arches National Park. It is a beautiful arch with two side trails to see other arches along the way. A flat, easy hike that everyone in your family can enjoy.
Landscape Arch Arches National Park

How to Get There:

Trailhead at for Landscape ArchLocated in the Devil's Garden district, take the main road into Arches and follow it to the end of the road. You will end up in the Devil's Garden parking area loop. On the Northwest side of the loop, you will find the trailhead for Landscape Arch, Tunnel Arch and Pine Tree Arch. Located at the trailhead are restrooms and water. 

From the trailhead, you will follow a well defined trail that is quite sandy in some parts. Early into your hike, you will come to trail markers that will show you some off-shoot trails that will take you to Tunnel Arch and Pine Tree Arch. We took both of these side trails and it didn't add any significant distance or time to our hike. Of the two side arches, we would definitely suggest going to see Pine Tree Arch. It is a neat arch that you can go right up underneath and it offers beautiful views. And if you are going to make the effort to see Pine Tree Arch, you might as well see Tunnel Arch too. Tunnel Arch you cannot get close to see because it is high up towards the top of a mountain, but the trail leads to a pretty cool view point for the arch. 
Pine Tree Arch Trail
Pine Tree Arch

Tunnel Arch
Tunnel A

Yellow Van in sand on Landscape Arch trailOnce you get back up to the main trail, Landscape Arch is easy to get to. You will stay on the main trail that is relatively flat with no major elevation changes. It is a 1.6 mile round trip hike and will take anywhere from 50-90 minutes depending on your stops and how fast your family moves. 

Landscape Arch

What You Will See:

As you approach Landscape Arch, your breath will be taken away. You can see it all along the tail end of the trail. When we were hiking towards it, we didn't know how close we would be able to get so we started taking pictures from pretty far out. They look pretty good, but we found out that you can actually get quite close to it. In the past, you were able to hike right up underneath. But there was a large collapse of part of the arch that lost quite a lot of rock all along the right side of the arch. Since then, they have closed off that part of the trail. But you can still quite enjoy the beautiful arch from a distance. 

Landscape Arch
You will come to a plaque that gives information about the arch and the collapse. We thought that that would be the end of the trail but discovered that it actually winds for a little bit after that where you can get different angles and views of the spectacular arch with plenty of good photo opportunities. 
Landscape ArchLandscape Arch

We went in the relative early morning and didn't encounter many other hikers, but as we were leaving we started seeing quite a few more heading into the hike. If you do go in the morning, make sure to bring a sweatshirt and possibly a hat and gloves because most of the hike is in chilly shadows until the sun comes up over the canyon. 

Sum Up:

This is a beautiful, easy hike that allows you to see the longest arch in Arches National Park as well as two other neat arches. It is 1.6 miles round trip on a flat dirt and sandy trail. With lots of opportunities to view the arch and many different angles, there are plenty of spots for photo opportunities.
Landscape Arch Trail Summary Card Location: Moab, Utah Season: all Time 50-90 min Price: free with park admission People: families including babies Weather: all

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