Canada

After leaving Cedar Point,the Armstrong clan journeyed to Canada to see Niagara falls and try some Canadian Hershey’s chocolate, which is better than American Hershey’s chocolate, for some reason. We had to stay one night just to say we did. The next morning, we faced the crackadon to journey to our cousin’s house. We had to stop at a tire repair place, as our car was being all weird and swervy. Once we made it to our cousin’s house, we met, we went swimming with Noah, ate dinner, and played Legos before heading to the trampoline with Anna and Noah.

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After playing an air hockey tournament with John and Anna, we went and set off sparklers and snappers.

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We soon learned that Rick is a ATF-certified pyrotechnician, so we made a lot of noise in their quiet neighborhood. All this fun led us to our next adventure: we went on a search for their dog Daisy after she ran away, we assume because the noise from the fireworks scared her. Then we all had a sleepover in Noah’s room. I woke up to find out that Daisy had returned filthy, but happy, and I had missed breakfast.

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We played a little more and then our baby cousin Weston came over with his dad, David, who is also our cousin. We played on the trampoline then played some more air hockey.

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After Weston went home, we played with Legos, then went into their awesome treehouse. We then had to say goodbye and Willy and Noah were very sad to have to separate, but we were going camping and they were going to an awesome concert event to see Toby Mac and some other pretty amazing artists. I think everyone will have some fun adventures, but we would love to spend more time with that branch of cousins.

Cedar Point visitors guide

Alright guys, This park is legit. Five rides over 200 feet tall, and has 13 roller coasters. It also has great food and a couple basketball games where my brother and I won Cav’s gear.

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This is a list of my top five roller coasters:

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The Valravn:

This is the newest coaster in the park and normally has about a two-hour wait, which is totally worth it. Now, we stayed on site at Lighthouse Point, so we got into the park an hour earlier than most people and only had to wait about half an hour. It starts off with a two-hundred foot, 90-degree drop and the rest of the coaster is just as awesome, I definitely recommend riding this one.

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The Maverick:

This roller coaster is only about one hundred feet high, but don’t let that fool you. The first drop is 95 degrees and it’s one of the fastest rides in the park, and it features lots of twists and turns. But, like The Valravn, it has about an hour and a half wait at all times including right before it closes. The only good time to ride this one is as soon as you get into the park. This is just as fun as the big rides and I would recommend riding it to anyone.

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The Gatekeeper:

This ride still remains my favorite, even after riding all the rides in the park except three. While not as tall as some of the others, it features a lot of twisting and turning and loops, and you’re riding next to the track rather than on top. Starting off by twisting straight into a huge loop this ride is surprisingly not scary at all.The best part about this one is it never seems to have a wait longer than thirty minutes. I would recommend this ride to anyone as well.

The Raptor:

Sorry I do not have a picture for this one. This is a large green coaster that is somewhat tall and incredibly fast. Having quite a good number of loops and dips this coaster brings in quite a crowd, and doesn’t lose this crowd until about an hour before the park closes. This one is cool but if you don’t get to ride it, the others were way cooler. This one is still awesome so if you get the chance, ride it.

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The Gemini:

This 188-foot tall wooden coaster looks like it will beat you up like most wooden coasters, but is surprisingly very smooth. This roller coaster has two tracks and four cars, so the wait is never longer than five minutes. Ben is not a roller coaster fan, but he loved this one. I definitely recommend riding the Gemini.

 

Best Name Award: The Rougarou

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This roller coaster was awesome, but didn’t make it into my top five because it gave me a headache. It was very twisty and jerky, but the first drop was awesome, and the wait is usually not long. If you like spinny rides you’ll love this one, but those are not my favorites. The name comes from the legendary shape-shifting monster which is said to dwell in the Louisiana swamps. This coaster definitely lived up to its name.

 

My list of Do-Not-Rides:

The Corkscrew:

This roller coaster was shaky, painful, and the harnesses gave me a crick in my back for the rest of the day. It has four loops and never has a long wait, for good reason.

The Blue Streak:

This is a wooden roller coaster that is very shaky. At one point our car actually left the track and I felt like it was about to rattle itself to pieces.The line is like thirty minutes long and not worth it at all.

The Mean Streak:

This wooden coaster is 160 feet tall and is very shaky and too long for a wooden coaster, do not ride no matter how cool it looks or how short the line is.

The Magnum XL-200:

This 200 foot tall beast of a coaster looks really cool, and I would say ride it once maybe, but the way the harness fits makes it so that every time you drop it cuts off the circulation in your legs, making the ride almost unbearable. It’s also very shaky and painful.

 

Roller Coasters I did not ride:

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The Millennium Force:

This roller coaster is over 300 feet tall and was my dad’s favorite. I really wish I hadn’t wimped out on this one as it looked really cool. The best time for this one is at the beginning of the day.

The Wicked Twister:

This one is very hard to describe, but it’s pretty much two poles and the car goes up each one and spins as it goes, you really need to look it up to get the picture. There is never a very long wait for this one.

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The Top Thrill Dragster:

The biggest and fastest roller coaster in the park, standing 420 feet tall, and reaching 120 miles per hour in under 4 seconds, this beast is terrifying. The wait is almost always over two hours, and the ride itself lasts about thirty seconds, but it looks awesome and I will ride it the next time I go to Cedar Point.

Kiddie Rides:

The Iron Dragon:

This roller coaster is slow, tiny, and boring, but great for little kids, and there’s never any wait. Right next to Rougarou and Valravn.

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Camp Snoopy:

This section of the park has a lot of little kid stuff and is a great place to take munchkins like Wil-Da-Beest. It’s near Maverick and Gemini.

Dodgem:

This bumper cars ride was fun for everybody as we ran into each other a lot and had lots of fun. It’s located right next to GateKeeper, Wicked Twister, and Raptor.

Water rides:

Snake River falls:

Classic Log Flume with no wait, easy way to cool off and have fun, I recommend riding it at least once.

Thunder Canyon:

A raft ride with no wait; the best part is waiting to see who gets wet. Ride it a couple times and remove your shoes.

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**Wait times referenced above are for days of the week other than Saturday. Everything was crowded on Saturday, and most rides had a longer wait time.**

 

Soak City:

Alright, my last note: This water park has something for everybody-tons of water slides, a water obstacle course, and a cool lazy river.

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June 14-15 2016

After waking up to the leftovers of a diabetic raccoons midnight snack, we packed up our camp and headed towards Lake of the Ozarks. We stopped at the Neighbor’s Mill Bakery for breakfast and had french toast and omelets. We also stopped for custard for the second time in two days. We also stopped and played football with a staff guy named Connor at Lake of the Ozarks. While trying to keep the ball from going into the lake, I myself ended up in the lake.

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After drying out, we climbed in the car and drove to the birthplace of Mark Twain where we found the Mark Twain Brewery which broke the mediocrity record in the culinary industry.

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We then went to the hotel in Quincy and watched food network for three hours. We woke up today around ten o clock and hit the road immediately to grab some Lunch at Zoup. We stopped for custard again and my dad’s only excuse was that he went to Crossfit back in Quincy. Sorry about my face in the first pic.

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After custard we stopped at a little pond park thingy.

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My brothers and I decided to make stick fishing poles and go fishing, but unfortunately didn’t catch anything due to the one hundred degree weather and our short attention spans.

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My mom wanted to go hiking but the steamy weather had the same effect on her as it did on us boys, making us sweat about as much as a bull elephant.

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After that little escapade we drove to the hotel and worked out then went to the Gabby Goat Bar and Grill for dinner and it had some sick Mozzarella sticks.

Buffalo point/lake of the Ozarks

After leaving the hotel, we went to Buffalo National Park to go camping. Us three young fellows decided to pitch hammocks on this awesome tree.

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When we got to the park the bugs were awful and it was hot, so we decided to check out the river. We were going to rent canoes, but we then decided to go tubing instead. The water felt great, but tubing was a little boring for my taste.

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After rafting, we drove up to a restaurant on top of a mountain with a great view of the river, and the food was pretty good.

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After dinner, my brother Ben and I hung out in the car listening to game 5 of the NBA finals. When the game ended, we went to sleep in our hammocks.

The Willy Mammoth (our youngest brother) was already sleeping in his hammock. However, he had left some candy on the picnic table. When we woke up the next morning, we discovered that a gluttonous raccoon had raided our camp and probably developed diabetes in the middle of the night. We never saw him, but there was plenty of evidence under our hammock city.

 

 

First day on the road 2016

Nothing real exciting happened today, but we did eat at a Chicken Express and drove through some pretty thick fog on dark and twisty roads in rural Arkansas. I was just excited to finally get on the road, although we ended up staying in a hotel rather than camping. I was happy that I got to finish my Star Wars marathon in the car. However, yesterday, our whole family, minus the Wilverine, completed a Navy Seal Challenge at #CrossfitMotivity. It was the one-mile walking lunge challenge. It was awful, but also kind of awesome. Hence, today, we spent about 9.5 hours in the car and at least a half hour more climbing in or out. Every time someone had to move too far, the chorus of dramatic groaning began. We are so sore; we can’t wait to hit some trails tomorrow to stretch it out.

Hope to keep the blogging trend going and get some more posts up as the summer moves along. Peace out. #angryburrito #ArmstrongAdventures2016

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Backpacking to Emerald Lake – Sequoia National Park

We set up our base camp at Dorst Creek and then hiked out all over the park.  As a group, we got in over 30 miles in the four days we were in Sequoia National Park.

One of our most favorite trails was our backpacking trip to Emerald Lake on the Lakes Trail.

Emerald Lake - Sequoia National Park
Emerald Lake – Sequoia National Park

Step one, we went to Lodgepole Visitor Center and put in for a Wilderness Permit.  Step two, we packed our packs and headed out on the trail.
The Lakes Trail is about 15-17 miles depending how much wandering you do.  We wandered all over and got in about 15 miles.
Elevation change for Emerald lake is about 5000 feet.  You start at 6800 and go up to 9200 or so.  It is a tough hike to the lakes.  The trail gets very steep at times and it is quite challenging.
Our group consisted of one old man [our dad], our mom, and us – 13, 11, and 5 years of age.
Yes, a 5-year-old did backpack the entire trail with a pack.

Loaded packs
Loaded packs

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Starting off was pretty easy.   The Wilverine had to stop for gummy bears quite a few times.

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We stopped for lunch on the way up at the watchtower.  Take the watchtower trail; do not take the hump trail.  The views on the watchtower trail were spectacular and the elevation was not nearly as extreme.

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After the watchtower, the trail gets very rocky and narrow.  If you look over the edge of the trail, the valley bottom is a long way down.

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The first lake you encounter is Heather Lake.  Next up is Aster Lake and then Emerald.  The last lake is Pear Lake.

Heather Lake
Heather Lake

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Getting water from the stream
Getting water from the stream

We camped at Emerald Lake and were the only people in the camp.   We saw only a few people the entire time on the mountain and it was awesome.

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If you are in the area and have a chance to hike or backpack the Lakes Trail, we encourage you to do it.  It was a really cool trip.

Sunset over Aster Lake
Emerald Lake
Emerald Lake

What a cool lake with spectacular views.

 

Hiking the Big Tree Trails – Sequoia National Park

We love us some big trees and there is simply no better place to see big trees than Sequoia National Park’s Giant Forest.
We hiked all over the Giant Forest and spent time with General Sherman, the Congress, the Senate, and the President. We also saw many other giant trees like Chief Sequoya. Although the Wilverine complained about hiking the whole time we still had fun. What a cool place!

Giant Forest here we come.
Giant Forest here we come.

General Sherman is a huge tree.  Sherman is the largest tree in the world. The Wilverine says “it is the fattest, reddest tree I have ever seen and it got struck by lightning, which is why the top quit growing. If you go here, you are going to see a big fat red tree that does not grow at the top. It is a really cool tree and you should go see it.” My mom says it’s like a human because it has quit growing up, but is still growing out.

General Sherman
General Sherman

On the Congress trail, you can see the Senate, the House, and the President. The Wilverine says “the President was huge. That is it.”

The Senate
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The Senate
The House
The House
The House
The House

Giants are everywhere in the Sequoias. Chief Sequoyah and the McKinley tree were massive.

Big fat red tree
Big fat red tree

We are running our base camp from Dorst Creek Campground, site number 65. It is a walk-in tent only site and it is the best site ever. We have access to the river and can run free without bothering anyone.

Sequoia Base Camp
Sequoia NP Base Camp
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Sequoia NP Base Camp

We are backpacking as well and will post about our trip to Emerald Lake later. It is a 15-mile round trip backpacking trip with almost 5000 feet of elevation change.  Hard core!

The Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail in Oahu

Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail in Oahu

The condo our parents rented in Oahu was awesome.  We will post information about the VRBO experience and about the condo we used in the Waikiki Lanais in a separate post.  The owner, Sana, was awesome and really made our stay great.

Our parents asked about hikes and Sana suggested the Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail.

We are a hiking lot with 5 seasoned hikers and backpackers so off we went.  The youngest brother in our group of 3 is Big Willie or the Wilverine as he likes to call himself.  We had to do a trail of the same name.

Here is a map of the trail from Google.  You will take Laukahi Street from H1 / 72 going east from Waikiki or Honolulu.  It is easy to find and very near Diamond Head.  You will drive for what seems like days and finally reach a guard station.  The trail head is located in an upscale gated neighborhood.  We felt very comfortable leaving our car.

Guard station

The guard was super nice and gave up a parking sign for our car, after scanning my mom’s ID.

Parking pass
Parking pass

There is a parking lot at the trail head and plenty of parking.

Wiliwilinui trail head

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The trail starts off pretty calm and for about the first 2 miles, it is scenic and calm.

First leg of the trail

Yonder stance in action
Yonder stance in action

There were some amazingly large trees on the trail.

Hiding in the trees

Giant tree
Giant tree

The last half mile is roughly 700 feet of straight up incline.
Wilverine is only 5 and he hiked the whole thing, while persistently chattering about the geneology & hierarchy of Bionnicles. (That was fun…)

Starting the stairs of doom
Starting the stairs of doom

We were bouldering and rock climbing with ropes for much of the 700 feet.

Getting steeper
Getting steeper

Ropes were needed

View from near the top
View from near the top
Made it up and heading back down.
Heading back down the ridge
Heading back down the ridge

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There is a cool swing at the 1/2 way point.

Don't miss the swing
Don’t miss the swing

It was fun and every one of us survived, but it was tough.

View of Waikiki from the top
View of Waikiki from the top
Fog rolling in at the top
Fog rolling in at the top

The entire hike was about 5 miles and it took up easily 4 hours.
We took a few breaks, but this hike takes a while.

Was it worth it?  For sure.
This was our top hike in Oahu.
We hiked Diamond Head, Koko Head, Makapu’u Lighthouse, and the Manana Trail to the Waimano Falls/Pools.
If you are in Oahu, make time for the Wiliwilinui hike.

The Polynesian Cultural Center Luau in Oahu

We went to the Polynesian Cultural Center for the Alii Luau and had a great time at some of the island stations.

Do note that if you book a luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center and plan to go the islands before the luau that you need to arrive at noon if you intend to visit every island and see each island show.  Samoa and Tonga are great, but take nearly an hour each if you want to see all of the fun shows at each island.

The first island we visited was Samoa. We got to attempt to make fire with two sticks and watch a show where they made all sorts of stuff with coconuts, climbed a palm tree, and twirled a fire staff.  Samoa was super fun and the best island in our opinion.  The Samoan dudes were great and very entertaining.

Samoa fire making
Samoa fire-making
Samoa fire dancers
Samoan fire dancers
Samoa tree climbers
Samoan tree climbers

The other station that we went to was Tonga where my dad entertained everyone by wearing a grass skirt while dancing and playing the drums.

Tonga show
Tonga show
My dad getting his hula on
My dad getting his hula on

After the shows we went to the luau and saw another fire twirler. We also had a feast of pig, steak, chicken, fish, sweet potatoes, and purple poi bread.  The buffet was well worth the money.  The Kalua pig was the best we tasted at any time while on the island.

Luaua fire dancer
Luau fire dancer

Lastly, we saw the Hau – Breath of Life.  It was incredible!  For sure, you have to see it if you are at the Polynesian Cultural Center for a luau.

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On the road again and telling about it as we go . . .