A couple weeks ago, we finished up a busy week and headed to Camp Verde, AZ. We have wanted to visit Out of Africa for a few years, and thought Lydia was finally old enough to enjoy it. I wanted to get there Friday night so that we could head over early in the morning since I was expecting a hot, June day. The drive was uneventful, and the kids were all excited to learn that the hotel had a pool.
We went to Out of Africa on Saturday and had a great time! The animals at the park are mostly (all?) rescued animals -- from the grizzly bears rescued from a house in NC to the rhinoceros rescued from being sent to a "canned hunt" camp in TX. The day was perfect and we enjoyed getting close to the animals and watching the exciting Tiger Show where the tigers are encouraged to play and splash in a pool with some of their keepers.
The weather was kind to us, and we enjoyed a full day at the park before heading back to the hotel. The kids again were great, and after a swim in the pool everyone was in bed and asleep before 10. On Saturday, we enjoyed the continental breakfast (yea! for hotels that offer free breakfasts! Although I need to remember to bring something for Colin that he will eat because he is picky.) I looked for geocaches on my iPhone geocaching app and we headed off to find one before we headed out of Camp Verde. Bo & Colin did find it, but it was bit of a steep hike so I stayed with the van.
Before leaving Camp Verde, we visited the Fort Verde State Park. This park was one of the many scheduled for closure due to budget constraints, but thanks to donations and volunteers, they were able to remain open. This was my favorite part of this weekend trip. The Fort was active in the late 1800's and contrary to what you may imagine from forts out east and the movies -- there are no tall walls. For one thing, timber is a scarcity out here and also what military commander wants to hide behind walls? The ranger on duty did a great job of talking about the Fort and all the different things we'd find and the history of the place.
The kids did their Junior Ranger program, which encourages them to fill out a small booklet so they learn more about the State Park. The Fort includes 3 buildings that are original -- they housed the commander's family, the officers and the surgeon. The buildings were furnished as they would have been in the late 1800's, and the kids were very interested by the bathtubs and the chamber pots. It provided a wonderful glimpse of that time in our history, and I'm so glad the park was open for our visit!
After a couple hours there, we headed towards home. I saw the signs for Tonto Natural Bridge State Park and we decided to stop. Bo & I had visited many years ago (before kids) and thought they would enjoy the view. Nate especially loves to sit and take in beautiful landscapes, and this park gave him plenty of opportunities. We took a short (but steep) hike down to a place almost beneath a small waterfall, which was fun (even when Lydia tumbled down a few steps head-first. She did just fine and only Mom's heart was racing) The kids also completed their Junior Ranger badges here.
It was a busy weekend, and full of great times. I love the Junior Ranger program, as it really provides more information about the park and the kids enjoy working towards their badges. We filled a cooler with drinks, which definitely saved us some money over the weekend as all we had to do was replace the ice. I'm looking forward to our July trip -- which is extremely close to home but is going to be another fun weekend!