Travel

Texas and New Mexico Trip Recap- & Why Speed Bumps Are Always Worth It

Welcome back to Living Purposefully!  Once again, thank you a million times over for reading what little ‘ol me has to say 🙂

Today on the blog I want to share a recap about my trip to Texas and New Mexico that left me feeling incredibly relaxed, refreshed, and renewed before heading back to work.  I also want to talk a bit about allllll of the little speed bumps that happened during our trip, but instead of dwelling on them negatively, I want to talk about why speed bumps and how we respond to them are actually incredibly beneficial.

So let’s get started on the trip!

Blake and I had initially planned to leave Friday night for Texas but I woke up feeling pretty sick on Friday, which I blame on not getting enough sleep this week (I am an infant with how much sleep I require).  I had initially wanted to tough it out but quickly realized I was going to be miserable on a 10-hour drive, so we decided to push it back a night just to be safe.  This was a bit of a bummer considering how excited we both were!

I went to the doctor on Friday evening after work and got some antibiotics for basically a cold and I ended up feeling 10x better after my first round of medicine already.  So when I woke up Saturday morning feeling completely like myself, I was so so thankful we waited an extra night.

Check off why speed bump #1 ended up being a good thing!

Fast forward to Saturday night around 9:30 when I said goodbye to my baby girl, Bella, and we were off!  We arrived in Quitaque, Texas at Caprock Canyons State Park around 7:30 in the morning and we.were.tired.  Now, Blake is a rockstar and drove through the entire night so he was undoubtedly more tired than I was, but I actually stayed up pretty much the entire night with him so we were both a litttttle on the cranky side.

When we got to the state park, we spotted free-range bison!  I had never seen them in the wild before and apparently Quitaque is the bison capital of Texas (if you ever get asked that question in jeopardy.)

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We also found a camping spot relatively quickly among the most beautiful canyons and our moods lifted a bit . . . and then the rain hit.  According to the park ranger, it was the first rain in 5 months and so, naturally, we were a bit frustrated when we couldn’t get our tent set up without it collecting water and wind blowing everything around.  So while we sat there under a pavillion (luckily our campsite had some shelter) waiting for the rain to die down, we decided to go into town and get some things we forgot and hope that it’ll stop once we get back.

Now, I share all of that not because I want to seem whine-y, but because after we got back and I was begging Mother Nature for some sunshine since we only had one day there, the most beautiful weather emerged almost immediately.  I’m talking, “clouds-were-moving-quickly-and-the-sun-was-beaming-down” almost immediately.

Within minutes, the weather jumped from mid-40s to 70 and sunny and we were in awe.  I sat there praying my apologies to God and Mother Nature for being so instantly frustrated when it started raining instead of simply waiting for it to pass.  It was one of those moments where you think “we really do need the rain to appreciate the sunshine” and are reminded how much patience is something that needs to be practiced daily.

Speed bump #2=out of the way!

After we set up camp and rested for a little bit, we were off to explore!  We seriously lucked out with the location of our campsite because beautiful trails were literally within steps of our tent.

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These canyon views were a 5-meter walk from our tent and could not have been more gorgeous.  We decided to trek on down to the creek bed and walked along for about an hour.  The weather was so beautiful after being so rainy all morning and temperatures reached close to 80 degrees and so us Missourians were sweating!  It felt so incredibly refreshing to move and sweat in the sunshine (anyone else love a good sweat?!) after being in the car for 10ish hours.

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The canyon bed was super dry in every part we were in except for the very beginning that you can see in the picture above.  I am a big nerd and love looking at all of the different kinds of rock and there were the most beautiful gypsum chunks in the sides of the canyon walls and on the creek beds themselves.  I think geology and the formations of canyons are so interesting!  (Please tell me I’m not the only one).  According to the Texas Park & Wildlife Department, the Little Red River has been downcutting through the canyons for millions of years, creating exposed geologic layers throughout the park.

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Beautiful, right?!

We headed back to our campsite with plans to just lay around and rest a little bit more.  I started a book on Saturday right before we left and ended up covering a big chunk during Sunday afternoon and the book was so good!

—-If you are in the market for a touching and historically-based book, it was called The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd.

After resting for about 2 more hours, we went to another part of the park to explore an established trail.  This trail explored the lower rim of the canyons and was such a pretty hike to do at sunset.  It had amazing views all around, it was an out-and-back so we could easily turn around when we wanted to, and it wasn’t incredibly strenuous.

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Sweaty and windblown

After that hike, we were ready for some eatin’!  I had prepped a super easy foil-pack salmon recipe (will be up on the blog soon!) and when Blake ran back to town to grab stuff, he picked up some packs of Ramen noodles for us to make and share because he knew I had been craving it lately!  Such a sweetheart.

After a good night’s sleep on Sunday night (under a sky full of beautiful stars), we woke up ready to head to New Mexico!  We made a quick detour at a restaurant in Lubbock, Texas since we knew big cities would be far and few in between during the 4 hours it took us to get to Carlsbad, NM.

We stopped at a restaurant called Taqueria Jalisco and it was goooooooood.  Real, legitimate Mexican/Southwestern food and packed full at 11 am on a Monday so we knew it was the real deal.  I ordered a dish full of fajita vegetables, shrimp, steak, and chicken on top of a bed of rice and all topped off with cheese.  It was seriously the best melted cheese I’ve ever had!  Highly recommend this restaurant if you’re ever in the area.

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Once we hit Carlsbad, it was about 3:30 pm and we were heading towards Sitting Bull Falls, one of the biggest waterfalls in the state.  We were pretty excited about this until we were only about 10 miles from the entrance and we realized we needed to turn back around into town for gas.  Not exactly what we wanted to do, but completely necessary, so we hightailed it back into town.

Now as I’m scrolling through the TripAdvisor website for the falls (I seriously stalk all of our activities on TripAdvisor), I notice that it says that their gates close at 4 pm and that it’s basically 4 pm already.  There was no way we were going to make it in time and that we were pretty much SOL because we had just planned on going to camp somewhere after that.  So Blake and I are both disappointed, but he calls the Park Ranger number in hopes that he can at least ask about nearby campsites.  As he’s talking to the guy, he tells us about campsites people have made right outside the entrance of the waterfalls and that there’s a campfire ring, but it’s pretty primitive.

So we drive to just before the gates and see that there is, indeed, 2 or 3 camping spots dispersed at the base of this mountain and in pretty much complete wilderness.  We decide to bite the bullet and add “primitive camping” to our traveling bucket list!  I was a bit apprehensive at first (because hello, wolves, bears, mountain lions, snakes, etc…), but it ended up being the coolest experience I could have imagined in that scenario.  Once we parked and set up camp, I felt so incredibly grateful we actually hadn’t gone anywhere else and things worked out how they did.

Speed bump #3= so worth it!

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If you could see 360 degrees around the view, it would all basically look like that.  We were almost totally isolated (luckily there were 2 cars sleeping over about 1/4 mile from us) and in the middle of a complete desert habitat.  It was incredibly cool to see the sheer height of each mountain and feel like we were in a different world in the valley of these mountains!  I highly recommend primitive camping if you ever want to get away from the norm of everyday life and get disconnected.

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Blake is an absolute champ at making fires and we enjoyed some crackers, jalapeño sausage, and the most incredble apple cinnamon cheese.  If you are on the market for a new specialty cheese, this was amazing.  Soft, cinnamon-y (but not overpoweringly so), and full of flavor.

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Fun fact: when we were sleeping, the entire night was so weirdly silent that I couldn’t sleep more much more than an hour at a time.  The only time I heard anything was about 4 am when we heard a bunch of wolves howl in the distance (yes, I mildly freaked out) and I considered sleeping in the truck for about 2 seconds before I decided I was being a baby and that was that!

We woke up and headed to the falls at about 9 am and they were everything I could have imagined and more.  We hiked to the top of the falls first (which was an insane incline) and it was really cool to see all of the little pools that collected at the top.  The water comes from the springs system in the surrounding canyons.  No one knows where the actual name “Sitting Bull Falls” came from, but some people think it originated from a Sioux medicine man named Sitting Bull that used to frequent there.

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The bottom of the falls was even more stunning than the top and I left feeling like I’d been in an oasis of some sort.  It’s crazy seeing it pop up in the middle of this desert landscape and I can see why its Apache name actually means “hidden gulch.”  The water at the bottom was a turquoise color that is the water color of my dreams basically!  The reflection of the sun on the water also kept creating the illusion of a rainbow and it was a picture-perfect scene.

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As you can see, it was an amazing couple of days and I could not have been more thankful for how it all turned out.  I left feeling so refreshed and happy to be back home and back to a normal routine until my next trip.

It also served as a great reminder for me to be more patient with circumstances and mishaps.  I recently gave up quick anger for Lent (I’m trying to be more patient overall but it’s a major work in progress) but I still find myself getting frustrated when things don’t work out immediately or something pops up in every day life.  I always have to remind myself to take a few breaths before I get upset because almost every single time, I end up grateful for how things worked out! Our little speedbumps turned out to be for a good reason.  It’s almost like God knows what He’s doing when He places these happenings in our lives 😉

I hope everyone enjoyed my long-winded post about this trip and I can’t wait until I can write about my next one!

xoxo Jordan

Travel

Traveling on a Budget- Some of My Favorite Places I’ve Been & How to Reduce Costs

Hello, friends!

I wrote this blog post sitting in my bed on Monday instead of at work per usual because strep throat apparently doesn’t discriminate against adults!  (Seriously, who the heck gets strep throat despite having their tonsils taken out 15 years ago?!)  So while I was fairly immobilized and contagious, I wanted to type up this blog post JUST in time for Spring Break.

It’s no secret that I love to travel, but I’m also a fairly thrifty person who definitely tries to get the most bang for my buck.  Traveling has a way of refreshing us and revitalizing our souls, but it can also be pretty draining for our wallets, so I wanted to talk about some of my go-to tips and tricks for saving money while traveling.

Now, if you are the type of person that enjoys going all out for traveling and sparing no expense on the experience and have the means to do so, then do it!  I like to give myself a ballpark number for my budget because 1) I am on a preschool teacher’s paycheck and 2) I almost enjoy seeing how much I can save by cutting a few corners when prepping for/actually traveling.

So below I have gone through and compiled some of my absolute favorite tricks for saving enough money while on vacations, which makes it possible for me to take multiple trips per year!

Look Locally

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Behind a creek opening at the Steel Creek Campground.

How gorgeous is that turquoise water?!  This was on the Buffalo River in Arkansas and one of my favorite trips ever.  It was actually the first trip my boyfriend, Blake, and I took together!  I have incredibly fond memories of our first campfire-side conversations and trekking through winding roads together, unsure of what our next step was.  This was only about a 5 hour drive from where I live and it flew by!  The drive took us through the gorgeous scenery of southern Missouri and I still can’t believe how close this gem of a place was to us.

  • Cutting down on travel distance is going to help cut costs for obvious reasons.
    • Gas isn’t free and minimizing how far you have to drive (and eliminating the need for airfare) is going to save you a big chunk of money.
  • Go to OnlyInYourState.com to look for the best experiences locally.
    • This website is awesome because it can give you everything from festivals, food experiences, and attractions that you may be totally in the dark about.
  • TripAdvisor is the lifeblood of finding cheap, nearby activities for you.
    • You can search for activities within a certain radius of you and before you know it, you have a ton of options to research and reviews at your fingertips.

Prep the Bulk of Your Own Food

I seriously adore cooking and planning meals for those I love, so it is always a fun adventure for me to figure out what kind of meals I can prep/bring on my trips!  I tend to make sandwiches on whole wheat subs paired with some sort of fruit for lunches and I prep foil pack meals for our dinners, while Blake enjoys taking on breakfast.  When it’s just him and I on a trip, we both enjoy saving money by only eating at a restaurant once or twice the whole time and prepping the rest of it.

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Foil Pack Dinners for the Win!  This was in the Ouachita National Forest in Arkansas en route to New Orleans and Florida for a family trip.

If you are a big camper or will have access to a grill or campfire on your trip, foil pack dinners are going to be your new best friends.  Foil pack dinners are essentially the easiest thing anyone can ever cook, but they used to intimidate the heck out of me.  I always assumed they wouldn’t cook correctly, they would be messy, they wouldn’t be filling, etc.  But boyyy was I wrong.

  • Pinterest search “foil pack dinners” and you will be amazed.
    • Pinterest will completely inundate you with a million options for foil pack dinners, lunches, breakfasts, and even desserts if you go looking for one.  I haven’t found one recipe from there that let me down!
  • Customize your meals to your tastes.
    • On the above picture, I was cooking Italian Sausage and Potatoes for dinner.  I had marinated turkey sausage, shrimp, green beans, and red potatoes in Italian spices and olive oil and then just threw it in a square of foil, wrapped tightly, added another layer of foil, and then they kept in a Ziploc bag in the fridge until our actual trip.  This was a perfect meal that kept me full for hours!  I took the original recipe and switched it around a bit to suit my tastes more.  All you need is a protein, some veggies, and spices and you are set.
  • Prepping cold-cut sandwiches for lunch make the days so much easier when we’re in the middle of a big hike or prepping for some fun excursion.
    • To bulk up the sandwiches and increase their staying power, I make them on whole wheat 6-inch subs, add tons of deli meats for satiating protein, and save lettuce/tomato to add last so the bread doesn’t get soggy.
  • Stock up before. 
    • Buying protein-rich and portion-controlled road trip snacks before actually getting on the road helps me feel much more in control of my cravings and makes me less inclined to want to pull over for some drive-thru food.
    • Some of my favorite road trip snacks include: beef jerkey, protein bars (FitCrunch is my favorite brand), cutie oranges, grapes, protein chips, skinny kettle corn, cheese sticks, protein shakes, etc. 

Save for the Excursions You Actually Want to Do

It’s easy to save money when the only thing you do on your trip is hike, right?  And while some people would be completely content doing that, not everyone is going to want to.  Excursions can be pricey, but prioritizing the things you truly want to do and eliminating the activities you are so-so on will help you save tons of money.

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Kayaking in the Buffalo River.
  • Do your research when it comes to which company you want to go through.  Every company is going to promise you the best deal, the best package, the best experience, etc.  Going online and finding out which company will actually be the best deal and fit for you can save you hundreds on trips.
    • When Blake and I wanted to go kayaking in Arkansas, we knew that we were going to look for which company had kayak launches closest to our campsite, which company had the time slots we wanted, and which one was reasonably priced.
  • Put first the things you for sure want to accomplish on your trip and put last the things you could live without doing.
    • My dad and I recently went on a trip to the Rocky Mountains and when we talked about possibly going skiing, I thought about a couple things first.  I knew that I have been skiing before and I could live without doing it on this trip, there were sights that I have never seen before closer by, and skiing is uber expensive.  So instead of spending hundreds on something that I have done before and would only last a half day, my dad and I decided to drive almost the entire southern range of the Rocky Mountains and make new memories for us to share.
  • Cut corners where you need to.
    • If you know that there is something you absolutely have to do on your trip, cut corners with food and lodging and go all out with an experience that will leave you truly satisfied.

Find Cheaper Lodging

This may seem like a difficult thing to do, but hear me out.  How many people actually end up spending more on lodging during their trips than anything else?  When I’m staying with family or friends, sometimes I don’t have a choice where we stay but if it’s a more laid back trip and I have choices, I almost always choose the cheaper lodging options.

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Jurassic Park-esque Campground below enormous bluffs in Arkansas
  • If you can tolerate it, camping is going to be your cheapest option available.
    • The only cost that camping requires is normally a pay-per-night rate that can range from $10ish-$30ish per night, just depending what state park you are in.  Some state parks allow you to camp wherever you want along trails, you just may have to pay a flat fee once you get there.  The only other basic cost for camping that I can think of would be buying firewood if you don’t have access to fresh, dry wood.
  • Split the cost with friends, family, or a significant other.
    • If you don’t have a huge say in where you are staying, suggest splitting the cost among your group to reduce individual costs.
  • Airbnb.com
    • Airbnb is a relatively new-ish website that has the most amazing places available for stay at a relatively cheap price.  You just simply have to comply with the owner’s rules, but there are endless ways to customize your stay and look for exactly the perfect place.  You can even choose to just rent a room instead of an entire place to reduce costs even more!
  • Consider your resources.
    • If you know someone that lives close by where you are going and you are close enough to ask, you could essentially stay somewhere for free.
    • When I went to New Orleans this past summer, I reached out to a family friend who owns a bar on Decatur Street and has apartments to rent above his property and he let us stay there for free!  We had prime access to one of the most popular bars in New Orleans, some of the best restaurants in New Orleans, and everything was within walking distance.
    • As I mentioned, my dad and I recently went on a trip to Colorado and he has a close friend who owns a property in downtown Fort Collins, so we ended up staying there for free as well!
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      We went snowshoeing on a frozen lake, which was only about an hour from where we were staying.  The lack of lodging costs easily outweighed the driving.

Utilize *Free* Activities

This is my favorite way to save money on trips.   There’s almost always some sort of free activities near you and there will almost always be an activity to satisfy every person on the trip!

  • Hiking
    • Bet you guys didn’t see this one coming 😉  Hiking is one of my favorite activities in the world.  It’s good for you physically, mentally, and it doesn’t cost anything at all.  You can look up hikes on Google near you and find ones that fit your level of physical fitness, the sights you will see, weather warnings, trail closings, and duration.  Hikes can easily fill a day if you want them to or be a quick warm up before moving on to another activity.
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      Mina Sauk Falls Trail at Taum Sauk State Park, MO
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      Lost Valley Trail in Ponca, Arkansas

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      Exploring the sand dunes at Grayton Beach State Park in Florida
  • Zoos
    • There are a number of  free (or incredibly close to free) zoos in each state and zoos are great for those with children or in the company of children.
  • Walking around downtown areas
    •  This is an incredibly underrated form of immersing yourself in a new area!  Touristy sights are great, but I personally enjoy traveling the most when I feel like I’m a part of the town I am in.  You get the sights, smells, and sounds all in one area for fairly low costs.
  • Museums
    •  History museums are one of my favorite pastimes and a great way to learn about local or global history, but there are other kinds of museums available based on your tastes.
  • Historical Sights
    •  Many historical sights and landmarks are pretty darn cheap, or even free!  Google historical landmarks around where you are or where you’re going to be and you can find anything of interest to you.

I think that about sums up today’s blog post!  Traveling on a budget is not for everyone, but it can most definitely be done by everyone.  I am not an expert on budgeting by any means but I’m always looking to learn more through my and other people’s experiences.  I hope you all got something out of this post and use some of these tips the next time you embark on a trip to save some $$$!

Be on the lookout for a recap of my next adventure next week: state parks in Texas and New Mexico!

 

xoxo Jordan

Recipes

Saturday Scenes-Cinnamon Crumble Coffee Cake & Introducing Bella to the Blog

Hello, friends!

It is now Sunday and in order to delay the inevitable Sunday Scaries before going back to work tomorrow, I wanted to share a new recipe that will now become a weekend favorite!  It is an incredibly easy coffee cake recipe that will be perfect for entertaining your friends at brunch on Sunday after a fun night out orrrrr it can be eaten all by yourself with a cup of coffee while relishing in a slow morning.

I truly do enjoy the process of baking but having a full pan of dessert in a mostly empty household=trouble. So when I woke up Saturday and wanted something quick and fresh before a hike with my dog, I knew I was going to have to take most of it to my family.  I tend to put off baking until the weekends so I can really appreciate it and Saturday mornings are the perfect day for a slow morning with a cup of coffee and a little somethin’ sweet!

Enter: Cinnamon Crumble Coffee Cake!

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I halved this recipe and made them more into bars, but it was kind of annoying halving certain ingredients so I am going to give you the full recipe.  I found the bulk of this recipe from Allrecipes.com and made a few tweaks.

Cake Ingredients

-2 cups of flour

-3/4 cup of sugar (brown or white)

-2 tsp of baking powder

-1/2 tsp of salt

-1/2 cup of butter (I used Kerry Gold butter)

-1 egg

-3/4 cup of milk

-1 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract

Crumble Topping Ingredients

-1/4 cup of flour

-2/3 cup sugar (brown or white)

-2 tsp of cinnamon

-1/4 cup of butter (I used Kerry Gold brand as well)

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9×13 pan with non-stick spray.  Set aside.  In a medium-sized bowl for your cake, combine your flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Cut in your butter (I slightly softened mine in the microwave) until the mixture looks like coarse, dry crumbs.  Add in your egg, milk, and vanilla and mix just until combined (may be slightly lumpy) and pour into your pan.

Now it’s time to prepare your topping!  In a small bowl, combine your flour, sugar, and cinnamon until combined.  Cut in your butter until the mixture is crumbly and can be easily sprinkled.  Sprinkle over the top of your cake mixture and press down slightly so it stays put and then place pan in the oven.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick put in the middle of the cake comes out clean.  Enjoy!

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The crumbly topping on any dessert is ALWAYS the best part

I loved this recipe and I honestly think the Kerry Gold brand made it just slightly more butterier than normal, but any brand of stick butter will work just fine!  After letting my carb-y breakfast settle, I put on my hiking shoes, leashed up my dog, and headed out to Knob Noster State Park!

If you live in the Warrensburg/Knob Noster/Whiteman area, I cannot recommend this state park enough.  Easily navigable, campsites abound, and clean trails all make this park perfect for anyone who wants to spend some time outdoors.

The weather on Saturday was perrrrrfect (sunny and 60) and made our time hiking fly by!  My dog, Bella, is probably the member of my family (yes, I consider her a member) that I spend the most time with and she has a serious love for basically anything outside that lets her sniff where other dogs may have walked.  She practically pulls me on our walks & never runs out of energy.  (As you may be able to tell from her crazy eyes in the pictures.)  Here are a few pictures I took from our hike & the hike summary that I get from my RunKeeper App.  <— This app is wonderful and free on any iPhone if you’re looking for a high quality tracking app 🙂

 

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Isn’t she just the cutest?!  I swear, dogs are one of God’s greatest gifts to this world.

 

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I clearly enjoy my hikes to be a bit more of a leisurely pace 😉

 

Aaaand that about wraps up this blog post!  I hope everyone had a great weekend & if you end up trying the recipe, let me know how you like it!

xoxo Jordan