Friday, November 17, 2017

Exploring Redstone Arsenal RV Park

Whether you are traveling to Huntsville, AL for work or pleasure, the RV Park on Redstone Arsenal is a great place to stay.  It is just one exit away from the US Space and Rocket Center, a must see attraction!  You do have to have access to Redstone Arsenal to stay at the RV Park, which is open to Active Military, National Guard/Reservists, Retired Military, DoD Civiliand, 100% DAV, and NASA employees.  Most of the sites are large pull-thru sites with a fairly level concrete pad and full hook-ups.  Many of the RVers are there long term or retired, but they are required to move sites on a regular basis.  Two of the sites are designated for overnight campers only.  With six kids we were definitely the loudest bunch in the campground!  The RV campground features a dog run/park, event pavilion, newer bathhouses, and a laundromat with 4 washers and dryers ($).  A small book exchange is located in the laundromat, where our kiddos scored the perfect book to read this week before Thanksgiving!

The RV Park is within walking distance of the PX, Commissary, and other base amenities.  The Camp Host was friendly and MWR appears to work hard to put on Community Events for the campers (we were departing before the event but were invited to a pot lunch).  Our campers were pretty happy with our stay there!

A Jogging Trail passes by the RV Park (just a short ways down Nike St).  The first two days we headed out to the left on the Jogging Trail.  

We were slightly past peak fall colors, but it was still very beautiful.  It is labeled as a multi-use trail for joggers and bikers, but we did not see any bikers.  

The trail takes you past the MWR Disc Golf Course, so you may want to bring some frisbees with you.  

If you cross over Phoenix DR and continue on the jogging trail, you will soon see a cut through to a field on the left hand side.  Cross this field and you'll find a playground!  SCORE!  These are always a treasure to find on our walks.  There are also some nice picnic tables in this area and it looks like an outdoor pool may be open here in the summer as well.

The last day we decided to head out to the right on the jogging trail and discovered that there is a much closer playground. 

The only difficulty we had was finding the RV park.  Traffic patterns have changed since our
GPS had last updated.  You need to U-Turn at the first flashing light to get onto Goss Road.  We missed that but ended up finding rocket boosters and engines.  Yay for adventures that turn into bigger adventures 🤗

Do be sure to check out the US Space and Rocket Center and Monte Sano State Park if you are in the area!  

We are off to our next big adventure!  Be sure to follow us on Instagram (@pocketul_of_treasures).  

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

All the Recipes for your Thanksgiving Meal

US Space and Rocket Center

We rocketed til we dropped at the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL.  

Thanks to their participation in the ASTC Passport Program, admission was free with our membership to our local children's museum (Museum of Discovery in Little Rock, AR).  Our little space monkeys arrived when the doors opened at 9am and had to be dragged out at closing at 5pm.  We were able to check a stroller out at the front desk (free, you just need to leave an ID), which helped our two year old hang in there and gave us a place to stuff our jackets and belongings.  There is plenty to do indoors, but you don't want to miss the outdoor exhibits so be sure to dress appropriately for the weather. It was a fun-filled day of education and learning.  

The featured exhibition during our visit was an interactive flight exhibition called Above and Beyond.  I don't know how frequently they change the featured exhibitions, but our kids could have spent all day in here! You have to pass back through this area when you exit the park, so you may want to limit the time you spend there at the start and return at the end of the day. Everything in this exhibition was hands on and interactive. One of the highlights was a computer simulation where you design and race your own aircraft. 

As you exit the featured exhibits, visitors over 50 pounds have the opportunity to climb Olympus Mons, the largest volcano on Mars and in the entire Solar System.  You can also take a ride on the HyperShip, a motion-based simulator.  We rode several times with different audiovisual presentations each time.  One trip took us through a black hole in space and another had us racing through an obstacle course.

As you walk through the space center there are lots of interactive learning modules for the children to enjoy.  

At the Science on Orbit exhibition you can explore a model of the International Space Station.  Before entering, a guide gave a short presentation on some of the research and experiments that are presently going on at the ISS.  The kids loved seeing how astronauts eat, exercise, sleep, work, and even go to the bathroom in space!  

As you exit to the Rocket Park the kids are sure to spy the Kids Cosmos Outdoor Park.  While older kids are riding the G-Force Simulator (our 7 and 8 year olds loved this ride) or Space Shot (none of our kids were tall enough to ride), little ones can burn off some energy and blast off on their own ride.  Our son loved blasting off, but was terrified of the bouncing on the way down.  At the first look of terror on his face the worker stopped the ride and asked him if he wanted to continue or get off (he chose to get off) and praised him for being so brave to try the ride.  I was thoroughly impressed with all of the staff at the center.  

Enjoy a stroll through Space Shuttle and Rocket Park.  The size of the shuttle and rockets are thoroughly impressive as you stand beside them.   

Kids can play (or cartwheel) on a Lunar crater and explore some military hardware before heading to Saturn V Hall.

We spent several hours exploring Saturn V Hall.  The tour of this hall was excellent.  With 6 kids we sometimes shy away from tours, but it was a great way to learn a lot of the history and information without taking time to read all the signs.  The kids were glued and fascinated, and learned quite a bit of random facts.  Did you know the lunar rover vehicle's wheels are made of woven piano wire?      

After the tour we went back through the hall to explore more - including the Skylab Training Module and Apollo 16 Command Module.  The Force was a neat attraction where you experience the power of the test firing of the five F-1 Saturn V engines, however smaller children might be frightened by the noise.  

Our little monkeys were excited to learn that the first space monkeys were named Able and Miss Baker 🐒

As soon as we left the kids were asking when we could come back!  Thank you US Space and Rocket Center for a fabulous field trip!!!

Visiting or staying in Huntsville, AL?  Check out my post on Monte Sano State Park  for more fun!  

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Exploring Monte Sano State Park

We spent less than 24 hours in Monte Sano State Park, but we made the very most of it.

We arrived on Saturday night with approximately an hour to spare before sunset, so we immediately took to the trails.  We hiked the North Plat Loop Trail to Fire Tower Trail to stay close to the campground.

It was an easy hike with some beautiful views.    Because the trails hugs so closely to the campground, it is a good hike to do if you do not have much time or have little ones that may need to abandon the hike before completion.  

On the return, we passed by the Monte Sano Railroad landmark.  From 1888 to 1896 a railway ran from the Huntsville Depot to the Sante Mano Hotel to bring patrons the eight miles to the "Mountain of Health".  Prior to the building of the railway, you would have to travel four hours by horse and carriage up the mountain.  This would be a very difficult journey for a person suffering from Yellow Fever, Cholera, or Diptheria wanting to travel to the Monte Sano Hotel to seek wellness.  So in the summer of 1888, 500 workers were paid $1 per day for 12 hours of work to build the railway.  In just three months the railway was completed and patrons could ride the Steam Locomotive for just 25 cents each way.  Instead of four hours, the trip took only 20 minutes.  However, shortly after completion an accident frightened potential travelers and the Railway went bankrupt in 1896.

The Monte Sano State Park is home to the Von Braun Astronomical Society Planetarium.  A fun little trail showing the relative distance of the planets leads down to the planetarium.

Every Saturday evening at 7:30pm the VBAS puts on a program that is open to the public.  The cost when we attended was $5 for adults and $3 for students (children under 6 were free).  The program we attended was on the life of Astronomer William Hershel, his  discovery of Uranus, and the telescopes he made.  The program ended with a show of common constellations in the night sky, and on a clear night would have been followed by outdoor viewings through the telescopes.  Our 8 year old daughter was glued to the entire presentation and has not stopped talking about it.  Or younger children hung in there for a while, but fell asleep.  I would still highly recommend attending if you have the opportunity.

We arose early the next morning to get in some hiking before checkout (which is 11am for the campground).  Stone Cuts was rated as a difficult trail with bouldering required, but it came highly recommended so we decided to give it a try.  To access, we hiked down Sinks Trail and then connected to Stone Cuts Trail.  Be sure to bring a trail map with you because there are a few short connections you need to make on other trails and it is easy to get confused.  The trails were well maintained and blazed.  Although there is quite a bit of elevation change on the hike (which was approximately a 3 mile loop from our campsite), our 4, 5, 7, and 8 year old all managed the hike just fine.  Our 2 year old needed just a little bit of help on the returning hike up the mountain, and of course I carried our 4 month old the entire way.  The trails are multipurpose and there were a few mountain bikers on the trails, but all riders were very courteous.

Our kids thought Stone Cuts was "the coolest thing ever".  Our daughter said she felt like she was on Johnathan Park, a creation adventure audio drama we love to listen to.  We almost took the bypass because the "bouldering / mountain climbing" label made me question if we could manage it with all the kids, but we decided we could always turn back if we needed to and to give it a try.  I'm so glad we did!  No mountain climbing is required, although if you are skilled in that area and would like to explore more it could add some adventure.  Our kids hiked the trail like champions.  

We were slightly past peak fall foliage, but there was still a lot of color.  Monte Sano is definitely a park worth visiting in autumn.

Saturday evening we had accidentally stumbled upon a Bamboo forest while returning to our campsite, which upon further exploration Sunday morning we discovered that there is an entire Japanese Tea Garden in the State Park.  Robert Black designed the gardens in the late 1980s when he closed a garden center in Huntsville.  The gardens were recently restored and provide a unique cultural experience.  It would make a great field trip to go along with our study of Japan for World Heritage.  

Before leaving we had to check out the playgrounds!  The play structures we found in the campground were very old and dilapidated - great for imaginary play but not so much for use as a playground.  However, by the entrance to the State Park there is a very large playground complete with swings, slides, monkey bars, see saws, and pretty much everything a child hopes for in a playground.  There are also several large fields and pavilions.

Monte Sano State Park is a fabulous park that we would love to visit again.  

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Bingo Bottles Veteran's Day Craft

We are a proud military family and love supporting our troops and veterans!  Our kids have been to a dozen or more send offs and welcome homes and enough military funerals to know freedom isn't free.  

For this Veteran's Day we made a Bingo Bottle Poppy Craft to show our support and appreciation to Military Veterans.  I love arts and crafts, but with 6 kids the mess can sometimes be overwhelming.  That why I love painting with these Bingo Bottles (similar to Do-A-Dot Markers).  

If you are braver than I, you can easily do this craft with fingerprints as well.

The girls made five red dots in a circle and our older boys put a green dot in the middle to make the poppy flower.  We gave our 2 year old ample paper to make a "poppy field" on.  After reading Flander's Field we wrote a little poem on each of the cards.

"I have a little poppy,
As red as red can be,
To show that I remember
Those who fought to make me free."

To all of our Veteran's, Happy Veteran's Day!

You may also be interested in what we did several years ago: 
M is for Military