Heather Sanders

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February 2010



Poppa Ken and Emelie’s West Texas Adventure

Written by , Posted in Everything Else, Kids and Parenting, Parents and Grandparents


Back in May of last year my Dad dreamed up a wonderful adventure for Emelie, his oldest granddaughter. My father, a journaling man, figured it would be exciting for Emelie to have a travel journal, detailing their journey together in West Texas.

And as is often the case, he was right.

Emelie's Travel Journal

As they set off on their journey, Emelie received this beautiful, nubby, leather-bound journal.

On the first page my Daddy wrote, “Poppa Ken and Emelie’s West Texas Adventure” and the dates of their time together. This was a rite of passage for Emelie – and Meredith and Kenny will have their day too, of course.

This was a first of many firsts! We hope – we wouldn’t want to presume, of course. :)

Emelie's Seat on the Plane

The next thing Poppa Ken filled-in was the flight he and Emelie would take, departure times, miles they would fly, and the airports they would experience together. He also pasted in a photo of the plane they would take.

This trip marked many “firsts” for Emelie – flying was one of them!

Barf Bag

Because my Daddy knows how to come properly prepared for a journey, he had pens, blunt-tip (safety regulation) scissors, and glue sticks at the ready – yes, even on the flight.

Of course Emelie took full advantage of them and promptly pasted a barf bag into her journal.

Because she was 12 then, that’s why.

Other things Emelie pasted in, but aren’t pictured here, was a napkin, the wrapper of her in-flight pretzel sticks, more information about Continental’s carriers, and a gum wrapper. She also added in some drawings of what she could see from the window of the plane – including what looked a lot like crop circles.

Later Emelie learned West Texas was extremely dry and in the middle of each of those “crop circles” was a sprinkler. The extent of the sprinkler’s reach created the large circles she could see from the plane. What wasn’t watered, withered and died. What was watered made a nice and neat green circle from the air.

Impressed by her Hotel Stay

The things that impress kids are…interesting.

Here Emelie writes: “The Comfort Suites was a FANCY hotel with big rooms. Everyday they’d come in and make our beds, clean the bathroom, and replace items that we used. The food in the morning was GOOD except they didn’t have a lot of fruit. We met a noisy friend. She is the hotel’s elevator named Uglyeta. She beeped at us a lot.”

Topographical Map

Already knowing several of the places he planned to take her, Poppa Ken pasted in a map of El Paso, some cut-outs from local travel brochures on Wyler Aerial Tramway at Franklin Mountains State Park and the Hueco Tanks State Historic Site.

Emelie added to these throughout the trip. Everything was to be documented with pen or camera…

On the Road from the Airport

…the trip from the airport to the hotel,

Obviously NOT Huntsville

the views,

A Little West Texas Comedy

even a bit of comedy (comparing Huntsville, TX to El Paso, TX)

In case it is hard to make-out, the left photo is labeled “HUNTSVILLE” and shows a man mowing his GREEN grass with his mower and the Lowe’s showing all lawn mowers SOLD.

The right photo is labeled “EL PASO” and shows a man blowing dirt, not mowing green grass, and a Lowe’s showing one blower left available in the store and 120 lawn mowers for FREE!

Wyler Tramway

Outside of the flight, another “first” for Emelie was her ride on the Wyler Aerial Tramway. This marked Day 2 with Poppa Ken.


Emelie wrote:
“The tramway was (and still is) a yellow box with a seat about one foot wide. ‘Can hold up to 7 people,’ is what the ranger told us. We went in the tram ALL the way up to the mountain. We grabbed 2 waters, a cap, and my travel journal and went hiking.”

Getting Ready to Board

Emelie on the Tramway

The hike at the Wyler Aerial Tramway State Park is 2 miles round trip and takes about 2 1/2 hours if you go the full way – which according to the journal, they did not.

Say Cheese Emelie!
(Wow, just looking at this photo has showed me how much she has changed – even since May ’09!)

Emelie wrote:
“We hiked up and down a mountain. We hiked 1 1/2 miles. It seems like a little bit, but it isn’t. Poppa Ken and I got tired quickly. We are professionals at getting tired.”

Poppa Ken Hiking

The third day Poppa Ken took Emelie to the Hueco Tanks State Historic Site.

Hueco Tanks Brochure

Recognized for its 3000 plus rock paintings, Hueco Tanks is evidence of prehistoric peoples who found water, shelter and food at this little oasis in the desert. The rock paintings depict…

Masks in Kiva Cave

religious masks,

Another Mask

caricature faces,

Colors from Available Minerals

complex geometric designs,

Apache Plains Warriors

Rock Paintings at Hueco Tanks

and dancing figures.

Paintings Depicted Contact with Spaniars, Mexicans and Anglos

There are even paintings depicting the peoples’ contact with Spaniards, Mexicans and Anglos.

Cross Painting

This one looks like a cross – evidence of Christianity.


Unfortunately, there is also vandalism present; graffiti mars some of the older drawings.

More Masks from Kiva Cave

Emelie Draws Masks from Kiva Cave

Emelie drew some of the masks she saw directly into her journal.

Emelie Taking a Break from the Hike

All of this artwork is hidden inside shelters.

Niches - Shelters - Caves


Rocks, rocks and more ROCKS!

and caves in the midst of three massive outcroppings of boulders.

Emelie writes about Kevi Cave

Emelie writes:

“This is the map of the three mountains. We climbed all over the two biggest ones.”

Emelie - Hiking

Crawling on her belly deep into a cave.

“Kevi Cave -> A cave you have to crawl into on your belly and then you stand up. Filled with Indian Paintings.

Poppa Ken - Tight Fit

Poppa Ken gets in on the action too.

Poppa Ken - Entrances are Tight

Poppa Ken…is that a tight fit?

Cave Entry

Check out the cave entry; sorta explains the “squish factor” a little, eh?

Wind Tunnels could Move Emelie

When they arrived home and were telling stories about their day in the caves, Poppa Ken talked about the wind tunnels that would build up in these caves between the boulders – and how it could physically move Emelie’s body.

Emelie - Climbing

Looking for Cave Kiva

Looking for a cave called Kiva.

On hands and knees entering a cave.

In and out of caves, it was a full day of exploration and new discoveries.

Inside a Cave

Once inside the cave it was a cool relief from the heat outside – and peaceful.

Poppa Ken Leaving a Cave

Until it was time to crawl back out again!

If you live within a reasonable distance of El Paso, I highly recommend going for a visit. This was an amazing time for Emelie to spend with my Daddy.

This kind of interaction and experience is one of the many reasons I love homeschooling – the freedom to go, and do, and learn about the real world in the MIDST of it.

This travel journal, I hope, will continue to be filled with future “adventures” in life.

But she’ll never forget, and I’ll never forget, it started with my Daddy – his heart for adventure and his love for Emelie.

Homeschoolers! Save $5.00 off your first order at Sonlight, Heather’s favorite homeschool curriculum company.

Heather Sanders


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    Jeff Sanders
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    Poppa Ken
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