Every September after Labor Day, when all of the children go back to school, we take a vacation.
We homeschool and to celebrate not going to school . . . we take a trip. The last three years we visited National Parks.
This is both a fun vacation and a great learning experience.
It's also practical.
There is no better time to hike the National Parks. With most of the children back in school the parks are not busy. In fact, we mostly see foreign tourists.
This past year we visited King's Canyon and Sequoia National Parks.
If you have not hugged the big red trees, you must. There is nothing like seeing the Sequoias in person. Pictures do no justice to God's creation of the big trees.
We have found that some of our favorite parts of travel are serendipitous. It's the unplanned surprises that leads to some of our greatest joy on vacation.
One such surprise was the Dark Sky Festival, which happened to be at King's Canyon and Sequoia National Parks during our visit.
Over the weekend, there were several speakers giving talks on astronomy and stargazing.
Large telescopes were set up in the park to stargaze. The night skies at King's Canyon were pitch dark and littered with stars.
Volunteer astronomers showed us planets, stars, nebulae and lectured on constellations with a pretty awesome laser light pointing into the night sky.
The biggest highlight however occurred the morning before heading home.
"Coffee With an Astronaut" took place in the lobby of our lodge. Don Thomas, a retired NASA astronaut, gave an inspiring talk about his career path to NASA.
Despite a stellar background he did not make it into the space program his first time, nor his second, but he persisted and learned what successful candidates did to get in to the program.
He was eventually selected as an astronaut and would fly in four shuttle missions performing hundreds of science experiments for NASA.
The lodge was stuffed with probably over fifty people listening to his story. He then answered questions and focused on the the kids who asked all kinds of fun and crazy questions.
"How do you go to the bathroom in a space suit?"
It turns out they have the equivalent of space diapers. Gross but practical.
His talk was inspiring for everyone and filled with fun space knowledge tidbits.
At one point he reminisced about how being in space changed his perception on our world.
As an astronaut, Don Thomas took in a view rarely experienced by humans . . . the view of Planet Earth as a spectacular blue and white sphere.
He described Earth as our space ship.
He no longer sees his birthplace Ohio or even the United States as his home.
His home is Planet Earth.
My wife took note of this and declared that she wanted an "Earth" Home T-shirt, so I set out to make her one.
Introducing the Earth Home T-Shirt!
Ready in time for Earth Day on April 22nd 2019!