2019-12-10 Michele

This has been an indescribable trip. These kids have walked the halls where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were signed and have seen the Liberty Bell. They have seen Washington DC from the top of the Washington Monument. They have toured the White House and Miriana, just by expressing interest, was able to get a private tour of a restricted room in the White House by a Secret Service agent. They have watched the US Congress debating issues in the US Capitol Building after a private tour. They have watched a program honoring WWII veterans at the WWII Memorial. They have climbed the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. They have explored two Smithsonian museums - Aerospace and Flight as well as the Natural History museum. They have watched our currency being printed and admired the US Mint.

They have walked the Freedom Trail in Boston and seen the city from the top of the Bunker Hill Monument. They have played in the crystal sands at the tip of Cape Cod. They have explored New York City's Central park. Matthew even played a game of chess with someone there and others fed the pigeons. They had their pictures taken in front of Broadway in New York City. They saw the New World Trade Center, the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. They admired the New York City skyline at night. They have experienced downtown New York City at rush hour, in something 38' long! They have gazed through the chilly mist at Niagara Falls. They played on the red beaches on Prince Edward Island and explored the woods and home that inspired the Anne of Green Gable series. They took a ferry across the bay to Nova Scotia and admired that province's amazing beauty.

They have crossed an international border 6 times. They've played on the shores of lake Erie and experienced life in Quebec, a province that doesn't speak English! They've seen all five great lakes and splashed and played in lake Erie. They've lived in multiple homes much older than our state and have learned to easily recognize features of homes and how to tell changes that have taken place over the years. They’ve gazed down at Plymouth Rock. They’ve attended a Texas football game and have admired a tree full of monarch butterflies. They have experienced the wonder of Yellowstone and seen “Old Faithful” and have “oohed” and “ahhed” at the Colorado National Monument. They’ve caught fireflies and seen countless birds unfamiliar in our area. They've ridden horses in Colorado while staying at a working horse ranch at 7,000 feet and swam in a river and hiked up a mountain in Montana (that 10 days later was buried in 4 feet of snow!). They've crossed the Canadian Rockies through British Columbia and Alberta. They've played in the woods in Manitoba. They've kayaked in an Indiana lake and swam in a South Carolina lake. They’ve explored Glacier National Park in Montana. They have seen Vermont, New Hampshire's and New Brunswick's amazing fall colors and enjoyed a hike in New Hampshire.

Most learned to drive multi-person golf carts. They have explored the woods in Maine and Michigan. They've built dams with rocks in a stream in the hills of West Virginia. They've watched the light show at Grand Coulee Dam. They've traced Daniel Boone's route through the Cumberland Gap. They've crossed Michigan's upper peninsula and the famous bridge that connects the two parts of the state. They've seen more corn fields in more states than they knew existed! They've crossed the highest pass in the continental US at over 11,000 feet. They’ve visited Arizona’s Lowell Observatory. They've seen an immense mid-west electrical storm - dozens of strikes a SECOND – that lasted for hours. They've visited countless pioneer heritage sites and homes as far north as up-state New York and as far south and Texas. They’ve seen road signs unknown at home: bear crossing, turtle crossing, elk crossing, mule crossing, turkey crossing, moose crossing, buffalo crossing, alligator crossing, manatee crossing, horse & rider crossing, horse & buggy crossing, etc... They've even seen a "shark bite" kit.

They have caught toads the size of a man's hand and amazing color changing chameleons. They have picked cotton from a field, taken the seeds out and twisted it into usable yarn. They have traveled through brutal winds that tipped over a semi-truck. They have played in the ocean at Key West, the furthest southern point in the contiguous states. They have played in an outdoor, unheated pool at midnight in November, in Florida, without being cold. They have taken a trolley to a beach with water warmer than bath water. They have toured the everglades and seen alligators. They have walked the hills of Arizona’s petrified forest and explored ancient Indian cliff dwellings. They’ve hiked the spectacular southern rim of the Grand Canyon. They have walked through the driest desert in America and have seen more cactus than they knew existed. They’ve swam in the pouring rain in Palm Springs. They traveled 20 hours in one day with only a few fuel stops and one rest area stop.

They have walked the streets of Nauvoo, toured the Grandin Building where the Book of Mormon was first published and have ridden in carts pulled by oxen and horses. They toured the N.K Whitney store and ate apples in the orchards surrounding the Smith Family home. They’ve hiked the hill Cumorah and have felt the Spirit in the Sacraed Grove. They sat where Moroni appeared, teaching Joseph Smith about the Book of Mormon, and were taught by missionaries in the school of the prophets. They have felt the walls of both Liberty and Carthage Jail and have pondered the prophecies as they have gazed over the valley of Adam-Ondi-Ahman. They walked the streets of Winter Quarters and have visited almost a dozen church visitor’s centers. They have gazed at the beauty of dozens of temples. They’ve visited friends and family in four different states and made friends in many others. 13 kids, 12 weeks, 48 states, 8 provinces, 18,000 miles….