Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Cake Says it All!

Today is Elizabeth's 1st birthday! (well technically its her second depending on how you count - either way she turned 1 today) Its hard to believe that an entire year has already gone by!
Its been a pretty incredible year, and to think it all started here:
This picture is priceless, not so much because of its quality as much as its timing and the expression on Kate's face. It was taken one year ago just after labor began. (it didn't take long for that expression to change!)
And just a few hours later, I had the pleasure of welcoming our precious little daughter into the world!
So I guess technically this would be considered her Birth Day... any just look at her now - one year later:

This is the same rocking chair that I had when I was her age - it turns out it is her favorite birthday present!

Family portraits at this age seem to be much more difficult! We took this using our new fancy tripod but Elizabeth has no concept of 'look at the camera and smile' so this was about the best we could get of her - i guess if you take enough pictures.... Anyway, Happy Birthday Elizabeth!

More Belize!

We just received a CD in the mail with a bunch of pictures from the underwater camera that our friends friends Jenn and Rich brought along on our recent Belize adventure.
This is an older picture of all of us from our Cozumel trip a few years ago. (From left to right - Rich, Jenn, Kate, and Jan)

Diving in Belize is pretty incredible, there is just so much sea life and so much of the sea life is BIG! Here were were able to spend some quality bottom time with Eagle Rays (One of our favorites! - the most we have ever seen in one place), Sting Rays, Morey Eels, Nurse Sharks, Reef harks, Loggerhead turtles, giant Parrot fish, Lobsters, and friendly Groupers. You truly feel like you are visiting another world and are usually amazed at how quick an hour will go by in this enchanted place.

On our second dive in Belize we dropped down to about 40' and kneeled on a sandy area between a couple of coral formations. The dive master brought down a PVC tube with a bunch of holes in it and a bunch of fish guts inside to chum in some of the locals. It didn't take long and we were quickly surrounded by 20-30 4'-7' Nurse sharks (non man-eating), several very large groupers, and a couple of rather shy moray eels. You can see in the video that the sharks were actually quite friendly!

No this shark is not dead or sleeping, but very much alive! It turns out that if you are able to grab a hold of a nurse shark and flip it over, it puts them in a sort of temporary trance or paralysis such that one can handle them quite easily. Here the dive master hands one of these nurse sharks to me (Jan-the one in the short sleeves) and you can also see Kate come over to pet him (or her) while I'm holding it. Then the camera pans around to the left to show all of the sharks that came over for a free lunch.

I'm not so sure how I feel about the whole feeding of the wildlife thing... but I will say that it sure made for some very memorable diving.

The Groupers here were more like cats than fish, this was the first time that we had ever been diving with 40+ lb fish that would actually let you pet them - but never for very long.

One of the highlights of our diving in Belize was a dive in the Eagle Ray Canyons in the marine preserve off the southern tip of Ambergris Caye. Eagle Rays are quite different from Sting Rays, Eagle Rays are much more majestic and can be seen 'flying' or 'soaring' through the water by flapping their large wings. Just for perspective - the wing-span of this one was probably around 5' - 7'.

Great job on the photos and movies from our trip Jenn and Rick and thanks for letting us share them! We can wait for our next adventure with you two!

Here is Kate (on the right) and I hanging out with some of our new friends that we made on our safety stop. See you next time!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Back Yard Swimming Pool!

Today Elizabeth had fun in the pool! She was having so much fun in fact that Gregario must have thought he was missing out, so he jumped in too! ~ Enjoy the pictures

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Smits Family Outing - Rocky Mountain National Park

Back when Elizabeth was just a bump on Mommy belly, Kate and I made an agreement that we wouldn't let 'everything Elizabeth' dictate our lives and would instead spend our free time (mostly) the way we did before she came along - only now we would share everything that we have come to love with her. So far, i'd say its working out pretty well - we've had to tone things down a little bit and pack more stuff for less time, but we are still getting out, enjoying God's incredible creation, and sharing all of it together as a family!

It was with this idea in mind that we loaded up the car and headed off to one of the most spectacular nataional parks in the USA - Rocky Mountain National Park, CO, for a hike and Picnic.
After a short hike up from the Bear Lake trail head we came upon Nymph Lake. So far little Ellie was enjoying the ride and the view. While the backpack looks HUGE, its actually quite comfortable and light - at least for now - she is growing fast!

On the way up to Dream Lake we encountered a little bit of snow still lingering from a heavy snowfall winter. While it looks wintery, it was actually quite warm - almost 60 degrees and sunny. Apparently though, they got about 5" of snow only a few days ago up at the higher elevations (the area we are hiking in). Dream Lake - our destination for today's hike. The majestic mountains reflecting off the lake were breathtaking and well worth the hike.
We found a nice little flat spot for Elizabeth to get out and stretch her legs and have our picnic. She found several chipmunks that were very interested in her - particularly the trail of food that she inevitably leaves behind. The park ranger didn't find it all that amusing seeing the chipmunks running around with goldfich crackers in their mouths, but we honestly wern't feeding them intentionally. Judging by how many and how fat they were, it would appear they find plenty of food to make it through the winter. While Kate and Elizabeth were eating and playing with the local wildlife, I was off doing a little fishing for some small but incredibly beautiful green-back cutthroat trout. Unfortunately I didn't have much time before Elizabeth was pretty worn out. So we packed everything back up - including Elizabeth and headed back down to the car.
It didn't take long before I heard someone snoring a few inches from my ear.

As with most great days in mountains, this one ended with a nice cold beer and a dip in the hot tub - or at least our own variation on the theme!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Grey Reef, North Platte River, Wyoming - Part 2

After Casey and I had such a great time up on Grey Reef in Wyoming over Casey's spring break, I called up my buddy Nelsen and planned a trip to head back up to try to get into the fish again - and sure enough we did!Grey Reef is unlike any other place that I have fished. The river is big and wide, the best way to fish it is to float it, and the fish are simply Huge! Every single one of them is huge - in fact, it seems to be difficult to catch a small fish - i don't get that part of it, but all I can say is, I've spend 4 days on that river this year and the smallest fish I caught or even saw was 16". The average fish up there runs about 18-20" and some do indeed get bigger. The best part is that they seem to be just about everywhere in that river.
We drove up the night before and stayed in Casper Wyoming. A guide runs about $400 a day + tip (its worth it on a rare occasion but obviously expensive). This time however, instead of a guide we just rented a boat from the Platte River Fly Shop on the south side of Casper. After the requisite browsing of the fly shop we grabbed a few supplies, hitched up the boat, and off we went. We put the boat in up at the Dam in Alcova, and spent the majority of our day fishing the top sections of the river where the water clarity was a bit better. It took us a little while to figure out which patterns were working, after asking three guides we got three different answers. We heard everything from these guys, leeches, annelids, midges, baetis, streamers... big stuff, small, stuff... The good news was that the fish were biting but trying to figure out what they were biting on was a bit of a challenge until the midge hatch really kicked off. Then it was pretty obvious. Ironically, the fly of the day turned out the be the Skinny "Nelsen"!

One BIG reason to get a guide: Rowing a boat is easy - Rowing a boat on a river such that the person fishing in the front of the boat actually has a chance to catch a fish - is a masterful art. If you plan on renting a boat, be prepared to get chewed out a few times by the guy fishing when taking your turn on the oars. It would appear that when you're on the fish but the boat is out of control such that you don't stand a chance at a decent presentation, the filter in our brains that normally keeps what we are thinking from being verbalized has the strong potential to become compromised. I regret to admit that as much as I tried to restrain myself, a bit of Captain Bligh came out when it was my turn to fish. Please accept my apologies Nelsen!

Aside from the incredible fishing, the scenery is spectacular as well! We saw several deer, antelope, rabbits, pelicans, wood ducks, and even an eagle from the boat on the way down the river. The big open skies, rolling hills and towering cliff banks make for some very intersting scenery.

These fish are just Awesome! Nice catch Nelsen, I can't wait until our next trip!