Thursday, June 29, 2017

Summer Vacay - The National Parks - Park 5

Although we gave ourselves two nights to stay at the Grand Canyon, the thought of the 1,400 mile drive back to Houston was heavy on our mind, so after only one night - we felt the itch to start heading back. My motivation to pull stakes and hit the road, was also due to the dismal night sleep I'd had the night before.  While Charlie was toasty cozy in his -20 degree rating bag that I'd bought him for his birthday one year … I shivered the night away in my mere 0 degree rating bag.  In my current awake state, I'd zip my bag to his - or ask him to trade bags with me.  But when it's 2 AM and you're desperate for sleep - you just don't possess the brain power to do much more then shiver and keep hoping that you'll eventually doze off.  

Since there had been no showers at this particular campsite, before we piled in the car for the drive back - I insisted that everyone get cleaned up.  Converting the picnic table in to a salon, I boiled pots of water to wash everyone's hair - as Charlie washed their feet. 


With squeaky clean children, we descended the Colorado plateau, and passed through Navajo Nation and across the magnificent Colorado River.  The woman in the gift shop was telling us that long ago, there were people living on opposite banks of the river, but getting across and up the embankment was virtually impossible.  


Look at this bridge!


It's actually the Navajo bridge…


Kids, quick! Pose for a picture!  And William, in the midst of his face-palm is saying, "MOM, NOT AGAIN. PLEASE…. OH MY GAAAAAAAH…."  


En route to our fifth National Park, we made a stop by Meteor Crater. Although this isn't a National Park, we took a tour around the rim of the crater, and spent several hours in the visitor center learning about what has been labeled the world's best preserved meteor impact site, on EARTH.

Here are the kids with what remains of the meteor!


Charlie doesn't count this fifth National Park as a legitimate stop, since we just skirted the entrance and didn't take much of a hike.  But we did get a picture of the park sign!


And a stamp and sticker in our passport book!


And we taught the kids about how petrified wood forms, and they got to see why they call this place the "painted desert."


A palette of beautiful colors for as far as the eye can see.  Albeit short, we had a great time, and Charlie was talking with one of the Park Rangers about career opportunities.  It turns out, several of the parks have a need for geologists, and they are on the look-out for scientists that can answer questions and lead tours.  


This, of course, very much piqued Charlie's interest, who went online and download applications - and was in the process of filing them out, when I said, "STOP.  THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU'RE DOING.  Do you really see us selling off everything and living in a National Park - and leading tours?"  I mean, I'm sure we'd look great in these outfits.

But …. I'm not quite there yet?


The rest of the trip home was rather uneventful … although I might have cut the tip of my finger and promised my family in blood that I would never make them drive ALL THE WAY through west Texas again. Even I have to admit that it's a rather atrocious trek after you've already driven 4,000 miles.

In the end, we visited five parks, and have the brochures to prove it!


Next up … I'll be writing about another amazing trip: the total surprise one I took Charlie on to celebrate his 50th birthday this past November.   And, the amazing trip that we are currently planning for this summer, which we anticipate will take us through seven national parks - including two that are in Canada.


On that note, me thinks it's just a matter of time before Charlie and I are living in an RV, serving as campsite hosts, and writing messages like this one on our windshield. 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Summer Vacay - The National Parks - Park 4

On the fourth day of our National Park loop, we drove from Zion National Park, to the north rim of the Grand Canyon. We had contemplated driving to Bryce Canyon - but due to a washed out road and a rapidly dwindling schedule - we decided that if given the choice, we'd rather spend a longer stretch (longer stretch = more than six hours) of time at one of the seven natural wonders of the world.


Yet again, we had no reservations when we arrived.

We knew that the south rim campsites were completely booked, but there was a slim possibility we could get there early and secure one of the "first-come, first-serve" sites.  Doing a quick little statistical analysis, we determined that because we wouldn't be there at the crack of dawn, when the sites open to campers, (what with four children and all) the probability that we would be successful in finding a first-come camping site on the north rim were considerably greater, seeing as only 10% of the estimated five million tourists that visit the Grand Canyon each year, visit the north rim.


And so it is, we headed straight to the north rim and immediately found the most epic of campsites.  Directly across the street from the little out-house which at this season in my life, is becoming more and more important.


FYI … Quick story about that little out-house, which had some kind of vacuum / blower system in the open pit toilet, so when the children were perched, a breeze skirted their posterior regions and the way they screeched - you'd think they were in grave peril.  Truly, they thought for sure something was climbing out of the ground to get them.  It made their bathroom breaks a bit nerve-wracking for lack of a better term.  Charlie or I had to escort them - and stand guard, whilst holding their hand - in case they needed to be rescued.

After our first life-altering restroom break, we set up our little home sweet home:


And promptly set off to see the sights.


Now, there is nothing quite like being with someone when they see the Grand Canyon for the very first time.  The first time I ever saw it, in 1990, when I took a trip with a geology class - and hiked all the way down to the Colorado River and out again - in less than 18 hours, is etched in to my memory forever.  The second time I saw it, in the winter of 1996 as a newly married wife - when it was dusted in snow, is also etched in my memory forever.  The third time I saw it, with my mother in 1998 on the occasion of her 65th birthday, as she clung to everything: telescopes, trees, guardrails - for fear of falling in, is also is etched in my memory forever.


The fourth time, seeing it with our four children, will also be etched in to my memory forever. Not because of their responses to seeing this magnificent landform stretched before them - but because of my gut reaction to….



Oh Dear God in Heaven... what was I thinking bringing our children, here?!


Am I having heart palpitations because of the beauty of this space?


Or because of the total loss of control I feel that my children - who are walking on their own able feet - are perusing a path that with one misstep, would tumble them thousands of feet down a rocky ledge?!




At one point, while I was trying to be artistic, by taking this picture of a pretty flower …


Charlie took the kids out on this overlook, with NO GUARDRAILS, and it is no exaggeration that I nearly had an aneurysm.  People on the south rim might have heard my yelling, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING? ARE YOU CRAZY! GET BACK HERE!"


You want to go to an overlook?  GO TO THIS ONE. With the nice railing.


So, yes … it would appear I am turning in to my mother.  Which at this season in my life, is also something I am noticing more and more.  (I love you, Mom!)


Here we are, me and my beau!


The kids had a wonderful time, and actually took a lot of the pictures on our hiking trip.


Like this one.


And this one.  Followed by the gasp, "SNAAAAKE!!!!"


And this one, when we stopped for a picnic.


After our relatively short, 5-mile hike, we headed back to the Lodge, and decided that the next time we come to the Grand Canyon, we are going to stay at the Lodge - sit on this patio in a rocking chair - put our feet up on the guardrail and drink a cold one.  (Or three.)


We watched a family of Native American dancers, who absolutely stole our hearts.


Including this little tot who had everyone in the crowd saying, "Awwwww!"


And then - in short order, the sun was rapidly setting, the temperature was dropping just as fast, and the last thing we wanted to do was cook dinner at the camp.  So we went out for what felt like our first real meal in days and this was the children's response.


We ended our evening with a campfire …


And an impromptu talent show.


And then realizing that the temperature was getting colder and colder by the second, and bunny was just as chilled as the children…


We climbed in to our sleeping bags, as the temperature settled around the high 40's.


Snug as little bugs in a rug.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Summer Vacay: The National Parks - Park 3

That it is now the summer of 2017, and I am still posting about summer 2016 … isn't lost on me. I've lost count of how many times I've planned to sit down and update my blog and something - or more aptly, someone - has taken my attention.  Perhaps I could get up earlier.  That's definitely an option, but despite how hard I try, is never something I seem capable of pulling off.  Maybe tomorrow...

Right now, I have a quiet rainy Saturday morning, while Charlie and Henry are playing Monopoly - and we are awaiting the return of our triplets from their first ever, multi-night, sleep-away camp.  The house is quiet and I have a little bit of time for me and recollecting what I can from our vacation last summer.  

After we left Death Valley, we drove through Las Vegas en route to what is thus far, my all-time favorite National Park … Zion.   The massive red sandstone cliffs, the lush green trees, the vibrant blue sky.  It takes my breath away, every time.  


By the time we arrived, it was shortly after noon, and because we were on an abbreviated schedule, we didn't have much time - just the afternoon, to hike around and show the children this magnificent national treasure of flora, fauna, and incredible geology.


We hiked through the valley, stopping - more than once, to take pictures. 


Henry, that's hilarious! You're so strong! Let me take a quick picture!


Carolyn! William! What a beautiful little stop! Let me take a quick picture!


Oh, triplet pose!

This will be good for your 6th grade year book picture. Let me take a quick picture!


Oh! Awesome shot! You guys - stand there for a minute! Let me take a quick picture!


Is that a deer?!  Wow, how tranquil and picturesque!  Let me take a quick picture!


Gorgeous backdrop … hang on … Let me take a quick picture!


OK! Now all four of you! Let me take a ……

Before I could finish the sentence, Elizabeth said to me "Mom! Please promise this will be the last picture?  You're taking one every two feet!"


We then jumped off the path and started hiking up The Narrows, which is a slot canyon that has been cut by the Virgin River.  As the canyon narrows, so too does your hiking trail - which becomes the river.   Wading through quickly moving water with an uneven bottom, can be a bit precarious and unstable at times, but out-of-this world, crazy fun.


(It helps to have a walking stick.)


There is so much to see and do here, I could spend a week and not see it all.  Charlie has been to this park several times, and has hiked Angel's Landing - and much farther up The Narrows then we made it in our few hours.


While on this trip, we met a couple who were hiking The Narrows with their backpacks and rock climbing gear, because in the event there is a rain storm - this area is prone to severe flash floods (particularly in the slot canyons). Water levels can rise 10's of feet, in minutes; and walls of water will wash out anything in the way.   The couple we met, were hiking with the intent that they would climb the walls of the canyon at night to sleep, or perch their sleeping cots on the rock walls.  We're not quite there yet with our camping skills.

We crawled around on sandstone shelves, and perched in little cubbies.


And of course, I had to break my promise and have the children stand and pose for pictures, while tightly clutching my phone because if it was dropped, it would be GONE.


OK, OK … just one more!


Alright, FINE.  I'm a pathological liar when I enter an agreement about no more picture taking. IN THE NARROWS OF ZION!


While I would have liked to have had more time at this park, my Nikon, and a bit better sunlight to really showcase in photos how gorgeous this landscape is, I'm so grateful we had the opportunity to make the stop - and introduce our children to this park. 


Henry has a blue monopoly and has three houses on each property.  Last roll, Charlie landed on Park Place.  He just landed on Boardwalk.

Game over … which means, so too, is this post. 


I'll be back early tomorrow morning.   I hope! 

But before I go … one more. :)