On The Edge (Day 9)

Ravens are smart, some say the smartest birds on the planet.  They will bother hunters until the hunters follow them to where their prey is walking around, knowing they will likely get some scraps.  They will place nuts on the road so that an unsuspecting future road kill will walk into a trap and get tagged by a speeding vehicle.  They are good with faces – one park employee angrily shoed a raven off of her bike seat, and from that day on all of her future bike seats were torn up, can I say, ravenously?  The special trash can lids at the Grand Canyon aren’t because of bears, they are to keep out ravens.  They used to have a design that required pushing down in four places and twisting the lid to get it off, but the ravens would form teams with one on each pressure spot and one in the middle squawking when it was time to turn.

Today, a raven woke me up early with a laughter-rich caw that sounded like a slow “Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!”  Pause.  Repeat.  Pause.  Repeat.

Owen and I, being the light sleepers, started peeping across the beds at each other, making silly faces while the other two dozed unaware.

We started the day with a scrumptious breakfast in our dining tent, with waffles made from cast iron waffle makers crafted in 1910.

IMG_1305 1

Carb-loaded and hydrated, it was time for our hike into the depths of the Grand Canyon.

We loaded the kids up with sunscreen, hats, and Osprey water packs, and Don loaded us into the shuttle.

We headed to the South Kaibab trail (pronounced Kai-uh-bab, or, if you’re a local and cool, Sky-bab).  The trailhead starts with some somewhat slippery switchbacks (due to tiny pebble rocks and dirt, not wetness), and we ventured down gripping the kids’ hands to prevent their untimely demise.

We also tried out a new piggy-back contraption for Owen, and it was really cool.  You can see it in the featured image, along with this one, when Owen was “hiding.”

IMG_1328 1

After about an hour venturing down next to rocks with progressively changing in birth eras, we made it to our destination, Ooh Ahh point.

I have a physiological fear of heights.  In fact, while typing this and thinking of Ooh Ahh, my hands just started sweating.  We got the kids up with us on a boulder for a pic that shows that kids need sunglasses too.  I guess Andre’s (borrowing Don’s for the pic) weren’t helping.  Regardless, #ParentFail.


Katie then dragged me out further onto a cliff boulder so that I could once again face my biggest fear, letting my legs freeze up as I stoically sat by Katie adjacent to our impending doom.  The neurotransmitter or adrenal fluid that was allowing me to do this ran out, so I scurried back to safety.


After rehydrating and a sufficient break, Don and Andre led the hike back up the Canyon.  Andre, thinking this was a competition for some reason, didn’t want to take breaks and wait for the rest of the group.  He pulled Don up the Canyon, making it up in less than half the time it took to go down.


I carried Owen with the piggy-back contraption, and that free-loader loved that, thinking the way up was SUPER easy.  By the top, my body was pretty glad we were finished.  Katie played pack-mule and carried up all of the water, so she was glad, too.

We headed back to camp for the lunch Mark prepared (Don’s wife had created this one), some amazing chili.  More 2nds.

We followed lunch with Andre’s favorite part of the Grand Canyon, biking the Hermit Trail along the rim.  Only shuttle buses and employees are allowed on this road, so it’s like taking a bike ride alongside the Grand Canyon with a road all to yourself.  Our tour guide was incredible, and, despite two flat tires, had a wonderful time.



Don picked us up after our ride and took us to a Grand Canyon spot that is just getting discovered.  Out of respect for him, we won’t share the exact coordinates, but trust us it was worth it.  A quick hike on a forest path, and it opens up to a beautiful spot on a cliff that sticks out, giving you a near 360 degree view of the Grand Canyon.  It was early in the evening, so the shadows added that much more dimension to the view.


We closed the day with filets in our dining tent, a strawberry desert (did he know that was my favorite food?), and, of course, more Smores.

The Grand Canyon experience, thanks to Don and ALE, will be a hard one to beat.

Indiana Jones and the Lost Badge (Day 5)

I started the day scrounging up what seemed like a good breakfast start for the boys, apples, strawberries, and a hard-boiled egg.  They weren’t impressed.  They no longer like hard-boiled eggs.


On to the Carlsbad Caverns!!  They are about 30 minutes outside of Carlsbad, and we got there early, about 8:30am.  TIP:  Do that.  Don’t show up at noon because the crowds swell throughout the morning.

The first new friend we met on our way into the caverns was this Tarantula, we’ll call him Ted.


Even though logic and knowledge told me he was harmless, I have had the ebee jebees about spiders ever since Arachnophobia, starring John Goodman and I think some other people. Here’s the broader Tarantula Ted experience if you wish (if it works for you, mine is kicking an error):

Here’s our pic in front of the Carlsbad Caverns sign (shot by a very nice volunteer photographer with depth perception issues and a large thumb).


We picked up Junior Ranger workbooks for the boys and quickly learned that Owen was about as ready to become a Junior Ranger as I am about as ready to fly an airplane.  Andre’s got it down though.

The Caverns.  Wow.  If you have never been, please go.  They are simply incredible, and the picture won’t do any justice.


The sheer scale of the cave entrance was ridiculously unanticipated, no matter what we read.  The size of the “rooms,” with so much utter uniqueness that the earth produced, was truly awe inspiring.  Every cliche you can think of, I want to say, and it would be worth it.

The featured image above is the cave entrance as seen from inside the cave.  We were spelunking!

Here’s some pics that won’t help.

We took a break halfway.  They have a cafeteria with sandwiches and souvenirs 750 feet below the surface.  Owen practiced making as many funny faces as he could think of for the camera.


We then went to the “Big Room.”  No words.  Here is a tiny part of it.


Owen fell asleep on my shoulder for the last 25%.  It was… too… much….

We finished with the caves, and Andre completed his requirements for the Junior Ranger badge and then some.  He took the oath from the Ranger, and the badge was his.  Proud moment.

We had quite a jump start on the day, so we decided to head south to the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, which was only about 40 minutes away, and see if we could snag Andre another badge and the family a great experience.

Here is the drive. It was… straight.


Vimeo… not working for me.  Working for you?

We thought it would be a good idea to hike to the Devil’s Hall, a 4.2 mile round trip.  This is getting long, so I’m going to sum up the rest of the day and night:

– Hike was hot and not well marked.

– Andre wanted to water the desert plants and used up all of his water in the first mile.

– We took a wrong turn.  + 1.5-2 miles

–  A boulder came down the mountain and tried to crush Owen and me.  Failed.  Owen and Jeff = 1, Boulder = 0.  The circling birds needed to fight for a new meal.

– Here are some pics:

– Eventually turned around after pushing it a bit too much.

– Andre realized he had lost his new Junior Ranger badge.

– Was so thankful when we made it back to our van.

On the way home, the kids had a hysterically fun time Facetiming with their good friends, Jason and Caleb Maltenfort.  Somehow I ended up with this pic from it:


Back to that missing Junior Ranger badge.  This is where Katie and Jeff stepped in and did our thing.  That meant, I drove very fast back to the Carlsbad Caverns, and when we got there the minute they were locking the doors, Katie was able to talk the tired Ranger into going and getting a new badge for Andre.  #ParentHeroes

Understand, at this moment in time, we are exhausted and famished.  About 40 minutes later we get back to Carlsbad (the city), and Katie directs us to what became the worst Mexican food experience of our lives.  So much potential.  So bad.


We grocery shopped a bit, then finally, yes, back at our AirB&B at about 10pm MST, ready for showers, snacks and glorious sleep.

Problem:  The air conditioner isn’t working, and it’s the desert.

Our host wasn’t responding, didn’t have her phone on her.

Katie checked, all hotels in Carlsbad were booked up by “all the oil guys.”  I guess that’s a thing.

So, we packed up, drove to Roswell, NM, and we went to sleep that night super late with the aliens.

Onward we go!