Forming Inspiration (Day 14)

Springdale has a number of cute, boutique shops, and one particular art store drew us in more than the others.  We needed to stop there one last time before leaving on our 4-National Park day (From Zion to Bryce, then Capitol Reef, and finally landing at Arches in Moab).

The proprietor of the shop talked about growing up in Springdale and how, as kids, they would lay down in the street to see how long it would take for a car to come by.  Usually it was between one and two hours.  Now, thanks to digital photography and the internet, Springdale is hopping along with Zion, filled with car and foot traffic.

We tried out the checkmark system so that we could walk around the art store without worrying the kids would destroy something valuable.  To our shock, it worked.  Andre and Owen sat on the step outside looking through maps and booklets and destroyed nothing.

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The store was pretty busy, and we felt an internal clock ticking due to the looming drive, so we took a business card and began driving through Zion for the last time.

Our first stop was Bryce Canyon National Park.  Because of our lack of time, our objectives were:

  1. Get Andre’s Junior Ranger Badge
  2. See Inspiration Point

Katie took Andre and the Junior Ranger booklet to an outdoor tent to go through the activities.

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I largely babysat Owen, distracting him as long as I could with the Bryce Canyon video (cool for me, boring for a 3-year-old), then Visitor Center exhibits, gift shop, and finally just desperately wandering around outside the Visitor Center.  In the video, we learned that the canyon was named after Ebenezer Bryce, a Mormon man that essentially owned the land and had this canyon in his backyard (hence “Bryce Canyon”).  When people would ask him about his immensely beautiful canyon, he would say something like “It’s a real pain to lose a cow down there.”

Andre and Katie rocked the Junior Ranger program and then, unfortunately, had to wait in line about 30 minutes before being able to talk to the ranger to earn the badge.  Finally, it happened.

Now, it was time to see the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon.  We drove out to Inspiration Point (see the featured image), and gazed until the ticking internal clock struck the right cord.

Now, we were off to Capitol Reef National Park, our third National Park of the Mighty 5 of Utah.  We arrived 20 minutes before the Visitor Center was to close.  Katie had wisely downloaded the Junior Ranger booklet for Capitol Reef online in the car, and she and Andre had started what they could while Katie fought motion sickness.

As Katie and Andre ran in, Owen posed for the pic below.  That boy loves the camera.  He’s the easiest 3-year-old ever to get to smile and say cheese.

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Despite only 20 minutes until closing time when we arrived, Katie’s slick negotiation skills convinced the Ranger that it was in everyone’s best interest to slightly adjust the Junior Ranger requirements (we had no time for a Ranger led program), and Andre scored another badge for the day.

There is one thing that seems to be in common with all of these National Parks: you cannot do them justice with photographs.  The immense size of what you see is just hard to take in.  It’s like trying to conceptualize infinity.  The Grand Canyon is an obvious one, but Carlsbad Caverns’ rooms, Zion’s cliffs, Bryce Canyon’s hoodoos, and now Capitol Reef’s cliffs, are all simply impossible to measure with a photograph.  You literally have to go there to experience it, and it’s always worth it.

This is from inside our car while driving through Capitol Reef National Park.  It looks like a CGI filled scene from a yet to be made Flash Gordon II movie (come on, we all want it to happen so we can hear Queen sing that song for a half hour again).  Yet, it doesn’t do the park justice.

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From Capitol Reef, we took the scenic route to Moab, which is highway 24.  Make sure your gas tank is full because there is very little signal for most of the drive and many miles between functional gas stations.  It was one of the most impressive drives of the trip.  Pictures can’t do it justice either (maybe we just suck at photography and that’s our excuse).  There were just a lot of “how did nature form that?” moments.

We stopped in Hanksville, the first place with a gas station, and found a gem of a restaurant there called Duke’s Slickrock Grill.  John Wayne is huge in this area.

Finally, after a very long day, we arrived in Moab, then drove 25 more minutes down a picturesque road to the Red Cliff Lodge on the Colorado River.  You’ll have to wait until the next post to see the screen-saver worthy pics of that place!

 

 

 

 

Zion At Last (Days 11-13)

Day 11.  I took a little hike with Andre to see the view from above the B&B.  Unfortunately I took the keys with me so Katie couldn’t come get us at the high point, and Andre and I meandered back.

Over breakfast we talked with Bae, our truly Navajo host, about a wide range of interesting topics, like how she “owns” or has rights to this space when the Native American culture is not about owning anything, racism in all directions, family matters (she married a white guy and her family is still not pleased, even after many years and 2 children), and the shame the dam was in terms of killing micro ecosystems.

Finally, we packed up and took off for Zion, exhausted and hungry (Note: this Navajo meal was better than last one with the spoiled milk.  It was genuine Navajo food.  I don’t remember the actual name, but gray cornmeal paste in a bowl with some honey and fruit is pretty close.  I was proud of the kids for trying it.)

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Wearing our clothes from the day before, we headed to Zion National Park and our hotel, the Desert Pearl Inn.

We had grand plans of hiking and investigating Zion National Park when we arrived, but they all went by the wayside when we arrived at our hotel and the kids jumped in the pool.  We spent the rest of our time that night swimming, talking to some new people (it’s always nice to find Jayhawks on the trip), and then eating some more Mexican food.

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The Mexican restaurant we picked was called Oscar’s Cafe, and it was unbelievably good.  We would happily recommend it to anyone visiting the area.

The feel of Springdale, the town right outside of Zion where everyone stays, is one of a ski town.  The food is great, the shopping is plentiful, there is art and culture, and this one happens to be by one of the best National Parks around.  Interestingly, this place wasn’t busy at all until about 4 years ago.   (And the ice cream is scrumptious)

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We were looking forward to our next couple days in Zion.

Day 12.  We slept in a little and then prepared for our hike to Zion and the Watchman Trail.

Owen was just not having it this day.  Anytime he walked more than a few feet, he pouted and whined and cried to be carried.  I was wearing our nifty piggy-back contraption for just the occasion, but this was a bit ridiculous.

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Andre was exploring ants and anthills.  He has garnered a fascination with catching ants lately.  There are plenty on these hikes.

We made it to the top of the Watchman Trail.  Andre and Katie found a spot in the shade to complete the Junior Ranger booklet for Zion, and Owen did his best to spill Cheerios everywhere.  Luckily, one of Andre’s activities was trash clean up, so we picked them up in a jiffy.

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We had pretty good reception up there, so I FaceTimed my parents.  My dad was golfing and didn’t pick up, and so my mom was the lucky one to talk to Owen about hiking.

That night we took another dip in the pool and went to eat at the Spotted Dog, another A+ restaurant in Springdale.

Day 13.  The kids were just being little shits.  We were hitting “that point” this morning.  Katie called a family meeting and pulled a nugget of parenting brilliance from the depths.  The checkmark system.  We would award the kids with checkmarks randomly throughout the day for desirable behavior, and if they hit 10 checkmarks by the end of the day, they will have earned whatever the treat or prize is for that day.  Our kids are very motivated, like most kids, by sugar.  Day 1 of the checkmark system would be goal to get some more of that delicious ice cream.

The main objective of the day was to take a page from one of our favorite moments at the Grand Canyon and recreate it in Zion: biking with the kids in a beautiful National Park.

We found a local bike shop that let you rent essential the same contraption we had at the Grand Canyon, a drag along for Owen and a ride along for Andre.  Here was our path, from #1 at the bottom to the Riverside Walk at the top of Zion.

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We adjusted our seats, sprayed on some more sunscreen, and began our ride.  It was on our first trail, the Pa’rus Trail, when I heard Andre scream at me when going over a little bridge.

Well, Andre’s bike attachment wasn’t put on properly.  Luckily, he fell off expertly as the back-bike began to go sideways.  Minor scrapes, hugs and kisses, and it was time to investigate what happened.  It appeared an attachment wasn’t installed tight enough.  This part of the trail was still close enough to the front of the National Park so that we had phone reception.  I called the bike shop, and one of their guys biked to us in a jiffy.  He fixed up the bike connection, tightened it up, showed the rubber pieces that had been left off by his buddy at the shop which he would put on to ensure safety, told us this had never happened before and he’s sorry, and sent us along our way.

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We worked our way up the Zion National Park path, stopping at the Lodge for a quick lunch and a ton of blue Powerade, and continued on.

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The ride truly made us appreciate this beautiful National Park.  There were some incredible cliffs (and crazy climbers), a flowing river, interesting plants, and unique formations displaying the prehistoric age of the rocks.

We arrived at the end of the trail and were ready for our reward.

If we had more time, we could have walked on a river trail, literally walking in the river, for miles.  Instead, we had the kids play in the entry point, throwing rocks, climbing rapids, trying to catch minnows, and all the other things little boys with imaginations love about these environments.

Finally, it was time to head back.  Katie and I had booked an in-room couples massage at 4pm, and it was about 3:15pm at the far end of Zion (yes, the plan was that the kids could just watch TV while we were pampered – we had never tried this before).  In other words, we were going to need to hurry.

Not long into the ride back, I heard a similar scream coming from Andre, this time while going a bit faster.  I hit the brakes, his bike tumbled, then expletives from me, crying from Andre.  As I held him and Katie came to us, I looked and saw that the same problem had happened again.

We were fortunate that we had just passed some workers who were cleaning up the National Park roads.

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They had all the tools needed and fastened that contraption so tightly that it was almost buckling under the pressure.  We adjusted the seats on the bikes to allow us to switch, and Katie road back on the bike with an empty ride along while I dragged the two boys on the other bike.

Andre had “fallen well” again, so only minor scrapes.  Andre’s cousin Bennett had broken his wrist that morning falling from monkey bars, and it’s amazing Andre didn’t do the same.

Due to this additional crash, we had to pedal like crazy to make it back on time.  We arrived at 4:07pm – NOT BAD.  Luckily, one of the massueses was also late, so it all worked out.  We took quick showers to not torture our massueses, and Katie had the brilliant idea to give the kids the Kindle Fire tablets to occupy them.  My massage was one of the best of my life.  The therapist had experience working in physical therapy and chiropractor offices, and so she found everything wrong and attacked.  So good.

We closed with dinner, and we rewarded with Andre with ice scream because of how well he took to the checkmark system.  Owen, he didn’t earn it on day 1, but we saw an immediate change in behavior afterward.  I think he just needed some boundaries set, and when we followed through (which was tough), it was invaluable.

We closed the trip was some final pool time at the Desert Pearl Inn, a real jewel in Springdale and a must stay if you are venturing to Zion National Park.

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Tomorrow, we will be touching 4 National Parks in one day:  Starting in Zion, then Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, and then arriving in Moab where the Arches National Park is.