Monday, April 3, 2017

The Great West 2: Grand Canyon, Zion, and Bryce with kids

With kids ages 12, 10, and 6, we realize we are in a sweet spot as far as our family life goes- the kids are all old enough but not too old.   It was time for a trip.  The Trip:  Zion National Park and Grand Canyon National Park.  We're a fairly tight knit crew, but even so, between work and school and church and friends and sports, life at home tends to pull us in different directions.  What happens on a family trip like this is more about a collective group narrative.  The sights and the adventure is more of a catalyst for the alchemy of family bonding that doesn't always happen on the day in and day out.  It is Attachment Family-ing. 

So I'm writing this for two audiences: my kids so that we can remember together and for those of you who may be interested in a similar trip.  We call ours the Great West 2. 

As a side note, Jack and I are like-minded Type B travelers.  I planned the airfare, rental car, and lodging one afternoon in November and then let it be.  We would just figure it out when we got there and we like it that way.  We got some great Facebook recommendations from friends but other than that, it was willy-nilly and just part of the adventure.  This is how it went: 


 
Day One

on the way to Zion - something terrible happened at Terrible's
We rolled into Zion National Park under a inky sky bright with stars.  Our eyes weren't so bright since our flight from SHV to LAS got delayed and everything took longer than we thought.  We ate with a couple kids layed out at George's Corner Restaurant in St. George, Utah for a late dinner (10:00 our time- but by George it was delicious) and then finally got to Zion National Park Lodge well after bedtime.

Zion's rooms at the National Park Lodge are clean and adequate, but when we walked outside in the morning, we were hit with beauty that gave me chills.  I had high expectations for this place, but even those were too low. 

the view from Zion Lodge
 Breakfast buffet- check- then we hit the shuttle to our first hike- the Grotto to the Upper Emerald Pools via Kayenta Trail.  I wasn't sure how well Asher (age 6) could hang, but he crushed it- all three of our kids did.  The trail is listed as moderate level difficulty- about 3 miles round trip with 300+ feet elevation gain- but there is a big payoff at the end with a beautiful waterfall.


Kayenta Trail

that's a waterfall pouring out rainbow



After the hike, we hopped on the shuttle to take a rest and see some more of the park.  Zion has a free shuttle system that runs all throughout the day and takes you everywhere you need to go- no cars are allowed in the park except to go to the Lodge.  We took in more jaw-dropping beauty and even saw a wild turkey and finally got off at the Lodge for lunch and a rest.

Next up was the Visitor Center (we picked up the National Parks Passport books they have for kids- it's a must-do, so great) and then hit the Archeology Trail.  It's short but steep and spits you out at an ancient Native American settlement with amazing photo ops.  Don't miss it.



The boys played football on Zion's amazing front lawn while Jack enjoyed happy hour and I played my ultra wide angle lens rental (I rented a 10-24 mm from BorrowLenses.com) and then we headed to Springdale, the town just outside of Zion, for dinner at the Bit and Spur.  Chips and salsa and guac and drinks for me and Jack and Anna Grace, football and red rock climbing for the boys.  Then ice cream. 

photo credit: Jack Chaney!

Zion NP Lodge

I'm a desert rat wannabe


Springdale, Utah


Virgin River

So pretty much it was the best day ever.


Day Two

The Narrows is Zion's signature hike, but it was closed during our trip.  Even so, we started our second day at the Temple of Sinawava and hit the Riverwalk Trail to the Narrows to say hi.  It was a cold but easy walk and there wasn't much to see at the entrance of the Narrows (you probably have to walk around the bend in the river to get the gist), but we saw a mule deer and some more wild turkeys and it was worth it.






Next up was Weeping Rock, a short but steep climb to an over hang dripping ancient water.  The views were spectacular. 





After that, it was off to Springdale for lunch at the Zion Canyon Brewery and an after lunch bike ride on the Pa'rus Trail.  Jack and Asher turned back at the end of Pa'rus, but I took the other two up the canyon via the shuttle (they have bike racks) and then down the canyon we soared.  It was terrifying and beautiful to watch Zeke careen around the curves, wind in his hair.  I felt so alive.  



 We came back to the most epic Ash Crash ever- Jack and Asher asleep in the sunshine.  We took it on back to the lodge for frisbee and sketching and the sun slipping behind the canyon. 






THIS was pretty much the best day ever.


Day Three

Zion NP to Bryce NP is about a two hour drive, so we packed up early and watched the buffalo in the early morning sunshine and made the drive.  Thunderbird Restaurant was recommended, so Thunderbird it was for a great breakfast.  Two feet up.



We hit Sunrise Point in Bryce mid-morning (8,000 ft elevation!) and made the Navajo Loop and Queen's Garden hike- probably the most strenuous of our trip but with views that were other worldly.  We were glad to have made it.  We got our patches and our national park passports stamps and off we went to the south rim of the Grand Canyon- a five hour drive.










It was dark by the time we pulled up to the El Tovar Lodge and we got in just in time for the power to go out, but wouldn't you know it- it started snowing!  The great big snowflakes thrilled my Louisiana kiddos who haven't seen snow in years and we slept with the window cracked and our hearts full.

Day Four

We woke up to power (hooray) and a snow covered Grand Canyon.  We started at the Visitor Center (more passport stamps and Junior Ranger program and informational movie) and then hit Mather Point and a little bit of the Rim Trail.  The snow got more intense, so the boys went to the El Tovar for a rest while me and AG went out to get lost.  Get lost we did, but it was a good adventure.  Memories.




"Let this great wonder of nature remain as it is now.  Do nothing to mar its grandeur, sublimity, and loveliness.  You cannot improve upon it.  But what you can do is keep it for your children, your children's children, and all who come after you as the one great sight which every American should see."  Teddy Roosevelt






Dinner was pizza from Maswick Pizza Pub for the kids and date night at the El Tovar for us.



The El Tovar is one of the oldest structures on the south rim.  Built in 1903, it is totally Titanic meets a Wes Anderson film, meets Downton Abbey.  Fine dining in the dining room and live music in the lobby every night.  So we dined and danced and it was the date night of the year.

Day Five

The next day brought more snow and cold so we decided to head south.  We thought zip lining in Williams sounded good, but it turns out that Williams zip lining is less zip lining and more of a carnival ride with hours subject to the owners whims.  It wasn't open.  (Lots of people recommended the train ride from Williams to Grand Canyon but we didn't do that because it doesn't make a lot of sense to do unless you stay in Williams which we didn't want to do.  But if you have little kids and/or you are into trains and/or you are into staged Wild West train robberies, you should check it out).



Since Williams was a bust, we headed to Flagstaff- a cool little college town we all really enjoyed even if it was just us walking around and lunch at Lumberyard.  Good times.



We headed back in the late afternoon and I had dinner with Asher at the Arizona room (best view of the canyon) since a certain basketball game was occupying the other three back in our room (go Heels).



I had one-on-one time with each kid during the trip - invaluable!

the night sky over the canyon- at Hopi House

Day Six

We packed up and hit the Bright Angel Trail before we left for Las Vegas.  I was a nervous Nelly heading down that trail- it is narrow and steep and intense and if you're afraid of heights and/or afraid of heights for other people (like your bouncy ping pong ball children), you might just need to go down just a little ways.  I had some time to myself to hike it alone the day before and enjoyed the heck out of it.  Bright Angel is a 7.8 mile trail down the canyon to the Colorado River.  Needless to say, I didn't hike the whole thing, but it is certainly something you don't want to miss.





So off we went to Las Vegas- walked to see the Hoover Dam on the way- and ended at Desert Paradise Resort- a very inexpensive but perfect place to land near the airport if you have an early flight.  It was a 2 bedroom, 2 bath apartment with a LAUNDRY ROOM (holla!).  I recommend.

So now we're home, tired but happy with all the memories and most of all thankful.  Best trip ever. 


Eucharisteo.

1 comment:

Korrie said...

Breathtaking photos,and I loved the details...and, you kept the date night! What a blessing from the Lord, and I was encourged. Thanks for sharing!