Every year I make a yearly trip down to Utah. Primarily to visit family, I also sneak in trips up into the gorgeous mountain canyons or out to the West Desert. Last summer I went with my parents and one brother (and his wife and children) and we traveled down to Saint George and went through Bryce Canyon and Zion's National Park.
Last fall my Dad and Mother went to the Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. My Dad loved the park and I loved hearing about it and really wanted to go. So this year I pushed the trip a little back from our normal time of late April into late May. Also different this year was that I was driving to Utah with just the children; no Brad to take turns driving with me.
The book on CD that I listened to with the kidlets throughout the trip was "The Mysterious Benedict Society". It was a great book and we really enjoyed it. I alternated disks of that with Victoria's iPod for variety.
We left Seattle on a Saturday morning. We drove throughout the day, stopping to look at the Zillah Teapot Service Station National Monument, as well as many numerous stops at rest stops for the children to stretch their legs and take restroom breaks. That evening we got into Boise, Idaho where I checked into the hotel. After dinner the children swam in the pool and I set my feet in the hot tub. Travis then refused to get out of the pool and I threatened no swimming the next day. He got out of the pool.
Sunday we stopped at the Hagerman National Park, in Hagerman, Idaho. This national park focuses on the Hagermen Horses, a zebra-like animal that died many years ago and was fossilized. We watched the 20 minute movie and the kidlets worked on their Junior Ranger Badge books. Travis and Madeline threw the sand from the indoor sand box all over the carpet. Travis tried to grab the fossils and Victoria walked around looking bored.
As we drove through the park and the Oregon Trail the children felt sympathy for the settlers who had to make the monstrous climb up the mountain (taking 2 days) and then realized that there was no water for miles. Especially when I threatened them with having to walk home if they didn't get back in the car so we could move on. They did enjoy the one-lane scary rickety bridge that we took the time to drive over. Actually, they really did love seeing the trail hills.
We then drive on to Utah Valley, where my parents live. As you pass Ogden the quality of the drivers denigrates and progressively worsens as you approach BYU. They speed up, signal less, and tailgate. It's like bumper cars with giant trucks.
Monday was my brothers birthday so we took him out to lunch and that afternoon I bought Madeline some new shoes.
Tuesday morning we got up early and the children and I loaded into my Dad's giant truck. He does not drive like he is playing bumper cars. We drove down and made it through Monticello and into Cortez, Colorado, that night. We checked into a hotel and drove the short distance to the Mesa Verde National Park. The park is huge and only two of the many mesas are open to the public. One of those mesas, unfortunately, was not to be open for the season until three days later. When I return in 15 years I will make sure that I'm there after Memorial Day! We made it from the opening gate to the visitor center with approximately two minutes to spare, minutes in which I ran full speed to get to the door before they locked it and we couldn't buy tour tickets. I just made it.
We spent several hours doing the cliff top mesa drive and seeing the Sun Palace, pit houses, etc. It was really amazing. That evening we went to a brewery for dinner. I couldn't bring Brad home any beer because taking alcohol across state lines is considered bootlegging. (I asked.)
The next morning we got up early and headed back into the park. We visited the museum, a few more pit houses, and went on a tour of Cliff Palace. This was easy to do with the children, although Madeline had a tantrum that she didn't get to lead the group and also couldn't talk the whole time and interrupt the ranger. Travis had to have his hand held the whole time so he wouldn't throw rocks over the edge of the cliffs onto who-knows-what below. The building was amazing and the kids settled down and enjoyed it.
We had an hour approximately until the tour of Balcony House. By this time I realized I didn't have sunscreen for my lips which were becoming severely dry, even with the half case of water we had already drunk. I had packed a loaf of bread with peanut butter and honey for sandwiches and the air was so dry that it pulled the moisture out of the bread once you took it out of the bag, making your sandwich stale before you had finished eating it. My lips got progressively worse over the next day (even with buying lip balm with sunscreen that evening) and I ended up with cracked bloody lips that looked like I had taken accutane. Ouch! The little bit of sunscreen I got on my shoulders didn't bother me at all and I kept the kids in sunscreen and light layers and hats.
Balcony House, also amazing, was probably really inappropriate for children as young as Madeline and Travis. I misread the tour description and didn't realize that 1) The 30 foot ladder is not flush against the wall. This means a child could fall through the steps and has to be held around the waist during the climb to prevent this. 2) A tunnel is different than a standing tunnel. It means hands-and-knees crawling, with a WTF rock in the middle that you have to climb over. And people will take pictures of the butts of the people in front of them, and probably took a picture of mine. Nice! 3) A series of 2 ladders and cliff-carved steps means an OMG we're all going to die diagonal crawl up dangerous ladders and carved out cliff steps with a piece of wire mesh that might hold you if you slip.
I was scared for me... more scared that something would happen to one of the kids and I would have to explain why I thought it was a good idea to bring them on this trip. Plus the whole losing a child thing that one doesn't even want to think about.
Whew! Glad we made it through that!
After Mesa Verde, we drove back up to Moab, Utah. We picked a hokey little hotel on the side of the road purely because of the waterslide. I will never go there again because of the dirtiness of the pool and I really can't discuss the awful parents that were sending the tiny, tiny toddlers down the waterslide head first. Really, my heart was just pounding.
That early afternoon we drove into Arches National Park and drove all the way to the end. The scenery is, of course, amazing. We stopped at each point of interest and walked to the arches. Dad did great with his knee and the kidlets really enjoyed it. It was a very accessible park but lots to do as well that we didn't because the kidlets couldn't hike too much. Just lovely.
The next morning we drove over to Canyonlands Island in the Sky National Park. Canyonlands is so huge it is divided into three sections because of the rivers and it isn't feasible to see them all in the same day. Next year, perhaps, I would like to get over into the Needles, or into the Maze. Maybe the year after. Dad says it looks very similar to the Grand Canyon.
We did a short hike at Canyonlands out to the salt crater and I had a tight grip on the kidlets because of the wind. Again, was worried about losing one of them!
After Canyonlands (much less developed than Arches) we drove over to the Dead Horse State Park. This little mesa tip was being used to film an alien movie with Willem Dafoe, although we saw no one famous. I had internet service out there so I was able to see who was in it. Had it been someone gorgeous I would have had my Dad drop me off so I could stay there all day.
The Dead Horse State Park view was incredible. Incredible. Really high. Really windy. Really dangerous. My Dad told me that a "friend of his had his Dad blow off her a few years back." We could see the fertilizer harvest fields in the distance, a bright blue that looks just like miracle grow.
We drove back up into Utah Valley and recuperated. I think it was Friday evening when we got back? The next few days were a blur. I saw most of my brothers, the cousins played together, and I ate too much food. I took the kidlets on a hike up to Timpanogos Falls on the East side of the mountain and we enjoyed the view. We went on a drive-around tour of my Dad's work so he could point out the new buildings. Mom and Dad and I and another brother and kidlets went out to Saratoga Springs to practice target shooting.
On Tuesday I took kidlets to the Timpanogos Cave National Park up American Fork Canyon. The hike was a tough one and Victoria bought a patch that says "I survived the hike!" The cave was really beautiful inside and the kidlets really enjoyed it too. All those years living there and I had never done it. Going down was way easier than going up.
Wednesday we did some laundry and then piled in the car and drove back to Boise. Same hotel, same restaurant, same pool that Travis refused to get out. Thursday morning we drove into Kennewick, Washington, which is the Tri-Cities area. We went to Richland and went to the Columbia River Museum. It was a really interesting museum about the Hanford reactor and also a big room that was like a science fair, except everything worked and there wasn't a crowd. The children loved it.
Brad drove over from Seattle that night and there was much happiness from the children who had missed their Daddy very much.
We drove back to the Kennewick hotel, swam, and went to bed. The next three days were a blur of swimming, chatting with friends, headstands in the park, waiting for a long time at the restaurant, and more chatting with friends and swimming.
Sunday morning Brad took Madeline and Travis back to Seattle, arriving at 3 p.m. (I think). I stayed with Victoria through the swim meet at 6:30 and drove back, arriving at around 10:30 p.m. The worst weather of the entire trip was coming down Snoqualmie Pass in pouring rain, in the dark, with everyone going 70 but you couldn't slow down because you knew you would get rear-ended if you did because everyone usually goes 90.
Fun trip - looking forward to next year!
Victoria did awesome in the swim meet, too. She got two Silver Times and is very excited about that!