My mom and dad are hopeless romantics. For their 20th wedding anniversary they decided to take their 4 children on a whirlwind 2 week trip out West, staying in cheap hotels and national park campgrounds. It was fun for us kids, and we’ll always remember visiting Garden of the Gods, Buena Vista (CO), the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, Bryce National Park, and countless restaurant bathrooms.
Mom and Dad planned for months, buying tickets, booking hotel rooms and campsites. Mom bought enough duffle bags to take an orphanage with us (my 7-yr-old sister, fit in one.) After flying into Denver, we stuffed bags full of tents, sleeping bags, and mom knows what else, into the rental car.
On Monday morning we geared-up to go white water rafting. The company was one of the last open because during September the water is getting too shallow. We had a gentle ride, having to push off rocks once in a while. In all truth, the bus ride down crazy switchback dirt roads to the river seemed more dangerous. Then we piled in the van again, stopping at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, a steep narrow canyon, on the way to Montrose.
Mom read to us as we drove on to Mesa Verde. Being the homeschool mom that she is, she, of course, packed a history book on the Native American peoples of Mesa Verde. We camped at Mesa Verde for two days and visited the cliff dwellings Balcony House, Cliff Palace and Spruce Tree House. The first two had a guided tour, but the last had a ranger who told funny stories about her old Indian friend.
We drove on to Lake Powell, going through Monument Valley. “It’s in the middle of nowhere,” Dad said, “and yet somehow it manages to be in all the movies with people driving in a desert.” The next day we jumped off cliffs into Lake Powell, a dammed up canyon.
Saturday we drove on to the Grand Canyon, North Rim. Dad and I woke up early Sunday morning and took photos of the rosy sunrise. Later we hiked a bit down a side canyon, avoiding the insane jogger, who had started early that morning from the South Rim and was already running back. (We were told this by two guys who were doing the same, rim to rim to rim, but in about 2 -3 days.)
We drove to Zion National Park, my favorite part of our trip. Monday we walked up the Narrows, a large slot canyon with a river running through the bottom. We hiked about halfway up and then turned up a side canyon where we met a nice family and helped them get their bags down from an overhang. They told us they lived nearby and did a trip of it about once a year.
The last major park we visited was Bryce Canyon, a fascinating park filled with strange rocks called Hoodoos, created by extreme temperature changes. There we met some very friendly beggars, including a couple of ravens, who would pose for photos, and a chipmunk who would sit on the bench next to you looking for handouts.
After that we took a couple days to drive back to Denver, stopping at a little mountain town. The last thing of interest we saw before heading home was a cowboy. We had to stop the car because he was herding his cattle across the roads, on a horse with about four mutts following. He was wearing a baseball cap, and dad said he was “All cattle, no hat.”
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