All 8 Of Us Tear Through the Southwest - My Family Travels

"Now these are called 'hoodoos'," calls the guide of our horse-back tour of Bryce Canyon in Utah.  "Hoodoos" are tall stacks of rock that have been formed through ice-wedging, something my family and I had never heard of before our road trip to the Southwest region of the United States.  My family consists of 8 people, 2 parents, 2 boys, and 4 girls.  When we go on vacation we all pile into our giant green Yukon XL and hit the road.  Each of our road trips is packed with sibling squabbles and fantastic times, and this trip was no exception.  

In the spring of 2008, my eldest brother was graduating from high school so over spring break we took our last full family vacation.  We decided to visit the Grand Canyon, camping in the national park for a couple nights, then driving up through Utah on the way home.  We drove several days from Saint Paul, MN to the Grand Canyon; a time that seemed interminable with all 8 of us crammed into a car.  Somehow though, the cramped conditions not only caused irritation and fighting, but incredibly funny and memorable conversations, some of which we still discuss 4 years later (think of 3 younger siblings in the back row singing about their stuffed animals).  We loved the Grand Canyon, we explored as much as we could and learned all about the geology and history of the Canyon, while my sister ran around shouting about how we were all about to go over the edge.  However, our favorite part of the trip came after we left the Canyon. 

After leaving the Canyon we visited Zion National Park, Arches National Park, and Bryce Canyon.  Bryce Canyon (the one made of hoodoos!) looked like something from a different planet.  We went on a horse-back ride through the Canyon (which was amazing because that is the same canyon Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid used as their hideout!).  Arches was stunning as well, with the sun staining the rocks a deep blood red.  However, our favorite canyon was Zion.  Zion isn't so much a canyon as a series of mountains and hills that surround a low forest and river.  Zion was incredibly beautiful; a kind of beautiful that is utterly majestic and indescribable.  We absolutely loved every place we visited, especially Zion. 

A little more tricky was the lodging.  This trip was in March.  We were camping in March in the Grand Canyon.  There was still snow!  It was FREEZING both nights we stayed there!  We all snuggled together in our enormous tent, trying to stay warm.  On the way to and from our trip, we stayed in several hotels. … Several questionable hotels… One hotel was called the "Clarino Hotel" (clearly an old Clarion that had been bought by someone else), but the lights on the name were not working properly so we will forever remember it as the "Clarino Hot".  The Clarino Hot was one of the sketchiest hotels I've ever stayed in.  We were placed in rooms that were very uncomfortable and too small for our large number.  In the morning breakfast was served.  Which was being cooked by the janitors.  I don't know what they thought they were making but I can tell you it for sure was not food.  We got out of there as fast as we could.  Only to stay in a similar hotel in Wyoming on the way home, which gave us plastic wrapped "pastries" as our "complementary continental breakfast".  

This trip was so much fun, it's hard for me to explain how our family dynamic makes any trip one to go down in the memory books.  I know for sure that a few tips I learned on this trip are: 1. Never go camping in March! and 2. Stop for a hotel before you only have a few options left!  

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