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The Grand Canyon. One of the most visited parks in America, and the one at the top or more people's list than any other. I was not overly excited. Why? Well, because I knew all that awaited was scenic vistas that had no relation to the human scale. Views that while amazing would not touch the soul like being immersed in a beautiful slot canyon or The Narrows. You see, I had been to Utah last summer, and I was spoiled. That being said, I was excited for the trip. Just more so for the more playful areas to the North of the big ditch.
DAY - 1
We awoke in the middle of the night and began our full day of travel. KC to Denver, Denver to Vegas. Travel went well until we got to Vegas. Laura's overweight bag that I had paid $$$ to get to Vegas was nowhere to be found. So, with nothing to do but wait, we got the rental car and headed to our hotel, the Bellagio. I figured if I had to stay in Vegas I would at leas stay at the one place that interested me...and I got it for $99 a night!
Laura wanted to show Colin (and me) around the city, so we very tiredly went to check out some of the hotels. After a while we decided that it was dinner time...even though it was only 5:00 there! After a nice steak dinner we decided it was time to head back to the hotel and let Colin swim, which was all he wanted to do anyway. Once we got to the pool, I finally felt like we could relax. I swam with Colin a bit while Laura sat and had a drink by the pool. He made a new friend and he played while Laura and I sat poolside. After the pool closed at 8:00 we got some excellent homemade ice cream before heading to the room. We arrived to find out that Laura's bag was on the way. Maybe things were turning around! Once the bag arrived we all crashed ready to hit the road the next day.
DAY - 2
It took a while to get moving, but we finally left the city around 10:00am after a breakfast stop at McDonalds. We arrived at Hoover Dam and watched the film before being turned away because the elevator was having troubles. After viewing the exhibits we returned to discover that we would not be able to tour the power plant because the security system on the elevator was down. Seriously! Maybe things were not going our way? So, we walked around the outside for a while and then hit the road. It is a very impressive structure, but there are so many issues with the Colorado River one has to wonder if it should have ever been built. And why do we have a Bureau of Reclamation? As if we are reclaiming water that was taken from us...how arrogant!
We stopped for a late lunch in Kingman, AZ before continuing our drive towards Flagstaff. As we drove Laura and Colin slept and I enjoyed the transition from desert to the more mountainous terrain around Flagstaff. Without even stopping we hit the road to Sedona. I had heard the road was a very scenic drive and it did not disappoint. After a short ways through a forest with a gradual descent we hit some switchbacks and dropped into a beautiful canyon. Slide Rock State Park is just North of Sedona and this was going to be one of my surprises to Colin. It is supposed to be a great natural place to swim. Unfortunately it closed at 6:00pm. Just after we arrived.
We continued on to Sedona and did some shopping before having dinner. Though we only got to spend a little bit of time there I would love to go back. It is such a beautiful place I can see why it has developed the reputation it has. This place is going back on the list! Maybe this time we can even swim at the State Park. After dinner we headed back to Flagstaff and found out hotel. After a few games of Angry Birds we turned in for the night.
DAY - 3
This was our big day. At last, the Grand Canyon! Ok, so I was a little bit excited. I can say that it was about what I expected, and I still believe that unless you get down in it you are missing it...which I will do when Colin gets older. However, there were times throughout the day where the light was just right and the view held a glimpse of the river, or a particularly winding part of a trail, and I was impressed.
We were originally supposed to leave just after dinner. However, in our true fashion we decided to stay for sunset. I am very glad we did, but with the extra 45 minutes because of the detour it took us 3 hours to drive to Page, AZ...not arriving until 12:30am. I knew this would be the case but was ok with it...that did not change how tired I was. I was amazed at the protests from my two passengers as to the length of the trip...especially considering they didn't have to drive. Oh well, we were all tired!
DAY - 4
Ok, daylight saving time works when everyone follows the rules. You see, Arizona has to be different. So while I thought we were on time for our tour of Antelope Canyon we were actually an hour early. It seems that while Arizona does not participate the Navajo Nation does. Well, we had time for breakfast at McDonalds!
After returning we joined our tour guide Vivianne and some other folks for a four wheel drive ride out to the Canyon Entrance. Given our schedule we opted for an early morning tour. The lighting is better in the afternoon, but with a little help on our camera settings we were able to get some great pictures!
It wasn't really on the schedule but I knew I wanted to see Horseshoe Bend so we did. It was one of my highlights of the trip and I would highly recommend it to anyone in the Page area along with Antelope Canyon.
We didn't get out of Page until close to noon and drove to Navajo National Monument. Around a mile hike takes you to a viewpoint where you can look down on some ancient cliff dwellings. I don't imagine it compares to Mesa Verde, but it was still very cool nonetheless.
We continued on to Monument Valley. This was another one of the highlights of the trip. We mostly just enjoyed the view from the visitor center and surrounding highways. We tried the dirt road but it was very bumpy and we didn't have much time anyway.
We were to stop at Natural Bridges National Monument next, but we realized that it would be closing before we could get there...so we stopped for a steak dinner on the way to Moab. It would have also been nice to see the Southern section of Canyonlands, but I knew we wouldn't have time for that for sure. This is the day we really realized I had packed too much into each day. There is just so much to see in Utah! We arrived in Moab at dusk and settled in for the evening.
DAY - 5
Moab. What an incredible place. A true outdoor playground for just about any activity you can think of. I had arranged a half day rafting trip on the Colorado river. I figured Colin would love it, but turns out he did not. He didn't like the fact that the water was so cold, and that he was not able to help paddle. He determined that canoeing was his preferred means of running a river! Even so, the scenery was amazing and I think we all enjoyed that aspect of it.
Next up was lunch in Moab and then on to Arches National Park. I took them on the hike to Delicate Arch. Granted, this is not an 'easy' hike in the heat of the day. I knew this going in, but the reward is well worth it. I about had a mutiny on my hands going up the trail, but they were troopers and once to the top everyone enjoyed themselves. I learned that hiking was not Laura's thing, but she learned that seeing several overweight people doing it can be very motivating! The trip down was much more enjoyable for everyone. Unfortunately we did not have much time left in the day. Moab, like Sedona, is a place we will have to return to. There is so much to do and see!
Knowing we would not be able to appreciate Canyonlands we opted instead to visit Dead Horse Point State Park. I'm glad we did as we got some of the same incredible views and we can see Canyonlands on our next trip. After a beautiful sunset we headed to Green River. The hotel called just as we were pulling off the highway at 10:00pm and wanted to make sure we still needed our room. Yes! Good to have reservations!!
DAY - 6
This was to be a big driving day. Green River to Springdale with lots in between. We started out on I-70 but quickly turned off heading down Utah 24. We passed the entrance to Goblin Valley State Park but I had decided to skip it as there were more pressing parks to visit. Our first stop was Capitol Reef National Park. We didn't have much time to spare but I feel we got a good overview of the park. I would like to do some more hiking here if I make it back, but we settled for a nice hike down a canyon on the Southern end of the park followed by fresh pie and ice cream!
As we left the park we soon turned South on Utah 12 and were greeted by a surprise none of us were expecting. The road actually goes up and over a small mountain before descending back down towards Bryce Canyon. It was nice to see some green after being in the desert for so many days!
We spent several hours at Bryce Canyon driving from overlook to overlook. Really, the ones to the North are the most enjoyable. I would like to return and take the hike down to the hoodoos as I feel this is the one thing I missed out on there.
Originally we were going to try and work in Cedar Breaks National Monument, but we had used all of our time so we headed down US 89 and Utah 9 to Springdale. It was good to be back in Springdale! I was here last year for a week of Canyoneering and I fell in love with this town. We were even staying in the same hotel in a room just below where I stayed last year.
DAY - 7
This day was devoted to one thing. The Narrows! There are few places I have been in my lifetime more amazing than the Virgin River Narrows. I knew Laura might have some difficulty with the day as it would be a lot of hiking, but I figured she would enjoy the beautiful scenery. I wondered how Colin would do as well, but fully intended to carry him if needed because I knew he would love this place as much as I do.
We ate breakfast at the hotel and headed to Zion Adventure Company to rent a walking stick for Laura. Colin and I were using a set of trekking poles we brought. Once we reached the end of the paved trail I could tell Laura was not looking forward to another hike. We started out and despite my best efforts to help Colin he was determined to do it on his own. Now the narrows consists of hiking along a sandy/rock shore with several back and forth river crossings and the occasional area of hiking up stream in the middle of the river. It is not that bad but it does take some effort and patience. Well, Colin refused to hike around the 'rapids' because it was more fun to hike through them. I was honestly worried about him falling in the current...after all, he is only 5. Once again my boy amazed me because at the end of the day he proudly proclaimed that he had hiked through 23 'rapids'.
We were making really good time, and passing several people. Probably going a bit too fast, but I figured if Colin was keeping up then it must not be too bad. We made it to Orderville Canyon. This junction is 3 miles up from the trailhead. Originally I had intended this to be where Laura and Colin would turn around and I would keep going to the Big Spring. This is the furthest I had been as I had come down Orderville last year and I wanted to hike as far as I was allowed without a permit.
Colin would have none of turning around so Laura agreed to go a little further with him. After about a 1/4 mile they turned back and I continued on. I picked up my pace and walked up river for a half an hour while they were walking back. I made it to within 30 minutes of the Big Spring but ultimately decided to turn around. I had hit a spot that required swimming and I wasn't really in the mood to get soaked. The sun was also getting lower in the sky and the canyon was starting to get dim. The plan had been to meet at the hotel, but I decided to try and catch them before they hit the shuttle bus, only stopping to shoot some video along the way. I averaged 20 minutes per mile on the way out and ended up catching them 1/4 mile from the trailhead.
We cleaned up and met some of my friends for dinner who just happened to be in Springdale for the annual Canyoneering trip.
DAY - 8
The thing about Zion is that while the valley is pretty you really have to get out and be active to see the good stuff. We spent the morning hiking up to the Emerald Pools. Laura and Colin went to middle, but I went alone to the Upper as it was quite a hike. I wanted to see the 275ft rappel out of Heaps Canyon. I also enjoyed showing Colin the 165ft rappel I had done out of Behunin Canyon last year. I had intended to leave some time for Laura to shop in Springdale, so after lunch at the Zion Lodge she headed into town and Colin and I went to play in lower Pine Creek. I had done Pine Creek last year and had since read about some good opportunities for more family friendly swimming in the lower sections. Colin and I had a nice afternoon playing in the water before meeting up with Laura for dinner.
We were originally planning on driving to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and then back to Las Vegas. Before the trip started I knew this was unlikely as it is a very long day. Instead we decided to drive to Cedar Breaks National Monument and then back to Las Vegas. It was nice going up to Cedar Breaks. It is high up in the mountains and it was down right cold. Kind of a nice change after being in the desert heat most of the week.
The drive back to vegas was very scenic as we descended and went through the large Canyon past St. George. We got to our hotel and checked in before going for dinner. After dinner we went back to the strip and saw the fountains at the Bellagio as we had missed them at the beginning of the trip.
DAY - 10
The last day was all about getting home. We returned the rental car after cleaning out all the sand that Colin collected in the back seat and headed to the airport. We had an uneventful trip home and were happy to be back as the week had worn us out!