Perhaps it’s because the children have taken all of the tech devices in my home leaving me without a place to type. Perhaps it’s that between being an ELearning administrator, new puppy mom, and homemaker my free time is fairly non existent. Maybe it’s just that during this crazy time I’m not quite sure what I want to say. Whatever the reason is…the blog has been quiet lately. In fact, the last time I wrote we had just come home from our trip out West, and I was working my way through the trip one hiking day at a time. And then I stopped short. The other day Sophia mentioned that she was most sad about missing school because she didn’t have a chance to tell all of her friends about hiking in Zion National Park. Because she did it big. And I realized, I didn’t really get to tell my friends about it either. So here we go, friends: Hiking Day 3.
It is a little ironic to me that right before our life came to a halt we went on one of our biggest adventures ever. Before we went on our trip I had never been further west than a college football game at Missouri. We drove to campus, watched the game, and headed home. Other than that trek, my life was contained to the east side of the Mississippi. But once we started camping and exploring our National Parks and National Forests nearby, we got the National Parks bug. We wanted more. The kids each have a dream park they want to experience some day. Nick and I have our plans for how we will adventure somehow around our real lives. And this trip, this grand adventure, finally came to fruition, mostly because my wonderful husband guilt-ed me into booking it. I hesitated and hesitated. Do you remember the old days when you would put off adventures? When you thought it might be nice to just “stay home and get some things done around the house”? Boy, has there been a perspective shift.
But this adventure took us out of comfort, across the country on an airplane, and through Grand Canyon National Park. It took us on 2 incredible day hikes down into the canyon and brought us to our third day of hiking. We had packed up our room at the lodge, loaded up our backpacks with sandwiches, and layered up for what would be a colder day on the trail. We had investigated the more populated South Kaibob Trail and Bright Angel Trail. It was time for us to venture to the end of the shuttle line and hike Hermit’s Ridge. We got up early and loaded up on the shuttle. We were a little cold and it looked like rain was coming. But we aren’t afraid of rain! We had hiked in the rain plenty of times! We had spent hours watching our Demon Deacons win football games in the rain. So we looked around at the nearly empty shuttle and knew we were going to be fine! Those other Grand Canyon visitors just weren’t as tough as we were! And when we arrived at our trail head, and the drizzling rain had started, and the cold morning weather still hung in the air, and the trail was EMPTY, we were fine. Everything was fine.
When we had packed our one suitcase each for this trip we had included cold weather clothes (ish) and a rain jacket for each of us. But the level of rain jacket quality was not even across the board. I had packed my new Pinstripe Bowl jacket (that I love) that is certainly rain-resistant…but not so much rain-PROOF. Our youngest, William, has a great rain coat but it it was a little long and so we subbed it out with his rain-resistant (ish) jacket that didn’t have a hood. Looking back these were rookie mistakes. My husband and oldest son had rain proof jackets. Good ones. Everyone else was somewhere in between. But we could certainly withstand some drizzle.
So then it poured.
We were hiking down a slippery edge of the canyon and it was pouring. The water was puddling up on the trail and making tiny waterfalls along the way. It was also a little cold. Well, a lot cold. Lily started feeling the cold first. Her gloves were not even sort of water proof, and they were soaked. I gave her mine. Grace’s ears were cold (she was wearing a rain hood, but had declared that she didn’t need a winter hat as we packed and so had only brought her unicorn earmuffs. Turns out, unicorn earmuffs don’t work well under a rain hood. And so she was freezing.) I gave her my super-stylish wrap that the family had been teasing me about all week and of course she looked adorable in it. With more than a little whining about who was cold and soaking wet (most of us) we made it just past a mile into the hike when we first stopped to decide if we should turn back.
Lucas HATES starting things and not finishing them. This was the primary factor in the two of us completing a push-up challenge before the trip that culminated in the two of us doing 40 continuous push-ups. At 35 someone had distracted him while counting and he stopped. And then decided he had to start over at 1. If he was going to do a thing, he was going to do it right. So Lucas voted “Keep Going!” Lily voted “Turn Back Now!” We decided to go a little farther but not complete the whole hike. Basically we decided neither of them would be happy. We huddled together in the rain and ate soggy Clif bars from our soggy backpacks. (I started mentally compiling a list of gear to acquire on our next trip to REI. Little did I know that the world was about to close down and that trip would be quite a ways off. Probably saving us thousands of dollars in GoreTex gear, so there’s a silver lining.)
When we turned back we broke into groups for the ascent. Nick had William (because he was going to need to be carried). I walked with Lucas (because he was grouchy) and the girls rain joyously up ahead singing “The Ants Go Marching One-by-One.” Lily had gone from the grumpiest hiker on the trail to later claiming this hike as her favorite of the whole trip. Perspective shift. As we climbed back to the top, the rain turned to snow. We were already soaked so it didn’t save us much, but it was much more pleasant to hike. When we made it up to the gift shop at the start of the trail (we had been the other people on the trail, but the gift shop had some guests) Nick and the kids went in and started ordering hot chocolates and coffees (and one apple cider for Lucas). I was in charge of removing backpacks and outer layers and then the kids lined up in front of the fire.
I try not to complain much about people. I think because my mom always did a good job of pointing out that you never knew what someone else was going through and telling us to give grace when we felt frustrated. I battle with that inner conscience and it probably keeps me out of trouble. But in this instance I will complain for just a moment. Those gift shop shoppers, in their dry, straight-off-the-shuttle clothes, sat right where they were in front of the big fire, glancing up at my soaking wet family with bright red cheeks from the cold, and their shivering little chubby hands holding their drinks only to look mildly annoyed that their silence was broken, without a thought of “perhaps we should move over, offer that mom my spot, or smile at them rather than scowling”. I feel like other hikers would have taken care of each other. But gift shoppers. They just held their ground. Lucas and I took that opportunity to circle the shop and laugh at the books about ways the hikes could have gone worse. That helped.
When the shuttle returned and we climbed on, the snow was really coming down, and we were looking forward to the warm shuttle. The driver told us the air conditioning would remain on to keep the windows from fogging. He also said he was scheduled for a break so it would be a few minutes before we started back toward the visitor center. We laughed because we thought “surely he’s joking.” Oh no. He hopped off the bus and ate a sandwich while we shivered in the back. When we finally made it to the end of the line we were soaked and the visitor’s center was packed. The kids had been completing Junior Ranger workbooks to qualify for their badges, and it required us to watch a movie about the park. Lily, Grace and I were so thoroughly soaked that we decided to run to the car and see if we could find a dry layer of clothing to change into. I may have forgotten where we parked. We wandered the parking lot, shivering and growing more annoyed. Finally one of the girls pointed out something we had walked by early in the morning and got us back on track to our van. We took off our soaked layers. But our luggage was packed up and we had to make due with the clothes in the “sorta dirty” laundry bag. Grace put on pajamas. But we were warm and made it back to the movie just as it started. It was warm and dark in the theater, and I will freely admit I slept through the whole thing.
We then got in line to talk to a Park Ranger and earn badges. I have always thought being a Park Ranger would be an incredible job. I have even suggested it to Sophia as a life path. On that day in Grand Canyon, however, I learned why it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. About every second person in line had a question for the ranger that could have been answered by reading the lists and information they had posted on the wall directly behind them. And then there were the people who were too important to wait in line, so they would stand just behind the person who was actually talking with the ranger and annoying get her attention for something important like “the bathroom is out of toilet paper in the third stall” or (I swear to you) “is there a place to see the canyon near here?” If you walked outside the GRAND Canyon was pretty much all you could see. But yes, thank you for asking. The visitor center was so crowded at this point that we just wanted to get some badges and hop in the van to head for Zion. I was over my human interactions for the day.
When we loaded into the van, after taking off a few more wet layers, Nick and I did what any normal parents would do. We forbid our children from reading during the drive to Zion. We also made them hop out of the van along the side of the road to take a picture by the National Park sign. Because what is being a parent if not embarrassing your children with your enthusiasm for traditions? The landscape outside our windows was nothing like what we had seen before. I tried to take pictures from our moving van as we drove through what looked like another planet. I was overwhelmingly unsuccessful, but I will always remember the beauty of the West.
Our route took us into Zion National Park the back way. There was no gate to go through. It was just suddenly around us, and we were in awe. We were driving by at a crawl exclaiming over and over “Look at this! Look at that! Look!” Finally we had to stop the van and take a few pictures. As we got into the more populated end of the park we continued to be mesmerized by our surroundings. It was dinner time and the crew was hungry so we found a brew house right at the park’s entrance to be our meal location. We ordered more food than humans could need because we were post-hike hungry. By the time we made it to The Driftwood Lodge (right as they were closing the front desk!) we were tired and so excited to explore more of Zion in the morning. But first: sleep! I had booked our rooms long ago, and to be honest I didn’t remember what we would be walking into. Heaven. It was Heaven. We had TWO bedrooms! One with two queen beds and one with a king. Nick and I would have our own room! We could close a door! The kids could spread out to only two in a bed (and one lucky winner on the air mattress on the spacious floor.)
There was a painting of a raccoon on the wall of the room. Lucas looked at me and said “Look, Mom, this room was made for you!” And you know what? He was right. After unloading our bags and setting out hiking clothes we went to sleep with the next day’s adventures dancing in our dreams.