A few weeks ago Brian mentioned that we should do a road trip over President's Day weekend. I kept it together pretty well and suggested small stuff so I wouldn't go into my favorite mode - Vacation Planning Mode. But then he suggested Bryce Canyon and I couldn't help it - Yeeeeee! The last time we went there it was 2008 and Bridget was in a backpack! I booked us a room at Ruby's Inn (it's the closest and the only place with a restaurant open in February) and it was so reasonable that I agreed to a horse-drawn sleigh ride too. Why not?
We left on Sunday when Brian got home from after-church stuff and it takes us about 3 1/2 hours to get there. (Crazy, right?) I had packed each of us a snack bag of food that included fruit, sandwich, candy, granola bars. The boys did not ration their food very well (surprise) but it was still fun to have our very own food. It was a fun ride there - kids watching movies and coloring while Brian and I talked. We finally got there at 9:30 Sunday night and the sky was beautiful - the moon was the only thing keeping us from seeing all the stars. Our room had two king-size beds in it and Emil claimed one for him and Daddy while the rest of us got the other one. :)
After an expensive and not-great breakfast, we headed to the visitors center to get our junior ranger workbooks. Thanks to Bridget being a 4th grader we got into the park for FREE! I'm so happy to take advantage of that. (If you have a 4th grader, you need to get a print-out from his or her teacher with the bar code on it. Once you present that paper at any park, they replace it with a card you can use at ANY national park or monument. You can get a car full of people in for free!) The first thing we had to do for the kids' badges was watch a film about Bryce Canyon. It was pretty retro and kinda boring, but wouldn't you know it the kids held still and listened the whole time. What...? Afterward they had to write one thing they remembered from the film and get it signed by a ranger. Check and check. Off to our hike in Queen's Garden, which was listed as the easiest hike - only a mile and a half. (We passed the entrance to the hike and stopped at an overlook to pick up the 10 pieces of trash each of the kids had to get for their badges.)
I asked them to pose like a hoodoo. :) The hike was harder than Brian and I remembered and a little treacherous. The first little bit was narrow and slippery. I thought Bridget was going to start crying she was so worried about the boys. Emil and Colin were all over it, though. Adventure! Go Time!
Emil told us he was the leader. He stomped through all the mud and bossed like a pro.
I was so proud of all the kids. When we got to the Queen, we discovered that the trail didn't loop like we thought and now we had to climb back up the way we came down. Poor Colin had to go potty and we were all tired. They didn't complain, they just turned around and started back up. (Why didn't we just let Colin pee on a hoodoo? Not junior ranger style, guys.)
There was some water dripping down at this opening and Emil tried to catch some. Bridget was just grossed out. One of the junior ranger activities for Emil and Colin was putting our noses on a pine tree and smelling it. :)
Can you beat that view?! This was a tricky part. I pretty much ruined the shoes I was wearing. Brian and I both forgot our hiking boots. He did the hike in cowboy boots - not the slippery kind, thank goodness.
I tried to pull Bridget back into this picture and she freaked out a little. Too close to the edge!! Did I mention she skis down black diamond runs all the time?
Trying to clean off their boots in the snow. So much mud!
After our hike we went back to the visitors center to finish up our junior ranger booklets. Once again, the kids had to earn it. Especially Bridget. That's my favorite thing - they really have to think about the things they saw and it made them keep a lookout for the birds and animals in the pictures. (Btw, the prairie dog is in danger, y'all! I feel bad about laughing about the annual prairie dog shooting contest in Naturita, Colorado, when I was a missionary there.)
We finally finished up the requirements and went to the desk to show the real ranger. He wasn't nearly as strict as they were at Golden Spike (that guy actually sent Bridget back to finish a drawing or a puzzle when our boys were running around the visitors center there like wild animals).
We got the badges and National Park Jenga, then back to the van for snacks before our sleigh ride. (Brian saw a woman go to the desk right after us and tell the ranger she didn't have time to do any of the requirements, but she needed a badge. Ummm. If that was Yellowstone, they would have sent her packing!)
I had many Junior Power Ranger poses from Colin to choose from. He revived the song, too.
The sleigh ride was very cool. Who knew?! It was Bridget and Emil's favorite part. We were in the area near our hotel and most of it was a pine forest.
There was another family on the sleigh with us. That kid next to Emil is wearing pajama bottoms. This is where we stopped for a minute to take in the view.
We were there for less than 24 hours, but what an invigorating trip! We were all so energized (and then exhausted when we finally got in bed last night). What a fun time of life. :)