Before he disappeared James and I had just chatted about how the condo/cabin rental is such a big part of our camping and road tripping experiences. We LOVE hiking and adventuring with our kids, but we also love coming back to a solid structure in the afternoons or evenings, with walls and doors and separation and SPACE for everyone. Everyone sleeps, everyone can spread out, we have a washer and dryer and full kitchen- it makes everything so easy. I grew up trailer camping and it was awesome and maybe we'll rent on one day for a particular road trip, but for us, the combo of hiking in the wild and nesting in the comforts of an effortless temporary home is absolutely perfect.
Today was our bonus Moab day. When I first planned this road trip we were going to continue on to Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon National Parks from here, and while a part of me is still a little sad we're not, we decided we didn't want to push ourselves too hard. Cora is only 2 and still naps (though you wouldn't know because she's skipped hers for the last 4 days; she's a trooper, but we finally made today's nap a priority... by only putting her down 4 hours late instead of not even trying) and by the time we got to Bryce we would have been about 17 hours from home- it was just a bit too much.
So instead we added this extra day in fabulous Moab and now I'm so glad we did. It took the pressure off our one day in Arches- there's so much to see and if you want to bang it out through heavy reliance on viewpoints I think it's no problem to do it in one. But we're hikers and climbers and off-trail adventurers. We have to touch everything, climb on every rock, explore every cave... a 1/2 mile hike is easily a 2 hour intense climbing experience and that's the way we love it. It was wonderful to drive out on Tuesday having thoroughly exhausted ourselves and know we had another day to come back and wrap up a few short hikes we couldn't manage at the end of the first round.
So we slept in and leisurely headed to Arches, arriving about 10:30 and stopping immediately at the visitor's center so the kids could turn in their junior ranger packets for both Arches and Canyonlands. (We had a small cheating scandal when I opened Claire's and noticed Landon's hand-writing all over it, so she had to redo once it was made clear she did not help at all and instead handed it to Landon and told him to fill it out for her.) But her packet was now done, under her own power and with her own hand, and she very proudly turned it in and answered her questions with the park ranger.
They took their pledge as Junior Rangers to "promise to teach others about what I learned today, explore other parks and historic sites, and help preserve and protect these places so future generations can enjoy them" and received their two badges. It's possible I teared up a little. Maybe. I just really love National Parks you guys.
That important task complete, we drove straight to Double Arch and the North and South Windows. We admired what we could of the Windows from the parking lot and then headed out to Double Arch, the one I REALLY wanted to see on Tuesday but just couldn't get anyone else excited about (to be fair, given how sore I was yesterday, they had the better idea of calling it a day). And it was maybe my favorite spot of our whole trip.
It helped that our weather was perfection. 50-something degrees, which is basically 90 in non-high-dessert weather, and impossible sapphire blue skies. Combined with two arches you're actually allowed to climb on? It was a perfect last hurrah at Arches.
Cora flatly refused the backpack and since the path was flat and only a quarter mile long, we let her loose and just tried to keep up.
We reached the Double Arch and she turned into a mountain goat and INSISTED on climbing up EVERYTHING. She developed her own fan club, with people cheering her on and marveling at her... persistence? fearlessness? overwhelming confidence in the face of gravity, adversity, and two parents saying "NO."?
We got to climb into one of the arches and again, scale is lost, but man it was so gorgeous and so fun.
What a spectacular place.
When we finally emerged from the arches, we walked along the sloped rock to a cave right next to the double arches. James and Landon had to climb that, while I kept Cora from jumping off the edges and Claire flitted in between the two of us. The boys finally came down and we had to walk (crawl/climb) around the corner just to see the other cave "real quick" and then it was so big and tall and climbable we bribed Cora with m&m's to get back in her pack and had to explore every inch.
It was so cool.
We came across another group of hikers who'd been at the Double Arches with us and they laughed to see Cora in her pack and said that must be a relief, though they noted they'd never seen a more sure-footed toddler, or a more terrifyingly confident one. Word.
We made it to the top of the cave and then climbed out onto a ledge to sit while the kids played "house" in a sub-cave behind us.
We finally made it down, sliding a good part of the way because whoah that was steep, and got back on the trail.
And that's why a half-mile round trip hike takes us more than two hours.
We drove out, saying goodbye to the ridiculous views that surround you out every window and ate a late lunch at the Moab Brewery (same place as dinner; I wanted more fries and nachos) and then did some shopping, picking up t-shirts and ice cream and secret Easter basket presents. James spied an antique shop (ugh, but he adores them) and I was able to use Cora's very needed nap to deter him, not to mention the idea of Cora in an antique shop is terrifying enough to send us back to our car. We put her down for a very late but at least existent nap, did some laundry, some packing and lounging/sleeping, and then decided to make dinner and go stargazing back out at Arches.
It was a perfect closing chapter- the kids clad in their pj's, winding up empty roads in pitch black when they should be in bed, getting out near the Garden of Eden to watch the sky turn on. Claire and Landon insist they counted over 500 stars each and that's entirely possible given how many were filling up the sky, just unlikely given their attention span and the fact they were counting silently in their heads.
[imagine a picture of a night sky filled with stars that I'm not skilled enough to take]
We leave in the morning, headed for Mesa Verde National Park and Durango. Moab has been incredible. We plan to come back when the kids are a little older so we can do a few activities we couldn't this time- Jeep tours, the Fiery Furnace ranger-led hike at Arches, and The Needles at Canyonlands. There's so much to see in this country and the world- I've seen a lot and plan to see a whole lot more, but this otherworldly place will always remain a favorite. What an extraordinary few days it has been getting to know it for the first time.