Sunday, March 13, 2016

Great American National Park Road Trip Spring Break Adventure, Days 1-2

The Great American National Park Road Trip Spring Break Adventure 2016 ("GANPRTSBA 2016") has begun! It really all began last July when I saw a facebook picture of a friend at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah and decided that's where we needed to be. Two days of obsessive research later and we had an itinerary for our Spring Break trip- then, 8 months away, and ironically, no longer including Bryce Canyon (one day!), and I've been counting down the days since.

But first, we're in Denver.

Stop number 1 is my sister and Billy's new house north of Denver, a convenient 12 hours from Fort Worth. It's beautiful and very comfortable and a perfect start to the trip, particularly after we went a full calendar year last year without visiting Colorado, something I hope never happens again (we already have our 2017 Colorado trip planned- a January return to the ski slopes!). It was an easy 12 hour drive. We pack snacks and lunches, get the car loaded up the night before, and fill the kids' backpacks full of surprises (new coloring books, activity books, mad libs, markers, and books- it's like Christmas, only more sedentary) for them to find on their car seats in the morning and we're good to go. We stopped only twice- for gas, fresh water for the water bottles, and a round for all at the questionable gas station bathrooms, and arrived at Val's new house at 6:45 in time for a tour and delicious homemade dinner.

luxury accommodations

This morning we woke up right on time - switching to the Mountain Time Zone the night before daylight savings worked out great, since the switch just took us right back to Central Time - ate breakfast and then headed out to our most beloved hiking and exploring area: the stretch down Highway 6 through Clear Creek Canyon, west of Golden. Absolutely gorgeous and full of wide shoulders just made for you to pull over your car and get out so your kids can climb all over rocks and get their feet wet in freezing melted snow, we have many, many memories on this beautiful road.

Billy brought his gold mining equipment and the kids had a big time learning about panning for gold and using a sluice box.

Landon even has a small vial with gold flakes to take back with him!

Cora decided she is a HIKER and refused any and all direction on where to go and why you should NOT WALK OFF THE EDGE OF THE GIANT ROCK OMG. We put her in the pack almost immediately, for her safety and my blood pressure.

Real hikers wear tutus.

After James and Landon (and Cora!) hiked up a cliff that apparently you're supposed to do with ropes, we continued on to Idaho Springs, on of our favorite little mountain towns, and ate at Tommy Knocker, James's very favorite restaurant. Unfortunately service was kind of terrible, but we ended up with a highly discounted bill and weren't in any rush. Despite just having a giant plate of nachos, cowboy burger, two orders of garlic fries, and a root beer, James thought he needed ice cream and ordered this monstrosity, just to top it all off.

the "triple"

Val and Billy headed back home after lunch and then we meandered our way back, giving in to the call of those wide shoulders and giant rocks that just begged for our car to be parked and our feet to get out and climb. We re-found one of our favorite spots, attempting a 3-kid picture to duplicate this one I love so much from our first trip here in October 2012.

Updated! Same jacket, different kid.


Cora fell asleep in the car on the way back, and because she is a magic third baby, she fell right back asleep for another hour after we transferred her to the pack 'n play when we got home. The big kids went in the hot tub (or hot pool, as Claire calls it) and then, as Val and Billy lay exhausted on the couch, we decided we had time for another adventure before dinner and drove to downtown Golden after Cora woke up. The kids ran amok through the park, two-story slide, and basically all over the downtown sidewalks where they climbed on every statute they could find.

We love Golden.

When not throwing herself down boulders- and actually, while doing that too- Cora has had a BLAST. Anything the kids can do, she can do, and you can hear her mutter under her breath, "I DO it" as she swings her chubby legs up onto the ledges the kids are balancing along. She calls out, "Wait!" as she chugs after them and they get SO excited when she catches up and manages to do whatever they're doing. It's been so fun to see and fulfills exactly what I saw in my head when we decided to have a third baby 3 years ago. Basically everything I wrote here is exactly true- I even called out Colorado and we can pretend like Utah is the Grand Canyon. We have a chubby toddler chasing after a Claire who is chasing after a Landon while James and I follow behind, hand in hand, cracking up and occasionally yelling out, "Careful!"

It's just everything I hoped it would be and so much more, and I love that we're spending this week doing our very favorite thing in the world- driving around with our party pack, looking at spectacular scenery and climbing on stuff. And tomorrow we're off to Moab for a few days of Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Dead Horse Point State Park, and a few National Monuments and a stop in Grand Junction along the way! If you have any favorite hikes or restaurants in any of those places, let me know!


  1. Needles District in Canyonlands. Amazing bouldering and much less crowded than Arches. Have a wonderful trip!

  2. The hike to Delicate Arch is amazing. I think you all could do it, but Cora would need to stay in the backpack for parts of it.