In 2015 and 2016, Scott and Kerri & Family planned the first of many National Park trips. In 2016, park access was free for all 4th graders, so Jake paid our way into the parks and we all started a family addiction to visiting US National Parks. Shortly after that we created a family goal to hit all the National Parks in the Contiguous United States before the kids finished School. (Hawaii & Alaska & Other Island parks are best left for the grown ups - and get much more expensive)
(Petrified Forest, Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, Capital Reef, Canyonlands, Arches, Mesa Verde, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Rocky Mountain)
June 30-July 1 (Petrified National Forest)
We headed off from Washington, IL on Thursday, June 30th and stopped in Erick, OK before heading off the next morning and arriving at Petrified National Forest around 2:00 p.m. We entered the park through the Painted Desert Visitor Center. We hiked the Painted Desert Rim Trail (0.5 miles) and then the Rio Puerco Pueblo Trail (0.3 miles) which led to what was once a 100 room village built and occupied 1250-1400 A.D. We checked out numerous petroglyphs on Newspaper Rock and then hiked the Blue Mesa Trail (0.5 miles) and then visited the Agate Bridge. The highlight of the park was the Crystal Forest Trail (0.75 miles) which snaked through a vast land of fallen petrified trees. We ended our visit at the park on the Giant Logs hike (0.25 miles) around the Rainbow Forest Museum. We continued our journey, stopping in Flagstaff about 8:45 p.m.
We arrived at the Grand Canyon South Rim area and walked around Mathers Point. The view of the Canyon was breathtaking!!! Jake & Charlie climbed on rocks; we watched the squirrels; and we checked out the gift shop and village area. Sunday morning, we caught the 5:00 a.m. shuttle at the Backcountry Informational office destined for our first family backpacking trip. We were surprised by the number of compostable bathrooms available as we descended to the canyon floor along the South Kaibab Trail (7.3 miles). Along the trail, we passed a mule train, spotted a favorite sign “Caution: Down is Optional; Up is Mandatory”, and passed through a tunnel and across a bridge over the Colorado River. We arrived at the bottom of the canyon around 11:00 a.m., set up camp at Phantom Ranch campground, and spent most of the afternoon playing in the creek. We caught the ranger program on scorpions before heading to bed early that night. We learned quickly that we had overpacked. There was no need for sleeping bags as it was midnight before it seemed to cool off enough to fall asleep.
The next morning we hiked along Clear Creek (2 miles), but we had some unhappy campers, so we returned early and enjoyed some lemonade and cairn (rock structure) building in the creek before trying out a little fishing in the Colorado River (no luck). We spotted several lizards and deer, and Shelby spent some time hanging out with the mules. The temperature gauge at the bottom of the canyon read over 100 degrees!!!
We awoke Monday morning about 3:30 a.m. to pack up camp and begin hiking the Bright Angel Trail (9.6 total miles) back out of the canyon. We were off to a rough start when barely into our hike, Charlie’s major bloody nose hit. It didn’t delay us too long, as we arrived at Indian Garden Campground around 8:00 a.m. Funny thing...we had stopped for a water/snack break a few hundred feet before the campground thinking we were only about half way there. What a nice surprise!!! We spent the day hanging out around the campground and building boats to race down the creek.
Tuesday morning we got another early start and hit the trail about 3:45 a.m. We had to take quite a bit of weight out of the boys’ backpacks and move it into ours, so we regularly had to slow them down :). We made good time though and arrived at the trailhead by 7:45 a.m. We left the Grand Canyon to meet up with Grandpa, Nana, Gamma & Grant at Ruby’s Inn outside of Bryce Canyon around 4:00 that afternoon for a few nights in luxury.
July 7 (Zion National Park)
We drove to Zion and took a short hike to Weeping Rock (0.5 mile) and explored the creek below the bridge. Our next hike was along Riverside Walk (2.2 miles). Reese & Mom hopped off the trolley for a short hike (0.5 mile) and met up with the rest of the group for lunch at the lodge. We ended our visit to Zion with a hike to Lower Emerald Pool (1.2 miles) and some more time playing in the creek before heading back to the lodge to find Grandpa & Nana enjoying some ice cream in the rocking chairs on the front deck. We left the park and stopped by the rock shop and Adobe Cafe for dinner on our way back to the hotel.
July 8-9 (Bryce Canyon National Park)
We kicked off our day at Bryce driving to Sunset Point for a beautiful view of the Hoodoos, and an amazing hike to Inspiration Point (0.5 miles) and then enjoyed breakfast at the Lodge. We checked out Rainbow Point (Elev. 9115) and visited Swamp Canyon and Natural Bridge. We then left the park to visit the Mossy Cave and Waterfall (1.0 miles). We caught a ranger geology talk where Grant was chosen to take part in the program. It was then time to finally “Hike the Hoodoos” and we started our journey on the Navajo Loop & Queens Garden (3.4 miles). This is where Grant first doubted his choice to join the Borlins on a hiking adventure as “his calves were burning.” We then drove to Cannonville where we checked in for pre-race registration and enjoyed a spaghetti dinner before heading back to Ruby Inn to enjoy the rodeo (except Dad & Reese who decided to rest for their half marathon the next day). The kids even got to participate in an attempt to grab the flag off a calf’s tail. I’m afraid we did not end up with any rodeo stars.
Friday morning Reese & Dad awoke at 4:00 a.m. to head to the start line for the ½ marathon. Mom, Shelby, Jake, Charlie & Grant ran in the 5k race. Reese ended up 3rd in his age group for the ½ marathon and came home with a plaque. We decided to do some adventuring that day and first drove to Kodachrome Basin State Park where Gamma had us all pose for a picture on a rock. It wasn’t until after the picture that we spotted the rattlesnake hiding in the crevice where we had been sitting near Chimney Rock. We stopped for a little rock hunting along the road and then brought a Subway picnic lunch to Tropic Reservoir. Lots of fishing….Not a lot of catching. We returned for a little swimming and laundry at the hotel before dinner at Tropic Pizza.
Sunday morning we left Ruby’s Inn headed for Capitol Reef National Park. We stopped in at the visitor’s center before heading to pick your own apricots in Fruita (Reese was in heaven). We drove the scenic drive and continued through Capital Gorge dirt road in the bottom of the canyon. On 24 East we stopped to view the petroglyphs and then hike to Hickman Bridge (2.0 miles). The kids participated in the Junior geologist ranger program; we checked out the Giffor Farmhouse, and then walked the short trail to Panorama Point (0.25 miles). We ended our day with dinner at the Broken Spur hotel and a bit of swimming.
July 11-13 (Canyonlands & Arches National Park)
Nana, Grandpa, Gamma, and Grant left early to catch their flight out of Las Vegas. We then headed on to Canyonlands to visit the Island in the Sky District. We hiked to Mesa Arch (0.5 miles) and the Grand View Point Overlook (2.0 miles). Our last stop was Upheaval Dome (believed to be created by a meteorite impact) where we hiked to the second lookout (1.8 miles).
After leaving Canyonlands, we stopped for dinner in Moab and then drove to Devil’s Garden Campground in Arches National Park to set up camp before exploring around our tent site. The next morning we hiked the Devil’s Garden Trail (including all spurs for a total of 7.2 miles). We followed cairns and primitive trails as they led us to the Landscape Arch, Double O Arch, and numerous other natural arches. We decided to return to Moab for frozen yogurt at Yeti’s and a bit of shopping. We made foil packs and chicken for dinner and ended the day with one more hike to the Broken and Tapestry Arches (1.5 miles) near our campsite.
The next morning we hiked to Sand Dune Arch (0.3 mile) before joining the 3-½ hour Fiery Furnace tour (a bit slow for our taste). We spent the rest of the morning checking out Double Arch (0.5 miles) and Windows and Turret Arches (1.0 mile). We opted for a return trip to Moab for smoothies, soda, and a trip to the rock shop before heading off on a side rip to Dead Horse Point State Park and a little rock hunting along routes 191/313. That evening we returned to Arches for a hike to the famous Delicate Arch and petroglyphs (3.1 miles) and tried to avoid the annoying tourists. We took one last hike to Skyline Arch (0.4 mile) before to our campsite for pie dyes (using up the last of the Capitol Reef apricots).
July 14 (Mesa Verde National Park)
We left Arches early the next morning to head to Mesa Verde National Park. We hiked to Petroglyph Point (3 miles) before our Balcony House Tour (0.25 mile). We ate dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Cortez before heading to our hotel where Mom did some laundry while the rest of the family checked out the giant hot tub.
July 15 (Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park)
Friday morning we drove to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park where we took the Painted Wall and Warner Point Hikes (0.67/1.5 miles). We left the park to spend the night in a “yucky” hotel where we were quite certain drug deals were happening around us. We departed early the next morning.
July 16-17 (Glenwood Springs & Rafting)
We arrived in Glenwood Springs that afternoon and checked into our campsite and Canyon Resort. We hunted for rocks in the Colorado River and fished where No Name Creek joined the river. While Shelby read her book the boys spend some time building tomahawks in the creek. The next morning we packed up our tent and headed off to our first family white water rafting trip on the Colorado River. It was pretty awesome. As we headed for Hot Sulphur Springs, we made a stop in the valley to hunt for rocks before arriving at the Canyon Motel where we cooked noodles and fished in the Colorado River.
July 18-22 (Rocky Mountain National Park)
The next day was spent at Rocky Mountain National Park where we picked up our backcountry permit at the visitor center and drove the Trail Ridge Road to Alpine Visitor Center. Along the way we saw a moose and her baby near the road. On our way back to the motel, we stopped at Granby Lake to fish and explore (while Shelby read on a rock again). Reese couldn’t get enough fishing in so we stopped back at the Colorado River again where he caught 3 trout and we attempted a sketchy crossing and a rather quickly moving river. We ended the night at dinner in Granby before fine-tuning our packing for our backpack trip the next day.
Our second family backpacking trip began on Tuesday at Timber Lake Trailhead. Imagine the shock when we almost immediately crossed paths with a huge herd of elk standing only ten feet from the trail. The bypass trail made the hike a bit more difficult with its steep-grade ups and downs, but we eventually arrived at Rockslide campsite (5.0 miles)—our home base for the next two nights. Of course, we couldn't end the day without checking out the lake for which our trail was named (twice - 2.0 miles), besides we hadn't even had lunch yet, and the rocks at the lake were a great place for that. We even managed to catch sight of two bull moose. We played some cards in the tent, and called it a night.
After an interesting night (moose stepping on the tent stake), we woke up late and enjoyed a slow morning. We had the goal of reaching the peak of Mount Ida, seemingly “right up there.” We geared up, and started to climb, only to find that the real peak was farther up. Trudging off trail, we reached the point we assumed to be the peak, learning that it, in fact, was not. Another arduous, rocky climb brought us to Mount Ida, where we shared the summit with some other hikers and took some family pictures. We started back down the trail, when Jake let out a high pitched squeal. A protective mother mountain grouse was unhappy with Jake, and was flapping and flying at the frightened boy. We all laughed at him. Continuing the off trail descent back to the camp brought us through many calm, wooded glens, one of which was home to a moose and baby moose. Eventually, we found our way back to Timber Lake and to our camp (4.0 miles). Clouds were rolling in at an alarming rate, and we rushed to make and eat dinner before taking shelter. A night of storms and hail covered ground ensued, but the tent held up well.
Thursday morning, we packed up our wet tent and gear and hiked out past two moose on our way out to the trailhead (5.0 miles). We unloaded our gear and hopped in the van before driving back along Trail Ridge Road. We stopped at the Alluvial Fan before heading to Beaver Meadows Visitor Center. We ate lunch at the Egg & I in Estes Park and checked into Nicky’s Resort where we hung up our wet gear. We spent the rest of the day shopping at Estes park and had dinner at Maria Rose’s. Reese and Jake took advantage of the river running through our resort and did a little fishing before we enjoyed well-deserved showers and beds.
Friday we returned to Rocky Mountain and took the shuttle to Bear Lake where we hiked to Nymph, Dream, and Emerald Lakes and then around Bear Lake. We went back to Estes Park for lunch and last minute shopping where we ran into Mom’s old engineering buddy, Greg Berry. We stopped at a creek along route 34 to rock hunt before heading to Amy Schaidle’s house (mom’s cousin) for dinner. We left that night around 7:00 p.m. and stopped at a hotel in Kearney before finishing the drive home the next day. It was an amazing trip! We are hooked!