For fall break this year (mid-October), Jared could only take a day off work and we had lots of projects to do around the house and were up to our eyeballs in commitments for work and church and the community. So we toyed with the idea of just staying home and relaxing a bit. But you know what? Staying home is rarely if ever relaxing. And we realized that what we really really needed was some good family time and some time in nature away from it all. So even though packing up the family for a weekend of camping and actually camping is rarely if ever relaxing, we decided to bite the bullet and head off to Arches National Park, one of our bucket-list items that we've been trying to get to forever.
We made it to Moab in great time and started the hunt for free spot in a camp ground. We knew it would be tricky finding a spot (there's only one reserveable campground in the area and it was booked) but with about 25 different BLM campgrounds just outside Arches, we figured we could find something. And we did find something. But it took two hours and felt a little worrisome by the end of the hunt! We ended up driving through this crazy little canyon and through a small river in our mini van to ultimately find a campground with open spots. It was pitch dark as we set up camp and we weren't really sure what sort of a place we'd ended up in. But at that point, any free campsite was a great camp site. When we finally got to sleep, we were awakened repeatedly by some not-too-considerate campers nearby who eventually required a not-too-polite statement from another camper nearby that it was 4am and time to seriously shut up. The kids didn't hear any of it though and slept really well - thank goodness.
Anyway, after a not-too-stellar first night, it was fun to wake up and find that we in a really beautiful place, surrounded by red rock splendor:
All the hassle felt worthwhile when I woke up to the twins' delightful chatter as they helped Jared build a fire and explored the awesome climbing rocks nearby.
Here's the canyon we'd driven through the night before:
And this was right outside our campsite:
We decided to do Delicate Arch as our first hike. Wow, It did not disappoint. We hiked for quite a while and then came around the corner and bam, there it was - this amazing formation we'd all seen in pictures all our lives.
Then we hiked to Landscape Arch - so thin it won't be around a whole lot longer:
And on to Double O Arch: (see that there are two "O's" on top of each other?)
That's Isaac laying down on top of the arch and waving his arms around:
Silas is so sweet to always find me a flower to tuck behind my ear while we're hiking:
The next day, we played around in the canyon near our campsite for a while. Jared and the kids somehow convinced me that this was perfectly safe (It looks like a REALLY deep chasm between the rocks but it's actually only about 8 feet down where they're jumping):
I have to thank Jared for helping me let these kids really develop confidence in their physical abilities. He's always held me back from keeping them from doing things that are somewhat scary but couldn't cause any super serious injury. And as a result, these kids have lots of physical confidence, a good sense of what they can safely do, and they've never experienced anything beyond a scraped knee or elbow due to the fun they have testing and extending their physical possibilities. Isaac broke his arm falling off a chair when he was 18 months old and the twins and Eliza have had stitches resulting from dumb little household accidents. But when it comes to hiking and climbing and playing on playgrounds, we've allowed them to try things that look a little scary through a mom's eyes - and they've been able to really learn about and respect their abilities and limits so they don't generally get hurt.
(For more along these lines, watch this Ted Talk: Five Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kids Do)
Then we did the Park Avenue hike:
And Turret Arch:
And the North and South Windows:
We ended up with some pretty banged-up legs and some very dirty clothes - but what fun we had!
And we ended with the spectacular Double Arch:
These three were excited to complete their "Junior Ranger" booklets, report back to a ranger, and get a badge. Love the Junior Ranger program they have at all the National Parks.
So the trip was a pain. Yep. But staying home is a pain in it's own way. And we built memories and relationships and had such a great time exploring and enjoying the amazing and unique grandeur of Arches.
Here's to family camping trips, with all their challenges and joys!