A family vacation for the ages
Yesterday, I had one of those moments as a parent where I felt that I’d succeeded. They happen every once and again, but this one really seemed to eclipse other memories that I had as a father. It was a perfect day, in practically every aspect, and I couldn’t be more thankful than I am right now.
I haven’t had the opportunity to blog much of late. It seems as though every day has just been go-go-go until I crash. I miss getting over here to post updates about life, and I’d like to make a more concerted effort to do so. I laughed when I saw that the Day 2 coverage of the WSOP Main Event coverage was beginning tonight on ESPN, and still haven’t completed my reflection series. I haven’t blogged about the home game since…well, God knows when. I liked how Traci said “yeah, we’re not important enough for Pablosplace anymore.” In many ways, my heart sank. I just simply wasn’t dedicating the time to it for some reason.
When I’ve been writing, it’s been all about poker. Either news, or high stakes articles, or the WSOP, it’s just been about poker. Today, I want to step away from that, as my family continues to sleep off the exhaustion of a fantastic day. I’m up, and want to spend a few words talking about my vacation with the people I love most, my family.
We left home on Friday to drive to Sedona, AZ which is about an 8 hour trek across mostly desert. I wasn’t sure how the kids were going to hold up being in the van that long, but thanks in part to some CD’s that we burned off of iTunes early in the morning (and by early, Traci and I were up till 2am making them), it passed the time quite well. We arrived in Sedona and basically checked in and slept. The next day, we’d basically check out the resort and get some swimming in. On Sunday, we took a Trolley ride from Uptown Sedona (they have no downtown) into some of the Canyons and learn about some of the history of the city nestled in a beautiful valley. Traci and the kids (and I for that matter) were really taken in by the stunning beauty that was the rock formations and the trees and the way that the light consistently changed the appearance of the valley. To saw that we were awe-struck would be putting it mildly.
On Monday however, we set out to accomplish a feat that we fell short of while we were in Las Vegas as a family. We decided to take the 2 hour drive north and visit the Grand Canyon. CD’s armed and ready, we trudged out of Sedona through a beautiful drive up the mountain, past Slide Rock Park, and into Flagstaff. There, we’d pass by Northern Arizona University and continue northbound through some gorgeous national forest land. The kids saw a few deer in the forest along the way, making for some exciting squeals.
We finally hit the front gates of Grand Canyon National Park at around 10am, and we made our way into the visitor center to check out what the park had in store. Because of Traci’s permanent disability status, we had been given a pass to take the van to any of the stops that shuttles made, allowing us to basically travel the length of the Rim of the canyon. After leaving the visitors center, we made our way through the village and were able to catch the first glimpses of the rim of the Grand Canyon.
Your first impression of the awesomeness that is the Grand Canyon is always unique. Some people will look at it and think “that’s it?” But the majority of the people that view it for the first time have a similar reaction that my kids and Traci did, sheer awe. The word “Whoooooaaaaaa!!!” immediately sprung out of van, as jaws hit the floor basking in the beauty that was one of the most amazing wonders of the world.
We had intended to begin by starting out at Hopi Point, but we never really got that far. We all exited at Maricopa Point and got out the van for our first close up view of the Grand Canyon. It’s so much larger than any photograph can depict, and it’s infinitely more beautiful. We hiked around for a little bit on the trails, before the kids were going to eat someone, so we decided to stop for lunch. Maswik lodge did the trick with a Pizza Parlor for the kids and a wider selection of foods for Traci and me. We stayed in the Pizza parlor and watched the Chinese Little League team crush Canada. Then we headed over to Yavapai Point where we hiked along the rim using the trail, and took in more of the breathtaking views.
The kids (Emma aside) wanted to earn their “Junior Ranger” badges and we headed to the Yavapai Geological Museum for their talk on the Grand Canyon’s geology. It was an interesting discussion on the size of the canyon (measuring roughly 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide, and about 1 mile deep on average. She talked about how the Colorado River had carved what we saw, and a number of other aspects while standing over a model of the Grand Canyon that was about 10 feet long. Everyone seemed to be into it much more than I would’ve anticipated.
After the chat, we hiked back along the rim back to the Visitor Center where we hopped a shuttle back to our van, and headed out for Desert View. It was about a 45 minute drive along a 2 lane highway through some gorgeous forestry on the right, and the Grand Canyon Rim on the left. Most of the rim had an impeded view however due to some of the trees that were on the right. It was impressive to me that from the rim, you really couldn’t see the canyon at all unless you were right on top of it.
Desert View housed a famous Historical Watchtower which had 4 different flights of stairs that I climbed with Kelli, Emma, and Abby all the way to the top. Along the way, the walls were painted with a number of Native American artwork pieces, either hanging or directly on the wall, along with a number of artifacts. From the peak of the tower, you had incredible 180 degree views of the canyon stretching to about Maher point to the east, and along the Colorado River. We trotted back down the tower to a talk that was being conducted at some nearby benches by a seasonal guide, who told us a story about the Spanish Conquistadores and how they first came upon the Canyon in search for the fabled Seven Cities of Cibola. The kids were totally taken in by the story, especially Kelli and Emma who’d heard the stories of Coronado and Cardenas in school this past year, but weren’t able to really connect it to history until this moment.
As the talk concluded, it was sunset, and we watched for a further 15 minutes as the sun tucked itself neatly below the Canyon walls, and drifted out of sight, leaving behind traces of a glow that was nothing short of majestic. It was truly a sight to behold. We left the Grand Canyon saddened that the day was about to come to an end. Though the adventure home, while dark proved to be just as entertaining as the drive up. At one point, I had my first view of a full grown male Elk, standing roughly 5 ½ tall at the shoulder, and weighing likely in the neighborhood of 800lbs. It was nearly as tall as our 7 ½ foot van when you included the head and the antlers, and was just hanging out right next to the highway. I was dumfounded by the size of the animal, as I knew that they were larger deer, but had no clue as to that they were quite that large.
We stopped for dinner on the ride back, and then continued our trip in the dark back to Sedona. Along the way, we say a few deer, some elk, a skunk, some chipmunks, a few rabbits, and a few other things roaming around until we arrived safely back to our room at our resort. It completed a day that I know that none of us will ever forget. Joy was abundant among all of us, and I can’t think of a better way to have a day than one that leaves everyone feeling the way that we felt after witnessing the beauty that we had. I think that at some point in my life, I’d like to go back and either hike down to the bottom of the Canyon or ride down on a mule. Perhaps even go white-water rafting on one of those 3 day adventures (or maybe the 3-week ones. But for now, I can’t say enough how much joy it brought to my heart to have my kids experience the wonders of the Grand Canyon.