As I indicated in my first post, a confluence of several factors lead me to take the kids on this trip. Approaching my 50th birthday, I decided on two presents to myself. The first would be a rafting trip with the kids; the second was a trip to Baja in Mexico to see the Gray Whales (something I had had at the top of my bucket list for years). A couple of years before this, the kids & I accompanied close friends on a road trip to Santa Fe and that reminded me of all the summer adventures with my family growing up. Finally, after deciding on the Green River trip, I looked into different ways of getting the three of us to Moab, UT. Crunching the numbers only 2 months post-divorce, driving and camping just made the most sense.
I had already been researching tents and knew what I wanted. So I took advantage of a sale and friends donated their REI dividends. I bought my Kindom 6 and immediately pitched it in my living room (a special decorating look). Avery was VERY excited to go camping; Arielle was skeptical (even though she had camped with the Girl Scouts). Given that this was to be our first epic camping road trip, I decided we would eat grab ‘n go type foods for breakfast and lunch and do dinners out. I simply wasn’t up for the preparation needed to cook dinners at the campsite by myself. We loaded up the car and headed north to our first stop: Palo Duro Canyon State Park.
Our best memory of Palo Duro is the wildlife at the campground. The kids watched fawns up close, several does sauntered through our site and a wild turkey strutted nearby. You just don’t see this kind of stuff in a hotel room!
The next day we drove to Mesa Verde National Park. As we entered Colorado, the rain started. Arielle stressed the entire drive about camping in the rain even though I assured her repeatedly that I had no intention of setting up camp in a torrential downpour. I made good on that promise, opting for the park lodge as we pulled into Mesa Verde with the storm still pounding. On seeing the lodge (a typical National Park lodge in my view), Arielle again freaked out thinking it was horribly rustic. Sigh. Ended up just fine and we had a nice dinner in the restaurant that night.
Everyone thought the ruins were cool. I’m terrified of heights, so I knew I’d have some palpitations going up the 32 foot ladder at Balcony House and even the kids found it scary (they do not usually share my phobia). In spite of that, we learned lots about the ancient Puebloans and thought the entire experience worthwhile. I decided we would revert back to our original plan and camp at Morefield Campground that night. Suddenly, Arielle decided she didn’t feel well. She felt MUCH better, however, on learning that we’d have s’mores for dessert and a cool ranger talk on big cats afterwards.
The ranger talk was indeed interesting. She discussed Mountain Lions and Bobcats. Avery fell asleep in my lap, but Arielle followed it all. At the conclusion of the discussion, Arielle told the ranger that the Mountain Lion’s tail is long (compared to the Bobcat) most likely because they need it for balance in their more mountainous territory. The ranger added that the tail also aids in jumping further, but that Arielle’s idea was a great thought and she was going to use it in her next presentation!
Although I would have loved to visit another cliff dwelling the next day, we decided to sleep in and grab breakfast in Durango before heading into Utah. Sometimes a slow day rejuvenates body and soul. And so we made the fairly short drive to Moab, checked into the hotel and found an incredibly cute place to eat lunch. I researched hotels and restaurants and things to do in Moab. Unfortunately, this is one of the pages somehow lost into the depths of computer-land, so I don’t remember where we stayed or ate, but we all found Moab completely adorable.
That night we had orientation at the office of Sheri Griffith Expeditions. We met the other two families and the guides, got safety information, and received dry bags for our gear. I had packed our river gear into separate bags from the camping stuff, so we just transferred it all into the dry bags and threw our dirty stuff from the previous few nights into the car. I figured I’d do laundry when we got back from the river. We went to sleep excited and a bit nervous. Although we took a day trip on the Rio Grande when we visited Santa Fe, we had never done an overnight rafting trip before and this would be the kids’ first wilderness camping experience as well. Lots of firsts for everyone!
To be continued . . .