Way Back Wednesday

Back in June of 2005 we took our longest family vacation ever: a two-week camping trip out west.  It was also our biggest family vacation ever.  My niece and mom, as well as almost everyone in Jeff's sizable family went, too.  We had a group of about 20 people travelling in 4 vehicles and pulling 3 pop-up campers (a few of the group stayed in cabins at each campground).  Because my mom and niece rode with us, that meant our minivan was carrying 7 people.  Check out the view of the back.

From l-r: J, N, niece K, D, and my mom's arm
Those kids are now 7, 16, 17, and 18, and the boys can barely get their legs in the back row. 
No way would this trip work now.

Our first stop was Bent's Old Fort in Colorado.  The costumed interpreters gave us a hard time about our modern clothing, and we had a wonderful tour guide.  I could have listened to him the entire day.  The kids...not so much.  It was a great chance to get some history and stretch our legs.
Bent's Old Fort

My sister-in-law planned the trip, booking us at KOAs across Colorado, Utah, and Arizona.  They certainly aren't national park campgrounds, but at least you kind of know what you're getting from them.  Our first camping site was in Alamosa, CO, where we parked our little caravan.

Our camper is the nearest one

We spent a day exploring Great Sand Dunes National Park.  The "tallest dunes in North America" were amazing.  They just went on and on.  We had brought sleds because my SIL had heard of people using them to slide down the dunes.  Ours didn't work so well, which was disappointing, but the kids made do with rolling, diving, and jumping down the dunes. 
Part of the group relazing on the dunes
After spending the better part of the day hiking and climbing on the dunes, we went for a hike to nearby Zapata Falls.  If I remember correctly, the falls were high up and hard to see, but there was a boulder-sized ice cube at the bottom.  We had to hike through some water to get there, and it was cold!
Me and my mom after the hike
We never stayed more than three nights in one place, and often it was just two nights.  That's a lot of moving, and when you're dragging four kids and three adults and managing all that stuff, it can be pretty stressful to get everything packed up.  I felt like people were always waiting on us, and I had a mini-breakdown at Alamosa on the morning we left.  It got better after that.  We were always thinking ahead to what we could do ahead of time so we weren't the last.  Of course, when we were ready ahead of time, we ended up helping other people.  Hmmm.

Our next stop was Cortez, CO and Mesa Verde.  Amazing.  My absolute favorite part of our entire trip.  I could have spent two weeks just there.

In a kiva with the kids

We got to climb up this ladder on one of the cliff dwelling tours!
On our way to Moab, UT and its nearby national parks, we stopped at Four Corners.  You can imagine (and you would be correct!) that there were many times on this trip that we wished we could put each kid in a different state!


We spent three nights in Moab.  I could have spent a lot longer there, especially now that I spend more time on a bike.  Our first day was spent in Arches National Park.  So beautiful.
Our carload.  I love the way that D's head is resting on my shoulder. 
You can imagine that doesn't happen much any more.
Day two was spent exploring Canyonlands National Park. Without looking back at our trip journal, I don't remember which parts we went to, but we had a great time hiking there.  Of course, hiking in a desert area is so different from the hiking we're accustomed to because there's no nice path through the woods.  The kids had a great time spotting the cairns marking the trail.

We made good use of the baby backpack.

There was a huge dropoff behind the rocks behind us.
Next up was Cannondale UT and Bryce Canyon.  Bryce was very cool.  We had a mini-rebellion from N, who did not want to go hiking with us.  There are some very pouty pictures of him from that day.  This was also the day that I fell on the nice, smooth walking path at the rim and managed to scrape myself all up.  I'm the first person to tell my kids, "Get up, you're fine!" when they fall, and I was teary for the rest of the day about falling.  Big baby.

J (right) and his cousin A at Bryce Canyon.  They're almost exactly 2 years apart.

Pouty N hiking among the hoodoos

D was a happier camper
Jeff and some of his family got up early the next morning to go take sunrise pictures at Bryce.  I told them I'd be glad to look at their pictures and slept in.  Somehow, N and K got roped into going and FROZE.

How did we get into this again?
We had considered travelling to Zion National Park while we were at Cannondale, but I was exhausted and voted for a rest day.  I got my way, so we relaxed around the campground and the kids swam the day away.  I do regret that we never made it to Zion, but that just gives us another reason to go back that direction.

Our last stop was the Grand Canyon.  Both Jeff and I had been there in the past and loved it; he's even gotten to hike down and camp at the bottom, while I only went halfway down with friends.  For me, though, it was almost disappointing.  We had seen so many fantastic things and places on the trip that I think it lost a little of its luster.  I'm sure it didn't help that we were just plain travel weary by then as well.  Jeff would be driving through the parks and stopping at each scenic overlook to take pictures.  After a while, the kids and I would just tell him, "It's OK...we can see it from the car."

N. got to celebrate his 11th birthday at the Grand Canyon

We hiked a short way down on the Bright Angel trail

J at the campground in Williams, AZ.
All in all, it was a fantastic trip.  I'd love to go back out there again and spend more time in each place.  Our kids weren't all that into hiking at the time, which made some parts of the vacation a battle of wills, but we all have great memories of it.


  1. Great pictures and even better memories :)

  2. Amazing pics! I got nervous looking at your family near the drop off!


    My favorite is the one of Mesa Verde, very cool!

  4. oh wow! Those pictures were fantastic - I feel a great need to visit there now! The colors alone mesmerize me.

  5. Hey, I've been on that trip, too...maybe I was in the back of your car?!?! I'm sure you wouldn't have even noticed me. Hehe.

    It's been years since we've been to Mesa Verde and every year I say we're going to go and we never make it. In fact, my son was just in my office and we talked about going over spring break...but I kinda want to go to California. Decisions, decision!

  6. Thanks for sharing that trip! I have never been to those parts of our country. I would love a family vacation like that - with extended family - sounds like so much fun!!

  7. Great pics (as always) and it sounds like a great trip in hindsight. I can see how stressful a trip like that would be coordinating all that and taking care of the kids at the same time. Great memories though both for you and your husband (sorry I forgot his name) and the kids. Your kids will remember it forever.

  8. Gotta love the west. I bet your kids look a little different now, eh?

  9. What gorgeous pictures! I have heard if that Great Sand Dunes National Park (did I get that right?) & really want to go!

  10. Awesome pictures! I recognize a few of those places ;-)

    Isn't the west amazing?


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