On the Road: A Grand time
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado
I am a bad parent. Or at least that’s how I feel when we pull our kids out of school to take offseason vacations, as we did last week.
In a last-ditch November hunt for warm weather, we took the kids to southern Arizona, where we walked in our shorts and T-shirts among the giant cacti and savored the mild desert evenings.
Of course, it’s a long way to southern Arizona from these parts, and it was practically obligatory to stop at the Grand Canyon along the way. Visiting the big ditch added several hours of driving, and we only had about 24 hours there, but the kids were duly impressed and it made for some fine family moments.
First, there was the mandatory sunset hike along the canyon rim, which involved a 20-minute walk from the campground just to reach the first overlook, and then more walking to visit a couple of viewpoints. It was a textbook example of the Hyperactive Dad rallying his reluctant troops ” three weary foot-soldiers aged 6, 8 and 10 years, and one midget in the infant backpack ” for a mission that only the Dad could understand.
There’s a reason they call it the Grand Canyon, however, and all three hikers were visibly thrilled at their first glimpse of the 10-mile-wide gorge (the gabbling midget, not so much). Two of the three actually ran out to the farthest overhanging rock to peer over the edge, which practically made the Hyperactive Dad soil his blue jeans.
In the end, of course, the soldiers persevered and even loved it. And when they returned to camp, tired and hungry after 90 minutes of walking, Mom ” who had taken a quiet jog by herself ” was ready to serve piping-hot pasta. Perfect.
The next morning, at the urging of my highly motivated 10-year-old, two of us rose before dawn and caught a National Park Service shuttle to a trailhead recommended for sunrise viewing. We began our descent as the eastern sky was just turning a powder blue, and were some 1,000 feet below the rim when the first rays of light hit the highest rocky strata. It’s impossible not to be excited by the sight of the sun rising in the east, the moon descending in the west, and the rays of light creeping down the canyon walls, illuminating layer after layer of ancient rock.
The two of us were all alone on a rocky promontory to watch the show. Which, I guess, is precisely why we pull the kids out of school to visit such places.
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A driver looking to squeeze one last four-wheel drive up Aspen Mountain discovered that it’s not the ascent but the descent that poses a challenge.