On the trail: No child left behind | AspenTimes.com

On the trail: No child left behind

Bob Ward
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

The preferred term to describe spring and fall, at least around here, is the catch-all “offseason.” We define our seasons not so much in terms of weather, but in an economic sense: When the tourists are here, and when they aren’t.

Of course there are various ways to look at the seasons. For many, this is “color” season or hunting season. For me this is desert season. It’s still warm in places like Fruita, Moab and points farther south and west, and I’m personally inclined to dress in shorts and T-shirts for as long as I can until it’s time to tune up the skis.

Recently I took a backpacking trip in the canyons of southeastern Utah, where a friend and I explored ancient cliff dwellings. Last weekend, I ducked out for a half-day to ride my mountain bike in Fruita (my riding partner continued west for a week of camping, riding, hiking and exploring – the swine!). This coming weekend, since the wife will be out of town and I’ll be caring for four rambunctious children – who also like to dress in shorts and T-shirts – I’ll likely head west again.

I don’t have a destination yet, but that’s part of the fun. This week, I’ll get out the maps, scope out trails and canyons and hidden nooks that look kid-friendly, activities that aren’t too strenuous but are engaging for little hands, feet and eyes. I’ll cast about in my mind for tips from friends and imagine what it would take to get there, how much time in the car, and how the kids might react. Is there any water? Are there weird formations? Boulders to scramble on? Big views to gaze at?

Wherever we end up, the bugs, lizards, rocks and plants of the desert are sure to entertain the little monkeys while Dad fixes breakfast or dinner. And if it’s cold in the morning or evening, they can wreak havoc in the tent and do no lasting harm. I don’t have to police their activities, because there’s no YouTube and no television commercials, and a limited number of material things for the howling primates to throw around, spill, step on, leave behind and generally make messes with.

No need for a babysitter on a desert-season weekend. Off we go!

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