It is hard to describe the magnificence of a national park – photos don’t come close. There is a reason a piece of earth has been cordoned off and declared exceptional. Imagine a blazing red sand dusted with the whitest snow, valleys where mountains of rock stretch straight up towards the sky, and waterfalls frozen in time with only cracking icicles hinting at their movement, and you will have an idea of the incredible views we had driving through Arches, Canyon Lands and Zion national parks – sites that easily feature on our list of most phenomenal places to see.
As Shaun so succinctly put, Arches National Park looks as though God has been practicing building castles. There are towers of rock scattered randomly across the plains, and towering arches of rock that defy gravity. By my understanding they should by lying in a neat pile of rubble on the floor.
We hiked with the kids to one of the biggest arches, and it was extraordinary. Through snow for most of the hike, we were then rewarded with a bright red arch of rock that spanned 140 feet.Several arches required walking to from the parking areas, a hike in the children’s case, and this necessitated getting out of a 22 degree car and into -9 degree fresh mountain air. Awesome you might say, well the children thought not! By the end of the day they were fed up, tired, and totally disinterested in our starry-eyed gazing at the rock formations. We ended up running back to the car as the sun was setting and it was nearing -15, carrying the kids on our backs wrapped in our coats so they wouldn’t be mentally scarred from the cold. The last thing we needed was to have them blatantly refuse to go outside the next day!
With a warmer high of -9 the following day, we managed to coax them down to the car with promises of hot chocolate and blankets, promising them they didn’t have to hike that day. On opening the car door, our potatoes that we had in our ‘grocery cupboard’ fell out the car with a very loud crack. We Africans still have to get used to the idea that anything left outside, even in the car, freezes over night! 1 bag of potatoes down, we are now learning. With the kids being thankful that they weren’t left in the car over night, they climbed in hastily and began nestling in for warmth. Being the trustworthy parents that we are, we left the kids to fall asleep in the car (on the way) to Canyon Lands, and let them lie in blissful slumber while we climbed out to take photos and gape at the absolutely astonishing vistas. These views could make you believe you are on another planet – they are eerie, and breathtaking.
Obviously giving the kids a day off worked in our favour. Arriving at Zion National Park the following day, we managed to have the kids sufficiently psyched to attempt another snow hike, this time with more thermals! All was going swimmingly, until we reached this sign…
The picture says it all doesn’t it?! So we followed our eyelash-batting- clan-leader over the no entry sign! This of course was after I had told Lola how naughty the other men were for crossing over it just as we got there – so she blatantly refused, saying we were not allowed. In the mean time Shaun headed off with Lincoln in tow, slipping and sliding with glee, and I carried rule-abiding Lola while almost landing on my rump as we negotiated our way over the treacherous ice, keeping a beady eye upwards to make sure a somewhat large and pointy icicle didn’t come crashing down on top of us! The boys of course didn’t even consider this as an option and had a ball laughing their way underneath the frozen waterfall. Dramatics aside, it was incredible once we were able to continue our hike up the gorge. There was plenty of snow and we were yet again amazed at the hiking ability of our 3 and 4 year old when given half a chance. We have had it proven to us time and again that if you give the rope some slack and put a little faith in them (obviously within reason) they blow you away with their capabilities. Our hike in Zion was no exception.
Back at the ranch (I believe the town we stayed in was called Springdale) we enjoyed a bubbly hot tub experience, while the town folk were getting ready for the evenings Christmas parade. It was shiny in a way that only an American Christmas can be. So with stars in our eyes, and Christmas jingles in our heads, we hit the hay for a much needed nights rest.