Aaron and I met when we were in AmeriCorps*NCCC together. Once we started dating, we were pretty much inseparable and when we had a vacation for Labor Day, Aaron decided to plan a trip.
He planned it all, and I had to solve little riddles to figure out where we were going next. The entire trip was incredible. We were still in that new love stage, where even challenges that come up are just laughable and seem like adventures. Perhaps the only thing I don’t remember fondly is when he dragged me out of bed to see the sunrise over Bryce Canyon. But was it worth it? Yes, yes, it was.
Anyways, the very first park we went to was Arches National Park. We hiked, we camped, we sat out under the stars, we watched the sunrise and the sunset. The second we left, I knew I needed to go back. But, in 9 years, we didn’t.
This spring, Aaron and I started planning the details of our trip to Colorado for Bekah’s run. We both had some vacation days miraculously not used up in the travel for our adoption, so we decided to add a few days on to our Colorado trip. Aaron suggested a Colorado state park, but I requested Arches. The few extra hours of driving? Absolutely worth it.
The kids enjoyed Rocky Mountain National Park last year and we had to get Arches junior ranger books so that they could get their Arches badges as well.
Aaron and I tried to decide the order of the hikes we wanted to do. We had a good idea of the length and difficulty of the hikes from our last trip, but we also wanted to make sure we hit them all at the best time of day.
We started off with a ranger-led hike around the Windows– a set of three large rock formations.
Rangers tend to be excellent at teaching and interacting with kids. It’s a great opportunity to learn about the park from someone who lives there.
As we did the short hike around the Windows, Lena said “it’s so beautiful I could cry”.
After the Windows, we decided to do a harder hike, Delicate Arch. We were all pretty tired from the drive, and the hike involves some elevation gain, including some pretty steep sections. I wasn’t really enjoying it myself, but I had to tell the kids that this was going to be one to remember. Delicate Arch is the poster child for Arches and on every Utah license plate.
The hike is hard overall, but the worst part for me is the last bit where you walk along a ledge, with a rock on one side and a drop off on the other. Note the tiny person in the picture below.
But the view is worth it. There were a ton of people out at Delicate Arch that evening, including two couples from Kiev. Lyuda enjoyed talking to them about her family.
We lingered a bit of sunset, but we didn’t want to hike back in total darkness. We gave ourselves the remainder of daylight for the worst part of the hike and had to pull out flashlights for the rest of it.
It was completely dark and the stars were out by the time we got back to the parking lot. This is Wolfe Ranch, near the trailhead.
We had a campsite with an amazing view, but before I headed to sleep, I had to stay out and capture the stars. I saw a bat and a ringtail while I was out.
There was a thunderstorm in the distance.
I entered this picture in the National Parks photo contest. You can vote for it here.
Aaron got up early for a hike, so I stayed at the campsite while the kids slept. Like I said, the view was awesome. One guy even stopped to tell me that we had the very best campsite (true).
Once Aaron returned, we had to pack up and move our campsite. Aaron spent all summer regularly checking the Arches website to see if we could get campsites within the park, which aren’t easy to come by. He was able to get us campsites for both nights, although not the same one.
We started our day off with some easy hikes and some chose to practice their rock climbing.
The kids loved playing in the sand at Sand Dune Arch.
We decided to head into Moab, the nearby town, to pick up some items and grab lunch. We went to the cutest little restaurant for lunch, Milt’s Stop and Eat. It was an inexpensive burger and fries kind of place, but I loved it because they had a ton of vegetarian options.
As we headed back to the park, it started to rain.
We decided to go back to the campsite for a bit. While everyone else laid down in the tent, Lena and I worked on her junior ranger booklet. She wanted to do it, but needed a bit of extra handholding to get it done.
After the rain let up, we decided to do one of the hardest, longest hikes, the Devil’s Garden loop. Aaron and I had done this hike and all of its little extra loops back in 2007. We were aware of the challenging parts, but also how worthwhile it is.
We brought hiking poles. Why, I don’t understand. They ended up being more of a burden.
That’s always a positive sign when hiking with 4 kids.
We hiked past Landscape Arch, the widest arch in the park. Then we got to this section where you scramble up a steep section of slickrock. I had done this before, remember? But, I was pretty confident I could not do it in that moment. Out of shape, heavy backpack not designed for hiking, four kids… plus my fear of heights. However, I knew what was at the top, so I somehow convinced myself to keep going.
This was at the top– an arch with an incredible view.
We contemplated our options at that point and ultimately decided to go back. It was starting to get late, and our pace with four kids was slow. I take that back– our pace with Gus was slow. The other 3 are excellent hikers, Reed especially.
We had a wonderful time in front of our campfire that night. We roasted hotdogs and make s’mores. We talked about real vs. perceived fear and how to stay safe (one child was afraid of walking to the bathroom). We talked about friendships and how not all are worthwhile. It was a wonderful conversation.
That night was pretty cloudy, so no star photos for me. Aaron was planning to complete the Devil’s Garden loop in the morning, and when he woke up very early to go, I saw that the sky had cleared. I offered a trade– I go out and take some photos and when I got back, he could have all the time he needed for his hike. He agreed.
I went back to the Windows, and while I missed most of the stars, I was able to enjoy the sunrise.
Even though I got back to camp early, all 4 of the kids were up. In our talk the night before, I sensed that Reed had been feeling slightly misplaced since Lyuda came home. Many things that used to be his and Aaron’s, were now his, Lyuda’s and Aaron’s. When Aaron said he was going to ask if any of the kids wanted to go, I suggested that he just invite Reed directly. Reed happily agreed.
I had other plans for my remaining 3 kids. It’s a very different pace without Reed. He keeps us all charging forward, and without him, we’re a little bit slower paced. We found a picnic area. Gus practiced writing his name, and the girls worked on postcards (which I have yet to mail– 6 weeks later).
Then we drove around and saw other sites. We saw Balanced Rock and Panorama Point. We spotted tons of lizards.
We enjoyed our slower paced morning, and then we picked Aaron and Reed up around lunch time. Sadly, this was the end of our Arches adventure. We headed away from the beautiful rocks, back to Colorado for part 2 of our trip.
Stay tuned to read about our time in Colorado!