Sunday, May 26, 2013

Spring Break 2013, Part 4 — Four Corners & Pagosa Springs

From Kayenta, AZ, we headed north.

We stopped at the Four Corners National Monument, the only place in the entire country where four states intersect. 

It was in the middle of nowhere, and was lined with vendor booths, selling Native American jewelry and other handmade items. We passed those up, but took the requisite photos of being in multiple states at one time.

Our drive continued on, across the state line into Colorado. 

Apparently, Coloradans have a different idea of "colorful" than I do!

We stopped for lunch in Durango, CO. We ate at the Diamond Belle Saloon, which was housed in a restored historic building on Main Street. The d├ęcor was very authentic, complete with the waitress in fishnet stockings with a feather in her hair!

Sixty miles east of Durango lies the little town of Pagosa Springs to visit my brother Shepard and his wife Breanne. They've been there the past year, with Shepard practicing dentistry in a small practice in town. 

During our trip, Grant started complaining that his mouth hurt. When I peeked in to take a look, I saw his permanent tooth coming in behind his two front baby teeth...not the ideal placement! 

Since Shepard is now a "real" dentist, we asked him to do the honors!

Dr. DeLong—with his very capable (and wonderful) assistant/wife Breanne—got to work, with Jack observing (Jack had been thinking he might want to be a dentist. That was, until he watched this. When it was over, he started feeling woozy, walked into the door jam, turned completely white, and nearly passed out. It took him 45 minutes to recover.)

Grant was an absolute perfect patient. He held perfectly still, listened to Shepard and was 100% cooperative. It was spectacular!

Here's the new more baby face! 

These were the two teeth. The short one was a little loose, you can see the root was partially resorbed. The one on the right took substantially more effort to get out. Crazy! The tooth fairy brought $'d have thought it was $250 by Grant's reaction!

Pagosa Springs is home to the world’s deepest natural geothermal hot springs. We spent an afternoon soaking in the tubs, ranging from 85 to 110 degrees! It was a little stinky, but incredibly soothing. 

The kids were brave enough to take a chilling dip in the river!

After soaking in one of the hotter tubs (aptly named "The Lobster Pot"), the cool mountain air felt so good and I was perfectly content to lay on a lounge chair and soak up some much needed vitamin D.

The next day, we headed 20 minutes up the road to the snow. We stopped on the way up at "Treasure Falls"...rumored to have buried treasure hidden within it.

 We spent a couple of hours sledding, with lots of wipe outs, laughter, and fun!

Love my "baby" brother...

 It didn't take Grant long to figure out the easiest way up the mountain!

Shepard and the kids cooked an amazing dinner of homemade vegetarian pizza.

Then Shepard entertained us playing songs on the guitar with made up lyrics about giant cheese balls.

Shep and Olivia practiced some partner Acro-yoga moves (Olivia is learning some acro-yoga as part of the choreography for the play she is in).

The "kids" watched a movie on their new 3D TV...

We went pedal-boating (or is it paddle boating?) on the little pond in their neighborhood.

It was all fun and games until I fell in the pond, while trying to get back on to the shore! My foot in the boat got stuck in the pedal, while my other foot was on the shore. It felt like something out of a cartoon as the boat started drifting away from the shore and my legs got wider and wider apart. I froze momentarily as my right leg fell in the water, then Shepard came to my rescue and pulled me back in the boat. I was laughing so hard that he thought I was crying. It was not a very graceful moment (and thankfully, was not captured on film!).

We loved spending a few days with Shep & Bre in their home...this was a first for us. Usually, they are the ones coming to visit us! Their calm spirits and joyful hearts feed the soul, and we feel blessed to call them family.

 We were flying out of Albuquerque to come home, which was about 3 ½ hours south of Pagosa Springs. We opted to drive down the night before, so we’d be well rested for our flight home.
En route to Albuquerque, we stopped in Santa Fe, NM for dinner at The Shed. The food was authentic Southwestern Mexican style, complete with “knock your socks off” spicy chile. I thought I was going to need a fire extinguisher for my mouth!

It was cool to walk through the town, the oldest US Capitol city in the United States, and one of the oldest US cities period. 

After nine days away (and in close quarters for most of it!), you'd have thought we'd have been at each other's throats and dying to get home. In reality, quite the opposite was true. It was one of the best vacations of my life. We loved every minute together, had not a single fight or bad attitude, and saw some of the most beautiful places in the world. Honestly, there's not much more I could ask for!

Spring Break 2013, Part 3 — The Grand Canyon

After another good night's rest, we left Utah and headed south to the Grand Canyon.

We stopped at the Navajo Bridge—one of the two bridges that crosses the Colorado River. It was crazy high, and almost made me feel sick looking down. It was no small fete of construction either!

Really??? Cause I was tempted...NOT!

Our first stop once at the Grand Canyon national Park was the historic Watchtower.

We were able to climb up inside the watchtower and see an incredible panoramic view. I had seen hundreds of photos of the Grand Canyon, but nothing prepared me for what I actually saw. It was spectacular!

We continued on into the park, checked out the visitor's center, and took a leisurely stroll along the path along the south rim. 

We took the requisite "falling" pictures, though none really look as though we're falling!

After a while, we headed out of the park and to our hotel. We got checked in, and the kids were eager to jump in the pool. It was not warm outside, and we were at an elevation of about 7,000 feet. The pool was barely warmer than the air, but the kids jumped in nonetheless!

After dinner, we hopped back in the car to see the sun set over the canyon. Apparently, we weren't the only ones with this grand idea, and we missed the sunset. But we still managed to snap a few pictures.

We had decided that we'd hike the Kaibab Trail on Tuesday. It was rated as a medium difficulty hike, roughly 3 miles round trip, with a 1,500 elevation change from top to bottom. When we got out of the car on Tuesday morning, it was FREEZING cold. The wind was howling, and clouds were rolling by at a very brisk speed. Steve and I looked at each other and thought "this might not be good". But we decided to at least attempt it...if we got too cold and miserable, we could always turn around!

We rode the shuttle to the top of the trailhead, and set off. It started off with pretty steep switchbacks, going back and forth across the mountainside.

I brought up the rear, and listened to Grant's chit chat the whole way. "Watch out for mule poop", "watch your step mom!", "How long would it take a rock to get to the bottom?", and so on. I loved listening to his little voice!

We plugged along at a decent pace, and before we knew it, had reached the first main turnaround spot, appropriately named "Ooh Aah Point".

Many people were turning around at this point, and heading back up. We felt like we had just barely started, so decided to keep going. The trail turned from dirt to red clay, and there were points with steep drop offs on both sides of the trail.

About 50 minutes after we started our descent, we reached our goal of Cedar Ridge. 

It was incredible to look up and see how far down we'd come, and yet how much of the canyon was still below us. It really gave a good perspective to the enormity of it all!

After we'd rested for a while, Steve and I looked at each other, then looked at the climb that awaited us, and were both filled with a sense of apprehension. Sure, the kids had made it down in no time, with no complaints. But going back UP was another story altogether, and we both feared the worst. We both put on a smile, and said "Well, shall we head back up?" like it was no big deal at all.

We had packed an assortment of snacks and drinks, and had assured the kids that we could stop and rest as often as they wanted.

 It was a tough climb. We had fully expected it to take at least twice as long to get back to the top as it did for us to get to the bottom. But we made it back up in just over an hour and 15 minutes...without a single complaint! I don't know that I've ever been prouder of my kids than I was at that moment. They had done something REALLY HARD, and had done it with a smile and a good attitude. It was amazing!

I was so happy that Steve and I hadn't given up on the hike that morning when the wind was howling and the clouds were blowing by. We would have missed out on something so spectacular, that may well be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for us.

We piled back into the car—all feeling pretty exhausted. This is how the kids spent the rest of the day.

We arrived that evening in Kayenta, AZ. We were running low on clothes by this point, and I did a couple of loads of laundry in the hotel washing machine. The dryer only half-dried the clothes, so our room looked like a hurricane for the night as we air-dried our clothes.

No one fought going to bed that night, and I'm pretty sure we were all asleep within about 30 seconds of turning out the light!