New Year’s in Zion

We have lived in Utah over a year and have not explored Southern Utah at all. We spent last New Year’s Eve in our beloved Colorado so this year, I was NOT going to be stuck here without plans (we would later get invited to two parties) but I’m glad spent our long weekend with good friends, Dave and Rebecca, in St. George who make us look like homebodies. They adventure almost daily, just returned from a trip to Kenya, are going to Hawaii next month and then to Australia and Fiji later this year. You’d think with those itineraries they would be extremely wealthy and while they do well, they’re also minimalists and have very few material possessions. It’s all about priorities, folks.

Snow Canyon State Park

When we arrived, we hiked the Hidden Pinyon Trail in Snow Canyon State Park, a wonderland of ancient lava flows and red Navajo sandstone.  This 7,400-acre scenic park’s majestic views of lava-capped ridges was our perfect introduction to the desert.

Zion National Park

When I was a Utah-based travel writer many years ago, some of my favorite adventures were in Zion National Park. Angel’s Landing. Observation Point. Backpacking the West Rim Trail. Truly, it’s like no place on earth and I was saddened to see just how overrun it has become. In the peak season, shuttle buses run to help with the congestion and lack of parking but on this busy holiday weekend in the off-season, there were no such options. Dave is the ultimate trip planner and insisted we had to wake up at 5 a.m. to get a parking spot. We whined and complained but he was correct–by 6:45 a.m, all the parking was full. It was a COLD morning so we stayed snuggled up in their van until the sun warmed the red rock cliffs. Sadly, Jamie had a rheumatism attack all night long so stayed behind to sleep.

Angel’s Landing is the most iconic hike in the park (besides the Narrows) and my kids were both dying to do it…but Dave’s youngest daughter was wary of scrambling on the vertigo-inducing precipitous cliffs with only a chain to hold onto. We instead opted to hike to Scouts Landing, which took us to the base of the Angel’s Landing and though I’m sad we couldn’t knock this one off the kids’ bucket list, we were just happy to be there. And I was particularly happy my knees withstood Walter’s Wiggles’ steep switchbacks and the descent.

 

Walter’s Wiggles

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park

Following our hike, we took a lovely southeast detour to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park’s shifting sea of soft red sand.  Formed from the same iron oxides and minerals that give us spectacular red rock country, the tired kids came to life–racing, jumping and rolling down the rippling arcs of rust-colored sand.

New Year’s Eve

The LDS Church is true all the time but especially true in St. George. Because it was New Year’s Eve, we only had one hour of meetings as opposed to three + a speaker didn’t show up so we got out early. We took our family to tour Brigham Young’s Winter Home, followed by a hike. We were looking for something low-key because it was the Sabbath and stumbled upon the coolest area in St. George, the Red Cliffs Desert Preserve with slot canyons, an arch and the coolest sandstone formations that felt like we’d be dumped off on Mars.

New Year’s Eve was just as memorable. We had full-contact fondue and Rebecca had pulled together some fun Minute to Win It Games. I had gained the reputation with their daughters as “the fun one” so they fought to have me on their team, which they later regretted.

You win some, you lose some. Or in my case, you lose them all.

We watched The Rookie. Jamie and I went to bed shortly after midnight while the kids all stayed up until the movie was over. Sweet Bode would later tipdly knock on our closed door for family prayers, only to have sleepy Jamie growl “kill him.”

Because every New Year should begin with a death threat. Here’s a “killer” 2018.

Family travel: Central California’s Untouched Grandeur

I’ve been busy wrapping up an article about our trip to Central California for fall break. It truly was a breath of fresh air after what feels like a year of non-stop stress.

Not-so airy? The long drive to get there.

Las Vegas is my least favorite place on earth but the kids have never been there. It marked the halfway point so we gave into Hadley’s pleas and made a quick detour. As we were cruising along The Strip, we noticed the car was making funny noises. Now, some of you might remember the nightmare-that-was-last-summer, my Honda Pilot’s steady demise and the thousands of dollars in repairs we’re still paying off as it sits in our garage, undriveable. And if our Pilot is sitting on our garage waiting for us to pay off last summer’s bills while we scrape together enough money to get a newer one, that means it was Jamie’s car we were driving that was having problems.

Oh, the joys never end.

Fortunately, it was only the water pump that went out and was relatively easy $600 fix. Three hours later, we were back on the road, which made for a REALLY long, miserable drive that made me wonder “is this really worth it?”

Thankfully, Central California was that and so much more.

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Central California: A Wonderland of Untouched Beaches, Castles and Dunes

We leaned into our strokes, our kayaks carving across Morro Bay and onto the flanks of Morro Dunes Natural Preserve. In a flash, Hadley and Bode were gone. It took them a few minutes to resurface and I chuckled as I saw them jumping, rolling and skiing down each peaked dune. Since entering middle school, I’ve mourned that their childhood is slipping away but for this eclipse in time, they were kids again.

My family traveled to San Luis Obispo County along the coastal Highway 1 for fall break. When I told people where we were going, they queried “San Luis Obispo…where?”

Located halfway between San Francisco and Orange County, this untouched region in Central California is  known for the dramatic Hearst Castle with the Pacific to the West, 100+ wineries in the San Joaquin Valley to the east and a smattering of quaint coastal villages in between. With the recent announcement of United Airlines’ direct flights from Denver to San Luis Obispo (SLO to locals), it’s more accessible than ever.

San Luis Obispo and the Madonna Inn

From the moment my friend Jennie told me her parents honeymooned at the Madonna Inn, “the quirkiest, pinkest hotel in the world,” my bucket list was formed. This outlandish landmark hotel in San Luis Obispo looks like the Mad Hatter was set loose in Casa Bonita with 110 themed rooms, a world-famous waterfall urinal and an onslaught of hot pink everything–carpets, marble, lamps and leather booths and their fluffy Pink Champagne Cake made with Guittard pink chocolate. Not everything here is sensory overload; located on 1,000 acres of coastal hills, you’ll find a serene horse pasture, the Secret Garden bursting with flowers and a European-style pool with a 45-foot waterfall.

Our mantra was Go Big or Go Home so we blew half our travel budget to stay in the rooftop Sky Room, a two-story muted-blue family suite with textured white clouds and a carved staircase to the second level that looked down on flamboyant chandeliers. The real show-stopper was the bidet in the bathroom; potty breaks have never been so…refreshing! This 50-year-old kitschy inn shows signs of its age but guaranteed, it’s one stay you’ll never forget.

Not far away, you’ll discover a gem among the historic Spanish California missions.  Named after Saint Louis of Anjou, the bishop of Toulouse, the Mission San Luis Obispo is a must-see for history buffs.  We stopped by the famed Bubblegum Alley in the heart of downtown San Luis Obispo for bubblegum graffiti that is every germaphobe’s worst nightmare and left our own sticky mark on this collective work of art.  The city is home to Cal Poly and downtown SLO’s tree-lined streets, unique cafes and the Thursday night Farmer’s Market cater to that cool college-town vibe.

Day 1: Charming Cambria and a Castle on a Hill

I like my oceans like my mountains: wild, untouched and au naturel. San Luis Obispo’s quirky coastal villages and large stretches of the Pacific Ocean devoid of development are in stark contrast to the glitz and glam of California’s big cities. A local proudly told us, “This area is what Santa Barbara was 30 years ago and we want to keep it that way.” Even the tourists are different here and mostly consist of Californians or visitors passing through while driving the Pacific Coast Highway.

We only had an afternoon tour of the Hearst Castle scheduled so our plan was no plan of all. We drove north on California State Route 1 and soon stumbled upon Cambria, a seaside village nestled in the pines that was brimming with a brigade of 400 whimsical scarecrows for the Cambria Scarecrow Festival. And these weren’t just my genre of straw-and-farmer’s-clothing scarecrows. These were masterful works of art–Rip Van Winkle and cyclists with motorized wheels–a testament to this Victorian community that is teeming with artisans, unique shops, eateries and bed and breakfasts.

All the beaches in the 20-mile segment north of Cambria are part of Hearst San Simeon State Park with thirteen different beaches from Santa Rosa Creek on Moonstone Drive in Cambria to the southern Big Sur Coast. Many of them are hidden gems including Moonstone Beach’s brown sandy coves where you’ll find tide pools and semi-precious jasper stones of all colors. We followed the ridgeline, winding down to the beach where the wild spray elicited sheer glee. For land-locked kids, it doesn’t get much better than this. 

Hearst Castle is a National Historic Landmark perched above the clouds atop The Enchanted Hill. Built by publishing magnet William Randolph Hearst, this 165-room castle is a must-visit destination with various guided tours available. Our jaws were agape as we marveled at the opulence of his personal art collection and stunning architecture. The Refectory was reminiscent of the Great Hall of Hogwarts and its very own home theater broadcast (you guessed it) Heart’s news specials.  As we strolled the 127 acres of terraced gardens and fountains with wraparound views of the sunny Central Coast it was no surprise this is one of California’s most visited state parks.

A mere four miles north of Hearst Caste on Highway 1, the Elephant Seal Rookery is home to about 15,000 Northern Elephant Seals that migrate thousands of miles twice each year where they breed, birth, molt and rest between trips. We chuckled at the laziness and middle-school drama between the seals but after learning about the perilous conditions they endure for 8-10 months in the ocean, they’ve earned it. Teenagers? Another story.

We drove south and checked in to the newly redesigned and renovated 456 Embarcadero Inn & Suites, home for the next two nights. After the ostentatious Madonna Inn, this 33-room boutique hotel was a refreshing juxtaposition and we were delighted to learn its ties to Colorado–the owner spent a number of years in Durango. Our spacious two-bedroom family suite overlooked Morro Bay and the town’s quaint shops and eateries were all within walking distance. We fell asleep that night to the lull of the waves and the harbor seals barking at the yellow, gibbous moon.

( 456 Embarcadero Inn & Suites’ Ideal Location)

Day 2: Morro Bay’s Magic

Morro Bay is best known for Morro Rock, an ancient volcanic mound that stands sentry over Morro Bay State Park, home to lagoons, trails and a bird-rich saltwater marsh.  The next morning, we met John Flaherty of  Central Coast Outdoors for our half-day guided kayaking tour. Locally renowned for his kayaking, biking and hiking tours of San Luis Obispo, Big Sur and the Central Coast, we were in good hands.

After a thorough skills debriefing, we navigated around sea otters to a heron preserve with crows wheeling overhead.  John pointed out the crustaceans’ indentations in the mud flats. “Morro Bay is one of the few estuaries left in California,” he divulged. “Thanks to the many state parks along Central California’s coastline, these areas have been preserved.  That’s what makes it truly special here.”

Understatement. CLICK TO KEEP READING

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Oh Canada: The Lakehouse

Though we love our annual trip to Lake Okanagan, a week-long stay is a bit too long for me (disclaimer: I start to get the most antsy when it is 100+ degrees, which isn’t super fun when the house is sweltering). However this year we only had four nights and five days that I discovered was way too short. So, here’s for hoping we find our happy medium.

It’s taken me quite a few years to acclimate to the water. It’s amazing my brother Pat and I are even related given how obsessed he is with boating because we never grew up around it. He just bought a fancy fifth wheeler that is parked at Keho Lake for optimal kiteboarding opportunities and travels the world seeking the next big adventure.

This year was a milestone for our family: we were all able to wakesurf on our own and we loved it! Bode tried last year but needed help getting out of the water from Jane. They purchased a new kid-sized surfboard and that made all the difference. So dang fun! 

The kid even learned to walk on water.

Jamie and I hate to admit it but Hadley surpassed us out there. By the end of the week, she was able to drop the rope and was figuring out how to ride the wake. I wish she had more chances to go because she could be really good.

Jamie did pretty darn awesome as well. We were at the same level all week and on the very last run, something clicked and surfed better than he ever has. Note: This happens to us every ski season as well…your skiing is at its very best on the last day and then we have to wait for the following year.

Of course, there is always this. Tubing: It’s not for grownups. 

The only traditions we weren’t able to fit in were Screamers (part slushy, part ice cream) and backyard movie night on Todd’s beach because massive flooding completely took out his yard. And we added some new ones: Ashton and I did an “Olympic swim training” and by the last day, several of the kids had joined in.

Of course, there was the annual dive-off. Yes, Pat won AGAIN.

My niece Emily brought her beau to the lake: Jer the Irishman. He almost died during the dive-off but no judgment here; I won’t get my face wet.

Of course, we had to go to tourist trap Davison Orchards for their out-of-this world fresh apple slushies, peach pies and fuuuuuudge.

And lots of quality cousin time.

Jax’s charming glasses

After such a memorable week at play, maybe just maybe Pat will make water people out of us all. Here’s to next summer at the lake!

A Return to Colorado: Jet Boat Colorado Edition

I wouldn’t say I “feel the need for speed” but as we raced across the Colorado River with Jet Boat Colorado, I sure did like it. A lot. 

I had never heard of jet boating until a friend went to New Zealand last year and posted a video of her 45 mph adventure through narrow canyons as their boat barely skirted the banks of the river. I never dreamed I would have the opportunity to try it out myself until I learned Jet Boat Colorado offers Coloradoans the same adrenaline-charged adventure as our Kiwi counterparts on a slice of the Colorado River outside of De Beque, a historic community nestled near the Roan Plateau and Grand Junction.

CLICK TO KEEP READING

A Return to Colorado: The Broadmoor Edition

The perfect end to the perfect week in Colorado was three days of perfection at The Broadmor. And there’s no better way to kick off Said Perfection by dining in the 5-star Penrose Room after a grubby week of getting dirty in the backcountry. Fortunately, we clean up nicely.

I loooove Bode’s cultured conversation starters when he’s trying to act proper. Last time as he surveyed the menu, he observed “I hear the salad is quite good here” and this time, it was, “Sooooooo, taxes these days.”

Early the next morning, I went for my traditional solo hike up North Cheyenne Canon and raced back to get ready to The Broadmoor’s fabulous brunch.  Bananas foster. Shrimp diablo. Plum Calvados Crepes. We take our brunching very seriously and Hadley went into panic mode after round 3. “I don’t know what to get now….I feel so empty inside…oh wait, I’m rather full.” These are true First World Problems, people.

One of the highlights of visiting in the summer is renting a cabana by the pool and almost without fail, rain always interferes with our plans. Fortunately, we were able to soak it all in for 1.5 hours before calling it quits and taking a nap in our rooms. 

We are all obsessed with The Broadmoor but no one more than this guy. Every other restaurant or hotel pales in comparison as he sputters out “This would never happen at The Broadmoor,” which means 99.9 perent of his life is a disappointment. I found him napping like this in his luxurious robe that afternoon. At least 0.1 percent of his life is bliss.

That evening, we dined at our favorite restaurant, The Summit, followed by bowling at Play at The Broadmoor. I was worried how Hadley would do with her broken arm but she bowled her first strike ever, thereby proving that maybe having a handicap can actually be helpful. 

The next day, we had one of Colorado’s most epic experiences via the Pikes Peak Cog Reailway! I’ve climbed several 14,000-foot peaks but nothing can quite prepare you for arriving at the summit of 14,114-foot Pikes Peak via the world’s highest Cog Train and being greeted by an onslaught of out-of-shape tourists. If you can’t beat ‘em, you’d better believe we joined ‘em by eating fresh doughnuts and relishing the views from the summit.

Later that evening, 10 days of beautiful Colorado scenery overload was capped off by  Seven Falls and delicious dinner at The Broadmoor’s 1858 restaurant. As I looked across the table at these exhausted, happy people, my heart was so full. We may not always be at our best at home but when adventuring, we shine as our best selves. And it makes all those painful road trips when they were younger to see the avid travelers they have become.

Leaving The Broadmoor always feels like I’m leaving a part of me behind. As we pulled into our neighborhood after the long drive home Jamie observed, “Arvada no longer feels like home and Midway has yet to feel like home. The only place I feel at home is at The Broadmoor.”

We couldn’t agree with you more.

A Return to Colorado: The Keystone Edition

We were in the car for much of our trip to Colorado. In addition to the 9-hour drive from Utah, Keystone Science School was about 1.5 hours away from Denver and Crested Butte was another 3 hours away (where Jamie and I spent Tuesday through Friday). Early Friday morning, we made the 4-hour drive from Denver to pick-up Hadley at the airport (stopping at Country Road Cafe in Kittredge en route to brunch with my dear friend Tina). Then it was another 1.5 hours back to Keystone. We picked up Bode on Saturday and drove to The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, another 2.5 hours. And then there was the final 9.5-hour drive back to Utah at the end of it all.

That’s 30+ hours of driving. Fortunately, I had downloaded Miracle in the Andes: 72 Days on the Mountain and My Long Trek Home, the survival story of a Uruguayan rugby team whose plane crashed somewhere deep in the Andes. The intersection of much of our trip was off Highway 285 in the heart of 14er country so it was fascinating to have this backdrop as we listened to this harrowing story.

As we crafted our Colorado itinerary, we knew we had to plan our activities around picking up and dropping off Bode at Keystone Science School so that involved spending two nights in Keystone. I’ve always enjoyed this area. With easy access to Denver–just 75 miles away– and surrounded by the 2.3-million acre White River National Fore, Dillon Reservoir, a fabulous network of trails, popular mountain towns Breckenridge, Frisco, Silverthorne and Dillon, there is always something to do.

Bode’s KSS drop-off was at 10 a.m. Monday morning. Or so I thought. We pulled up and started unloading his gear but it was weirdly quiet and devoid of the frenzy you’d expect. As we came to find out, Hadley’s small group was supposed to report at 10 a.m. and Bode was at noon. Imagine how thrilled he and Jamie were to learn yes, we’d woken up early but HURRAY, we had two additional hours to explore this beautiful place!

We hiked to Sapphire Point (though I’m not sure I’d call it a hike; it was more of a 1.5-mile stroll) to the most beautiful overlook of Dillon Reservoir, hemmed in by the Gore and Tenmile mountain ranges  (along with several tipi structures for kids to explore along the way).

We also climbed to the top of Loveland Pass overlooking the Continental Divide.

“One day, Simba, the sun will set on my time here, and will rise with you as the new king…everything the light touches.”

OK, more like Jamie was relaying the time we froze our butts off on the chairlift as the winds whipped the Continental Divide at Loveland Ski Area.

Once we finally got around to dropping off Bode at Keystone Science School, he went on to have a fabulous week! (Read the details here.)

7-mile Challenge Hike (in red hoodie)

Jamie and I had a fabulous time as well! We lunched in Breckenridge….

And then returned to Keystone to check into our SummitCove condo overlooking Keystone Lake with excellent access to the Summit County Paved Recreation Path System, a paved network of 70+ miles of trails that connect Keystone, Dillon, Frisco, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain and Vail. After dinner, we biked from Keystone to the reservoir and tried to spy on Bode (we could see the camp from the trail) but to no avail. We went for a leisurely stroll along the pathway at dusk just soaking in the beauty of the area.

The next day, it was off to Crested Butte but we returned four days later after picking up Hadley at the airport. While Jamie rested, she and I enjoyed Keystone’s Friday Afternoon Club atop Dercum Mountain. Friday foot passenger lift tickets up the River Run Gondola are free, and there are complimentary outdoor games like cornhole, slacklines and horseshoes, food and drink specials and live music. And the views? They speak for themselves.

Cornhole with a broken arm for the win

For our final night in Keystone, we stayed at The Springs near the base of River Run Condo. Not only was the location spot-on but there was an awesome pool and hot tub area, a home theater room, playroom, workout room and more.

Here we are practicing stellar parenting. It’s important to ease yourself back into everything after having the week off. 

In honor of Canada Day, I woke up early the next morning to go for a walk. Alberta is “Wild Rose Country” and the trail was bursting with them.

I get it, ‘Merica. You’re pretty darn awesome, too.

A Return to Colorado: The Jet Boat Edition

It has been almost a year since we moved from Colorado. In some ways, it has become much easier but in others I’m still mourning it like a death in the family. When other people move on (and feeling like you should, too), you’re still stuck in the past.  My Facebook memories are an almost daily reminder of my kids’ magical childhood and I miss those days when our summers were fueled entirely by adventure and imagination.

When Bode and I Hadley were invited to attend Keystone Science School (KSS), I knew we had a plan a Colorado vacation around it. We would spend a few days in Denver with friends, drop the kids off at camp, Jamie and I would enjoy alone-time in Keystone and Crested Butte and we’d all reunite at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs.

All was going to plan until Hadley broke her humerus  and we were in a predicament. She obviously couldn’t go to KSS because they were whitewater rafting, camping and horseback riding all week but if she came with Jamie and me, she’d be stuck in our condo because we had an equally active itinerary. Thankfully, Jamie’s sweet mom offered to take her despite the fact it was a very busy week as she helped her 90-year-old dad move into a care center. Thank goodness for Grandma!

Jet Boat Colorado

Bode, Jamie and I kicked off our Colorado adventure with Jet Boat Colorado. Actually, our adventure started well before we hit the water. Its location is in De Beque, a historic community nestled near the Roan Plateau. I calculated it was about the half-way mark of our drive from Midway to Denver but I should have Google mapped it because it was actually about 40 minutes past Grand Junction (the true half-way mark). I made this realization at about 1 hour before our 12 p.m. departure time and we were about 1.5 hours away.

Enter: Jamie “Mario Andretti” Johnson who put the pedal to the metal–driving at speeds up to 90 mph–and we miraculously arrived just a few minutes late.  Oh, and did I mention our gas was below empty and running on fumes? Another miracle: there was a gas station in De Beque, Colo.

I had never heard of jet boating until a friend went to New Zealand last year and posted a video of her 45 mph adventure through narrow canyons as their boat barely skirted the banks of the river. I never dreamed I would have the opportunity to try it out myself until I learned Jet Boat Colorado offers Coloradoans the same adrenaline-charged adventure as our Kiwi counterparts on a slice of the Colorado River.

I don’t yet have any pictures of our experience because cameras were strongly discouraged (you’ll see why in this video). Lots and lots of water…and laughter.

I’ve driven through this part of Colorado many times and had written it off as a barren wasteland but was fascinated to learn De Beque’s rich old west history with ferry sites, homestead stories and fascinating geology. At one point, as he pointed out two eagles’ nests with Mama Eagle and her very large “baby” standing sentry, it was confirmed to me this was an experience like no other and quite the “Welcome Home” party for Colorado.

But it only got better….

 

My return to rollerblading glory

I’ve lived in Midway almost eight months and had yet to go rollerblading in my favorite place: Provo Canyon. When I was at BYU, I fell in love with the Provo River Parkway and would park at the base of the canyon and rollerblade up about 10 miles past Bridal Veil Falls to Vivian Park and then race back down the canyon. There is a slight incline the entire way making it a great workout but the ride down was sheer bliss.

Since moving to Colorado almost 15 years ago, I would occasionally come back and rollerblade it so I’ve been chomping at the bit since our move but between unpacking, two feet of snow and trail closures and flooding all spring, the timing wasn’t right.

I decided to make the timing work for me so I woke up one morning last week to go. I grabbed my helmet (something I never wore before), wrist guards and thought I was set. Turns out I should have brought full body armor as well. I made some mistakes on my triumphant return and they included:

1) I forgot I’m not 20 anymore. This covers all subsequent observations.

2) What goes down must come up. When I was in Provo, I started at the base of the canyon and went up. This is how I prefer to do everything–there’s nothing more miserable to me than starting a hike going downhill, only to save the climb for the end. The problem is Midway is at the top of the canyon and I really didn’t want to drive all the way down, rollerblade up and then back down and then have to drive back up. Make sense? It sure did to me. At the time.

2) My rollerblades are about 20 years old and are dire need of being replaced. The wheels are so worn it made climbing the hills really tough. Being out of shape didn’t help either.

3) The cruise down vacillated between being empowering “I LOOOOVE THIS!” and moderately terrifying in places. If you’re never rollerbladed before, there’s really no great way to stop on steep terrain. I used to know every curve and bend so would just go with the flow but I was rusty so had to inch down a few sections like a baby learning to walk.

4) I somehow made it down the canyon without falling and then came the moment of truth: going back up. That’s usually my favorite part and I love the burn of the climb! Rollerblading that 20 miles has never been an issue but between being rusty, out-of-shape and having old roller-blades, it was a tough go. I even debated calling Jamie at one point but powered through it (albeit on a low battery).

A few things I learned before going next time:

I need to buy new rollerblades. Period. I should have replaced mine years ago but I never really went in Denver but now that I live next door to an amazing place, I want back in.

I need to start at the bottom of the canyon and work my way up. I bit off waaaaaay more than I could chew so next time I’ll start mid-way up the canyon and slowly make my rides longer.

My before shot as I exuberantly started out:

My after shot:

 

x

 

Yep, that about tells the story.

That time we were featured in the Wall Street Journal

A few weeks ago my friend Eileen Ogintz, founder of Taking The Kids and a syndicated columnist, emailed to ask if I could put the word out to my friends that a reporter from the Wall Street Journal was looking to interview families who let their kids help plan the vacation. I put the word out on Facebook but nobody responded so I acquiesced to be interviewed by Sue Shellenbarger. I really didn’t think much would come of it–maybe she’d include a quote in her article–until she emailed me again in a panic saying her editor wanted her to interview my kids as well. So on Friday after school, Bode and Hadley casually talked to the a reporter from the biggest newspaper in the United States. No biggie.

If you are questioning the reliability of journalism in this day and age, rest assured the Wall Street Journal is the most fact-checked newspaper I’ve ever seen. For our small quotes in the article, Sue emailed me several times.

Anyway, here’s the link to Dare to Let the Children Plan Your Vacation and I’ll include screenshots and our quotes below.

And yes, Bode totally talks like a 40-year-old man.

 

 

The Johnson family of Denver is planning a car trip to western Colorado this summer. Amber Johnson says her daughter Hadley, 12, persuaded the family to go jet-boating, racing over the Colorado River at speeds of up to 40 miles an hour in boats driven by professionals.

It’s a plan Ms. Johnson and her husband Jamie would never have chosen for the family. But Hadley sees children’s museums as cheesy. “I’m kind of growing up and everything,” Hadley says. “I’m a little more crazy and adventurous than museums.”

Bode, 10, says he was nervous at first about jet-boating. But Ms. Johnson reassured him that the boats have seat belts and life jackets. Now he’s on board with the plan. “I think I might actually learn something, including having a positive attitude and being willing to do new things,” he says.

Giving the children a voice keeps them excited and interested, Ms. Johnson says. It also means suffering through their mistakes. Bode and Hadley picked a hotel online for a road trip last summer because it had a big pool, says Ms. Johnson, editor of Mile High Mamas, an online community. She suggested they might want to do more research, but “they jumped on it because it looked really fun,” Ms. Johnson says.

When they arrived, the pool was closed for renovation. Ms. Johnson sees such “soft failures,” or missteps with minor consequences, as learning experiences. “We would call ahead and do more research” next time, Hadley says.

 


Maximum Interlodge at Alta Ski Area

My family was first invited to Alta Ski Area when we lived in Colorado. Though we tried to visit during Spring Break last year, we couldn’t coordinate our schedule so just opted to visit after our move. It would take several months of back-and-forth to determine a time because the kids had six weeks of ski lessons at Sundance through our recreation program. 

We finally decided staying overnight on the weekend just wasn’t possible until late in the season so opted to drive to Alta on a Sunday night, sleep at Goldminer’s Daughter and hit the slopes on Monday (the kids had a day off). There was snow in the forecast but we weren’t too worried. Were we not, after all, skiing?

Our hour-long drive was seamless. We unloaded, checked in and ate a delicious gourmet dinner at Top of the Lodge Restaurant as the wind and snow howled the only visibility the distant light of the snowcats grooming the 36 inches of snow from the latest storm…and more was expected the next day. The kids were nervous; they’ve never skied conditions like this.

Tales were flying from real-life storm chasers of epic powder and the previous day’s “interlodge” where people were required by law to stay indoors as avalanche crews blasted the hanging faces of Little Cottonwood Canyon. I wasn’t sure if we’d get snowed in but one thing was for sure: those kiddos would never forget their first time attempting Alta’s legendary powder.

We spent an uncomfortable night in our room, groggily waking up to even more snow. We made our way to breakfast, still uncertain how the day would unfold. As we were indulging in delicious pancakes with cinnamon cream cheese, it was then that we learned Alta had declared “interlodge” and Little Cottonwood Canyon was closed–no one could come or go.

The day was still not lost. There was a chance the resort would reopen and we would have all that glorious powder to ourselves.

Until we learned it got even worse: UDOT declared “Maximum Interlodge,” so not only were we quarantined indoors but we could not go near any doors or windows due to extreme avalanche danger.

Guests in other lodges were led the basement and huddled together for several hours to wait it out. Fortunately, Goldminer’s Daughter’s recreation room didn’t have any windows so we had fun ping pong and pool tournament sand mother-daughter weight room showdowns. There’s nothing like forced bonding but we had a blast!

We had bought some lunch and were trying to select a movie “The Shining,” maybe? :-) , having resigned ourselves to staying in our cramped quarters another night when, miracle of miracles, the canyon briefly opened for downhill traffic.

We quickly packed up and joined the legions of skiers trying to catch shuttles to make it back to the airport. Jamie left us to grab the car and after 30 minutes of waiting, I finally went to find him…and our car…stuck under a few feet of snow!

Jamie and an Alta staffer pushed us out while I drove and that was only the beginning of our adventures. The conditions and whiteout were among the scariest I’ve ever experienced (and that’s really saying something when you’re raised in Canada). Jamie did a great job driving and was tempted to turn back a few times but without a safe place, we were forced to resume our perilous drive. It was one craaaaazy experience.

UDOT posted this video of an avalanche near our lodge that same day.

Just a taste of the extensive avalanche results we saw from control work this am 1/23/17 LCC

A post shared by udot avalanche (@udotavy) on


We were later told that Alta regularly experiences “interlodge” but “maximum” is much more rare. What are the odds that during our family’s first visit together, that is exactly what happened?

Don’t answer that.