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  • Nicole Olsen

Wandering the Four Corners


It had been about 2 years since the last time I visited my family in Arizona, so our plan was to stay and hang out with them as long as possible then head out to Utah to meet Jedediah. But when I realized my mom started her new teaching job earlier than expected and my sister was also heading home to get ready for their early school start we decided to hit the road ahead of schedule to explore Southern Utah. We had 5 whole days to see as much as we could as we headed North to Salt Lake City. We were glad to have these five days, but with four states to explore, Utah's big five National Parks, the Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde, plus countless other state parks, national monuments, Indian reservations, and miles of BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land that blankets this area it would take multiple lifetimes to fully explore this outdoor mecca.

With so much to choose from and me paralyzed by indecision with all the choices, I put the kids in charge. I pulled up photos of all the parks and told the kids to choose their top 3 and it was unanimously decided that Antelope Canyon, Mesa Verde, and Arches were the top choices. It was decided and on Monday morning we set out early so that we could make it to the Navajo Reservation by noon to hike through a slit canyon while the sun was high in the sky providing enough light to get those stunning photographs I was after.

Making our way up North we passed 100's of places I would have liked to explore, but we were on a schedule that I was not about to break, until I saw the sign for horseshoe bend, a popular photography location that gives you amazing views of the Colorado River as it meanders through the canyon. I could not help myself, and really without much consideration for time, we were on the trail. Of course, once we got there it was amazing. I was happily taking shots, the kids were in their element exploring the desert, and just like that, we used up all the time I had reserved for lunch and were now racing back to the RV so that we could be on time for our canyon tour.

With one unexpected hike out of the way for the day, and now hot, sweaty, and dusty, we prepared ourselves for our intended activity of hiking through the slit canyons. Thankfully the canyon was shaded and about 10 degrees cooler because the noonday sun was intense, Once we were in the canyon I knew the heat and our early rise that morning was worth it. The dark canyons spurred to life as the sun moved overhead and cast light and shadows on the vibrant burnt orange sandstone, illuminating all the curves that wind and water had carved into the geology over millennia.

After a spectacular afternoon we had an easy 3-hour drive to our next stop, Mesa Verde, Colorado, but another last-minute decision sent us the more scenic route going through Monument Valley, Utah. It only extended our travels by an hour, that is if you never stop to take in all that beauty, and you should know by now driving straight through is not really anything I am capable of. Lucky for us the days are long in the desert and with the help of a switch to daylight savings time as we left Arizona, not even my endless need to stop to enjoy the view, or Holden's desire to stop at every roadside stand in the search for the perfect dreamcatcher, or Asher's endless need to climb that rock that just looks so fun, or Sebastian's bottomless pit of a stomach in need of food and road trip snacks could keep us off schedule, because there was no schedule. Make it to Mesa Verde was our only objective, and by 9pm we rolled in to our campsite in the National Park halfway up the Mesa. Just enough time was left to make dinner, play a fun game, and get settled into bed before quiet time at 10. The boys grumbled about the campsite rules, wishing they could stay up later and play, but once everyone was snuggled under blankets we were using for the first time this trip as the cool mountain air filled the RV we were glad to be in bed. More tired then we realized we all fell asleep in no time sung to sleep by the coos of the wild turkeys outside our RV.


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