Ballard Girls Road Trip: Day 2 (Horseshoe Bend & Mesa Arrival)

Sadly, I didn't take any pictures at the hotel's breakfast buffet. But it should be documented that those girls ate lots of food and drank two cups of hot chocolate each, so we definitely got our money's worth. 

We drove to Page and decided to stop at the Visitor Center at Glen Canyon Dam. (I've never been to Lake Powell, and every time we've passed by, it's been late at night.)

 Rachel stole my camera and took these next few pictures:

I took this one of the girls (who color coordinated their outfits to match the red rocks and blue water) and then we were off to see Horseshoe Bend:

Horseshoe Bend is one of the most photographed areas of the Colorado River. I originally saw it on Pinterest, and I just want to verify that those pictures you see aren't doctored up; it really is that amazing. 

The first part of the hike is up a sandy hill. Most of the girls took off their sandals and walked barefooted. It was a little bumpier on the descent to the lookout, but still perfectly fine for flip flops. I carried Kaleigh the whole way, just to keep her happy. Leslie was telling me that she couldn't believe that I was willing to carry her and I said something about it being easier that way. And then Kaleigh piped up, "I like to get carried because then I get attention." Well, at least she knows what she's doing. 

The lookout is only three-fourths of a mile from the parking lot, and this is the view: 

Crazy amazing. The Colorado River makes a 270-degree curve right around that rock. You need a wide angle lens to capture the whole shape. . . and you might also have to wait for people to move so you can get the best viewing areas. But here's our group, minus Leslie, who was standing behind me having a mini-anxiety attack that someone was going to fall off the edge:



Leslie was good and made me pose for another picture:

I think this is one of my favorite pictures of the whole trip:

There were some other ledges that were a little more dramatic, but I had read the sign talking about the sandstone.

The orange rock all around you is the Navajo Sandstone, the largest sandstone layer in the United States. Composed of sand dunes from the Jurassic age, it stretches from Northern Arizona to Wyoming. At up to 2000 feet thick, the sandstone is very strong as a whole, using the compression of its own weight to hold it together. But there are places where the sandstone is not strong: the exposed rocks on the top and sides. Where you are standing may look solid and stable but the structure underneath may have fallen away, leaving a piece of rock jutting out over the abyss. 

Water and weather have beaten down upon the exposed surfaces of the sandstone, dissolving the calcium carbonate that glues the individual grains of sand together. This leaves exposed sand, and weakens the rock to a point that it may break apart under your feet. 

Do not stand directly on the edge. The rock could breakaway underneath you.

Layla did some more meditating:

And Lucy did some yoga: 

I kept having to peak back over the edge to see how pretty it was:

Careful, girls. . . that's a 1000-foot drop:

Leslie may or may not have developed an ulcer while I was taking these pictures:

Especially this one:

I convinced Leslie to walk towards the edge for a picture. . . and then she rushed back to safety.

Gracie & Gretchen:

I asked these three girls to pose for one more for me. A quick smile from Kaleigh:

And then she was out of there:

But not Rachel and Lucy. First they reenacted the scene from Titanic. . . "Every night in my dreams I see you, I feel you, That is how I know you go on. Near, far, wherever you are. . ."

Lucy couldn't stop herself, improvising on the Lady Gaga song: "I'm on the edge of Horseshoe, and I'm hanging on a moment of truth. Out on the edge of Horseshoe, and I'm hanging on a moment with you."

And then it was time for some Imagine Dragons: "Cause I'm on top of the world, 'ay, I'm on top of the world, 'ay". . . Leslie pulled her camera out to take a picture of me during this one because she was afraid I was going to back up and fall off the edge. So let's say a tragedy like that did actually happen. Would you really want a picture of it. . . ? Steve says yes.

Did I mention it was pretty?

Kaleigh hitched a ride most of the way back. (And Rachel looks like a man on a mission because I lost my lens cap and offered a two-dollar reward if anyone found it.) 

I had Kaleigh walk maybe 400 yards on the way back. She sulked and pouted so dramatically that people passing us from the other direction looked at me like I was a terrible mother.


Here are the five cooperative girls at the end of the hike. (It's an iPhone picture, edited with Snapseed. Gracie has long arms, but not quite as long as they deceptively appear in the photo.)

I didn't take any other photos until we arrived in Mesa. Which is not to say that there weren't lots of things I wanted to stop and take pictures of:

A man pushing a overloaded cart with two flags, slowly making his way down the road.

A picturesque windmill in a lonely field. 

The dozens of roadside stands selling Indian art.

But we had to keep going. We had plenty of snacks, so we waited to eat lunch in Flagstaff. When you hit Flagstaff, you think you are close, but you still have a couple hours to go. . . and the trip is made painfully longer if you take a lunch break, and then later make a Dairy Queen stop, and a bathroom break, and a gas stop. The girls had been really well behaved, but we were about an hour outside of Phoenix when things started to fall apart. I told the girls we were having quiet time for 15 minutes. "What if we don't want to have quiet time?" one of the girls asked. "Then I'll never invite you on another road trip again." 

Not very nice of me, but it worked. 

We finally arrived at Elder and Sister Ballard's condo in Mesa, and everyone was relieved to be out of the car. The girls jumped out and ran straight into their grandma's arms faster than I could get to my camera, so there aren't any pictures. And then the girls got all of their energy out by riding their scooters up and down the street. (It worked out really well because the road was blocked off.)

Leslie later said that watching those girls ride their scooters together was one of her favorite parts of the whole trip, so I'm glad we brought them. 

The girls spotted some of the actors for the Easter pageant walking across the street, towards the church: 

Kaleigh told them they looked like pirates: 

Kaleigh and I went and picked Angela and Max up from the airport while everyone else had dinner. Max traveled like a champ, even though their flight was delayed.

After visiting for a couple hours, Leslie and I left with our four girls to stay with my cousins in Gilbert. Travis set up a tent for the girls to sleep in, and then he got a black light to show the kids some scorpions. . . so then Rachel quickly decided that she would be sleeping inside the guest house with us!


Ballard Girls Road Trip: Day 1 (Zion National Park & Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park)

A few months ago, I proposed that the Ballard girls take a road trip to visit Richard and Gloria in Arizona. Everyone was on board, so we made it happen over spring break. (Part of the reason I proposed it as a girls' trip was because I thought Steve would be busy opening a new restaurant . . . but that hasn't happened yet.) 

So last Thursday morning, we packed up our Pilot (with two roof boxes) and drove to Arizona:

Our first stop was at Zion National Park, which was completely packed. Vehicles lined both sides of the road and there was a sign telling visitors to park in town and catch the shuttle. Luckily, we found an open spot. We were running about an hour behind schedule, so we herded those girls to the restroom and then jumped on the shuttle. 

We rode the shuttle all the way up to the Temple of Sinawava and went straight to the Riverside Walk trail:

Zion is always beautiful, but the green blossoms on the trees were especially striking. (Not so good for allergies.)

I love this picture of Leslie looking up. I took it immediately after she got off the shuttle and it reminded me of the first time I got up out of the subway in New York City and looked up at the skyscrapers:

Riverside Walk is a paved hiking trail that runs alongside the North Fork of the Virgin River. The trail is about a mile long, but the fun part begins when you get to the end of the trail. Before everyone got into the water, we needed a group picture:

And then another one, with Leslie: 

Kaleigh was too exhausted from hiking to be in any pictures:

The girls got right in and started walking upstream towards the lower end of the Zion Narrows: 

Leslie and I loved watching them work together:

These photos are actually really disappointing. The lighting in the narrow canyon was harsh, and our cameras had a difficult time metering the light. (One second you needed your sunglasses on, the next second, you were in the mountains' shadows and needed them off.) I should really figure out how to use my camera someday, but until then, I'm stuck using auto mode. The colors in these pictures are muted and don't adequately capture the beauty that we witnessed.

So just know that it was even more amazing than it looks:

I fully expected to stay behind with Kaleigh, but she didn't to be left out. And it turns out that she likes hiking. . . as long as it's in water:

I spent a good part of my time retrieving flip flops that were floating downstream. The good news is that all floating flip flops were rescued (with some help from another hiker who snagged the one I missed). 

Gracie took over helping Kaleigh, and it was much appreciated.

She was a lot more patient than me and let Kaleigh stop and inspect every rock, stick, etc.

We tried to get the girls to stop, but they kept going and going and going: 

They said they needed to go check out the "zebra rock": 

The water was too cold for Leslie, so this is where she hung out:

Did I mention that Gracie was super helpful with Kaleigh? She definitely deserves a prize.

Everyone was having such a great time:

I didn't even have to tell them to smile for this picture. . . those are genuine smiles: 

Rachel said she was stuck and needed my help, and Lucy quickly turned back to give her a hand. I'm probably going to need to frame this one: 

Lucy went back and helped Layla too. . . Lucy has turned into a solid hiker.

See what I mean with the light? The camera didn't know what to do.

Kaleigh told Gracie she wanted to try to hike by herself, and this is what happened two seconds later:

So then she decided she needed two people to help her through the water:

Layla stopped for some meditating:

Leslie insisted that I let her take a picture with me in it. (Thanks, Leslie.) 

And then we were finally out of the water. (And Kaleigh went right back to not being able to walk. Gracie was a saint and carried her the entire way back to the shuttle.) 

Gretchen found this squirrel: 

And had a little conversation with him: 

Leslie goes, "I can't believe more people don't die in National Parks." And then we turned the corner and saw this:

"Is that your daughter?" she asked.  


(And I wasn't the only one taking pictures of her.)

We got back on the shuttle and rode down to Weeping Rock. Rachel came and stole my camera from me and said, "You're not taking enough pictures!" So she went and captured these beauties for me:

Love it. 

We hiked the short trail to Weeping Rock: 

Except that the rock wasn't weeping:

Can you see the teeny tiny drops coming off the rock in the middle of the picture? That's all the water there was. . . just a few tears:

It was still beautiful:

This should have been a video. . . I caught Lucy dancing down the trail:

Lo and behold, Kaleigh actually did some hiking:

And then she told me she wasn't my friend anymore:

So it was no surprise that she wasn't willing to pose for more pictures: 

The shuttle bus back to the Zion Canyon Visitor Center was packed full. People kept offering their seats to the girls, but the girls thought it was fun to stand up and hold onto the bars goof around on the bars. They were being loud and crazy so we hurried and took some pictures and then pretended like we didn't know them.

And then we left:

Rachel loves Zion. . . can you tell?

I guess we didn't technically leave the park because then we got to drive through the east side of the park to get to Kanab. And don't worry, the guy at the toll booth had a good laugh about our double roof boxes. Probably more surprised that the vehicle was occupied by a bunch of girls?

It was slow traveling because we had to wait for an oversized vehicle to come through the tunnel and then we got stuck behind some slow cars on the windy road out of the park. We had no cell phone coverage and were only slightly confident that we were headed the right way. But we turned off onto Highway 89 and drove to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park

It's one of those places that I can't believe I'd never been to before: 

See that little hill in the background. . . that's the ones the kids decided they wanted to go climb:

It's not so little once you get close: 

I wish I would have stayed at the bottom to take more pictures from this perspective:

But instead, I chased them up to the top of the hill:

So amazing:

And then just like that, they ran back down:

Back up again:

They lost Lucy. . . 

She was still rolling down the hill:

The sun was going down quickly, casting a warm glow on the sand:

Gracie & Gretchen:


I was a little concerned that these dune buggies were going to run us over, so I was relieved when they left for another hill:

Gretchen & Layla: 

The whole group:

I'm not sure whose idea this was . . .

Definitely not Rachel's. She warned them, "You are going to get sand in your unmentionables!"

One more time to the top:

And then all the way down:

Running around in that sand was so tiring, but they kept going and going:  

They might have had to push Leslie up that last hill to get back to our car. 

It was a 45-minute drive to Kanab, and then we finally checked into our hotel room. You would think the girls would have gone straight for bed. . . nope. They quickly changed into their swimming suits and headed to the pool. Leslie supervised while I went to get dinner. There aren't a lot of options for late-night eating in Kanab, so we ended up with Subway and McDonald's. 

These silly girls enjoyed their dinner in the hotel lobby: 

Kaleigh fell asleep before she ate her french fries: 

Stay tuned for Day 2. . . I promise I will actually finish documenting this trip. Someday I will catch up on Hawaii and South Africa too!