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!


Rebecca said...

Beautiful, amazing photos!!! You caught some truly epic moments! Love it! I will show you how to shoot manual...maybe during our Labor Day get together? Are you shooting RAW? And I need to get you into Lightroom, you will love it I promise!

Kayli said...

AMAZING AMAZING AMAZING! Here's me in Switzerland being jealous of you in lame old America! But seriously I've never been to ANYWHERE in Utah! Those pink dunes are soooo gorgeous!! Some day I want to travel WITH you.

Gloria said...

Love the pictures. I love Zions too. I have been on those hikes too.