We had some distance to cover today in our ultimate goal to get back home. Not that I really am ready for this to be done, but I guess we need to re-enter real life. But we also had some pretty cool sights to squeeze in, so in order for the kids to not feel like they were in The car all day, we left Flagstaff at 3 am with the goal of being at Monument Valley around sunrise.  

You know monument valley from the dozens of movies it is featured in. Forrest Gump, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Easy rider, Back to the future part 3, and countless westerns. It is gorgeous red towers rising from the Colorado Plateau. This is a Navajo monument on Navajo land and they charge $10 per person (not kids) to come view this beauty.  

I was ok paying this money, especially after all my Native American feelings the day before! With our admission there was a visitor center and you could drive through the valley getting an amazing view of all the rock formations. 

  We got some perfect pics from the visitor center and began the trek down to the valley. IT WAS A RED ROCKY, MONSTER POTHOLEY, HAIRPIN TURNY, UNPAVED ROAD! It was the worst downhill road I have ever seen. Not a gravel road, an unpaved mess! We got to the bottom – about 1/3 of a mile that took us about 5 minutes – and realized there was no way we were going to that for 1-2 hours, no matter what the view!! 

After getting a few more pictures, we carefully picked our way back up to the entrance. You can drive through the area on a highway, not pay and still get extraordinary views – I highly suggest it if you are in the area!!

I kept hearing about Arches National Park as we were planning our trip but it never made our agenda. When we finally sat down and decided our route back home a few days ago we decided to go north through Colorado and Nebraska rather than south through New Mexico and Oklahoma. The route took us right through Moab and so to Arches we went.

THIS PLACE IS SO FABULOUS! For our 15th and (probably) final junior ranger badge of this trip, it was perfect. From learning about the formation of the over 2000 arches in the park to seeing these massive red sandstone structures up close and personal, it was a hit!  

The thing I disliked about parks like Yosemite and Grand Canyon is how inaccessible they were to kids, average non- professional hikers. All you could do was gaze at amazing sights. At Arches on the other hand, it was totally hands on, and close and personal and you connected with the experience so much more because of this. Even today in 96 degrees when we drank over 3 Gallons of water as a family in 4 hours it was hot, but not unbearable because the hikes to the formations were short and the. There was shade when you got there.

It cracks me up that our very last National Park – one we hadn’t even planned on going to – was our favorite of the whole trip!

The first hike was through a valley called “Park Avenue”. The girls and I made this 1 mile walk while steve and the boys went to the end of the valley to wait to pick us up so we didn’t have to double back. It was hot, but so so beautiful. I was especially proud of Brenna, she pushed through!

We found some shade for lunch.

We drove to a set of Arches called “the Windows” and Steve and Cora made the very short walk while the rest of us enjoyed it from afar in air conditioning.

The next stop was what I was looking forward to, “the double arch.” Aiden was kind enough to hike with me and it was so so amazing!

Do you see the baby elephant in this rock?☝🏼☝🏼☝🏼all day we would see objects in the rocks, just like clouds. 

We had only planned on staying in the park for a few hours, but we just couldn’t pull ourselves away!! Our final stop was our favorite — it may be my favorite thing of the whole trip! It was called “Sand Dune Arch” and it was a 1 minute walk into a shaded copse of sandstone rocks filled with the smoothest red sand. 

 The way the light filtered, the coolness of the space, the little caves to explore, the quiet – it was just the perfect place. Go when the sun isn’t high in the sky and you get almost complete shade!

So east we head. We are now into mountain time, which means I can call my best friend without her being in bed. Wednesday night we stayed near Brekenridge, CO – over 10,000 ft elevation and 52 degrees- talk about extremes on the trip! 

I am just in such denial this is coming to an end. I was recounting the trip to Cora and the kids as she was trying to remember her favorite things and I loved the memories, funny stories, and events they recalled. It so good.


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