Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Grand is an Understatement

More than a month has passed since spring break, but life has been busy and as a result I'm just now circling back around to sharing our trip. It was certainly one we'll always remember!


Though TAMU (Tom's employer) usually has the same spring break as the kids' school district, Tom doesn't actually get a spring break. He gets a break from teaching, yes. But the more stressful, time-consuming parts of his job don't stop. As a result, we've never been big spring break travelers. We either plan something of a staycation, with the kids and I taking day trips to/for nearby activities, experiences, and excursions, or we take a short trip to one of the big cities - San Antonio, Houston, Austin, Waco, or Dallas/Fort Worth - near us. We've also done a couple of treks north to visit our families, and the kids have each taken a 13-year-old birthday trip with their grandparents (Will to Washington D.C. and Hallie to New York City), but that's it for big trips over spring break.

* A few of our favorites (which I've posted about at the following links) include the Houston Aquarium, Blue Bell Creamery in Brenham, the River Walk and the Alamo in San Antonio, Zilker Park and The Thinkery (children's museum) in Austin, Dinosaur Park in Cedar Creek, the Houston and Waco Zoos, the beach in Galveston, and Family Farm in Plantersville

Last fall I started having a panic attack about how little time we have left with Will at home and decided we needed a solid spring break trip this - his junior - year. I had always wanted to visit the Grand Canyon, so when I was talking to our travel agent (the fabulous Courtney Henson with Travel Hut), I threw out that idea and she ran with it. 

On the first day of spring break (and just a few hours after the crazy night the Lads won the district championship), we flew from Houston to Phoenix, picked up our rental car, and headed north into the mountains. The drive was beautiful, as was the experience of traveling from palm trees and flat desert to spectacular mountain views in such a short period of time.

We stayed just south of Sedona, in the village of Oak Creek, at the Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock. I ended up being SO happy we weren't actually staying in Sedona, as we discovered the morning after our arrival that half of Texas' population had the same idea as we did for spring break and all 15 million of them were staying in the Sedona area. Our resort was lovely - we enjoyed the pool (well, mostly just Hallie enjoyed the pool) and hot tub, and we took advantage of s'mores by the fire pit and stargazing - as was the rest of Oak Creek. Everything was within walking distance, and we visited a number of delicious restaurants as well as an outdoor market, a few quaint shops, and our new favorite grocery store, Clarks.

On our first full day we drove up Oak Creek Canyon Drive to take in the views, visited Chapel of the Holy Cross, and hiked the Bell Rock Pathway and Courthouse Butte Loop Trail. I LOVED hiking with Will and Hallie (Tom was sick so he skipped the hiking) - just hanging out with them in general - and was reminded frequently throughout this trip of how lucky I am to have such cool humans for kids.

On our second full day we hit the road early in the morning and headed toward the Grand Canyon. Our first stop was Maverick Helicopters, just outside Grand Canyon National Park. We went on an INCREDIBLE helicopter ride over and into the Grand Canyon, and let me tell you, from a helicopter is exactly how you should see this geographic wonder for the first time. 

You approach the Grand Canyon over a completely wooded area, so your view goes from woods below you to NOTHING below you in an instant. It is the ultimate rollercoaster ride.

The wonders of the Grand Canyon cannot be adequately represented in symbols of speech, nor by speech itself.     ~ John Wesley Powell

After our helicopter ride, we drove into the park. There are no words or photos to adequately describe the majesty of this place or the awe one feels when standing just steps away from something so truly Grand. It is seductive and mesmerizing, breathtaking and humbling. It is frighteningly beautiful and beautifully frightening. It is a place explained by science, yet touched by the hand of God. If you ever have the chance to visit, to see it for yourself, in person...take it.

We hiked all afternoon, mostly along the South Rim (the North Rim is only open seasonally). I wish we could have done a little of Bright Angel Trail, but after more than seven miles, all of our knees and hips were starting to complain. (Dancer knees and hips, plus soccer player knees and hips, plus 40+-year-old knees and hips...) We were tired, but in a happy and fulfilled kind of way, and we left to drive back to Sedona feeling like we'd just exactly what we needed and wanted to do while in the park. 

Travel note: our kids were the PERFECT age to visit the Grand Canyon. So many people were there with young children, and I simply could not have done that. There are so many places where the barriers between the public path and certain death are...well, nonexistent...and Tom and I agreed that we couldn't have truly experienced the Grand Canyon if we had been even a tiny bit worried that our kids wouldn't use good judgement and make safe decisions. I also wouldn't have been able to enjoy myself if I'd had to answer the question,"when are we going back to the hotel?" or listen to, "I'm tired of walking" all day long...and let me tell you, while we were there I heard lots of young kids asking this question, expressing this sentiment, and hitting a wall.

On our third full day we visited Sedona Loop Trail Disc Golf Course. Disc golf in the mountains is fantastic - this coming from someone who's not much of a fan - and this course was the prettiest and most interesting of any I've ever walked. (I would have played, but Hallie and I weren't willing to give up a suitcase or carry on bag space to bring our own discs. Instead, we walked along, chatting with and spotting for the boys and taking dance pictures.) After we finished the course, we hiked some of the Sedona Loop Trail and walked around Posse Ground park before visiting Sedona's Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village.

We were gone for five days total, and while I probably could have hiked for one more day, I also felt like we did this trip just right: we had the opportunity to see and do all of the experiences on our bucket list, and were also ready to get back home to our babies when the five days had come to an end. 

Our 2024 spring break wasn't just fun, it was Grand.

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