It was time to leave the big city and head back toward Texas, but what else could we possibly see with a squirmy two-year old on our way back through Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas? Well, a whole lot, and the Roo is here to tell you all about it.
After the mountains, caverns, and sand dunes of our first leg, and the Saguaro and Joshua Forests of our second, it was now time for something truly grand. We woke up Sunday morning for an early church service with our sweet California hosts, the Tierney’s, before offering hugs and thanks and hitting the road again.
This section of road may have been the longest one we have faced yet. Our goal was to make the 7 hour trip to the Grand Canyon before sunset. With a couple of detours, bumpy roads, and a glimpse at Route 66 later, we made it to our campsite.
Mom was glad she made a reservation because Mather Campgrounds was full on arrival. We made our way to our site and I was a big helper with the tent. After each task I came back with a cheerful, “how can I help now, mama?” We set up camp quick enough to catch the end of the day’s light over the canyon forest.
Snuggling into our sleeping bags, I slept like a champ from sunset to sunrise and it was now time to explore the canyon. We started at the visitor’s center and hit up the highly acclaimed Mather Point before hopping on the blue and then red line for the Hermit Trail path. I am almost as big of a fan of the free shuttle buses as of the camping tent.
In every place we stopped and every trail we walked the same thing was true, the Grand Canyon was big, the colors were spectacular, and you have to stay away from the edge or dad loses his mind. I know I haven’t been many places in my two-year old life, but it is safe to say there is truly no place like the Grand Canyon. Beyond the vast canyon we also saw elk, mule deer, chipmunks, tons of birds, and I even made a tarantula friend.
With another picnic lunch under our belt and a loop in the parking lot to bolster our license plate list, we meandered to the Desert View Road by car. There were more spectacular views, wildlife, and changing tree leaves to take in as we drove out of the park and continued East to our next destination, Petrified Forest National Park.
Throughout this trip, I gained a new love for three things. The tent, getting gas, and maps. During each stretch of the trip I touted commands and questions like, “we need gas!” “I was thinking we sleep in the tent tonight, I will do the stakes.” And “Can I hold the map?”
Conveniently, Petrified Forest was directly off of our eastbound conveyor belt, I-40. But, aware of our limited time, we used our clever map skills and our navigation books to veer from the google maps entrance. We decided to take I-180 to the south end of the park and start there, where the greatest concentration of petrified logs is.
We visited the Painted Forest Museum before setting out on the Big Logs Trail. Now let me tell you, there is no description or picture that could do these spectacular petrified woods justice.
I loved climbing on them and mom and dad were crazy about all the colors, textures, and details. These ancient pieces of tree had turned to glimmering rocks through years of pressure and decomposition. We called them rainbow dinosaur tree rocks, and we were fans to say the least.
Zacchaeus the Prius drove us through the rest of the park, stopping at several majestic sites, like Crystal Forest, Jasper Forest, Agate Bridge and Blue Mesa. We may have time warped into the Dakotas because suddenly we were surrounded by rolling badlands. The awesome rock stratification lit up as we watched the sun set over the park.
We will definitely be making another trip to Petrified Forest in the future. But until then it was off to Albuquerque to find a bed and shower for the night.
We started the next morning enjoying Albuquerque at Explora! After physics fun and a spin around the neighborhood we set our eyes on the prize of being in Texas by the end of the day.
We drove through enchanted New Mexico with a short otherworldly stop in Roswell for lunch. We arrived in Midland as the sun was going down and were gifted with more wonderful friends as hosts. We shared adventures of our trip and tried to figure out if our bodies were on Pacific, Mountain, or Central time. Whichever time zone we were operating on, it was clear we needed a good night’s sleep.
We were finally back on Texas soil! Daddy relished the easy freeway access roads, Whataburger signs, and smell of brisket. We were closer to home than ever, but still had several days of adventures ahead.
With a quick stop in Austin for a luggage change out we said goodbye to our house again this time heading West to visit the Grandparents for more wedding celebrations.
Houston held its own, with hometown adventures at the Renaissance Festival, playgrounds, and our favorite Tex-Mex restaurant, not to mention an absolutely beautiful wedding of dear friends and more dancing. It was nice to stay in one place for a few days and we always love special time with our grandparents.
We were a day away from our own beds, but still had one fun stop before Austin’s warm embrace. We grabbed our yukatas and were off to enjoy the Japanese festival at the San Antonio sunken gardens with our Aunt Erin.
After another fun and full day we finally made it home. The adventure was long and fun, full of memories and pictures we will keep forever, and most importantly sweet bonding time for the family. Until next time, Roo signing off.