She was nine and a half old years old the summer we turned our middle granddaughter into a trekker. Traveling in our thirty six foot motorhome, we took her to visit the national parks out west.
We arrived at Dodge City in time to visit the ‘old town’ and see the Wild West show. Next came, Trinidad and then Santa Fe with all the required shopping. Before we got to Albuquerque, we saw the Santo Domingo Pueblos and visited the trading post and a petting zoo at Cerrillos. We did the Museum of National History (Amber’s favorites were the Volcano room, dinosaurs and the elevator to the middle of the earth) and dined with family friends. We had been gone seven days.
On the eighth day, Amber woke up sobbing and announced she couldn’t breathe because we had driven too far away from Kansas. We tried reasoning with her, bribing her and begging her to stop but she cried for three days at which point, we arrived at the north rim of the Grand Canyon.
We parked the RV in a beautiful, quiet spot with a canopy of ponderosa pines, took our sobbing grandchild and made our way to the North Rim Lodge from where we called everyone she knew; her mom, her dad, her grandparents, her sister, her friends and then her mom again.
Did I mention Amber couldn’t go to sleep at night without T.V.? The campground on the north rim had no electric hook ups. That meant NO television. We ate dinner and then built a campfire and sat outside until one in the morning telling stories, talking, sharing secrets and singing songs, not necessarily in that order. Finally, from sheer exhaustion, she fell asleep. Glenn and I discussed taking her to Los Vegas and putting her on a plane back to Kansas City.
The next morning, she woke as if none of it had happened. She chirped happily all through breakfast and declared herself ready for the next big adventure. We drove to St. George, went swimming, met lots of new friends and hooked up the T.V. Amber said the Weeping Rock at Zion National Park must be homesick which she understood since she had been missing her mommy and her daddy too, but by the time we got to Pahrump Nevada, she’d forgotten all about it (though we did call home much more often.)
We forged ahead, undaunted by a blinding dust storm through Death Valley, arriving at Sequoia National Park where Yucca’s flowered on stems the size of twenty foot tall telephone poles. It was June 14th, a perfect time to be there. The mountains bloomed with bright colored flowers. Amber gapped at the towering giant Sequoias, some over two thousand years old. The snow in the California Sierra Nevada Mountains delighted her as did the drive down Kings Canyon into San Joaquin Valley covered with orange and walnut groves, green corn fields and pecan trees.
In Sacramento, we received a royal welcome from family members and picked up Audra, our eight year old grandchild from Vancouver, Washington who had flown in to meet us. We fueled up on real, homemade Italian spaghetti and lots of hugs before heading out to pan for gold at Sutter’s Landing and hiking in Yosemite.
Our relatives met us at Snowflower Resort at Lake Tahoe for three days of R and R. We left them and drove to Crater National Park in Oregon and Burney Falls. Amber couldn’t stop taking pictures of the roaring water tumbling down the mountain into the swirling river below. We traveled through The Cascades, gawking at the snow covered three sisters mountains, created by volcanic action hundreds of years ago. We stopped along the way to fish and wade in crystal clear pools and streams.
In Vancouver, we picked up Audra’s mother and little brother and hurried on to Astoria in time to see the Fourth of July fireworks from the fun town of Seaside.
After leaving Audra, it was time to begin our journey home. First up, Yellowstone where Amber caught her big trout (set it free) and marveled at moose, bears and bubbling hot springs. We had no electricity here so no T.V. but by now, Amber was a seasoned traveler.
Half way between Yellowstone and Mt. Rushmore, we came upon a campground in the midst of an ice cream social. Amber loves ice cream so of course, we stopped and filled up on cones and cookies. But the best was yet to come.
After we visited Mt. Rushmore and the four presidents, some of whom were having facelifts, we arrived at our campground ranch in the black hills. We rode horses, backpacked and had scrumptious outdoor BBQs. Time for one last shopping excursion in nearby Keystone. We’d been gone six weeks. It was time to head home.
Epilog: Amber graduated from Colorado State and went to work for Outward Bound. She now works and lives in Australia and takes every opportunity to trek the world.