I spent most of last August driving Cross Country with my family including my lovely wife, our three kids ages 9 and a half, 5 and 15 months and (for the first week only) my Mother-In-Law. When you submit my name for Father/Husband/Son-In-Law Of The Year make sure you spell my name right.
1 Toyota Sienna (ZERO car related issues I might add)
3 Amusement Parks
5 National Parks
3,261 Bathroom stops (estimated)
Knoebels Amusement Park – Elysburg, PA – I had seen this park featured on The Food Network for winning Best Park Food for the umpteenth time and have wanted to go there ever since. At 200 miles from home it was a little too far to go for the day, but fit right in to our XC trip itinerary. It’s a great park for families with both big kids and little kids as you can buy tickets accordingly. Parents don’t have to buy admission tickets at all and parking is free as well. They have two of the best wooden roller coasters in the country, a ton of kiddie type rides and the previously mentioned good (and cheap) food. We will definitely go back.
Southern Utah’s National Parks – On previous trips we had visited Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone and Mt. Rushmore but never the amazing parks of Southern Utah. We managed to hit most of them in one long day, which is not recommended but was still worth doing.
Zion National Park – Starting with a bang we rolled into Zion at 9:30AM ahead of the crowds and hopped on the shuttle (cars are not allowed in the main canyon). Words don’t really do it justice…the soaring canyon walls make you feel insignificant and your neck gets tired from constantly looking up. Don’t expect the scenery to end once you exit via the Mt. Carmel tunnel, you may be out of the canyon proper but it’s just as beautiful. The tunnel itself is very impressive.
Bryce Canyon National Park – Unlike Zion where you essentially drive on the canyon floor, Bryce requires you to pull off the main road, park and walk to the canyon’s edge for the best views. Emerging from the trees you are literally stopped in your tracks by what you see. Hundreds of sandstone spires or hoodoos rise from the canyon floor and seemingly glow in the sunlight. A short hike along the side brings you past the railing and leaves you looking straight down into its jaws. If you’re squeamish you may want to step back a few yards as it feels like it just might pull you in. There are several spots to pull off for different views of the main and separate canyons. You can also hike down into the canyon itself if you have the time and the constitution.
Capitol Reef National Park – What, never heard of it? Neither had I until I saw that if we planned on doing this all in one day that we’d have to drive right through it. The ‘Reef’ is a hundred mile North/South geological feature called the Waterpocket Fold. Most of the rock formations in Utah are simple deposition, uplift and erosion while this one is a large nearly vertical wall of rock that tilted up millions of years ago. The scenery is otherworldly and you almost feel like you have left Earth or at the very least have been allowed to visit an unseen part of your home planet.
As if these parks are not enough, the roads connecting them are as good if not better. Highway 12 has been named a scenic byway and with good reason. Everywhere you look you are rewarded with views beyond compare. Of note is the Hog’s Back section of Boulder Mountain, a 4 mile stretch of two lane road with thousands of feet of nothing but drop off on BOTH sides. Talk about white knuckle driving.
Arches National Park – Early the next morning we hit Arches in Moab known for…well…its arches. What we didn’t know was that you had to do a fair amount of walking into the desert to actually see the park’s namesake structures. With two small children in record setting heat we only saw a couple but they were very impressive.
To be continued…