It’s Been a While

My goal last October was to write at least one blog entry per week for a full year. Back then I could not have foreseen how complicated and busy getting back to school would be in 2020. I have not kept my goal, but one has to prioritize sometimes, and blogging was definitely a thing I could take off my very full plate.

But I wanted to come here today and speak to my followers, though they are few. 🙂

If you and I are friends, you know that every year for approximately the last ten years I have joined hundreds of people in Indianapolis and thousands of people across the country in the Out of the Darkness Walk to raise money and awareness for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).

This is a cause very close to my heart as I have struggled with my own mental health and lost several former students in their fight with mental health. I’ve written about it once on this blog when I learned of a former student’s death while traveling in Ireland.

This year the Indianapolis walk was canceled due to crowd concerns and the corona virus. However, I still intend to walk on September 12th in some capacity and raise money for the AFSP, and I would appreciate your help. My goal is the same as it has been for the last several years, but it will be more difficult to raise the money. For one, there is no Indy Walk this year. Secondly, last weekend amid stress and frustration I purged my Facebook of acquaintances- and only left those that I actually interact with on a regular basis. The problem with that is that Facebook has been the place where I usually get the most fundraising done for the walk, because even people I only kinda know are willing to donate to a good cause. I’m hoping that the blogging community will help me out.

But really, the money raising isn’t for me. Yes, it will give me joy to achieve my goal — but the real winner here is suicide prevention. The AFSP has raised money over the years to help fund training, staff suicide prevention lines, fund a new initiative that allows people to text with a trained individual if calling is impossible or uncomfortable, organize survivor therapy, and so much more.

I would hate for these things to suffer because we cannot walk as a large group in person. Please consider donating to the AFSP either through my fundraiser – HERE – or by going to their website and starting your own fundraiser!

Unfortunately many of us have reasons to want to support this cause – these are my reasons:









Because it wasn’t the easiest of days

I’m starting back to school this week. Our first teacher day was today- and my brain was not ready for the early alarm. I made it into school though- coffee and laptop, ready to go!

It’s not going to be an easy year, to say the least. The day was filled with a lot of “can’t”s- students can’t… teachers can’t… we can’t… and as a teacher of 20 years, I’ve had a lot of times that have been (get read for that word) unprecedented – 9/11, active shooter drills (and training- which is even more horrifying). However, this time- this issue is the most unprecedented of the unprecedenteds.

Even so- that actually wasn’t the most difficult issue of the day.

One of our beloved custodians, who has been at the school longer than I have (I’ve been there 17 years), died suddenly last night. We were told at the beginning of the staff meeting- and the next hour or so was a blur.

I didn’t know this man extremely well because he worked in a different part of the building, but I worked with his wife (who had been a custodian at the high school) for about 15 years. Over and over in my mind, all I could think about was how is she going to survive this?

And then— as I do— I spiraled to all of the losses that we (the school) have had over the last several years, and it became very overwhelming. I sat there, in my mask, and tried not to cry, hyperventilate, not to stand up and scream at everyone worried about scented hand sanitizer!

So I came home to my son.

And I hugged him. And giggled with him. And told him about Mark- who he vaguely remembered from times he toddled around school with me in the summers. We talked and ate dinner. When he went outside to skate, and my mood started to fall again, I went out to my flowerbeds.

My sunflowers are huge now- getting ready to bloom. And as I walked along the house and gazed on the beauty of nature, my heart began to lift.

The tallest two are taller than me… I know that’s not saying much, but still.
Almost ready to bud

There is something intensely therapeutic about nature doing its thing. Flowers blooming, tree branches reaching toward the sky. I don’t know exactly how to phrase it, but it fills me.

Tomorrow I go back to meetings. And I will think of my friend and her loss, I know. But I hope too, that I can focus on the life going on in front of me so that I don’t begin to sink under the weight of my thoughts. I want to reach up in hope, like the strong stems of the sunflower, and catch as much of the sun as I can.

The petunias and geraniums in my grill planter also looked very cheery tonight.

Lands of Lincoln pt 2 (southern Indiana)

Three states get to claim Lincoln as their “son.” Kentucky gets bragging rights because he was born there. Indiana gets bragging rights because he lived there for a few years when he was a boy. And Illinois (the self-proclaimed ‘Land of Lincoln’) gets the biggest claim of all because he lived there for most of his life.

Several posts ago, I mentioned going to Lincoln’s Birthplace National Monument in Kentucky. Today’s post will be about the next leg in the Lincoln journey – southern Indiana.

Being one of (at the time) only two National Historic Sites in Indiana, we of course had to go the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial in the aptly named Lincoln City, Indiana.  After leaving the George Roger’s Clark Memorial in Vincennes, Indiana, we headed south east. About an hour and a half into the trip we stopped for gas and I realized that I’d left my wallet at the George Roger’s Clark Memorial when we purchased our Christmas ornament (our classic souvenir for trips). So…. luckily I had enough gas to get back to Vincennes to retrieve my wallet.

Ugh — adventures can be a challenge… and I have a bit of a habit losing my wallet on trips (I also accidentally threw my wallet away on the way to the Smokey Mountains once… that was fun). However, despite our setback, we headed back in the direction of Lincoln City and went to the National Park.


View of the museum from the flagpole (pictured below)


Closer view of museum


Looking out from the museum

The site is beautiful! There is a small museum, but the majority of the sights are outdoors. There is a lovely hike you can take that shows you various milestones in Lincoln’s life — it’s called “The Trail of 12 Stones.”


Tombstone of Lincoln’s mother


The “ninth stone” on the trail – taken from where Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg Address

Along the trail is also a living history museum of a replica of how the Lincolns would have lived in the early 1800s.


That’s a real sheep, folks!



They wanted to come home with us, but we didn’t have enough room in the car.



The living room/kitchen – Gabriel couldn’t get over that the ceilings were so low. “Wasn’t President Lincoln really tall, mom?”

The whole experience there was wonderful. I’d really love to back again. The rangers are the museum were amazing. I didn’t realize that there was a fee to get in (only $5) and they only took cash for the fees. However, they let us in anyway without seeming put out at all. When we got home a few days later, we wrote them a very nice card and included a donation because of their generosity to us.

The most wonderful part about the Junior Ranger program that I’ve mentioned several times in this blog is how excited the rangers are to interact with the kids. We have been to almost to twenty sites operated by the National Park Service and without exception, every single one of them have been eager to talk with Gabriel, show him around and talk about the history and science behind the various places.

At Lincoln Boyhood the two rangers actually argued over who would get to swear Gabriel in as a Junior Ranger! In the end the settled on letting the intern do it since she had never sworn in a Junior Ranger before. It was so cute to watch her get excited about it!


Our time at Lincoln Boyhood was wonderful! I also recommend stopping by Santa Claus, Indiana which is very close to Lincoln City. In Santa Claus it is Christmas all year round! Even in the June heat!


We stayed at the luxurious Motel 6 in Dale, Indiana (that’s sarcasm if you couldn’t tell). It wasn’t much to speak of, but it was cheap and clean and had a pool! That was all Gabriel cared about! 🙂


Dale, Indiana is a very cute little town that has TONS of “mom and pop” restaurants.

Thanks for reading about our adventures in one of the Lands of Lincoln!

Exploring Around Home Before it was Cool

The way things are in the world right now, I think it is fairly common for people to be exploring around their own areas since distance travel is inadvisable or even impossible. However, that was not the reason my son and I traveled around to some of the National Park Service areas in Indiana way back in 2013.

At the time my son was mildly… no, let’s be straight with each other… he was completely obsessed with being a Junior Ranger – going to the different sites operated by the National Park Service and getting a badge. He became very discouraged when he found out that many of them were very far away, and it would take us quite some time to save up the money to go to Mesa Verde in Colorado. To him it was as easy as jumping in an airplane, but for a single teacher, the cost of two airline tickets, car rental, food and housing for a trip that (let’s face it) my son might not remember as an adult seemed a little silly.

Consequently we started a bit more locally.  I write about our first trip to St. Louis (here), and then we went on to Kentucky (here and here). After our big trip with my parents to the Grand Canyon (here), we decided to keep it local, and sure enough… there were three sites operated by the National Park Service in Indiana: Indiana Dunes National Shoreline (which is now officially a “park”), George Rogers Clark National Monument, and Lincoln’s Boyhood Home.

The Dunes are way up at Lake Michigan, but the other two parks, were relatively close (by midwestern standards), so we decided to do a quick long weekend there over fall break.

Our first stop was in Vincennes, Indiana to learn about George Rogers Clark!


The memorial looking south (the Wabash River is just to the west out of frame)

The outside of the memorial is relatively simple, but very beautiful. It was constructed on the site of Fort Sackville, where Clark (at age 25) lead American forces to capture the fort and claim the area for the Americans.

Inside the memorial is a large statue of Clark in his military regalia.


The statue stands in the center of a rotunda

Around the statue are seven paintings that depict the taking of the fort and the aftermath of that venture.


Clark (white horse) leading militia men


Clark offering an alliance with the Native Americans 

The history behind this second painting is quite interesting – the Native Americans had forged an alliance with the British military, but Clark went to several tribes without guns and severely out-manned to offer peace. The Native American chiefs were impressed with his bravery and accepted the white sash of peace (not the red sash of war).


Clark and his men crossing the Wabash River (in the winter) to surprise the British


The taking of the fort

Clark was a crafty leader. He had a small number helping him, but he told his men to fire as rapidly as possible and to make a lot of noise so it sounded like there were more of them. He also had sharp shooters fire at the cannon holes in the fort walls so that they could not fire the cannons.


The surrender


Winthrop Sargent reading the ordinance dividing the northwest territory into Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin.


The last painting is of the founding of St. Louis – without Clark this exploration would not have been possible. 

Clark and his men helped the American cause – and that is why he is honored in Vincennes, Indiana.

A quote around the rotunda reads:

“Great things have been affected by a few men well conducted.” – George Rogers Clark in a letter to Patrick Henry


Facing north while standing on the monument steps

Tune in later this week for more about our adventures in southern Indiana!

The Way Back

After several days in Arizona, we were finally headed back to Las Vegas to fly home. The flight from Vegas was much cheaper than Phoenix, but it required a much longer drive. However, there was the up-side that we could stop by the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead.


We didn’t have a ton of time, so we didn’t go into the museum because there was an entrance fee and we knew that it really wouldn’t be worth it for the amount of time we could spend there. However, if you have time, I’m sure the museum is quite lovely.

We did spend a little walking around and looking at what we could. Gabriel had lots of questions and my dad spent some time explaining a few things about the impressive structure in a way that my young son at least pretended to understand.

For those of you who don’t know about Hoover Dam, I’ll help explain some of the history to you.

The construction of the dam was of such a magnitude that nothing like it had ever been done. Over 100 people died during the construction, and it took only five years to complete it (two years ahead of schedule).


Statue commemorating the lives of the builders – you can see the bypass behind it

The dam was originally called the Boulder Dam because it was proposed to build it in Boulder Canyon (it was then actually built in Black Canyon). There was talk about naming after President Hoover (the sitting President at the time); however, he was not a “favorite” President… what with the Great Depression and all that. Consequently for a while people called it both until the 1940s when it was approved to officially name it Hoover Dam despite the running joke that it might leave the country high and dry like its namesake.

The reason the dam was built was for hydroelectric power, as well as for irrigation to the surrounding area. Another interesting fact  is that until 2010 you could drive over it on your way out of Vegas until they built the bypass. The bypass led to a much more direct path across the Colorado River. Looking at it from the air, it’s kind of a no-brainer.


Though we were a bit disappointed in not being able to go into the museum, we were very ready to start the final leg of our trip home to Indiana.


Hoover Dam Bypass – officially called “Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge”– you know, because that’s easier to remember

Next week we’ll take a break from my adventures with my son and I’ll tell you about my road trip to the American West (at least west of Indiana).

If this is your first time to the blog – check out my other adventures as a single mom with my son!

St. Louis, Missouri
Kid-venture 2: Mammoth Cave
Scotland in Kentucky?
The Grand Canyon Adventure Begins
An Acrophobic’s Grand Canyon Experience
Driving around the Grand Canyon (Day 3)
There’s more than a canyon in Arizona!

I am She-ra!

Those who know me know that I am not known for my great home improvement projects. I am very good at making plans for things that I want to do, but whether it is travel, tattoos, or emergency necessities, there are always other things I find to do with my teaching salary than actually putting my plans to fruition. 

Like many people around the world, however, I found myself unable to travel, get tattoos, or go much of anywhere for an emergency to arrive due to the state of… things. Again, like many others, I decided to try some of the projects I’d always contemplated, but never had the time/energy/inclination to start. 

Last week I showed off my project of transforming a rusted out grill into a flower planter. You can read about that here if you haven’t already looked at that blog. I’ve also taken up landscaping and gardening in a way that I’ve never attempted before. A blog about that is coming, but I’m waiting until my sunflowers have blooms on them for that post! 🙂 

As for this blog: for about the last month, I’ve been very slowly starting to update my kitchen. I’d seen a former student transform her kitchen in a very inexpensive way by painting her cabinets. After a few conversations with her about tips and tricks, I landed on a really cool paint company, and a way to make my kitchen look updated for very minimal costs. 

Here is the “before” picture that I didn’t think to take until I’d already taken off a few cabinet doors. 🙂 I built this house with my (then) husband, and these were the cabinets were one step up from the particle board that came as the default through the builder. We built the house in 2003, so the cabinets are pretty outdated and had NEVER been cleaned, because that’s not a thing I think about. 

After looking talking with my former student Emily, I landed on the the Heirloom Traditions Paint company (I am not being compensated for mentioning them). The draw to this paint was their claim that there is no need to sand or prime your surfaces. 

In full disclosure, I was incredibly skeptic of this claim, but Emily had done her kitchen a few years before and still sang its praises, and I read several reviews online that nearly universally praised the paint for fulfilling its promise of no sand/no prime. By signing up to join their Facebook group I got a “free” sample of paint (pay shipping). So I ordered that, and began my project.

With the sample I painted one section of cabinet (and the doors). After waiting for it to fully cure, I was still satisfied with their promises and I went ahead and ordered the rest of the paint and got back to work!

My dearest friend, Clarissa, came over one Saturday afternoon, and together we painted the rest of the mounted part of the cabinets and did the first coat on all of the doors. I have a pretty small kitchen, but the two of us got the majority of the work done in just a few hours. 

Two coats on cabinets:

Another thing I had to do was to paint the hinges. Originally brushed brass, I wanted them to be black to provide a stronger contrast to the light doors. One of my biggest suggestions for future cabinet painters (that I received from a cabinet painter) was to label my hinges. Because the hinges over time can wear into the door, different hinges may not fit “just right” when you go to re-hang them. 

I went super high-tech and used post-it notes:

I sprayed the hinges with Rust-Oluem black. I let them cure for a full week before attempting to hang the doors back up just to make sure that the black wouldn’t rub off on the light grey doors. Make sure to clean your hinges really well, and it wouldn’t hurt to rub some sandpaper lightly over them just because of the oil that coats them. I had to re-spray one of the hinges because the paint didn’t stick.

I started the project (with the sample jar) on June 11th and finished it up the evening of June 29th. I worked slowly and had to order paint a couple of times and then wait until it came in. Also, other than the day Clarissa came over, I’d only worked for one or two hours at a time. If you had all your materials and a lot of drive, you could easily finish the project in a long weekend — just paint your doors and your hinges first to allow them to cure longer.

Next I need to make a decision on the countertops… maybe during the next pandemic!

There’s more than a canyon in Arizona!

The last few weeks of my blog have been highlighting a trip I took with my son and my mother to the Grand Canyon. The first few days of our adventure were taken-up with the joys that the canyon had to offer. Honestly, you could spend weeks there and still not see and do everything you want to. We focused our trip around the south rim of the Canyon because that is where most of the ranger stations and lodges are, but there is LOTS to see around the north rim as well. I hope to be able to go back some day and go up there instead.

But four days into our trip, we decided to see more of what Arizona had to offer! There are so many National Parks, Historic Sites, etc. all over the Southwest, but since my son was still relatively young,  we stayed “pretty close” to the Grand Canyon for our adventures.

In our research for the trip, I decided to let Gabriel pick some of the places that we would go see. The first place he wanted to visit was Montezuma Castle National Monument, so that’s where we headed first.


On the road to Montezuma Castle

I think I said this in an earlier blog, but the thing that surprised me the most about rural Arizona is how beautiful the desert can be. I honestly did not expect to be blown away by the rugged beauty of Arizona. I’d been to Arizona before, but the city (Phoenix), not out in the middle of nowhere. The browns and reds and greens and the blue of the sky create this magnificent palette of colors that I’d never seen in my other travels.

“MontezumA Castle, Mom! Not MontezumaZ”

My son is a bit of a know-it-all when it comes to things he loves, and Gabriel was OBSESSED with the National Park Service at this point in his life. I kept accidentally calling the monument “Montezuma’s Castle” (because as an English teacher, that makes more sense to me), so he corrected me a few dozen times while we were out there.

For those of you who have never been, Montezuma Castle is a cliff dwelling perched high into a cliff face that had to be accessed through retractable ladders. Very cool!



Close- of some of the rooms closer to the ground


The “castle” isn’t really a castle… and despite the name, it has NOTHING to do with the Aztecs or Montezuma. Interestingly, it got its name from a faulty assumption that it had something to do with the Aztecs, when it was actually left vacant quite some time before Montezuma was even born. So it’s name is very inaccurate, but … hey, we do what we want here.

The castle is a five story complex of interconnected rooms and, according to the National Park Service information, it was constructed over about 300 years (different additions added on over time). Unlike some other cliff dwellings in the American Southwest, you cannot go up to Montezuma Castle. I thought Gabriel would be upset by this, but he couldn’t have cared less! He loved walking down the paved path and looking up at the impressive construction.

There are also a few replicas that you can interact with down on the ground that, for some reason, I didn’t get pictures of. It is definitely worth the trip from the Grand Canyon or Phoenix… or Indiana!

There is also a well near by that Gabriel didn’t care to go see, but a fellow blogger wrote about it recently – you should check out her post here —> (Gen-X Traveler).

More Cliff Dwellings Ahead… but first!

After leaving Montezuma castle, we drove through the beautiful Sedona, Arizona. It’s a lovely little town– very commercial, but still cute. It reminds me a lot of a desert version of Gatlinburg, Tennessee– a little kitschy, but still worth seeing. Honestly the area around the town is what you want to see. There are SO many hikes and so many rock outcroppings to lose yourself in (in a good way) that it makes the little town very worth it (just like the Great Smoky Mountains make Gatlinburg with it).


I wanted to stay here for days and explore, but since this trip was more about Gabriel than about me, we moved on after eating lunch at a two-story Burger King with the most amazing view!

Walnut Canyon: Where I nearly died of fear about 1000 times in the span of one hour

So… here’s the thing about me and being a mom… I wanted to do what my kid wanted to do, and I didn’t want to be the kind of mom who told her kid no because of my own fears. Having said that, Walnut Canyon is not for everyone (my mom stayed in the ranger station and I DO NOT blame her one bit!). The visitor center is very lovely and you can see some beautiful views from their floor to ceiling windows, but that’s not what Gabriel wanted to do…

Walnut Canyon has a couple of trails that you can take, one that is paved and relatively flat, and one that requires going down into the canyon via a group of 240-step winding stairs. Before getting to the stairs you read quite a few signs warning about strenuous return trip and the limited (and dangerous) accessibility ahead.

Once you get down into the canyon there is a gate… like a point of no return… because the trail is so narrow it is one-way only.  It is so narrow that in most places it was more narrow than my hips, no railing, and a gloriously awful looking “plummet to your death” kind of drop-off. My knees were literally shaking on the mile (or so) loop around the cliff dwellings.

The upside? Too many to count! You actually get see and GET IN the cliff dwellings and see how the people of long ago lived. It was fascinating. The view was so beautiful (as long as I pretended I couldn’t see down.


Also, this face:


Gabriel was SO excited! He walked bravely on the trails and was not phased one bit by the height or how close he was to scary-scary-bad-death. And through my gritted teeth and trembling knees and hands (and heart), I began to appreciate the trip around the cliff dwellings because of my son’s joy.

As a National Park Service Junior Ranger you learn about lots of things concerning the parks, one of which is that you do not take ANYTHING from the park other than what you bring in. So Gabriel asked me to take pictures of about twenty different rocks that he wished he could take home with him (how adorable is that?).


I only included one rock picture 🙂



Cliff dwellings to the left, scary-scary-death to the right


One of the few places where the trail was almost wide enough for me to not be afraid, but keep in mind where that ceiling is… and I’m 5’2” on a good day.



Gabriel telling me (and other families nearby) about the history of the people who lived in these types of cliff dwellings.

The trip back up, was a challenge, but we made it all without stopping because Gabriel wanted to “get back to Nanny so she wouldn’t be worried.” All in all it was well worth the fear and trembling. Not only was the view beautiful, but my son got to experience something he’d being researching for weeks even though his mom is a wimp.

When all was said and done, he had a few more badges to add to his backpack!


If this is your first time to the blog, don’t miss out on our other adventures here: 

The Grand Canyon Adventure Begins

An Acrophobic’s Grand Canyon Experience

St. Louis, Missouri

Kid-venture 2: Mammoth Cave

Scotland in Kentucky?

One Neighbor’s Trash

Lately I’ve been trying my hand and gardening and fixing up my lawn to make it look less like I’ve only lived there a few months… when I’ve actually been there almost 18 years!

I fixed up an old pallet that I’d used as an herb garden a few years back and gave it a bit of a facelift.

I used back spray paint to disguise the roughness of the wood. Then, using a staple gun, I put in lawn fabric to hold in the dirt on all the sections, save the bottom (where I planted basil and sage, which have more substantial root systems. I got most of the herbs from my mom who has an extensive herb garden.

Then I was out watering my plants one morning and saw that my neighbor had put a rusted out grill on his curb. I’m not sure if this is the universal “come and get it sign,” but it is in our neighborhood 🙂

I suddenly thought, I bet I could make a planter out of that! And so when my best friend came over later that day, she helped me carry it over to my house.

Rust covered the entire outside of the grill and duct tape residue was on the lid (?)

Later that day I headed off to Lowe’s and got some steel wool (rust removal), some glossy black spray paint (I used Rust-Oleum), some planting soil and flowers.

First, I had to take the grill apart. I took of the kid and removed the inner pieces and the wood handle that had rotted apart. Then I used quite a bit of arm strength and scrape the rust off of the grill.

Next, I took a nail and hammered in some drainage holes in the bottom of the planter. Then I spray painted the whole thing- inside and out and filled it with soil.

After I’d scraped all the rust off and spray painted it.

After that all that was left to do was find a spot for it, and plant my flowers!

Here it all is the night I finished!

All said and done, it only took a few hours including the trip to Lowe’s.

Picture taken this morning- after nearly a month

So, be brave! If you find something on the side of the road that you might be able to spruce up a bit… DO IT! … just don’t become a hoarder. 🙂

Driving around the Grand Canyon (Day 3)

Our third day of our Grand Canyon adventure involved a drive around the south rim of the Canyon.


Our first glimpse of the Colorado River (responsible for carving out the Canyon)


My son, “Is Papa down there somewhere?”

I keep talking about the amazing views from the Canyon, but I can’t say it enough. It is an overwhelming kind of beauty that puts into perspective the size of a human life in the vastness of the world. I felt a similar kind of awe as a teenager when we went to the Rocky Mountains. The scope is simply so huge that you feel so very small.

I’m not going to have a lot of profound words in this post, I’m going to let the pictures speak for themselves for a while.


My version of “close to the edge”



Gabriel and my mom get scary-danger-death close


Desert View Watchtower — great views from several different levels


Along the drive there were several areas where you can get out and learn about the wildlife in the Canyon and the different types of people who have lived in and around the Canyon over the years.

A few of the sign writers had a punny side to them:


A little Marvin Gaye, anyone? 

And a few of them were surprising… what I wanted to know was if there was a sign for the snakes telling them to not harm me!


We made it back to the lodge in time for some leisure time– ah yes, even time in the lodge can be fun!


Gabriel drawing pictures of the things he remembered from the trip

And I even took a solo walk to the rim at sunset to get a coffee.


The path from the lodge to the village at the rim


Such an amazing day filled with beauty!

Thanks for stopping by!

An Acrophobic’s Grand Canyon Experience

Several weeks ago I began sharing with you the adventures that my son and I have taken together over the years. We started our travel adventures when he was in the first grade by going to St. Louis, then later that same year we went to Mammoth Cave and Lincoln’s Birthplace National Historic Site. Two weeks ago I continued with one of our bigger trips, all the way to the Grand Canyon.

Today’s blog recounts our first full day at the Canyon.

We woke up early that morning so we could get to the Grand Canyon’s supply store as soon as it opened so my father and his buddies could get the supplies they couldn’t keep in their luggage.  They wanted to get as early of a start as possible for their rim to rim to rim hike (south rim, down into and across the canyon, up the north rim, and then the return trip). We then took the group to the trail head and snapped a few pictures before they set off on their adventure.


My dad with his gear


The Crew

After wishing them luck, Gabriel, my mom, and I went off to the ranger station to get Gabriel’s workbook so that he could get his Junior Ranger badge and add it to his growing collection. Once we had the workbook, we were off to the rim to discover what the Grand Canyon was all about.

Several things … nearly everything, in fact… surprised me while we were at the Canyon. For one, I was not anticipating it to be so cold at the Grand Canyon. My midwestern mind knew we were in Arizona and Arizona is hot, right? I’d been to Phoenix several years before and it had gotten up to 124 degrees Fahrenheit one day. But at the rim of the Canyon (a much higher elevation than Phoenix) it was actually quite chilly, hovering closer to 30-40 degrees in the morning.

Another thing that surprised me is how much my fear of heights (acrophobia) would bother me while we were there. Now, I’m no dumby, I knew the Canyon was big and deep, I’d just assumed it would be more of a gentle sloping kind of height, or that there would be a guardrail at the least. Nope!

My fear kicked in pretty quickly as I tried to keep my fearless child from plummeting to his death every ten minutes! Of course I am exaggerating, but I had been completely clueless at how open the Grand Canyon would be for the more adventurous of humans (not me). And Gabriel was loving the views and was even transfixed with bugs (that we also have in Indiana), and keeping up with him and making sure he was in no way close to the edge was a full time job, it seemed.

I’d made a little formula for how close I could get to the edge and still feel safe (yes, that’s how crazy I can be when it comes to heights). I decided that I needed to be my height (a bit over 5 feet) and a few feet extra in order to be safe (just in case I rolled while I fell face first?). 

That didn’t last long with Gabriel, but luckily for me, we were also with my mom who seemed slightly more rational than I was about the proximity to the edge of the canyon. She would brave closer with Gabriel, while I turned away… because somehow that kept them safe (I don’t know, but it made sense in my mind).


Mr. Adventure Man – always climbing on something. 



One of our first views of the Grand Canyon

The other thing that surprised me about the Grand Canyon was the massiveness of it. Of course I knew the Grand Canyon was… well, grand! I just didn’t have any frame of reference for what that meant. I was continually frustrated that my camera could not capture how massive it was. Every picture I took was amazing, but the pictures are NOTHING in comparison to the reality of the Canyon. It was beyond anything I’d ever known before.


In the pictures the colors are not nearly vivid enough, the scope not nearly broad enough. But I tried to capture what I could in my mind as we went around to some of the places we needed to see for Gabriel to be able to get his Junior Ranger badge work completed.

We learned many fascinating things about the Canyon, the habitats, and the wildlife surrounding it. One of the interesting facts that I still remember is that the only place that you can see the Grand Canyon all at once is from outer space! Even in an airplane, you can’t take the entire Canyon in at once… it’s too big! You have to be out of Earth’s atmosphere to see all of it at the same time. DUDE.


Always ready for a picture


Canyon selfie (at a safe distance from the edge)

Once we’d filled out the workbook for the Junior Ranger badge and completed the necessary tasks (like picking up trash that others rudely left behind), we went to a ranger station so that Gabriel could get sworn in. The Canyon (unlike the other parks we’d been to) swears in several kids all at once just due to the volume of kids getting the badges, but it was still a very cool experience, and again, one that Gabriel almost felt he wasn’t “good enough” for.


Gabriel feeling very intimidated by the “old” kids.


Signing his name to his certificate

The Grand Canyon has several restaurants in the park ranging from relatively cheap cafeteria style to very fancy sit-down places that have incredibly expensive food. Since the Canyon isn’t near any large cities, the park has everything you could need for an extended stay. There’s even a Catholic church in case you need a little Jesus with your nature.

Our lodge was outside of the main village (with several hotels, stores, and restaurants), but was just a quick walk away from the rim and a few convenience-type stores. In the evening we went and got some coffee (not Gabriel) and watched the sun set over the Canyon. There were tons of places to sit around outside and Gabriel especially liked the carvings in the stones of several different local birds.


Showing off his own wingspan 

Our Grand Canyon adventure will last a few more weeks. Next week, join us as we drive around the park and see a few very cool places on the south rim!