The park has two sides, east and west, and no roads connecting the two. This meant we had to pick a side to visit. I still to this day am not sure which side we visited :D! How can that be? Well....I had looked it up online and tried to decide which side we would enjoy more (they were very similar). With a decision made and a picnic packed we loaded up in the car ready to go. When I typed the destination into my phone, I noticed that it looked different from the directions that the computer had said. I didn't really give it much thought, figuring that it was just a little different way to get there. Not thinking about the two separate sides. So...we followed the directions my phone gave and in the end I'm just glad that it actually got us there :)! Which ever side it was! The road leading into the park was very narrow and winding. A good bit of the way it was actually a one way road, which proved to be a bit "exciting" :)
We of course stopped at the visitor center first. It looked to be brand new and it was really pretty, not sure why I took zero photos of it??? Oh well :). Before we could even get out of the car, the kids had spotted a road runner just across from us! Those birds are so fun to watch, and oh so fast! I had been trying to get a picture of one of them for months, ever since we were in southern Arizona, and finally managed to snap one! A blurry one, but still :)
The rangers were doing training and I'm glad they were :). The trainees were super, super nice and so helpful. They were actually out of Jr. Ranger booklets (I know!!!) and it was looking like we would just miss out on getting to do the program. Well, one of the trainees (bless his heart) had disappeared into the back and when he came back out he had a booklet for the kids to share! He used the computer to go on their website and print off a packet for us...how sweet (and smart!) is that?! The kids had fun doing the activities as a team. Something different :)
Next, we headed over to the picnic area to have our lunch. Why do simple foods always taste so much better when eaten outside in a beautiful setting? We had an assortment of TJ's cheeses, sliced meats, french bread, little tomatoes, crackers, and some spinach artichoke dip...and the kids kept saying how great it all was ;). Musta been the sunshine...
After we ate, it was time for a hike. We went on a trail that followed a little stream through an open area and then up into the rocks to a cave. We had borrowed a headlamp from the vc in case we wanted to explore the cave, but ended up only going in a little ways. The cave was very wild, natural wild...as in no lights, very VERY dark, and full of bats. Eeek!!! Um, no. So not happening! A few of the kids were bummed that we didn't go crawling around in there, but some of them wanted absolutely NOTHING to do with it. Had Dan been with us we might have went further in...me by myself with five kids and only one light I just didn't feel comfortable with it.
The hike itself was beautiful and just about the perfect length. We made it back to the picnic tables with just enough time to complete our Jr. Ranger booklet and go turn it in. There was another trainee (she told us it was her very first day AND she was homeschooled, too - just like us! ) that went over everything with the kids and awarded them their badges. So fun to see her excitement and enthusiasm!
We had fun day...it was neat to be there as the park transitioned from National Monument to National Park and share in a little of the excitement :)