In planning this trip, the horse ride into Bryce Canyon was always the most highly anticipated part. Preplanning set the ride at 2:00PM on Wednesday so our drive from the Grand Canyon started early and was deliberation, focused and intentional. Despite the hour change of time not in our favor we arrived in time to eat a sandwich before arriving at the corral. The head cowboy called families and groups forward and in a very contemplative way named a horse for each rider which we were to remember until another cowboy came by to show us the named horse and help us mount.
This was the first time the girls had been on a horse. The boys had a lesson and ride as Riley's birthday gift a year ago. The thirty or so riders were set onto the trail in a line behind a guide in groups of about eight. We were the last group which included a newly wed couple from Indiana. Deona's horse was chosen to be first behind the guide and when her horse moved, turned to follow her face lit up and could be seen across the corral. It seemed to say, "This thing moves!"
After a few comments guiding us to a safe ride we headed down the trail. While we were instructed how to stop, go and turn, the horses who do this twice a day on a narrow mountain trail do what they want despite our motions including walking close to the edge. That wouldn't be so bad since none have ever fallen but periodically they would slip or stumble removing our sense of security. After four hours of riding, picture taking, funny stories and explanations from the guiding cowboys we found a way to slip off the saddles and try to walk.
Our campsite was KOA a dozen miles away. The ride had been hot so as we passed a local restaurant we decided to eat out after a swim and shower. The Arches NP was next. The route options were a scenic windy route through the eroded pinnacles of dirt and rock or a get there quickly on a 80MPH interstate freeway. We chose the latter; we'd already seen rocks and narrow roads.
This was the one night for which we had no reservations in a campsite so our first task when we arrived was to search out a vacancy. We were blessed because at the first closest campground to the Arches entrance we found and claimed the only remaining tent site. In the Arches we did several walks and saw several of the over 2000 arches in the park. A special treat was watching four climbers repelled from a pinnacle, right next to the infamous Balanced Rock. The heat of the day and the boredom of the teenagers kept us from long hikes and so we missed some of the highly photographed arches.
The next morning we made a quick stop in Canyonland before we headed north toward Salt Lake City for the girls' flight to North Dakota and home the next morning. Dinner was at Perkins and the sleep was in Best Western. Denvy took the girls to the airport at 4AM before driving to Boise and Keeners with the boys. On the final day, Sunday, we drove the boys home to Puyallup and ourselves home to Dallas arriving about 10PM. One of the greatest events in our lives would now live on as a memory.