Celebrating 20 Years of Family Vacations

Eating breakfast in Joshua Tree National Park, California, in the year 1995

Eating breakfast in Joshua Tree National Park in the year 1995

This week we’re celebrating 20 years of traveling together across the US!  Wow!  It’s been an exciting adventure together, and all the more exciting that we’re still (more or less) able to travel all together in the big green van (which is the follow up to the Big Maroon Van and the Big Blue Wagon!)  Hiking, driving, exploring, we’ve had times of our lives and memories to last a lifetime.  We’ve also racked up some statistics that blow my mind:

 


 

Watching Old Faithful on that first trip to Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Watching Old Faithful on that first trip to Yellowstone National Park

48 – the number of state’s we’ve visited.  We’ve never been to Alaska or Hawaii, and, ironically, our final contiguous state actually bordered the one we live in!

 

7 – the number of Canadian provinces we’ve visited.  I’m still dreaming of Newfoundland, though.

 

Playing at Bay of Fundy National Park, New Brunswick in 1998

Playing at Bay of Fundy National Park, New Brunswick in 1998

41 – the number of cross-country vacations we’ve taken; 31 of those trips were to destinations west of the Mississippi (can you tell that we love the western US?)

 

1,700 – the number of miles we’ve hiked in the last 20 years.  That’s like walking from New York City to Denver, CO.  Oh, and that doesn’t count the number of miles we hiked around our hometown…

 

The first time we hiked to Delicate Arch in 1997, those 3 miles might as well have been 20 miles today. But, somehow, one step at a time, we made it! Arches National Park, Utah

The first time we hiked to Delicate Arch in 1997, those 3 miles might as well have been 20 miles today. But, somehow, one step at a time, we made it!

202,000 miles – the number of miles we’ve driven in the last 20 years on vacations alone.  That’s like driving around the equator 8.1 times!

 

282 – That’s a low-ball estimate of how many US parks we’ve visited.  Plus about 12 Canadian parks…

 

Jumping sand dunes in White Sands National Park in 1995. What is better than to be able to jump barefoot down a pile of something that looks like snow? New Mexico

Jumping sand dunes in White Sands National Park in 1995. What is better than to be able to jump barefoot down a pile of something that looks like snow?

3 – the number of National Parks in the contiguous US that we haven’t visited and that you don’t need a boat to get to.

 

But I digress…

 

Exploring Cascade Canyon above Inspiration Point in 1995, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Exploring Cascade Canyon above Inspiration Point in 1995

It all began back in early 1995, when my dad’s boss told him to “be a man” and take all six weeks of vacation he’d accrued.  My mom wasn’t sure that we, as quite young children, were ready for a cross-country adventure, but she, as well as my dad, had no interest in spending all that time around the house!  And besides, we might not remember it, but we’d know what was worth doing when we took a second trip several years down the road, right?

 

Overlooking the Saskatchewan Glacier on Parker Ridge in Banff National Park, Alberta in 1995

Overlooking the Saskatchewan Glacier on Parker Ridge in Banff National Park, Alberta in 1995

So in June we set out on a three week adventure, figuring that at the very worst it wouldn’t work, we’d turn around, and come back home.  It was meticulously planned – but then we accidently left the plans at home.  Oh well, my dad (the vacation planner on our house until I came along) knew it pretty well, anyway, so we picked up our very first Golden Eagle Passport two days later in Badlands National Park.  I think we still have that passport, tucked in the pages of a photo album from the trip.

 

My dad and Your Intrepid Author explore Badlands National Park on that first trip.

My dad and Your Intrepid Author explore Badlands National Park on that first trip.

Well, we didn’t turn around, and we enjoyed it so much, in fact, that as the end of the year drew near, my dad approached his boss about taking those last three weeks of accrued vacation time.  The upshot was traveling to the southwestern US, just in time for the government to shut down the park service!  So we ended up spending a few days on the beach in San Diego until the parks reopened!

 

The note we found in our tent on the evening of November 15, 1995. How'd you like to find this in the very middle of your vacation, thousands of miles from home?!?

The note we found in our tent on the evening of November 15, 1995. How’d you like to find this in the very middle of your vacation, thousands of miles from home?!?

Throughout the 1990s, we took a big trip about every other year; but as the 2000s dawned and the younger children became better hikers (and my dad got more vacation time), we began taking at least one trip every year, more often two, and, in 2008, we took five one week trips…too crazy, but it was what worked into our increasingly crazy schedules!

Demonstrating the power of the San Andreas Fault in Carrizo Plain National Monument, California in December, 2008

Demonstrating the power of the San Andreas Fault in Carrizo Plain National Monument in December, 2008

There have been so many highlights; so many people who have blessed us; so many destinations that blew our minds and became a part of our hearts.  I thank God for every trip and each adventure that comes along.  So I’ll dedicate the rest of this post to exploring 28 of our favorite hikes from these trips (we always take a poll on favorite hikes / destinations after every trip).  Enjoy!

 

Ajo_Mountain_Drive

Bull Pasture, Organ Pipe Cactus National Park, AZ

Horseshoe Mesa View1

Grandview Trail / Horseshoe Mesa Loop, Grand Canyon National Park, AZ

Along the Tonto Trail3

South Kaibab / Tonto / Bright Angel Loop, Grand Canyon National Park, AZ

wmDSCF3349

Cinder Cone, Lassen Volcanic National Park, CA

Mt_Shasta_1

Green Butte, Mt. Shasta, CA

Sandstone Peak, Santa Monica Mountains, CA (didn’t post about this…)

Ore_Loader

Saratoga Springs, Death Valley National Park, CA

View from Wind Caves

Wind Caves, Anza Borrego Desert State Park, CA

The Causeway from the West

The Causeway, Flat Tops Wilderness Area, CO (And it came out on top on a second trip, too!)

wmBILD0406

Fitzpatrick Peak, Tincup Pass, CO (Note that we didn’t actually ascend the peak; just walked along the nearby ridgeline)

Sunrise through the Aspens on Mount Elbert

Mt. Elbert, San Isabel National Forest, CO

Hidden Lake1

Reynolds Mountain, Glacier National Park, MT

Beach at Sailfish Street Park

Holden Beach, NC

Mount Eisenhower

Presidential Range and Jewell Trail, White Mountain National Forest, NH

Statue of Liberty

Ellis Island / Statue of Liberty, NJ/NY (I never review this (can you believe it???), but here’s a link to enjoying the Staten Island Ferry which passes near Liberty Island.)

wmBILD1242

Cooper Spur, Mt. Hood, OR

wmIMG_4377a

Custer State Park, SD

Underground Missile Control Facility

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, SD (Note that this was back when tours were free – they’ll start charging in 2016)

Coyote Gulch

Coyote Gulch, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, UT

wmDSCF2165

Hidden Valley, Moab, UT

Flowers and Mount Baker

Ptarmigan Ridge, Mt. Baker National Forest, WA (And on a second trip, too!  Here’s our first visit)

Trapper Mountain, Spider Mountain, Mount Formidable behind Magic Mountain, Mix-up Mountain, The Triplets above Sahale Arm and Doubtful Lake

Sahale Arm, North Cascades National Park, WA (Here’s our first visit)

Approaching Mt Baker

Skyline Divide, Mt. Baker National Forest, WA

Twin_Lakes

Winchester Fire Lookout, Mt. Baker National Forest, WA

Cliffs along the Bonneville Pass Trail

Bonneville Pass, Shoshone National Forest, WY

Grand Teton and Cascade Canyon

Table Mountain, Grand Teton National Park, WY

Another Tulip Display in Major's Hill Park

Ottawa Tulip Festival, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

 

Here’s to another 20 years…or something like that 🙂

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *