Our First Grand Canyon trip.

Our First Grand Canyon trip.

Disclaimer, I am not a writer, so here goes.

It was the summer of 2005 and our grandson would soon be coming to spend the month of July with us. He was 10 years old and had been asking to be taken camping and well my other half would not “sleep on the ground”, so how to find a balance between fulling my grandson’s request in a way the entire family could participate. Well, the answer was an RV, so I rented an RV, and by some miracle I was on the Grand Canyon site when an RV spot was canceled the same week the RV was available – they timing was everything. Normally these must be booked months in advance.

Now all set, grandson was excited to go camping, no one would be sleeping on the ground or showering in a public bathroom, awesome.

I decided he should be part of the entire preparation process for this trip. It started with listing the items would we need, the items that need to be purchased and the items that we need to prepare, such as batteries in the flashlights. It was interesting to hear the thoughts of what a 10 old boy believes is necessary. For instance, toilet paper was an “oh yeah, I guess we should have some” and Reese Peanut Butter Cups were a necessity, and we could not go without them. Not an entirely a bad prospective.

Together we created a list of items that needed to be packed, everything from utensils, linens, meal prep and clothes. The National Parks have a newsletter that they make available by the month that includes dates, times, and cost, if any, for the Ranger led programs. This guide was invaluable, prior to departure we were able to get a sense of the activities he would want to do, and this allowed us to determine any additional items that we would need based on the activities he had selected. One of the programs that we loved is the Junior Ranger Program, for a nominal fee, there is an activity book that leads one through a course of activities that must be carried out for one to be sworn in as Junior Ranger and earn that park’s Junior Ranger badge.

List completed, items packed by the door and we are ready to go get the RV, take it home to pack and get the adventure started. In the past we would have packed the car and our grandson would have just taken a seat and we would be on our way. This time we packed the RV together, he would read off 2 items and I would go get 1 and he would go get the other, ensuring we left nothing behind. Although at first, he wanted to go play with his friends and not participate in the pre-vacation work, but we soon made a game of it and now I am so glad that we it did together.

Those 4 days at the Grand Canyon were amazing to say the least. Everyday was a new adventure and every night was a gathering with people from all over the world. We would gather by the campfire with other campers and our grandson played with children from France, England, Italy, Australia, oh and a few from the US. After playing by the campfire with new friends it was back inside the RV for a shower, PJ time and taking another look at the actives for the next day ensuring there weren’t’ any schedule changes or a change of mind. Would it still be the Ranger led Fossil Walk or would it be the Condor Talk: Wings Over the Canyon, either way we made the choices together and went to bed thinking of the adventure that awaited the next day. We filled our days with Junior Ranger activities and Ranger led walks, hikes, and talks, and he earned his Grand Canyon Junior Ranger badge, the first of many more badges he would earn through the years.

This was our first National Park vacation, and the beginning to an appreciation for the for our National Parks. The Junior Ranger program is great for kids, filled with activities, an appreciation for nature, wildlife, and possibly the beginning of a love affair for exploring. The National Park Passport program is a fun way to track your visits and to introduce traveling and exploring to young hearts. We discovered a new world in our National Parks, one that others from around the world had already discovered. Visit the National Park website for the list of parks and latest information for your visit.

Things I would do knowing what I know now:

  • Stay longer 4 days was not enough, next time we are going to stay the entire week.
  • Rent an RV, if I still did not own one, and stay in the in-park campgrounds – even if I had to wait months for the reservation.
  • Leave a couple of days for self-exploring, rather than just time slots.
  • Consider other out of park tours, we did the Glen Canyon Float tour – OMG, it is a must do, they picked us up right at the campground entrance.
  • Hike down the Canyon to the river, tent camp for night and hike back up as this hike is not recommended to do in one day. Backcountry permits are needed, so plan in advance.

Our National Parks, the best kept secret within the US.