palo duro {time to rest and explore}

palo duro canyon welcomed us this month. this second largest canyon in america is rugged, colorful, and vast. the last time we visited, AD wasn't even walking. AD turned 4 years old on this camp trip. with our middle 5 and our oldest 8, i was seeing a whole new season of parenting this time. no babies, no toddlers. our freedoms and responsibilities are shifting, and it's bittersweet to take in.

we've camped palo duro in tent, cabin, and 2 different camper trailers. each way has been sweet (yet, tent camping did get rough with babies and toddlers' afternoon naps in tx heat, we discovered early on).

during this stay, temperatures were mild, pleasant with light winds, perfect. since our last visit about 3 years ago, it looked like the canyons experienced some major rainstorms, maybe flooding. cliffs were transformed evidently by erosion. the changes were stunning and interesting to explore with the children.

with the 1 1/2 days of hiking, we walked the ccc trail, cliffs along the southeast end of the park, paseo del rio trail, and much of the lighthouse trail. i was struck by how far we were able to go without front packs, strollers, walking toddlers. we were able to take more side jaunts off the main trails to explore water and the base of cliffs. and no child needed carrying at any point. it felt very strange and wonderful.

momma's trip-bloopers:
i dropped my pack on the rock to take a picture. my water bottle fell out and slowly rolled right off the cliff's edge about 4-5 feet away from where i stood. i cringed as i watched it plummet about 30 feet to a resting spot below.

as our family was looking up at the stars and the bright moon one night (amazing what we've been able to see in the night sky in that non-light polluted canyon--seen more shooting stars in one sitting), AF mentioned she was cold, so i picked her up to snuggle. as we turned to walk into the trailer, my shin walked right into a 2 foot wooden post. stumbled. no fall, thankfully, with a child in my hands. just a nice welt souvenir.

{the park's amphitheatre, post mini-espinoza stage performances. Espi and i enjoyed such entertainment as "humpty dumpty," "twinkle little star," and psalm 13 recited.}

{see our little ants climbing their ant hill?}

{the grass stalks were awesome, 6-7 feet tall. here, H asked to compare my height to them.}

{our last hike of the trip, these pumpkins finished that afternoon with 4 miles on the lighthouse trail}

highlights from the kids:
H: walking through the grass that was taller than mom and dad
AF: playing by the river
AD: finding some sticks
H: seeing the flocks of wild turkeys
AF: camping in our camper
AD: [throwing and] watching our sticks float down the river

and more highlights:
*a complete phone and internet break for about 48 hours--no reception down in the canyon
*seeing many early mountain bike racers while we hiked getting familiar with the trails in preparation for their 52 mile bike marathon (which took place the morning we left)
*afternoon naps--for the whole family