April 24, 2018
After hiking the amazing Fairyland Loop yesterday, our plan for today was to stop at the visitor's center, get Frankie a Junior Ranger booklet, and ask a ranger for a recommendation for a good, shorter hike in the main Bryce Amphitheater. The ranger emphatically recommended the Queen's Garden-Navajo Loop, which at 3.0 miles with less than 600 feet elevation gain, was perfect for our easy hike (despite the rating of "moderate to strenuous" on the National Geographic map). We also learned that Frankie would once again be required to attend a ranger-led program in order to complete the Junior Ranger program. I do find the ranger programs interesting, and we always learn a lot... My only issue is that we came here to hike, and the available ranger program options are very limited, in April anyway. However, Frankie very much wanted to be sworn in as a Bryce Canyon Junior Ranger, so we made it work for him.
April 23, 2018
According to the National Geographic map, the Fairyland Loop Trail is 8.0 miles long and with 2,309 feet ascent and descent. Other descriptors include "strenuous" and "less-crowded." This sounded right up our alley, so we decided to dedicate one of our two full days in Bryce to this hike. After getting a small taste of hoodoos yesterday exploring Red Canyon in Dixie National Forest, we were super excited to get to Bryce proper, and wanted to jump right in with both feet. Frankie can do the Junior Ranger Program tomorrow... today was for Fairyland. And this trail did not disappoint! It has instantly become one of my all time favorite hikes.
April 21, 2018
Observation Point was the hike I was most looking forward to in Zion National Park. The Narrows and Angels Landing weren't going to happen on this trip, so I made sure to negotiate for Observation Point before we made any reservations. I wouldn't have been happy coming to Zion and only seeing the valley; it would have been too cruel of a tease. While plenty of kids hike Angel's Landing, it was not an option for us on this trip, given Erwin's discomfort with exposure. Frankie is interested in hiking Angel's Landing, of course, and Erwin has conceded that I can take him up when he is older. However, he wasn't willing to budge on Frankie hiking it at seven years old. And I agreed that it wasn't necessary on this trip: once Erwin agreed to Observation Point, it just wasn't worth arguing about. Observation Point is no consolation prize - I was truly excited for this hike.
April 20, 2018
Since I had picked the Observation Point hike, and Erwin really wanted to see the valley, I deferred to him on the selection of this trail. According to the trail map/brochure, the Riverside Walk is 2.2 miles roundtrip, an out-an-back leading to the entrance to the famous Narrows. Of course, what Erwin really wanted was to hike the Narrows, but on this cold and rainy morning, it wasn't a real option for us. We knew spring isn't the ideal season for this hike, especially given that we travel with our boy: water levels are highest this time of year and cold, too. Frankie has no body fat and would quickly get chilled, even if the air temperatures were 40 degrees warmer. So we settled for just seeing the portal. This time.
With only two full days to spend in Zion National Park, we had carefully planned how to allocate our time: one day would be dedicated to hiking Observation Point; the other day would be spent hiking shorter trails in the valley bottom and allowing Frankie to complete the Junior Ranger program. This is something I remember very fondly from family trips to National Parks as a kid, so I wanted to make it a priority to give Frankie the same opportunity. We had originally planned to hike Observation Point today, thinking crowds would be less on Friday than on a weekend, but it was raining this morning and forecast to be nice tomorrow. We decided to save Observation Point for the nicer day, thereby minimizing potential risks associated with slippery rocks near steep drop offs.
April 8, 2018
For this hike, Frankie and I ventured to a section of the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) that follows the Link Trail along the old Lehigh Valley Railroad. I parked at Nelson Road, and we hiked west and then south to the bench for a picnic lunch. From there, Frankie decided we should walk over to the railroad sign for a quick visit, and after that, we returned back the way we came. This route is a slightly shorter variation of a similar solo hike I did two years ago, when I continued on past the railroad sign to Quarry Road so I could enjoy the spring wildflowers in the forested section past the railroad sign. No wildflowers out there today! It's the winter that refuses to quit, which is actually what led us here: there is still snow in the hills south of Syracuse where the NCT follows the Finger Lakes Trail, and we've reached the point of being done with all that. Plus, Frankie has done both the adjacent sections, so this hike filled in a gap for him.