Hiking in Bryce Canyon National Park

We surrounded ourselves with hoodoos and red rock for an entire day in Bryce Canyon National Park.

After a while, some landscapes start to look the same if you spend enough time in a region. Bryce Canyon defies that – the rock formations and colors found here are unlike anywhere else. The drive into Bryce is amazingly picturesque as well. Red Canyon holds some of the reddest red rock we’d seen on our vacation so far.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Queens Garden Trail

Our first hike of the day was down to the Queens Garden via its titular trail. It’s a manageable two miles with only three hundred or so feet of elevation change. Our kids didn’t have any issues, aside from the upper 90s heat and arid atmosphere on the walk back up.

This trail has loads to look at, from the expansive views of hoodoos at the top to the arched doors carved through towering rock. No matter how far you go, the real treat of this trail is unlike most other destination trails – it’s the journey, not the end.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Queens Garden itself is actually fairly anti-climactic, with the trail ending unceremoniously at a small grove of shade trees and a sign marking “end of trail.” The hikers we met had to search around to find what the Queens Garden was. Even then, there was a distinct air of “meh” among folks who made it to the bottom.

Like I said, the views along the way are incredible though, and well worth it. Keep your eyes up!

Bryce Point, Inspiration Point, and Fairyland Point

After our short hike, we drove around the rim, stopping at several of the points available just off the main drive. This is a great way to see the canyon – and easy too. Just drive as far down the main park road, turn around, and all the overlooking points are on the right on the way back.

Bryce Point was my favorite, there was a full spectrum of colors from the white chalky arches of rock to the red and orange hoodoos that numbered in what must have been the thousands. Fairlyland Point was my kids’ favorite, probably in name, but the natural amphitheater affords a view of the hoodoos at eye level. So it’s easy to see why Pauite Indians believed these formations were people turned to stone.

Bryce Canyon National Park

“The Quantum Treatment” featured in James Gunn’s Ad Astra

Super geeked that the fine folks at James Gunn’s Ad Astra published my short story, “The Quantum Treatment,” about kids and quantum mechanics in their latest issue.

And bonus – it’s online and free so anyone and everyone can read it! Go check it out! Here’s an excerpt.

“Crystallized salvia,” Lee beamed, giving the bag a shake. “Tim gave it to me.” Lee took any opportunity he could to point out that his brother’s sixteen-year-old friends included him in their gang. But all they’d really done was make Lee their errand boy and punching bag. Whenever Dane saw them at school, Lee was always red-faced and sweaty, the other boys laughing at his expense.

“What’s it do?” Riley gave the bag a sidelong look, recoiling as if it might bite.

“Dunno. Let’s find out,” Lee grinned.

“Have you done your pre-work?” Riley rattled papers at him. Lee ignored her and offered Dane the bag, nodding as his friend took it.

“Smells funny,” Dane wrinkled his nose.

“You first,” Lee stared, transfixed by the earthy mixture tumbling inside the plastic. Dane licked a finger and dipped it in, coating his pinky like a powdered donut. Riley watched, pen paused mid-sentence. Dane smiled weakly and licked his hand, cleaning every crystalized grain off his skin.

“Give me some,” Lee snatched the bag and poured a bit into his palm. He licked it like a thirsty dog, not caring if some spilled into the dirty sewer pipe. Riley rolled her eyes and returned to her pre-work. She kept one eye warily trained on her two friends.

It didn’t take long for Dane to feel it. It started at his fingertips and toes — an electricity separating his body from his being. It spread to his legs, arms, and finally his chest. Everything below his neck belonged to somebody else, but he could still control that fleshy apparatus with his mind. He was invincible.

“Dude…” Lee drawled out the ooo sound, chuckling at the end. Dane poked his friend’s shoulder, enjoying how it took a few seconds before Lee realized he’d done it. Then Dane felt his own body twist, and was shocked to realize Lee had punched him back a few seconds ago. Lee laughed, and Dane joined in. They shoved each other, harder and harder, until Lee fell over, shaking with laughter.

“Stop…stop…” Lee choked, crawling through a broken section of viaduct. He disappeared for a moment. Dane tried to stop laughing, but it was just too hard. And why should he stop laughing anyway? “Dane!” Lee called, his voice distant and echoing. “Dane, come here!”

Dane waded to the man-sized hole in the cement pipe, leading past dead space and into a dilapidated storehouse. Lee stood over a bunch of white tubes, most stacked in an orderly pyramid, some cast askew.

Picking one up, Lee tested its weight. Lee placed both hands at the base, taking a few tentative swings before growing bolder with his strokes. With one final grin, he raised it high up above his head and smashed it onto the ground.

The fluorescent light bulb shattered to dust instantly. A coarse line of powder remained, a specter of what existed before. Even Lee’s hands still cupped in an “O” around the bulb’s ghost.

“Let me try,” Dane pushed him aside and picked one up. Raising it above his head with both hands, he slammed it as hard as he could, heart racing at the bright shatter of glass.

They both picked another, and squared off like two samurais ready to do battle. Both winced away when their swords crossed, afraid of glass shards in their eyes, but still desperate to see.

After all the bulbs had shattered, the boys were breathless. Standing above the chalky stains on the ground, neither of their appetites for destruction had been satisfied. Their eyes fell on a wheeled cart. The boys grinned with the same burst of inspiration.

Read “The Quantum Treatment” at James Gunn’s Ad Astra

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries ^ Jack Trout3 out of 5 stars

Billed as essential reading for any marketer, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout is a quick read. It has quite a bit more substance than the Buzzfeed-esque listicle tone the title evokes now. While it’s over a decade old, the principles still hold true, though some feel like they could use refresh. Especially given the fact that the internet has created more room for innovation and successful companies to carve out a niche.

Which, in a way, this book successfully predicted. Law number 1 is if you’re not first, you’ve got quite a bit of work to do. If possible, you should always strive to create your own category. Instead of computers, go for laptops. Instead of laptops, go for netbooks, etc. etc. What this book may have predicted is how many people have become hyper-successful at carving out niches on the internet.

Several of the examples are dated, but most are still relevant today. For the everyday marketer at a big company, it may be a challenge to make some of the advice in this book actionable, given how slowly many large organizations change. But entrepreneurs and those with more power in massive organizations will likely find lots to sink their teeth into and apply right to their everyday careers.

Buy The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing

Hiking in the Grand Canyon – North Rim and Bright Angel Point Trail

Any trip to the Grand Canyon is worth it, long or short. It’s not the deepest, longest, or biggest – but it feels massive.

Our visit was an audible. We’d planned to make it a one-day excursion, but on the way to Antelope Canyon we realized we could spend the night, hit the North Rim on the way back, and add only two-and-a-half hours of driving instead of seven.

We were sold! Without a change of clothes or toiletries, we left our hotel in Page, Arizona and headed to this American icon.

North Rim
The drive to the North Rim iss one of the prettier approaches to a National Park that I’ve been on. It’s a quiet drive through secluded, untouched landscape – pine forests, hills covered with wildflowers, and vast meadows all roll by as you head south from Jacob’s Lake.

My guess is those meadows are often filled with herds of buffalo for those lucky enough to drive through at the right time, but we didn’t see any.

Early on in the drive, our kids were struck by a forest recently decimated by fire and in the process of regrowing itself. The impact of a forest fire is hard to fully appreciate until you witness it in person. When there’s nothing but charred, jagged trees as far as the eye can see, the loss of decades of life wiped out in a matter of days is inescapable. The forest will come back, but probably not in our lifetimes, which is something that no one should feel bad for mourning over.

Grand Canyon North Rim - Forest Fire

Bright Angel Trail
With young children, a hike deep into the canyon wasn’t in the cards, so we struck out on the super-short Bright Angel Point trail that leaves right from the Grand Canyon Lodge at the North Rim.

It’s only a half mile round trip, paved, and has little elevation change, but check your fear of heights at the door. Bright Angel Point is a narrow peninsula of land that juts out into the canyon. This is just like a ridge hike – which means it’s a long way down to the left and to the right. We kept a close eye on our kids, because the only railings on the trail are at the overlook at the end.

From there, we saw amazing views of Bright Angel Canyon, Walhalla Plateau, Zoroaster Temple and the South Rim. The coolest part of the Grand Canyon are all the layers – so many colors packed into too many striations to count. If you’re adventurous or have kids who love giving you gray hairs, better looks at all of these things can be had by scrambling onto some of the outcroppings and rocky rises along the trail.

Grand Canyon Bright Angel Trail - Overlook

After you’re done, make sure to visit the Grand Canyon Lodge. It was built in the 20s and is an iconic part of the park in its own right. There’s a massive room with floor to ceiling windows and lots of seating for a break and to take in views of the canyon. We stopped in the little café outside the main lodge, grabbed some ice cream, and sat on log chairs on the balcony.

Grand Canyon Lodge - Ice Cream

Family Las Vegas Adventure in 12 Hours or Less

Amidst all the hiking and nature we had to get our fix of being on the grid. Vegas was only 2 hours from our cabin, and no one except me had ever been.

So we decided to rip off the civilization Band-Aid and cram as much into a day trip as possible.

Hoover Dam

If you’ve got a car, I don’t see how you can’t take time to jog south of Vegas and see this engineering marvel. The tour through the inner workings of the dam is phenomenal, but a little on the pricey side. We skipped it this time, and chose to park ($10), walk across the dam, and participate in the novelty of standing in Arizona and Nevada at the same time.

Hoover Dam

A drought is tough to spot in the desert. After all, there’s not much water there anyway. But it smacks you right in the face at Lake Mead. A forty-foot tall strip of white collars the reservoir, marking where the water levels used to sit. Vegas will run out of water unless they do something. Like I said, there’s not much water around, so there’s no obvious backup plan.

The best view of Hoover Dam probably comes from the Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge (Highway 93), and not the road built on Hoover Dam. There’s no good spot to get a proper look at the size of the dam so if you’re skipping the tour, I’d recommend driving or walking across Highway 93 .

Luxor Pool

After Hoover Dam, we boogied back to Vegas and met friends from Phoenix who drove up for a long weekend. They were settled in at the Luxor and we had a couple hours to kill before our Cirque Du Soleil show.

Even though the Luxor is one of the older Vegas hotels, it feels updated. My first thought on the way up to their room was, “Are these elevators diagonal?” Yep, they are a little rickety but they go on an angle up the pyramid. Kind of like a poor man’s version of Willy Wonka’s Glass Elevator.

The pool is sprawling and features some waterfalls. But it’s basically a glorified spring break shallow end where bros, hung over girls and middle-aged men with gold chains hang out. Great people watching, and okay for families, there were plenty of kids splashing around.

We had two short scares in this pool – the first when neither of us knew our daughter was in the hot tub with the other kids. Then, when our friend’s kid vanished from right behind us. She was there one second, gone the next. While we were freaking out and running around the pool, she was calmly checking out a waterfall and walking back to the three pool chairs we claimed. Crisis averted.

Cirque Du Soleil – Mystère

The centerpiece of our Vegas adventure was the original Cirque du Soleil show, Mystère. None of us had even seen one, but the show had rave reviews.

Cirque du Soleil Mystere

Basically a bunch of weird stuff happens, a baby does a few goofs, and they summon a giant psychedelic snail at the end. Along the way the performers do incredible feats of strength and flexibility. Some are over the top, some are super stripped down. In fact, my favorite act featured two men, nothing else on stage, and a display of strength, control, and continuous movement.

The onslaught of color, sound, light, and spectacle was like nothing else our kids had seen and they were enthralled. They break up the acrobatics with several comic bits should get a chuckle out of anyone, so I’d say this was a great first show to take our family to.

The only downside was the frat bros we sat behind (Surprise! There are lots of bros in Vegas) – they’d had a few prior and loved their own running commentary. A lot. But it wasn’t anything that couldn’t be ignored.

Walking the Strip

You can’t visit Vegas without walking the strip. If the Cirque show was an onslaught of light, motion, and sound, the strip is a full on apocalypse. There are things to look at everywhere. No space is wasted. From all the lights, to the massive casino installations, to the buskers working the curbs, to the Hispanic men and women snapping their cards for escort services – it’s sensory overload.

If you walk the strip, be ready to walk. It may look like you only have two blocks until the Bellagio. But Vegas blocks are a half-mile long. You’ll fight huge crowds. And screw what everyone says about it being a dry heat. It is hot. Bring water or dollars to buy bottles off the vendors.

The walkway right before the Bellagio was particularly insane. Hundreds of people crammed onto a narrow walk above the road. It was like leaving a major sporting event just after the game is over. If you’re claustrophobic, skip it.

That effort to get to the Bellagio to see the fountains was worth it, however. When the fountain starts, the crowd quiets and a tranquil display of water and music cuts through the clamor. By that time of night, everyone was exhausted. That perfect moment of mental relaxation was exactly what everyone needed.

The Way Back

Our friends went back to their room, and we left in the early hours of the morning. The best part about the desert has to be the night sky. You haven’t seen the stars until you’ve seen them in the desert. Constellations and individual stars disappear. The Milky Way looks like the inside of a brain, with nerves and synapses spidering across the sky.

Stars in the Night Sky

At night out here, the animals come out. Hundreds of rabbits, literally crawling all over the road. Big ones, baby ones: they were everywhere. In the frenzy, I don’t know how the road wasn’t littered with carcasses. At the last moment, they all seemed to dart away from the light and return to nature.

Hiking the Narrows in Zion National Park

I had one day to do whatever I wanted in Southwest Utah. I chose to wade the Narrows in Zion Canyon.

My best friend highly recommended this hike. He’d visited a couple years before and, luckily, I texted him beforehand. You’re going to get wet in the Narrows. Nearly all of it is in the Virgin River. In some spots, I got up to my nipples in chilly water. He told me I had to rent water boots from Zion Adventure Company.

I listened and it was well worth the thirty or so bucks I spent. Not only because of the rugged, but breathable, boots and neoprene socks, but also the complimentary hiking stick. I was also bringing my DSLR, so I grabbed a dry bag and headed out.

Temple of Sinawava
The trailhead for the Narrows is at the back of Zion Canyon, so you’ll need to take a free shuttle to the Temple of Sinawava, and then walk a mile on flat asphalt until you can’t go any further. The bottleneck in the canyon not only hems in the towering cliffs, but chokes a river of people into one spot too. I’ve never seen so many selfie sticks in one place.

The crowd didn’t thin out for the first few miles, so be prepared to deal with crowds. The canyon is fairly open here and you can hike on the riverbank in spots. Makes it great for folks wanting an easier day, or if you’ve got young kids. On one of the rock shelves, people created an awesome mural of muddy handprints and messages for other hikers to add to. Somehow, it made dealing with the crowd a little more palatable. We’d all created this simple artwork that would only last until the next good rain.

The Narrows - Zion National Park

Wall Street
After several miles, the canyon narrows into its iconic form. Flowing river from cliff to cliff, that tower over a thousand feet overhead, with only twenty or thirty feet separating. Here, Wall Street and Odenkirk Canyon split. I ventured down Wall Street, but I’ve heard Odenkirk offers more opportunities to swim and boulder.

The Narrows is simultaneously claustrophobic and inspiring at the same time. The rock is overwhelming. But the scale is awe inspiring, when you look ahead and see how tiny other hikers are compared to the walls.

The Narrows - Zion National Park

The actual logistics of hiking are something I’ve never experienced anywhere else. You truly are in the river the entire time. It’s a lot like hiking on wet, misshapen bowling balls. Only you aren’t able to see where you’re stepping. Also, don’t where thin clothing you can see through when it gets wet. I wore Chaps hiking pants and black underwear, and left nothing to the imagination.

The Narrows - Zion National Park

Big Springs
Huddled against the cliff about 6 miles in, you’ll find a stout water fall called Big Springs. This is the farthest back bottom-up hikers can go without a permit. Past that, you’ll need to reserve a spot, and probably spend the night. It took me until nearly sunset to get up and down the river. Twelve miles is a fairly big day anyway, and I was slogging through water the whole time.

I wouldn’t call this a “must see,” though. It’s probably worth skipping if you’re short on time or if you want to see Wall Street and Odenkirk Canyon. I spent a few minutes here taking a couple pictures and gulping down some water. But I soon found myself headed back down the river to walk in the rippling shadows again.

Hiking Snow Canyon State Park – Butterfly Trail and Cinder Cone

Utah wasn’t the first state that comes to mind for volcanoes. But just north of St. George, there’s an awesome park filled with lava flows and red rock.

Butterfly Trail
Not 100% sure how this trail got its name. There are no butterflies to be found in this parched desert. The kids and I chose the hike because it had a little bit of everything: lava tubes, petrified sand dunes, views of the stunning red and white rock formations in Snow Canyon. Our first choice, Johnson Canyon, was also strangely closed during the summer, and open during the winter. If you’ve been to other National Parks, you know that’s the complete opposite of the norm.

It was just me and the kids that day. After some initial grumbling from my daughter, both were pretty excited to hit the trail, even though it was over a hundred degrees. Make no mistake, this is a desert hike, but there’s lots to see. The first part of the trail involves scrambling down some petrified sand dunes, walking along side red rock cliffs, and crossing an old lava flow. From there, it opens up and flattens out. Not much but cacti, the open desert, and more red cliffs in the distance.

Snow Canyon State Park - Lava Flow

Snow Canyon State Park - Petrified Sand Dunes

The kids were excited and a little nervous at the idea of seeing Gila monsters, which supposedly call the park home. Even though we kept our eyes out, we didn’t spot any sunning themselves.

Cinder Cone
Cinder Cone actually sits outside the fee area, but is still listed on the park map. It’s an old volcanic formation that rises a few hundred feet out of the desert. The sides are covered in black volcanic rock, and the crater is easily visible from the highway that bends around it. Once you recognize the iconic shape, you’ll start to notice plenty of other cones in the area. As far as I know, this is the only one with a trail running around it to the lip of the crater.

Once my son heard this was a volcano, we knew we had to climb it. My daughter was a little nervous about a potential eruption, but we assured her it hadn’t gone off in nearly 40,000 years. The trail winds among some giant piles of jagged volcanic rock and steadily climbs up to the tall side of the crater.

Snow Canyon State Park - Cinder Cone

It’s not a particularly easy hike. There’s no shade, it can get up above 100 degrees, and the approach to the summit is a steep climb on loose, sharp pieces of rock. But at the top, there’s an awesome view of the surrounding desert, Snow Canyon, and the surprisingly deep crater. There’s also a trail that takes you around the lip and down into the center, but we didn’t partake.

Snow Canyon State Park - Cinder Cone

These were some of our favorite hikes on the trip, and they were also the closest to where we stayed in Pine Valley.

Super Better by Jane McGonigal

Super Better by Jane McGonigal5 out of 5 stars

I picked up this book after listening to her interview with Tim Ferris, which was sort of a reintroduction to her work. Back in 2011 she made a splash with Reality is Broken and gameification, but after that I’d lost track of her. Turns out she’d suffered a concussion and spent over a year overcoming debilitating symptoms and suicidal thoughts using a game as motivation.

Super Better is the refinement of that game, and over 400,000 people have played it to help deal with cancer treatments, depression, personal improvement and a whole host of different things.

The first portion of the book is the science behind the system. But instead of spending her time writing about her research, she delves into all the science done before Super Better. Then she validates the work of other scientists and pushes the realm of theory into actual practice with her own study. At the end of three chapters, you should be sold on the real impacts a gameful mindset can have on whatever it is you’re trying to achieve.

The second portion of the book is a walkthrough for designing your own Super Better Since the system can be used to improve and be more resilient for anything, it’s less about solving a specific problem. It’s about helping you solve your problem. At the end of the book, you’ll have a goal, bad guys to fight, an epic avatar, allies, quests to complete, power ups, and hopefully a whole new outlook on the challenge you’re trying to overcome.

Buy Super Better Now

Visting Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, and Glen Canyon Dam

From above, Antelope Canyon doesn’t look like much. I’m used to things like Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon – where you stand at the edge of a massive expanse. Antelope is little more than a crack in the ground. If I was strolling by, I’d probably miss it or dismiss it.

Antelope Canyon

But if you venture underground, there’s a landscape unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

Antelope Canyon
The hour we spent walking down this narrow canyon was my wife’s favorite stop of our trip. We were escorted by a tour guide like everyone else – we chose Ken’s Tours after a little digging online.

Here’s what to expect – you’ll pay a fee to enter the Lake Powell Navajo Tribal Park and a fee to take a tour. I highly recommend reserving a spot – it’s crazy busy. In fact, the bottom is basically a conveyor belt of tourists with no gaps between groups. Figuring out what time to show up is also confusing – the park observes the America / Shiprock time zone, which is different than the surrounding area. Make sure to call ahead and figure out what their time is in relation to wherever you’re traveling from.

There’s also no running water, which we didn’t know ahead of time. Luckily, I keep a gallon of water in the car for emergencies. Even though the canyon is shaded and underground, it’s still the desert. Bring a water bottle for everyone.

Antelope Canyon

Once our tour descended into the canyon, it was wall-to-wall amazing. From start to finish, the canyon walls resemble flowing water that’s been frozen in sand. They undulate and curve and bend around each other to form naturally beautiful structures and features. The guides were also great about helping everyone find the right setting on their camera. Every single one of my pictures was properly exposed and colored thanks to our guide.


Our kids struggled with staying off the canyon walls and rocks – they usually want to climb on everything, and the sandstone in the canyon is very fragile. They did love the demonstration our guide did at the end of the tour. He showed us how the canyon formed by using the sand on the ground and a water bottle. It’s hard to explain without the demonstration, but he basically made a rock out of nothing more than sand, water, and a little bit of time.

Horseshoe Bend
Since we were confused by the time change in the Tribal Park, we had almost two hours to kill. Luckily, Horseshoe Bend is only 15 minutes away from the park. After a quick drive, we were able to take in one of the most photographed spots on the Colorado River. It’s about a mile-and-a-half round-trip hike with a hundred or so feet of elevation change to the overlook, but it’s well worth it. We even saw a huge jackrabbit scamper across the trail on the way down!

The river sits 1,000 feet below the cliffs, making for an awesome vantage point. Check your fear of heights in the car – there are no railings here!

Horseshoe Bend

Glen Canyon Dam and Vermillion Cliffs
The drive into Page, Arizona is very easy on the eyes. The highway meanders past the Vermillion Cliffs, endless edifices of rock that are all sorts of different colors. Somewhere in there is The Wave, which looks even more amazing than Antelope Canyon. However, I understand it’s a 3-mile unmarked hike across open desert to find it, so we decided not to try it out.

As you near Page, you’ll see Lake Powell, a massive desert oasis that looks impossible amid all the barren, red rock. Even though the drought has knocked the lake behind the dam down quite a bit, it’s still impressive. And the dam itself is giant – I think it’s more impressive than Hoover Dam. Probably because you can get a better view of the size by walking out on the bridge crossing just in front of it.

Later in our trip, we heard from our guide that they are debating whether or not to tear down this engineering marvel, and return the land to its natural state. So if you want to see it, go soon, because it might not always be there.

Glen Canyon Dam

Pine Valley, the Cursed Pool, and the Kindness of Strangers

The first two weeks of our family adventure had some awesome highs, and some awful lows.

We stayed in Pine Valley, Utah. If you’ve seen the show Wayward Pines on Fox, Pine Valley is eerily similar to the titular town in the show. One road in, completely surrounded by mountains, only a hundred or so residents. Heck, there’s even a Matt Dillon Trail just outside town. Aside from the homes, the town has a fire station that mostly sits empty and a restaurant that’s open Friday night and all day Saturday.

And that’s it.

Pine Valley, Utah

In the House and Around Town
Pine Valley, Utah House

The house we rented was the 2nd home of a family who lived 40 miles away in St. George. It had just enough space, amenities, and yard for our family of four. The first two weeks held a lot of hustle and bustle. There are tons of parks within three hours: Pine Valley Recreation area, Snow Canyon, Zion National Park, Antelope Cnayon, Glen Canyon, Grand Canyon, and Grand Staircase are all day trippable.

When we were there, the kids caught grasshoppers, made fairy houses, and, most memorably, got an introduction to Dungeons & Dragons.

Getting them hooked on D&D is all part of my long-term strategy to prevent teen pregnancy. Mwa ha ha! And, I guess, I knew they’d love making up stories and pretending to battle fantastic creatures. For their first adventure, I found this perfect little two-hour campaign designed for young kids. I simplified the rules to try and make it as fun as possible for them.

Dungeons and Dragons

They took to it like dogs to water. The adventure I picked is made to illustrate how you really can do anything you dream up, not just hack and slash. Both kids figured that out quickly. Their first solution to any of the obstacles was to use their special skills or reasoning to solve the obstacle. My daughter loved taming animals, and my son kept trying to get any NPCs (non-player characters) he met to join the party. They did commit the cardinal sin of D&D, splitting up the group. But, they survived and joined back together for the final encounter.

They loved it so much, my son made up his own campaign while I was out hiking. We had a blast playing it a couple of times, and shared a lot of good laughs as a family at some of the things they dreamed up. I can’t wait to keep sharing this with them.

Our kids also went bananas over the local restaurant, The Brandin’ Iron. After our first dinner there, my daughter called it “Barnes and Noble” and the name stuck. Our server Sarah was phenomenal, and we requested her the other two times we went back.

On the three-day road trip down my daughter refused to eat anything, even if she ordered it. Tuna from Subway, deli sandwiches from Arbys, etc. etc. So when she ordered salmon from the Brandin’ Iron, we almost didn’t let her do it because we were afraid she’d waste a $25 plate of food.

Nope, she polished off almost all of it . And demanded we bring home the leftovers. And ordered it every other time we went there.

We went on two hikes in town, in the recreation area and Forsythe Canyon, which I did by myself.

The recreation area is a pretty little stroll that’s perfect for young kids, no elevation change, lots of interesting things to see and smell (the trees smell like butterscotch!), and a reservoir for fishing and wading.

Pine Valley Recreation Area

I ventured up Forsythe Canyon for several miles by myself, but never really got out of the woods. Great for exercise, but this was probably the least scenic thing I did the whole trip. On the way back, I did get a huge scare from a vicious animal.

I was minding my own business on the trail when I saw a massive black shape ambling through the woods. My brain flashed to all the warnings and misgivings everyone had ever had about solo hiking. “Watch out for bears,” everyone said. I reached around to slowly grab my bear mace and…

A cow poked its head around a tree. I don’t know why a black cow was hanging out two miles from its pasture other than to troll me, but I didn’t appreciate the prank. Once it spotted me, it crashed stupidly through the woods back to its farm.

Turns out, animals have free reign in Pine Valley. At night we saw a lost calf and its mother in the middle of the road outside town. During the day, deer and a huge family of twenty (yes, twenty) turkeys were regular appearances at our house.

The Cursed Pool
Our kids love to swim, so when we heard there was a pool close to town, of course we had to go. Veyo Pool Resort seemed like a lot of fun – it’s tucked in a canyon with rock climbing, raspberry bushes everywhere, and crayfish hunting.

Veyo Pool

Unfortunately for us, it was nothing but bad luck. My son got a thorn stuck in his toe. Sandi got stung by yellowjackets. My daughter cut a slice off the tip of her toe.

And me, I got the worst. On the way to the pool the day before we were supposed to leave, three dogs ran out in front of the car, and I hit and killed two of them.

The driving conditions couldn’t have been more perfect – middle of the day, great weather, kids were quietly reading, my phone’s GPS was off, and I was slowing down heading into town. But on the right side of the road, waist high grass grew right up to the shoulder, and I didn’t see the sprinting dogs until I’d hit them already.

As soon as it happened, I knew I must have killed them. I pulled over to the side of the road, sobbing already, and the kids had no idea what was going on. They were panicked that something had happened to me. Behind us, two of the dogs were lying in the middle of the road, and the third was sniffing around.

I called 9-1-1, which probably wasn’t the right use of the number, but I had no idea who else to call. My son was crying because he thought the dogs had a shot at living, and no cars were stopping to help them. I thought for sure they were gone, but then one started moving.

The next twenty minutes (the police officer was a long way away) were spent keeping the kids safe and waving cars over so they wouldn’t hit the dogs again. Once I got up close, I knew it was only a matter of time until he passed away – I wished I could have put him out of his misery but the only thing I could have done was run him over again, which wasn’t really an option.

The police and owners showed up just as he laid his head down for the last time. The next couple of days were rough for all of us, I had trouble sleeping, and my daughter said she couldn’t stop thinking about the dogs at random moments in the car.

The one bright spot in all of this was our hosts. We had to coordinate insurance and repairs (our car needed a new radiator, condenser, and bumper), get a rental car, and find a place to stay – all without any real cell phone or internet coverage and 40 miles between us and the repair shop. But they did everything they could to help us. Drove me from the repair shop to their home. Fed me and let me stay the night. Let us stay an extra night in the Pine Valley house even though they had a new guest coming in that night. We couldn’t be thankful enough for all their help.

Once I got a rental truck the next morning, we decided to not wait around St. George. Instead, we drove up to our next destination, Glenwood Springs, Colorado, and I came back to fetch our car when it was ready.