Cold weather is good time to plan warm trip

Published 7:50 am Wednesday, January 10, 2024

By Bonnie Brown

With the last few days of overcast and chilly weather, it’s a good time to plan your summer vacation.  “What?” you say.  Yes, now is the time to get those reservations made, especially in the national parks.  In fact, you might be late in doing so.  Many of the parks have been so overrun since 2020 when the appeal of wide-open spaces beckoned us.  

Our family did a road trip out west in the late 80s that still provides many happy memories.  We headed west to Dodge City.  There we saw a gunfight near a saloon and got a flavor of the old west.  From there we traveled to Denver.  We stayed in a beautiful hotel, and it provided our sons Jeff and Dennis with a valuable lesson.  It seems the earlier guests had partaken of the offerings of the mini bar and had emptied the contents of all the snacks but kept the wrappers looking as if they still contained the goodies.  

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We were lucky to get some cheap airfare rates to fly from Denver to Las Vegas.  It was the first time for the boys to fly.  We stayed at Circus Circus and the boys won so many stuffed animals from the games that it was quite a scene getting them all on the plane for the trip back to Denver.  I think one big one might have shared a seat in the cockpit! 

Next stop was Aspen, truly a beautiful place, then on to Ouray, Colorado where we began our drive on the Million Dollar Highway, the 25-mile stretch of highway between Ouray and Durango which is one of the most gorgeous drives in the United States.  We stayed at the Strater Hotel in Durango which is adorned with beautiful woodwork, period wallpaper, and the largest collection of antiques in the hotel and the guest rooms.  Of course, we took the 5.5 hour round trip on the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad tour.  It was fabulous, even at the top speed of 18 mph!  

From there we traveled to Mesa Verde National Park where we spent the night.  The cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde are some of the best-preserved ruins in the North American continent.  These Ancestral Puebloan people carved their homes into the earth and cliffs, and lived there between 600 and 1300 A.D. 

We made our way next to Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Tom’s favorite of all.   Monument Valley may be one of the most photographed places on earth, and I say that not just because we have hundreds of photos from there.  Monument Valley has been the backdrop for many Hollywood productions, most notably the John Wayne movies.  It is said that the iconic landscapes of crimson mesas and towering buttes are colors found only in nature.  The Navajos are very protective of this site.  

Our last stop was at the Grand Canyon.   The canyon averages 10 miles across and a mile deep along its 277-mile length.  There is so much to see and do there, including hiking, mule trips, and rafting trips.   The views are spectacular, and you cannot find enough camera angles to capture the natural beauty there.   While the guys did some exploring, I found a car wash and managed to get at least a few layers of road scum removed from the car.   

To say it was a wonderful trip doesn’t fully convey the fun we had and the memories we made.  So, get out the map and start planning!  It will be travel time before you know it!