We've a Wheeler family reunion coming up tomorrow--hooray! That means I should hurry up and share pictures from our wonderful Andrus family camping trip. I'd prefer to be just one major event behind. (More recent side note--we might make it to the family reunion tomorrow. Our poor Talia Lily is sick and couldn't fly home from Washington this evening. So, so, so sad. We miss her and are praying so hard that she gets well soon.)
Memorial Day Camping 2017 happened in Mesa Verde, Colorado. Even though we wish the miles between us were fewer, we love picking new places somewhere between Omaha and Salt Lake to explore each year. While we didn't do a great job of splitting the distance (NomiAnn and Papa Kay traveled the lion's share), I think my parents would say the drive was worth it. Celebrating Memorial Day late (the week after) worked out splendidly as well since the park was less crowded.
These sisters were thrilled to be reunited.
With an early arrival, we'll give a big thumbs up to Delta for getting our gal home safely.
Next up was the six hour drive to Mesa Verde. Considering the fact that her plane arrived at 2am Parisian time, it's not surprising that Brooklyn slept.
It was a late night, even for the non-jet-lagged. We pulled into camp shortly before midnight, grateful that NomiAnn and Papa Kay had already set up a tent for us. We awoke the next morning to a positively glorious morning.
The kids loved NomiAnn and Papa Kay's new hammock.
Of course, Annika's very favorite "toy" was the dirt. As usual. Just yesterday she asked me if I could come and watch her while she played in the front yard. Once I agreed she cheered, "Yay! Now I can play in the mud."
On our way to see our first cliff dwelling, Step House. As you can see, Brooklyn and Talia are studying up on the Ancestral Puebloans.
With so many ladders to fall from, I'm not surprised that Puebloan infant mortality rates were fairly high.
Love these petroglyphs!
Time for a lunch break! So many yummy chips to choose from.
Our next stop was a guided tour of Long House. I think the pictures describe things far better than I can.
These seep springs were considered sacred fountains of life. I wish we had the same respect for water today.
Two peas in a pod.
Brooklyn gives Annie a ride on our trek back.
Ride 'em cowboy!
We couldn't tour the Spruce Tree house because a big chunk of the cliff came down and they need to do some stabilization so they don't lose more. Eli and Annie want to go back and tour it later. I think they think it's an actual tree house.
Definitely the most educational of any of our Memorial Day camping trips, the next day included a tour of Balcony House. Not for the faint of heart, this tour requires that you climb a 32 foot ladder...
...and squeeze through an 18 inch wide and 12 foot long tunnel.
Annie made the tunnel look easy.
The trek was definitely worth it...
Even if a bit exhausting.
Balcony house still features some original balconies.
Exploring a kiva. Not solely for ceremonial purposes, it's believed that the Puebloans would hang weaving looms from the overhead beams.
Celebrating our victorious ascent to the top.
One of the RVs in the parking lot had this awesome map to mark where they had traveled. I think I want one. (The map, not the RV, that is.)
Our final ranger-led tour was of Cliff Palace, appropriately named because of its numerous dwellings.
The ranger with her star students. The kids listened well and absorbed everything they could. (Well, the older three at least. The youngest is on probation.) It's amazing to think that this civilization thrived atop the mesas for nearly seven hundred years. I hope our own nation will make it that long.
And a few more pictures from around our campsite. Given the perfect weather for our entire stay, we were wonderfully comfortable.
Gabbing with grandpa.
Thanks to NomiAnn, our meals were mighty spectacular too.
Oh my tasty!
And Annika, hidden somewhere far beneath all that dirt. (Eli, you're running a close second.)
Before leaving, we visited Four Corners National monument. For most of us, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. As in, we only want to do it once in our lifetime. Not only was it super hot, but it was a bit pricey as well. But where else are you going to bridge Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and Colorado all at the same time? Way to go, Talia!
Four kids, four states.
I hadn't realized that the monument also marks a tribal boundary between the Navajo and Ute nations as well, meaning that it is shared between four states and two semi-autonomous governments.
All toes in.
In general, the blazing sun seemed to bleach the color from this stark desert landscape. But then God made this cactus bloom.
The southwest has a unique beauty that my heart embraces. Remnants of my childhood adoration of Georgia O'Keefe, perhaps?
Not ready to give up the desert yet, we swung by Hovenweep on our way home to see a few more Ancestral Puebloan dwellings.
Gazing through Daddy's eyes.
Brooklyn and Talia, deep in conversation about how much we like to torture them with hikes on blistering hot days.
Thanks NomiAnn and Papa Kay for another amazing Memorial Day camping trip.
So excited for the adventures we'll have in the future!