Mackeys Meander the Magnificent, our Junior Ranger Adventures.
The literal “end of the road” for our summer vacation/epic National Park Jr. Ranger adventures. Thankfully, Petrified Forest is navigable by both car and foot. Our crew needed options that included maximum creature comfort for this last visit to end without burnout. (6 National Parks in 14 days traveling from Indiana to Arizona with a 10 & 11 year old in a Subaru was bound to have some tight moments!) As a rule, nothing is forced in this family. It wasn’t always that way. Like a good road trip, this parenting journey has had many twists and turns. In the past few years, we took the original map we’d been working with and tossed it out the window.
Focus has shifted from prioritizing bodily health to prioritizing mental health then just hoping the rest of our habits will naturally rub off on the kids. This is the most important work of our life.
We’ll never get it all right. But, we should be honing in our radical love and acceptance every step of the way. Especially, when you in the most barren of lands riddled with cavernous depths and so much space. The wilderness is wild for a reason. It can take us to our edge.
Or, save us from it.
Both need equal exploration. Both ways of being, caring for and cared for, are just human traits. We never grow out of either. We learn more. Humorously, often more for our epic failures than our great wins. This was the time of our trip when we all had to suss out what was acceptable for us. Here we are, visiting the park with the most visible and vibrant layers – fully aware that our persons were just not that different from these old petrified trees. Layered with our own experiences…many built into our fibers from lives past and passed on.
Doing our best not to let hard, harden. Making and taking space.
Letting others hold onto us, when it is hardest to hold onto ourselves. That’s the love that keeps bringing us back.
I could spend the few minutes I have with you here rehashing the magnificent details of this treasured park. It might be the reason you are here! But, that would be disingenuous to our experience. Believing that seeing out comes from seeing in, we spent much of the time at this park in our feelings…not at the beginning though! At the beginning we were very easily amused by all the curious shapes and rich colors!
We tree lovers and gem lovers were easily tickled by the trees ability to absorb minerals and become the sum of its parts! The wash of the water soaking into and changing the trees forever. But beyond that we needed time…
to take it in on our own. Looking back, this park is a bit overwhelming. The formations, the colors, the history…and above all the space. The space you could feel like a chill down your back. And…
the space that was needed to keep from throwing your brother (or husband!) into the canyon. WILDERNESS, folks! It’s a whole feeling.
Stuck in the mud
Honestly, I can see why you would be! This place “dug up” what we had been able to disregard from the sheer magnitude of our ever-present jollies up to this point. Please note: I know it wasn’t the place. It was our humanity…this happened to be where we hit ground zero. (A dramatic way of saying that we were crabby, needed lunch, expansion from each other and to get on the road!) But, we made it this far and even the most stubborn of us can’t help but look up when surrounded by so much beauty.
Did you grub?
To add insult to injury, the last leg of the trip is also when your most precious snacks have been ground to bits. The bread is stale. The peanut butter jar is empty and our blood had officially turned into electrolyte water. I’m sure we dug up something. But, it’s safe to say that we were not happy about it! (Until we were not hungry anymore, then I’m sure we were fine.) 🙂
What did we dig the most?
The route through the park was nearing its’ end. Our wits were frazzled and brains were fried from the furnace of the sun on this hotter than hot day and this unassuming bird pops out of its’ hidey hole and proceeds to do a dance. No exaggeration. That scavenger of death danced like a frog with a hat and cane! Presumably for crumbs, I imagine. It sure felt otherwise. It sure felt like this funny little creature knew that we were a solid crew that was too busy emoting and needed to stop and see the Petrified Forest for its calcified trees. She was right. We smiled. We played along. We shook off our crabbies and focused on the good until that bird ditched us for not paying for her services with the car crumbs we’d accumulated, no doubt – just for her. How rude! Truthfully, I really hope our pictures of this park encourage you to see it for yourself. Our far from perfect day didn’t keep us from getting our breath taken away. Similar to Big Bend, it felt as though every few miles we were in an entirely different landscape. As though the park were a country, not just one place.
Our kids love a good gift shop. It’s their truth. They like money, having it. Spending it. Eyeballing trinket after trinket until they figure out how to spend the $5 they earned while playing the “Money Game” in the car. (Money Game: kids get $.5 for every prickly pear + $.10 for every “letter U” and $1 for every animal with antlers – all items and prices change depending on the geography and available budget…wink, wink!) It was the point of the trip where they needed them time. They needed to dictate where we were going and how long we were staying. They needed to trust that we would see and honor this. We did. We moved our hot butts to the cool gift shop and parked it there longer that either grown-up desired. In a word, we all grew our ability to recover on this day. The fulfillment of our food for nourishment over pleasure. The ability to look up while feeling down. To listen to each other. To be there for each other by giving space. Radioactive isotopes and the preservation of life through fossils and artifacts are quite fascinating. And, I’m sure exposure to these concepts already started laying the ground work for these things to be understood better later. But these soft skills. This social emotional learning. These are the lessons we came for.
Here are the up to date details. Have fun!