Written by Kristen Koed
On the second half of the trip, we visited Utah and Arizona to do some hikes, went to Arches National Park and boating on Lake Powell. We continued on to Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, Las Vegas, Yosemite National Park and San Francisco.
A NAVAJO DINING EXPERIENCE
I think that one of the highlights of this portion of the trip was going to an authentic Navajo Indian restaurant for dinner and a show. The restaurant was called Into the Grand. It also serves as an old rafting museum that has been in the family for generations. The owners, Haus and Karen, were so passionate about what they do, and really showed the kids a good time. The food was authentic and delicious. They had live music and outdoor games, and the evening was topped off with Navajo Indian dances in full Native American attire. The kids were skeptical at first, but quickly approached the evening with an open mind. By the end of the night, everyone was eager to participate. We all spoke with the performers, learned dances and had a great time.
The Navajo Indian dinner was a spur-of-the-moment decision that ended up being one of the highlights of the trip for most of the kids.
I was nervous that the kids were going to think that the event was silly, and not embrace it as a new experience. It may have been that way at first, but to see them change their outlook and keep an open mind throughout the night was wonderful. They all danced with each other and had the time of their lives!
BOATING AND SWIMMING
Another great experience that we had with the kids was visiting Lake Powell, which is a ginormous lake nestled in between breathtaking canyons where we were able to boat and swim. This was an activity that the kids eagerly anticipated, and it certainly delivered.
We had four boats on Lake Powell. Throughout the day, we stopped and jumped off of the boats, found a great beach area for lunch and had a sand castle competition. All of the groups gave 100% on their sand castles, and really came together to build something special. The enthusiasm was off the charts!
GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK
In Grand Canyon National Park, we enjoyed three days of wonderful camping. The group was divided into teams to compete in the 4n4 version of Iron Chef. Each team had to decide upon a recipe to cook for dinner, with no help from the counselors (only supervision), which was a nice little break for us. The kids were PUMPED for the competition, and contributed ideas from family recipes, their favorite appetizers and delicious desserts. Everyone was stuffed! While in the Grand Canyon, we also took a beautiful sunrise hike after waking up at 4:30am.
ZION NATIONAL PARK – THE NARROWS
In Zion National Park we did a hike called The Narrows. It was a hike against the current in a river running through the canyons. During this one hike in particular, we saw the kids helping each other out to find their footing in the running river, which was challenging at times. The group did a great job of being there for one another, communicating when there were slippery rocks or unsteady footing, holding hands and helping each other, and supporting one another in any way that they could. We made it farther on this hike than any group has in the four years that Cal has been on 4n4. The counselors were all very proud of the group!
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK / SAN FRANCISCO
We finished the last leg of the trip with Yosemite National Park and San Francisco. We completed our most challenging hike in Yosemite, an almost seven-mile “strenuous” hike up to the Nevada Falls. Most of the kids were nervous for this hike, but completed it like the champs that they are. In the end, the views were WELL worth the climb.
During our stay in San Francisco, we drove out to the beach and boardwalk in Santa Cruz and the kids had a blast! There was a giant arcade and amusement park with carnival games; the water was refreshing, and it was a perfect day. We ended the trip with a visit to Alcatraz Island on our last day. The kids were extremely engaged on the tour that we went on, and said that they could have spent all day there. I could have too!
Our nightly circle-ups were really great for the group as a whole. We always had a question or game for the kids before discussing our schedule for the next day. This past week, we did some bonding questions, like giving them each a name of someone else in the group and having them share a positive memory of that person. We also gave “whips” every night (our version of shout-outs). This was a chance for the kids to point out something positive that they noticed that day about another person in the group.
One of the great things about this group is that they never hesitated to compliment or shout-out another person. It kept the group morale up, and that carried on from day-to-day.
I think that, throughout the trip, the group learned about flexibility, keeping an open mind and going with the flow. They showed a lot of support, compassion and consideration for each other, especially during some of the trying moments. It was great to see them step up to the plate when necessary.
It was fascinating to see how the kids kept growing closer and closer during the trip. Every night at circle-up, someone spoke about strengthening a friendship that wasn’t as strong in previous years, or discovering something new about someone in the group.
The bonding was particularly strong on hikes, as the kids worked together to make it to the top, fight the heat or overcome fear. It really was something special to see from week-to-week.
After 28 days out west, we’re back at camp, and looking forward to spending a fun-filled 10 days to round out the summer, Camp Echo Lake style!