Date Night at The Office Experience

I was getting ready to start writing up my series of posts all about our summer vacation, and as I scrolled back through my photos I realized I never told you about what Steve and I did the night before vacation! Yes – I booked us a date night, possibly stupidly, but I didn’t even think about the early flight, just bought tickets for an evening the babysitter was available.

The Office Experience is just that – an experience – not really a show, but more of an interactive exhibit for Dunder Mifflin nerds. It travels around the country and was in Washington, D.C. over the summer. After seeing an ad on social media, I knew this was going to be a must-do for Steve and me.

When you first arrive, you line up and present your ticket and then receive an “Employee ID,” which gets you into the main exhibit. There were plenty of visual treats in store even while waiting in line and shuffling through the entrance and into the main exhibit – including big displays of the different departments at the office. As an employment lawyer, I naturally had to get a picture with Human Resources. Poor Toby!

Once you make it through the visitors’ briefing and the maze of displays, there is an exact replica of the set. This is the most exciting part of the experience, and definitely what I was most keen to see. I couldn’t believe I was standing in the Office bullpen!

We were encouraged to roam around and explore as much as we wanted – sitting at the characters’ desks, picking up their phones and opening their desk drawers. Naturally, I made a beeline for the desk occupied by my favorite character – prickly accountant Angela Martin. I loved all the details – the spreadsheet open on her computer (of course Angela was the only accountant actually doing any work), the cat trinkets, and the cat toy and jar of cat food in her drawer.

Save Bandit!

We explored the other characters’ workstations, too. Steve, of course, sat at Jim’s desk. Jim was writing an email to Pam!

Meredith was playing FreeCell. (Fun fact I learned from reading multiple books about The Office: in the early days, the cast had to be constantly in the background, pretending to be working, but the computers were not hooked up with internet. So they all played FreeCell all day.) And Steve also spent some time at his favorite character’s desk. Dwight’s stapler was in Jell-O again! Jim!

I also tried out the reception desk and answered the phone. (“Dunder Mifflin, this is Pam.”) Every detail was spot-on. I especially loved the Post-It note stuck to Pam’s desk. “Michael touched me again. -Ryan.”

Steve and I re-enacted a Jim and Pam moment. Are we discussing yogurt or plotting a new way to prank Dwight?

We sat in the conference room for a Talking Head (the name given to the characters “interviews”).

It was all decorated for a party, courtesy of the Party-Planning Committee!

And of course we stopped by Michael’s office and sat in his chair. (The dancing hamsters worked!)

I loved how every detail was in place and just perfect. For instance – check out the Dunder Mifflin motto on the reams of paper. “Quabity First” – I snorted.

From the supply cabinet to Andy’s doodles – Go Big Red! – there was something to see and giggle at everywhere. It’s been a few years since the last time I re-watched the show, but all of the little details in the set jogged memory after memory.

At one of my old firms, a group of Office fans started a Finer Things Club! Sadly, they started it after I had already left, so I couldn’t join. But I sent a picture of myself at the club’s lunch table to my former colleague, who told me – giddy with excitement – that the Finger Things Club had tickets to The Office Experience for the following week!

We sat at Toby’s desk and spied on his email to David Wallace, and we attempted to play Chair Ball – I was not very good at it.

Steve spilled Kevin’s chili! What a mess!

More fun details! Angela and Dwight, immortalized in art… A movie poster for “Threat Level: Midnight” starring Michael Scarn… Pam and Jim’s wedding outfits with the aisle dance scene playing on a loop… it was all just perfect, and so well thought-out, and we had an absolute blast.

Totally worth a night out, even with an early flight the next day!

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2022: The Year in Review

Hey, hey, it’s time for one of my favorite posts of the year! 2022 was a banner year in so many respects. Freshly boosted with extra COVID-19 protection in January, we started venturing out more and our family travels (with and without kids) took us as far afield as Central America – twice – the Dakota badlands, and on plenty of local adventures. Looking back on the year that’s just ended, I can say we really lived this one.

In January, Nugget discovered his love for strapping boards on his feet and sliding down a mountain! We drove up to Pennsylvania most weekends of the winter, and I taught him the basics (this year, he’s destined for lessons with an actual pro – I don’t want to instill bad habits, and Mom needs time to sneak off and tear up some black diamonds). As for the rest of the month, we squeezed in a few hikes (around mountain days – skiing took priority!) and I discovered that serving as Peanut’s troop Cookie Manager was too much work and too much math for me. Nevertheless, she (me) persisted!

February was a month I’ll remember for a long time! Steve and I were supposed to be on the adventure of a lifetime in Antarctica, but our trip was postponed due to COVID (long story). Not ones to sit around feeling sorry for ourselves, we shifted plans at the last minute and went on an incredible road trip around Costa Rica – including the spectacular Osa Peninsula, where we finished our PADI scuba certification and dove Isla del Cano. After exploring the reefs, the cloud forests, and the Arenal volcano region, we fell head over heels in love with Costa Rica and are already scheming up ways to get back there. The rest of the month was the usual winter shenanigans – work, school, and Mom/Nugget ski days on the weekends.

Our sweet Nugget turned seven years old in March! Where does the time go? For once, we mostly stayed home – just one weekend on the slopes and no travel for any of us. It’s good to be home sometimes. Nugget started his second season of Little League toward the end of the month and we pounded the dirt on our favorite local hiking trails.

In April, I made my first of several business trips of 2022 – out to Seattle for a departmental all-hands meeting. It was a fun trip – seeing colleagues from all around the world, and Mt. Rainier even came out to say hello! Closer to home, there were more hikes and more Little League games, and Nugget and I squeezed in a couple of trail rides on our bikes. The Virginia bluebells burst into bloom and we hit up not one, but two, local bluebell festivals.

May was another quiet at-home month. I was under the weather for a few days, but we still managed to squeeze in a few hikes – including on Mother’s Day at Huntley Meadows (an old favorite from our days in Alexandria) where we watched the spring migratory birds setting up their nests and enjoyed the burgeoning green. And Nugget got a new mountain bike; he’d outgrown his old one and was looking pretty comical until we sized him up appropriately.

The kids wrapped up their school year in early June, and Steve was at his law school reunion the weekend they started their summer vacation – so I planned an action-packed celebration I called The Great Summer Kickoff Weekend of Partying and Fun. We officially started summer vacation with Chinese food eaten picnic-style in the backyard, followed by a movie night (Luca, a perfect summer movie!) with popcorn. The next day, I took the kids out for an epic day out – Duck Donuts for breakfast, a visit to the Old Town Pool (our old stomping grounds) and an afternoon hanging out with our favorite former neighbors, dinner out at a Mexican restaurant in Old Town, and gelato. Whew! (It was a lot, so Peanut promptly got a sore throat and it rained on Sunday, so the Great Summer Kickoff Weekend was mostly just a really busy Saturday, but you know how it goes.) The rest of the month, we bumped around the local hiking trails, celebrated Father’s Day at Steve’s favorite local park, and wrapped up the Little League season and started summer programming (baseball camp for Nugget, musical theatre camp for Peanut). I like to stay busy, you know!

July found me back underwater. My parents wanted to borrow the kids for a week or two, so we drove them up to New York and spent a week working remotely from my parents’ house and sailing and kayaking on the Sacandaga Lake over the Fourth of July weekend, then we left the kids to terrorize their grandparents and headed back to Central America – this time to Roatan Island, Honduras, for a “digital nomad week” of scuba diving in the mornings and working from our beach hut in the afternoons. Not a bad life, indeed! Back home, we hit the beach (Sandy Point State Park on the Chesapeake Bay) and Nugget got stung by a jellyfish – whoops – and the kids continued making the summer camp rounds; Peanut back at her musical theatre camp and Nugget transitioning to the soccer portion of his summer.

Family vacation time! We hit the road as a foursome in August. Originally, we had planned and booked a trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, but had to quickly change strategy again due to the historic flooding. (I mused to Steve that 2020 was the year of making plans and then cancelling everything and not going anywhere; 2021 was the year of making no plans at all and then traveling across the country twice; and 2022 was the year of making plans and doing something completely different – hopefully in 2023 we will make plans and actually stick to them.) On short notice, we changed our trip from Yellowstone to the Dakota Badlands – hitting up Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota; Badlands and Wind Cave National Parks, Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial and Custer State Park in South Dakota; and Devil’s Tower National Monument in Wyoming – what a whirlwind! We celebrated our seventeenth wedding anniversary on the trails at Badlands and then rushed home for the first day of school. And we capped off the month by celebrating lovely Peanut’s tenth birthday at the American Girl Store – seriously, how is she TEN?! And where did the summer go?

In September I dashed off to Nashville for another business trip, and found time to squeeze in a visit to the famous Parnassus Books while I was there. Don’t worry, I left with a major haul! Back at home, we continued tramping the local trails, and we also finally got out on the water as a family! Peanut got a kayak for her birthday – Nugget already had one – and we loaded all four onto a trailer and paddled as a foursome on a small local reservoir, one of our favorite lakes in the area, and the Potomac.

October was all about the local fun! We hosted my parents and their friends on their way back north after a month in Hilton Head (they’re doing retirement right, let me tell ya) and took them on one of our favorite hikes at Great Falls Park and for a stroll along Embassy Row in D.C. At the end of the month, Nugget and I ran in the Marine Corps Marathon weekend – he did the kids’ mile and I did the 10K and we discovered that he can bust out a seven minute mile without breaking a sweat. The kid is insane. And of course there was Halloween to cap it all off – the ultimate of the anklebiters’ holy days. Peanut dressed as Cleopatra (and did the entire trick-or-treating walk in character, acting as if she had just been plunked down in this century and had no idea where – or when – she was; it was hilarious) and Nugget was a cowboy. They were adorable, and the neighbors rewarded them appropriately with pounds and pounds of candy.

November found me traveling across the country again – another trip to Seattle, this time for a conference – and returning to find Thanksgiving creeping up on me. We hosted my parents, and Nugget and I both ran in the local turkey trot (he did the kids’ mile and I did the 5K). He finished in under eight minutes again but discovered that cold weather running is not for him – ha! The kid is definitely a Virginian.

In December we came full-circle and were back on the mountain again! Nugget and I got out skiing twice before the calendar officially turned – once at our regular mountain in Pennsylvania and once at Jiminy Peak in western Massachusetts. Those highlights aside, we did all the usual December things – I flew to Seattle for one more business trip; we brought home and decorated our Christmas tree; we visited Aladdin at Mount Vernon; we did our Old Town holiday wreath walk, and more. It was a whirlwind of a month, as December always is, and I ended the month looking forward to a clean slate in January and all the adventures that 2023 will bring.

Cheers to 2022, friends! What were the highlights of your year?

Advent Scenes, 2022 Edition

Friday – we made it! Happy holidays to all – Happy Hanukkah to those who are lighting candles this week, Merry Christmas to those looking ahead to Sunday’s celebrations, and Yule blessings and happy long weekend to everyone! I’m checking off the last few items on my work to-do list before the weekend, and I’ve taken off Tuesday so it’ll be an extra-long one; I can’t wait for some quiet time to rest and recharge in the light of my Christmas tree. This Christmas has, like they all seem to do, snuck up on me. I’m nowhere near ready – not a single gift wrapped yet, although I’m at least mostly done shopping (and hopefully completely done after this afternoon). This year, I pared down Advent activities to the absolute essentials – our family favorites, and nothing more. There are some years when I really want to lean into the run-up to Christmas, but this year it felt good to take a step back, focus on things like fresh air and connection, and just let myself recharge as much as possible. But we do have some activities that are must-dos, like getting our Christmas tree and decorating it in a small family party. Other than that, I held the outside the house activities to those that bring us (or at least me) real joy.

Starting with a visit to Aladdin the camel at Mount Vernon. This is an absolute necessity. George Washington used to obtain a camel as a Christmas treat to entertain his stepchildren and grandchildren at Christmas, and the estate still brings Aladdin over (from a local reserve) every year. We’ve been visiting him since he was just a baby camel and only missed the years when we lived in western New York. Christmas just isn’t Christmas without Aladdin.

Of course, I also love walking around the gardens at Mount Vernon any time of the year. But last year, after reading Nigel Slater’s Christmas Chronicles, I was struck anew by the pared-down beauty of the gardens in winter.

The kitchen garden – my favorite.

We don’t go inside the house every year, but we did this year. Every time we take the mansion tour, I find something new to appreciate. This time, it was the beautiful wallpaper designs. Not the style I would choose for my own house, but beautiful to examine (and photograph).

As always, a lovely afternoon of wandering around Mount Vernon! No matter how many times I visit, it never gets old.

The following weekend, Steve and I revived an old favorite holiday tradition: we saw Handel’s Messiah performed by the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center. We used to go every year, but hadn’t been since Peanut was born. This year, we sprung for a babysitter and made a date night of it – we really went all out. Steve even scored reservations at the Terrace Restaurant in the Kennedy Center and we had a delicious dinner before the show. (Worth noting: this was before the performance got going, as you can tell by the people milling about in the aisles. Naturally I didn’t photograph during the show!)

All decked out in our holiday finery! I even dug my vintage partridge in a pear tree pin out of the jewelry box for the occasion.

We weren’t the only ones decked out, either. The Kennedy Center was festooned in rainbows! What a night – it was such a special treat to see Messiah again. It’s one of my favorite pieces. And I was surprised by how many of the arias and recitatives I remembered. The choral numbers are generally the most memorable, but the whole performance was familiar and it felt like such a revival of a joyful tradition.

Finally – the other essential! Every year starting in about 2010, I think, Steve and I had a tradition of walking around Old Town Alexandria and looking at the holiday decorations. Old Town is a very historic area – pre-Revolution, actually – and the residents stay true to the look and feel of the neighborhood by choosing very traditional holiday decor. Lots of greenery and fruit. The wreaths are especially beautiful.

We started our walk this year at the Basilica of St. Mary. This is the very first Roman Catholic parish in Virginia and the historic church building is just gorgeous. And every Christmas they put out a beautiful Nativity scene. (Steve asked where the baby was. I said: it’s not Christmas yet. He hasn’t been born, silly.)

After visiting the Nativity, we started our walk around Old Town. As usual – lots of beautiful wreaths, lots of greenery, and fruit accents. I considered drying out some orange slices or maybe doing orange and clove balls at home, then decided against it. Any added work sounds like too much this year. Walking around and looking at other people’s efforts was the sweet spot.

This one was my favorite this year. So exuberant!

I just can’t get enough of this holiday beauty!

The other part of our Old Town decorations walk tradition is a festive beverage, of course! Before kids, Steve and I used to stop for a glass of wine. Then it became dinner at our favorite pizza joint. With COVID, the tradition has changed again; now it’s takeaway cocoa from Misha’s Coffee. But that’s the thing about favorite traditions – they can evolve over time. Maybe in a few years we’ll come full circle and be back to toasting the holiday with Pinot Noir.

Merry everything, friends! I hope you have exactly the holiday weekend you’re dreaming of – whether that’s an all-out festive extravaganza, a quiet weekend of watching snow come down, or something in between.

Happy holidays!

Colorado & Utah 2021: Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park

One last stop in Utah, and it was a good one indeed: Canyonlands National Park (via a quick stop at Arches, for the second time in a week, to turn in Junior Ranger booklets and take the oath). Knowing that we only had a very short time – and there is so much to explore in this park; we could spend a week here, and maybe someday we will – Dan planned for us to hit the highlight of all highlights: Mesa Arch.

My mom said that this was her favorite arch – better than Delicate Arch, better than Double Arch, better than any of the arches in Arches National Park. I’m not sure I would go quite that far… Mesa is certainly as iconic as Delicate Arch, but how do you top gigantic stone elephants? But I can certainly respect my mom’s preference for Mesa. I mean, look at that view:

Mesa Arch was also much less crowded than Delicate Arch, and we were able to get right up under the arch and peer through, and what a reward.

So, so, so beautiful. We could have stayed for hours, just gawking at these views, but there were a couple of other people hanging around waiting for their turns to take a picture under the arch. So we had to move along. But first things first: we had to get our picture.

All the excitement and gratitude to get to spend Thanksgiving with my favorite people in the world.

One last peep through the arch, and time to go.

That ends our journey through Colorado and Utah – only six months later! I hope you had fun reliving the memories with me. And don’t worry: there’s more travel content to come, as we head from the desert to… the rainforest! Off to Costa Rica next Friday.

Colorado & Utah 2021: Uncle Dan’s Dinosaur Tour, Part III – Dinosaur Tracks!

In case you missed ’em:

Another day, another exciting dinosaur site! On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, we took the day off work and drove out to Utah again – this time headed for Canyonlands National Park, but with a few stops on the way. First up, Mill Canyon: a nondescript pull-off into a sparsely populated gravel parking lot that promised a big, exciting treat.

Just about a hundred yards or so from the parking lot, Dan promised, we would find the remains of a prehistoric mud patch with dozens of fossilized dinosaur tracks. We owed this exciting score to Danielle’s dad, who enjoys poking around in the desert and “finding stuff” as much as his daughter and son-in-law do.

The site consisted of a path, boardwalks, and viewing platforms around the perimeter, ensuring that the treasures in the ancient mud remained undisturbed.

Therapod tracks! We had fun speculating about who might have left this imprint in the prehistoric mud. Allosaurus? Probably not T-rex; wrong time period.

I was most excited to see these: sauropod tracks! Maybe apatosaurus, my favorite? Or brachiosaurus or diplodocus? Insert star-eyes emoji here.

Of course, no one was as excited about the tracks as the six-year-old boy. He was actually having a bit of an emo day; it had been a lot of car time over the past week. But he brightened right up when we saw the dinosaur tracks. Wish I could always deliver dinosaurs whenever anyone is grumpy.

Doesn’t get cooler than this!

Tracks everywhere! I couldn’t stop clicking away with my camera.

Prehistoric crocodile slither spot, complete with tail-drag. Shut the front door!

Seriously, it doesn’t get cooler than this. We didn’t make it to Dinosaur National Monument on this trip – have to have something to save for the next visit, right? – but we certainly weren’t hurting for dinosaur excitement even without hitting up the big park.

Have you ever visited a fossil site in the wild?

Colorado & Utah 2021: Colorado National Monument – Devil’s Kitchen Hike

Although we traveled out to Colorado to spend the entire Thanksgiving week, I didn’t actually take much time off – instead, we planned to do our major exploring (Arches and Black Canyon of the Gunnison) over the weekend and squeeze smaller local adventures around the work hours. Monday was out of the question, as Steve was writing a brief and I was in a virtual mediation all day, and most of Tuesday was spent catching up on emails that piled up during my mediation on Monday. But we did slip out for a Tuesday lunchtime hike at one of Dan and Danielle’s favorite spots – Colorado National Monument. “The Monument,” as Dan and Danielle casually called it, was in Fruita, about twenty minutes from their house – perfect for a quick hit of spectacular scenery.

Dan had in mind a fun hike for us – mostly flat, through desert scrubland and surrounded by stunning mesas, capped off with just the right amount of climbing and scrambling to a fun, tucked-away, rock formation.

As always, Danielle tutored us in the local plant life while we hiked. I loved the juniper!

The views in every direction were absolutely gorgeous! I love the desert – so otherworldly, and completely captivating.

Eventually, the flat and sandy trail hit rock and started to climb. This was a perfect hike to do with the rugrats – just enough variance to keep it interesting, but nothing unsafe or out of their range.

After a few hundred feet of casual climbing, we reached our destination – Devil’s Kitchen!

It was a cool little area, tucked away inside a wall of rock and surrounded by hoodoos. The kids immediately started to climb on everything.

Sadly, I had a work call and we hadn’t really planned well, so I took my call perched on top of a hoodoo while the kids explored and Dan, Danielle and Steve milled around keeping an eye on everyone and talking about grown-up, non-work stuff.

Eventually, I wrapped up my call and joined the rest of the party exploring the cracks and crevices and fissures in the rock. So cool, and nothing like our hiking at home in Virginia!

I turned my camera on the landscape and made it my mission to capture the entire view – all 360 degrees of it. I didn’t want to miss an inch!

Eventually, reluctantly, we had to scramble down out of Devil’s Kitchen and back to reality – but not before stopping at a hanging canyon to take in the jaw-dropping view. That’ll be next week, so check in with me then…

Do you love the desert landscape?

Colorado & Utah 2021: Ouray

From the moment we started planning our Thanksgiving visit, Dan insisted that his number-one “must do” was going to be taking our family to Ouray, Colorado. I don’t think Dan would be willing to commit to a favorite spot in Colorado, but if pressed, he would probably admit that Ouray is a contender. We could immediately see why.

The town is nestled in the mountains, surrounded by hot springs (we drove past a big public spring with folks steaming in the mineraly water even on a very cold day) and boasting an “old West” vibe and a main street full of quirky shops. (Nugget and Peanut both talked me into buying them polished crystals at a New Age shop, which Dan and Danielle assured us was “very Ouray.”) We all stopped for a quick lunch and local beers at a popular small brewery on the main drag, and then walked off to hike a portion of the Ouray Perimeter Trail.

Our destination was the “Baby Bathtubs” trail, an adorable name I felt sure held some special meaning. The mystery was short-lived.

Behold the baby bathtubs: oblong divots in the rock, an odd erosion puckering the trail. I found them completely charming.

I think Ollie liked the baby bathtubs, too.

Get a load of these views! We hiked up, and up, and up – Dan is notorious for underestimating time and distance while hiking, and it seems he underestimates elevation, too – but the payoff was well worth it.

Everywhere we looked, snow-capped peaks! Unreal.

I could definitely see why Dan and Danielle are so fond of Ouray – it was absolutely breathtaking (and not just because of the elevation). A banner downtown proclaimed it “the Switzerland of America” – it checks out. We’ll be back for sure!

How cute are baby bathtubs, amirite? What’s your favorite mountain getaway?

Blue Like Bells

I wait all year for Virginia bluebell season. This year, as we squelched through the muddy trails (lots of rain last week; fortunately the flowers love it) Steve asked me when we first hiked the bluebell trail, and I couldn’t remember exactly but it was 2017 or 2018. (I tend to landmark events in life by my job, and it was two firms ago; does that help?) In 2020, this trail was basically unreachable; it was open, but the parking lot was closed, and packing in two miles just to get to the trailhead was a non-starter, so we hiked at Manassas Battlefield National Historical Park, which also boasts a glory of bluebells. And we liked it so much that we repeated the hike last year. So we were overdue for a return visit to Bull Run Regional Park, or “the O.G. bluebells” as the trail is known in our house.

Don’t worry: we may not have been at the battlefield this year, but we were still hiking along the legendary Bull Run.

Shall I just let the pictures speak for themselves, mostly?

Woodland glory!

I have this thing with bluebells juxtaposed against wood. It’s a vibe.

See? There I go again.

And again. Someone stop me!

Such a great day.

Everyone loves the cherry blossoms, but I personally can’t get enough of the Virginia bluebells.

What’s your favorite local wildflower where you live?

Colorado & Utah 2021: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

And now for something completely different! Continuing our quest to squeeze in as many National Park visits as we could during our Thanksgiving trip out west, we jumped in the cars and headed to my brother’s closest legacy park – Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

I had never heard of Black Canyon of the Gunnison before a few years ago, when Jack and Colton visited (and hiked all the way down into the canyon!) on Rock the Park. It doesn’t seem to be an especially well-known park, and not over-popular with visitors (judging from the fact that the park was almost empty on the Sunday before Thanksgiving) and that’s a shame, because it’s gorgeous.

We took our time driving into the park, stopping at a few overlooks to take in the views. The canyon is almost a surprise – you drive over miles and miles of mostly flat farmland, and then BAM, there it is.

Eventually, we slowly made our way to the visitors’ center, where we collected Junior Ranger workbooks for the anklebiters and then headed off on a short rim hike. It ended up being a very short hike, with the combination of an icy trail and sheer drop-offs sending us scuttling back to the visitors’ center – but we got in the views and the flavor of the park, so I called it a success. The dogs got to join us on the hike, and Danielle pointed out different plants along the trail (she had everyone walking along rubbing sage and sniffing our fingers) and a good time was had by all.

Look at those canyon walls! Stunning.

Have you ever been to Black Canyon of the Gunnison? What’s your favorite hidden gem park?

Colorado & Utah 2021: Arches National Park – Double Arch

As we fished up our Delicate Arch hike, the sun was finally out and the skies were blue. No one was in a hurry to hit the road back to Colorado just yet, and Dan and Danielle were itching to show us the glory of Arches in the sunshine, so we made for Danielle’s favorite spot – Double Arch. I had to agree that the sun made all the difference; I loved the muted desert colors of Delicate Arch under the clouds, but the red rock against the (finally) deep blue sky was absolutely breathtaking.

The trail to Delicate Arch was short (maybe a third of a mile, max?) and basically flat – a good bet for a final stop in the park with two tired anklebiters. Nugget brought his Junior Ranger book along and did a couple of activities along the way.

Even taking our time and pausing for Junior Ranger activity breaks, we were at the arch in minutes. Wow! Between the bright sky, red sand, and cool rock formations – we could see why Danielle said this was her favorite arch.

Climbed up under the arch, and out came the cameras.

There were people climbing and scrambling all over the rock under the arch. We found a quiet spot to look up and take in the glory of Double Arch.

We spent about half an hour checking the place out, then reluctantly headed back to the cars for the two hour drive back to Dan and Danielle’s home. As we were strolling along the trail back to the parking area, a woman stopped Danielle and me and asked, “Did you see the elephants?” We were both confused, until our new friend pointed out that several of the rock formations around the arch looked like elephants, and even the arch itself appeared to be two elephants touching trunks. Once she put it that way, we couldn’t un-see it.

I love elephants (they’re my second favorite animal, after whales – yes, now that you mention it, I do like all the most enormous critters) so Double Arch immediately became my favorite, too.

Elephants kissing! How can you beat it? Perfect way to end a perfect day in Arches.

Next week: checking out another national park in very different weather.