Thursday, September 27, 2007

Summer '07 in Review

Regrettably, I don't get summers off. (Of course, neither does Jen, although she would add that she doesn't get "vacations" off either.) But the kids do. So, soon after the close of Abby's first-grade year, we embarked for Utah. With four small children, "getting there" is always an adventure in its own right. Our voyage to Salt Lake was made all the more interesting by a plane delayed approximately 7 hours, our arriving in Salt Lake just before 1 am MDT (3 am EDT), and an obnoxious Dollar Rental Car employee refusing to get our car because she (erroneously) asserted that I hadn't reached the counter on time (after I had literally sprinted through the airport to ensure I had). The upside was that Abby and Alex got to sit (sleep) in first class with me, so they're now ruined for life. Jen got to sit in coach with a sleeping Peter and a vomitous Ben. (See above re Jen's "vacations.")

Happily, things improved. The reason for, and highlight of, our Utah trip was spending time with Jen's folks and siblings in Bountiful, all of whom were there for at least some of the time that we were. With various members of Jen's family, we took several small daytrips to such places as This is the Place Heritage Park and Liberty Park in Salt Lake. (Jen and Abby also took a trip to the local salon, where they both got their hair chopped.) We also visited Yellowstone, where Jen and I had not been in years, and which the kids had never seen. We toured the park for about two days, taking in all of the wildlife, geology, and scenery that only Yellowstone can offer. We left the park through the south entrance, passing through Grand Teton National Park, Jackson, Star Valley, and (drumroll please) Evanston, on our way back to Utah. It's during such drives, through apparently endless expanses of space, that I remember coming to Utah as a New Jersey kid and thinking that no one back home would believe that there ever could be so much land -- much of it stunningly beautiful, much of it depressingly barren -- with so few people.

Summer Trip No. 2 was to Oglebay Park Resort in Wheeling, West Virginia, where, for the third time since 2002, we participated in the Bertram & Christine Willis family reunion. As with our trip to Utah, it was a wonderful opportunity to spend time with family, which, at this reunion, included some 14 kids 10 and under. This statistic made sleeping arrangements (everybody was in a single cabin -- the largest Oglebay offers) and the traditional family picture interesting affairs, although both worked out as well if not better than in past years. There were plenty of attractions to keep the crew occupied, including golf (real, par-3, and miniature varieties), swimming, paddleboating, horse-back riding, hiking, a zoo (with a train), and a nature center. I can truthfully report that we went to bed tired every night, and that we look forward to going back.

We marked the end of the summer by camping -- in our backyard -- on the Friday before Labor Day and then hiking to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain the next day. The kids did great on Sugarloaf as we opted to travel what appeared on the map to the be the shortest route to the top (which it was). As it turns out, it was also the steepest route to the top (which makes sense). Abby, Alex and Pete scrambled up, through, over, and around the rocky terrain (of course, they also went out of their way to find rocky terrain) on their way to summitting what is surely one of the tallest peaks, if not the tallest peak, in all of Montgomery County, Maryland. Ben did great too, although we didn't let him scramble quite as much as he would have liked. The hike was part of our master plan to prepare the kids for the many family backpacking trips planned for the not-too-distant future.

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