Times Spent Outdoors: Priceless!

Every Day Is Grandparents' Day

Sunday, Sept. 10 is Grandparents' Day, and this year, we salute Marge and John Anderson who have shared the wonders of outdoors with their granddaughters for over two decades (and loved every minute of their times together).

When we found out that our son and daughter-in-law were expecting their first baby, I quit my job so I could stay home and take care of her. Since the day she was born, Trinity has been the joy of my life. Then, three years later, Emily joined us, and brought us even more joy.

We started taking Trinity on hikes and fishing trips before Emily was old enough to go with us. I'll never forget the trip to Pinetop where Trinity and Grandpa and I hiked around every lake in the area, visited the Ranger Station (where she received a bag full of fun stuff about Smokey the Bear and conservation), and played at the playground at one of the lakes. Trinity found a bird's leg bone at Scotts Reservoir, and she still has it - 16 years later!

Kachina Trail

We have taken the girls all over Arizona, and we've had some great adventures together. We particularly love to hike the trails on the San Francisco Peaks in the summer. Kachina trail is our favorite, and we started hiking it when they were very young, so we didn't get far. It's an out-and-back trail, and when they were little, they spent a lot of the time on the trail playing on the boulders and logs.

Since the whole point of being on the hike together was to have fun, we never minded sitting around watching them play in the forest. Every year we'd get a little further down the trail, and even though we've been on that trail countless times, they still want to do Kachina every time we're in Flagstaff.

It's a great trail for kids and grandparents because the first few miles are nice and even, following the contour of the mountain without a lot of climbing or rough spots. It's always cool and gorgeous there, no matter how hot it is in the valley.

Aspen Loop Trail

Another great hike for grandparents and kids is the Aspen Loop Trail. It's short, relatively flat, and very beautiful. We also like the trail to Alfa Fia Tank. It's not marked, but if you drive toward the Snowbowl, when you see a place with a sign that says Aspen Corner, park across the street from it. There is a very well-used trail that leads to a water tank called Alfa Fia and beyond. It's a pretty easy trail and there are some big boulders off to the right of the trail right near the beginning, and it's a custom for us to take a group selfie there.

Also, there are some big boulders in the middle of the trail that are just far enough apart for the kids to stand on with a foot on each rock, and we always take a photo there, too.

Making Memories

When we hike those trails now, the girls keep up a running commentary of "remember that time....?". Such as, "remember that time that dog named Emma left her people and hiked with us and we threw sticks in the water for her to fetch?" "Remember that time there were all those little caterpillars and we rescued them out of the puddles?" "Remember that time we saw those deer that were almost close enough to touch, and they didn't run away?" Making memories like that with our granddaughters is the reason we love to take them with us.

Research, Read Re: Hikes

I do a lot of research and read all I can find about the hikes before we go, but we can still get surprised. Our girls love to climb boulders, so when I read about some big boulders and cliffs at Buffalo Park in Flagstaff, I knew we had to go there. We followed the directions and found the cliffs, but to our surprise, we also found a swing someone had hung from a big tree, and they girls had a blast taking turns on that swing.

Day Trip Drives

Often we just take a day trip and drive to some cool little town for breakfast or lunch. Jerome is a favorite. One Monday we drove to Bagdad, but the one restaurant in town was closed that day, so we went to Granite Basin Lake near Prescott. On the way, we walked out to the duck rock off the road and got some great pics of the girls on top of the duck. It's big boulders painted white with an orange beak.

Then at Granite Basin we walked down below the dam, and because of the recent rains, the water was coming over the top just enough to make a shimmer of water down the black wall and create a mist. They had a blast getting photos.

Now that they are older, they love to SnapChat, Instagram, and Facebook our adventures. They've been to countless lakes, rivers, and streams in Arizona, and they have loved every one of them.

Tombstone: Fantastic For Kids

Tombstone is a fantastic place to take kids. We took our granddaughters there a couple of years ago, and I thought that they would like Bisbee better because of the shops and restaurants, but they loved Tombstone.

We did all the touristy stuff - saw the shootout, sat and drank pop in the bar, had coffee at a western café - and they absolutely loved it. They enjoyed Bisbee too, but they really had a great time in Tombstone.

Great Adventures

We've had some real adventures. The first time we went to the Lava Tube Cave I was too chicken to go in, but the girls and Grandpa went all the way to the end. The next time I went in, but I must admit I didn't enjoy it. Colossal Cave and the Karchner Caverns are the caves I like to be in.

We've also taken the tour of the Bisbee Queen Mine, which was a lot of fun. You get to wear mining hats and vests and ride a little train that you sit on like a horse. The girls loved it.

'It Was A Blast!'

This past summer we took them to Wilcox and hiked the Chiricahuas, then to Safford for the night. In the morning we took old Highway 666 (now 191) to Eager, stopping on the way to hike down and see the world's largest Arizona Cypress Tree.

We stayed in a great place in Springerville, hiked Becker Lake Wildlife and Wenima Wildlife areas, played pool, then hiked some trails near Greer. After spending the night in Payson, we hiked the Water Wheel trail then had breakfast in Payson and went on home. It was an 832 mile trip and it was a blast!

If Grandkids Are Young -

If your grandkids are very young, you can't go wrong taking them to Little America in Flagstaff. There is a one-mile trail behind the hotel with plenty of places to stop and play on the rocks and even see some prairie dogs if you're lucky.

The Flagstaff Arboretum is another great place to take kids, with nice paths in the arboretum, programs where they can see animals, and some nice easy trails in the forest around the place. There's even a pond, and plenty of flowers.

Hikes Get Better And Better

It's hard for me to believe it, but our grandbabies will be 21 and 18 this year! They still love our trips and we still love to hike together, and the hikes just get better and better. Red Mountain near Flagstaff is a new favorite.

They even take their friends hiking now, and they are seasoned travelers. We have a map of the state hanging in our office, with a pin in every place we've visited, and it's getting pretty crowded. It's still a big deal to them to put new pins in when we get home, and every year I go on Shutterfly and make them each a photo book showing highlights of their year.

On Christmas morning, they stop and pore over those books and relive the memories. It's so much fun!

Memories To Last A Lifetime

Our granddaughters have fishing, survival, and woodcraft skills, stamina for the long haul, and memories that will last a lifetime. As for me and John, spending most of our time with our granddaughters keeps us fit and healthy - all that hiking and fishing is good for you.

I can't imagine my life without my granddaughters - I always tell John that I'm convinced that God created me to be a grandma, because it's what I love the most, and what I do best.

Hopefully we'll have many more years of hiking adventures with our granddaughters, and if we're very, very lucky - maybe even with great-grandkids as well. If you are blessed to be a grandparent, I wish you a very happy and love-filled Grandparents' Day. And if you haven't hiked with your grandkids, it's never too late to start. Go online and search for easy day hikes near you, and just go for it. I know you and your grandkids will love it.

Editor's Note: How very fortunate are Trinity and Emily to have Margie and John Anderson for grandparents. The lives they are sharing in the great outdoors are treasures that will last their lifetimes, and, I imagine, that both will have with their own children and grandchildren one day.


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