Once we were all awake and breakfasted, we made the short drive to Flaming Gorge. The drive itself was switchbacky and beautiful. We could see for miles and what we saw was ridiculous! The only not great part of the drive was when poor Lila Jae got carsick from all the turns and threw up. Fortunately, we had the hotel ice bucket in our car from using it to fill the cooler. Somehow, I managed to catch ALL her throw up in the bucket. I was impressed, too.
For some reason, I was expecting the landscape to be barren dessert, probably with some red rock thrown in. I was completely wrong. Flaming Gorge was lush and beautiful!
The first thing we did in Flaming Gorge was the Dam Tour. One of the great things about being on vacation on a weekday during the school year was that we were the only people on the tour! The machinery was interesting, but the boys were most entranced when we went outside on an observation deck right next to the water outlet tubes. The water was shooting out with insane force and really was mesmerizing. On the short walk over to the water, I was trying to point something out to Asher. He got super impatient with me and said, "Mom! Can't we just walk over there so I can see the cool water I want to see?!" My bad. In my defense, though, we were on our way to the cool water, just not quite there yet.
We had been planning on doing a hike by the river after the tour, but a nice lady at the visitor's center convinced us otherwise. She told us that because of all the rain they'd had over the past few days, that trail would be muddy and awful. She suggested a nice rim trail instead.
We took her advice, and after a picnic lunch, started in on our hike. Nick and Ryan went to drop off one of our cars at the end of the hike, with plans to catch up to Lynnie, me, and the kids. It didn't take them much time to catch up as we hadn't covered much ground yet, despite our 15ish minute head start, haha. The little boys were quite excited by the plastic blue diamonds nailed to the trees that marked our path. At every single blue diamond, they'd race over and use a stick to touch the diamond (the diamonds were higher than the boys could reach). Each child wanted to touch ever diamond, so this process took some time.
Cue the rain. And hail. We took cover under a tree until the rain let up--which didn't take very long. We started walking again, only to have the rain start pouring down again! Luckily, trees were plentiful and we found another tree to hide under. We draped blankets over Madison and Lila (who were in hiking backpacks), and braved what was now just a drizzle. And we no longer touched each blue diamond--we decided to count each blue diamond from a distance.
We were pretty sure that we were now making good time on our hike. Then we saw a sign that was quite disheartening. Apparently, we'd only walked 3/4 mile and still had 2 miles to go! We thought about turning back, but the boys were SO disappointed by the thought of not finishing a hike that we decided to press onward. Now, you have to remember that only one day before this hike we'd hiked our little hearts at out Mt. Timp in a very strenuous hike. The kids were tired. And one kid in particular (Asher) (sorry for calling you out, Asher) was complaining a lot. He was pretty sure he wasn't going to make it and wanted to be carried (ha). Since I was already carrying Lila in the backpack and Ryan's back was sore from the hike before, though, he had to settle for holding my hand.
The trail was rather muddy and almost impassable at points because of standing water--we may have gone off the trail a few times--but all of a sudden, we could see what we thought was the lodge--the end of our hike! I don't know if the sign was wrong or if we'd followed a different trail than we thought, but we definitely hadn't gone another 2 miles. No one was complaining, though!
We stopped in the lodge for a bathroom trip, and the man working there gave us a free bag of fish food for the kids to toss in the pond outside, which was super nice. The fish were all kinds of excited about the food and were jumping around like crazy when we tossed it in. The boys and Ryan also did a little 'splorin, while the little girls looked cute together on a bench. Once we were sufficiently rested (and the rain picked up again), we piled into the cars to go on our scenic drive.
The drive really was quite scenic and was made even more glorious when Lila fell asleep--she really, really needed a nap at that point. We got to drive up over a mountain, then down through a canyon next to a twisty little creek. Ryan and I love meandering creeks, so the drive was totally our jam. At the top of one of the mountains, we climbed out of the cars and had an amazing view of the gorge below. The gorge was gorgeous (see what I did there?).
After the scenic drive, we decided to head back to Vernal. First, we had to brave the switchbacky drive away from Flaming Gorge, which was a little bit terrifying. Once we made it safely to Vernal, we had dinner, then fulfilled a promise to the kids: swimming in the hotel pool! Woot woot. The kids suddenly had all kinds of energy and spent at least an hour jumping in to us, going around the perimeter of the pool by walking their hands along the edges (does that even make sense?), and splashing so, so much.
Finally, it was time for bed. What a wonderful day two!