April 25, 2008 | Utah
Summer vacation has its roots in agriculture, when the majority of our nation lived an agrarian life. The family pulled together to work on the land. It was a time for teachers to integrate into their communities. The provenance of spring break is a little more mysterious. In Montana spring break is the transition from winter to hopefully spring.
With winter still in its grip, our family tradition is to pile into the mini van for a trip to the red rock country of southern Utah. Our goal this year was the eastern side of Canyonlands National Park and Indian Creek Canyon. The drive south crosses the divide at the Idaho – Montana border, that being the high point of our journey. There we marveled at the 10-foot tall snowdrifts. Snow camping was not our plan. Sand, steep cracks for climbing, a crackling campfire and the company of several other families was our goal.
The Wingate sandstone that defines Indian Creek must have been the inspiration for the Road Runner cartoon series. Looking out over the slender sandstone spires, cliffs ringing the valley like a massive red curtain and the meandering wash with the occasional grove of cottonwood trees one can imagine Wiley E. Coyote chasing the elusive road runner. I just hoped there would be no falling anvils!
The Park Service campground provided our home for the week. Ringed by sandstone formations and slot canyons, our children explored the terrain on their own time. We parents cooked camp meals over sputtering stoves, confident that the children were being safe. They knew what a cliff was and were not going to fall off. Or at least we grownups comforted each other with that thought. By allowing the kids to rat around, we gave them a chance to discover the world for themselves, without a set of rules. Knowing that it is a potentially dangerous environment, we also signaled to the kids that we trusted them to make good decisions. Empowering children with these responsibilities makes them confident. Which, from my view, is a good attribute for children to have.