Road tripping with my parents as a kid in the 90s

If you and I have adventured together before, there’s a chance that you have heard me tell this story - the story of how I fell in love with the desert when I was 12 years old. 

The occasion was a big road trip with my parents, the three of us having traveled across the Atlantic from our native Germany in order to sample some of the famous national parks of the American West during summer break.  A bucket list vacation, right?

Truth be told, I didn’t love it then. Hour after hour in our rental car, too many early morning wake ups and mandatory hikes. I wasn’t all outdoorsy back then - books were more my jam, but I’d get car sick from trying to read in the backseat. So, yes, the trip was cool but no, it wasn’t love at first sight when my parents dragged me through the Utah desert at age 12.

That is… right until the end of our time on the road, when we pulled up to a big concrete parking lot a hundred yards or so from Bright Angel Point at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. I didn’t even want to get out of the car anymore because I’d already looked at what felt like a hundred other canyons in the Southwest and I was officially over the whole road trip thing. Well - I’m glad my parents would have none of my pre-teen willfulness and forced me off the back seat and onto my feet; I irrevocably fell in love with the desert about 45 seconds after I slammed the car door shut. 

12 years old and still trying to be grumpy about being made to look at yet another random desert canyon.

But how could you not fall in love with this landscape! A moody analog shot of the Grand Canyon from my dad’s archives.

Okay, okay. Maybe this place doesn’t totally suck. Moi ca. 1997

I’ve come back to the Grand Canyon what feels like a million times since that day in 1997. I’ve run it Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim on three occasions, I’ve tasted its obscure trails and off-trail sections far beyond the main corridor, I’ve floated a few stretches of the river. I’ve gotten stuck in snow on the rim and nearly passed out from heat exhaustion in the inner gorge, and I keep coming back for more: for the last twenty+ years, the Grand Canyon has been one of my favorite spots in the world. I think slowly but surely Paul might be starting to develop a deeper appreciation for it, too - even after my misguided first attempt at sharing my love for the big ditch with Paul a year and a half ago the story of which I shared here.

Below are a few shots from our recent nine day backpack through the northwestern reaches of Grand Canyon National Park and surrounding wilderness earlier this month; no big epics to report this time (phew), so I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. Enjoy!

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