Realizing a dream

Sep 06

Realizing a dream

During my very first semester of college in the fall of 1997, I took a class at Miami University called Geography of US National Parks.  I selected it as one of my core foundations classes to check the box for a physical science credit.  It sounded interesting when I signed up and it exceeded my expectations in every way.  It was a fascinating class: the professor would spend the entire class sessions showing photos of his personal trips to the parks and explain in detail how they were geographically formed.  It was like nerd nature camp twice a week, and I loved going to that class.

Twenty years later, I still remember what was important to me about that class:

  • Natural places need to be preserved, and I love the parks system in this country.
  • Science is awesome.  Awesome.
  • I got an ‘A’ in the class, and retain a surprising number of facts and knowledge.
  • The #1 national parks trip I would like to take after viewing and understanding the formation of the many parks in this diverse country through the class was to go to Grand Canyon National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Zion National Park.  I don’t remember exactly why I chose those three, other than their relative proximity to each other, but I knew I’d narrowed it down to those three based on the class lectures and all I’d learned.  It’s one of those “dream trip” ideas that I probably shared with Brad in our first getting-to-know you conversations, and it has been percolating on our (very, very lengthy) to do list for the past fourteen years.

And last week Brad took me, Maren, and Greta to see them.

And I had tears in my eyes from both the beauty of the land and the love of my man.

And my heart is so full.

It’s impossible to describe it all.  My professor had ninety minutes, a slide show, and knew all the things.  Here’s a few pictures, but the good ones are on Brad’s camera.


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If I had been to these parks before I had children, it’s entirely possible that my redhead would have been named Bryce and my towhead would have been named Zion.  And no, I’m not joking about that — I loved these lands that much.

Brad has a legit future in trip-planning.  He combined Greta’s 6-year-old abilities, my chemo fatigue situation, his triathlete-who-just-had-a-heart-attack conundrum, and Maren’s 10-year-old mojo and morphed the perfect itineraries that taxed our bodies when it was ‘worth it’ (and it was!) and restful sightseeing when it made sense.  I wouldn’t have changed a single thing.  It was an immersive experiential vacation, and it think we all have it written on our hearts as part of the story of our family.

I’m a relationships person, so most of my sentimental places are associated with my people.  The beauty encountered on this trip — and the phenomenal family experience that it was — made for a lot of highlight reel feels.

The longevity of this story is getting to me.  It’s twenty years ago this week that I was sitting in that classroom in the red brick building on campus, and we did it.  Dream realized.

I am blessed, I am blessed, I am blessed!


  1. This makes me sooo happy for you!! Love it!!!

  2. Lori6NV /

    Beautiful family time!! So well deserved! Only 2.5 hours from us here in Las Vegas — one of our favorite spots. So glad you were able to enjoy the beautiful red rocks out West!!

  3. Sweet. Praying for you guys!

  4. Love this. I went there in 2002 on a spontaneous weekend trip to meet a friend from college. I can’t wait to take the family! You guys live a blessed life, filling each day with life adventures.

  5. Jen, this story makes me so happy for you all. There are so many aspects about it that bring a smile to my face. Prayers were answered and blessings were experienced….praise Jesus!!

  6. I am sooooo happy that you all went to these National parks…..what an amazing experience on so many levels! It’s a trip that will be remembered forever! Love you friend!

  7. Your family shared your dream parks with you ,
    Totally Awesome.
    Blessings for everyone, I feel blessed that you share the
    things are are so important in life.

  8. Marge Greene /

    Awesome! And you and your beautiful family deserve that dream vacation!!

  9. Lisa Smith /

    Amazing! Well done Brad!!

  10. Lisa Marker-Robbins /

    LOVE this!!!!

  11. It’s a sweet sweet Blessing to realize that the Lord blessed you through Brad with this so desired trip!! Desires of the heart…… FULFILLED…

  12. Melody Smith /

    So, so very happy for your adventure and your family making memories. Rock On Jen!

  13. Kim Rourke /

    You built MY excitement as Jack and I go for two weeks st the end of September and I can’t wait! Thanks for sharing! Lucky hubby…. lucky wife!

  14. Love. Love. Love this!

  15. If you get a chance, do you think you could post your itinerary? I’m dying to take my kids but am overwhelmed with all the options and how to do it.

    • Sure!
      Day 1: Drove from airport (Vegas in our case) to Grand Canyon North Rim. Had lunch and explored and ate dinner at the Lodge. Drove to Page, AZ in the dark.
      Day 2: Got up early for river cruise in Glen Canyon (highly recommend!). Short hike to Horseshoe Bend overlook. Drove through Red Canyon on way to Bryce. Drove to our hotel just outside Bryce Canyon.
      Day 3: Got up for 9am horseback ride organized through the park (my favorite experience of the trip). Break for lunch and few hours of chill time. Late afternoon/evening spent driving the main part of the canyon and stopping at overlooks. Dinner at the lodge.
      Day 4: Hiked Navajo Trail at Bryce. Had pizza at Valhalla pizza in the lodge. Drove through Red Canyon on way to Zion. Arrive Zion, stopped at park and picked up river gear for Day 5 hike. Stayed at a ranch with buffalo on property just outside the park.
      Day 5: Got up super early to hike the Narrows at Zion. Billed as the hardest hike in the park — but worth it! — we loved it. The girls (even Greta) rocked it! So fun. Went to lodge, returned river gear, and ate dinner at a brew pub in Springdale.
      Day 6: Hung out at ranch for breakfast, packed, spent 3 hours exploring Zion, drove back to Vegas, ate at In and Out, and went to airport for red eye flight home.
      It was packed, but a really great balance!!! Let me know if you want more info! I can’t recommend it enough!

  16. Kristin Russo /

    I love this!!!! 🙂

  17. You chose well (the parks, the husband, the theoretical children’s names). I’m happy you took this family vacation —
    and to some of my favorite places!

  18. Jen, I just read your previous post. WOW. Having just gone through something like this with my own husband, I can relate to your need to rethink priorities. Pushing our bodies to the max does not always work out well, and balance is necessary (but not a promise). Knowing all this now, I’m exponentially happier that you were able to make this vacation happen.

  19. Christin /

    I have learned to “suck out all the marrow of life” from you. You guys dig deep to truly Live and I see that in every interaction I have with you and every blog of yours I read. I’m thankful you’re my example to follow. Zak actually just got us super cheap tickets to San Fransisco so we could do Yosemite as a family. I begrudgingly said yes because I know adventure is important for him, but as I read your blog, I realize I think he may be leading us to something magical. Thanks for breathing new meaning into for me. I’m so looking forward to seeing you soon!!!!

  20. Marlayne /

    So Happy For Your Whole Family ~ Vacations are suppose to make Memories & Give You a Lift ~ Sounds like you did both + tied it into a Dream from Years Before 🙂 So Glad You Got All 3!!!!! 🙂

  21. PRAISES!!! So happy for you!!!

  22. Jen, we’ve been to almost every fabulous place in the world , but none took my breath away like the Grand Canyon, It’s absolutely the most awesome sight ever. I’m thrilled your family got to see all those parks. Each has its own beauty. I know you think you’re blessed (and in many ways you are), but for those of us who have been tagging along for the past few years, you are our blessing. Thank you!!!! ❤️Peggy

  23. Jen! Hubby and I did a very similar trip before we had kiddos. Of course since it was before kiddos we did crazy things like canyoneering (hiking into slot canyons and repelling down the cliffs, sometimes into water) that scared the bejeezus out of me even then. But wow, it sure is gorgeous out there! So glad to hear about your awesome trip.

  24. So….could I encourage you to find that professor and share this story?! What a great nature moment…quotes from Freeman Tilden and John Muir are rolling through my mind 🙂

  25. Cindy Mitchell /

    WOW Jen, that was amazing.. You told your story so well. I was grinning from ear to ear while I was reading this.. What a beautiful trip with the most beautiful family I know,{from reading your blogs}. I love it. I can hear your the joy in your words.. Thank you for sharing. Take care, sending a hug

  26. Jennifer /

    Love every single bit of this post – thanks for sharing a dream come true!

  27. Laura Hudock /

    I love our National Parks also. Thank you for telling us about this trip, and the logistics. I’m going to keep this for future reference.

    I loved Yosemite when there a year ago. Highly recommend, it’s a fun trip combined with San Francisco.

    P.s. I love In and Out Burger also!

  28. Kelly Burns /

    I’m so happy you and your family were able to take that trip! The pictures are beautiful. How special that your dream trip became a reality 20 years later. And how on earth could we have really started at Miami TWENTY years ago?!?! What wonderful memories you, Brad, and the girls were able to create together. ❤️

  29. Lindsay /

    Oh my goodness…what a lovely vacation!!!

  30. Linda (aka. T) /

    I had to smile reading your words. I’m so happy you were able to make this dream trip a reality and enjoy nature’s beauty with your family. Thanks for the smile and sharing the pics…..they are breathtaking.