4th Graders get a National Parks Pass for FREE!

The Ultimate Kids Trip: 4th graders and their families get in to the Monument for FREE.

I have the reputation as the “kids” guide at Dinosaur River Expeditions. Every time there’s a trip with someone under the age of 13, they are inevitably my favorite guest (sorry adults). I can talk for hours with a 10 year old about their favorite candy, or listen to stories about the time they rode sleeping bags down the stairs, completely captivated. This fact is the reason that when Dinosaur booked their first trip with more children than guardians, I found myself rowing the kids’  boat down the Green River.

It was a late August Gates of Lodore trip, and we had made it through all the big rapids like Hell’s Half Mile. I volunteered to take the kids’ boat the night before, assuming not all of them would want to come with me. The next thing I knew, I was rowing through Whirlpool Canyon with, no joke, a raft overrun with twelve animated children. We listened to the three Twenty One Pilot songs I happened to have downloaded on my iPod, on repeat, repeatedly.  The kids’ faces were caked with seven colors of zinc sunscreen: a creative dad brought them to trick the kids into protecting their young skin from the sun.  “War Paint!” They yelled every morning, excited to be decorate themselves; no one questioned what they were at war with…  

They stood on the frame, and along the tubes of the boat, with the impressive balance of someone who doesn’t know they should be falling over. They danced (some with terrible kid moves you couldn’t help but love and some who should seriously consider dance as profession) with abandon. “Rapid!” I would yell, pausing the music, and 12 little bodies would suddenly sit down and hang onto “something strappy” on my command. As soon as the rapid ended, they flew back into the frenzied floating dance party.

We floated through the canyon, experiencing our own versions of perfection.

 

We arrive at camp and the kids scatter, digging in the sand, catching lizards, playing a kind of tag they invented.  

 

A few minutes, later the US Fish and Wildlife Biologists stopped at our camp. They had seen our trip of kids and stopped to treat us with a few cool tidbits about the fish in Dinosaur National Monument. The kids piled onto the boat, the biologists pulled out ten fish from a cooler, and showed them each one before tossing it back into the water. The kids squealed with glee as each fish splashed into the river and swam away.  

 

Doesn’t this sound like a kids’ paradise to you? The billion-year-old rocks aren’t fragile, they can touch everything in sight (except the petroglyphs). The kids won’t care if there is sand in every crevice of their body, about the geology, or the history of the place, but they feel its enchantment. Your family can dance, make s’mores, bury each other in the sand and make new friends. Some friendships will be a fleeting reminder of the freedom you felt on the river: like when you see a lizard you remember the one you caught named Gary. Other friendships might be the kind that last a lifetime. What can I say, the kids and I get each other. I never grew out of my kid phase: I want to touch the water, the sand, the river, breath in the hot air, and believe in magic.

 

National Parks Foundation seems to understand the kids too, as they started the “Every kid in a Park” initiative. Every 4th grader and their families can get into any National Park or Monument in the country for free. The magic in the National Parks is greater than Disneyland and this program allows every kid and their families to experience it.

 

https://www.nationalparks.org/our-work/campaigns-initiatives/every-kid-park


Unplugging, What to Expect

Unplugging, What to Expect

One of the greatest perks of going on a river rafting trip is the lack of cell phone service and internet connection. Today the average American spends over 10 hours looking at a screen every day and the rise of social media is linked with a rise in mental health disorders among teens. Being unplugged is many guests favorite part of the trip, but it can also be nerve wrecking. Not to worry, you aren’t alone in your fears, and we promise it will all be worth it.

The Anticipation:

Like a college freshman walking into their dorm room for the first time you are filled with questions, nervous, but also excited. What will it be like? It’s the first time my whole family has been unplugged. Maybe I will have service…? Will the internet miss me?

I hate to burst your bubble, but the internet will not miss you. The world of social media will go on to fight another day without you. We recommend you leave your phones in the car (it will make your withdrawals end sooner). Prepare by digging out your old IPod classic and speaker, find a good camera, a deck of cards, and that book you have been wanting to read. If you must bring your phone download a few extra Spotify playlists and delete a few games to make sure there is plenty of room for photos.

But what if something happens while I’m gone!? Not to worry, your guides carry a satellite deivice called an “In-Reach” for emergencies.  This means that if something happens in the real world and you NEED to know about immediately, you will. But please keep in mind this is for emergencies only, not to check the score of the Pat’s game.

The Withdrawals:  

You are on your way. Your family is lounging in the summer sun, half listening to your guide chatter about the history of Dinosaur National Monument and how old the rocks are, gazing at the beautiful canyon before you. You’re finally breathing easy when your oldest child pulls out his phone to take a snapchat. He realizes that there’s a snap unloaded on his phone. Panic sets in. They weren’t lying, there is no service. Your kids ask at every bend, “Is there service here?” staring at a screen missing the most spectacular views you have ever seen. You’re telling your children to relax and just enjoy the movement and secretly you are wishing you could check Twitter. 

The Awakening:

Finally, at camp the first night you’re sitting in mesh chair arranged in a circle on the sandy beaches of the gorgeous Green River next to you. You pretend to read your book, really thinking about the day spent listening to your kids ask all the questions you wanted to…

The chairs around you start to fill and you put down your book to chat. The what do you dos and where are you froms eventually lead to someone asking “Which state has the largest concentration of dairy farms?” Un-googleable, it sparks a lively debate and leads to stories about your childhood summers spent on a dairy farm in Nebraska.

Enjoying the Moment:

All the chairs are full and you watch your children laugh uncontrollably at one another in the firelight. Everything seems to be at peace, a million stars you’ve never seen twinkle above you and silently, you realize that no one has mentioned their phones in hours. You are unplugged. The next three days are full of towering canyon walls, thrilling whitewater, storytelling, and debating which collection of stars is Cassiopeia. You stay up late, loving this time spent with family and new friends, pre-trip worries entirely dissolved.

An Overwhelming Reintroduction:  

You float up to the Split Mountain boat ramp at the end of your trip so glad you have unplugged, but just a little curious about what happened while you were gone. You hold your breath to hug your guides goodbye, tearing up a bit, equal parts sad to go and overwhelmed by the smell. Thrilled with the whole experience, you pile into the van back to the hotel. You pull out your phone and it starts to buzz. Bzzzz, bzzzz, bzzz. My God, it won’t stop! 150 group messages from the ladies in your gym class complaining about how sore they are, 30 emails from J-Crew alerting you to another 20% sale, and New York Times notifications roll in one after another! Completely overwhelmed, you realize you told everyone you wouldn’t have service until the next day and you turn off your phone, to enjoy the last few minutes of your unplugged paradise.


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