Posted by: Kirsten | Sunday, 17 February 2008

The Great Daddy-Daughter Trip of 2008

Well, I went and bought plane tickets to Denver for my soon-to-be-seven-year-old daughter and me for our 2008 rendition of the Daddy-Daughter trip.  This is unschooling at its finest.  Both last year and this year, I let my daughter decide where our trip would take us, with the caveat that I could always veto anything unreasonable (or particularly challenging to turn into an edu-vacational trip).  This year’s adventure takes us to Nebraska where we’ll visit Agate Fossil Beds and Scotts Bluff National Monuments, as well as Fort Laramie NHS nearby in Wyoming and Rocky Mountain NP near our port of arrival in Colorado.

A few weeks ago I sent off e-mails to the parks requesting brochures, maps, Junior Ranger materials, and anything else they thought might prove useful in planning our trip.  Two of the parks didn’t even have e-mail addresses advertised on their websites, which I found a tad annoying — perhaps some backhanded way to avoid being contacted as often.  So I broke down and typed up a letter, stuffed it in an envelope, stamped and mailed it off to the wild west.  No pony express required this time. 

I’ve received replies from three of the four parks already, and these materials will help plan an agenda of our activities for the week.  I particularly like getting the Jr. Ranger stuff ahead of time, although some parks think they’re doing you a favor by not sending them because the booklet can’t be completed without being there.  Well, duh.  But there are usually some activities like word searches, crossword puzzles, or matching exercises that my daughter can do in her spare time now. I’ve found that having the kids review the Junior Ranger materials before we get there helps them complete it more efficiently when we finally do arrive, and I think it also gets them more excited about the destination as well.  There’s nothing I despise more than spending ALL our time at the park doing the Junior Ranger booklet, then having to leave. I like to build in plenty of unscheduled, unplanned time when I can.  Wait, if I plan it into the schedule, it’s not unplanned time is it?  Sure, it’s just scheduled time with nothing particular to do.  The weather, new information, or some unexpected turn of events will help decide how we spend that time.

Some time estimating between locations will help figure out how many days we’ll spend at each place.  Except for Rocky Mountain, the other offer no camping facilities, so we’ll have to look for nearby state and other federal lands that do.  Fort Robinson State Park in the northwestern corner of Nebraska looks particularly attractive, as does Nebraska National Forest.  There are plenty of non-National Park destinations as well, including Oglala National Grassland, Toadstool Geologic Park, and Hudson-Meng Bison Kill in Nebraska. I wonder if my daughter will still want to be an archaeologist after visiting the bison kill site.  Only one way to find out!

So after that list of more than seven possibilities for only seven days, now it’s time to figure out a rough itinerary.  I’ll plot them all out on a map or on my GPS unit and get a sense of what roads go from location to location, how long for travel between, where our evening campouts could possibly happen, and after that we’ll have enough of an outline to get by even if we don’t plan another thing.  Add in a motel night or two for a real shower and bed every once in a while and we’ll be all set.

I hope someone out there finds these details of our trip planning useful.  I do this twice a year now, once with each kid, so I feel I have a lot of sage advice to contribute to someone who may wish to attempt this sort of trip for the first time.  If you have specific questions about anything I mention along the way or about something I have not, please don’t hesitate to ask here on HSR. Will write more as time and schedule permit (and as soon as I shake this nasty illness that’s zapped me this past week).

Parke Diem!
— Jon

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