Since we got home from a five-day trip to the Needles area of Canyonlands National Park, Isobel has been telling everyone, "I'm not supposed to say the c-word, the a-word, the d-word or the k-word."
C stands for "chICKeeeen" which she said randomly dozens of times a day, even after it was banned on Day One, a 7-hour car ride from Santa Fe to Canyonlands.
A is for "ain't." As in, "Ain't ain't a word and you ain't supposed to say it. Say ain't five times and you ain't going to heaven." I said that to her, but it didn't help. (She's pretty quick; it took me a few times hearing that phrase before I realized there were five ain'ts in it. Not her. One time.)
D and K are for "die" and "kill." As in, "Ohno, we're gonna die" as I'm gripping the steering wheel and wondering if I'm going to get the car up this next series of small rock steps (small rock steps are all it can handle); and "That cliff's gonna kill us!" as we bounce up a rocky hill on a road a couple of feet wider than the car. As a poor-to-mediocre 4WD driver, I can tell you, that helps.
Well I ain't chicken. Except sometimes when I think my little girls might die or get killed, and that if they do it'll be entirely my fault.
On day two, we bounced up a, um, better dirt road to the boundary of the national park, got out and started looking for a way to walk to the top of one of the endless and nearly impenetrable plateaus just inside the border of the park. There's a string of canyons there, all bounded by great slabs of redrock that rise 200 vertical feet in about 30 horizontal feet. We followed dry streambeds and slickrock to the base, then followed the only sequence of cracks, basins and inclines we could find that led all the way to the top without stopping us at a 10- or 30-foot wall.
At the top it was much roomier. There was plenty of room, for instance, for Eva to run. This is the little girl who, the day before, just a few minutes after we got out of the car, cried, "I tripped aGAIN! That's three times. Dad, do you have a Band-aid?" Now, the top was pretty wide in spots. In other spots there wasn't a whole lot of room between our path and a hundred-foot drop-crunch-slide-drop.
So I gave them a variation on the speech that they always get: "OK. Girls. Listen. This is a fun place. But it's also kind of a scary place. You have to be careful up here. And you have to listen to me. If I stay stop, you stop. OK?"
And Isobel said, "Yeah, it's a national park. And the park part means fun. Because parks are fun."
Then Eva, watching carefully to see if she was right, added, "And national means . . . scary . . . or something."
P.S. I can't begin to describe how beautiful the arches and caverns and pits and small domes and twisting pour-offs and empty pools and endless cliffs-and-canyons were in the Davis Canyon area. So I'll let Devin, who's been around a bit, tell you. After wandering around on the top of that slab and meditating on the subject for a few hours, he stopped and said, "I'm trying to think if I've been anywhere cooler than this."
There you go. Davis Canyon in scary fun Canyonlands National Park.