For the last year my wife has been after me to take the family on something more like a family vacation instead of the “stay-cations” we have done since the girls were very small. So we tried a short trip up to Monterey Bay to see how we would all do in a small van for three days and to my surprise we survived. We even managed to have some fun and hit a few missions for Sara’s homework assignment.
That small success lead to our major trip this past year to the Zion Mountain Ranch in Utah. For those that do know about Zion, you are missing one of the true wonders of the west. It has spectacular scenery and you can easily fill dozens of flashcards with pictures. ZMR is at the border of Zion and is a working buffalo ranch.
The accommodations are really small lodges with privacy and amazing views. Ours was a family sized lodge and had two levels with a bedroom plus bath upstairs with our own cast-iron room heater. The downstairs had the kitchen living room, bathroom and another bedroom.
When we looked outside on the first morning, we had a herd of deer wandering through the front yard and at night, the skies were so clear I felt I could reach and touch the stars. The kids had a ball running around and stalking the deer. Then they discovered the buffalo. The ranch feeds them and so they would come up to the fence. Let me tell you, you don’t understand how massive one buffalo is until you are next to it.
We all went a trail ride on horseback which was a tremendous amount of fun. This was not a “pony ride” but a full featured trail ride along the rim of a canyon and through the scrub brush.
While I did bring along my D700 camera and good glass, I also brought along my Mamiya 1000S medium format film camera. But I took the majority of the photos with my iPhone. I wanted to have a vacation and not be dragging along 20 lbs of gear everywhere I went. The iPhone works surprisingly well for a travel camera and did exactly what I wanted it to do. It caught family moments with the least amount of fuss and bother. And yes, even “Flat Stanley” got into the act 🙂
So one thing I learned was to let the wife do some driving while I happily shot pictures through and out the window of the van while we drove around. My window tint as it turns out is a really good neutral density filter on the economy size. I shot this image coming back from Bryce Canyon with snow blowing into the windshield. I had a lot of fun with impromptu shots like this of the scenery and the family. Now that we are home, the girls are still talking about trip and they want to go back. So I think I should put another mini vacation together to hit Canyonlands and Arches National Park 🙂
One of the best things about letting someone else drive is I could work on a slide show on my iPad while zooming across the desert in the passenger seat. I created our family trip slide show using my iPad Air and a cool app called Photo Slideshow Director Pro. If you ever get a chance to visit the state of Utah, you really want to make time to see Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon. The Bryce Canyon Lodge is a great place to grab lunch and soak up the atmosphere of Bryce.