Escaping Winter in the Fiery Furnace

When spring fever hits, lots of us locals head to Utah. Within about three hours' drive, we can enjoy multiple national parks -- Arches National Park and Canyonlands - and a complete change of season. The kids all know this, of course, and my daughter, Nicole, had been begging us to go camping during spring break. 

I couldn't quite wrap my head around camping. After all, we can still ski in Aspen for a few more weeks.

But just over the state line in Moab, you can wear shorts, flip flops, and enjoy a plunge into an outdoor swimming pool. So at Nicole's urging, we joined another family with kids of about the same age to explore some jaw-droppingly-beautiful territory. (It's so pretty and so iconic that the arch at the bottom of this post, Delicate Arch, adorns Utah's license plates.)

These shots that I took of the Fiery Furnace will give you an idea of how gorgeous this high desert country really is. It's a wonderland of red sandstone fins, slot canyons, arches and fantastical natural sculptures.

This is truly wild country, and you can explore places where there really are no maps. Down at the bottom of Fiery Furnace, a part of Arches, you lose your sense of direction because the canyons block your view of the surrounding mountains.

You go in well prepared by the Forest Service rangers. They show you a video about the area and explain how to explore without harming the fragile desert environment. But once you're in there you can just wander and -- whoo!  You are free.

Our families - two couples with a total of six kids, one 9, one 11 and four 13-year-olds - found a wonderful, narrow, painted canyon to explore. That's it at the left above. While we were there admiring it, we met another friendly hiker who told us we needed to backtrack -- we had missed something even better!

 Above: Delicate Arch in Arches National Park.

As I write this -- the first installment of what will be a blog about family life here in the Roaring Fork Valley -- it's still snowing some nights. While the snow is shining silver on top of Mount Sopris, here in town it melts before noon, watering the daffodils that are starting to pop up. I'm still planning on another day or two of powder skiing, made all the nicer by our week-long summer retreat.

We're lucky to have all this so close by, and the kids love it. The Town of Carbondale advertises itself as "the basecamp for adventure." It's that, and more.

Carbondale and the neighboring mid-Valley towns provide a great launching pad for family fun. Come back next month, and I'll tell you more about it.