Dropping the New Year Pinecone

For the New Year holiday, we envisioned ourselves spending some chilly days in the snow, skiing or sledding, getting hot chocolate, and wandering around a winter wonderland in Flagstaff. Didn’t happen. Well, Flagstaff happened, but the hot weather made for a different holiday, and when you are the Rambling family , different can be just as fun!

Skiing was still a priority; the kids had been promised and the slopes were open with blown snow. At first I had my doubts, but Arizona Snowbowl puts on a good show. Lessons are included with ski rentals, which was quite nice for Zoe. She spent the day in a group and then in the afternoon she got a little one on one time with her instructor on the slopes. I had signed Avi up ahead of time for the little kid lessons; he was also taken care of all day. Lunch included!

Bryan and I spent the day remembering how to ski… well I had to remember; I’ve never been super good or confident. The fake snow was adequate, and the resort really had quite a few slopes and good variety open. With the kids taken care of, the day felt like a date. Plus, the sun was shining and it was nearly hot!

At the end of the lessons, we still had a bit of time to ski as a family, and took on one of the nice trail -style slopes. Both kids had improved so much! Zoe seemed a natural, and Avi had learned some great technique.

The next day was 31 December, and we needed a plan. There would be no sledding, so we took an impromptu drive up to the Grand Canyon. It’s really only an hour north of Flagstaff, and while I would normally not recommend it as a day trip, the time was well spent for us.  We hiked down the South Kaibab Trail to OO-Ah Point; the kids loved it and we really needed to hold them back from going further because, after all, what goes down has to come back up, and we expected to double our return trip.  These kids, however, didn’t blink an eye at the hike out and retraced the trail up in the same time as it took us to descend.


At the canyon we also visited Grandview Point and then Canyon Village where we hoped to get a late lunch at 2pm.  Eating at Spanish time seems to be something we couldn’t leave behind, and  it seems to work in our favor.  When we asked to be seated, the lunch crowd was finishing up  and we were told it would be an hour wait.  Without a better option, and after the miraculous parking space find, we figured we’d just linger.  Of course, it only took 10 minutes.

The best learning experience we got, however, was from the Park Ranger pictured below, whose name I sadly forgot (sorry guy, but you were great).  He gave a thoroughly interesting geological talk, taking only 45 minutes to teach us the history and then taking questions.  Zoe was especially curious about how the dam’s really affect the geology and his answer was surprising; to a geologist its all about eons of time and he has no doubt those dams won’t last more than a few hundred years, which is a blip to the canyon.  Of course, an environmentalist would see it differently.  Brought up some interesting conversations and comparisons to the message behind the documentary my brother Tyler is currently working on.

Back in Flagstaff that evening, we prepped for a cold night.  We walked into downtown to check out the hanging pinecone, then visited the local Korean restaurant for dinner (can’t seem to leave kimchi behind, either).  One thing Flagstaff does well is fake out the family’s with a special New Years Eve pinecone drop at 10pm (they also go at midnight).  It is so genius and perfect for parents, so, of course we participated with a couple hundred other people out on the streets of town.  The city also uses their big machinery – a road scraper, a firetruck  – to block of roads, which is both cool to see and a super nonchalant way to restrict unwanted or maybe dangerous vehicles.  There was music and a countdown, and then the pinecone began descending around second 5; it goes slowly and reaches the bottom at 0 instead of a quick fall which was a little disappointing, I’d love to see the thing just drop and maybe do a little bounce and swing.  Anyway, it was quite fun with kisses all around.  Then the hotel a block behind us set off fireworks!   Perfect Happy New Year!

With another day to spend together, we opted for more hiking since the weather was simply lovely.  Old Caves Crater Trail is just north of town, and with a few trail to choose it was easy to pick a loop in the 2.5-3 mile range. The trail was pleasant enough, up some cindery gravel through pine trees to the peak of a side-vented crater. Avi spent the entire hike filling the pouch on his sweatshirt with volcanic rocks; the whole mountain is simply made of these things, but he found it incredible.  The fun started when Zoe discovered a cave in the ground, and though the rock was quite sharp it was super interesting to explore and find more.  Avi was really into finding pottery shards – the bigger the better.  It is, of course, not legal to remove them, so he would pick them up and we’d take a picture before returning it to its location.


While we were hoping for wintry weather, it turned out that the warm sunny days in Flagstaff made for a really enjoyable new year weekend.  Nights were cold enough to warrant bundling up, and we did get to ski!

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