We are driving down a bone-jarring washboard road with the trailer bumping behind us. Matt is swerving from side to side trying to miss the worst spots. I shudder to think of the state of the inside of the trailer… there will be some cleanup to do. The boys are somehow sleeping through all of this in the back, secure in their car seats. We are going to a place called Agua Caliente. How can you go wrong with a place named “hot water?” We read that there was a great hike through a canyon as well.
After we pass through 3 villages and cross an arroyo with cows hanging out by a little water, we finally come to a small hut where a woman is collecting entrance fees. It is 100 pesos ($6). She is super serious as she does her official duty and collects our money. Then she tells us to wait a minute. She comes back to the car with four big oranges, “Para los niños’” she says with a big smile. Graysen wakes up just in time to say “Gracias.”
We drive a little further to the end of the road where there is an old dam. Graysen and I go check out the hot springs while Matt sets up our campsite. We follow a trail across a boulder field below the dam and then cross the stream and go around the dam. There is a couple from Idaho sitting in the hot spring, which is a little pool made of rocks piled up against a cliff on the far side of the water. Hot water is spilling out of a few small pipes in the cliff.
We go back to get Rylan and Papa, taking a detour to see the fish and play on the boulders in the stream. We have a wonderful campsite with trees and big rocks and cows eating the brush nearby. After snack we all head over to the hot spring. The pool is small but the boys love it. Small fish nibble at our feet. We stay in until our hands and feet shrivel up.
The next day we gear up to go on our hike to the canyon. I am really looking forward to it after so many days of driving and beaches. We pass the hot spring and follow the stream towards the mountains, passing through big boulder fields, crossing over the stream, and around big bunches of reeds. Graysen is scrambling over the boulders with ease and Rylan is trying his best to keep up with his big brother. He refuses to be carried, so Matt and I take turns helping him. We get to the point where the canyon begins, but can’t quite see how to get over the rocks. I wait with the boys on a sandy beach while Matt checks it out. He comes back in a few minutes with a report. This is the way, but it’s not easy. He is going to check further for suitability for the kids. Meanwhile the boys and I have snacks and wade out into the cool clear water.
Matt comes back and says it is too difficult for the boys. My heart sinks. I was so looking forward to it. I decide to go have a look for myself. I scramble over the rock into the canyon and it is like entering a different world. The air is cool, the sunlight just reaching down so I can see all the way to the bottom of the water. I enjoy finding my way through the rocks and the challenge of clambering over them. I step out to an edge that would make a great platform for jumping into the water. I am drawn forward to see what is around the next rock. The birds are chirping, the reeds are rustling, and I can hear the sound of the water flowing over some rocks.
Finally I get to a place where the trail crosses the stream again and the canyon bends around a corner. Reluctantly, I turn around and head back to my family. I travel more quickly on the way back, and when I emerge from the canyon, I am excited. “I think we can do it with the kids,” I say. “We’ll just have to pass them up.”
Matt looks at me as if I am crazy. “It’s almost lunch time,” he says. “We’ve got to go.” He picks up Rylan and puts him on his shoulders and starts walking. I want to scream and stomp my feet, but instead I pack up the rest of the stuff, grab Graysen’s hand, and follow them down the trail.
I am frustrated that we have to head back for food and naps. If it was just me and Matt, we would be up that canyon in a heartbeat. We would skip lunch and follow the trail until it ended or we got really lost. We might even jump into the canyon from the rocks. But it’s not just us. Our beautiful children need food and rest or they turn into beasts.
Traveling with children isn’t always easy, but it has its benefits as well. Every afternoon they encourage us to lay down with them and take a break. They remind us to delight in the cows and listen to their bells jingling through the forest. They break the ice with other travelers and locals, bringing smiles to many faces. They help us slow down, take the long way, and see things with a fresh perspective.