If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you have already seen some grainy iPad mini photos of our big Camping Thanksgiving trip to Utah.

But NOW, I’m going to virtually trap you in my living room and show you my vacation photos like an aloha shirt grandpa with a slide show.

There are a lot of photos. But it’s not my fault. Zion and Bryce Canyon are astoundingly beautiful. I want you to see it all. And then I want you to come back Thursday for the big Joules Clothing photo shoot. (And some exciting news!)

Southern Utah is about an eight hour drive from Southern California. So we loaded up the Nissan NV with luggage and car seats and kids and barf bucket hats, and off we went.

We took a detour to see the kitschy sights on Route 66.

And to drive down the Las Vegas strip.

We arrived on Wednesday evening at our home for the holiday: the Zion Ponderosa Ranch.

We had a campsite with a fire pit and a grill and a picnic table, and there were showers and bathrooms and a dishwashing sink. And, oh yeah, a cozy little cabin with real beds and heat. And wifi. Because that’s how I like to camp these days. In a warm bed.

The husband and the boys were in the tent, and Frankie and the girls were in the cabin.

The ranch/resort is between Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park, so we were able to visit both.

On Thursday, we headed over to Zion to take some photos and pick up Junior Ranger booklets for the kids. They like to earn their Junior Ranger badges at all the National Parks we visit. Then we came back to camp so I could attempt Camping Thanksgiving.

Thanks to the advice of the good people of the Catholic All Year Facebook Page, I had spatchcocked the turkey before we left home, and so we set that on the grill to cook in two pieces. In the meantime, I made Jim’s Mom’s Ginger Pumpkin Bisque recipe, and some green beans on the camp stove, while Betty made the mashed potatoes in the crockpot. Once the turkey was done, the rolls and pies went on the grill to warm up.

Usually my mom hosts Thanksgiving at her house, but this year, they went to Iowa to visit my sister. I hated to think of her turkey dishes not getting used for a whole year. So I brought them with me. Camping. And crystal wine glasses and engraved silver handle cups for the kids. Because I’m fancy.

Dinner turned out great. I’m not a person who couldn’t go on if Thanksgiving dinner had been a disaster. It’s just not that high on my list of priorities, so it was a risk we were willing to take. But it was all hot and cooked and tasty. Although . . . I did cook the bag of giblets again. I have never yet managed to successfully remove the giblets from a turkey. If I take out the neck, there’s a bag of other stuff in there. If I take out a bag of stuff, there’s another secret bag in there. And yet, we are so far all alive.

The sunset was pretty spectacular.

The next day we got up early to head to Bryce Canyon. But before we got there we saw . . . SNOW. As it turned out, none of the kids born since we moved from Chicago back to Southern California had any memory of having been in the snow. So we had to stop. And touch the snow.

Then on to Bryce Canyon.

We hiked down into the red dirt of the canyon, through tunnels and along steep cliffs. It was about a three mile loop.

The views were none too shabby.

If you’re in to that sort of thing.

Not everyone is.

The most striking part of the landscape were these “hoodoos,” which are crazy, giant, towering rock formations that are very, very old but look poised to tip over at any moment.

Also, there were wild animals everywhere. We saw wild turkeys, bison, big horn sheep, birds of all kinds, and an absolutely ridiculous number of deer. We saw at least a hundred deer.

Back at camp we ate mac and cheese around the campfire, because it was Friday and we like to keep it meatless.

On Saturday, we headed out hiking again. This time back at Zion.

The parks are less than two hours apart, and both have the distinctive stripes of color in the rock formations that we had seen before at the Grand Canyon, but the hikes were really different.

Saturday’s hike had forests (and sandwiches). And rivers.

And reflecting pools.

And waterfalls.

It was a 5.2 mile loop and there were a lot of rocky steps and scrambling over stones, but Frankie did almost the whole thing walking on his own.

Lulu got to ride with me for most of the way.

But Gus wanted to help, right at the end.

And there you have it. The Tierneys went to Zion and Bryce. We highly recommend them. Good job, God.

Then, Sunday morning, we got back in the van and headed west. You’re not going to believe this, but a few other folks had the same plan.

But we made it home eventually! After a stop at St. George in St. George for Mass. And the longest recorded bathroom stop in human history in Primm, NV. Never again. Next time, I’m getting us one of these
. That is all.

Okay, Thursday will have all the photos of the cute kids in the cute clothes, and the multiple big, exciting announcements. Then sometime after that, I’ve got a really, really great giveaway. So much good stuff comin’ at ya.

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and a nice, peaceful start to your Advent. Whew.

In case you are still in the market for one, here’s our cheap and easy, long-lasting, non-table-ruining Advent Wreath. It’s not too late!