Our first big event to welcome Tom back to the extended family was a picnic in the park on Saturday. For many this would mean a drive to a nearby patch of city grass or a faraway lake, but in Orem it means a 15-minute ride into Provo Canyon and some of the most spectacular scenery this country has to offer. Just ask Robert Redford. His Sundance Ski Resort sits only a few miles up the road.
The canyon was carved by the Provo River, which alternately babbles and rages from the craggy peaks of the Wasatch Mountains down to the floor of the desert valley below. This erosion was no small feat of nature since the granite rock range averages between 9,000 and 10,000 feet in elevation. The second highest peak is Mount Timpanogas at 11,752 feet, almost every foot of which Dax scaled on an overnight Boy Scout hike last month. (He won’t admit it, but he’s buff.)
Amidst a grove of conifers and their more delicate deciduous cousins, the quaking aspens and cottonwoods, we plopped our group down on the meadow of Canyon Glen Park to soak up the fresh mountain air and unadulterated sunshine. Some reclined on blankets with babies while others chased preschoolers, but the majority engaged in a cutthroat game of the family’s current passion, bocce ball.
Per usual, Uncle Scott and his partner, Grandpa Lou, emerged victorious despite some fierce opposition from the women and children in the group. (OK, so Tom and Uncle Jon weren’t so bad either). I attribute my failure to prevail to my Eastern training in the sport. I have only played bocce in the gentle confines of an Astroturf-covered, board-enclosed court at my mom and stepdad’s retirement community in Florida. This open course, wild Western version is all new to me and I have yet to perfect my technique.
In the dwindling twilight we feasted on hot dogs, pickles, potato salad, and of course, Hostess Ding Dongs, because it’s just not an All-American picnic without a sugar-filled, preservative-laden, plastic-wrapped treat. As the sun went down, we made a final pit stop for the three-year-olds and loaded up the trucks with gear. Our sighs were bittersweet as we trekked back down the canyon: we won’t see these people or this scenery, both of whom we love, for more than a year. What awaits us will no doubt be beautiful and engaging in its own right, but what we leave behind is rich beyond compare.