24 April, 2021

Short Horror Stories Vol.3 by Brendon Faife - [Book Review]

Book Details:

Title: Short Horror Stories Vol.3: Aliens, Reptiles, Paranormal & Supernatural Hauntings (World Creepy Tales Collection)

Author: Brendon Faife

Genre: Horror, Supernatural, Short stories

Print length: 58 pages




Blurb from Amazon:

Not all Gods are benevolent….

I am thrilled to put together this collection of creepy short stories set in different parts of the world!!
From the pristine beaches of the Andaman Islands, a quaint seaside town in Bali or the rugged plains of Oregon — the locations are as beautiful as the horrifying events which unravel in them!

This volume contains 3 horror stories that will have you feverishly turning pages, wanting more—

Whether it is the mysterious tribe of the Sentinel Island who violently reject contact with outsiders , an abandoned theme park in Bali that holds a dark disturbing secret, or the sinister undertones of mysterious cattle mutilations that take place in Oregon, I hope you find every story as creepy and exciting as I imagined it in my mind’s eye!

The fast-paced, simple narration will keep you hooked until the chilling climax!

So, settle down in a quiet place, dim your lights and let the stories transport you, across different cultures and continents, into another world!

This horror short story collection contains:
1.The Island
2.The Theme Park
3.The Visitors

Purchase Link:

Amazon


My Review:

This book is a collection of short stories mostly themed around horror, alien, supernatural, reptile / alien creatures. I would say, the stories are mysterious, not gory or scary. But, only 3 stories in a collection felt very short.

By the way, the book cover is amazing!

The island

This story about a mysterious creature on a remote island is riveting and well written. But, it felt a bit predictable and fell flat at the end. 

The Theme park

This story is interesting throughout and has a good unpredictable end.

The Visitors

This alien suspense is my favorite in the book. The suspense build-up is good till the end. The theme of the story is unique and the ending is not predictable. 

My Rating: 4/5

About the Author:

Brendon Faife is an engineer by profession and works for a leading MNC in Bangalore. If he was not an engineer he would have been a teacher! He is passionate about writing short stories and is inspired by the works of Ruskin Bond, RK Narayan and Kenneth Anderson. His short stories are a mix of supernatural events, human relationships and everyday life. He likes to think of himself as a free thinker, a dreamer and a great singer when no one is listening!

Until next time,


The Institute by Stephen King - [Book Review]

 Book Details:

Title: The Institute

Author: Stephen King

Genre: Mystery, thriller, suspense

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Print Length: 577 pages





Blurb:

In the middle of the night, in a house on a quiet street in suburban Minneapolis, intruders silently murder Luke Ellis’s parents and load him into a black SUV. The operation takes less than two minutes. Luke will wake up at The Institute, in a room that looks just like his own, except there’s no window. And outside his door are other doors, behind which are other kids with special talents—telekinesis and telepathy—who got to this place the same way Luke did: Kalisha, Nick, George, Iris, and ten-year-old Avery Dixon. They are all in Front Half. Others, Luke learns, graduated to Back Half, “like the roach motel,” Kalisha says. “You check in, but you don’t check out.”

In this most sinister of institutions, the director, Mrs. Sigsby, and her staff are ruthlessly dedicated to extracting from these children the force of their extranormal gifts. There are no scruples here. If you go along, you get tokens for the vending machines. If you don’t, punishment is brutal. As each new victim disappears to Back Half, Luke becomes more and more desperate to get out and get help. But no one has ever escaped from the Institute.

Purchase Link:

Amazon

My Review:

My Review might be biased as this is my first audiobook ever. So, there will be a lot of difference in the experience while reading a book Vs listening to the book.

Coming to the audio narration, it is excellent and the narrator's voice brought life to the author's words. The story is unique and the concept is about psychic kids which is interesting for me to pick the book. 

I loved the characters and the details the author has put in. The research about psychic abilities and how they can help mankind is interesting to know. The pace of the story is perfect making it a good thriller. But, I felt, the last part after Luke reaches a small town in South Carolina is too much dragging. 

The story is thrilling for sure, but dragging at the end made it less interesting. The last few pages might have been edited and cut short. Other than that, everything else is just perfect for a mystery story.

Avery Dixon and Luke steal the show for their bravery. Overall, a bit lengthy but a satisfying thriller.

My Rating: 4/5


About the Author:

Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His first crime thriller featuring Bill Hodges, MR MERCEDES, won the Edgar Award for best novel and was shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger Award. Both MR MERCEDES and END OF WATCH received the Goodreads Choice Award for the Best Mystery and Thriller of 2014 and 2016 respectively.

King co-wrote the bestselling novel Sleeping Beauties with his son Owen King, and many of King's books have been turned into celebrated films and television series including The Shawshank Redemption, Gerald's Game, and It.

King was the recipient of America's prestigious 2014 National Medal of Arts and the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for distinguished contributions to American Letters. In 2007 he also won the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America. He lives with his wife Tabitha King in Maine.

Until next time,


Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag - [Book Review]

 Book Details:

Title: Ghachar Ghochar 

Author: Vivek Shanbhag

Translator: Srinath Perur

Publisher: HarperPerennial

Genre: Fiction, Family drama

Print length: 130 pages





Blurb:

A young man's close-knit family is nearly destitute when his uncle finds a successful spice company, changing their fortunes overnight. As they move from a cramped, ant-infested shack to a larger house on the other side of Bangalore, and try to adjust to a new way of life, the family dynamic begins to shift. 

Allegiances realign; marriages are arranged and begin to falter, and conflict brews ominously in the background. Things become “ghachar ghochar”—a nonsense phrase uttered by one meaning something tangled beyond repair, a knot that can't be untied.

Elegantly written and punctuated by moments of unexpected warmth and humor, Ghachar Ghochar is a quietly enthralling, deeply unsettling novel about the shifting meanings—and consequences—of financial gain in contemporary India.

Purchase Link:


My Review:


It is the shortest novel that I read recently. This can be considered as a family drama with mystery.

The story is a reflection of how people change with a sudden source of income. The author imbibes the culture, local traditions, and the everyday problems of a lower-middle-class family in the story. 

This author has a unique writing style. He seems to tell the story in a simple way while leaving clues making us guess how those clues are relevant. The climax is a bit confusing until you read the first chapter again after the ending. 

The author doesn't end the story in a very clear way and leaves the reader to join all the clues as puzzle pieces to understand the ending. 

At the end of the story, we wonder what happened to Anitha and why the whole family behaves as if nothing happened. Every small scene in the story has some significance. For example- when the narrator watches a couple fighting in the cafe, he breaks the glass which he is holding tight. Maybe, he is thinking, he is not good enough for Anitha or it's an indication that Anitha might have decided to leave him. 

While the narrative is interesting, I hated most of the characters except Anitha and the narrator's dad. I couldn't understand the situation of the narrator who doesn't want to earn on his own and will do anything to support the earners of the family, even it means injustice to someone else. 

My Rating: 4/5


About the Author:


Vivek Shanbhag writes in Kannada. He has published five short story collections, three novels, and two plays, and has edited two anthologies, one of them in English. For 7 years from 2005 to 2012, he published and edited the literary journal Desha Kaala. Vivek’s books are translated into many other Indian languages. His acclaimed novel Ghachar Ghochar was published in India in English translation in 2015.

Vivek's writing has appeared in Granta, Seminar, Indian Literature, and Out of Print.

Until next time,




Train to Pakistan by Kushwant Singh - [Book Review]

Book Details:

Title:  Train to Pakistan

Author: Kushwant Singh

Genre: Historical fiction, History

Publisher: Normanby Press

Print Length: 236 pages





Blurb:

“In the summer of 1947, when the creation of the state of Pakistan was formally announced, ten million people—Muslims and Hindus and Sikhs—were in flight. By the time the monsoon broke, almost a million of them were dead, and all of northern India was in arms, in terror, or in hiding. The only remaining oases of peace were a scatter of little villages lost in the remote reaches of the frontier. One of these villages was Mano Majra.”

It is a place, Khushwant Singh goes on to tell us at the beginning of this classic novel, where Sikhs and Muslims have lived together in peace for hundreds of years. Then one day, at the end of the summer, the “ghost train” arrives, a silent, incredible funeral train loaded with the bodies of thousands of refugees, bringing the village its first taste of the horrors of the civil war. Train to Pakistan is the story of this isolated village that is plunged into the abyss of religious hate. It is also the story of a Sikh boy and a Muslim girl whose love endured and transcends the ravages of war.

Purchase Link:

Amazon


My Review:

Train to Pakistan depicts the partition days of India and Pakistan. It clearly covers that period,  the people, and the circumstances in rural Punjab.

I felt the story or depiction is raw without polishing or covering up the real circumstances and emotions during partition.  The writing style is easy to follow, but I find many Indianized English words (if I may say so) whose meanings we cannot find in Dictionary.

I love the way how the author depicts the normal life of rural people. The harmony between different religions, people respecting each other in villages, and their moral values are worth an appreciation. The book also brings in the reality of that period,  killings without logic, etc. The mass killings across the border and cruelty brought tears while reading the book.

The climax is unique and very satisfying. We see people like Iqbal and Hukum Chand in real life, who preach morals but don't dare to follow them completely. We also see people like Juggut Singh who shine bright against circumstances and sacrifice their lives for good when society least expects good from them. 

By the end of the book, I realized why this book is a classic. A classic is not only a great literary work but also which mirrors society,  people, culture, and complex human emotions.

My Rating: 5/5

About the Author:

Khushwant Singh,  born on 2 February 1915 in Hadali, Undivided India, (now a part of Pakistan), was a prominent Indian novelist and journalist. Singh's weekly column, "With Malice towards One and All", carried by several Indian newspapers, was among the most widely-read columns in the country.

An important post-colonial novelist writing in English, Singh is best known for his trenchant secularism, his humor, and abiding love of poetry. His comparisons of social and behavioral characteristics of Westerners and Indians are laced with acid wit.

Until next time,





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17 April, 2021

5 Best things to do in Albuquerque with Kids

 Albuquerque is the largest city in New Mexico. It is abbreviated as ABQ and gets its name from Spanish. ABQ is a great place for a family vacation due to its unique landscape and mild weather throughout the year.


5 Best things to do in Albuquerque with Kids:





1. Experiencing the International Baloon Festival

The International Baloon Fiesta organized every year in October is the most anticipated event in Albuquerque. In 2021, it is scheduled for October 2nd to 10th, and usually, the tickets start selling by June itself. 

The colorful balloons in creative shapes dotting the skyline during Sunrise / SunSet are considered to be a wonderful sight. Balloon rides also will be available to see the city from the air.

We are planning to attend this year, but have to see if we can make it.

There is a hot air balloon museum in the city if you want to know more about balloons!


Image by Thaddeus Moore from Pixabay 



2. Hiking the Petroglyph National monument 

This is a must-visit place if you are traveling with kids. Petroglyph National monument protects a landscape of 17 miles with designs and ancient symbols carved on volcanic rocks by Native Americans from 500 to 700 years ago.

The Park is split into 3 areas - Boca Negra Canyon, Rinconada Canyon, and Piedras Marcadas Canyon.

 Mesa Point trail in Boca Negra canyon is an easy 0.4-mile trail with a little bit of climbing to the top and is a good introduction to petroglyphs. The cliff base trail and Macaw trail are both easy.

Rinconada Canyon and Piedras Marcadas Canyon have options for longer hikes with more petroglyphs to view.






3. Ride the Sandia peak tramway

Reaching the Sandia peak of 11,000 ft elevation on the tramway in mere 15 mins is great to relish the views of this desert city. 

While the top of the mountain is 20 to 30 degrees cooler than city temperature, there are hundreds of hiking trails to access from the peak. There is also a restaurant TEN3 on the peak.

Watching Sunset riding on the tramway is considered the most memorable experience for any.

We couldn't ride the tram due to high winds when we went in February, but we drove to the peak. We came across the ski area and hiking trails on the way.


Photo courtesy: Flickr



4. Enjoy the Mexican Food

If you are like us who love Mexican food, Albuquerque seems like a paradise for food lovers. El pinto restaurant in North Valley is unique in the interior and exterior decoration and famous for the authentic and tasty Mexican food.







It's difficult to get a table on weekends and weekdays alike, so we reserved ahead for dinner. We loved the experience and 100% recommend it to all visitors.

Be prepared to answer if you want green chile or red or Christmas(a combination of both red and green).

Some other highly recommended Mexican restaurants are Flying star Cafe, Papa Felipe's Mexican Restaurant, Padilla's Mexican kitchen, Little Anita's, Cocina Azul, and Church Street Cafe.

5. Walk the Old downtown Albuquerque 

No trip is complete without understanding the culture and history of the place, right? I suggest you don't miss a walk downtown.

Church street cafe is famous in the downtown which you can consider for lunch. San De Felip Neri church is the oldest standing church. This church has an interesting Virgin Mary sculpture carved in the tree which is known as the Virgen De Guadalupe tree Turquoise jewelry is famous here! Don't forget to shop downtown.


San Felipe De Neri Church PC: Creative common license



  Bonus tips:

1. We loved exploring the National Museum of Nuclear science and history. It takes 2 to 4 hrs to cover the museum, but kids will love this. ABQ Bio park is another recommended place for kids.

2. Someday trips to consider from Albuquerque : 

a. Jemez Mountain scenic byway with hot springs and waterfalls

b. Santa Fe - Read this travelogue for more details

c. Sky city at Acoma pueblo (the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in North America) - around 1.5 hrs from Albuquerque 

d. Bisti Badlands near Farmington - 2.5 hrs from Albuquerque 

e. Chaco culture national historic park - 2.5 hrs from Albuquerque 

3. Read more about our New Mexico Road trip if you want to extend your trip from Albuquerque to Four corners monument, White sands National park, Roswell and Bandelier National Monument, and Kasha- Katuwe National Monument.

The weather is getting better, are you planning for any trip? Would love to know your travel plans. 

Feel free to comment.

Until next time,






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02 April, 2021

Gratitude List - March 2021 #GratitudeCircle

 My March has been quite calm and good. Not much activity. No dance recitals with usual online classes. Could read some good books, hike a few places, relaxed at home watching multiple snowstorms by the window, and got my first dose of Covid vaccine.

It's the Spring season. I am hoping to start gardening soon. Temperatures are getting warm and so, I am excited about regular walks and weekend hikes. 





Here comes my Gratitude list for March 2021:





Covid Vaccine :

One important thing to be grateful for. Just the last year, exactly at the same time, the world started experiencing the seriousness of Covid 19 and at least we got some solution even though we don't know yet how powerful or effective the vaccine might be.




Spring Season :

In Colorado,  this year we saw many snow storms before Spring and we are eagerly waiting for the warm days ahead.

As you know, I am most excited to start gardening. 

Reading and Relaxing time :

With snow on most of the days in March, I had more time to read books, relax in the evenings and watch Netflix.

Rtu Vidya is one of the useful books I read recently and Love at first is a romance. 

I started watching Designated Survivor on Netflix and I am enjoying it so far. I am searching for good suspense series to watch in the evenings to relax after work. I am looking for something similar to Lost, Dark, etc., Any suggestions?




Catching up on new job :

I am grateful for my new job which made work-life balance easy. I  owe to my colleagues and seniors of the team who are always ready to help a new team member. I am learning new skills, expanding my technical horizons for the last few months and I am enjoying the journey.

Online learning and spring break :

At last, by the last quarter, both kids are getting in tune with online learning and completing assignments on time. It's a different situation especially for a kindergartener to learn online without going to school at least once, not knowing the names of their classmates, without playing in the breaks, not losing patience while listening to classes. 

I  really feel all kids who did virtual learning this year did a great job getting accustomed to it. I am grateful for the technology and options we have in these times to learn and work from home.

Due to snowstorms, our kids' spring break just went by with playing at home. We will make it up for their summer break. 

So, that's about my March. What are you grateful for today? Do let me know in the comments.


Until next time,






Linking to #GratitudeCircle hosted by Vidya Sury. 





27 March, 2021

Rifle Falls State Park and the Grand Mesa

 This is  part 2 of our trip to Colorado National Monument. While returning from Colorado National monument, we drived through Grand Mesa, the largest flattop mountain in the world.


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Grand Mesa, an area covering 500 miles of area, which is the largest flattop mountain in the world can be reached by Grand Mesa scenic byway near Grand Junction. This scenic byway of 63 miles passes through the beautiful scenery of national forests, wildlife, and lakes. Grand Mesa is at an elevation of 10,000 ft above sea level.


The scenery changes dramatically from Grand Junction to Grand Mesa. We cross through these large formations of volcanic ash , as elevation increases, we pass through lakes, forests, and at last snowy mountain after crossing powderhorn ski resort. 





We took a restroom break at Grand Mesa Visitor center and the kids played snowball fight. In Summer, there might be good trails for hiking here. But, due to the bad weather, we couldn't hike.





The views while descending from Grand Mesa are equally interesting. We drove to Glenwood Springs and stopped for a quick lunch at Qdoba which is just on the highway. These are some views of Glenwood Springs. Read this travelogue on Glenwood Springs to know about the places to visit. 






Rifle falls state park can be reached via I 70 W and Co Rd 226 from Glenwood springs and is around 28 miles. This frozen lake seemed beautiful on the way to Rifle falls.





Rifle Falls is a busy area in summer, but since we visited in December, we got the parking quickly. The entrance fee is $8 per vehicle.





This 80-foot triple fall is half frozen in December. It looked like a winter wonderland there. There is a short hike around the falls which is a bit slippery with snow, but the beauty of the place is more than what we expected.

A view from the top of the falls:


Even though the weather is super cold and a deterrent, we couldn't get enough of the falls. The scenery felt surreal and relaxing. 


Thus, we ended our 2 day trip to Colorado National Monument and Rifle falls. We returned to Colorado springs by night.

Bonus Tip:

Rifle Mountain Park and Ice caves are around 5 miles from Rifle fall state park. There are 4 ice caves in the park formed during December and February. So, for an adventure, don't miss visiting Ice caves.

By the way, we spotted this bridal veil falls from I 70 near Idaho springs. The frozen fall is fantastic right?





As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I am trying to complete blogging my travelogues for the past few months. The next travelogue will be about our Albuquerque trip. So, stay tuned!

Follow me on social media, so you don't miss my travelogues:


To get updates through email:


Until next time,





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22 March, 2021

One Year through the Pandemic #MondayMusings

 It's been more than one year that I traveled on a business trip on March 1st. The Pandemic has just started while we were returning and no one guessed then, how much damage it will cause to the world. 

We might have attended office just a week or more and we didn't see our colleagues directly after that. Working from home, Managing kids' online learning setups, coordinating with their homework, meetings, my office work, cooking - it was a lot to take in suddenly. 





What's changed after the pandemic?

After 1 year, the world changed a lot. We even got a vaccine and I got the first dose as well. We all settled in working from home, managing zillion tasks effortlessly. Kids got used to playing at home, learning online, got used to spending time without meeting their friends. I think, everyone suffered and I feel, kids have seen a new world due to covid at home. Around 10 days ago, kids played in the playground heartily after a long time.

Is it over yet?

It's not over yet. Everyone should get vaccinated. We don't even know the side effects or efficiency of vaccines yet, or if we have to take it every year like a flu vaccine. Kids didn't get an approved vaccine, but still, we are gearing up to send them to school for the upcoming school year. It's a bit scary and of course, not over yet. We are not sure about the second wave. 

Impact on our Society

Many businesses got losses. Many people lost their jobs. Many died, many got sick and many survived. It's a mix of emotions really. Here in the USA, we are hopeful that everyone will get vaccinated by American Independence day(July 4th). Things have already started to get normal. 





What the Pandemic taught us?

  • Nothing is more important in life than our family's health and love. 

  • Every Cloud has a silver lining.

  • The world needs kindness more than money.

  • We should have an attitude of Gratitude.

  • We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude. 





What do you feel about 2020 and Covid? Do you feel hopeful now?

Do let me know in the comments.

Until next time,





Linking this to #MondayMusings hosted by Corinne at everydaygyaan.com.

Also, linking this to Anita's Inspire me Monday weekly linkup. 




18 March, 2021

Exploring Colorado National Monument with kids

 We visited Colorado National Monument which is near Grand Junction, Colorado in last winter. It was a trip during Covid and so we had to take a lot of precautions from selecting the clean place to stay, avoiding outside food, using sanitizer, reducing the use of public toilets, wearing masks during hikes, and blah blah. 

We chose Hilton hotels this time as well as we are comfortable and trust their safety procedures and cleaning. We took a suite and even cooked quick one-pot meals on an instant pot. Hilton provides a to-go breakfast which is manageable during covid. We wore masks for all hikes and used sanitizer for restroom breaks and carried Clorox wipes as well. 


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If you ever visit Western Colorado, don't miss this gem- Grand Junction Colorado National Monument.




This 31 square miles national monument site boasts deep canyons, red rocks, sandstone towers, and a beautiful landscape.

As per the National Park service,

Colorado National Monument is a part of the Colorado Plateau which is a vast land of relatively horizontal rock layers situated between the Rocky Mountains and the Great Basin of Nevada. This land is deeply etched and dissected by the incredible canyons of the Colorado River and its tributaries.

Since we visited in the winter, there are very few visitors. Anyways, this is not the most populated park-like Arches and Rocky mountain national park. So, it's good to visit year-round.

The entrance fee is $20 per vehicle for a seven-day pass. 

What to do in Colorado National Monument?

You can bike/ hike and also cover a scenic drive. 

There are 2 entrances to the park -east and west. We entered through West Entrance,  which is more scenic than the other side.

The 23-mile Rimrock scenic drive is a must for anyone. The scenic drive has many overlooks which are accessible within a 1-mile walk. This seemed fantastic about the park when visiting with kids.

Our favorite overlooks on the drive are :

Red rock canyon overlook, 
fallen rock overlook, 
ute canyon overlook, 
highland view overlook, 
Balanced Rock at the west entrance near Fruita, 
book cliffs view(one of the best views) near west entrance,
 Independence monument view near the west entrance after Otto's trail, 
Grand view and
Coke ovens view

The first view of the park going up is this.








This has information about how the park formed due to an earthquake at the Redlands fault. Then, we pass through the tunnels.




Next, we get a glimpse of Balanced rock. There is a small trail to go near the rock.

Balanced Rock



Fruita Canyon View is our favorite view. Photos cannot make justice to the beauty of the canyon. 

Fruita Canyon View



The visitor center was not open due to Covid. 
Canyon rim trail from the visitor center is an easy 1-mile hike. We did this quick trail and it was a good introduction to the park.

The next family-friendly trail is the Window rock trail. It is a 0.5-mile round trip. Window rock is not very clearly visible until you bend from the overlook, but the view of the canyon is amazing.

Window Rock



Book Cliffs view near Window rock trail is one of the best views of the park. Canyon rim trail from visitor center connects to the book cliffs view. But, we can also reach that view through the window rock trail. Our kids enjoyed this trial.

Otto's trail an easy 0.7 mile out and back trail which gives a great view of the Independence monument. 

The Independence monument view is the main attraction. It is a 450-foot high sandstone tower. This was climbed by John Otto for the first time in 1911. He hoisted the American flag on June 11th to celebrate Flag day and from then, he made ascent every Independence day to hoist the American flag to celebrate Independence day.


Independence Monument





After stopping by the grand view, we hiked the coke ovens trail. These rocks which look like big ovens are unique to watch. It's an easy 0.9 mile out and back trail.

Coke ovens



If you observed, most of the trails so far are family-friendly hikes which we loved most about the park.

See, what we found on the road near the east entrance.




A few more trails that are worth hiking: Serpent trail and Devil's kitchen trail near East entrance. 




As the name suggests, the Serpent trail has 50 switchbacks in 2 miles. Isn't that amazing?

Devil's kitchen trail is 1.6 miles out and back trail that features a river as well. We couldn't do that due to lack of time.

Wrap up your day by driving back to Grand junction to relax. 
Some great restaurants around Grand Junction:
  • MI RANCHITO taco shop
  • ENSTROM candies
  • Fiesta gaudalajara 
  • El tapatio mexican
  • Alpine oven pie co
So, that's about exploring the Colorado National monument in one day with kids.  

Bonus Tip:

If you have one more day in Grand Junction, you can cover the Black Canyon of Gunnison, near Montrose. 

Have you ever visited this monument? Please share your experience in the comments. If not, do you love to visit? 

Until next time,







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