It’s worth it. Sitting in a building so over air conditioned that I’ve come to call my work space the “icecubicle”. I step out onto the concrete sidewalk on a sun drenched early summer day where the temperature is in the low 90s by near noon. I’m almost to the crosswalk as I walk along a four lane boulevard stuffed with big city traffic. All so I can sit on a cold plastic composite chair and enjoy my number one Big Mac meal. Medium size. With french fries. And cola for the drink. It’s worth it because in 6 hours and 23 minutes we’ll be on vacation. Our vacation to Arches National Park.

Trekking the National Parks is a game where you want to score the most points by claiming park cards and bonus cards. Include the optional post cards and you have another way to score points. The game board is a map of the U.S. and on it you will place the trail stones on specially marked park location. Choose the color wooden meeple hiker you want and place it at the start place airport. Just off the edges of the game board you will place the bonus cards, park cards, trek cards, post cards, and player aids. To save space we fan out the trail stone bonus cards. Along one edge will be the trek cards draw pile. You will take the top 5 trek cards and place them face up next to each other. Deal 5 trek cards to each player. Along another edge of the game board place the park cards. The number of parks cards used in your game depends on the number of players. The number of face up park cards is the number of players plus 1. For example, in a 4 player game you will use 21 park cards and place 5 park cards face up. Randomly choose a start player and you’re ready to go.

We’re on our way! Sort of. Apparently everyone on the freeway is trying to get to the same airport. My peripheral vision sees a car behind us turn sharply to our left trying to cut into another lane. He nearly rear ended us. As he zips by I say, “Look kids a Deer!” I raise my hand keeping only one finger up. “Real mature dad.” Kayla, our daughter, doesn’t miss much.  To my left I notice Valerie smiling and she adds, “Buuusted. You’ve been wanting to do that ever since we first saw National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” Now is a good time for me to focus on getting to the airport. In one piece.

You take 2 actions on your turn and there are 3 choices with an action.  They are draw a card, move, or claim a park card. There are 2 additional actions you can do if you use the Postcards from the Parks. When drawing a card it can be from the 5 face up or the top face down card on the draw stack. You can move you hiker. How far depends on the trek cards you play and whether you use an airport for your travel. If you do the move action the total on your played trek cards must exactly match the trail sign total of the path you’re traveling. When you land on a location and there is a stone you add it to your collection for all players to see. You only collect stones on the location you stop on not any locations you pass over. So it is possible to collect two stones on one turn. Collecting these stones will earn you points at game end. Other points can be earned by claiming park cards. You claim a park card by turning in the correct trek cards by the park card. Your hiker needs to be at the park when you claim it. Postcards are similar to park cards only you do not have to have your hiker at the park. Postcards also have point values on them and will be added to your point total at game end.

We made it. In one piece. It was easy to find the security line because the end of it was right next to the terminal entrance. We reached the security checkpoint. Some kind of risque music by the David Rose Orchestra should have been playing because I basically have to undress before going through the detector. All four of us are running through the terminal to our gate stopping now and again to put our clothes back on. Ever try to put on a shoe while hopping along on one foot? If it were an Olympic event I’d probably get a gold medal. Anyway, we get to our gate and board. Whoa! Everyone on the plane is waiting for us to board. Laser stares all on us. As the plane backs away from the terminal my daughter asks me, “Are we flying?” Yes, it is her first plane ride. Soon enough she feels that weird sensation as the planes wheels leave the ground. Next stop Sky Harbor airport in Phoenix. We’re getting closer to our camping vacation in the Arches National Park.

When one of two things happen the final round is triggered. When the last remaining stone is collected or if the last remaining park card is revealed the final round is triggered. When one of those two things happen everyone gets one last turn. This means the player who triggered the last round gets the last turn. What we usually do when scoring is start with giving out the bonus cards for the stones. A player who has the most of a colored stone gets the 5 point bonus card. There is a 5 point bonus card for each of the stone colors and there is a 5 point bonus card for the player who collected the most stones. If there is a tie for the most of a color then no player gets that bonus card. Then all players will add bonus points, if they got any, to their total of completed park and postcards. Most points wins. There is one tie breaker. The tied player who has the most total stones wins. Otherwise it’s a shared victory.

I’ve done it. I’ve escaped the over air conditioned building. It was what Edward Abbey wrote in Desert Solitaire that brought me here. He wrote, “Above the mesa the sun hangs behind streaks and streamers of wind-whipped clouds. More storms coming. But for the time being, around my place at least, the air is untroubled, and I become aware for the first time today of the immense silence in which I am lost.  Not silence so much as a great stillness-for there are few sounds: the creak of some bird in a juniper tree…” “Dad! Ezra put a snake in my sleeping bag!” That last part? Edward Abbey didn’t write that. That was our daughter bringing me back to the here and now. Oh well, it still beats my “icecubicle” back in Burbank.



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