WHO: Dick and Linda Mackay, 58 and 55 respectively, of Hanover, N.H., and their children, Phoebe, 25, and Alex, 21, of New York City
WHERE: Las Vegas and Utah
WHEN: A week in April
WHY: ''It was a combination of a cabin-fever trip and the fact that our children were suddenly free," Dick Mackay said. ''We thought it up about 10 days ahead of time. Linda went to the computer as she always does and planned it."
GATEWAY TO ZION: They flew into Las Vegas and headed straight to Utah in a rental car, staying in St. George. ''We found a guesthouse, a group of antique buildings moved there and restored, Green Gate Village B&B. We had our own little brick house," Mackay said. ''St. George is known as the winter home of Brigham Young, late in life, and there's a temple there."
CAR-FREE BLISS: ''We went to Zion [National Park] for a day and then drove through it the next day," he said. ''The whole thing about Zion, you feel like this tremendous weight has been taken off by the removal of cars. The road that follows the canyon is a cul-de-sac about 6 miles long and there're no cars. The shuttle bus comes by about every six minutes. We took side canyon hikes. I don't go up in places where there are cliffs, but the three of them did."
THINK PINK: They headed out via the mile-long Zion Tunnel. ''It was built in the '20s. You go up a series of switchbacks and drop-offs that raise the hair, and then you go through a tunnel that's a steep tunnel, about 5 percent grade. You come out at the high desert near Kanab. Before Kanab is the place we found one of the two surprises of the trip. That was Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, which is 2,000 acres of huge pink sand dunes formed by the winds over thousands of years."
LARGE LAKE: From there, they went on to Page, Ariz., and to Glen Canyon National Recreation Area/Lake Powell, staying at the scenic Wahweap Lodge. ''There are houseboats from May to September," said Mackay. ''You can go hundreds of miles up the lake. Everyone but me took a two-hour boat tour down the lake to Glen Canyon Dam.
PICK YOUR SLOT: ''We found our own little slot canyon to explore, thanks to an outfitter in Page. You can reach your arms out when it gets narrow and touch with both arms and it feels like it's your own. Looking up is wonderful because you see a slice of sky."
PEACE PIPE: Heading back, their second find was Pipe Spring National Monument, a natural spring near Fredonia, Ariz. ''Whites took it over and made it a ranch, then Brigham Young bought it to support his growing stake in St. George. . . . In the late 1800s it became a hideaway for wives from anti-polygamy laws. It was a fascinating little spot."
21 AT 21: Back in Vegas, they stayed at The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino and gambled a bit. Alex was there for his birthday. ''He went down to the casino at 12:15 a.m., when he was 21. They didn't check his ID. He announced he was 21. He said it took him until 4 o'clock to lose $200, but I think it was probably more like $400."