Guest Post: Eric Henze, author of ‘A Family Guide to the Grand Circle National Parks’

Eric Henze will be joining us at Village House of Books on Saturday, May 23rd at 1:00 pm.  Come on by and say hello!

Writing for the Road

by Eric Henze

When I wrote my first book, The Complete Guide to Wilder Ranch State Park, I received the same feedback from two people that really confounded me. They said they read my guide book from cover to cover. This intrigued me (and confused me a little) because, well, it’s a guide book. It was meant to guide, not entertain.

With my second book, A Family Guide to the Grand Circle National Parks, I saw an opportunity to explore this “voice” part a bit. In this travel guide, I describe a circular road trip to seven of the most scenic national parks in the United States. Now these parks are relatively close to one another, but still, most of them were about 150 miles apart. I thought, “What if I gave the reader something that entertained them while they drove between each park?” This thought turned into nine stories of family adventure, using characterizations of my own family and based on actual events when we traveled this same route.

The stories started out as pure satire. However, just as one finds a deeper sense of relaxation and begins to regain their true sense of self while on vacation, the stories too took on deeper, more soul enriching topics farther into the guide. In the end, whether funny, sad or thought provoking, the stories took on a life of their own and became part of the travel guide.

I wanted to share an excerpt from one of the stories here in this post. It is primarily about my youngest son Bryce. The story also contains myself, his older brother Everest, and my wife Angela. Here we go.. Enjoy!

an excerpt from “Where’s Bryce?”…

…“When is this blasted shuttle going to get to the next stop?” she asked. I had been married long enough to know not to answer rhetorical questions as they only encouraged additional questions of an unanswerable nature.

“We’re going to miss it. We are going to miss the talk,” she said, looking ahead of the bus for anything that would indicate Inspiration Point was close.

“I’m sure we will catch most of it, if not all of it,” I said calmly. She was only being Type A out of love for her son.DSC_0454

“What if they run out of seating and we miss the whole thing?”

“We won’t miss it dear, don’t worry.” I saw a sign. “Look, we’re here.”

As the shuttle pulled to the stop, everyone stood up in preparation to disembark. Ang helped lobby the kids for a quick exit. She clapped her hands to rally their attention and said, “Okay kids, get your water bottles back in your packs. Let’s get ready to go. We don’t want to miss the ranger talk.”

The kids gathered their stuff as the bus pulled up. We all got off the shuttle in a manner of hurried patience as we melded with the crowd around us. Everyone seemed to be getting off the shuttle at this stop. I watched the kids get off and then ran to catch up with Ang, who was speed walking to the edge of the canyon.

“Come on! We are going to miss it!” she said loudly to the people in front of her. No time to turn around for this woman. She was going to make this talk.

“Okay, okay! Kids, come on.” I motioned for Ev to take the lead in front of me. “Come on, Ev.”

“Sure, Dad”, and then with a slight pause Everest added, “Dad, where’s Bryce?” I turned around to see the shuttle bus driving away and then turned my attention to the crowd, quickly surveying it. Bryce was not with us. Then as the shuttle was pulling out of reach I saw him, on the bus.

“Ang! We left Bryce on the bus!”

“No we didn’t, he got off with me.”

“He’s not here, dear. He must have gotten back on the bus.”

Ang stopped dead in her tracks so fast everyone behind her had to quickly adjust to avoid running into her. “What?!” she exclaimed.

“He’s not here.” I tried to sound calming, as if that would help.

“Eric! BB! Oh my God! BB’s lost! We need to find him!”

“I’ll go see when the next shuttle’s coming! See if you can find someone.” I ran over to a kiosk that showed the shuttle times. Another shuttle would come in less than 10 minutes.

Ang saw the ranger who was going to give the geology talk. She stopped him in his tracks and said in a panicked flurry of words, “Excuse me! You have to help me please! We’ve lost Bryce! We’ve lost our Bryce!”

The ranger looked at her confused and took a step back. “I’m sorry, ma’am. You’ve lost Bryce?”

“Yes! Where’s Bryce? Where’s Bryce! We’ve lost Bryce!” she said in a frantic Southern undertone.

The ranger maintained composure. “Not to worry, ma’am, lots of people get disoriented up here. Bryce is right over there.” The ranger pointed to Bryce Canyon. “I’m pretty sure it’s not lost.”

Ang looked briefly at where he pointed and then turned right back to the ranger. “What! No! You don’t understand! Listen! Bryce is gone!”

“Ma’am, I ah…” the ranger looked confused and now a little concerned at my wife’s odd behavior. A couple of tourists gathered to help calm Angela down by repeatedly pointing to the rim of Bryce Canyon and saying, “Bryce is right there! Bryce is right there!”

“I’m not looking for the stupid canyon, I’m looking for Bryce! My Bryce!” she exclaimed.

Everest quickly stepped in. “My brother’s name is Bryce and he got back on the shuttle,” he said, trying to help.

“Please! He’s only nine years old!” she cried.

“Oh! You have a son named Bryce!”

“That’s what I’ve been saying! Bryce David! He’s lost on the shuttle!”

By this time a small crowd had gathered around my wife to either help or try to make sense of the lost crazy woman. I ran back from the kiosk with a plan to get on the next shuttle and have Ang stay put with Ev. If Bryce got off, I would find him. If he stayed on the shuttle, it would eventually return to Inspiration Point.

This proved unnecessary thanks to the ranger’s walkie-talkie. Once the ranger understood that we were indeed looking for our son Bryce, he called the shuttle drivers. After a short back and forth between the drivers and the ranger, there was a sigh of relief. They found him.

I returned as the ranger said into his walkie-talkie, “Put him at Table 3.”

“Table 3?” I asked.

“You’ll find him at Bryce Lodge. Take the next shuttle and get off at the lodge and find the hostess. Her name is Phyllis. Don’t worry, we have a system. You aren’t the first parents to lose your child in Bryce Canyon, but I have to say you are the first to lose one named after Bryce Canyon.”

My wife was profoundly grateful. “Thank you! Thank you so much. I’m so glad you found him! I’m sorry I got so excited. Bryce is a Celtic name, you know.”

“I’m just glad we found him ma’am. Sorry for not understanding you at first,” he chuckled. We were still a little too shaken up to laugh at that point, though it was the topic well into the evening of how we lost Bryce in Bryce and how only Bryce could pull that off.

We found our B Bear at Bryce Canyon Lodge enjoying a hot fudge sundae. He was nonplussed at the situation. “Hey, Mom” he said calmly, giving a short wave.

“We normally just give them a scoop of ice cream,” the hostess said. She was a kind maternal woman. “But he was so cute; I gave him a full hot fudge sundae. I hope you don’t mind. I couldn’t help but spoil him a little. Unless a child is closer to the visitor center, they drop him off here at the lodge. He said he forgot his junior ranger book and that he was named after the park and didn’t want to not miss getting his junior ranger badge. You had quite an adventure today, didn’t you Bryce?” She patted him on the head.

Bryce took another bite of hot fudge. “Ummmm. I guess so. I’m sorry, Mom! I just wanted to get my badge!”

“BB! We were worried sick about you!” Ang exclaimed, hugging him and then petting his hair.

“Sorry Bro Bro, were you scared?” Everest asked.

“No, not really. They just asked if there was a Bryce Henze on the bus and I said yes and they put me here and gave me ice cream. I figure it’s because I’m, well, you know, we’re in Bryce Cannon and I’m named Bryce, just like the cannon.” He then pointed at the hostess. “She told me I was lost and should be happy that they found me, but come on, guys! I would have just taken the shuttle in a circle back to where you were. It’s not like I’m 4!”

Ang chuckled and hugged her little man. “Bryce, what am I going to do with you? You are going to be the death of me.”

“Me too!” Everest stated. “I was freaking out!” He let out a big sigh and piled onto mom’s hug.

I joined in on the group hug. I was so glad we had found our little guy.

“B Bear,” I thought. “Our skinny little bundle of chaos, what are we going to do with you indeed.”

About the Author

Eric Henze began his writing career at the age of twelve with a sci fi short titled “5:15”, tackling a plot AbouttheAuthoraround a timepiece that could end the world. His passion for hiking started in Sedona, Arizona where he lived in his youth. It expanded to peak bagging in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and then the Andes of South America, where he lived as a Peace Corp volunteer for two years, climbing many of the peaks of Ecuador and Peru. A highlight was climbing Sangay, an active volcano that often shoots VW size rocks at climbers to maintain their attention. In his own words, “It was a delight”.

His passions for writing, hiking and adventure have led to a series of guidebooks for both the National Park Service and the California State Parks. A portion of the proceeds of all of his books go towards directly supporting these parks. His latest work is titled “A Family Guide to the Grand Circle National Parks”, a travel companion for the working family looking to explore seven great southwest national parks.

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