- The Washington Times - Monday, August 17, 2009

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Ariz. | The conversation taking place over a spectacular overlook, on a picture-perfect day, could have been between members of any American family on one of the tours that U.S. Park Ranger Scott Kraynak has been giving here for the past nine years.

Father: “You just studied this, right? What kinds of rocks are there?”

Daughter: “There’s a kind of rock that’s made out of lava, right? Now what is that?

Mr. Kraynak: “It starts with ‘i’.”

Daughter: “Igneous rock.”

Mother: “High five!”

But this was not any family. It was the family of President Obama, and the four-day vacation to the national parks offered one of those rare reminders that in between two wars and a furious health care debate, this is the first president in more than a generation to have small children in the White House.

The White House has been rigorous in guarding the privacy of the president’s two daughters, Malia, 11, and Sasha, 8. As the first family toured Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, they weighed those concerns against the value of showing off two of America’s most treasured natural wonders in order to provide a boost to the park system’s summer tourism goals.

And so it was Sunday that the president and his family strolled along the South Rim of the magnificent red-rock canyon, between pinyon pines, junipers and a scrub brush called Mormon Tea.

Pausing to take in the panorama, Mr. Obama told his family, “The last time I was here is when I was 11 years old.”

Mr. Kraynak asked him whether it looked the same.

“It does,” the president said.

“He’s not that old!” the first lady laughed.

The family did its best to ignore the group of photographers and reporters gathered just a few feet away, not to mention the Secret Service agents that had closed off a large section of the park to visitors. The first family took pains to work around the awkward nature of the fishbowl life they lead.

Story Continues →