Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Day 16: Grand Canyon to Page, Arizona

134 miles /215 kms

An early 8 am start.  We could not resist one last stop along the Grand Canyon rim for a picture as we drove east past the Desert Watch tower. 

Arriving in Page, Arizona we see red rock formations everywhere.  But, first things first, a stop at Walmart for a major grocery stock up.

The Glen Canyon Dam holds back the waters of Lake Powell.  This would look impressive except that we have recently been to the much larger Hoover Dam.  So, we think this is a little bit like a mini-Hoover.

What a delight to see that our campsite is located in the Glen Canyon National Park overlooking Lake Powell which is rimed with many bare, light colored, mountains.  Below is a marina bursting with houseboats.

After getting ourselves situated and the air conditioning turned on we decide a swin in the lake is in order.  Hmm, because the lake level is so low it is a rather long walk down to the lake.

Micha and Dominic go under water, Alex wades, Mama takes pictures. 

The water was crisp but also very turbid for the first 10 meters which was not inviting at all.  Luckily our campsite comes with an access pass to the Lake Powell Resort pool.  Now this is my kind of swimming!

In the afternoon we drive a few miles back to town to locate the meeting point for our Antelope Slot Canyon tour the next day.  And, make sure that our clocks are set to the correct time zone.  The tours are all sold out so it was good to have booked our spots online a few weeks before we arrived.

Trip Advisor suggested a stop at Horseshoe Bend.  I thought it was a pull-out beside the highway.  No, not quite.  We parked and walked up a very hot and dusty red sand path.  We crested the hill after about 400 m to see. . .. . another 400 m down the hill.  Let us just say that Mama was getting roasted by the boys.  Oh yes, just step out of the car, eh, Mama?!

This was a stunning site to behold –a plateau of rolling red rock approaches a dramatic 300m (1,000 foot) drop.  No guard rails, no nothing!

Despite the scenery, we do not linger.  It was somewhat creepy - no guard rails, kids and parents holding toddlers standing far too close to the edge for my comfort.  I was just waiting for an accident to happen. No fun. 

Another last minute left turn into a scenic view point payed off.  This time we climbed down smooth, wind worn red rock to view the dam from the down stream side. We must have done well because as soon as we begin to climb back up to the truck a tour bus arrives. 

One last stop up stream of the dam to sit on a bench in the setting sun.  Then, it was back to camp to relax in the shade.  Dinner was a feast of BBQ steak, potato salad and grilled garlic bread.  Micah bought two bundles of wood to build a fire after we take many photos of the pink rocks in the setting sun.  I even went on the roof of the trailer to get a paranama shot. We see some large rabbits, many ant hills and hear a lone coyote off in the distance.  We sit by our first fire enjoying the moon, Jupiter, Venus and countless stars.

Good night, Page. Tomorrow we are off to see the Antelope Slot Canyons and make our way north east to Moab, Utah. 

We cannot resist one last look at the Grand Canyon. 

This is a scenic view point is near the end of the Grand Canyon on a small arm.
It is shockingly high up but they have great rails.  I like that. 

Mr. Thirsty is THIRSTY!

Another last minute left hand swerve off the highway at
scenic view point. 

Horseshoe Bend, Page, Arizona.
Crawl to edge, hold out phone, retreat. 

Sitting on our bench we look at Lake Powell behind
the dam in the setting sun. 

Day 15: Grand Canyon –Drive to Desert Watch Tower View Point

This morning we ventured north/east along the rim of the canyon by truck. The route is accessible to cars so we perfected our last minute left turn off the road into various viewpoints as we made our way towards the Desert Watch Tower.

At the Grand View pull-out we clambered down a ways to a particularly inviting outcropping to take some daring photos.

At the end of this 15 or so mile journey we finally arrive at our goal the Desert Watch Tower.  This is a large rest area with ample parking, restrooms, gift shop, picnic tables and small interpretive center in the base of the tower.

We planned ahead this time and had our lunch packed along. Yesterday we ended up forking out $20 USD for 4 ‘prepared’ sandwiches – the kind you may find in 7-11 with enough preservatives to add 10 years to your life.  Not making that mistake again.

This tower was designed by Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter who also designed Hermit’s Rest (remember that big stone fireplace from yesterday?).  Tourist are permitted to climb up the inside to peak out windows.  The interior walls are painted.  It also has a very interesting, almost woven beam, ceiling on the bottom floor.  We thought Grandpa would like that.

We cannot resist one last pull-out at the Tusayan Museum and Ruins on our way back to the campground in the early afternoon.  Only the sign was visible so we took a chance and turned off the road.  There was a short walk around the rock foundations of a former home and a small one room museum with artifacts that were interesting to see.

We saw signs on the road warning of mountain lions but alas we did not see one.

On this day my office environment goes up a few notches compared to working in  the McDonald’s parking lot.  I am happily situated at a picnic table outside the little grocery store.  As hot, tired tourists stop for something to eat it was interesting to observe the family dynamics.  Lots of bickering and complaining!

After a few hours the boys show up on their bike with Micha on their way back from the Grand Canyon interpretive centre.

Later, I head out myself to wander through the displays.  In the back 40 behind the campground is the resting ground for many, many elk.  Some stand, many lay and turn a lazy head as I bike slowly past.  No need for a stir.

We all sit outside in the late afternoon sun and watch a number of elk walking around the campground.  One had big horns, the other sniffed around a few hot BBQ’s, another lapped up water from a loose water hose on a trailer.  The boys entertained themselves playing baseball.  After dinner it is one last bike ride to the canyon rim to watch the sun set.

Good night, Grand Canyon, you are majestic.

The first men and boats to travel down the Colorado River
in the Grand Canyon.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Day 14: Grand Canyon - Brighty of the Grand Canyon

This morning we walked south on the Rim Trail towards the Verkamp’s visitors centre were we found a stuffy and DVD of Brighty!

Years ago, my Mom (Grandma Loenen) started reading ‘Brighty of the Grand Canyon’ to the boys before bed each time they would visit Kelowna. At the last minute, I tucked the book into the trailer.  Smart thinking!

What a delight to stand at the Bright Angel Creek trail overlooking the canyon and imagine Brighty sauntering along thos├če trails to the mightly Colorado river far below.

This park has a fabulous free transit bus system.  Blue loop around the village, trail head, visitor center and campground. And, Red loop along the canyon rim.  The Red Loop bus takes you on a road only accessible by bicycles and bus.  Walkers are let on and off at 6-8 prominent outlooks.  You can also walk all or part of the rim trail.  This bus ride is an 80 minute round trip not including your stopping time. 

We road the crowded bus to the very end of the loop getting off at Hermit’s Rest.  Here we paused for lunch at a picnic table literally on the edge of the canyon.  We caught the bus back towards the village, hopping off at two more scenic points.  At each point the canyon takes on another look.

Returning to camp in late afternoon, I hop in the truck and drive out of the park to McDonald’s to tap into their free wifi and work for a few hours.  It was not very glamorous but at least I can get caught up on e-mail questions and marking.  My cell phone plan has no coverage here so I am grateful for McDonald’s.

While I was away the boys chilled, made a BBQ supper and played catch. 

When the sun begins to set there is a distinct chill in the air.  Time to turn the heater on.

Before bed we watch the movie Brighty of the Grand Canyon that I picked up at the gift shop. In the story, it was said that rubbing Brighty’s nose brings good luck.  So, the stuffy of Brighty was passed around for a nose rub.  Warm Walt Disney fuzzies in the Gypsy Wagon tonight!

Walking to the rim. Soon the gloves and hoodies will
be shed as the sun shines. 

Yes, the Canyon is still there. 

So many layers.

The Red Loop bus to Hermit's Rest. 

This picnic table is as close to the edge as possible.

We even found a stuffed Brighty and a 90 minute DVD. 

The grand fireplace inside Hermit's Rest. 

Found overlooking the canyon at Hermit's Rest. 

Dominic is already ready for fun. 

Working in the McDonald's parking lot.
Not one of my more glamorous 'offices'. 

Trailer RV Campground. Our Grand Canyon home. 

Day 13: Phoenix to Grand Canyon National Park

370  kilometers /  230  miles

This morning we said good-bye to the palm trees and cacti as we began our journey north through Flagstaff enroute to the south rim of the Grand Canyon.

“Should be we stop here?”  With hardly a chance to think, I said, “OK!”  I am glad we did.  We pulled into what ended up being a large interpretive centre on the history and geology of the Sedona Forest – Red Rock Ranger Station, Coconino National Forest.

Dominic posed with a Smokey The Bear statue, Alexandre matched hoof prints with scat samples and Micha chatted with one of the hosts.  This proved valuable as he got directions to a scenic lookout above the town at the small airport.  It was a bit of a nail biter road getting up there but, as promised, the parking lot was large and the views stunning.  It was a most excellent place to stop for lunch.

We carefully picked our way back down and then crawled through Sedona.  This resort town reminds me of modern Osoyoos with all of the hotels, restaurants and little tourist shops. Those Pink Jeep tours look fun! Once through town, we drove the prettiest, narrow, tree-covered, two lane road that wound along the river and through a narrow canyon. 

Before we started our ascent, Dominic commented that the road on the GPS looked like someone scribbled on it.  That would be the minimum of 10 hairpin turns piled one on the other that we took getting up out of the valley.

As predicted, within 30 minutes we had risen out of the red rock valley and find ourselves on a mountain plateau with tall stands of proud pine.  Did we just get transported home?

A quick stop in Flagstaff for gas.  Oops we missed the Walmart where we hoped to do a major grocery run.  Oh well, it is a good time to clean out the freezer and pantry.

Approaching the Grand Canyon from the south is rather unremarkable.  Until you actually hit the park gates you would think you had taken a wrong turn somewhere. We found Trailer RV Campground nestled in the pines and quickly set up.  Micha readied the bikes and we tore down the paved trails 500 m to pop out at the edge of the majestic Grand Canyon just before sun set. 

You always hear that pictures do not do landscape justice.  Well, that is the truth.

Tomorrow we will explore the Creator’s playground.

Making friends with Smokey the Bear. 

Towering red rocks as we approach Sedona. 

Good information at the interpretive centre led us to this high airport parking lot
across the street from a fabulous view point. 

As predicted, within 30 minutes, we have risen out of the Sedona red rock
area and arrived in. . ..  Merritt?!  Ha, ha. High plateau pine forest. 

Arriving at the Grand Canyon in the early evening we hop
on our bikes to the edge of the Grand Canyon in the setting sun. 

This the book Grandma reads to the boys when she visits.
Here we are right near Bright Angel Creek, the setting of this story. 

Hanging out in the trailer.