Friday, July 16, 2010

Holiday Road Part 4

When last we left our daring band of travelers, they had escaped from the dangers of Colorado into the unknown perils of Utah...

During the stay at the motor inn, I sort of felt like I was in a horror just seemed like the type of place where you would be killed by crazed hotel workers or guests.  It felt very Vacancy, but luckily I am awesome like Luke Wilson.  In actuality,  it ended up being a nice enough stay...even if the HBO was fuzzy and I couldn't deal with the thought of a freezing cold shower in the morning.

No such luck...
Getting into desert country, my goal was to see a wild armadillo in the next couple days...armadillos are sweet.  The driving was pretty boring - desert on both sides with an occasional view of mesas and canyons...there were a few interesting things.  Like free range is weird driving at 70mph and having cows laying and standing next to the road.  I was a little tense at first getting ready to stomp on the brakes in case one wandered onto the road, but none ever did and I eventually realized that seeing loose cows on the shoulders of the road was new to me, but seeing speeding cars was not new to them.  I also found it strange that there would be a sign that would say "Deer Crossing, Next 5 Miles" and then two miles down the road there would be a sign that read "Deer Crossing, Next 11 Miles" and then a couple miles later "Deer Crossing, Next 3 Miles."  This continued for the next 30+ miles....lots of deer crossing signs but the mileage listed didn't make sense.  Like the signs were out of order or they were just randomly posted to remind you...I did see a couple deer (looked like mule deer) off in the distance, but luckily they were outnumbered by deer crossing signs 5 to 1.  No armadillos though.  I was also happy when I saw my first saguaro cactus of the trip.  It really made it seem like the desert then.

Although very frustrating at times and despite the lack of armadillos, I was having some fun on the trip.  It was a part of the country that I had not really gotten a chance to see.  I had been to Colorado for a family vacation when I was younger and have been to Las Vegas...but never really had a chance to explore much.  I can't say that Utah is the most interesting place in the world, but it was neat seeing the huge expanses of nothingness.  Plus with the scenery and the iconic catcus image,  it all almost seems fake.  You almost expected to see the Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote run past.  I may have silently said "meep, meep" to myself every time I passed another car.

Of course once we entered the Navajo Nation, we had to stop at a couple crap stands* - you know, the stands that sell handmade jewelry and pottery and the like.  I did want to stop at one, just to see what it was like but Jessica wanted to stop at everyone that we passed...luckily I was able to keep focussed and we only stopped at two.  One was by Tuba City, AZ by the Elephant's Feet monuments.  Mainly because I would have something to look at while Jessica shopped for whatever crap jewelry she was looking for.  Elephant's Feet was very aptly named.

Grand Canyon Watch Tower
Photo by Jessica - click to embiggen
After an argument over evolution (one of us looking at and understanding scientific evidence, one not so much) we make to the Grand Canyon.  Just as we arrive at the Desert View Watchtower it starts to sprinkle. I think it feels great after being cooped up in the hot family truckster, so when it starts to rain a little harder I offer to go back to the truckster and get umbrellas for Jessica and Sam.  On the way back, it doesn't just pours and HAILS.  Sure it was nothing major, pea and small marble sized hail...but it was odd.  I never expected to be walking through a hail storm at the Grand Canyon...I expected hot and dry.  Instead, I am walking through streams of water that quickly turn orange and blood red due to the soil.  A consequence of having fun and splashing through the red puddles were that my toenails were dyed a nice light orange-pink for the following week.  The storm was bad enough that power throughout the park was temporarily out.

Rain over the Grand Canyon
Picture by Jessica - click to embiggen
It stormed off and on for the next hour...and Oh My God, the Grand Canyon!  Usually I am disappointed in tourist destinations: Hoover Dam - meh, Mt Rushmore - boring, London Bridge - OK, Las Vegas as a whole - shiny.  But the Grand Canyon?  Breathtaking.  TV and pictures just don't do it justice.  It is incredibly huge and beautiful.  I know I had seen pictures in the past and was like "That looks really big..." but you have no idea until you actually see it in person.  I am sure I wouldn't have appreciated it as a little kid but now I was definitely able to appreciate the wonderment.  The Grand Canyon and the Rocky Mountains are two of the most spiritually satisfying places that I have ever been.  The Grand Canyon is seriously worth the trip.  If you are going to embiggen any photo today, this is probably the one you want.

Dusk over the Grand Canyon
Picture by Jessica - Click to embiggen
After the rain, we decided that it is late enough that we should probably find our campsite and start setting up the tents.  While I was setting up the tents, Jessica went to get supplies - firewood, hot dogs, more blankets.  It is probably a good thing she left because just as I finished setting up the tents, I look over and see a tarantula and a foot and a half from our tent.  It is a pretty large one too...a little smaller than my fist.  Jessica is terrified of spiders (and bugs in general) so of course I look for some sort of container to place him in...but no luck.  I'd just like to say that it was weird seeing a tarantula just sitting there...I've see tarantulas before in people's aquariums, but just to see one right by where you are going to sleep was a little disconcerting.  Jessica did leave her camera at the campsite for me to take a picture.  I was a little afraid that Sam would kill the tarantula to 'save' his mom, so I suggested we take a small hike while awaiting Jessica to get back.  It was a completely different environment from Rocky Mountain National Park.  It's not that it was filthy - it wasn't, but there was enough small pieces of trash lying around that it was obvious that you were surrounded by humans and not out in the wild.  Plastic bottle caps, small pieces of paper, broken glass...again not a lot but just enough to kind of ruin feel of nature.  Also, it was much noisier.  In RMNP campground it seemed like everyone was really appreciative to been in a natural setting, in the Grand Canyon you could hear people yelling at each other, radios, and just general noises of civilization.  Sam and I walked back to camp and Jessica arrived a short time after.  Our spider friend had moved on by this time, so I showed Jessica the picture and told her that we saw it on our hike.  I knew if I told her that it was 18 inches from our tent that I would get no sleep that night.
Campsite Visitor
Photo by me - click to embiggen

Elk - no goring this night
Photo by Jessica - click to embiggen
It was a full moon (or would be in a day), so although it was evening there was still plenty of light.  We decided to drive around and see what we could see.  We saw a small group of elk along the road.  Many people (including us) stopped to take photos and some people approached on foot.  It was obvious that the elk were pretty used to people and mostly ignored them, continuing to graze.  However, one guy kept getting closer and closer.  Even though they are used to humans, these are not tame animals.  The buck started to take a little bit of offense and I thought I might get to see someone trampled and gored.  Unfortunately, the guy finally came to his senses and stepped back a ways.  We then drove to one of the view points.

Sitting on the edge.
Click to embiggen
What I really like and was pleasantly surprised about the Grand Canyon was that it wasn't fenced off or have safety barriers all over the places.  There were a few, but for the most part you were free to walk where you wanted and fall into the canyon if you wanted.  I wanted...well not to fall, but to be on the edge.  To feel that adrenaline rush when I know that if I slipped or lost my balance or if a rock shifted underfoot that I would probably die.  That's not to say that I acted crazily or stupidly.  I was safe...but I was on the edge.  I wish these pictures had come out better.  My stomach was a little queasy sitting was literally about an 800 foot drop and then I would bounce 600 or so feet before reaching a stopping point.  It was FAR.  I sat on several other rocks and hung my feet over edge, but none of them was as scary as this.  This type of activity totally freaked Jessica out, so she stopped taking photographs and wouldn't even look at me when I was near the edge.

Moon over the Grand Canyon
Photo by Jessica - click to embiggen

Day 4: ~280 miles, ~4:45 driving time, 0 Armadillos seen

*by crap, I mean tourist trap stuff.  Much of the stuff seemed to be well made and they had a nice assortment...but there was a little too much Kokopelli for me to take it serious.


Jessica said...

Been looking forward to Part 4! I thought the same thing when I visited the Grand Canyon - so big, so beautiful, but also so...touristy, dirty, loud, etc. Especially the campground like you said.

Michael said...

Part 4 took so long because I was feeling totally burnt out on the whole thing and didn't even want to think about it for a while.

The final one or two parts should be up this week.