Remembering the road, day 16

Ok, so I finally wised up and am going to submit the rest of my road trip diaries and schedule their publication over the next few days. Then I’ll return to more on-topic blogging.

So, without further ado:

Day 16

The previous night I announced to my family that at 5 a.m. I was going to watch the sun come up. They announced to me that I’d be doing it alone… and they were half-right.

At 6, I finally dragged myself out of bed, checked to see if anyone else was stirring (they weren’t… my nephew Truman had asked me to wake him up and when I did, he said, “Ok, I guess I’ll go.” “You don’t have to,” I answered. “Ok, I’ll stay in bed then.”), and headed out. By the time I arrived at the canyon ridge, the sun was just about to peek over the distant hill. I waited for a moment and there it was, illuminating hundreds and thousands of what are called hoodoos: tall spires of rock and dirt reaching skyward. They look a bit like stilts that no longer are supporting anything.

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One lookout point was crowded already, so I went a different direction. I followed a steep path down into the valley where nothing other than my footsteps and breathing could be heard… and I was listening because bear and mountain lions hang out down there. After a little while, birds starting singing and eventually I reached the end of the trail where a natural bridge at the bottom of the canyon.

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However long it took my to hike down, it took longer to hike back up. The moon still hung in the sky affording me ample photo ops, and the beautiful colors and shapes of the hoodoos sparkled in the morning sun.

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By the time I reached the top, it was past 8 and I decided I needed to head back to see who was stirring. Everyone was up and starting to look around for food. Cyn handed me a bag of laundry and I was off to do that.

After a big breakfast and laundry was all done, we looked around Bryce a bit more, seeing another magnificent natural bridge, and then it was off the Grand Canyon.

Going to the Grand Canyon from Bryce necessitated driving through Hatch again, so we stopped off to look for Hatch mementos. Hatch is not a big tourist town… perhaps 100 people live there, and most of them seem to be packing up and moving out. The only Hatch souvenir we could find was a T-shirt and that had to do.

At one point along the drive, I thought we were in big trouble. For some reason, several kids were driving cattle down the two-lane highway. A big bull was running and he didn’t like the look of our car. I thought for sure he was going to run right into us, but fortunately he sidestepped us. It was the first time on the trip I was actually nervous about the intentions of an animal, and it was just a cow… not a bear or a bison or anything like that.

Meanwhile my other nephew, Sam, was riding with us. I caught him slipping a CD into his walkman and asked him what it was, guessing he’d answer “‘N Synch,” or “Backstreet Boys.” Instead he told us it was The Beatles‘ Abbey Road. I was floored. “Well, let’s put it in the car’s CD player so we can all listen to it!” As we did, he started singing along with the music, his little 8-year-old voice nicely complementing John’s and Paul’s.

After Abbey Road, we played Rubber Soul and Let it Be. Before long, I saw that Sam was listening to his walkman again. “What are you listening to now,” I asked, thinking he was going to tell me the Rolling Stones or Bob Dylan. “Backstreet Boys.” Oh well.

When he wasn’t listening to music, Sam and I played 20 questions. He stumped me with woodpecker, and I stumped him (and his auntie Cyn) with kangaroo. Cynthia just couldn’t imagine what animals there are that aren’t mammals, yet have fur and legs. I’m looking forward to reminding her of that in years to come.

As we arrived at the north rim of the Grand Canyon, the scenery was all pine trees and subtle rolling hills nothing to indicate the gigantic gorge ahead. But before long, we could glimpse it through the trees. Multiple signs warned of the fire hazard due to incredibly dry and windy weather.

Our cabins at the Grand Canyon
Our cabins at the Grand Canyon

We’re staying on the North Canyon in two small cabins. The lodge nearby sits on the rim of the canyon and overlooks the deep plunges. It’s about 11 miles across to the southern rim, and thousands of feet deep. Unfortunately for us, nearby forest fires meant that the canyon was filled with a smoky haze.

Still, even with the haze, the view was beautiful. We took a nice walk along the rim and ended up back at the lodge for sunset. Even though people are told not to go off the trails — both for their safety and so that plants aren’t crushed and rocks further eroded an awful lot of brainiacs climb rocky ledges for a “better view.” One smart guy brought along his beer and two kids. They guy really was asking for it, but it seems his genes will live on to see another day.

Speaking of drinks, there’s a microbrew here called the North Rim Ale and it’s excellent. As Sam describes it, it has a unique spaghetti/cheerios aftertaste, and to him, that’s a good thing.

We attended a brief lecture by a park ranger on the many past errors of the park service (such has having a policy of killing mountain lions) and then enjoyed a late but spectacular dinner. It further proved to me the uselessness of Las Vegas. Here I am in a place of amazing natural beauty, spending less to stay there, and having a dinner many times better than anything we ate in Vegas.

By the time dinner was done, the kids were half asleep in their plates and we trekked back to the cabins and fell fast asleep.

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