We were up and check out of the hotel before 7:00am. This had less to do with the fact that the bedding smelled funny than that we planned to see THE GRAND CANYON!
With Alissa behind the wheel and me reading aloud from The Lonesome Gods, we pointed the Beetle north and prepared ourselves for the awesomeness to come. (I think this is the day I decided to add flamboyant accents to the L'Amour characters. Frankly, Alissa didn't seem to appreciate my talents in this area.)
About thirty miles from the national park entrance, Alissa turned to me and said, “So... supposedly up ahead there’s some big hole in the ground...?"
We found it:
Taking the in-park shuttle bus to the Bright Angel Trailhead, we walked and hiked the rest of the six miles around the rim to Hermit’s Rest. Six hours later, we arrived, having moved at an alarming pace of one mile per hour. But who could keep from stopping ever ten feet or so with such sights to be seen?
My early jumps near The Canyon were lame due to an innate fear of getting close to the edge:
Alissa's were not:
Eventually, with Alissa's help and pep-talks, I was able to suck it up and get a shot that not only looked dangerous, but actually was dangerous:
Dear mom..... don't look.
It's also chalked up to Alissa that there were some "normal shots," as she termed them:
You would think that hiking around the stunning views at the World's Largest Hole in the Ground would be enough to keep us amused; however, we had the added entertainment of:
1. Chatting with all of the German, French, and Dutch tourists whom we met on the trail. Also chatting with the American tourists at the scenic overlooks where the shuttle busses stopped.
2. Coming around curving trails to surprise men who considered the Great Outdoors to be one huge port-o-john.
3. Blaming our gasping for breath and sore muscles on high altitudes rather than lack of physical fitness (that may have been just one of us... but I don't want to embarrass Alissa).
4. Discussing all the ways that someone could die or be murdered at the Grand Canyon. (I am very pleased to know that there has been a book written about this. I must read it ASAP.)
5. Worrying that Alissa would be snatched by a condor.
6. Worrying about the German, French, and Dutch tourists who walked right along the edge of the rim instead of on the trail.
7. Stopping every thirty yards or so to exclaim, "It's just so... so... big."
There’s no shame in admitting that our six-mile hike at such altitude had worn us out.
Fortified with overpriced Gatorade and sandwiches purchased at Hermit’s Rest, we caught the shuttle back down to the Visitor's Center and debated the merits of catching another bus line and seeing the canyon from different angles. We decided in the end to forego the Grand Canyon at sunset. Before this statement causes public outcry, allow me share that that was by no means the worst decision we made that afternoon. In fact, it heralded a series of bad decisions.
Our troubles began when we started up the VW and punched our hotel address in Tuba City into what we had by then termed "NED,"1 Alissa’s navigation system. NED began guiding us toward the park entrance, or so we thought; however, he very shortly wanted us to take a right when the park signs indicated that the park exits would be to the left. Apparantly Alissa and I are living proof that GPS systems make people stupid. We followed NED rather than the signs. Within ten minutes, we found ourselves on a a winding road that went from pavement, to gravel, to dirt. The longer we drove, the more concerned we became for the welfare of our Beetle. I don’t know if you’ve driven the new VW Beetles, but they are in fact toy cars made of plastic. Jostling and bumping over corrugated gravel, we slowed to a crawl of 9 miles an hour just to keep the bumpers from falling off. At long last, we came out to Route 180, having driven miles off course and added thirty minutes to our estimated arrival time.
Our next mistake was to pull over and adjust NED's protocols and direct him not to take us onto any more dirt roads. The problem was as soon as we put “No Dirt Roads” into NED’s system, he redirected us south nearly all the way to Flagstaff and then cut us over and made us drive all the way back north to Tuba City rather than having us drive east and then slightly north. And, ladies and gentlemen... that’s what we did, becoming slightly morose about the backtracking and added driving time.
All of our frustration faded, however, when we reached the Painted Desert just at sunset. What manner of experience driving through these badlands may be during daylight I cannot say, but I can attest that when seen just at sunset, the surroundings are absolutely stunning.
We arrived in Tuba City to discover that it’s not precisely a city, despite what the name might lead one to believe. Also, the buildings are not shaped like tubas.
Tuba City is a Census Designated Place in the Navajo Nation. I will withhold full disclosure of our impressions of Tuba City and the surrounding area, saying only that the experience proved interesting. Our room at the inn was clean and comfortable, we packed in a huge dinner at the local Denny’s in which we were the only non-Native American diners...and they sat us in a back corner. Coincidence?
After dinner, we retired to do a much-needed load of laundry and rest our bones for the next day’s adventure.
See more Grand Canyon shots HERE.
1 - Alissa informed me that NED is an acronym for something which I cannot recall at the moment. I have since decided that it stands for Not Entirely Directional.