Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Day 9 - Home

Well, our little journey has come to an end.  Today's drive is gruelling!  Every hour we travel East the temperature rises about 5 degrees.  We cross into Oklahoma & the car registers 114.  The engine struggles against the load & the heat.  We vow here & now to start looking for a truck for future trips.  At the end of the road it's good to be home!!  Thanks for following along and I appreciate all the positive feedback.  Until next time.....

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Day 8 - Santa Fe Shopping - Tosca

  Last night the sky was amazing.  There is no other light in the campground & the moon is getting fuller by the minute.  I didn't even need a flashlight to go to the bathroom.  This morning the temp is the lowest it's been this entire trip, probably low 60s.  Thank God for my Grand Canyon blankie!!  We meet some of the neighbors.  Next door is a family traveling cross-country with their two young children in a Travel-Lite trailer.  It's bigger than ours but still on the small side as RVs go.  They are pulling it with their SUV same as us & had similar trouble getting up here yesterday.  They took a wrong turn, got stuck & had to have a ranger pull them out. Pretty embarrassing the guy said.  They are moving from North Carolina to Portland & are taking about 6 weeks to get there, nice!

   Also, there is a mad woman roaming the grounds.  She seems normal enough at first, striking up a friendly conversation,  but then she wanders off mid-rant to the next campers & I suspect she may just move from campground to campground.  We decide to take extra precautions & really lock everything up tight before heading to town this morning.

   We get to town about 10:30 & our first stop is to the French Pastry Shop @ La Fonda Hotel.  I order my favorite; the Croque Monsieur.  We run into Mom & Suzy & agree on a time & place to meet later.  After breakfast we checked out a jewelry place across the street; Long John Silver's.  They have old & new pieces & I settle on a beautiful turquoise & silver cuff made in the 20s.  LJS is a mom & son operated establishment & we learn that the patriarch of the family has just passed away this month.  I really admire how they are soldiering on.  We also pick up a few trinkets for the folks back home taking care of business.  Bryon & our friends Chris & Julia stop by to say, "Hi."

   From there we head up to Canyon Road to spend the next couple of hours wandering in & out of the galleries.  Santa Fe is the third largest art market in the country after New York & Los Angeles so the variety & quality is outstanding.  A day really isn't enough time to devote but we get here a couple of times a year so mainly we get a feel for what's new.  And I get the sense things have really picked up since December.  As we head back to the town center we stop in at an Italian place for a cold drink & notice that they rent Vespas by the hour.  That sounds like a lot of fun for a future trip.

   Soon it's time to meet up with Mom & Suzy to prepare for tonight's outing; Tosca @ the Santa Fe Opera.  There is a tradition of tailgating for this so we make another Whole Foods run for grilled salmon, chicken, cold salads, olive bread & strawberry shortcakes.  At the Italian place earlier I have discovered Pamplemo San Pellegrino (delicious!!!) sodas and I grab a bunch of these to chill.  We make the short drive to the Opera parking lot which is situated in the hills on the outskirts of town.  We luckily find a spot that is beginning to be in the shade & set up our al fresco "dining room."  We have allowed about an hour & a half so we have plenty of time to relax, enjoy conversation & dine before it's time to enter.  Just as we are finishing Chris & Bryon stop by on their way in to the show.  Once it gets a little closer to curtain we pack up & head in.


    We have excellent seats & as the sun begins to set Tosca begins.  I don't consider myself to be any kind of opera expert but I have definitely enjoyed the few that I've attended.  And it just so happens that this is the one I've seen the most (this will be my third production.)  The sets are a kind of cubist version of a cupola & cathedral jutting out at weird angles, almost giving a sense of vertigo.  The lighting is subtly highlighting different architectural features onstage but it pales in comparison to the serene beauty of the surrounding landscape.  SFO is open air & you can see the gorgeous colors of the fading light in the desert & mountains beyond the stage.  I've been here when thunderstorms were approaching, man you talk about dramatic!!

    It's really hot.  I guess the same factors that contribute to the excellent acoustics also prevent the air from moving.  I have a fan in my purse but I don't want to distract my neighbors by flapping so I slip my shoes off & put my feet on the the cold concrete floor. If I get any hotter I'm going to hike my skirt up!!  I wish I could understand the Italian.  The libretto is conveniently displayed on the seat back in front of me but I find it distracting.  However it's impossible to resist reading along to follow the story to its tragic conclusion.

   As we are filing out afterward, we run into our friend Chris & his son Blake from OkC.  We are happy to learn of our mutual appreciation for opera & agree to get together in OkC.  Chris has an apartment in New York & regularly attends productions at the Metropolitan Opera.  We talk about coordinating taking in a production there!!

  It's late & time to take the girls back to their hotel & for us to head up for our last night on the mountain.  I wish I could say I am ready to go home.  What I'm really ready for is to grab our dogs, turn around & come right back here!!  But, I think this is the best way to end a vacation...wanting more!!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Day 7 - The Petrified Forest - 10,000 Waves - Santa Fe, NM

   This morning we make our hasty getaway from Meteor Crater.  Less than an hour down the road is the Petrified Forest, a national park on our route into Santa Fe.  I've been here a couple of times & although I wouldn't consider it a destination in & of itself, it's a great place to stop on a long haul.  Our first stop is in the visitor's center to collect another stamp for our passports!

   Then Bryon & I walk on one of the trails as Ernesto checks out something mechanical on the T@B.  In case you are wondering why we are so antsy about our trailer, in October we had to have it towed in Arkansas due to broken wheel bearings.  Anyway he gets everything fixed how he wants it & we roll on through the park.

   Petrified Forest is primarily a drive through experience.   225 million years ago it was a steamy, swampy equatorial climate.  Giant Redwoods fell into the silty soil and fast forward millions of years & now this is one of the largest petrified wood deposits in the world.  We pass through pretty quickly, stopping occasionally & I think we may have missed some of the more dramatic turnouts.  Anyway our final destination today is Santa Fe so we head on down the road.

View through the telescope of Newspaper Rock

   This is an unexpectedly grueling drive today.  Everything just takes so much longer to get to than I think it will.  We finally arrive in the Santa Fe city limit & decide to make a stop @ Whole Foods before heading up to our campsite in the Hyde Park Memorial Campground.  I grab a light snack for us.  We don't want to eat too much because this evening we have appointments @ Ten Thousand Waves, the world renowned Japanese style spa on the mountain. (www.tenthousandwaves.com)

   As we make our way up, the Volvo is really struggling with the 8% incline & begins making a "throbbing" noise we've never heard before.  We need to pull over frequently to allow impatient drivers to go around us.  There are many camping areas to tuck into here but we have a reservation in the area with hook-ups.  We find our space, back in, turn off the car & open the hood to allow the engine to cool.  The fan is blowing with an alarming ferocity.  We set up camp in what is our last home before home :(

   Sometimes when I am on a vacation that's more than a long weekend I'll start counting the days until I can go back home.  This isn't one of those times.  Everywhere we've been I've wished we could've stayed longer.  And Santa Fe is one of the places in the world I would own a vacation home if I had the money.  Actually, having the camper is the next best thing!!  Now we just need to figure out how to be here from about July 5 through some time in September when things cool off at home!  This week the OkC temps are the highest they've been since record keeping began.  Here it is a delicious 72 degrees.

   I love this mountain.  Five miles up is the Santa Fe ski area where Ernesto learned to ski just a few years ago.  In a few more weeks the aspen will start blanketing the mountain in brilliant, shimmering gold.  We love the hiking here in the summer.  Five miles in the other direction is the spa where we have a reservation in about 30 minutes so it's time to head back down.

   My mother & aunt arrived in Santa Fe yesterday. They have played a round of golf today & are joining us.  No trip to Santa Fe is complete without coming here.  This is where I came in lieu of a bachelorette party when Ernesto & I married in Santa Fe 10 years ago.   Sadly, this is also where my original wedding ring was lifted off the bathroom counter a few years later.  As a result I now remove all jewelry & lock it in the glove box before entering.

   Mom & Aunt Suzy are there to meet us in the lobby & we hug & kiss. We are given kimonos & ushered to the locker room to shower befor our sessions begin.  First we have an hour in the Waterfall Tub.  There are a series of hot tubs scattered all over the property behind Shoji screens.  There are public (clothing optional in daytime)  & private tubs available.  The Waterfall Tub (our favorite) is more of a small pool surrounded with rocks that has a lovely view of the scrubby hillside.  There is also a cold plunge (although after the Colorado River the 85 degree water feels anything but cold) & a sauna.  We have an hour here before going off to our massages.  It is great to catch up.  We visit & take pictures & enjoy the yummy spa water provided.

Mom & Suzy enjoying a foot soak

I hate that this is so blurry but it's the only shot of E @ the Waves

   Pretty soon a voice comes over the intercom to tell us it's time to come in for our services.  We say good-bye to Bryon who is meeting up with some other OkC friends here & going to finish out his stay with them.

   We girls have all signed up for Nose to Toes, an hour & 20 minutes of pure heaven.  Christina leads me to a private room that is the perfect temperature.  Soothing "chillax" music drifts through the space.  The massage begins face down.  Christina applies firm, slow pressure to different parts of my neck & back to get an idea of any areas of tension.  Then my back is exfoliated with a scrubby textured mitt.  This is followed with an excellent full body massage and stretching.  Then I'm turned over for more of the same on my front side.  Warm oil is drizzled on my scalp followed by concentrated attention there & on my neck & shoulders.  Finally my feet are thoroughly worked over.  I am wrapped up in a sheet & helped to a sitting position then dressed in a fresh dry kimono.  I stagger back upstairs in a daze to join my family.

   The shopping is good here too.  They have incense, spa products (we love the Hinoke & stock up),  books, tee shirts & some lovely vintage kimonos.  They also have a small assortment of food options.  We pick up some sandwiches & hummus to eat back @ camp.  We say goodnight & head home for a blissful night's sleep.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Day 6 - Grand Canyon - Meteor Crator. AZ

    Sadly, this is our last morning @ the GC.  As he has every morning, Ernesto goes for a run on the canyon rim.  Bryon & I enjoy coffee & company & do  last minute packing up to get ready to hit the road.  I snap a few more pictures, we all have a final shower then it's time to hit the road.

Deer wandering through camp this morning
Taken from inside the camper as we are having our morning coffee

Do we REALLY have to leave?

Elk relaxing in the campground
Not the least bit interested in the campers

This space is used for ranger talks each night which we never manage to attend...next time!!
Also, for interdenominational worship services on Sundays.
  I'll bet that is something to behold!!
   We are on the road by about 10;30  We drive back down to Flagstaff & use our trusty Urban Spoon, this time to locate "Diabolo Burgers" - a cool establisment that prides itself on locally raised beef & man is it delish.  We meet some young hip locals & their dog (dogs welcome @ Diabolo Burgers!!) & share a table with them.  They give us what sounds like a great dessert tip but we are stuffed & there's no way we can eat one more bite.  We grab some gas, groceries & head to our destination, Meteor Crater, AZ.

   We are in another RV park & it's everything I don't like about these kinds of places.  Sometimes you just have to stay @ point B on your way from A to Z, I guess.  It's nice enough, I suppose.  It's gated & a security car circulates frequently so we feel safe.  And they've planted trees so that's nice too.  I guess it's unfair to judge this place in comparison to where we've just been.   I let the attendant talk me into a Good Sam membership.  This entitles us to discounts in RV parks, for gas at certain locations & @ Camper's World so I'm thinking it could pay for itself in pretty short order.

   The crater that gives this place its name is just down the road but they want $16 a pop to see it & we are just not into it.  The day is pretty blustery & bleak too which doesn't help the mood.  We just set up for the night & don't even bother to unhitch.

   This does give me the opportunity to read some of my library book that I've been too busy to pull out all week.  I'm reading A sense of Direction by Gideon Lewis-Kraus; a documentation of his time hiking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela (yet another bucket list quest.)

   We also have WI-FI again so we catch up on email & facebook.  Tonight's feast is tilapia, grilled corn, rice and wait for it......quesadillas!!''  We call it a night so we we can get on the road early to see the Petrified Forest before heading in to Santa Fe tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Day 5 - Hiking on Bright Angel Trail & Picnic @ Moran Point

  Today we've slept until the decadent hour of 6:30!  We are having an easy morning with no hurry to be anywhere.  The plan for today is to hike the Bright Angel Trail down into the Canyon.  So out come the maps & the GPS.  We pack, then unpack then edit & re-pack our backpacks.  We decide to drive to the trail head so we can carry the coolers to get an ice refill.  Camping really makes you think about two steps ahead on everything you do.

   We have selected Bright Angel even though it is the most popular & therefore most crowded because it is also the only trail with regular water & bathroom facilities.  Since we dilly-dallied at camp so long this morning it is pretty warm when we start.  I have devised my own nerdy version of a sun hat; a baseball hat with a bandanna tucked underneath to protect my neck.  It actually works pretty well & I can wet the bandanna down to cool off.  We decide to hike down to the first rest stop & have a picnic.

   It's pretty easy going at first but after 20 minutes or so it gets a little hard on the old knees.  And we have to keep in mind, "what goes down must come up!"  Ernesto & Bryon have a much faster pace than me but I don't mind being slow.  It affords me some "alone time" to process the experience.  I would hardly call the trail crowded although we do see quite a few others on our way.  I think it would make me a little nervous to be alone down here.  The trail winds around the canyon walls, down through some arches & descends down to the first comfort station.  We tuck in to a shady spot & pull out snack bags of fruit, nuts & individual tuna salad cups.  It feels good to rest & cool down.  I decide to start back first since it will take me the longest to get back up.  Just as I thought, about 15 minutes later Ernesto rounded the bend @ a slow jog.

    As predicted it is more challenging going up than down & I need to stop often to catch my breath.  This affords some beautiful views & gives me lots of photo ops.  

Here's a deer I saw grazing just off the path

   The moment I pop my head back out of the rim an afternoon monsoon comes up & we rush to tuck in the Kolb Studio.  Kolb Studio clings to the edge of Grand Canyon. It was the home and photographic studio of pioneers Emery and Ellsworth Kolb.  Begun in 1904, the building has evolved through two major additions and countless minor changes during its century of existence at Grand Canyon.   The Grand Canyon Association operates an art gallery, bookstore and information inside the building. The bookstore's proceeds go to support the building, and the store features a tribute to the Kolbs’ photographs of mule riders at Grand Canyon.  We buy postcards & books & Bryon & I stumble on to the National Parks Passports.  In all my years of traveling in national parks I've never seen these.  Each park has a special stamp that you use to "cancel" a page of your passport.  Well, here's another bucket list task; getting all the park stamps!!

   The rain was coming in waves so we inched our way towards El Tovar Hotel, the premier lodging facility at the Grand Canyon.  It opened its doors in 1905 and was most recently renovated in 2005.
In the past, the hotel has hosted such luminaries as Theodore Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, Western author Zane Grey, and many others.  Today, El Tovar retains its elegant charm. Located on the Canyon rim, it features a fine dining room (open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner), lounge and curio shop with newsstand. El Tovar is a Registered National Historic Landmark.  I had stayed here many years ago on the trip with my parents.  We thought we'd see about a dinner reservation.  Looking over the menu the prices seem decadently high.  It's funny how I wouldn't think twice about a splurge like this at home but camping really puts me in a different & simpler frame of mind.  It's also packed here & they can't even seat us for a snack.  We push through the throngs of people to the exit & walk back to the car.  Wow this makes me appreciate our little camper & the wide open campground more than ever!!!

   We have a little bit of time to kill & much as I would love to have a nap we could also use some clean clothes.  I pack up a few bags of our laundry as well as all the dead electronics & go to the facility to wash & charge.  Ernesto joins me & has a shower before helping me with the chore.  I don't know how I missed this but Ernesto said there was a French lady right next to us doing her laundry.  She stripped down to her underwear as she fed her clothes in the machine.  Completely topless until her companion handed her a towel & she headed for the shower.  LOL!!!  I guess b/c there was a TV on & I haven't seen one all week I was distracted & missed the REAL show.

   We decide to pack another picnic & go to Moran Point for the sunset.  This area of the park gets its name from the landscape painter Thomas Moran who came here for the first time in 1873 and helped popularize the canyon, leading eventually to its incorporation as a national monument in 1908 (and a national park in 1919.)  We make a quick stop in the grocery store to grab ingredients for my favorite simple meal; toasted baguette rubbed with a slice of garlic, drizzled with olive oil & topped with freshly sliced tomatoes & proscuitto.  As I was paying I noticed some beautiful Grand Canyon Pendleton blankets at the exit.  I handed off the groceries & grabbed one as a fabulous souvenir of our time here.

 I hastily prepare the meal & it's off on the Desert View Drive again.  We arrive @ our destination about 30 minutes before sunset.  We dive in to the sandwiches & cold drinks & wait for the show to begin.  This afternoon's rain has left a double rainbow in the eastern sky which we try to capture.  One thing about Grand Canyon sunsets (to me) is it's more about the canyon & less about the sun.  It is actually prettier to put your back to the sun & look at the shadows & light on the canyon walls to the east than to try & stare through the glare.  There is a soft haze that settles below.  Bryon & Ernesto hop the wall & scramble around the edge snapping photos.  This makes me too nervous & I sit happily on the wall, a safe distance from disaster!!  My vocabulary is insufficient to describe what we are seeing, experiencing.  I am just so grateful to be here.  God is really showing off in this part of the world!!!  Soon the sun is down & it's time to head back for our last night in camp :(

  The sky is crystal clear & we can see stars like I haven't since I was a child.  This is what ilife is all about!!  We lit a fire & had one last round of s'mores & off to bed.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Day 4 - Rafting the Colorado River

   Another 5:00 am wake up.  This is quickly becoming my favorite part of the day.  Sitting around, visiting, drinking hot coffee.  Something, a coyote maybe, has been calling off in the distance all through the night.  There are ravens that explore recently vacated campsites scavenging for morsels.  Far from being creepy they are comical to watch as they hop/flap around.  This morning we finish up the answers from last night's survey.  Bryon walks it to the park headquarters while I make the 10 minute stroll to the showers.

   On my way I see a lone doe grazing.  She looks at me totally unafraid & seems to be saying, "I know you're not supposed to feed me, but I won't tell if you wont..."  I resist.  It costs $2 for 8 minutes of deliciously hot water.  I would think that wouldn't be near enough but it's actually plenty of  time.  I feel pounds lighter as I return to camp.  Once there we begin preparing a hearty breakfast of migas, fruit & of course more coffee.

   Soon it is time to hit the road again.  Today we are driving to Page, AZ to raft the Colorado River.  Even though it means more driving we all agree it would be a shame to come this far & not experience some level of rafting.  I found this outfitter in the Grand Canyon guide I downloaded.  Most tours are from 3-18 days & involve camping at night on the river banks.  While this sounds amazing, we are only here a few days.  Colorado River Discovery provides 1/2 to full day float trips from the Glen Canyon Dam to Lee's Ferry. (888-522-6644, www.raftthecanyon.com )

   We leave with plenty of time to get there for our 1:00 p.m. departure (plus some extra getting lost time, which was a good thing!)  This time we leave the canyon on the Desert View Drive seeing many breathtaking vistas along the way.  Once we are out of the park we begin descending down several thousand feet & it is crazy hot, 103.  We are seeing a mix of colors that don't even seem real & then it hits us, "Oh yeah, we're in the painted desert!!!"

   We arrive just in time to hear our instructions before boarding busses to take us to the base of the Glen Canyon Dam - a marvel of engineering.   We descend through two miles of tunnel 500 feet down all the while we are in  a designated Homeland Security area.  This outfitter and their clients are the only ones besides government workers allowed to be here.  Our bags were searched before we boarded the busses & we were instructed if we had guns to leave them in our cars.  When we get to the base of the dam we are all given hard hats to wear until we get to the rafts.

  We board the giant rubber pontoons to begin our 4 hour, 16 river miles float down the Colorado.  It is about 110 in Page but once we get underway it's not too bad.  The water temperature is a frosty 46 degrees & every once in a while a zephyr of breeze comes wafting through the canyon creating drastic hot/cold sensations.  As we gently float (the white water trips are the longer versions beginning at Lee's Ferry, our disembarkation point) the 1000 - 1400 foot sandstone walls soar up to clear blue skies.  Our guide, Chris really seems to love his job & is full of lots of interesting knowledge of what we are seeing.  He keeps referring to the "desert varnish" on the cliffs, a process that takes millions of years to develop & thus indicates the age of this canyon.

   At about the halfway point Chris banks the raft on a sandy beach & we are allowed to get out & use the restroom that has been installed.  A short trail leads right up to the base of the canyon wall where ancient petroglyphs have been carved.  Another of the guides explains the symbols.  I'm thinking, some of it sounds like a bit of a stretch but they are pretty cool.  She tells the story of one prankster who carved his name on the wall.  He was quickly identified, fined HEAVILY & had to perform countless hours of community service.  Lesson learned!!

    Back on the beach many rafters are plunging in to the literally bone-chilling water.  We look at each other & say, "well, you never know when we will get a chance like this again."  And in we go.  I can only stand it for a few seconds & I'm right back on the beach.  As hot & arid as it is though, I am dry in seconds & don't need a towel.  We all go in & out for the next half hour.  One lady, "of a certain age" is just standing thigh-deep in the water gasping, "this is heaven."  She stays in that spot the entire time we are there.

  We get back on board & down the river we go.  I am just trying to hold the memory of this beauty in my mind's eye.  Sadly, we didn't realize just how placid this trip would be & brought no cameras :(  We did however bring a sack lunch & cold drinks were provided so we picnicked as we floated.  Chris would occasionally scoop a bucket of the icy water on board & we could dunk our hats & bandannas in to cool off with.  A little further on down we saw some horses on the river bank.  Kind of amazing given the harsh environment.  Chris said they had wandered into the canyon & were essentially living wild.

   All too soon we reached Lee's Ferry & hopped on the busses for the hour ride back to Page.  All I can say is it was totally worth it & now I want to go back & do one of the multi day floats!!  That's how it seems to go with a bucket list.  You cross one thing off & two more go back in its place.

   Another drive through gorgeous desert landscape to get backto camp.  It was after dark when we arrived so we immediately built a fire to heat up some quiche I had brought from home, black beans & our staple, quesadillas.  I was so tired I couldn't even talk myself into a s'more before I collapsed into bed, exhausted & happy.

   Really sorry about no pictures but if you visit the website www.raftthecanyon.com they have a slideshow that is spot on.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Day 3 - Flagstaff, AZ - Mather Campground, Grand Canyon

  Dim morning light begins to fill the T@B.  We are up before 6:00 beginning the coffee ritual.  We want to get on the road as early as possible to address the mechanical issue.   But is has rained lightly during the night & we need to allow the tent room to dry before packing.  That's good b/c we enjoy the morning cool of the campground.  Everyone around us is stirring and most seem to be preparing for days filled with outdoor activities; biking, hiking, fishing.

   Soon we are off.  Our first stop is to a Camping World a few miles down the road.  They seem to be the Wal-Mart of camping equipment but the one in Flagstaff has only been open a few months & doesn't have their tire & brakes service department up & running yet.  They send us to Flagstaff RV.  The mechanic there is VERY helpful.  He takes a look @ our wheels & declares us road-worthy.  Bryon & I chest bump over this bit of good news!!  However, they don't carry the European sized lug bolt we need & he refers us to O'Reilly's.  Bryon makes the call and we locate one that has about 12 of the size we need so we head over there & buy extra.  As I am looking in our T@B owners manual I notice a big sticker placed inside the cover saying to check your lug nuts every 500 miles & when you are embarking on a trip.  There's also one on the hitch.  I guess that means they think it's important, huh?  I SWEAR this is the first time we've seen this!!  
  We use Urban Spoon to locate Satchmo's a BBQ joint that is excellent & they play great blues music too.  Our waitress goes to GC all the time & had some great recommends for us.  We are really getting excited now,  almost there.  One last thing before we go, a re-stock of groceries.  Even though we have been having fun, it has been a gruelling two days on the road.  So we decide to have a FEAST our first night.  So it's steaks all around.  And fresh corn, a salad, quesadillas (of course!!) and s'mores for desert.  A few other items & we are ready to head north.

   The Grand Canyon is only about an hour & a half drive from Flagstaff and the moment you leave the city limit you are right back in the high desert again.  Just before you get to the park you pass through a small village, Tusayan,  that seems is only there b/c of the canyon.  There's a tiny airport & hotels & motels line the street.  We move through a roundabout & next thing you know we are at the entrance gate to the Grand Canyon National Park.  It is $25 for our vehicle to have access here for one week.  We are given a map & we begin navigating our way to the Mather Campground.  As we meander around the park roads we catch fleeting glimpses of the magnificent canyon.
   I have always heard the sites fill up quickly.  So I literally sat my alarm for 6 months to the day that we wanted to be here.  I was even able to look at different sites online to make our selection.  I chose something in close proximity to a bathroom :)  Once we located the campground I went up to the window to register.  This is the moment I've been so anxious about.  Will our 31 feet be allowed or will we be turned away.  We did see some signs that there were available sites at some of the other campgrounds but they are miles away from here & I for one want to get settled.  Well, I needn't have worried.  They didn't even look twice at us.  We had already paid online for the site; a whopping $54 for three nights!!  We pulled in easy breezy & once again were fully functional in under 15 minutes.

      Our first order of business, once we'd had a moment to just relax & enjoy that we are here, is to take the mile walk over to the south rim to get our first true canyon view.  My limited vocabulary can't even BEGIN to describe the Grand Canyon.  To quote the park guide it is "one of Earth's most powerful landscapes- it overwhelms our senses."  That's putting it mildly.  The first time I came here with my parents & Miles it brought tears to my eyes.  I can't wait for Bryon to see it for his first time.  And Ernesto - we came here on a helicopter ride out of Las Vegas a couple of years ago but we only had about 30 minutes to experience it.  What kind of inspiration will he take from here?  That's what this is.  It's more than a place, it's an experience.  And a pretty profound & spiritual one for sure.

    We take a stroll through the beautiful landscape over to the Trail of Time, a 1.2 mile walk along the South Rim.  This is an educational trail designed to help your mind grasp that what you are seeing is 184 billion years old!!!  Every few feet in the path a penny is embedded.  The distance between pennies represents a million years.  Every 10 feet or so a rock representing a layer in the canyon is presented with some information about the era.  At the bottom of it all the mighty Colorado River is continuing to carve through the layers.  It has "only" taken it 6 million years to reveal what we see today.

Heh heh
Gratuitous vacay photos...

  We are able to scramble of the path & go as close to the edge as we dare.  Some of us dare more than others!!  I was terrified Ernesto would fall in.  They have a special sign of a guy falling with sliding rocks warning us to stay at least 6 feet from the edge.  It's wild here and very few areas have railings preventing a fall.  Enter at your own risk!!  We follow the trail to its conclusion where the time increments become less until it gets to individual years.  We each take a photo on the year that represents our age.  There is a geologic museum on Yavapai Point with some scale models of the canyon and lots of neat books & souvenirs.  One book is about an inch & a half thick is all about people who have died in the canyon.  I point at the cover & glare at Ernesto.  We spend a delightful 2 plus hours meandering, exploring before heading back to camp to prepare our celebratory feast.

This one's for you James Harden

  The sun is beginning to set & we get our campfire going.  All around us people are returning to their sites.  We have noticed that English seems to be a minority language here.  We are hearing a lot of French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese and every so often English.  The night sky is beginning to glow with millions of stars.  Which reminds us; just as we set up camp a young girl, a graduate student, came over & asked if we would like to participate in a survey about the night sky.  We said, "sure" so we pulled it out & began answering questions.  It had to do with light pollution & what kind of light would we like to see in the park.  Our responses were that we wanted it to remain as natural as possible.  Even at the expense of safety features.  If I'm going to be walking around a campground at night I expect to need to use a flashlight!!  That's part of why we come to wild places; to experience wilderness!

   Soon all is ready & we sit at our picnic table & enjoy the best meal I've had in I don't know when!!  All the stress, worry & planning have been worth it.  We are in our heavenly home for the next three nights.