Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Brookses in the West: the one where we locked the keys in the car (days 17-19)

Day 17

Cousin Eddie and family got up and left Phoenix very early on day 17 to avoid driving over the mountains in the 110 degree heat, even though it's a dry heat. 

Let me tell you, 110 is 110, dry, wet, or any other way. Never again will I say, "but it's a dry heat." That is the dumbest thing anyone can say. And I have said it lots. But no more.

The car did great over the mountains even though we have it pretty maxed out as far as towing capacity. We shut off the AC when climbing, which oh my word HOT, and the barge did her thing and got us over without exploding. Which is good because, no, I cannot drive a 3500 diesel in the carpool line, Preston, this suburban is my limit. 

We arrived at the Grand Canyon by noon and immediately saw an enormous elk drinking water from the dripping hose of an RV close by. Elk (elks? elken?) are HUGE. Picture the deer you see in your backyard and then multiply by a billion. The only bigger deer are moose (mooses? meese?) and I can only imagine they must be roughly the size of a t-Rex. 

Directly after we got to the campsite and unhooked the trailer, we discovered the barge was locked. And the keys were in the ignition. Which is supposed to be impossible. And caused the second super tense trip moment (the first being caused by a map back around day three). The guy on a golf cart patrolling the campground much like a mall cop claimed he could get in there if we had a wire hanger, which Preston actually came to me asking for. Um, WHERE WOULD I HANG THINGS? AND WHAT WOULD I HANG? MY JEANS SHORTS? DIDN'T NOBODY BRING NO FORMAL WEAR ON THE RV VACATION, MAN! 

I may have overreacted. 

But I can justify it.

We have had a bicycle tour along the rim of the canyon booked for a year and keys locked in car=we miss bike trip.

So yelling obviously could help this situation.

Preston graciously thanked the golf cart cop and sent him on his way and then calmly asked for my AAA card and had AAA there within thirty minutes and they got right into the car.

I'm glad I yelled because we only had All The Time In The World to spare before our bike tour. 

But we moved past that crazy and made it to the visitor's center in time to watch the park film and buy snacks and water and get all set up on our bikes. 
The tour guides were two guys, Jake and Sam, who work at the Grand Canyon during the summer, biking two groups a day along the rim and then hiking and rafting on their days off.

I kind of want to be Jake and Sam.

They were the best, sweet to the girls, really funny, extremely knowledgeable about everything- legends, fauna, distances, records set. A plethora of Grand Canyon trivia. 

They instructed us to hide our eyes until we got to Hopi point, which was the starting point of the trip and generally considered the best vista, with views of over 100 miles.

I cried.

I was overwhelmed. If you've been, you know. If you haven't, book your trip today. And don't look until you get to Hopi point.

That is where the rocks cry out, shouting the name of Creator God, declaring His presence with their very existence.

My words and pictures are insufficient. 

We ended the evening at the campground, grilling out and enjoying the beautiful weather. Some kids came by on bikes and asked the girls to play hide and seek. Off they scootered.

(These moments are why hotels are forever ruined for me. (That and disgusting sheets and comforters and shower curtains.) Kids don't stop by your hotel room and ask you to come play. You don't loan out your tools to the people next to you and find out they are from Tuscaloosa and then discuss the obvious superiority of the SEC with the person on the other side of the connecting hotel door you keep firmly deadbolted. When you stay at the Hampton Inn you don't walk outside to check the wheel chocks one more time before sleeping and instead rush back in to rustle everyone else up because never before have you seen so many stars under such a black sky. Camping has my heart.)

That sky. 

It was amazing. I got teary again. We always feel like we can see so many stars from the darkness of our porch swing, but no. Nothing like this. We couldn't have even begun to count them. And our rising fourth grader gave us a tutorial on what we were seeing and no, our eyes weren't playing tricks but we were truly clearly seeing the twinkling of the stars. Stunning. 

Day 18

I was bummed to leave Grand Canyon and head towards Zion National Park. Surely nothing else we would see could compare.


Zion was even better. 

We came in the east entrance of the park which means we went through the famous tunnel where if you are a big rig (hello, barge) the rangers have to stop traffic for you because the mile long tunnel through the mountain is too narrow to safely pass other cars, and then you drive down into the canyon through a series of narrow switchbacks. It was so breathtaking I forgot to be nervous about the cruise ship we were in and didn't remember to nag Preston at all, (except for that one time I said, "Please stay on the road" and he goes, "I'm so glad I have you. I wouldn't have even thought of that if you hadn't said that." and then I determined to never speak to him again. For at least two minutes. 
As we drove down into the canyon we were listening to the "Sing" soundtrack and "Hallelujah" came on and everyone was quiet and it felt a little like church. One of those moments seared into my brain. Again, our pictures are terrible. You've got to come see this place. 

A small section of the Virgin River runs through the campground, so after we got set up we decided to let the AC cool the camper down and go investigate. It was awesome. People were tubing down it, swimming in the deep parts, enjoying the coolness of the water. We also saw lots of deer, a raccoon family, a snake and about a thousand squirrels seeking refuge from the heat.

Day 19

We slept until 8 am anticipating a long day of hiking and wanting everyone to be rested. But because so many people visit the park and there is very little parking the only way to get around is by the shuttles that run constantly. We were at the campground which is at one end of the shuttle system where all the rest of the world was also trying to get on a shuttle heading north into the park. So because we slept in we ended up spending an hour in line alternately playing I Spy and chatting with the family in front of us. They were both teachers and used the fact that we had driven all the way from Tennessee to lecture their children about complaining about their short ride from San Diego. Kindred spirits, we were. 

(Also, lots of the people we have met are teachers. 'Tis the season for teachers to travel, and camping is the only way to afford it. All the love for all the camping teachers. Living the dream. For real.)

We hopped off the shuttle at the first hike we chose, a short half mile stroll during which we saw a deer standing on his hind legs eating leaves and could have reaches out to pet him. Our hike ended at the park lodge where we grabbed lunch and bought some walking sticks after talking to several people about hiking the Narrows. More on that in a bit.

Our second hike was the the Lower Emerald Pools, and then we went on up to the middle. People at the middle told us not to bother going to the upper with the girls, so we just hung there for while and then made our way back down.

I had noticed a sign about half way down that said "The Grotto, 0.8 miles." I figured if we went that way we'd be one shuttle stop closer to our next hike. 
So we turned and hiked about a half mile, stopping for water and shade as needed, commenting on the drop offs (Stay to the left, girls. The LEFT! AWAY from the edge of the cliff!) admiring the extraordinary views, when we happened upon another sign: "The Grotto, 0.8 miles."

So basically we walked 0.0 miles. In fifteen minutes.

I started to be a little concerned about our water situation envisioning us getting lost in the hills, running out of slim-jims and trying to decide whom to eat first. My thighs do not bode well for me if I am ever in that situation.

But we could see our destination far below us, so we pressed on and wound our way down over another mile or so, having water to spare when we got to the filling spot.

We caught the next shuttle and rode it all the way to the end of the line and the real hike of the day: The Narrows.

Now I know I tend to exaggerate and use lots of hyperbole, but this really was the highlight. I've been looking forward to it and told the girls they better not complain because "This is Mommy's swimming with dolphins!" 

We walked a mile down a paved path that dead-ends at the Virgin River. The hike continues in the river, between the canyon walls, in the narrow part for up to ten miles. Or you can just hike as far as you want and turn back the way you came. 

We had done quite a bit of research on this as there are many conflicting opinions about The Narrows out there.

1. Don't take children. (Definitely take children. Take all the children. It is a natural playground.)

2. Wear closed-toe shoes. (We all wore our Chacos, which I made Preston get specifically for this hike. I can understand the preference for closed toe shoes, but our Chacos worked great.)

3. Rent neoprene socks and waterproof hiking boots. (No. If you don't want to wear sandals just wear some sneakers.)

4. Wear a jacket (No. When it is 108 degrees in Regular World it will still be 80 degrees in The Narrows.)

5. Take food and water (Yes. The more slim jims and peanut butter crackers the better. )

6. Take a hiking stick. (Yes. A thousand times. Two would be better. We would never have made it as far as we did without the sticks. We bought the cheap ones which I'm 99% sure were sawed off broom handles with "Zion Nat'l Park" put on the side by a twelve year old with a wood burning kit, but they worked great.)

I've been slightly nervous about The Narrows hike just because it would be incredibly easy to sprain or break an ankle, and Preston tends to do that a lot despite his plans not to. (like he's planned it the times it's actually happened) I just kept wondering how we would get home if something happened to him? 

His plan: fly the girls and I home. He stays with the camper in Utah, drinking beer and looking at the mountains. Indefinitely. 

I told him my plan: Fly my dad out to drive us home. He rides in the very back watching Barbie movies over and over and we toss a few cheetos and a water his way every now and again. 

He was extra careful. 

We ended the day back in the smaller part of the river that cuts through the campground. Re. Fresh. Ing.

Day 20 

We turned the car east for the first time in twenty days this morning, heading towards Mesa Verde National Park. I'm sad and excited. This has been an amazing trip, truly the trip of a lifetime, but Dorothy said it best. I wish I had some ruby slippers to click together, but I'll settle for 1700 miles in the barge with my four people and my memories. 


1 comment:

  1. To clarify: you rode bikes on the rim of the GC while hiding your eyes? You're a boss.


Share your own craziness here. We are all in this together. Let's laugh about it.