Friday, June 22, 2007

Grand Canyon recap

Well, we're back. Guess I should give a quick lowdown. I'm going to upload a bunch of the pix from vacation to show off, but I don't have them up yet.

Anyway, we were gone a little less than a week and we had a ball. We drove from Bountiful, Utah to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. The 9-10 hour drive down wasn't too bad (the kids were excited and having fun)...the way home was a little tougher 'cause everybody was tired and kept saying they just wanted to be home.

We actually entered the park through the East entrance without realizing it (after driving so long, we were glad just to get there) and we hit the first parking lot to figure out where we were and how to get to our hotel. As we realized we still had another half hour or so to the hotel, we decided to stretch our legs and look at the east side. We were in the "Desert View" area and we climbed up to the top of the Watchtower to look out. The Watchtower itself is a cool building. The kids loved it...kept calling it the castle (as they did with many of the other buildings later on). Andrew requested a second visit later in the trip. The first view of the Grand Canyon was truly exemplifies the true meaning of the word awesome. It's absolutely amazing how immense it is. The rock formations are gorgeous. The depths are mind boggling. Overall, a very cool site.

After a bit at Desert View, we headed down towards the Grand Canyon Village to check into our hotel. Everybody was a bit tired after a long car ride, but still wanted to check things out. So after getting settled, we drove over to another hotel right on the rim to catch some dinner (we didn't yet know about the shuttle service...which is fabulous).

The next day, we got up early and got in the car for another drive. A mission companion of mine (Matt) lives in Phoenix and we planned to meet up in Flagstaff. He recommended Walnut Canyon to us so we decided to check it out. The Island Trail was about a mile with quite a few steps, but the kids loved it. You hike down about halfway into the canyon and then loop around the canyon wall and back up the same way you came down. As you loop along the canyon wall, you are taken right along side a bunch of small cliff dwelling houses built into the wall. Many of them were destroyed by 'pottery hunters' looking to make money selling off the artifacts, but many were still in really good shape. It was amazing to go inside some of these little homes and try to imagine what it would've been like to live in the side of a cliff thousands of years ago. After the hike, we went out with Matt and his brother for Mexican on a little spot on Route 66.

We then hopped back to the Grand Canyon. Over the course of the rest of that afternoon and the next couple of days, we did the Rim Trail from Yavapai Point down to Kolb Studios. It was so cool walking right along the edge of the canyon and checking it out. It is hard to put into words just how amazing it is to look out over the canyon. Absolutely amazing.

Sunday afternoon, we went to the visitor's center and picked up the "Junior Ranger" packets for the kids (Lynette got one too). Using the information from our hikes, we were able to fill out most of the items we needed. We then went to a "Kids Rock" activity with a pair of rangers where the kids learned about coyotes and about predators and prey. Ranger Andrea had told the kids all sorts of cool things about coyotes and then had the kids play some fun games. First they played a game of tag where some kids were coyotes and the other kids were rabbits. In each case, the animal was trying to get enough food to survive. She kept mixing up the numbers in the population to show what happens during different situations. I was running around with Julia at my side trying to escape coyotes and catch rabbits. It was interesting playing during times of overpopulation so that there wasn't enough "food" to survive. After that we did a sort of scavenger hunt to put together puzzles based on the traits of different animals. Afterwards the kids filled out a certificate and were sworn in as official Junior Rangers. Very fun.

As we continued hiking around, Jason kept a keen eye out for Condors and Ravens. So when we had a chance to attend a ranger lecture on condors, we were there. :) We learned some basic stats about condors (for example, that their average wingspan is 9+ feet) and then learned how to tell the difference between condors, ravens & vultures, even from a long way off. After that, we were doing bird hunting on our hikes and trying to determine what we were seeing.

On our last full day at the canyon, we hopped back over to Desert View and climbed the Watchtower again. We then hit the Tusayan Ruins. While Tusayan was interesting, it made us glad we'd done Walnut Canyon. Tusayan was much smaller in comparison and you couldn't go into the dwellings (the kids kept wanting to climb into the Tusayan home). Still, it was cool.

As we drove back to our hotel, we stopped at Grandview (which did have a pretty cool view...and acts as a starting point for some people prepping to hike down into the canyon). Back on the road, traffic suddenly stopped. About a hundred feet ahead of us...there was FIRE. A car was in flames. It was hooked onto a trailer behind an RV. We watched helpless as people rushed around...trying to throw dirt on the flames, uncouple the car or otherwise fix the situation. We were finally able to drive around them and started looking for a ranger (we had no cell phone service the entire trip). We came upon a parked Fire Ranger truck by the side of the road but it was locked and with all our shouting and horn honking no ranger showed up. As we continued on we watched as 8-10 ranger vehicles came zooming down the road to help. We were hopeful that they'd be able to stop the flames.

That last night we did some more hiking around and then prepped to come home. As we drove out of the canyon the next day, we passed the site of the fire and saw a shell of a car and RV along with a patch of burned trees still slightly smoldering with little pillars of smoke rising up. Sadly, they couldn't save either vehicle and the fire had attacked part of the forest. We hoped that everybody was safe and sound and drove in subdued silence for a few minutes.

After a full day of driving, we got home and settled back into our routine...after loads of laundry and mowing the lawn.

And that's the text version of our trip. I'll post a pictorial tour later. :)

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