August 04, 2004

Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Home

October 19.   The unusual rain that doubled the price of tomatoes continued on our drive through the Mojave Desert to Nevada.    We spent only one night in that state, but what we saw confirmed what we had read.... Modern Las Vegas was jump-started by a Mafia visionary, Bugsy Seigel.   About 50 years later the city tried to broaden its market by appealing to families.   However, kids and casinos and overt sex don't mix, so now billboards proclaim "What happens here, stays here".   That's supposed to mean, "Go ahead, the folks at home will never know what you did", but could be interpreted as "What you win here, stays here if you 'gamble'/gambol a little longer".... The pitch is effective: the area is booming, residential lots go for $300,000 and construction is seen everywhere.   (LATER: THAT WAS A BUBBLE THAT BURST).    To get snacks at a Indian-owned mart at the Nevada border we traversed a fireworks section that would interest Al-Qaida (with a guard purporting to prevent cell phones from blowing up the place), a huge liquor section, and dozens of dimly lit slot machines operated by mesmerized people in shabby clothing.

October 20. Near our motel in Overton we visited the upper end of Lake Mead, which because of several years of Western drought and increasing water consumption is at its lowest since Boulder Dam was completed in the 1930's.   A town submerged since then has reappeared. Nearby we drove around the Valley of Fire state park, marvelling at beautiful cliffs and canyons of red stone everywhere pockmarked with eroded holes.   Rain increased as we returned to Las Vegas, on the outskirts of which is Red Rock Canyon, another drive extolled by our National Geographic tour book.   A flash flood blocked the entrance road, so we drove south over Boulder Dam to a motel in Kingman, Arizona.


October 21. We drove to Grand Canyon.   Dick recalled having hiked to the bottom of the Canyon, the Colorado River, about once every 15 years.   In 1960, fit at age 35, he hiked down 7 miles and back 10 miles to the South Rim in a day.   In 1971, a little slower, he and Marge and Phil walked down one day to the only public accommodation in the Canyon, the Phantom Ranch hostel, and back to the rim the next day.    In 1989 Marge and Dick hiked down 14 miles from the North Rim, stayed 2 nights at Phantom Ranch, returned to the South Rim, and then were transported 215 miles by van back to our car on the North Rim.   Now probably would be Dick's last chance to make the hike, and Marge was understanding and patient.    Dick bought a Walmart backpack for $20, and other gear with us sufficed for this unscheduled diversion.   Bunks at Phantom Ranch are booked up to 23 months ahead because of international demand.    Dick phoned and got a reservation which had been cancelled 5 minutes earlier. We booked a hotel room on the South Rim, where Marge would wait.

October 22.   We drove to the rim in a snowstorm.   Dick started the descent on the steep South Kaibab Trail,  in snow soon replaced by a puddles and mud.    It was evident that he was out of shape and apparently the oldest person in the Canyon. Repeated exposure cannot diminish one's awe of the place.    However, forgotten, Dick noticed green copper ore and other minerals that had attracted many miners before the Park was established.    The minerals remain, as do the wild descendants of miner's donkeys.









Those are mud puddles, not stepping stones.



Looking across the Colorado River to the Phantom Ranch hostel beside the North Kaibab trail leading 14 miles to the North Rim, a thousand feet higher than the South Rim.   Road access to the North Rim is long, so there are far fewer people there.   Trails to the South Rim have lots of mule manure, while trails to the North Rim have none.






After that view of Phantom Ranch the trail jogs upstream a half mile, then crosses the Colorado River on a narrow suspension bridge.    Notice the trail I'm descending in the left foreground, and the trail on the far side making a complete turn through a rock tunnel and leading left to Phantom Ranch and the North Kaibab Trail.

Short trail from Colorado River beside stream to the Ranch.

Phantom Ranch was welcome "luxury".  Notice I'm not the only senior eating supper there.

October 24.    The trail back to the top was about 11 miles long, carved into a cliff along the Colorado River for about a mile, then a rise of 4400 feet on the Bright Angel Trail to the rim.  The ascent was difficult, because I seemed to have atrial fibrillation the last 1500 feet vertical.   I reached the top and then our hotel before dark.

Marge and I splurged on supper at El Tovar.  Phil will remember we stayed in a room there on our Musketeer flight to California in 1971, and that the plumbing had been deteriorating since Teddy Roosevelt visited in 1902.     Since 1971 it has been totally refurbished.






Good by, Great Grand Canyon !

October 25. Any drive across Utah and neighboring lands requires the driver to resist the urge to gaze upon fascinating and unique geologic wonders, or to park the car and look.   Thus we tarried from Grand Canyon to the Painted Desert to Monument Valley to southern Utah, and reached our Moab motel in the dark.   Enroute the multicolored rocks and sparkling streams and new snow on the heights and yellow aspens finally inspired our digital camera to tell us there was no more room.   In 1952 I (Dick) read in the Saturday Evening Post about Charlie Steen, a geologist who searched for uranium around Moab, found it, and went from poverty to a multimillions.    After his death from Alzheimer's, his mansion, Mi Vida, on a tall hill above Moab, became a restaurant.   We dined there that evening, looking down on the carpet of lights below.   For more on the fascinating Mr. Steen,   click here.

October 26.   We followed the Colorado River, now shallow enough to wade across, through another stupendous meandering canyon, to the ghost town of Cisco, where Charlie Steen and his family once lived in poverty.  Cisco now has 6 inhabitants and scattered remnants of its waves of prosperity: railroad depot, mining town, oil town.   Then we joined I-70, a costly engineering marvel across the continental divide, with cruise control usually set on 70 mph.   At Fruita, Colorado, we diverted to spectacular Colorado National Monument, via a narrow road clinging to cliffsides and overlooking the multicolored erosion of the collision of tectonic plates.

We reached our motel just north of Denver in the dark.

Rain followed us most of the way back to Maine, where we arrived November 9.   After 17,000 miles, 30 states, lots of Canada, and 91 days, it was good to be back.

Some of the interesting people we met on this leg:
* Our four grandsons and their four parents, in Indiana and Maryland.
* Enthusiastic, doomed Kerry supporters in downtown Columbus, Nov. 1.
* The sheriff we accosted in Marietta, Ohio, on the Ohio River. He explained the September 2003 flood, steered us toward his favorite restaurant, and later walked 2 blocks to give us a map of the county's many covered bridges.
* The turbaned Sikh who, in dreary November, yearned for his warm homeland.
* In a group of camouflage-clad reservists headed to Iraq, a young man on crutches because of a severely injured knee. Neither we nor his buddies could convince him to drop out.

Places on this trip which we most want to revisit at length: southern British Columbia, Oregon, Utah, West Virginia.

Thanks to those who commented about this blog, by email or phone or comments posted in it.

You can go to our other travel blogs by clicking on these:

                    Dick and Marge

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mum and Dad just visited and mentioned your Blog, specifically the part about the Grand Canyon. You are not yet too old to do it, as you proved! The last time I was in the Canyon and 87 year youngster from Pasadena hiked out with us...his annual trip.

Dave Nunley
Brea California

4:43 PM  
Blogger Art Ritter said...

Hey there! I am inspired by your trip in general and your hike in and out of the Grand Canyon if particular. I hiked a little way down the South Kaibab trail (to Ooh Ahh Point) in 2000, and have since wanted to go all of the way down and back. So thanks for the inspiration to do do.

Art Ritter,
Glen Allen, VA

1:14 PM  
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