Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Grand Canyon and Zion: Day 2

Day 2

I've learned on these vacations that it doesn't do a whole lot of good to set an alarm and try to wake up early and get Dan moving in the morning. Similarly, he has learned that if its 10:00 p.m. – I’m probably already asleep. Anyway, we woke up around 8:30 or so and just sat in bed for a while. Separate beds.

No seriously, when you get 2 full size beds, it’s much better to have your own.

After a while we decided to get moving and went to the Arizona room at the Bright Angel Lodge for breakfast. I don’t know if this is just because it was a sit-down breakfast or because it was Grand Canyon, but the options were far better than those at Yellowstone.  We both ordered the bright angel breakfast, the only difference being mine was healthy:  I had fruit, egg whites and turkey sausage. Dan didn't bother with fruit, had his eggs over medium and had a side of bacon to wash it down. To be fair, he did share a piece of the bacon with me.

Following breakfast we decided that I would go get the car (which involved a shuttle ride) while Dan packed up our bags. I don’t think anyone would be surprised to hear that the bags were not packed when I got back with the car. 

“I didn't really make any progress with the packing” he announced, as if I couldn't tell. “I didn't know we were going to go on a hike today, so I had to empty out my backpack and find the bladder to go in it and then re-pack everything that was in my backpack into another bag."

We did manage to squeeze a lot of stuff into 3 bags.

After our luggage was loaded back into the car and we checked out, we headed towards the Bright Angel Trail to do a “moderate” hike. I might have even said it was going to be “fairly easy”. If you've ever hiked down into a canyon and then hiked back out, you know that there is no such thing as “easy”.

On the way down we passed a bunch of people who had obviously hiked from the bottom that morning. Some had probably hiked rim to rim (a 24 mile journey that is usually done in 3 or 4 days). They looked pretty beat. Silently, I was grateful that we were not able to get lodging at Phantom ranch to do this rim to rim hike… it probably would have been terrible. I did not admit this to Dan.

We didn't stop on the way down, though it was a little demanding to be hiking down so fast. At the mile and a half rest house (one of the few stops with water) we had been gone 45 minutes. I was absolutely shocked at the number of people hiking down who were completely unprepared. Many did not have a single water bottle, wore flip flops and displayed other pieces of evidence stacking up in favor of their being dubbed “morons” in my opinion. I don’t know how the parks and rangers could go to any more trouble to state how important it is to be prepared when hiking down.

And year after year, people get down into the canyon by foot, and then ride a helicopter out. Dan asked me why we couldn't just get “cop-tered out”, and suggested how much faster it would be. He decided that it was probably way more expensive than just turning around and hiking back out, so that’s what we did.

Admittedly, it was tougher than I expected it to be for such a short hike. What took us 45 minutes to hike down demanded an hour and fifteen to hike back out.  At each of the stops we took to rest on the way back, Dan asked why I always plan these exhausting vacations. Surprisingly, “because it’s fun” did not satisfy him. He continued to badger me about drinking enough water until we made it back out and got in the car to drive to Zion in our sweaty clothes.

We stopped at several look-outs all along the east bound road that would take us out – the last stop inside the park was at the Desert Watch Tower. This provided a gorgeous view of the canyon laid out before us. If we had more time, I would have insisted upon another hike down inside it for better views. We also picked up a map at the gift shop here, since we had only been gone for 20 minutes before losing any connection to our phone-powered GPS.

Fortunately (or rather, unfortunately) we learned that the easiest and most direct route to Zion was no longer an option, due to a landslide that had badly damaged portions of route 89 towards Page, AZ. This resulted in an additional hour or so of driving… quite the fun time. As we drove, Dan gave me the history of the Grand Canyon, which, if you didn't know, goes like this; the Indians dug it out and put all the sand and rocks in the surrounding areas to create mountains. I have photos to prove this may be true.

excavated Grand Canyon sand?

The driving continued for hours as we began to notice a trend for this trip… that of sitting in the car. We only got pulled over once – in Utah – and the officer was kind enough to let us go with a verbal warning. Dan claims it was because he wasn't really speeding, but I am less certain.

Some other things we learned during the drive:
1      I don’t know left from right – in fact, I frequently give the opposite direction.
“Turn left.”
“Do you mean right?”
“You know what I mean!”

2     I’m losing my sharp-shooter vision.
“Cows on the left.”
“Do you mean right?”
“No, I meant left, look!”
“Those are rocks Mandy”

What seemed like days later, we finally arrived at the entrance to Zion National Park and noticed that Utah was in another time zone, even though we were technically further west than we had been before.
From the very first glimpse, Zion is the absolute most impressive display of nature I have ever seen. We drove in through the rarely used east entrance, and stopped often to take pictures. I kept reminding Dan to drive and look at the road, since there were many inconvenient places to crash (like down the side of a cliff). 

Right before entering the main canyon, you must drive through a long dark tunnel that has a few “windows” out. Through these windows, you can see almost nothing but sheer rock cliffs in the most beautiful shades of orange, red and white. There is one look-out area where you can get a very quick glimpse of the magnitude of these mountains, but you can’t stop inside the tunnel.

This is all very dramatic, by the way. It’s like being blindfolded before you lay your eyes on the most impressive and beautiful things that time has been at work on. And when we finally got out of the tunnel, I’m pretty sure I gasped. Around every turn, the view just kept getting more amazing and more picturesque.

Until we saw the sign that said “red parking pass required”.

We had received our pass in the mail during our frantic house-packing phase in late April. I remember taking the pass up into the attic and putting it into the front pocket of Dan’s suit bag. “I know we will take the suit bag, so this is where it will stay” I told myself.

Only, it wasn't in there.

So Dan lectured me on the importance of keeping track of things and blah, blah, blah, while I hoped that it wouldn't be a problem. “How can it be a problem? There is no way all of these people remember to bring the pass that they get mailed like a month in advance” I thought – while I also decided to make up a story about my luggage being lost.

During check-in, I sheepishly told the front desk worker that I didn't have my pass. “Oh, that’ not a problem” she reassured me, while handing me another.

Dan and I couldn't figure out why they would bother to mail anyone a parking pass ahead of time. Who the hell would remember to pack that sort of thing? As we discussed this, we found our cabin and unloaded all of our things. Dan pointed out that there was no television in this room. There was a gas fireplace, however – and perhaps more importantly, an AC. Utah is hot people, even at 5,000 feet.

We continued to get settled in the room and were more than ready to call it a day after the long hike and even longer drive.

*Update: Upon returning home, we found the red pass on my dresser. Dan concluded that since it was on my dresser, I must have put it there. My response was to ask him which situation was more likely: that I took the time and care to bring the pass from the old house to the new house and then plopped it on my dresser; or that he took it out of the front pocket of his suit bag the night we were packing. Since he did not argue with me over this point, we can only assume that the latter of the two situations is correct. 

1 comment:

  1. A good reminder that I have to get back to the Grand Canyon and visit Zion as well. I'm going to have to get a small RV so it won't be so scary driving the narrow roads with cliffs on the side!