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Monday, 26 October 2015

Bucket List: Grand Canyon Trip Part 1


Seeing the Grand Canyon has been on my bucket list for years. We were on the road in the US for 15 days in September getting to the Grand Canyon and back home to Vancouver Island. Altogether we covered over 7,000 kilometers of black top. Some nights, when we were camping, we were paying less for a night’s stay than it was costing us for our golden retriever, Shelby, to stay in a kennel back home.
We paid a bit over 30% for the American money we bought before our trip. On the other hand, gas in the US was far more reasonable than we expected. A tank of gas cost us about 10 dollars less in the US than in Canada.
Linda likes long distance driving as much as I do. We share a lot of the driving which allows us to keep going when we feel we have to. She’s not that fussy about heavy city traffic but it doesn’t bother me. As far as travelling goes I get to pick the spots in the US and Canada that we drive to. Linda likes international travel and in the last few years she has gone on safari in Africa and visited Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands in South America.
Linda and I both keep diaries when we go on longer trips. Her records are in more detail than mine. We always take a lot of photos but try not to just concentrate on that so that we actually get to enjoy what we are seeing.
Another thing, we were doing what a lot of older people do and that was travelling when most kids are back in school and when it isn’t as hot out as it is in the summer.
So…’s what I can recall about our trip.
Day 1, Saturday September 12th
We dropped the dog off at the kennel and caught a morning ferry to Vancouver. Drove across the US border and stopped in Bellingham, Washington for lunch. Had some clam strips at Iver’s. The battery on my watch was dead so I bought another one for 10 bucks at Target. Works fine.
Drove down to Seattle and hooked up with Highway 90 heading east. The plan was to stay in a town called Ellensberg where we had stayed before. It is kind of in the middle of Washington State. We started looking around for a motel at about 6:.00 p.m. Much to our surprise we found out that all the motel rooms were booked. It turned out that The Foo Fighters were having a concert at the not too far away Gorge, Washington. Who knew?
We drove on to Yakima, Washington and all we could find was a dive Econo Lodge motel room. The place was a dump. It took an hour for the front desk lady to come by and fix the TV. Out in the parking lot next to our car was an old beater pick-up truck full of junk in the back cab and a pizza box and other garbage in the front seat. The owner used a long stick to get at things in the back of his truck. I noticed some young kids walking over to the swimming pool with towels around their necks. The pool had been drained. Bummer!
Day 2, Sunday September 13th
We put in about 11 hours driving on our 2nd day. We drove through western Washington, crossed over the mighty Columbia River, went through part of Idaho, and ended up on the outskirts of Ogden, Utah. Western Washington is kind of amazing in the staggering amount of crops that are grown there including apples, cherries, apricots, pears, red raspberries, grapes carrots, potatoes, hops, lentils, and asparagus. The orchards and vineyards go on for miles and often creep over the foothills. For some reason we weren’t in the mood to take pictures that day.
Most of the day was uneventful. We did have a short chat with a White Supremacist wearing a Johnny Cash tee shirt at a rest stop. We were on Route 84 for most of the day. We checked into a Day’s Inn for the night.
Day 3, Monday September 14th
We drove down to Salt Lake City the next morning which isn’t very far from Ogden. Back in 1972 I had been through the Mormon facilities on a ski trip to the Western US and thought that Linda might find it interesting. We parked underground and took a tour of an old hotel that the Mormons had bought some years ago. We walked over to the cathedral and though a building that was designed to show the history of the Mormon Church (Latter Day Saints). We saw a big statue of Jesus Christ in a rotunda with a curved walkway.

We had lunch at Costco before hitting the road south on Route 15.
Linda had sent away for brochures on the states we would be visiting. Our general plan was to spend about 4 days in both Utah and Arizona. Linda had it mapped out as to where we were going to go and what we would see. We ended up in a little town called Parowan, Utah and stopped in at a tourist info center. We thought of spending the night in Parowan but there wasn’t much in town in the way of motels.
Two middle aged ladies who worked at the tourist info center (with a sleepy dog) suggested that we drive on further through ski country in Dixie National Park to a town called Panguitch. Because it was off season they said we would have no problem finding a motel room in Panguitch. We were now on route 143, a two lane blacktop that had lots of hairpins. Sometimes the speed limit was only 15 MPH. We stopped a few times to look at the vistas from high up in the mountains.

We arrived in Panguitch at about 6 p.m. and were taken by surprise when we found that there weren’t any vacancies at any of the motels. (There were a lot of older motels in town.) We considered the option of finding a camp site and checked out the local Koa camp ground. For 50 bucks we rented a 1 room hut. It was nothing fancy. It had 2 beds with rubber mattresses and an electric heater.
Up until this point on our trip the weather had been mostly overcast. And then it started to rain like no tomorrow. Being that it only cost us 50 bucks for the night we thought we would go out and have a decent dinner some place. We settled on The Cowboy Smoke House. What a dump. Even so the restaurant was crowded. We both had beef brisket. The meal consisted of 3 or 4 slices of brisket and a large dollop of mash potatoes. It was pretty stark looking and not very tasty. The rain pounded on the hut roof throughout the night.

Day 4, Tuesday September 15th

It was still raining the next morning when we again hit the road. At times we could hardly see the road because of the rain beating down. The thought occurred to us that we might be stuck in rainy season for most of our vacation. We drove by Bryce Canyon and didn’t see much of it. In the early afternoon the rain finally stopped. Linda made a bit of a mistake as to what direction we were going and we had to turn around. It was only about a 20 mile mistake. On the upside we saw a herd of grazing buffalo that we wouldn’t have seen.
We spent a bit of time at Capital Reef National Monument.

Our destination was a town named Green River, Utah. The Green River is one of the tributaries of the Colorado River. We found a beautiful camp site at the local State park. It was our first night of actually camping. The campsite was right next to the local golf course. We had soup for dinner and lit a campfire. Some middle aged guy in the next campsite was banging away on something with his axe. I asked him what he was up to but he didn’t seem to want to engage in any conversation. He was travelling in a pop up GMC Safari van with his lady. I looked at the license plate on his vehicle. Quebec. Maybe he just didn’t want to speak English.

I wandered down to the Green River. The water seemed kind of murky and the river looked like it was slow moving. Off in the distance was a railway bridge. We heard the trains a few times during the night.

Day 5, Wednesday September 16th
We packed up our camping gear the next morning and put it in the car trunk. It takes about 5 minutes to set up or a pack up the tent. The tent isn’t very big and is designed for 2 people and their sleeping bags. You can’t stand up in it.  
It looked like it was going to be a nice sunny day. I parked the car by the camp washrooms and went in to take care of whatever. Linda got into a conversation with an older guy who had VW Westfalia van. I asked the old gomer if he had been a hippie when he was younger seeing that he kind of had a hippie van. And then the shit hit the fan.
The old guy got angry very quickly. “You must be one of those people who think everyone else owes you something!” he said. He then went into a long diatribe about socialism and Stalin and Hitler. Neither Linda nor I expected any of this. I said something about right wing politicians not having done anything beneficial for the American middle class and he got angrier. He told me I was ignorant and that I didn’t know anything about anything. By this time his wife was trying to coax him away from us. The thought crossed my mind that he might go to his van and pull out a pistol from his glove compartment. Basically I was just standing there watching him be nuts.
Linda got in the best comment at the end of his rant. “Enjoy the day and the state run camp ground you are staying at.” I couldn’t have said it better.
We hit the road and drove to the town of Moab, Utah. The town is fairly close to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Moab is basically a tourist trap with overpriced motel rooms. Some of the motels are pretty old and out of date but that doesn’t stop them from charging high rates. This is pretty typical of any small town that is close to a national park.
We decided to have breakfast at a pancake restaurant. Some guy who was about 30 years old  was sitting at one of the tables waiting for a take-out order and started talking to people he didn’t know across the dining room. And then he picked us out. He was from somewhere back east like Brooklyn, New York or New Jersey and was traveling around the country on his lonesome it seemed. When we told him where we were from he told us he had been to Whistler, BC. We weren’t sure what to make of him. We didn’t know if he was a drunk or a psycho. The restaurant manager, who turned out to be from Mongolia of all places, said he could smell booze on the guy’s breath when he paid his bill. It was about 10:30 in the morning.
Natural Bridges National Monument is about 50 miles away from an area called “Four Corners” which is where the states of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona all touch one another. We spent a few hours hop scotching from one viewpoint to another. At one viewpoint I talked to a 30 something German guy who had just hiked down to the bottom of the canyon and back up. A few minutes later his girlfriend or wife turned up from the climb and seemed none the worse for wear and tear. They were like “Uber” Germans, they couldn’t have been more fit. At our next viewpoint stop I saw the German gal putting the hardtop on what was probably their rented car. When I walked down the path a bit from the viewpoint I spotted the German guy crouched beneath a tree taking a break. I think “Gisela” was starting to wear him out.

We ended our day in a town called Blanding, Utah at a Super 8 motel. We paid close to double the rate a motel like this would cost for the night somewhere else not close to tourist attractions. Cable TV wasn’t working and I really wanted to see the Republican Party Debate. I ended up watching most of it on Linda’s laptop. What a clown show! We had pizza for dinner.
Day 6, Thursday September 17th
At this point I really didn’t know where we were other than we were on the eastern side of Utah. Linda was the navigator and she had a sheet of paper that listed the places we were going to visit.  
Next up was a place called Hovenweep National Monument. To get there we had to take a number of secondary highways. We parked the car and went into the info center. A park ranger gave us the lowdown on the area. I have to say at this point that one thing the US gets right completely is how well they run their National Parks and National monuments. All of the parks we visited were well run and tidy. If you asked a park ranger or other staff a question they were very enthusiastic about providing information. Commercialism like the selling of souvenirs is very low key. Nobody in these parks was hustling us.
We took a 10-15 walk down a cement pathway that led to the first lookout point that looked out on a canyon. There were clearly marked dirt paths that went around the canyon. In several areas there were the remnants of adobe buildings that were built by the local Indians many centuries ago right on the canyon’s edge. We spent about 2 hours walking along the edge of the canyon.



There is no access to the adobe buildings which is a good thing. Some tourists probably wouldn’t be able to help themselves in not taking home an old brick.
It is thought that the Paelo-Indians first lived in this area 10,000 years ago in small villages. They were a hunter/gatherer society who managed to survive in very difficult terrain with a very limited means of feeding themselves. These first people of the area later became known as Pueblo Indians. They became very efficient at building pueblo brick buildings and developed skills like pottery and basket weaving. They grew maize, beans, squash, and cotton. With long periods of drought and probably starvation it is thought that the natives left the area sometime in the 13th century and migrated south to live with the Hopi Indians in Arizona.
One of the things I wanted to see in the US Southwest was cliff dwellings. I did get a distant view of some but understandably a lot of them aren’t that accessible. My understanding is that some of these dwellings are a bit on the fragile side and not suited for tourists tramping through them.


Swiss bicyclist who has been on the road continually for 3 years.

We drove into northern Arizona and spent the night in a town called Tuba. This is Navajo country. Once again we found that the motels were all booked up. One of the motels also had a campground out back and for 20 bucks we were allotted a small gravel area next to a fence that was next to a road. It wasn’t the ideal setting but we made the best of it.
A middle aged lady was sleeping in the cab of her pick-up truck at the next campsite and later a friend of hers turned up. I’m not sure what the story was there. Utah has very strict liquor laws and I thought that now that we were in Arizona I would have better luck trying to buy a bottle of Bailey’s. I drove around town for a bit trying to find a place that sold liquor. I was a bit taken aback by the number of abandoned and shuttered houses I saw. There seemed to be an up to date modern local hospital and some newer government buildings and schools but it seemed pretty obvious that the economy sucked in Tuba.
I went into a local grocery store that sold beer and asked where I could buy some Bailey’s. The store was operated by Navajo Indians. I was told that the nearest place I could by hard liquor was over 30 miles away. It seems that the town of Tuba was part of a reservation and the local Navajo Indians recognized alcoholism as a huge problem amongst their people.
I awoke in the middle of the night and was a bit surprised to see several stray dogs wandering around the campground. I could see where the dogs had dug a tunnel under the fence. It was all kind of creepy but it was just one night.
Day #7, Friday September 18th
We got up early the following morning. We grabbed a couple of specialty coffees from a nearby place before hitting the road. The lone server who ran the place was a heavy set Navajo Indian with diamond studs in his cheeks. I wasn’t expecting that. (Not that there is anything wrong with that as Jerry says on Seinfeld).
It was a bright sunny day and we were full of anticipation. We were finally going to get to see the Grand Canyon. We pulled off a long stretch of highway and wandered through a number of tables under canapes where Navajo Indians were selling their wares. Linda bought a couple of ceramic Christmas ornaments.

We were entering the Grand Canyon National Park from the east side. We paid something like 40 bucks at the gate. I asked the park attendant if there was any camping available in the park. He told me that the campground was only about 5 minutes away and most likely we would find a spot if we got there by mid-afternoon. It was now about 10:00 am.

We took the cut off to the campground which was just a few minutes away from the park entrance. This campsite is about 25 miles from Grand Canyon Village and is called Desert View. We followed the one way road through the campsite and notice that a lot of the sites were unoccupied. I had no idea how to secure a spot. I pulled over and talked to a couple of campers from Portland, Oregon. They seemed to be kind of counterculture types. She had a nose ring. They told us how simple it was to get a campsite. They told us to drive around and select a campsite without a reserved sign on a post by it. We were then to go over to the washrooms where there was a machine where we could use a credit card to secure our spot. We had to key in the spot #. It cost us all of 12 bucks per night and we reserved for 2 nights. 12 bucks a night by the Grand Canyon. Simply amazing!


We set up our tent and then went to see what this Grand Canyon was all about. It was a 5 minute drive to a huge parking lot full of cars and tour buses. We passed by a multi-story adobe building and walked down to a crowded viewpoint. It’s hard to put into words how magnificent the Grand Canyon is. It is also about 240 miles long.

We ate lunch, chili dogs, at a nearby park cafeteria. (Less than 5 bucks each.) We decided to spend the afternoon working our way to Grand Canyon Village stopping at viewpoints along the way. On our way back we cut off down a dirt road where Linda thought a museum was located. It was the wrong road but we ran into a middle aged Swiss couple who were having a picnic while sitting on a log. It seemed very tranquil. We had a nice chat with them for about ½ an hour. They were really nice people.
Linda had picked up some food at the grocery store in the village and she cooked up some sliced sausages, potatoes and carrots for dinner. I had picked up some firewood so that we could have a campfire when it started to get dark.
Just before dark, two people turned up at the next campsite, a young guy and a middle aged woman. I joked with Linda that maybe the lady was a cougar with a young stud muffin. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The young guy set up two tents on their site. Linda and I were sitting at our picnic table by a campfire. Linda was reading something while I watched the two on the next site scurrying about. The young guy seemed to be struggling in trying to start a campfire and I asked him if he needed a hand.
It was pretty obvious the young guy was gay as soon as he said hello. It turned out that he was travelling with his mom. The mom wandered over and introduced herself as Judy. They had been travelling for about 3 weeks from Delaware. They had been all over the place including New Orleans. The young guy was about 24 and had a college degree. He had worked in computer animation for a few years and was excited about moving to LA. He said he would like to try his luck at acting.
He had given up starting his own campfire by this time and they both joined Linda and I at our campfire and found seats at our picnic bench. I liked Judy from the get go. She told us some interesting stories about her family. She and her husband had 3 boys. The oldest one had died a few years before from cancer. The second oldest had been hit in the head by a paintball projectile and had permanent brain damage. The fact that her youngest son was gay wasn’t discussed that evening. His name is Ty.
Judy told us that she did a lot of volunteer work with young girls and that her husband played golf all over the world when he had a chance to.
I think we all hit the sack around 11 p.m. It was a bit on the chilly side that night.
Day #8 Saturday September 19th
Got up early the following morning and drove over to the canyon lookout to get some early morning photos. When I got back I noticed our young neighbor had gone somewhere in his car, probably to get some early morning shots like I did.
Our plan for the day was to drive over to the Grand Canyon Village and take a number of shuttle busses to various viewpoints. The shuttle buses are a great idea. They come by every 15-20 minutes. They also help cut down on traffic congestion significantly. One thing you become aware of very quickly at the Grand Canyon is that many of the tourists are from other parts of the world. It seems to me that Germans in particular love to travel to interesting places where nature is at the forefront. We often see them on the west coast of Vancouver Island too.




The California Condor
From some viewpoints we could see California Condors riding wind currents. The California Condor is North America’s biggest bird and part of the vulture family. They have a wing span of close to 10 feet. The bird became extinct in the wild in 1987. All of the wild condors were captured and a breeding program was started. The condor was reintroduced to the Grand Canyon, parts of Utah, California, and The Baja Peninsula. Currently there are 82 California Condors in the Grand Canyon area.

The Colorado River
The Colorado River runs along the bottom of the Grand Canyon. The river begins high in the Rocky Mountains in the state of Colorado and begins wending its way south fed by tributaries like the Green River. It is the water source for 90% of the crops grown in California. The flow of the river has long been controlled with a number of dams along the way that generate hydro- electric power. The Hoover Dam not far from Las Vegas, Nevada was completed in 1935. Lake Mead, also in Nevada, is the largest reservoir in the US.

It is easy enough to see the Colorado River winding through the Grand Canyon but somewhat harder to see the rafts on the river, some of which negotiate rapids. You either need a camera with a really good telescopic lens or a pair of binoculars. While looking at the river from the canyon’s edge it looks very inviting to hike down and get a firsthand look. My guess is that it takes a lot of stamina and time to hike down and back up to the top of the canyon.

Our mother and son neighbours at the campsite took a helicopter ride over the canyon and it cost them $350.00 each. They said it was well worth the ride. Somebody else said they charge about $500.00 for a four hour raft ride. I think lunch is included.

Some Grand Canyon Park History
The first white men to see the Grand Canyon were probably Spanish conquistador Francisco Vasquez de Coronado and his soldiers who were looking the fabled Seven Cities of Gold. Hopi Indians were their guides and the time was about 1540. A number of Indian tribes had inhabited the area for several thousand years.

In 1869 the Grand Canyon was explored by geologist John Wesley Powell who along with his crew succeeded in running the Colorado River rapids in the canyon. Prospectors arrived in the 1870s and staked mining claims in the canyon. They were looking for copper, zinc, lead, and asbestos. They found a decent amount of copper but those mines were quickly exhausted. It was a risky business bringing supplies down to the canyon and hauling up ore.
In 1882 a railway line, the Santa Fe Railroad, was completed that went to Flagstaff, Arizona about 80 miles south of The Grand Canyon. Stage coaches starting bringing tourists to the canyon from Flagstaff about a year later. A spur of the Santa Fe Railroad was completed in 1901 that went to Grand Canyon Village. This railway line remained in operation until 1968. In 1989 the railway was restored. The first automobile driven to the canyon was in 1902 from Los Angeles.
The first hotel to operate at the Grand Canyon was a 2 room building built in 1884. It remained open for about 5 years. Several years later a number of larger hotels were built in and around Grand Canyon Village. One of the early hotel entrepreneurs in the area was a man named Fred Harvey. He was known for hiring young single women to work as waitresses at his hotels. Judy Garland once made a movie musical called “The Harvey Girls”. One of the songs in the movie was “On The Atchison, Topeka, And The Santa Fe.”
Fred Harvey hired a female architect named Mary Coulter. She left her mark on a number of buildings that were built on the southern rim of the Grand Canyon that are still in use today including The Hopi House in 1905, Lookout Studio and Hermit’s Rest in 1914, Phantom Ranch in 1922, The Desert View Watchtower in 1932 (about 5 minutes from our campsite), and Bright Angel Lodge in 1935.
Hermit's Rest

Desert View Watchtower

Initially the Grand Canyon was set aside as a protected area by US president Teddy Roosevelt. In 1919 the US Congress formerly recognized the Grand Canyon as a national park. Over 5 million people visit The Grand Canyon every year.
A little known fact about The Grand Canyon is that uranium mining in the area has been an on and off activity in the area for the past 70 years. This mining has occurred away from the eyes of the tourists which isn’t that difficult considering how big the Grand Canyon area is. One would think that just the fact that the Colorado River is the source for drinking water for millions of people and that it sustains millions of acres of agriculture that risky mining of any sort would be completely banned, but greed has no bounds for some.
After our tour on the shuttle busses we got back in the car and drove back to the campsite. The speed limit in the park is something like 50 mph in most stretches of the 2 lane highway. I looked in my rearview mirror and saw some ass wipe riding my bumper. I was doing about 55 mph. The guy behind me started to piss me off. I braked lightly a few times but he wouldn’t back off. Finally I decided to jam the brakes on and scare the crap out of him. It kind of freaked him out and he went into a bit of a swerve. A few minutes later he accelerated and passed me and the cars in front of me on a double line. We gave each other the finger as he passed. What a jerk!

I suggested to Linda that we reserve our campsite for one more night. Who knows if we will ever see The Grand Canyon again I thought. By this time we had gotten to know the campsite ranger, a guy named Bill, a bit. He told us that he didn’t let everyone in on a little secret he had and that was there was an amazing view of the canyon a five minute walk away from our campsite. Bill told us that he had worked at the Acadia National Park in the state of Maine for a number of years. I told him about visiting that park in the late 1960s and brushing my teeth in a brook on Cadillac Mountain.
We lit another campfire after dinner. Our neighbours from the night before were nowhere to be seen. They turned up after dark while I was sitting by the fire. Although we had had a nice chat the night before I didn’t want to impose on them. The young guy was trying to start his own fire. The mom, Judy, wandered over and we sat there and chatted for a while. Linda had already gone to bed.
We talked about American politics a bit. Judy said that she really didn’t have any loyalty to either the Democrats or the Republicans. In the back of my mind I was thinking that a lot of Republicans are anti-gay so why would she ever vote for them considering she had a gay son. And of course a lot of Republicans don’t believe in gay marriage.
At one point she asked me what I thought of Caitlyn Jenner. I had to think for a moment. Caitlyn who? And then it registered. She was talking about Bruce Jenner and his being a transsexual. I told Judy that he was entitled to be whoever he wanted to be but he seemed to be a lousy dad to his first set of kids and kind of full of himself.
I asked Judy how she had personally coped with having a gay son. I was curious about how her husband had handled that issue. Judy told me that I was one of only a few who had directly addressed the fact that her son was gay. It turned out that her husband was fine with his son being gay which I was glad to hear.
Meanwhile, her son had given up trying to start a fire and came over and joined us. He stretched out on the picnic table for a while and it was nice to know that he felt totally comfortable in the company of a complete stranger. A bit later he headed off to bed and I told Judy I was about to do the same. The fire was dying out. 
Day 9, Saturday September 20th
This was to be our last day at The Grand Canyon. I made Linda and I a couple of coffees. Judy and her son started packing up. They were headed for Zion National Park. Linda and I sat and chatted with Judy and Ty for an hour and a half. She had told Ty that we knew he was gay. Apparently he had come out when he was 19 although his parent’s had long been aware of his sexual orientation. Ty told us that he had trouble meeting other gays his age and being uncomfortable when meeting men through on-line dating sites. To me he seemed like a young guy with a long life ahead of him still uncertain of what the future held for him. He said he wanted to find a boyfriend that was close to his family as he was. I suggested that maybe he might possibly run into someone he really liked who wasn’t as fortunate as him to have a loving family.
We hugged it out, took some photos, and said our goodbyes. Linda and I both enjoyed the time we spent with Judy and Ty. If they read this…remember the both of you are more than welcome to visit us on Vancouver Island.


Our plan for the day was to take the busses to some viewpoints we hadn’t seen. At one point we decided to hike from one viewpoint to another. As it turned out the pathway was a pretty steep climb and it was pretty hot out. We were kind of winded when we made it to the next viewpoint. A few bus rides later I suggested to Linda that we hike to the next viewpoint. She took a pass and took the bus while I did the walk. It was a pretty easy hike with no really steep climbs. I bought us a couple of ice cream cones at Hermit’s Rest.
At one bus stop I got into a conversation with a lady from South Carolina. Many Americans don’t know the difference between Vancouver Island and the city of Vancouver. She said where we lived sounded interesting and could she get there by taking a plane to Seattle. I think she was unaware that Vancouver has an airport. I told her I knew who Lindsey Graham was, the Republican senator and war hawk from South Carolina. She seemed quite proud of another South Carolinian, a man named Trey Gowdy. Trey Gowdy is the guy who led the interrogation of Hilary Clinton about Benghazi this past Thursday on TV. What a complete moron! Hilary ate his lunch.

There was a pretty big line-up for buses at the town site and we had to wait about a half hour to get on a bus that had room. When our bus arrived the driver stopped the bus about 8 people away from the beginning of the line. It seemed like a silly thing to do. The crowd started pushing for the front door of the bus where I was standing. One old fart started yelling that he had waited too long for a bus and it wasn’t fair that he wasn’t one of the first to get on the bus. He tried to push his way past me but I had my hand gripped to the front door of the bus. I wasn’t going to let him start a stampede. Simmer down you old fart I thought. Life’s too short.
We stopped off at a small museum down a dirt road on our way back to camp. We also wandered around the remains of an old Indian settlement.


Cougar sign.

We checked out Ranger Bill’s secret spot that evening and got some photos of the shadows on the canyon as the sun was going down. I lit one last campfire and then Linda and I hit the sack. I think we were in the tent for about a half hour when we heard some noise outside. I unzipped the tent flap and there in front of the tent was a guy in his twenties. He told us he was from Belgium and was there any chance that he and his girlfriend could set up a tent on our site. I told him he would have to get an OK from Ranger Bill. A few minutes later he was back and told us that Bill had found him a spot. About a half hour later I heard some more noise outside the tent. This time it was a couple from Barcelona, Spain. They also asked if they could pitch a tent on our site and once again I told them to check with Ranger Bill. This time Bill couldn’t find these folks a spot and gave them the OK to share ours. I showed them where they could set up their tent. Then they got in their car and drove way. A few minutes later I figured out what they were up to when I saw the guy carrying an air mattress to his tent. They didn’t want us to hear the noise an electric air pump makes.
We chatted with the Spanish couple the following morning. They were in their thirties and both had professional careers and no children. The guy in the couple told me that he was quite surprised at how many fat Americans he had seen. I asked him what about me? I could lose a few pounds. He said I wasn’t fat and that was okey dokey with me. He offered to pay the 12 bucks for the campsite fee but I wouldn’t take. Linda suggested they pay it forward.
The Spanish couple headed off to purchase a day pass to hike down the canyon and we packed up our tent and headed for Flagstaff, Arizona.
The Grand Canyon is one of those places you just have to go to if you ever get a chance. I loved everything about it, the unbelievable scenery, the affordability of the campsite and reasonable prices for food, the history, the warm sunny weather, the general enthusiasm of the tourists, and the helpfulness of the park staff.
I’d go again, maybe in a few years. I know we didn’t see all that we could.


This is part 1 of my story. Part 2 is about our trip back through Arizona, Nevada, California, Oregon, and Washington.

Next up on my blog.....more pics of The Grand Canyon




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