August 20, 1994
This is a summary of our trip West
We left a day early on Sunday, July 24 and stayed overnight near the Harrisburg (PA) airport after a visit to Cathyís mother in Norristown. This gave us an hourís start on the trip as well as a free place to park for the duration. We ate dinner in the room with take-out Subway sandwiches.
On Monday, July 25, we picked up our rental car at 6 A.M. at Harrisburg International Airport. The car was a virginal white Chrysler New Yorker with 10,000 gentle miles on its odometer. Little did it know of its future for the next 17 days. It would return as a callused veteran of the roads. We drove on the PA Turnpike and I-70 for about 600 miles to Terre Haute, Indiana. On the way, we listened to some books on tape that we had copied from the public libraryís holdings before we left. The books helped shorten the long hours of driving. We saw, but did not eat or stay at, Larry Birdís Boston Connection Motel and Restaurant in Terre Haute. We did see the Indiana State Campus where Larry matriculated. We did a quick visit to the Wabash River after dinner at the Olive Garden. We were downstream from a paper mill and didnít find the clumps of foam on the river to be very attractive.
Tuesday, July 26 saw us on the road early traveling I-70 from Terre Haute to Abilene, Kansas, the terminus of many cattle drives of the past century. We eased into our normal routine of breakfast and lunch from the cooler. We traveled another 600 miles, arriving in Abilene in late afternoon. We went for a walk toward the historic portion of town and found that the history was rather meager. Finding that all restaurants in town were poor or worse, we ate another Subway dinner in our room.
We hit the road (I-70) early on Wednesday, July 27. We arrived at Jack and Jo Annís home in Golden in early afternoon. We were greeted by two deer that were grazing in the field next to the building. This was our first visit to the state of Colorado and we were awed by the sight of the Rockies from J&Jís deck. Jack grilled some wonderful salmon fillets on his gas grill for dinner. Jack also grilled a steak for himself. After dinner, we viewed the video, "Short Cuts."
Jack was to be involved in a conference call at noon on Thursday, July 28, so Jo Ann, Cathy, and I drove toward Colorado Springs. Our first activity of the day was to introduce the Chrysler to a Colorado "fourteener" by allowing it to climb Pikeís Peak. The road to the summit (or maybe the driving) seemed to frighten Cathy and Jo Ann a bit, but I thought that it was a great ride. The day was quite clear, so visibility was good in all directions. After some quick views on the summit, we drove down part way and lunched at a picnic area on the road to the summit. The next destination was Royal Gorge. Cathy and I had viewed some video tapes before starting the trip and had decided that we would like to see the 1000 feet deep Royal Gorge. The Gorge turns out to be privately owned and EXTREMELY commercialized, but the views are breath-taking. The wood-slatted suspension bridge across the gorge moves with the wind, with peopleís footsteps, and with the light vehicular traffic. The boards on the bridge have an inch or so of separation, so you can look down to the Arkansas river 1000 feet below by looking past your foot through a crack in the floor of the bridge - quite a thrill. Since I am scared of heights, I took the gondola cable car across the gorge. Unfortunately, the river is so far below, the scene looks unreal and didnít generate any real fear in me. By now we were a long way from Golden, so we headed the Chrysler back to J&Jís, traveling through several small thunder showers on the way.
On Friday, July 29, all four of us went to Rocky Mountain National Park by way of Boulder and the Boulder Canyon. This Park in the sky is a wonderful collection of high peaks, green valleys, and rivers. On one of the short trails through the arctic-like tundra, we were treated to a short sleet storm. The panoramic views are really indescribable. After eating a picnic lunch we took a short hike along the Colorado River not far from its headwaters in the park. This river which we would experience again and again in subsequent days was a meek little stream when we saw it on this day. We crossed the continental divide during our tour of the park and also on the way back to Golden.
Jack, Cathy, and I set out to do a fourteener on Saturday, July 30. We drove two cars to the summit of Mt. Evans. Thus, the Chrysler got to climb yet another 14,000 foot mountain. We left one of the cars at the summit and drove in the other down to Summit Lake at a 12,000+ altitude. From the lake, we planned to assault the summit in the manner described in one of Jackís books of hikes. The book described the ascent as a classic "rock scramble." The route was unmarked, so Jack used his bushwhacking experience to guide us to the summit. Cathy earned her trail handle, SCRAMBLER, by her competent climbing. After reaching the summit, taking the obligatory photos, and driving back to Golden, Cathy and I presented Jack with an official fourteener checklist T-shirt to record his future accomplishments. Later in the afternoon, Jack, Cathy, and I explored a red-rock geological trail, Buffalo Billís grave, birdís-eye views of the Coors Brewery, and the town of Golden. Thus ended our thorough introduction to the state of Colorado. Jack and Jo Ann were gracious and informative hosts as well as tireless travel guides. Shortly before dawn on Sunday, July 31, Cathy and I continued west on I-70 through some magnificent canyons. Following Jackís suggestion, we took the scenic route to Moab, Utah through a beautiful canyon of the Colorado River. By this time, the river was no longer a wimpy little stream, but a mature river which had already flowed for many miles through arid lands. For many miles, we drove along the river bank, surrounded by red-rock formations, and suspended in torrid, dry air. The Chrysler was getting a rigorous introduction to the desert. When we reached Moab, we immediately entered Arches National Park and ate lunch in the desert heat at an unshaded table. We took hikes to Delicate Arch and Double-O Arch and drove through Arches with our windows down to become accustomed to the heat and dryness that we would experience on our rim-to-rim hike to come. Almost everybody else in Arches was speaking in German, French, Italian, Spanish, or Japanese. I suggested it was because Americans know better than to visit the desert in August. We had dinner in a Mexican restaurant in Moab. That night we camped in a dusty campsite not far from Arches.
On the morning of Monday, August 1, we visited Dead Horse Point State Park. What a magnificent view of the Colorado River those dead horses have. Of all of the terrific sights that we encountered on the trip, this is to me the best single one. We went on to the Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands National Park. This was very impressive, but I wish that we had another half day to visit the Needles section and hike to the Confluence Overlook. Perhaps another time. We headed for Flagstaff, which was our destination for the night. On the way, we toured the Navajo Reservationís version of Monument Valley and treated the Chrysler to the dusty, bumpy dirt roads of the park. We decided that all of the other private vehicles on the loop were also rental cars because no one would so punish their own car. Luckily, part of the route to Flagstaff allowed for 85-90 mph driving which helped keep the day from being too long. We enjoyed another Mexican restaurant for dinner and then prepared our gear for the stay at the Grand Canyon.
We got an early start and headed toward the Grand Canyon on Tuesday, August 2. We arrived at the South Rim mid morning and found a parking spot in amongst the cabins of the Bright Angel Lodge. Our shuttle for the North Rim didnít leave until 1:30 so we spent the rest of the morning wandering around on the South Rim. I used a pay telescope to view the North Rim Lodge and parts of the Bright Angel Canyon where we would be hiking the next day. We picnicked on the rim, enjoying our best lunch view of the trip. The next step was to get our stuff ready for the shuttle ride to the other side. We put most of the stuff in my backpack. We packed the perishable lunch stuff and a small carafe of wine in a small, cheap styrofoam cooler that we had brought with us, intending to leave it at the North Rim. We also stuffed a disposable EF backpack with some other breakfast provisions and our boots. An extra gallon of spring water completed our supplies. I had already loaded bottles totaling 1.75 gallons with spring water (in the backpack). The shuttle was a large van carrying a total of 12 people, all hikers. Two of the passengers had already hiked from North to South, stopping at Phantom Ranch. The remaining other passengers were also planning two-day trips. The ride to the North Rim was interesting in that it established the orientation of the Colorado River more clearly. We crossed the river at Marble Canyon, which is between Leeís Ferry and the Grand Canyon. At Marble Canyon, the river is already deep inside of its gorge. We arrived at the North Rim at about 6 P.M. Back in the spring, I had arranged for us to eat dinner at 9:30 P.M. so that we could enjoy all of the daylight hours on the rim before dinner. I had forgotten that Arizona was on standard time so that the sun set at 7:30 P.M. We rushed into the dining hall to rectify my mistake, but we had to stick with the original schedule. On the North Rim, you can eat in the North Rim Lodge, a snack bar at the lodge, or at a pizza place at the campground. The lodge dining room is by reservation only. If you donít have a reservation, then you eat at 9:30. So, even though I probably was the first person to call for a dinner reservation, we were stuck with all of the riff-raff for the last seating. The lodge has an outside patio, right on the rim, where people can sit and enjoy drinks and the view. We had plenty of opportunity to sit there during the daylight and nighttime hours. The view from the North Rim is different from that of the South Rim, but I wouldnít say that it is better; the views from both rims are good. The sky was perfectly clear, so that the night sky was filled with stars and the Milky Way was as bright as Iíve ever seen it. To enhance the setting, there is a huge outdoor fireplace on the patio which is home for a huge fire as soon as it becomes dark. The temperature was to drop to 47 degrees this night. We were finally seated for dinner at about 9:45 P.M. The dinner was surprisingly good. We made arrangements to take a 5:15 A.M shuttle to the trailhead in the morning, left a 4:15 A.M. wakeup call and retired to our cabin for what was left of the night.
The big day had arrived! It was 4:15 A.M. on Wednesday, August 3 and we were going to hike from the North Rim to the South Rim this very day. We both consumed breakfast without tasting it, and repacked the backpack. We had to abandon several items: the small cooler filled with ice, my old sneakers, Cathyís completed hardback book, and the old EF backpack. The pack I was to carry contained our clothing from the day before, rain jackets, 1.75 gallons of spring water, food for lunch, a small tablecloth for lunch, medical supplies (Band-Aids, moleskin, lambswool, methiolate, nu-skin, ibuprofen), and essentials (compass, flashlight, knife, toilet paper, map, wallet, money, sunscreen, water purification tablets, OFF). The pack weighed more than I had hoped, but it didnít matter until the last 4.5 miles of the hike. Since we were the only two hikers on the 5:15 shuttle, we got an early start and started down the trail at 5:17 A.M. The forecast called for a hot, clear day. One of the first things that we saw was a tiny hummingbird feeding on the nectar of a small red wildflower right next to our faces. Five miles and a couple of hours later, we were in the heat as we followed the Bright Angel Creek through its narrow, serpentine canyon. The trail continues to descend, but seems relatively level. The climate is definitely inner gorge (lower Sonoran desert). The temperature was in the lOOs for this long stretch. We arrived at Phantom Ranch at 10:50 A.M. after completing the 14.2 mile North Kaibab trail. We enjoyed lemonade and iced tea at the snack bar. We lunched outside in the 111 degree shade. After lunch, we bought a huge bag of ice (the "miracle of the Grand Canyon" according to the Innkeeper) and stuffed all of our water bottles with ice cubes and spring water. I took a refreshing dip in Bright Angel Creek before we departed for the climb out. We began the ascent on the Bright Angel Trail at 12:20 P.M. loaded with 1.75 gallons of ice water. The sun was absolutely brutal on the 5 mile climb to Indian Gardens (arrived about 2:50 P.M.). By judiciously using plastic bags as insulators, the ice water stayed cold all the way to Indian Gardens. The hot stones on the trail up took their toll. We both soaked our burning feet in a small stream and loitered for about an hour in the cool shade at Indian Gardens before the final leg. We were beyond noticing time when we departed for the rim. We struggled up the last 4.5 miles of the journey which seemed to take days but actually lasted until 6:49 P.M., about 40 minutes before sunset. On the last leg my pack was pretty light, but I still experienced painful side stitches even though we plodded at a slow rate. The temperature on the South Rim was 94 degrees when we arrived. We found an English-speaking tourist to snap a picture of us and then hurried to buy a couple of lemonades with ice. We were an amazing specter at check-in in the lobby of the Bright Angel Lodge. Two dusty, spent trail tramps with a prepaid room. After a long, long shower, I went out for pizza and we dined in our cabin. We turned in fairly early.
We slept in a bit on Thursday, August 4. Before breakfast, I went out to sit on the wall at the rim and just contemplate the canyon. The next thing I knew, a Japanese tourist was asking me to move so that he could have his picture taken without me in it. This incident troubled me for a while until I realized that I have seen Americans do worse abroad (especially in Athens and Oslo). We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in the Bright Angel Lodge, checked out, restocked our provisions at the village store, and headed toward Cortez, Colorado and Mesa Verde. The day was hot and dry as usual. We lunched on the trunk of the car in 105 degree sunlight along the side of the road just east of Kayenta, Arizona. Because of the dryness of the air, it didnít seem too bad. In the afternoon, we stopped at the Four Corners Monument for the obligatory photograph. We arrived in our campground in late afternoon. This campground is right outside of the entrance to Mesa Verde National Park and had much better sites than the campground in Moab. We had planned to camp for two nights, but decided to change it to one night of camping and give ourselves some flexibility, not to say luxury, for the next night. We ate dinner in a Mexican restaurant in Cortez, Colorado, enjoyed a charcoal briquette "campfire", and retired for the evening.
On Friday, August 5 we found that Mesa Verde is a very popular destination. Our last encounter with Anasazi ruins was at Keet Seel where we had to hike 8 miles to get to the ruins. Once out there, we were given a tour of the buildings with only one other person in our group. It was hard for us to go from a Keet Seel tour to the masses of noisy, pushing people that were trying to experience the Mesa Verde ruins. We decided to view the ruins from afar and keep our distance from the crowds. I think that we got the best possible Mesa Verde experience (short of a nuclear holocaust) this way. But, for us, Mesa Verde was just a half dayís worth of thrills, so we picnicked at an overlook and headed East through the mountains. We stopped for an espresso-to-go in Durango and then drove as far as we could. We ended up in a posh Holiday Inn in Alamosa, Colorado, just short of the Sangre de Cristo mountains. It was a beautiful location surrounded by mountains. We brought pizza into the room for dinner.
Saturday, August 6 was our 28th anniversary. We celebrated by getting on the road by 6:15 A.M. and heading toward Hays, Kansas, our destination. I was able to let the Chrysler cruise at 100 mph for quite a bit of the morning as we crossed through some very sparse countryside. We stopped for coffee and a giant cinnamon bun at Stephenís Restaurant in Sharon Springs, Kansas. I felt I was on a movie set in this desolate, spooky locale. Even the Chrysler wanted to high-tail it out of there at 100 mph. We arrived in Hays, Kansas in early afternoon. I had high hopes for a classic anniversary in an historic setting, but ended up in one of the longest, tackiest strips that has ever graced an interstate exit (I failed to mention that we had re-joined I-70 somewhere in Kansas). We had been carrying a bag of decent hanging clothes for our anniversary dinner, but we couldnít find an appropriate restaurant. We ended up eating at Guttierezís Mexican Restaurant. After dinner we saw "The Client" at a local theater.
On Sunday, August 7, we headed for Hannibal, Missouri and Mark Twain country. Earlier in the summer we had spent some time at the Mark Twain mansion in Hartford, Connecticut. That experience and the fact that Cathy teaches "Huckleberry Finn" each year made Hannibal an attractive spot to visit. We arrived in mid-afternoon and immediately went for a walk down by the Mississippi. Our first reaction was surprise at the size of the levee that protected the town. We toured Mark Twainís (and Tom Sawyerís) childhood home, Becky Thatcherís childhood home, and climbed Cardiff hill. We ate in a pretty nice "supper club" restaurant to the west of town.
We slept in on Monday, August 8. We ate breakfast in a restaurant and conversed with a local couple after breakfast. We drove to Riverside Park and visited the Mark Twain statue and overlook. Next we drove 9 miles South of town to a lock and dam to watch the eagles soaring overhead (this is the Southern terminus of the bald eagleís migration). We then drove back into town to take an hourís "riverboat" ride. This trip gave us a real feeling for the majesty of this slow-moving giant of a river. We lunched on the Illinois river bank along with a myriad of biting flies. We next took a tour of the cave that appears in some of Mark Twainís books. Finally, we drove Southwest for 40 miles to the Mark Twain birthplace in Florida, Missouri. We discovered that the two-room shack where Twain lived for his first 4 years is inside of a large modern structure that also houses a small museum. This is all part of the Mark Twain State Park. After touring the exhibit, we looked for the rest of Florida and found a couple of deserted buildings. We returned to Hannibal, bought a copy of "Tom Sawyer" for $2.25, and returned to the motel. We ordered pizza for dinner.
Tuesday, August 9 was to be a heavy driving day. We left at dawn and headed South toward Saint Louis on a scenic route along the Mississippi. After about 80 miles, we returned to I-70 and headed East. We drove all the way to Wheeling, West Virginia before quitting for the night. We ate at the motelís buffet and had the worst food of the trip.
The last day, Wednesday, August 10, was to be an easy day, thanks to the day before. We just took I-70 and the PA Turnpike and headed to Harrisburg. We transferred our stuff to our car that we had left at the motel and headed for the airport. I parked the Chrysler in the same stall from which it had been removed 17 days and 6,000 miles earlier. The car seemed relieved. We headed for Shippensburg, stopping at a Pizza Hut along the way for lunch. We finished our journey at about 2 P.M. It was quite a trip!