Here are all of the posts from our 2011 Summer Trip to the Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, and lots of other neat places via Route 66 (when possible).
…but we have large smiles because it was a great trip.
After 42 days and 3,151 miles, we are back home. The RV is a mess (and perhaps just a little ripe) but it came through the trip with flying colors.
Now we have to clean it all up and get it ready for this season’s Aggie football weekends.
After several days at Lake Powell, it was time to head toward home. We have made a few short stops along the way.
Remember all those great western movies where the cowboys were riding around strange looking rock formations? Well, they were made here at Monument Valley in the middle of nowhere on the Navajo Indian Reservation. It is a hot and dusty place, and we spent just one night here which was plenty. It is one of those places you go to when you are “in the area,” but Linda says she has seen enough rocks, so we are just passing through. There were many European teens in tents at our campground, and I can only hope this will not be the only part of our country they see.
Another really silly place to visit is Four Corners where the states of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado all come together. Again, in the dusty desert in the middle of nowhere, on the Navajo Indian Reservation, everyone goes to see a marker showing where the four states meet. Amazingly, the marker’s location is actually incorrect by about a one-third of a mile! That’s a result of the tools and instruments used during the original survey in the 1800s. Even so, you go, you pay your entrance fee to the Navajos, and you have your picture taken. It’s what you do. It’s Americana.
We stopped in Albuquerque for a great visit with Linda’s niece and her family. While there we rode the Sandia Peak Tramway up to the top of the Sandia Mountains – an altitude of some 10,300 feet. The tram has the longest free span (distance between towers) of any cable tram in the world. It was quite a ride.
Ten thousand feet really changes things. Even though we started from about 6,000 feet, the temperature drop was about 30 degrees. And I did not handle the altitude well at all. It upset me for the rest of the day. Linda, on the other hand, had no problems at all.
Another neat place in Albuquerque (and I am sure there are many more) is the Museum of Nuclear Science. Here we saw replicas of the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan – Little Boy (Hiroshima) and Fat Man (Nagasaki) – along with 65 years of progress in nuclear science.
Now it is time to head home. We’ll make a final stop at Balmorhea State Park at the base of the Davis Mountains in Texas. Balmorhea has a huge (4 million gallons) spring-fed swimming pool where you actually bathe with the fish — it’s Linda’s favorite place to swim. The spring supplies water at the rate of 1 million gallons an hour. After it passes through the pool it moves into a irrigation ditch and is on its way to local farms.
What do you get when you put a dam at the end of a large, beautiful canyon? One of the most magnificent lakes you can imagine. The Glen Canyon Dam and the Colorado River create Lake Powell, a huge and dramatic lake with over 1,900 miles of shoreline and depths of over 500 feet. It makes our little Lake Conroe seem like a puddle.
Lake Powell was named after explorer John Wesley Powell, who in 1869 explored the Green and Colorado Rivers for three months, including the first passage through the entire Grand Canyon.
When it was built in the late 50s and early 60s, it was in one of the most remote places in the U.S. The roads and a town for the workers (Page, AZ, now approx. 10,000) had to be built before construction on the dam could even begin. The dam was finished in 1963, but it took until 1980 (17 years) for it to fill to capacity! It was worth the wait.
The colors of the rock in the canyon sides were breathtaking as was the color of the clear, blue water. We took two different boat tours while we were there and were totally fascinated the entire time.
Here’s a picture of a mail exchange. Dangling Rope Marina cannot be reached by land, so everything is done by boat, and our tour boat was carrying the weekly mail. Our crewman and the young lady exchanged locked metal toolboxes. Linda could not believe there was no flotation on the boxes. This marina is only a fuel and food stop and is open just six months a year.
This is the largest natural bridge in the world. It was carved over the eons and can only be reached by boat. To give you some idea of its size, the Statue of Liberty will fit under the arch. It really is quite impressive. Depending on the height of the lake, the bridge can be anywhere from a short walk to 1-1/2 miles from the boat. We walked about a 1/3 to 1/2 mile. Though it was a 50 mile one way boat trip to the bridge, our crewman told me that we had only seen about 10-15% of the lake.
We took a bunch of photos, and I tried to pick out some representative pictures to give an idea of this lakes beauty. I managed to pare it down to about 40. Enjoy!
This post is out of chronological order, but sometimes you just have put the good stuff first. Paul Bunyan has apparently moved from Minnesota to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Not only that, but he no longer cooks flapjacks. Now he specializes in Vietnamese Cuisine! Is this a great country or what?
Well, we finally made it to the Grand Canyon — our prime objective. Wow!
I am sorry it has taken so long for this update, but Internet has been tenuous at best.
There are really no words to describe this place. Every time you look out over it you are overwhelmed by its shear enormity. Every time you look out over it you see something different. Every time you look out over it, the canyon seems to change. Every time you look out over it you know you are looking at one of the most special places on earth.
Linda and I spent five days at Grand Canyon, and they were all wonderful. We first met up with April and Jeremy in Flagstaff and then had some great times together up at the Canyon. Of course they did some things we didn’t, such as taking a morning hike down the into the Canyon.
We took many, many (far too many) photos, but none of them seem to truly convey the size of the Canyon which is more than a mile deep and about 10 miles wide. When looking at the pictures, you can best understand the Canyon’s magnitude by comparing the bright coloring of a photo’s foreground to the paleness of its background as in the photos below.
Linda and I were both surprised at the number of trees and shrubs in the Canyon. When you think of the Canyon, you think “rock,” and there surely is an awful lot of it. But there is also a goodly amount of flora. Around the rim and in the Canyon itself the pinyon pine and the juniper are prevalent. Away from the rim there are wonderful stands of Ponderosa pine
Wildlife is everywhere at the Grand Canyon. We woke up our first morning to two bucks grazing beside our RV! I went out and took pictures, and I never bothered them in the least. Even more amazing were the elk that would graze along the side of the road in the mornings and evenings. These are big, beautiful animals. The impressive bull in Linda’s photo has a marvelous rack all in velvet.
There are fewer than 400 California Condors and about 70 to 75 of them live in the Grand Canyon. We saw one! Actually, Linda saw it first and had to get my attention — I almost missed it. My son-in-law told me that they saw several during their hike down into the Canyon, but you know son-in-laws…
We took well over 600 photos, and it has been difficult to cull through them and choose some for a slide show. I had to depend on Linda’s ruthless decisions to pare the photos down to a mere 65. Enjoy!
While at the Canyon we visited what is known as the Pioneer Cemetery and were totally fascinated by some of the marker stones. The cemetery is supported by the American Legion so there are a number of veterans buried there. But what caught our eye were the interesting headstones of folks who had some relationship to the Grand Canyon. Here’s a slideshow of some of the interesting markers we found in this cemetery.
Today was mostly a driving day as we moved out of Santa Fe and on to Holbrook, AZ. But it was still a great experience as we continued to go past interesting country and mountains. We have already gone from the 40 feet above sea of home to an altitude of over 7,000 feet.
One of the highlights of our driving day was crossing the Continental Divide. Now all the water flows to the Pacific Ocean rather than the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. You would have thought there would have been some official marker, but all we found was this sign at some cheesy souvenir store. I must confess we were on I-40 at the time and may have missed any official sign. These kinds of mileposts are fun. On an earlier trip we ate lunch at the geographic center of North America in Rugby, North Dakota.
Petrified Forest and Painted Desert
The true highlight of the day was our visit to the Petrified Forest. While the official name is Petrified Forest National Park, more of the experience is the Painted Desert portion with some of the absolutely astonishing land formations and colors we saw.
I wish I could adequately describe this place – it is just not possible. The park is essentially a 29 mile drive through some of the most interesting and stunning landscape you will ever see. Sometimes it is almost other-worldly. Even the close to a gazillion (that’s a real number – I’m a math teacher) photos we took while we were there does not capture its stunning beauty. I have managed to whittle the number of photos down to a reasonable number for the slide show below.
The ancients often scratched drawings into the rocks. There are thousands of these in the Painted Desert, but only a few that are available for viewing. The meanings of many petroglyphs are lost, but it is believed that some were to keep records, tell stories or for ceremonial reasons. In the Petrified Forest Park there were two different places where petroglyphs were visible. While I have no idea what any of them mean, I was able to get some photos. One is below along with a short slideshow.
This is a classic old town from the Route 66 era. On old Route 66 there are lots of old mom-and-pop motels either closed or just holding on while the chains have built new places closer to I-40. But the town holds on, and there are some interesting bits of Americana there to see.
We try to eat at non-chains when we can, and in Holbrook it was Joe & Aggies – a little Mexican-American restaurant with a map of Route 66 painted on its side wall. If you could read the towns in the photo, you would see St. Loues (sic), Missouri.
An iconic part of Route 66 in the 40s and 50s were teepee motor courts – motels with rooms built to look like Indian teepees. The Wigwam Lodge in Holbrook is one of the last of this breed, and it is actually on the National Register of Historic Places. Here is a little piece of the 50s for you in 50s black and white.
One thing I certainly did not expect in a small town in the middle of Arizona was a VW customizing shop. Here are two guys who just enjoy chopping up old “Beetles” and doing crazy things with them. Check out the VW camper below.
Here we are at Meteor Crater just outside Winslow, Arizona celebrating our 45th Anniversity. This is the largest known fragment remaining of the meteor that created Meteor Crater. Like us, it has been around for a while.