DAY TWO – Green River to the Grand Canyon
“Sleepless in Green River”
After our restless night in the Meow-KOA we arose to the sun peeping over the buttes. The warm rays of morning sunlight cast a dewy glow over the campground. Crawling out from our tent we could see our noisy neighbors snoozing seperately, the women in the van, and snoring man with carbonated bowels in the tent. We nodded our heads as chuckles involuntarily dribbled off our lips, and at the same time stretched with yawns.
Figuring that we had a lot to see that day we decided not to dilly dally, but to hurry and get a move on, so the girls and I headed for the showers, which weren’t busy at all thankfully, but merciful heavens did they ever wreak of cat pee.
We shampooed our hair and scrubbed our bodies, shaved our bumpy mosquito-bitten legs, sneezed, brushed our teeth, got dressed, sneezed again, blew our noses, fixed our hair, swatted mosquitoes in between, and by the time we got back to camp Dad had the soggy tent, musty sleeping bags, and dew-covered cooler all packed up, and most the other stuff too. We all piled in the car, where we ate our bowls of corn flakes, milk, and banana in relative peace from the insects. And bless his heart, I don’t know where from, but he found me a tall, hot cup of coffee to go. He always takes good care of me. Slurp. Ahhhh. …And we headed down the road.
As soon as we ramped onto the highway we encountered a pretty terrible wreck that had traffic backed up for quite a ways in both directions. There were car parts strewn all over the highway and everything was at a standstill. We had apparently just missed it, thank heavens, as emergency vehicles were just arriving on scene. Saying prayers for all the poor people involved, we finally inched through the tangle of cars, trucks, semis, and RVs,, and then made a left turn at Hanksville and followed the scenic route south.
Our first stop was in Glen Canyon at Hite Point, at the head waters of Lake Powell. My goodness what a pretty view. The resevoir at that point looked like a river winding through the big rocks. The girls chased lizards, watched for snakes, and let me take pictures of them standing on the rocks overlooking the river below.
Going south from there the land slowly became densely covered in trees, short trees, more like bushes, very thick bushes that were barely taller than our vehicle. All of that came to an abrupt end at a cliff that overlooked the Valley of the Gods.
The contrast in elevation from where we were to the valley below was so drastic that it almost seemed as if we were in an airplane flying over. We stood at the lookout for a very long time, not any of us saying a word, just taking it in. It was the land of Road Runner and Wiley Coyote down there; we could almost see them playing their games. Most amazingly, we had it all to ourselves except for one guy on a motorcycle who left as we were arriving. It was so peaceful, and tranquil, and quiet.
For me it was one of those moments of realizing the shear vastness of the earth. How does God hear our prayers? From that height above the valley below there was no sound to be heard except the shrill call of the eagle flying above. There was no wind. No sound of traffic. No voices.
The narrow road from there slithered like a rattlesnake down the cliff face. Two cars meeting head-on could barely fit to pass each other. There were NO SIDE RAILS. It was hair raising. It was the kind of road that even though we were buckled into our seatbelts we still clinched the seat and handlebars with white knuckles and held our breath as we traveled along.
Once at the bottom we followed the road through the huge, smooth, water-carved and windblown rock formations that stood as sky scrapers off the desert floor.
Our next stop was the little town of Mexican Hat. We stopped there for lunch – at one of the little restaurants on the main drag through town. It was a little Mexican/New Mexican/Native American place with Indian fry bread tacos, piled high with toppings, and deep fried New Mexican chilies with cheese and Ranchero sauce, with Anasazi beans, and seasoned rice on the side. We ate till we were popping, used the potty, walked the dog, got gas, and then ventured down the roadway once more.
It wasn’t long before we found ourselves on the very road that Forrest Gump was walking when he decided he was getting pretty tired and wanted to go home now. Like the mob that was following Forrest, our little crew were the only inhabitants on that long long road. I wanted to stop and stand in the middle of it and take that picture from that very spot, but kept putting it off, feeling sort-of silly about it, until I finally came to my senses, before the moment had completely passed me by. I swirved to the side of the road and stopped the car, tossed the camera in hubby’s lap, and ran out in the road for the photo. He thought I was nuts but humored me.
After that the scenery took a serious downturn. On the map it calls that area “the painted desert” but in reality it was like the surface of the moon. Perhaps we needed to detour off the beaten path to appreciate the beauty, because all we saw was desolate Indian reservation? Flat. Dirty. Barren. With occasional sparse sage brush, and little else. Ramshackle houses with the screen doors hanging by a hinge, sheets hanging in the windows, and a dozen broken down cars propped on blocks around them. Strange little mud dome things here and there sitting out in the landscape all by themselves.
We stopped for gas and a potty break at a Shell station somewhere in that Painted Desert and decided this might be the ugliest stretch of land we’ve ever seen. Figures this is where our government would decide to place the natives. It’s a hopeless land not fit for life. I hoped for all of them that it was just ugly along the highway and that they had something nicer hidden as you get off the beaten path. I hoped for all of them to have the opportunity for a better life than what this looked like to me.
Venturing onward we finally arrived at the edge of the Grand Canyon. I am speechless to try and describe the utter awe that one feels to stand on that edge and take in with your own eyes that amazing view. You think if you’ve seen it in pictures, you’ve seen it – but I’m here to tell you that you can’t possibly begin to comprehend the grandiose, the majesty, the gloriousness, the insides-popping experience that it is to actually see it in the flesh. It just takes your breath away. It is this enormous, wonderful, colorful, sculpted, magnificent, awe-inspiring masterpiece. It leaves you truly without words. A goosebumps moment if there ever was one.
Here we were not even to the heart of the thing and we could barely tear ourselves away to drive further. Hardly a quarter of a mile down the road and we were stopped again, stopped to walk out and gaze at it and the setting sun, and the thunderstorms across the way on a flat land that stretched to eternity, and this mighty cavern between here and there, and a winding river below. I’ll tell you what – with tears streaming down my face – I am so grateful to Teddy Roosevelt for creating the National Park system. I’m so so so grateful that these breath-taking vistas were saved for us all to see and experience. It is a great bucket-list thing for me to get to see every one of them, from border to border and sea to shining sea.
We finally made it to the IMAX to get our car pass and check in for our reservation:
Mather Campground, south rim – reservation # 388-7892
customer ID 1894879 $15 camp fee prepaid, $20 park fee
We followed the map they gave us and drove down a very muddy road to find our camp spot. We were fully prepared for the ninety to a hundred degree weather the website predicted for this time of year here, and a little taken aback by the overcast, drizzly, and chilly 65 degrees that it actually turned out to be this afternoon/evening. And as we drove along, checking the post marker’s numbers, there it was, our little campspot: a rocky, tree debri covered depression along the side of the road, shadowed by pine trees and fully entrenched with rainwater. Not exactly a tent-camper’s paradise. We all looked at it like a turd in a punchbowl; still all-in, no matter, what and trying to be excited about it.
As we sat in the car planning our strategy for setting up camp, our paterfamilias suggested we drive down the road and see if there might be a room available. God bless him. YESSSS!!! Oh please God. Of course, if we couldn’t find one at least we had this as a back-up, and could even sleep in the car if we absolutely had to, but oh please, please, please, let there be a room, a room with a dry bed and a hot, private shower.
By the grace of God, there was a room, Glory hallelujah! …in Valle, in July, which even allowed pets. A decent, clean room, that wasn’t outrageously priced. Even better, this place had a pool, and it was warmer than under those trees back at the canyon! Oh soooo blessed were we! We were singing. We were dancing. We were happy campers – uh, no we weren’t! We were happy lodgers. Ha!
The kids ran in and pounced on the beds immediately, flipped on the TV, and then scrambled into their suits and ran to check out the pool with their dad. I wrote in my journal and then fell asleep while dog-sitting. I was sooooo exhausted I didn’t even want go with them to supper when they came back from the pool. They ended up going and eating without me, and then came back, hit the showers, and turned in their own selves. MMmmmm…dry, warm, lovely, wonderful beds. Goodnight Irene! We all slept like the dead.
**** Please hit the FOLLOW or SUBSCRIBE button so you don’t miss the next chapter of our exciting adventure. And if you’ve stumbled into this story in the middle find the links to the right for the intro and previous day of our car camping vacation. Happy trails, y’all.