Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Natural Bridges – Trip Day: 8

Sipapu Bridge
Originally uploaded by billread.
This day had to be one of my favorites. This was a day where I wanted to be cut loose with the boys for about 4 hours. The bridges were all very cool, but exploring around them was the best part.

The first picture, of Owachomo Bridge, was actually the last bridge we saw. We were able to hike down underneath this bridge to check it out. The riverbed was incredible. The scarring and erosion evident was beautiful. I ran around from one area to the next having a blast. We got right down to the standing water at the bottom of the riverbed. I can only imagine what it must be like to see the water crashing through there after a downpour.

The second picture is from the first bridge. The boys and I took a 1.2 mile hike down into the ravine to get a look at the other side. The bridge was nice, but the ravine was cooler. The cliff walls came straight down, then tucked under just above the wide ledge we were walking along. It felt like we were way out in some alien country. We wanted to run and jump and climb everything. This is what boys are made for. When the boys are a bit older, about the time Heyward is stronger than me, we'll have to go back to camp-out and hike the canyons.

Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings – Trip Day: 7

Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings
Originally uploaded by billread.
Mesa Verde was our next stop. This series of cliff dwellings is about 1,400 years old.

Most of the dwellings are hanging on the sides of deep canyons. The canyons are so deep that my camera usually failed to take them in from top to bottom—making it hard to see how high they really are. There were also a few dwellings on the tops of the canyons, and some ceremonial buildings.

We got to explore only about 1/3 of the park. We didn't want to do anything that required a lot of walking so that mom and Virginia didn't get left behind too often. All-in-all we put in about 2 hours worth of sightseeing, and about 4 hours of driving. On the way home we stopped at a steakhouse for dinner. I had to be careful about eating too much so I could stay awake on the ride home.

Road to Monticello – Trip Day: 6

Wukoki Pueblo
Originally uploaded by billread.

Along the Roadside
Originally uploaded by billread.
We had no plans for the drive up to Monticello, UT. We knew it would be about 6 hours, and wanted to take a stop or two in along the way.

Right outside Flagstaff, we came upon Sunset Crater Volcano National Park. The park contained the Wukoki and Wupatki pueblos and a not-so-ancient volcano. We spent way too much time in the park, touring both pueblos and generally acting like startled monkeys, stopping to look at everything.

After that we headed north and immediately ran in to the edge of the Painted Desert. We stopped and got out to take pictures. Jane and mom made us swear to keep the stops down to a minimum after that. Which we did, sort of. The outcroppings of rock throughout this area of Utah are nothing short of astonishing to us lowcountry folk.

We tried to go in to the Navajo National Monument, but realizing how late in the day it was, we turned back. It was a shame, too, because had we not spent so much time stopping earlier in the day, Navajo would have been a much more spectacular place to see.

Take a Break – Trip Day: 5

Take a Break
Originally uploaded by billread.
Knowing we had an 8 hour drive the next day up to Monticello, UT, we took a break from sightseeing. Dad and I went on an unsuccessful quest for camera lenses, while mom hung out at the hotel and Jane took the kids to a park to play. After we all returned, I cut Jane and mom loose to shop in Flagstaff while I took the kids swimming at the hotel pool.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Grand Canyon – Trip Day: 4

Grand Canyon
Grand Scale
Originally uploaded by billread.
Grand Canyon
Zoomed In
Originally uploaded by billread.
Grand Canyon
Zoomed More
Originally uploaded by billread.
Grand Canyon
Zoomed Full
Originally uploaded by billread.
On day four we drove up to the Grand Canyon and took a bus ride along the South Rim. It was our first day of dealing with the challenges of heat and elevation. Before the bus ride, Jane was feeling woozy. The bus driver explained to us the dangers of drinking only water, and suggested we carry Gatorade or similar. He escorted Jane over to the salad bar at the lodge and grabbed a bunch of saltines for her. The salt sorted her out, and her day was much better after that.

The bus ride was a good way to get better views of the canyon, and our driver gave us a humorous running narrative of the route. The tour made me want to get a helicopter and fly all around the canyon, and stop and explore every crevasse. We had a full day, though, and enough photo taking of the canyon to satisfy us for a while.

That afternoon we went to a restaurant at the South Rim Village. Dad and I went out to take pictures of the sunset. The haze was disappointing, and the sunsets didn't turn out very well. But while we were out there we got to see several California Condors coming in to roost for the night. I didn't get any decent photos, but got one video clip of a male landing.

On the drive back that night, we picked a spot along the road well removed from any city and got out of the car. The night sky was just amazing. You have no idea how many stars there are if you live near a city. Charleston has so much light pollution and humidity that you can see only about 1/10 of the stars we saw out that night. We saw several shooting stars while standing there, and all of us were in awe.

Monday, June 27, 2005

The Grand Canyon – Trip Day: 3

The Grand Canyon
Originally uploaded by billread.
It is not possible to depict in words or pictures the scale of the Grand Canyon. In fact, it is impossible to take it all in even when standing on its edge. At 18 miles across and a mile deep, distance becomes irrelevant as one gazes across and notices the curvature of the earth on the opposite side.

We took the Grand Canyon Railway from Williams, AZ. Even though we didn't get to ride on the train with the steam locomotive, I got a great video of it pulling away from the station. The trip was fun, but a bit too long to keep the kids entertained the whole time. We met a cowboy sheriff, and got sung to by another cowboy. After two hours, we arrived at South Rim Village, where we had about 3 hours to look around.

Staying near the main area of the village, we wandered along the rim, taking it all in. Nanny and Pop-Pop took the boys over to watch an Indian dance nearby. We snapped a family picture at the rim, then grabbed lunch in one of the restaurants— which proved to be more upscale than I expected at a national monument. After lunch we strolled along the rim some more. Virginia busied herself watching several lady-bugs which she found along the wall.

The ride home was punctuated by a train robbery, complete with riders on horseback shooting (blanks) at (near) the train. We stopped to let them on. The robbers worked their way through the cars, looking for tips and talking trash to the kids. The sheriff came through a little while later, giving them plenty of time to make their way to the end of the train. He gave a show for the camcorder, twirling his gun and ending with "Welcome to the Wild West." I used that as the beginning of a DVD of our trip.

Back in Wilson we went to a restaurant boasting the largest selection of pies in the state. While we waited for our food, a street show began outside. It was a skit based on a local legend. They told it two ways: the legend, and the real story. The legend went along the lines of a beau saving a lady from two drunk, bad, cowhands. The real story involved a local hussy whose boyfriend ended up deciding that she was too much trouble, but the cowboys didn't want to take her either.

The food was OK, being mostly what you'd expect from a small town restaurant. But the pies were worth the wait. The compulsive plate cleaner that I am, I left stuffed, worried about staying awake on the night drive home.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Oak Creek Canyon – Trip Day: 2

Oak Creek Canyon
Originally uploaded by billread.
We were too tired on the first day for everyone to get a good look around Sedona. So on day 2 we backtracked through Oak Creek Canyon to get a better look around. We stopped at a National Park overlook, but the views just weren't very satisfying.

Dad and I wandered around with the kids while Mom and Jane checked out the native jewelry. Later we regretted not buying more because we never saw another similar lineup of native jewelry offerings.

As we drove on toward Sedona, the views became much more satisfactory. We stopped several times along the way— much to the chagrin of Jane and Mom who weren't as interested in photo ops as Dad and me.

At one point we saw a structure that intrigued us. We stopped and I climbed down into a canyon to get a better look. Instead of a better look, I found a great little creek. It would have been a fine place for a picnic, except that you had to climb down to get to it— something you can't do with a 3-year-old, and a 73-year-old, in tow.

We finally made our way into the town of Sedona around 2pm. After finding a mexican restaurant on the main street, we had a late lunch. Then we checked out the shops across the street.

On our way back home we stopped again along the prettiest part of Oak Creek Canyon, where I took this shot. There were some trails that would have been great for the boys to explore. One went all the way down to a solid rock bank on one side of the river. But we didn't want to push it, or make anyone wait in the car, so we headed for the hotel.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

View from Chapel of the Holy Cross – Trip Day: 1

I took this picture near the end of our first day of our trip. I was standing in the upper parking area of the chapel.

By this time it had been a loooong day. We began at 4am in Charleston. Jane and I had dressed the kids before putting them to bed— so we could let them sleep as long as possible. After meeting up with Mom and Dad, we got to the airport at a little before 5am.

It was the first airplane flight for Heyward, Zander and Virginia. When traveling with the kids, for the most part, Jane deals with the kids, and I deal with the stuff. It's a pretty good deal— for me. Jane gets understandably stressed out as the kids tend to be incessant with whatever their demands may be.

In Atlanta I bought a big sticky mess of cinnamon buns just to tempt fate (sugar rush for the kids just before the long flight). We touched down in Phoenix, AZ, about 9:30am local time. It took a while in the airport to pick up the minivan.

The first thing everybody noticed when we stepped outside was how hot it felt. It was only later that we realized that, while it truly felt hot, you didn't get hot. What they say about dry-heat is really true. The arid air allows your body to cool much more efficiently than it does here in Charleston's humidity. Of course, dehydration is a greater danger because you lose moisture without every really perspiring (it evaporates so quickly).

The minivan was great— a Ford Freestar. We were able to fit all seven of us, plus our luggage, etc., inside without resorting to a car-top carrier. We immediately got lost.

Our first outing was to a restaurant in Phoenix, Marie Callender's, for our first real meal of the day. From there we took off for Flagstaff, hoping that the sites we wanted to see would not be far off the road.

The drive through Arizona at first was fairly flat, with classic saquaro cactus littering the landscape. As we climbed we began to notice damage from wild fires, and the tall cactus thinned out and finally vanished. Then we began to see outcroppings of rock, and the terrain became more hilly.

The first sightseeing stop was Castle Montezuma — neither a castle, nor a place Montezuma ever visited. We were all a bit shell-shocked, and so didn't get much out of it. It is a very small, single, cliff-dwelling. The kids wondered what the point was. We moved on quickly.

The next stop was in the valley near Sedona— the opposite side of the structures you see in this photo. We stopped along the route to Sedona a few times to take pictures.

Our final stop was at the Chapel of the Holy Cross. The chapel was designed by a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, and is quite impressive both in it's appearance and location. We didn't stay very long, wanting to get to the hotel and get settled in as quickly as possible.