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Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

More favorite photos I’ve taken over the years.

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Several decades ago, I met a man in Buford, Georgia, born and raised there, who had never been to Atlanta. Atlanta is a mere 35 miles from Buford via Interstate 85.

In fairness, he avoided Atlanta because he considered it an evil place full of crime and villainy.

But in addition, he had never set foot out of Georgia. He was in his 40s, an auto mechanic, married with kids. He was content and saw nothing unusual about his situation.

I, on the other hand, found it mind-boggling. Having been to, and lived in, so many different places in my life, I simply was astounded.

When I was a kid, my dad was in the Air Force, and we moved often. Very often. Growing up, I lived in Macon, Jacksonville, Savannah, Japan, Virginia, Florida, France, and Germany, in that order.

During our two years in Japan, we traveled the islands regularly. During our three years in Europe, we visited Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, England, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.

When we returned to the US in 1960, I spent the next four years at the University of Georgia in Athens. It was the longest I’d lived in one place in my life.

On the About Mr. Write page on this blog, I describe myself as a frequent road-tripper. I mean that literally.

Since 1992, when I finally began documenting my travels, I have taken 134 multiple-day trips somewhere around the country. That’s about four trips annually. In other words, for the last 30 years, I’ve hit the road every three months.

I have visited every state in the US except Alaska. Especially after my divorce, I made it a point to seek out new places, just to see, explore, and experience.

As you may know, I have a special affinity for the Southwest, and Grand Canyon is my go-to vacation spot. As I am quick to note, I’ve been to Grand Canyon 28 times in the last 28 years.

I’ve probably driven every paved road in Arizona, New Mexico, and the southern halves of Utah and Colorado.

At some point, I began taking trips to fill in the blanks, going to New England, the Great Lakes region, the Pacific Northwest, the Gulf coast, the Appalachians, Montana, and so on.

Lately, COVID has cramped my style a bit. Age and arthritis have slowed me down, too. I don’t think my traveling days are over quite yet, but when they are, I’ll be content because of the memories.

Stored in my head are decades of superlative memories, many of them documented by the thousands of transparencies, prints, and digital images I’ve amassed — and which, I assure you, are carefully preserved and organized.

Like all of us, I am a walking memory vault of my unique experiences.

I am blessed to be a son, brother, nephew, cousin, father, and grandfather. Family memories will mean the most, always. But the memories of my travels and adventures on the road are in a special category.

I thank God I’m not the Buford mechanic.

Recently, on a travel website, I read an article entitled, “The 16 Most Beautiful Places in the US.”

Listed were Acadia, Antelope Canyon, Badlands, Everglades, Florida Keys, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Great Smoky Mountains, Horseshoe Bend, Mammoth Cave, Monument Valley, Niagara Falls, Shoshone Falls, White Sands, Yellowstone, and Zion.

A fine selection. But they should have made it 17 and included Yosemite. For the record, I’ve visited all 17.

Okay, that said, I am compelled to include some photos…


The trail to the top of Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park, Utah, follows that ridge.

A black bear and her cub, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia.
In the village of Supai in Havasu Canyon, Arizona, few dogs are house pets. Most live free-range and are cared for informally by the community.

The French Quarter, New Orleans.

A boy swimming nose to nose with a manatee in the city of Crystal River, Florida. Up to 1,000 manatees winter there because the water in the bay is warmer than the Gulf.

A nice Monet in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.
A row of seastacks on the Pacific coast.

Native Americans sell their art daily at the Palace of the Governors, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Hermit Rapid on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon. When the sediment levels from upstream tributaries are low, the water is emerald green.

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The Confluence

It’s June 1994, and I’m on my first-ever raft trip down the Colorado River through Grand Canyon. On the morning of the second day of the trip, we arrive at the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers. In contrast to the green water of the Colorado, the water of the Little C is a beautiful deep aquamarine, due to dissolved limestone and travertine.

The trip leaders take the passengers upstream along the north bank of the Little C to a point above a shallow set of rapids. Curiously, we are told to put on our life jackets upside down — to wear them like pants so the padding protects our butts. Just do it, the guides say.

We enter the river and form a chain, single file, 15 people long, each of us holding the legs of the person behind us. The guides steer the chain into the current, and we embark on an exhilarating 60-second ride back downstream to the confluence.

Over the next hour, we reform the chain and ride the Little C a dozen times, whooping and hollering like children. The experience is magical.

And I think to myself, this is the life.

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Along the Delaware Shore

It’s a sunny spring day in 2010, and I’m on a road trip to New England in my Toyota MR2 Spyder convertible, a recent retirement gift to myself. I’ve just stopped somewhere along the Delaware shore where a man has erected a canopy and is cooking shrimp in a large black kettle.

Having made my purchase and staked out a spot on a nearby dock, I watch as the seagulls play overhead and the shrimp boats go about their business on Delaware Bay. Beside me are a cold bottle of beer, a pint of freshly-steamed shrimp, and a cup of tartar sauce.

I take a sip of my beer, select a shrimp to peel, and think to myself, this is the life.

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Final report on my recent RV trip to the Southwest.

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Mansfield, Louisiana

Half the trip from Georgia to Arizona is crossing Texas, which takes a good two days. On April 5, returning eastbound, I finally left Texas behind and stopped for the night in Mansfield, a forgettable little town in the middle of Louisiana. As usual, no campgrounds were nearby, but Mansfield had a Super 8.

Super 8 is owned by Wyndham now, so the chain is a bit nicer these days. The place actually was clean and comfortable.

After a decent supper at a Chinese place across the street, I retired to my room to watch a DVD movie on my laptop.

At some point, I opened the nightstand drawer and took out the phone book, the idea being to find a map and get oriented.

As I flipped through the pages of the phone book, a small piece of paper fell out and fluttered to the floor. The notepad-size sheet had a Super 8 logo at the top and was covered with writing in longhand. I picked it up and read it.

It was a heart-breaking message written by someone in great emotional distress. And it was dated five years ago. Chances are, it had remained undetected in the phone book until I found it.

This is what the person wrote:

———

Tuesday

July 25, 2016

The Pain???????

Why do I always get hurt. I try and try to do my best. People just [want] me to do things for them

Lord I’m tired I cant keep Putting myself Down like dis Im hurting and hurting I feel like Im going to hurt myself if I Dont get sum help.

———

The slang usage — “like dis” and “get sum help” — suggests that the writer was young. The rest is a mystery.

The incident was especially distressing because, frankly, I can’t relate to inner pain and turmoil on this scale.

The fact is, I’ve been fortunate. I’m a stable, grounded person. Life is good. Other than being in my waning years and having to put up with arthritis and other annoyances, I have no real complaints.

Not so for the anonymous note-writer who stayed in room 104 of the Mansfield Super 8 in 2016.

I hope he or she is in a better place today.

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More about my recent RV trip to the Southwest.

———

Abilene, Texas

Chili’s Grill & Bar is not one of my favorite eateries. In fact, until the first week in April, I hadn’t eaten at a Chili’s in a good 10 years. But it was getting late, and fatigue and circumstances led me to pull into the parking lot of the Chili’s in Abilene.

I grabbed a face mask, locked up the RV, and headed toward the entrance. Visions of quesadillas and burritos danced in my head.

As I approached the front door, a derelict lurched past me, mumbling to himself.

Derelict is the word that came immediately to mind when I saw him. He was probably in his 60s, rail-thin, with long, unruly white hair and a long, unruly white beard. He was clutching three or four white plastic bags that bulged with unknown possessions.

His clothes and shoes were shabby, and he wore neither hat nor socks. He looked like Gandalf, if Gandalf were dressed in rags, lurching, and mumbling.

Clearly, the old man occupied a world of his own. He didn’t look up, even though I had to step aside to let him pass.

My conclusion: he probably was mentally ill and homeless. I wondered how he survived from day to day.

Inside, perusing the menu, I abandoned thoughts of Mexican food and chose the Smokehouse Combo, featuring pulled pork BBQ, beef ribs, and corn on the cob. To be honest, every item on the plate turned out to be bland and disappointing. Which is why I am not a Chili’s person.

About halfway through the meal, a waitress appeared at a booth near me and ushered in — you guessed it — the derelict.

The old guy struggled to maneuver his plastic bags onto the table in front of him. He was a sad study in fumbling and wasted motion.

Moments later, the waitress appeared again and delivered a steaming cup of coffee. For the first time, the old man sat quietly and sipped his coffee.

Before long, he got up, collected his belongings, and shuffled off toward the men’s room. Five minutes later, he returned to the booth, stashed his stuff, and sat down again to sip his coffee.

Then the waitress returned and said something to him. The man immediately stood up and began collected his bags, this time with more urgency.

At that moment, my waiter walked by, and I flagged him down. “Are you throwing the old guy out?” I asked.

“Not at all,” the waiter told me. “He said he has to leave — has someplace he needs to be immediately.”

“Look,” I said, “Get the poor guy a hamburger or something. I’ll pay for it.”

“Oh, we already collected money and offered to buy his supper. But he insists he can’t stay.”

Meanwhile, the man had gathered his stuff and was making his way to the front door.

My original thoughts returned: the poor fellow no doubt was mentally ill and maybe homeless. I couldn’t imagine how he survives from day to day.

Dressed in rags, lurching, and mumbling.

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More about my recent RV trip to the Southwest.

———

Flagstaff, Arizona

I’ve rarely had vehicle problems on the road, but, well, life is like a box of chocolates.

The last time I drove west in the RV was in September 2019. On that trip, before heading east again, I had the RV checked out at the Pep Boys in Flagstaff. They changed the oil, looked for problems, and pronounced it good to go.

This spring, I stopped at Pep Boys again — but not for a routine once-over. Somewhere back in Texas, I discovered that I had no headlights or tail lights. The turn signals and brake lights worked, but that was it.

The mechanic found a burned-out headlight switch, replaced it, declared my battery on its last legs, replaced it, checked for other issues, and sent me on my way.

That was the morning of March 31. The rest of that day was spent as described in my previous post: driving to Tusayan, finding a massive traffic jam courtesy of the spring-break hordes, and retreating to Flagstaff.

I found a motel, proceeded to Beaver Street Brewery for supper (three-sausage pizza with mushrooms and caramelized onions, plus two pints of their very excellent Midnight Black IPA), and slept soundly.

The next morning, I was on the road early, eastbound on I-40. I planned to pick up I-25 south and drive down the Rio Grand Valley to Hatch, the “chile capital of the world.”

Over the next couple of hours, cruising at 75, I began to notice that the engine occasionally was skipping. Running slightly and uncharacteristically rough. It wasn’t extreme, but it was noticeable.

I had thoughts of the engine dying and leaving me stranded in the desert 50 miles from the nearest town.

But the engine didn’t die. I drove on with my fingers crossed.

Then, about 40 miles west of Gallup, my check engine light came on.

Oh, hell.

Stopping made no sense. I needed to reach Gallup and find a mechanic. Gallup probably had a Pep Boys, right?

So I slowed to 65 mph and drove on to Gallup, the check-engine light shining brightly, the engine still ominously sputtering every few seconds. On the way, I Googled Pep Boys, and the nearest shop was, thank God, at the first Gallup exit.

The store manager said he would take a look when time permitted, although repairs might take a day or so. I asked if any motels were within walking distance.

He pointed across the street to a handsome SpringHill Suites. “Newest in town,” he said.

Thus, instead of being marooned in the desert with a blown engine, I checked into a SpringHill Suites and took a nap while Pep Boys tended to my RV.

At about 3:00 pm, the Pep Boys manager called. He said the spark plug wiring harness was old, brittle, and in the process of self-destructing. They replaced the harness, and all was well again.

The next morning, I was on the road to Hatch and points east. That afternoon, I picked up a non-Interstate route that took me through a succession of smaller cities and towns and avoided all that nasty Interstate truck traffic.

The good news: the RV ran smooth as silk, all the way home. The bad news: between the repairs, the motels, and the price of gas, my wallet took a serious hit.

The view from behind the wheel. In springtime, the bugs are as troublesome as the college students.

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I just got back from a road trip to the Southwest in my RV. It was my first time out of Georgia in over a year.

It felt good to get away, see the outside world, and have some new experiences. But the trip was something of a mixed bag.

For one thing, COVID restrictions are in effect to some degree everywhere. Most businesses, if they are open, limit occupancy and require masks. In New Mexico, restaurants wisely record your name and phone number, in case the virus is later detected and they need to contact you.

For another thing, RV camping was a constant problem. Many private campgrounds were closed, and the rest were full. My personal choice, state park campgrounds, were either closed or operating under new rules — such as requiring reservations or only serving state residents. Most nights, I had no choice but to check into a motel.

Also, my RV had mechanical troubles that required two stops for repairs. More about that later.

Let me begin by describing how, to my dismay, I was unable to visit Grand Canyon…

———

Tusayan, Arizona

On March 31, I learned that spring break is a thing at Grand Canyon National Park.

Silly me, I always thought spring break happened at the beaches in Florida and California and wherever. I had no idea that the south rim of Grand Canyon also gets swarmed each spring by hedonistic college students. Vast mobs of them.

I saw them in person when I arrived in Tusayan, a resort town near the south entrance to Grand Canyon National Park. Before me, northbound traffic on Arizona Route 64 was at a literal standstill.

I was stunned. Was it a traffic accident? A fuel spill? A helicopter crash?

The traffic jam was three lanes wide. It continued north through Tusayan, over a distant hill, and out of sight. I knew from previous trips that Route 64 becomes a two-lane highway north of town, and the Park entrance is two miles away.

Two miles of traffic that appeared to be at a dead stop.

Before I got trapped in the jam, I turned around and headed back south. I stopped at the airport to ask what the bloody hell was going on.

The woman at the counter rolled her eyes and replied that spring break was in progress. My wait time to get into the Park, she said, would be about three hours.

I turned around and drove back to Flagstaff.

The thing is, I made the trip to Arizona specifically to visit Grand Canyon. Grand Canyon, you see, is my favorite place anywhere.

But this trip, I was traveling without reservations. Clearly, no lodging or camping would be available at South Rim Village or in Tusayan. And frankly, with the Park overflowing with spring-breakers, I couldn’t imagine having a very pleasant visit anyway.

Nor did I have options. The North Rim was still closed for the winter. The east entrance near Cameron had been closed for months because of a surge in COVID cases on the Navajo reservation.

Thus, sadly, my eagerly anticipated visit to Grand Canyon — it would have been my 28th — didn’t happen.

But it will. I just made reservations at Bright Angel Lodge for early September.


Spring-breakers queued up to enter Grand Canyon National Park on March 28.

Masks and social distancing not much in evidence at the overlook behind Bright Angel Lodge.

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A Fine Line

Flagstaff, Arizona, began as a railroad town, founded in 1876 as a distribution center for the timber industry. The railroad still has a pervasive influence on the city today.

How pervasive? Well, mammoth freight trains rumble through town about 100 times a day. That pervasive.

U.S. Route 66 is one of the main highways through the city, bisecting Flagstaff from east to west. Roughly paralleling it are the tracks of the BNSF Railway. The city has a few overpasses and one underpass, but most of the railroad crossings are the old-fashioned kind with crossing gates.

FL-1

In short, much of Flagstaff is at the mercy of the trains. And the problem is at its worst in the downtown district, which has significant vehicular and foot traffic from visitors, residents, and students from Northern Arizona University, which is close to downtown.

The city’s relationship with BNSF has been prickly for years. Not only are the trains a constant disruption, but deaths occur regularly from accidents (inattention, drugs, alcohol) and suicides.

A few years ago, the city went to court and forced BNSF to slow the trains down, improve the crossings, and stop blowing their horns for the hell of it. The locals were furious at being startled awake multiple times overnight, plus having to endure the horns all day.

Part of me finds the situation amusing. But, noise and inconvenience aside, a moving train is a truly sobering thing. There is a fine line between continuing your day and being dead.

That lesson was driven home when I was in Flagstaff on vacation in September. Specifically, along with several dozen other people, I had an alarming close call with a passing freight train. The memory of it still gives me the willies.

To get you oriented, here is a map of the downtown area that I lifted from the city website.

FL-2

The main business district is north of the railroad and Route 66. The area south of the tracks is a mixture of retail and residential.

I should add that, inside the city limits, the BNSF tracks are double. Eastbound trains use the south tracks, westbound trains use the north tracks. Like a two-lane highway.

The close call happened at the Beaver Street railroad crossing. Beaver Street is one-way going south. This is the crossing looking north.

FL-3

The day it happened, I had just returned from shopping downtown. When I reached the tracks, a westbound freight was in the process of passing. The crossing arms were down, holding back the vehicles. Waiting with me at the northwest corner were six or eight pedestrians. A dozen more were across the street on the northeast corner.

Later that day, I took this photo, looking west from the same spot. The westbound freight had been on the right set of tracks, blocking the view of the eastbound tracks on the left.

FL-4

After the westbound train passed, the crossing arms went up, and the cars and pedestrians started south across the tracks. At the same time, pedestrians on the south side of the tracks proceeded toward us.

Suddenly, the warning bells went off again. The crossing arms came down.

I looked to my right and saw another train, this one eastbound, almost upon us. The first train had hidden it until the last second.

Train #2 was going faster than the westbound freight. The engineer leaned on his horn. Most of the pedestrians, me included, were caught by surprise and were a bit disoriented.

Later, I took this photo of another eastbound train. This is what I saw bearing down on us.

FL-5

In the next five seconds, a lot happened. The first few vehicles proceeded across the tracks, maybe unaware of the oncoming train. The cars behind them were stopped by the crossing arms.

But among the pedestrians, pandemonium ensued. People screamed, shouted, and scattered in panic.

I was halfway across the tracks when I spotted the oncoming train. I ran forward toward the people coming in my direction, waving my arms and yelling for them to get back.

Most stopped, but one young couple looked at me funny and continued forward. “No! No!” I yelled. “Train coming! Another one!” They retreated.

With a blast of wind and noise, the train shot past. People milled around, breathless, rattled.

Like all the freight trains, it was a long one. After it was gone, I looked around the crossing. No casualties.

The excitement was over, and everyone disbursed. I walked across the street to Altitudes Bar & Grill to have lunch and a well-earned beer.

The waitress was friendly and chatty, and I told her what had happened. She was a native. The subject was close to her heart.

She sat down opposite me in the booth and gave me a detailed report on the city’s battles with BNSF. She also told me about some of the more memorable deaths — a gruesome litany of horrific accidents and suicides.

“Honey,” she said, “there ain’t no sugar-coating it. Death by train is always messy.”

FL-6

 

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I just got back from a satisfying road trip to the Southwest in my RV. I was on the road for 17 days, had good weather, no problems to speak of.

I went to Roswell, Hatch, and Gallup, New Mexico. Also Flagstaff, Grand Canyon, Tuba City, Lees Ferry, and Page, Arizona.

I largely avoided the Interstates, which allowed me to pass through countless cites and towns that are their own little worlds.

As always, I came home with a nice batch of memories. To my surprise, one that stands out is not an experience, but an article I read in a promotional publication at Grand Canyon. It amounts to a fluff piece in a brochure for tourists, but it’s nicely done.

Maybe it clicked with me because I’ve been to Grand Canyon so often (this was my 27th trip), and I’m so familiar with the place, physically and operationally. When the writer describes a coyote at Lipan Point or the shuttle bus to the South Kaibab Trailhead, I have mental pictures.

The article is presented as the “untold story” of anonymous park employees and volunteers, but, inevitably, it also includes the experiences of visitors.

For the record, I forgive them for liberally taking artistic license — basically, making up hokey stuff to advance the story — because it gets the job done.

Here’s the article.

———

A Day in the Life of Grand Canyon National Park

(From “100 Years, One Million Lives, One Grand Canyon,” published by Grand Canyon National Park and Grand Canyon Conservancy)

Much has been written about the beauty, geology, and history of Grand Canyon. But the canyon does have an untold story — the tales of the people who live and work there.

For a national park as immense and remote at Grand Canyon to operate smoothly, it requires an army of dedicated employees and volunteers.

They are on hand daily doing their jobs, and that simple act allows millions of visitors each year to experience one of the best of America’s natural crown jewels.

12:01 AM — A shooting star streaks across the sky, catching the eye of a coyote near Lipan Point. No one knows whether she made a wish.

Day-1

1:22 AM — A river guide assisting with a science trip wakes up and pushes the rafts farther out into the Colorado River because the water drops after the daily release from Glen Canyon Dam.

2:06 AM — Search and Rescue Dispatch takes a call from a distressed hiker on the South Kaibab Trail. Staff immediately respond to aid the struggling hiker.

2:18 AM — A Delaware North (note: a park concessionaire) plumber is roused from sleep when he is called out to respond to a broken toilet in a Yavapai Lodge guest room.

3:06 AM — Xanterra (note: also a concessionaire) mule packers arrive at work to begin grooming mules and packing supplies for Phantom Ranch.

4:00 AM — The Hiker’s Express shuttle leaves Bright Angel Lodge on its way to South Kaibab Trailhead.

5:34 AM — An excited Boy Scout troop starts a backpacking hike down Bright Angel Trail.

5:58 AM — Staff at Canyon Village Deli begin assembling breakfast burritos and bagel sandwiches.

6:03 AM — Shades of soft purple melt away, and the canyon’s terraced formations seem to glow as the first rays of light caress ancient stone. Dawn’s color wheel turns, saturating the sky with pink, gold, and bronze hues so astounding they do not yet have a name. The sun has risen at Grand Canyon.

6:08 AM — Bright Angel Bicycles & Café serves up the first cappuccinos and cinnamon rolls to visitors who were up early to witness the sunrise.

6:47 AM — Custodial staff finishes cleaning the restrooms at Yavapai Geology Museum.

7:38 AM — An Italian father wakes his sleepy son and carries him to the window of their North Rim cabin so the boy can see deer grazing just outside.

8:00 AM — Grand Canyon Visitor Center opens for the day.

9:00 AM — Morning briefing begins for the park’s emergency services personnel.

9:03 AM — Trail crew pushes wheelbarrows of dirt down South Kaibab Trail for maintenance work.

9:17 AM — At Desert View Watchtower, a Hopi painter and a Navajo silversmith work on their art and answer questions as part of the Desert View cultural demonstrator series.

Day-2

9:21 AM — An Oregon family pedals along Hermit Road after being carefully outfitted with bikes and helmets from Bright Angel Bicycles.

9:30 AM — Volunteer campground hosts begin rounds to ensure visitors are checked out and campfires are extinguished.

9:31 AM — An El Tovar Hotel bartender starts the three-hour preparations for a busy day and evening ahead, full of thirsty Grand Canyon guests.

10:04 AM — A visitor from Minnesota takes photos of her family as they ride mules to Phantom Ranch. She cannot remember the last time she’s seen her moody teenager wearing such a broad smile.

10:37 AM — Grand Canyon Conservancy Field Institute staff lead a group of new backpackers down Bright Angel Trail to Indian Garden.

11:01 AM — Law enforcement rangers respond to people feeding squirrels near Bright Angel Lodge. They provide first aid for a bitten hand and instruct the visitor to get rabies shots as a precaution.

Day-3

Day-4

11:16 AM — In Desert View Watchtower, a young woman from Canada chats with Grand Canyon Conservancy staff. Amazed to discover the building and many other park structures were designed by Mary Colter, she purchases a book to learn more about the pioneering architect.

12:01 PM — A philanthropy manager from Grand Canyon Conservancy meets with prospective donors over lunch to discuss endowing the park’s trail maintenance program.

12:22 PM — While strolling along the Rim Trail, a Swedish couple stops to enjoy the playful cawing of a raven seemingly saying, “Come fly with me.”

12:41 PM — Fee collection staff at South Rim Entrance Station competes to see who can move vehicles through their lane the fastest.

1:13 PM — A Canyon Trail Rides mule packer leads visitors on a ride through the North Rim’s lush forests to Uncle Jim Point.

1:26 PM — Representatives from the park’s Traditionally Associated Tribes meet with park staff to give input on a new vision for the Desert View area that will include more tribal participation.

1:30 PM — A volunteer on summer break from college begins a guided tour of Tusayan Ruin.

1:43 PM — Custodial staff restocks Grand Canyon Visitor Center bathrooms with a pallet (48 cases) of toilet paper, which will last one week.

2:11 PM — Diners finishing a delicious meal on the patio of Grand Canyon Lodge strike up a conversation with the busboy, only to discover they once lived in the same small Idaho town.

2:38 PM — Wildlife staff work to move elk away from human drinking-water sources at South Kaibab Trailhead.

3:07 PM — Park rangers and emergency medical technicians administer CPR to revive a visitor who collapsed in the Market Plaza parking lot.

3:25 PM — A shaft of sunlight pierces the cloud cover, bathing Brahma Temple in a satiny glow while the surrounding formations are dappled by shadows. An Indiana man watches and wonders whether it is the single most beautiful sight he has ever seen.

3:36 PM — A couple from Missouri celebrate their 34th wedding anniversary sitting on the rim, eating ice cream cones from Bright Angel Fountain.

3:42 PM — A park ranger and her equestrian partner, Rio, stop to talk to a family about the desert bighorn sheep they can see from the rim. The kids pose for photos with Rio and give him lots of love.

3:51 PM — During a program on California condors, two of the impressive birds fly past. The park ranger conducting the program wisely takes credit for the visual aids.

Day-5

4:00 PM — A Phantom Ranch park ranger begins a program in the amphitheater about water conservation.

4:12 PM — A sudden monsoon drives visitors into Grand Canyon Visitor Center. The movie theater fills, and the line to the information desk backs up the length of the building.

4:23 PM — A park ranger roving the campground at Desert View tells visitors about the sunset talk happening that evening. At one stop he hears a Grand Canyon pink rattlesnake shaking its tail.

5:48 PM — As quickly as it began, the rain ends. The buildings in the Village nearly empty as everyone hurries to the rim to watch the shifting pattern of sun and clouds, light and shadows reinventing the canyon right before their eyes.

6:07 PM — A bartender at Yavapai Tavern pours another local Arizona beer for a guest.

6:30 PM — Employees from different departments of the park gather for a weekly volleyball game.

6:41 PM — Over plates of salmon tostadas at El Tovar Hotel, two old college friends compare aches and pains acquired from their backpacking trip to Horseshoe Mesa.

6:47 PM — A river guide serves a cake baked in a Dutch oven to visitors rafting the Colorado river.

7:11 PM — Although the sky is mostly clear, a few low-lying clouds linger. They seem to go up in flames as the sun slips below the horizon. Bands of red and orange streak the sky, dancing across the formations below. Spontaneous applause is heard from several viewpoints. The sun has set at Grand Canyon.

7:13 PM — With lavish sky and a color-streaked canyon as a backdrop, a young man from Wisconsin proposes to his girlfriend. She tearfully accepts, thus ensuring the couple an impressively romantic engagement story.

8:00 PM — A park ranger on the North Rim welcomes visitors to the evening program in the Grand Canyon Lodge auditorium.

8:26 PM — Wildlife staff net bats to determine if white-nose syndrome is in the park.

9:11 PM — Unable to sleep after an amazing Grand Canyon day, an aspiring 12-year-old poet scribbles in her notebook at Maswik Lodge.

9:39 PM — A family from Phoenix stands at Mather Point gazing skyward and for the very first time sees the Milky Way.

10:06 PM — The musician at Bright Angel Lounge launches into an obscure Bob Dylan tune, and without a word two friends at the front table smile and clink their glasses.

11:59 PM — A coyote lopes across bare stone, pausing near the rim to sniff the breeze wafting out of the canyon. She glances at a slice of moon, yips twice, and trots off.

No one knows what she said.

Day-6

Not bad for a fluff piece.

 

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