Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Grand (but very drippy) Canyon

Day 7, Sunday, August 25
We  had planned to do "family church" as we've done in the past, around the campfire before heading out for our day's outings.  But since we no longer had the option of a campfire, and in fact, were packing up to head on to new locations, rather than simply heading out for a day's outing, we, quite frankly, didn't even think of family church.  The schedule was disrupted and the distraction of life tempted us away from what's really important.  But we did have a little "family church" in Las Vegas in the evening.  But how we ended up in Las Vegas is part of this tale, so I'll just leave it at that.

On Sunday morning, we packed up and left our cozy little cabin.  We might have stayed another day, since the cabin was open for that night, too.  But we felt it was a little bit out of our price range for two nights.  We knew we didn't want to camp in the rain.  And rain was most definitely predicted for the next several days.  Apparently there was a tropical storm pushing all this wetness up from the southwest, across the Mexico boarder, and southern California, but toward the northeast and into Nevada/Arizona/Utah.  We could only sigh at the irony of it.  Here we were traveling in the American Southwest.  All of us for our first time.  And where it was supposed to be hot and dry, was predicted to be wet, wet, wet.

And cold in some areas.

Like the Grand Canyon.

But we're pretty tough.  We can handle wet and cold.  Just not in a tent.

So we had more decisions to make throughout the day.

But first to see what we came to see.  We started off our scenic drive past the lake for which our Inn was named, Jacob Lake.  Louisa and Rachel had returned late to the cabin the night before, all giggly and excited about their walk.  "It ended up being much further than we thought.  We need to drive  past there, Mom.  It's so pretty.  I think you'd really like it, Dad.  It's the kind of place you'd like to take pictures of."

It turns out the girls had a surprise up their sleeve.  I had wondered when making the reservation why there were no water recreation opportunities listed in the attractions, "Camping and picnicking, Hiking, Sightseeing, Wildlife viewing, Naturalist programs at Jacob Lake Campground, Access to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Horseback riding."

Jacob Lake Historic Ranger Station

The girls drew our attention first to the cute Ranger Station on the left.

Jacob Lake

Then they pointed out the lake on the right.

Not only is the lake on private property, it is really, well, not much of a lake.  Not.  Much.  Of.  A.  Lake  (If you can't get the full effect, be sure to click on the image for a better view of this scenic, .. um, ... puddle.

I asked the girls then, why it took so long for them on their walk, since they had claimed the night before to have walked all the way around it.

"Well,"  they explained, with many giggles.  "We kind of got lost and were wandering around the forest service roads.  Luckily when it started to get dark, we ran into some guys who pointed us in the right direction."

BIG LUMP IN THE MOM's THROAT!  Thinking of what might have happened ...  But as Ma Ingalls always said, "All's well that ends well."

We had forty miles to drive before arriving at the North Rim.  We didn't know where we'd end up by bedtime.  So we headed on toward the Main Attraction.  All we could do was forge ahead and hope the rain held off.

Which it did not.

By the time we reached the tourist areas, the rain had turned from sporadic sprinkles into a steady dripping.  And it just kept going.  Not a heavy rain, mind you.  Just a good steady soaking rain.  The kind the farmers at home would like.

It was cold.  With a little bit of a blustery wind.  Not a whole lot of wind.  But enough to make us tuck our hands into our sleeves and hunker down into our hoods and collars.

We checked out the book store and the Visitor Center first, in the hopes that the rain would taper off a bit.

But it did not.

The standing water in the treacherous walkways
So we finally braved the trails along adjacent to the Visitor Center.  We carefully traveled those wet and windy trails that in some areas have no railing guarding visitors from the edge.  We carefully walked out the rocky promontories where they had thankfully erected rails for our protection, but where the rock pathways were filled with water and a bit slippery.

Louisa and Elsie
A view looking down

Notice again, the standing water in the trail.  Oh, and the lack of railings.

We overlooked Bright Angel Canyon, which we had heard about in the book, Brighty of the Grand Canyon.  We talked about how amazing this was, and yet it wasn't even the main canyon.  We hoped to drive to either Cape Royal, or Point Imperial to take in the view of the main canyon before leaving the area. 

The drippy tourists

Then we shivered our way back up to the Lodge area.

We got to have our picture taken with the bronze Brighty statue.

John, Elise, Sohie, Rachel, Louisa, and Mary

We so totally splurged on a rare treat of a round of hot chocolate at the Rough Rider Saloon.  $30 for 10 hot chocolates.  Wow!

Donna, Stella, Clara, Inge, John, Elsie

But it was worth it.  That's what vacations are for.  Treats and memories.


I have a feeling even Inge will remember at least that we were somewhere drippy and having hot chocolate.  And we'll be able to say, "Yes, yes!  That was when we went to Matt's Marine Corps graduation and stopped at the Grand Canyon and it was so cold and rainy."  And then we'll continue with memories of all the other fun things we got to do on this trip.

After we warmed up a bit, we moseyed our drippy way to the gift shop and looked around.  The kids got to pick out a few things to buy for themselves with some Christmas money they had saved.  The first thing John got was a baseball cap, since he didn't have a hood on the sweatshirt he had brought along. 

Besides that, John got a bandana and a sheriff star.  Donna got a nightlight made with a slice of agate.  Inge got a bag of rocks and Stella got a bag of magnetite.  I'm not sure what the older girls picked out, since they had their money in their own care.

After the purchases were made, we sadly headed for the van.  It was still raining steadily.  It was still cold and blustery.  When a family comes to the Grand Canyon with plans to spend three days hiking and other outdoor activities, a rainy several days really changes plans.  We headed toward the Country store that was alleged to be a mile or so down the road and have wi-fi.  We hoped to check the weather one last time and get info on potentially cheap or dry places to stay the next few nights. 

But the store was not clearly marked and we ended up passing it by.

We had a short debate about whether or not to drive out to the other look-out points.  I was all for it, of course, since I wasn't the one driving.  Joe was a little more trepidatious.  The dirt roads were wet.  Visibility was low.  He was driving a new-to-us van that was 20 inches longer than our previous one.  And there were warnings about the safe length of vehicles (30 ft) on the roads out to those viewpoints.  "But we're nowhere near that long," wheedled theMom.  "I'm sure we can make it."

But all things considered, especially the fact that we didn't know how far we'd need to drive that day, we decided to head onward on our way, rather than meandering along scenic drives.  Sadness!  After forty-six years I finally get to the Grand Canyon, and can't even spend any time there.  Alas!

I had to shake myself out of my self-pity.  "For goodness sake, Mary.  This wonderful trip you're on!  You're wonderful family!  And you'll get to see Matt soon!  Get over it, Girl, and count your blessings!"

And so we drove.  And drove.  And drove.  And for the first couple of hours, we enjoyed the scenery we'd seen the day before.  Then we veered off to the southwest, in the general direction of San Diego.  We still didn't know how far we'd go, or where we'd end up.

The immediate goal was the town of St. George, UT, where we were hoping to hit a wi-fi spot to do some lodging research.  We had hoped to go to the public library, having forgotten, once again, that it was Sunday.  See, this is what happens when you miss church.  You're discombobulated for the whole week.  We arrived in St. George around 5:00 and realized we'd not be likely to find a library open at that time on a Sunday evening.  So after we fueled up, Joe asked the station attendant if there was public wi-fi anywhere in town.

And as is often the case, God worked everything out for us just right.  The wi-fi hotspot in town was at the Wendy's restaurant.  And Wendy's has one of the most "official" gluten free menus of any of the fast food chains.  And we were hungry.  And tired of being in the van.  And truth be told, kind of tired of eating food from the cooler.

Now, just imagine what it's like to try to order for our family at a place like this.  Firstly, we are almost totally unfamiliar with the menu.  Then we've got to try to explain it all to the littles.  We usually go directly to a table, until we can get it all worked out.  "A burger or a wrap?  Chicken nuggets?  Or a bowl of chili."  Mom, can I have three wraps and a chicken sandwich?  I'm really, really hungry."  "Do they have fish sandwiches?"  "No. No happy meals.  No. no pop."  And so on.  Until we've finally got it all written down and approach the counter.

And get ready for them to stare at us in wonder, as we continue to order and order and order.

We got our food and everything passed out to the right people.  We got the ketchups and waters and napkins and straws passed out where needed.  I hit Kayak to get some help finding a place to stay.  We'd kind of decided by this point, that it was futile to try to camp.  Our whole route was under this system of rain and storms with only spotty sun.  Without going too far out of the way, we'd not find a dry place to set up a tent.

Where can we get the cheapest lodging in that part of the country?

"Las Vegas, Baby!  Viva, Las Vegas!"

It was a little tricky searching for hotels in the Las Vegas area, since apparently, the system there is to market the rooms at about 1/2 price and then charge for fees and services which about doubles the rate.  As I was frantically trying to figure this all out, the kids were finishing their meal.  And the battery life was expiring on my laptop. 

No problem.  I'll just go out to the van, plug the computer into the power jack, and use the wi-fi from there.  Nope, sorry, the wi-fi didn't reach to the parking lot.

Hmmmm.  Maybe they'll let me plug it in inside somewhere.  I was thinking maybe a table or booth had an adjacent outlet. 

When I re-entered the store, and explained my problem, the manager pointed to a utility sink just inside the kitchen area.  "Hmmm?  Curious," thought I.  "And not terribly convenient, but I guess it will do." 

So there I stood, balancing my laptop on one hand; digging in my purse for my credit card with the other; moving out of the way anytime one of the workers needed to access the sink; trying not to drop my cord into the water; just to start all over again when I got situated once more.

But it was soon done.  Reservations were made.

Anyone who's traveled into Las Vegas from the northeast on I-15, will recognize this view.   The canyon through which the highway is carved is tremendous.  Down and down we went, though layers of cliff.  It was very cool.

Las Vegas, here we come.

Texas Station Casino on the north side of Las Vegas.  $12 per night, plus a $15 service fee.  Two rooms.  Two nights.

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