Wednesday, July 14, 2010

What We Did For Our Summer Vacation...

...No, this won't be anything like those essays our elementary school teachers used to make us write during the first week of school---I hope this is far more interesting than that. GGG Plus, the pictures will be way better, as I didn't draw them with colored pencils or crayon. I took them with my cell phone. Okay, so that's not all that great, either, but it'll have to do.

We, along with two other families from our youngest son's Scout Pack, went to the Grand Canyon. Yanno...That big hole in the ground in northwestern Arizona? It's *the* perfect vacation destination for a woman who's terrified of heights---what better than to stand on the EDGE of the Canyon, with a drop at your feet that would literally kill you if you fell over? Along with 1 husband and 3 sons---one who shares my fear of heights and 2 who thought it was funny to get so close to the edge I had no choice but to holler, "Get AWAY from the EDGE of the CANYON! You're KILLING me!" The scamps would laugh and laugh and my Middle Son, the daringest one of all (aside from his father), would just grin and grin at me and say things like, "But Mom, they put a RAILING there so you can't fall into the canyon" and "Yep, they'd never find my body if I fell over. It's a long way down." Oldest Son (skeerdy cat like me), would pat me on the back and croon, "It's okay, Mom. It's okay. You'll be just fine." Through it all, I'm sure Mr. Laura was shaking his head, resigned to the fact that I was going to howl every time one of the kiddos got too close to an unprotected edge.

Here's a picture of my men, standing way too close to the edge of the Canyon, all happy as can be, because 1) They're outside, and 2) They haven't showered since we left home.

The campsite was very nice---we had a group site, so we had company, but we all did our own thing during the day and would compare notes after dinner, around the campfire. There's nothing better than watching kids toast marshmallows and hot dogs over a campfire, hearing about each others' days just enjoying the great outdoors. The kids played well together, and my boys made a California Condor out of the rocks they found in the campsite.

On Sunday evening, the 4th of July, we took the free bus into the town of Tusayan, to watch the "Light Parade." No fireworks to be had anywhere nearby, so this was it. All manner of vehicles decorated with Christmas lights, themes for the floats---it was a fine way to spend the 4th. On the way into town, we saw 4 elks on the side of the road---girls, not boys---no antlers. That day, we'd spent exploring one section of the South Rim, parking at the top of Grand Canyon Village at the Verkamp Visitor's Center, and walking down past the Rim Lodges---the Bright Angel Lodge, for one. We checked out Kolb Studio, an interesting building built into the side of the Canyon, had our pictures taken by Oriental Tourists and took theirs. One of the girls clearly didn't speak English, but as soon as Mr. Laura snapped their picture, she caroled out happily, "THANK YOU!" Later, I was asked by an Oriental young man if "I take your picture?" as he handed me his camera and posed. We enjoyed a nice lunch in one of the restaurants at the Bright Angel Lodge, drove around a little bit more, picked up the Junior Ranger books for the boys, then headed back to camp for dinner and to get ready to go into town. And yes, we did make the boys complete the Junior Ranger program and the did get nifty badges.

The nifty badges---the older boys each earned the one on the right (we have 2, they just didn't photograph very well if I put all 3 in the field).

On Monday, we got up, ate and hit the road. One of the families hit the road with us and our destination was Page, Arizona. We'd each booked a half day rafting trip that would start at the dam at Lake Powell, and go 15 miles down the Colorado River to Lees Ferry. No pictures, alas, I had visions of my cell phone falling into the river---but we did take a couple of waterproof disposable cameras and took loads of pictures as we enjoyed our guided tour on a pontoon boat. I'm here to tell you---sit on the pontoons! It's hot in the center of the boat, and when the guide opened up the throttle to move us along at a good enough clip to generate a breeze, river water flowed where pontoon met boat---just enough to get your feet wet. The other thing I'm here to tell you is I've found the cure for menopausal hot flashes. Yes, I have. The Colorado River, just below the dam. Water is let out of Lake Powell from the bottom, so it hasn't seen sunlight in years. It's C-O-L-D---cold. 40 whole degrees---cold enough to kill you if you're submerged, in about 9 minutes. It will numb your feet in under 2 minutes. But mercy Maud, it'll cool you right off---my husband thought I was nuts (like *that's* a news flash) standing there on the beach our tour took a break at, water lapping at my ankles. I could've played In and Out of the River all day long, it was that refreshing. At our stop, we hiked a little ways to see 5000 year old rock drawings---very interesting and a bit awe-inspiring!

Tuesday---more South Rim touring, taking the bus along the Rim to Hermit's Rest, then driving to the OTHER end of the Southern Rim to take a peek at the Canyon from the Watchtower, which was built in the 1930's---one of something like 8 different structures designed by Mary Colter, who'd been hired by the Fred Harvey Company. I didn't get any pictures of the Watchtower itself, as it was in the middle of being updated, so click on the linkie above to see a picture of it, and get a little bit of background info about it. :D

Along the way to the Watchtower, we stopped at the Tusayan Ruins and Museum. From one point, we could look east towards Flagstaff and see the San Fransisco Mounts and the highest point in Arizona.

Views from the Watchtower.

Ceiling inside the Watchtower.

On Wednesday, we hit the road again, this time to visit the Meteor Crater, just 45 minutes east of Flagstaff. We'd passed it on our way to the West Coast when we moved a couple years ago, and Mr. Laura had wanted to stop then to look at it, but we didn't. Privately owned and operated, once you've paid to get in, you may as well take the hour long guided tour. We did, and our guide, Eduardo, was very informative as we took a path that you just don't get to go on unless you're on the tour. When we reached the far point of the hike, Eduardo hustled each family onto a point and took pictures with our own cameras. All we had to do was smile and say, "Hola, Eduardo." LOL. He was a character. In fact, he's in a couple of History Channel documentaries about the Meteor Crater, so if you happen to catch one, and you see an older Hispanic gentleman by the name of Eduardo, that's our guide. He said his sister teased him about getting on television by telling him, "At least you aren't on Cops or America's Most Wanted." He proudly proclaimed, "I did it the RIGHT way!" What a character. Meteor Crater is the best preserved meteorite impact site in the world. Read more about it HERE. Was a fun way to spend a day.

Meteor Crater.

The Grand Canyon at sunset---you've never seen such a beautiful sight. I took this picture Tuesday night, at Yavapai Point. The picture really doesn't do it justice.

We came home on Thursday, tired, vacationed out and happy as clams (just what does that mean, anyway? How do you know if a clam is happy? I digress.)... The entire trip was remarkable, from the elk who wandered through our campsite (towards the back), to the Canyon itself (obviously), Meteor Crater, the river rafting trip... Good memories, I hope, for my boys to savor and hopefully, one day share with their own children. The most touching moment of the trip? When Mr. Laura thanked the boys for being agreeable to go see Meteor Crater, after we'd finished there and were preparing to drive away. Oldest Son said, "We like going where you go, Dad. You go to interesting places."

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