On our way again, Jim pointed out the Vermillion Cliffs. It was another beautiful sunny day. We passed the Navajo Bridge and stopped and walked it. Two condors were flying by and landed on the trusses of the bridge. Jim photographed them. Later he learned that number 54 was a natural born condor. According to the ranger, natural born condors have “attitude.” GO CONDORS!!
We drove around a bit and went down a road that said “Lee’s Ferry” campground. It was on the Colorado River and had a great history. I know Lee’s Ferry is mostly associated with the south, but the history of this site was a river crossing for pioneers and other travelers. We decided to stop early for the day. The campground was only ¼ filled and it was a gem. From its unique table shelters to the views, it we were glad to have stopped early. Down by the river it was also a site where rafters left for their float down the Colorado. Setting up camp is always easy—we turn off the key, so we had plenty of time to explore. Jim talked to a woman from Anchorage who said it is best inJanuary and February, very hot in the summer. We walked over to the clay buildings the color of the cliffs, and read about the history of the area. The wonderful silence was as special as the buildings that had sat unoccupied for many years. The next morning Jim decided to hike one of the trails and we brought a chair for me to sit and read. The trees were showing baby green as they began their spring bloom. The contrast with the clay colored cliffs was beautiful. There is no stress reliever like Mother Nature. A lizard, a chipmunk, a squirrel, a rabbit, a chorus of tiny birds. So peaceful. So special.
On the road again we stopped at a location that had been temporary or permanent homes for travelers. They were made from the clay-coloured rock and included chimneys, 1 or 2 rooms and some precarious looking large rocks surrounding them.
The elevation increased to 7,900 feet and we were in an evergreen forest with snow. Snow squalls surrounded us and then moved on. It was near the north entrance to the Grand Canyon that was closed for the winter. However, the sole purpose of this leg was to stop at the historic Jacob Lake Inn for a piece of pie at the lunch counter. We’re retired, remember?
ZION NATIONAL PARK
Quite frankly, I was getting bored and dozy after we left Lee’s Ferry campground. I mean, one can only handle so much “gorgeous.” There seemed little that could impress me after all I had seen and felt on this trip.
Then we entered Zion National Park and a different kind of beauty gob-smacked me and left me star struck. I had never seen rock structures like these. We stopped at a pullout to glass a herd of big horn sheep picking their way down the mountain. A sheep crossed the road. We felt like the tourists in Alaska who stop in the middle of the highway in Turnagin Arm….only we weren’t on a highway.
The sky darkens and the wind picks up. There is a clap of thunder and lightening. It starts raining. Then it hails. Sheets of rain flash across the road. We know this is an area that life threatening flash floods occur. But it’s kind of exciting. It’s the first rain in weeks and we seldom get thunder and lightning in Alaska. We continue down the scenic road. The wet black marks on the cliffs are now flowing waterfalls. People pull over but we’re Alaskans and continue cautiously on. We get to the end of the road where the rangers have closed a walking trail and people are hurrying for shelter. “Trail closed. Flash flood imminent.” As we head back the rain becomes a sprinkle even as the water roars down the creek bed. Spring green is popping out. What an event! I’m not bored anymore. This calls for….CHOCOLATE. Luckily a supply is kept in the refrigerator for emergencies like this. According to the rangers, only a few get to see this blast of Nature’s power.
We head to the campground and got one of the last “first come first serve” spots. We have been quite lucky like this. Jim is tired and hops in bed even though it’s just 7pm. I offer a campground commentary through our big windows.
“Mr. Suburu is walking to the restroom in his fluffy slippers.”
“Mr. Green Winnigego is setting up a matching grill and 2 chairs.
“Mr. Red Kia has circled again. Why don’t they put up the full sign.”
“Mr and Ms Element can’t get their triange tarp in the wind.”
The next morning we drove out a different entrance and found a great Yuppie restaurant for breakfast. Hurray a latte for me!! We were determined to go for a real hike and returned to the trail that had been closed. We walked the two- mile trail and I had my hiking boots and poles. It was the longest we had hiked!!! My three -surgery knee protested and Jim and I headed back to t he campground for a much needed nap. The campground was full. Jim went down to the river and hung around with 20 or so mule deer while I lazed about. It was obviously spring break as the campground had filled mostly with young people without tons of money in various forms of shelter.
The next morning the sun crept over the mountain and onto the campground. The man in a nearby site woke up in his hammock. He wore the fashionable knit unisex hat. He pulled one foot out of his sleeping back up to his nose to put on his sandle and repeated the stop with his other foot. He rested a moment and then got out of his sleeping bag and out of his hammock without falling. Impressive. He walked over to the table and began to arouse his tent hidden friends.
It was hard not to be drawn into the excitement. Exams over. Beautiful if cool weather. A week in the out of doors with friends!! Two women in gym shorts and boots in the cold morning air talking excitedly; an aging hippy twiddling with his equally aging VW bus; more people emerge from tents and get hiking gear ready. Sleepy people head to the washroom with its “no hairwashing, no dishwashing, no clothes washing” sign. It makes me glad to be alive and realize the world is in good hands with this generation of nature lovers.