Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Part 2 & 3 of the Great Experiment

Day 2:
0500 -- We awake and eat breakfast.

0600 -- We conclude that the view is better from the top down. However, we have formed a spiritual bond with the canyon by descending into its depths. With a satisfactory answer to our quandry, we return to the trail to climb out of the canyon.

0632 -- Shortly after stopping to stretch, we are ambushed by a hoard of wild mountain goats. The yahoos bravely fought them off while demonstrating superb honor and courage in the face of terror.

0712 -- The expedition has come across some mule deer. The expedition leader ordered them all shot and we have stopped for a mid morning feast.

0803 -- A giant collard lizard has attacked the expedition and run off with one of the yahoos in his jaws. His pitiful screams could be heard long after he was dragged into a cave in the cliffs.

0830 -- We are relieved to exit the box and leave the Vishnu Schist behind us.

0938 -- We return to the waterfall where we wait out the scorching heat of the day for the next 3 hours. 

1430- We venture into the heat in order to get to our campsite for the night. 

1500- We arrive at Cottonwood Campground and set up camp. We find a calm pool in the creek. We take the opportunity to bathe and relax before making dinner. 

1730-- Chow time. The expedition leader makes a delicious dinner of Thai peanut butter noodles.

1900- The team climbs into the tent thinking they'll spend some time playing cards but instead find themselves so exhausted that they fall asleep before the sun goes down. 

Day 3

0400- Early to bed, early to rise. The team wakes before the sun to get ready for the last and toughest day of hiking. 

0515- We are on the trail again and looking forward to hot showers and rest after our adventures. 

0616- We are tired. The sun has not hit the inside of the canyon walls but our burning legs wont let us forget the steep terrain we are hiking. 

0745- We are tired. 

0845- We stop at a bridge to rest our legs and eat a smorgasbord of trail mix, bagels and cream cheese and half a Clif bar. It is hard to get back up again. 

0920- We finally reach the tunnel which signifies the beginning of the end. 

0938- The trail seems neverending. A nice downward slope would be nice but all this canyon wall has to offer is a steady upward climb.

1030- Happy day trippers grate on the yahoos' nerves. Who could be so happy on a trail like this??

1100- We made it! We conclude that this is the end of backpacking adventures for our road trip. 

1130- The freshly showered team chows down on a pizza at the Grand Canyon Lodge. Success tastes so good. 


Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Great Experiment -Grand Canyon

After viewing the Grand Canyon from the North Rim and wondering "Does this look as cool from the bottom up as it does from the top down?" Lindsay and I decided to conduct "The Great Experiment" to discover the nature of viewing the Grand Canyon. 
First we had to go consult with the Ranger Lady in the Backcountry Office as to how we could determine an answer to our quandary. After much discussion we came to the conclusion that an expedition must be assembled and a team of the most rugged and adventurous yahoos in the west be found to man the expedition. I volunteered to be the expedition leader and Lindsay volunteered to be the yahoos.
We left Sunday morning on father's day which we thought would be the most appropriate day to begin such an effort (do not read into this statement, it is just random nonsense). The following is a series of journal entries taken from the expedition's log books and edited specifically for this blog.

Day 1 (Father's Day):

 0705 -- The expedition leader left his bandana in the car and ran across the parking lot to retrieve it.

0710 -- The yahoos inquire as to whether or not the expedition leader brought along the extra fuel for cooking, at which point he dropped his pack and went running back up the trail one more time.

0800 -- We come to Coconino's overlook and witness the rugged trail that we must descend. The expedition leader quivers a little bit but says nothing. The yahoos are unfazed and remained unconcerned with the difficulty of what lies ahead.

0820 -- We come to a tunnel through the rock face.

0900 -- We discover strange monuments that we believe to be either an attempt at communication from alien life forms or the flowers of yucca plants.

1014 -- We have an unfortunate encounter with a black widow spider. Sadly, one of the yahoos dies from battling the creature. (Don't worry, Lindsay was not really bit by the spider. It just sounds good.)

1103 -- We pass Cottonwood Campground and determine to make camp there on the return journey.

1147 -- The expedition makes temporary camp at ribbon falls to escape the midday heat which reaches temperatures above 115 degrees Celsius. The waterfall's peculiar rock formation provides a perfect shaded area behind the waterfall where the expedition members eat lunch and take naps. The expedition leader showers in the water fall on top of the 40 foot moss covered rock but the yahoos are opposed to showers. They are only interested in naps.

1429 -- A vicious and most devious rock squirrel is attempting to steal our food. The  expedition leader has bravely thrown rocks at it and even hit it a few times but the beast refuses to relent his torment.

1559 -- We return to the trail with the bottom of the canyon as our goal. We prepare to enter "the box" where Bright Angel Canyon narrows to a small gap and the exposed rock is the rare black Vishnu Schist.

1856 -- We pass through Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon. Apparently our expedition was not the first to make it to the bottom. There is a lodge and a dining hall and bathrooms and old people and donkeys.

1930 -- The yahoos are so distressed by the old people beating them down into the canyon that they become sick and nauseated. After an exhausting 14 mile trek dropping over 6,000 feet in elevation, they can not stomach to eat more than a few bites of a fabulously prepared dinner and everyone goes to bed early.

... excerpts from days 2 and 3 will be posted shortly.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Our great rattlesnake encounter

Last night we camped in Zion National Park. We hiked in about 2 miles from the road and set up camp amongst biting flies, peregrine falcons and apparently.... a rattlesnake. On our hike back this morning, Chris was several feet from stepping on a rattlesnake. Here is a video of our encounter.


Playing catch-up

We've had plenty of adventure and little internet access since we last wrote. Here's what we've been up to. 

We left on Monday morning from the Rolsma home. We had a great time at their house. They were gracious and flexible, even when we decided to stay an extra night. 

After a beautiful drive through a mountain valley, we arrived at Gunnison Valley's Black Canyon. We stayed that night in a campground at the bottom of this 2,000 foot deep canyon. The views were amazing and we were left in awe as we explored some of the outlooks at the top of the canyon. At one point we could see a team of backpackers 2,300 feet directly below us. They looked smaller than ants.

The next morning we left for Mesa Verde, CO. Chris did a great job driving four hours on narrow mountain roads with incredible views. 

 When we got to Mesa Verde, we spent a few hours checking out the 800 year old cliff dwellings and we had a pasta dinner on the edge of a canyon, admiring God's work and enjoying being with each other. 

We drove a few hours northwest to Moab, Utah where we stayed for the night in a hotel. On Wednesday morning, we got up and drove to Arches National Park where we applied for a back country pass so we could camp in the park that night. We hiked around for a few hours. There are amazing rock formations that have been worn by ice, water and wind into arches that soar above your head. 
We sat on a rock and ate a delicious lunch of Spanish chorizo, olives, gouda cheese and thick slices of soft bread. 

Later that day, we hiked about 30 minutes through thick sage bushes and over rocks when we found what Chris described as the coolest place he has ever camped. We set up  tent on a rock shelf hanging over a cliff. It was one of the only flat places around and just wide enough for our tent. To get to the site required careful footwork to get across the narrow slanted section of rock that flared out to our 8 ft by 12 ft  platform that stood 40 ft above  the stream at the bottom of the canyon. The platform was just over 4 ft thick before being eroded below to form an overhang. Our camping spot provided us with panoramic views of the valley and other cliffs and rock formations. After a dinner of Thai noodles (Chris' own sauce with peanut butter, soy sauce and brown sugar!), we started to hear loud peals of thunder reverberating off the canyon walls. Soon, the thunder came closer together and we realized we were in for an adventure. Our new tent held up great as the storm roared above us and we saw flashes of lightning through the tent's roof.  After the storm rolled through, we made some brownies, played some cards and went to bed. 

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Pike's peak and Garden of the Gods

The past few days we have been staying at the Rolsma household in Colorado Springs. They are good friends of the Wilkins' fam and they are a great bunch of people. Yesterday, we all (excluding Mrs. Rolsma) drove up to the top of Pike's Peak. It was so cold up there--26 degrees! After that, Chris and I went hiking in Garden of the Gods.

 Instead of trying to explain the majesty and beauty of the day, I'll let our pictures tell the story. 

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A hailstorm in June

So there we were, driving through Kansas. The hills were...hilly. The road was long and seemingly unending. The windmills were plentiful. And the clouds were magnificent. (Chris wants me to say fluffy but that doesn't quite encapsulate these clouds' magnitude) We watched for miles as the clouds dumped sheets of rain in the distance. Then, soon after we entered Colorado, we met up with these ferocious clouds and they were not dumping rain. They were releasing huge quantities of hail. We pulled off the road and watched as the ground turned white with ice and my poor car got some sad little battle wounds. 10 minutes later as we eased back onto the road, we had to be careful as the road was covered. Here's a video and some pictures of our adventure.


More to come on Colorado. For now, Chris and I are off to watch a movie in bed and relax for a bit. 

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A blog by Chris

So... if you are ever asked in a thai restaurant how hot you want your Pad Thai or Beef Penang, be advised that when they say 0 is nothing and 10 is hot, they mean 3 is hot and 10 is your head will explode, and 6 (as Lindsay and I discovered at lunch today) is downright unenjoyable because your mouth resembles Mount Pinatubo.

The Saint Louis zoo is as cheap as free so naturally we migrated there. We were surprised to discover that not only do they have a better variety than the washington dc zoo and with closer access, but the animals were all awake and moving. While we ate lunch we were harassed by peacocks begging for food, but I stared them down. After we finished eating Lindsay decided to take some pictures of me and my new (Somalian) wild ass friends. 

Last night, we were joined at the Drew & Lindsey Wilkins' household by Mary & Beau. We all had a great time eating at an Irish pub, then we went out to a chocolate bar for some amazing desserts & chocolate martinis. So good to be with friends and family.

We tried our our brand new tent last night as we camped out on Drew & Lindsey's porch. We loved hearing the rain pouring down on us and the loud thunder--it thunderstormed all night but we remained nice & dry. Thanks Mom & Dad!

Some highlights from Lindsay:

I cut Chris' hair for the first time last night and he looks pretty dashing, I must say. 

Also, I touched a stingray at the zoo yesterday. 

Tonight enjoyed dinner and a movie in Topeka, KS and we leave bright and early tomorrow morning for Colorado Springs. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Stops 1,2,3 & 4

Saturday morning started with some chilly wake-surfing --Chris' last chance for a few years. 

Chris & I left Crownsville at 9:10am on Saturday morning. It was difficult leaving the state I grew up in, and there were some tears shed, but we know that God has great things in store for us and lots of adventures await us. 

We are several stops into our cross-country road trip. I'll catch you up real quick. 

Stop # 1: Dave & Becca's wedding--Wilkes-Barre, PA

The Road Trip started off with a stop in Wilkes-Barre, PA. Chris' Naval Academy buddy, Dave Setyon got married. Chris was in the sword arch, along with another buddy Joe Le. The wedding was beautiful and the reception lots of fun. It was neat for us to go to a wedding already being married.Quotable quote of the day--as we were walking through the town to get lunch, Chris and Joe in their uniforms, this wizened old lady with thick glasses said to me, "You better take care of him, young lady, or I'll get the paddle out!" 

We laughed for a while after that one. 

That night we drove a few hours and stopped in middle of nowhere, PA at a wonderful Comfort Inn where we got a great deal on a room with a  king size bed and a jacuzzi.

Stop #2: The Bray's--Wilmington, OH

On Sunday morning, we got up and drove about 5 hours to the Bray's- friends of my family with 11 amazing kids. Most of the fam was there and we had a great time chatting, hanging out, drinking wine and jumping on the trampoline to get some pent-up energy out. 

Stop #3: Johnston family-- Cincinnati, Ohio 

After another hour's drive, we got to Cincinnati, where we got to visit with my mom's side of the family. It was great to get the chance to introduce Chris to the family since they couldn't make it down to our wedding. We ate lots of food, drank some beers, showed them our weddings pics and got soundly beat in a few games of cornhole. 

We spent the night at Uncle Glen & Aunt Ret's house. It was like going back to my grandparents house and I was flooded with childhood memories when we walked into the door. 

We left Monday morning and headed toward Stop #4.

Stop #4: Drew & Lindsey's house, St. Louis, MO

We are now in St. Louis, MO. After driving through a blinding thunder & hail storm and having to pull off the road for a bit, we got in last night (Monday night), had a delicious dinner and drank some yummy wine. This morning, Chris and I got up and headed out for a day of St. Louis sightseeing. Drew & Linds were busy with school and work so we were on our own. Of course, we were accompanied by our handy GPS (Mandy) who is getting us through this road trip. 

The morning started off with a stop at the City Museum, by far the coolest museum ever. Drew accurately described it as " Mcdonald's playplace on crack"  It is basically three floors of tunnels, slides and crawling spaces made out of old parts of buildings from St. Louis. Chris and I had a blast crawling around, climbing and sliding down three story tall slides. Chris even climbed in a tube made of metal rebar about 60 feet in the air. I stayed at a safer height and took pictures! 

Next in the day's agenda was lunch. We stopped and grabbed a pizza and had a picnic under the St. Louis arch. We went into the arch museum and inquired if they had a military discount. We had both been in the arch before and neither of us felt the need to spend $30 to see it again. They told us that they did not have a military discount, but as we went to walk away a woman who worked there came up to us and offered to pay for us to go into the arch. We declined a few times, but she insisted. She said that her son was in the Army for 7 years and she was so thankful for what people had done for him because he was in the military. So, she used her national park discount and paid for the two of us to go up into the arch. It was such a kind gesture and it was a fun way to end the afternoon. 

We will be in St. Louis for a few days and our next stop is to be determined!  Thanks for stopping in! We miss you all and love you dearly!