Day 8 We get kicked off I-40 in Winslow, AZ
We start our day early again by leaving in the car for the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert. We get there about 7:30 am on the north side of the park and look around the ranger station. PTCC gets her Jr Ranger book to work on. We commence driving the 28 mile circle tour and see the sights. Some of the vistas are beautiful with the different color rocks. We make it to the Rainbow Museum on the south side of the park and there we get to see up close the huge logs that have been petrified. PTCC is awarded her Jr Ranger Badge and also a patch. You can’t take any wood out of the park and both the shops were closed so we head to a gift shop outside the park so PTCC can get her rock. She’s collected rocks from everywhere she has been so we know she needs to add a petrified one as well. Well we get back to the KOA and pack up, CC has heard there are high wind advisories in effect from Winslow to Flagstaff so he wants to get on the road. Well we start out on I-40 and it is REALLY windy. It feels like the MH is going to fly right off the road. We decide to stop at the Walmart in Winslow to pick up a few things since it is an easy on off I-40. We grab the things we need and checkout and make it back to the MH. We start up the road and find out the entrance ramp is closed. So we need gas anyway so we turn back and stop at the Shell to fuel up. We’ve spent almost $1000 on gas so far at 6 mpg. So after fueling we head back to the Walmart to park and wait it out. We find a noon news station and find out the road might be closed until 7 pm. Right now it is 12 pm. So we will have a long wait in store.
Well all the updates keep saying the road will reopen in a few hours but alas this is not the case. We are keeping company with about 50 trucks and other cars that have been turned away from the interstate. And more keep coming in through the night. We had a scare when the sign meant to keep the trucks out of the parking lot blew out out its frame and the frame became unhooked and was flying into the pole. We weren’t sure if it would fly right into our windshield or hit our RV and do some serious damage. Well we keep busy playing monopoly and reading our books and watching the 1 TV station that we can get. Eventually around 10 pm we decide we are staying when the news says the road will be closed until 3 am. LCC is extremely worried because we are broadside into the wind and it feels like the MH will blow over any minute. The winds are gusting up to 70 mph which is almost the same as a category 1 hurricane. I wouldn’t be caught in a MH during a hurricane but here I have no choice. This is not a 24 hour Walmart so they have closed and won’t reopen until 7 am. So no sanctuary there. We can’t leave and go somewhere else because there is no somewhere else, the trucks and cars are all jammed anywhere they can park. At 5 am LCC gets up after a sleepless night to see the trucks are turning on their lights and starting their engines. By 5:30 am they are starting to move to get back on the interstate. We have been parked at Walmart for about 18 hours since the road closed at 11:30 am yesterday.
Day 9 Happy 12th Birthday PTCC
Happy birthday to PTCC, except she’s NOT happy. We were supposed to be waking up to a sunrise at the Grand Canyon. Instead we are waking up at Walmart in Winslow, AZ. I remind her that she did have an overnight at Walmart on her bucket list. Now hopefully she can cross that off and we can get back to traveling. CC has got an itch to get on the road so we reset the car and eat a quick breakfast of pop-tarts and hot chocolate while PTCC opens her gifts and we sing Happy Birthday to her. Then CC jumps in the driver’s seat and we are off at 6:40 am. It is organized chaos at the entrance ramp but at least they have someone directing traffic to get everyone back on hopefully safely. We are traveling in a mass convoy of hundreds of trucks. It brings to mind the song Convoy from the 70’s. CC has it on his playlist on his MP3. We are having a hard time seeing because the dust is still blowing it’s like fog in FL but with dirt mixed in. We are only traveling at about 40 mph on I-40. We go about 15 miles and come to a dead stop. There must be an accident from everyone trying to get there faster. An ambulance passes us on the breakdown lane. Followed 20 minutes later by 2 wreckers. Finally we can see in the binoculars the trucks are moving again. It takes about 10 minutes more for us to start moving. We have been stopped more than 45 minutes on I-40. Hopefully we can make it to Flagstaff today…we go about about 1 mile and come to another dead stop. When we started back up 2 motorcycles passed us in the breakdown lane LCC can see them ahead still riding the breakdown lane. They will probably be the next accident on the road.
On the way PTCC’s grandparents maternal and fraternal call to wish her a Happy Birthday. She’s a little bummed her friends haven’t called but I reminded her that some are in school and most of them know my cell phone number which doesn’t seem to work out here in the west. Hopefully when we get near a large city that has ATT service we will get any messages that were left for her.
We make it to Flagstaff and PTCC has said she wants to go to Wupatki National Monument which is southeast of the Grand Canyon. We drive by Sunset Cater NM to go to the next entrance thinking Wupatki is near the road, but it is not to be. It is 15 miles down the road. CC is NOT happy (now there are 2 unhappy people riding in this RV). We persevere though and roll on down the road eventually finding the visitors center. We get out and it is really cold and super windy. PTCC gets her Jr Ranger book and goes to work to complete it. LCC and CC read through the visual displays and check out the bookstore. PTCC finishes her book and takes her Jr ranger pledge and receives her badge. We then head out to look at the ruins and petroglyphs. We don’t stay long though because of the cold. We get back on the road and head up US 89 to go to the east entrance to the Grand Canyon. On our way it starts to snow. That’s right I said SNOW! We can’t believe this is the 29th of April. When is spring coming to this area???
Finally we arrive at the Grand Canyon entrance and find our way to the campground. Vince, who checks us in, was super nice and told us since we were late because of the weather he wouldn’t charge us for last night. That’s the 1st good thing in the last couple of days that’s happened to us. We get to our site and find out it’s shaped like a smile. Luckily yesterday we figured out what was wrong with our levelers so we hope they work today. The site’s a little short but we work it out because we are CAMPING IN THE CANYON! Finally. We set up and then hit the road for the Canyon View visitors center to check out what there is to do here. Since this is CC’s first time he kept trying to look out the side windows while driving up and we had to remind him to keep his eyes on the road. Now we let him look all he wants. We get PTCC her Jr Ranger book and true to form she starts in on it right away. LCC reminds her she has a few days to finish it. We take a look around the visitors center and the bookstore where CC adds to his pin collection and then we hit the Rim Trail near Mather Point. It was good weather just cold but really clear. We think we got some nice pics of the canyon and then start to go the the El Tovar to check it out when we decide we probably need more than ¼ tank of gas and we figure out the closest station is in Tusayan so off we go to fill up. We took a funny video of CC cleaning the windows. As fast as he cleared them snow covered them again.
Then back to the Canyon where we’ve changed our minds and decide to have dinner now because PTCC keeps telling us how hungry she is. So we eat at the Bright Angel Restaurant and get enough food to bring home most of our dinners for lunch tomorrow. Then we take a walk to Kolb Studio and look around then follow the Rim Trail back to the Hopi House all while the snow is pouring down. The Canyon is barely visible with all the snow falling. So we finish our walk in the El Tovar lobby then head back to the car. PTCC is excited because the car is completely covered with snow so she has fun getting it all off. Then we head back to the RV and her birthday cake and an early night since the goal tomorrow is to see the sun rise in the canyon.
Day 10 We see the Canyon from East to West
Today our goal is to transverse the entire rim if possible and see the canyon from East to West. None of us wanted to get up to see the sunrise at 5:30 am so we stayed snuggled in bed until 7 am then made pancakes and got dressed to start our journey. When we woke up the temperature was 21 degrees and our water had frozen inside the pipe so we had to use onboard water to start the day. The forecast said the high was 45 degrees for today. I really hope they guessed low.
We jump in the car to head to Desert View because the buses don’t run that far east in the low season. The plan is to look around there then check out Navajo Point and Lipan Point then go to a ranger program at Tusayan Museum and Ruin for PTCC’s last requirement for her Jr Ranger badge. Desert View is a building that resembles a watch tower designed by Mary Colter who designed many of the buildings at the Grand Canyon. The inside is pretty neat with Indian drawings and furniture. It had circular floors inside but from the outside it didn’t look that tall. We took in the views then moved on to Navajo and Lipan Points to take some more pictures and then made it to Tusayan Ruins just as a school group was getting there. The National Park is really good about corralling school kids away from the other visitors so their enjoyment of the Canyon is not diminished. We take a tour of the ruins and learn about how the Hopi Indians lived and how they survived in such a harsh climate. PTCC finishes her Jr Ranger book so she can turn it in today. Then we head for Moran and Grandview Points which both have spectacular vistas and we take a lot of pictures. Yaki Point is for buses only so we skip that one and head for the GC Visitor Center where PTCC gets her book looked at and receives her badge. Then we head for the post office to mail our Netflix’s back and pick up bread for lunch. We go back to the RV have lunch and figure out what we’re doing for the afternoon.
We decided to leave the car parked at the campground because parking is a big chore on the western part of the rim and the buses go everywhere we need to get to. So we catch the bus to the village and change to the red bus that goes to Hermit’s Rest. We get off at the Trail Overlook and start walking the rim. We can see part of the Bright Angel trail that we plan to hike tomorrow. It does look challenging. We take in the views and walk on to Maricopa Point then ride the bus to Powell Point and walk to Hopi Point. Each area has its formations and colors that are different from the last. Since it’s about 2 miles to the end from here we catch the bus again and end up at Hermit’s Rest. This is another Mary Colter designed building on the rim. It has the most massive fireplace we’ve ever seen. It’s as big as ½ our house it seems. After looking around and taking the requisite pictures we jump back on the bus to go back to the village. I think it’s the luck of the draw on the bus drivers you get. Some are very talkative and will tell you everything and anything about the canyon and some only announce the stops coming up. Ours this time wanted people to know about the Canyon which was fine with us. He was also great about letting us know when he saw wildlife on the sides of the road. On our trip back we saw 2 elk and some deer. No condors yet though.
We got back to the village and since we didn’t have room for dessert last night we stop back in to the Bright Angel restaurant for some chocolate cake and cheesecake. Yeah! Dessert before dinner. Now I know I’m on vacation. Then on back to the campsite to unload our backpack, download our pictures, write this blog and eat a real dinner. CC wants us to shower early because he wants to fill the tank so we have enough onboard water if the pipe freezes again and he will disconnect from the park water so we don’t crack our hose in the cold.
Day 11 We hike the Bright Angel Trail
We set the alarm for 6 am so we can get up and go hiking. After a quick breakfast we don our cold weather clothes and set out in the car for Bright Angel Lodge where the trail starts. It’s a brisk 34 degrees outside so the day starts cold for us. We pull into the parking lot and get our backpacks on which are filled with water bottles, granola bars and camera equipment. We also bring our walking sticks and for the first couple of hundred yards I wished I’d left mine back in the car. It’s hard holding the walking stick, holding onto the camera strap and keeping the backpack centered on my shoulders as we walk down the trail. The beginning is not too bad until we get to where the CCC put in logs for steps to stop erosion from happening. My left knee hates downhill stairs. I never have a problem climbing, only going downhill. And today I did not wear my knee brace.
Our goal is the 1.5 mile rest house. I’m wearing my pedometer so I can see if it is more than that with the steps we have to take to get there. We wanted to start early to avoid the congestion and the mules if possible. Also it’s a cooler time of day because as you go down the air becomes warmer and you are getting heated as well. All is going fine; we are sticking together, PTCC is in the lead but she’s not stopping to take pictures like CC and LCC are. We see no one else for awhile and then some small groups are passing us. There were 2 runners going as fast as they could down the trail. I don’t know how they kept from tripping over the rocks or logs. There’s a large youth group that is behind us and we are trying to keep ahead of them as much as possible. We are also watching our step as there is lots of mule manure all over the trail and it smells real bad. We come to the first tunnel and take pictures there and continue on around a dozen curves it seems until we get to the second tunnel and take more pictures there as well. We continue on until 3 women are stopped on the trail looking at a deer that is feeding. Just as I get there it bounds off down the mountain. We mosey on downhill stopping every now and then for pictures. The way down is not too strenuous for any of us but we have heard the way up is a different story. We look over the edge and see a rest house and we think that is the one we are aiming for but before you know it we are actually at the 1.5 mile rest house; it seems to pop up out of nowhere. There are composting toilets and a small shelter with water here. We go to use the restrooms and a ranger is there cleaning them. He barks at us that we can only use the last one. He’s the first unfriendly ranger we’ve encountered on our trip. He must of pulled the short straw to clean the restrooms today. The large group of kids has caught up with us as well now. We made it down in 45 minutes, but we know it will take longer to get back up. I look at my pedometer and see it says 2.49 miles. So it must be off or I took a lot of extra steps. I’m glad to have my walking stick for the climb back up. It will be easier to steady ourselves with them.
After a 7 minute rest we start back up. The way IS much harder than going down. It is easier in the sections that don’t have log stairs because you are not climbing over the logs. PTCC needs to rest- she’s the only one who has not taken off her coat and mittens. We are stopping more frequently for water and eating our granola bars. About ½ way up from the rest house PTCC is finally warm enough and takes off her coat. She’s starting to whine about how much farther now. My knees feel fine but my breathing is getting labored. We drink more water because our mouths are dry. We see a small mule train of about 6 mules on their way down. They get the right of way so we stand off the trail. We meet many more people that are going down. Lots of them have no water with them. I don’t think I would want to climb any trail without hydration with me. Many don’t know trail etiquette either. The uphill climbers get the right of way except for mule trains. Many of the hikers don’t move aside, so it makes it harder to climb up. Finally we see the second tunnel and then we see the first tunnel and finally come to Kolb Studio where the trail started. Yeah! We finished the uphill in about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Not bad for not hiking for months. My pedometer read 4.5 miles so there are a lot of steps in this trail. We had taken pictures of the Abert squirrel, some chipmunks, the mule train and some birds. I didn’t get a shot of the deer as it ran away.
We get back to Trailer Village and I go in to check out. We decided last night we would try to make it to Needles, CA today so we could have 2 shorter days of driving. We will pass through Kingman, Az where my aunt and uncle live but we don’t have enough time to stop and my phone still isn’t getting any reception so I can’t call them. Maybe on a future trip we will connect.
Well we made it to Needles at 3:45 pm and found a very nice RV park called Desert View. Best of all they have wi-fi so I can post again. PTCC jumped in the pool which was kind of cold and LCC did some loads of laundry, since our clothes all smelled after mules and hiking. This seems to be a great stop and we will rest up for the night and the push to Visalia or Fresno, CA tomorrow.