Friday, September 30, 2005

Grand Canyon Journal - Friday September 9 2005 - Day 7 - High Drama Atop Deer Creek Falls

River overed: Mile 136 to Mile 152. Camped at Ledges

This morning we took a very short boat ride across the river to the Deer Creek Falls. Most of us took the relatively easy trail to the slot canyon at the top of the falls. It was quite beautiful (and I’m pretty sure you can hike down from the rim – something to look into). Rob had mentioned the possibility of climbing down into the slot to explore a little but it didn’t seem like the weather was going to cooperate. A flash flood in this canyon would almost certainly mean death.

Deer Creek NarrowsDeer Creek Patio
Deer Creek PatioDeer Creek Patio

After a while we got a break in the weather and Rob decided the slot canyon exploration was a ‘go’. I followed him over to the tie in point to see how he was going to do it. The rope wasn’t completely necessary because the route could easily be climbed, but it was there as an extra thing to hold on to and a safety precaution. Rob gave a brief orientation on how to get down and how to (and how not to) use the rope. Even though I was excited to get down there I decided to let someone else give it a shot first so people wouldn’t get annoyed at me always being in front. Big Mistake!

The clod that went first did exactly what Rob said not to do and ended up peeling off the rock, saved only by the rope that he had wrapped around his wrist before grabbing on. Lucky for him there was a big ledge right were he swung to and he was able to stand on it while we figured out what to do. Rob had climbed down into the slot, so he climbed up and started the rescue effort by tieing a series of loops in the rope that could be used has hand or foot holds. That didn’t work very well, so Rob grabbed onto the rope and swung over to the ledge. He tied a rope around the clod in a makeshift harness fashion and then climbed up to help belay from above.

After all the drama Rob decided (understandably) ditch the slot canyon idea and we headed back to the boat. To say I’m pissed and disappointed would be the understatement of the trip. Dropping down into this beautiful canyon would have been awesome. Maybe I’ll have to hike down someday and do it. Rob gave me the go-ahead to make my way back to the boat without waiting for the rest of the group. I think he could see that I was frustrated and the trail was really well defined. I literally ran down the trail and hopped in the river before the rest of the group made it down a half hour later. No more Mr. Nice. I’m staying in front for the Havasu hike.

A brief note about last night: In the evening it looked like it may rain so we set up our tent as a backup plan. The original clouds cleared up, but it eventually rained at 4:30AM. I was well prepared though. All my bags were closed up and all I needed to do was get dressed, toss my pillow into my sleeping bag carry it over to the tent. The rain didn’t last very long though and I probably should have stayed outside. I never ended up getting back to sleep so I just got up early.

During lunch we could see that it was raining pretty well up on Powell Plateau and the wind in the canyon picked up dramatically. Gusts of wind were blowing sand everywhere and it was quite annoying.

We motored on for the rest of the afternoon, hoping to score one of the coveted camp sites (hopefully the Ledges site) upriver from Havasu Creek. Rob has done a great job throughout the trip of keeping track of the other trips on the river and guess where they’d be camping, but the big unknown was any trips that were ahead of us that we had not yet seen. We passed a private trip at Matkatimba Canyon, so that was good news (one less group to take Ledges). More good luck was on our side as we rounded the last corner before ledges and could see that it was vacant. Score!

Ledges CampgroundLedges Campground

So here we are at the most choice setup camp for Havasu when the wind really picks up. It was blowing tents around like crazy and it didn’t seem to want to let up. Super annoying, but at least there’s not as much sand at this site to stir up. Instead of writing in my journal I decided to help out with dinner preparations. It was nice to help out because it just doesn’t feel right to let the crew do everything by themselves. Almost everyone on the trip has tried to help out when they could. I chopped and shredded tomatoes and cheese for tonight’s dinner as well tomorrow’s lunch (we’re brown baggin’ it).

I actually did some cooking

After everyone put together their lunches, Rob gave a briefing on tomorrow’s hike. I’m pumped, it sounds amazing. The only problem is that we can’t go if the weather looks bad due to flash flooding. I’ve got my fingers crossed for clear skies. Just as Rob was finishing his briefing a huge gust of wind came along and blew over the table containing our ready to eat dinner food. What a drag. We salvaged plenty to eat, but it was a little gritty. I guess it wouldn’t be camping without dirt in the food.

Time for bed now so we can get an early start at Havasu. I really hope the weather cooperates.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Grand Canyon Journal - Thursday September 8 2005 - Day 6

River covered: Mile 132 to Mile 136. Camped across from Deer Creek
Today we did a grand total of 4 river miles: 2 in the morning and 2 in the later afternoon after a long hike.

Our hike today took us up Tapeats Creek and then onto Thunder River Falls. We made a few crossing of the clear blue Tapeats Creek, which felt great on such a hot day. There were a lot of huge cottonwood trees along Tapeats that thrive on its constant water flow. Another thriving plant was the prickly pear cactus. There were a ton of them, and they were huge. I couldn’t believe how enormous these thing were. The base of them looked like tree trunks. They were also producing a great amount of fruit. FYI, the fruit of a prickly pear is officially called a tuna.

Tapeats CreekPrickly Pear (and their tuna)

Once we left Tapeats and started following Thunder River the trail went up rather steeply through a lot of switchbacks. I could see the final waterfall in the distance and I didn’t think we’d ever make it up that high. Eventually we made it to the beautiful waterfall shooting out of the rock.

Thunder River FallsThunder River Falls

One of the best parts about this hike was that my dad decided to go the whole way. He wasn’t sure if he could make it, but he at least wanted to make it partway. When Rob took a poll at the junction with Thunder River to see who was continuing, dad said he wanted to give it a try. Not only did he make it to the end, but he led the group up the last mile of the steep terrain and reached the waterfall first. I’m proud of him for deciding to give it a shot, and I’m even more happy that he made it. Out of 14 people on the trip only 5 made it.

Dad and I at Thunder River Falls

After the hike we motored for 2 miles and set up camp right across from Deer Creek Falls. From my campsite I have an awesome view of the huge falls. We’re doing a hike tomorrow over there but I haven’t decided if I’ll do it. I might like some down time, but I’ll have to hear about the hike some more before I make a decision.

The great view from my campsite

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Grand Canyon Journal - Wednesday September 7 2005 - Day 5

River covered: Mile 96 to Mile 132. Camped at Stone Creek

Dinner last night was NY strip steak, mashed potatoes, salad and a hot cookie for dessert. Afterwards, Rob gave us a rundown on the big upcoming Crystal Rapids. It used to be a barely mentionable rapid, but in the 60’s there was a localized rainstorm that caused a debris flow to come down from a side canyon. That debris, and some later flooding years later turned Crystal into a 7-10 category rapid.

Later last night Rob talked to us about the silence in the Canyon (“us” meaning the people that were quiet enough to listen). Our campsite last night was underneath a flight corridor called Dragon Alley. It’s situated between two no-fly zones, and consequently gets a lot of traffic. The flights have a curfew at 6PM and it was quite damatic how much more quiet and peaceful it was. Rob encouraged us to write letters to the superintendent of the Canyon if we thought the helicopter sounds were annoying. I’ll have to get the mailing address because I think I’d like to write.

I didn’t sleep well last night; I’m not sure why. I tossed and turned a lot and kept sliding off my sleeping pad. This morning I repacked my bags, putting the least likely to be used items on the bottom. I have several things that they told us to bring, but I don’t actually need: warm hat and gloves, fleece, base layer… I wish they would have put things on the list like camp chair, more alcohol…

Today was a fairly long and hot day. We stopped late morning at Shinumo Creek to hike up to a waterfall. It was a short hike (~10 minutes) and I get the impression that this is what some people the hiking would be like on a “hiker’s special” trip. About an hour after that we stopped for a quick lunch before hiking up to Elves Chasm. This is another one of the places that I remember from my previous trip, but it seemed so much better this time.

Shinumo Creek Falls

After a short rock-hop up a stream we came upon the waterfall at the chasm. It plunges 10-15 feet off a rock ledge into an impossibly deep pool. (I don’t know how deep because I never actually got to the bottom.) What made this trip better was that I climbed to ledge at the midway point of the falls and jumped into the pool. I climbed up a second time onto a ledge further out and had my dad take a picture as I lept. What fun!

Me jumping off the falls at Elves Chasm

The rest of the day was a scorcher. We just kept cruising along, making miles (so they say). We did spot quite a number of big horn sheep though. Normally I’m not a fan, but the second group was the largest Rob had seen in the Canyon.

Once we got to camp there was the usual rush of people getting off the boat to find “the perfect campsite”. I’ve decided not to participate in the annoying rush any more, so just picked a nice spot after everyone else had staked their claim. Then I got some soap and shampoo and took a nice bath. I must be getting used to the cold water because I can actually stay in the water for a while without feeling like I’m getting hypothermia.

Now, while everyone is fumbling around at their campsites, I’m sitting at a beautiful waterfall about 10 minutes from away. I have the whole place to myself and I couldn’t be more pleased. My notebook is getting a little damp from the spray, but I really don’t care. I think I’ll sit here for a while and enjoy the peacefulness.

Stone Creek Falls

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Grand Canyon Journal - Tuesday September 6th 2005 - Day 4

River covered: Mile 74 to Mile 96. Camped at Shist

The hike this morning was great. We got up while it was still dark and tossed sandwiches and granola bars in our packs before heading out. I had my bag all packed before I went to be so I wouldn’t have to fumble with it in the dark. Rob lead the way, but it was hard to stay on the trail in such low light. Once we got atop the first ridge the trail got more well defined and the light got better. Within 15 minutes we had made some good ground, but some people were struggling with the pace. I actually I thought we were going a little slow. It wasn’t a particularly cool morning, but it was so nice to be hiking before the heat of the day. In addition, we had some decent cloud cover the whole time so it never got unbearably hot. The trail continued up and up, sometimes on a sloping trail, sometimes over big boulders with large step-ups. It probably took us about 2 hours to get to the top of Tabernacle, and the view was spectacular. We took a little time to sit atop the rock, eat breakfast, and admire the view before heading back to camp.

We had a lot of good rapids today. With the water being so low, there were some extra hazards (in the form of exposed boulders). In Hance Rapids we hit a couple rocks and briefly got stuck on one. In the afternoon we took a quick side hike up Cold Creek. Rob made a pretty amazing parking job to make the hike possible: We floated down the river backwards for a little bit, maneuvering like a trout facing upstream before he hit the motor at just the right time and squeezed the raft right in the mouth of the creek. The payoff at the end of the hike was a cool waterfall often dubbed the “horizontal waterfall”. It’s called that because there is on fall of water coming down over the top and another that shoots in from the side in a horizontal fashion.

After our hike we hit a couple big rapids before finding a camp. The water through the rapids was coooold, and those of us in the front of the boat were glad to see dry ground. A few of us hung out on the boat to drink some beer and chat, and while I was off enjoying myself, a couple ravens came through camp to look for human treasures. When I walked up to my site I saw a couple of them picking through some of my stuff. They were actually pulling things out of my toiletries bag, and in the end made off with my soap.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Sleepy Time

From a couple minutes ago:

Copper 4-pass

I can get Copper 4-passes for $60 but I only want to go to Copper 1 or 2 times.  Does anyone want to split 4 passes with Christine and I?  Each pass can only be used once a day (you couldn't split a pass with 4 other people and all go on the same day, for example).  $15/day at Copper is 20%-30% of the cost at the ticket window (depending on what time of the season you go), so it's a sweet deal.

People with the Gold Pass need not apply.  :P

Grand Canyon Journal - Monday September 5th 2005 - Day 3

River covered: Mile 43 - 74. Camped at Rattlesnake

This morning was a little dew-ey, which meant that the stuff I had hanging to dry from yesterday’s rain was still damp. No biggie, just a little annoying.

I love the glass smooth portions of the river. In the Canyon, the river kind of follows the pattern of pool, rapid, pool, rapid, etc… Some pools are slower than others, and we went through several today. It’s so neat to look out across the water and see the beautiful canyon and its perfect mirror reflection below.

We stopped later morning at Nankoweap Canyon. There’s a big delta at the river where Little Nankoweap and Nankoweap Canyon flow into the main canyon. A loooong time ago (1000-2000 years ago) the Anasazi would farm this delta with corn, beans, and squash and they would store their planting seeds high above the river in granaries molded into the cliffs to keep rodents and moisture out in the off season. We hiked to the granaries and got to see them up close and personal. There were also 2 caves to the left of the granaries that I scurried over to solo. I didn’t want to get too close because I wasn’t sure if it was a no-no, but I got close enough to one to see the mud-mortared wall and I snapped a couple pictures.

Nankoweap GranariesView from hike

A short ways down the river we came to the mouth of the Little Colorado River. Typically the Little Colorado runs an awesome shade of blue caused by the mineral travertine that comes out of the rocks. If it has been raining heavily in the area, it will turn a muddy brown color and it means the rest of the Colorado River will be muddy. We weren’t sure which version of the Little Colorado we’d get due to the recent rains, and we were happy to see it was blue when we pulled up. The main river is still a little brown, but Rob thinks it will clear up in a day or two.

The Little Colorado is also significantly warmer than the Colorado, so it was fun to play in. We strapped our life jackets around our waist (legs through the arm holes) like a big diaper and floated down the rapids. It was a blast. Even Rob took a trip down, and he was grinning ear to ear when he was done. It’s awesome to see the crew having fun too, instead of just working. (I think Rob was happy too because he scored some butter and other staples from another AZRa boat. Apparently our trip had forgotten to pack them.)

From there we really motored down the river to a campsite called Rattlesnake. Along the way Rob revealed his plan for our next hike (which he referred to as a preposterous proposition). He pointed to a peak called Tabernacle which is 2000+ feet above the river. To do this hike, 7 of us are getting up at 5AM so we can beat the heat. The view ought to be spectacular.

Tabernacle (the single peak on the right)

As I look around camp, I see most everyone is choosing to sleep in tents instead of under the stars. I wish they knew what they were missing. I think I shall try to talk some people out of their tents tonight.

My backpack is packed for tomorrow morning, ravioli dinner is just about ready, and I’m going to do some stretching before I eat.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Grand Canyon Journal - Sunday September 4th 2005 - Day 2

River covered: Mile 19.5 to 43. Camped at President Harding rapids

What a great day. I got up just as the sun was coming out and fished for about 10 minutes. After I caught one small rainbow, I stopped and began to pack up my stuff.

Following a bacon and egg breakfast, we took the raft across the river and hiked North Canyon. We worked our way up the gradually narrowing canyon and were eventually treated to a neat pool nestled between the narrow canyon walls and fed by a late summer trickle. Judging from the rest of the canyon, it looks like the trickle is more like a stream in the spring.

Rob wanted to make it to a campsite around mile 50, so after our hike we started to haul down the river. After lunch we took a short break at Red Wall Cavern, which is one of the places I remember from my last trip. It’s a huge cavern carved into the canyon wall along the outside edge of the river and it acts as a great beach and a place to get out of the sun. Before we left, I took the chance to cool off and hopped in the water. It felt great!

Every year, a string quartet takes a trip down the river and stops at various beaches to play for whoever shows up. That trip is going on right now, but we just missed hearing them. :( They’re on an oar trip, so we won’t be seeing them anymore on this trip.

It eventually started to rain in the later afternoon and the Canyon looked amazing. In general, I dislike rain because it disrupts the things that I like to do. Today, however, I could see the beauty of the rain. Looking back towards the sun and seeing the rain drops fall for what seemed like miles into the Canyon was gorgeous.

Because of the rain and the high potential for another boat group at our proposed camping spot, we decided to camp early and hike before dinner.

The hike took us steeply up Eminence Break Fault and finished with us perched atop the Redwall Limestone layer and just below the Supai Group (a group of rocks consisting of Esplande Sandstone, the Wescogame Formation, the Manakacha Formation, and the Watahomigi Formation). The view as the sun was going down was awesome. It’s too bad some people bailed because it was raining when we started. At the top I sat on the edge of a cliff and let me feet dangle precariously over the 800’ drop. What a view.

When I got back to camp I decided it would be nice to clean up a little, so I grabbed my soap, shampoo, and towel and headed down to the 60 degree river water. I’m really not a fan of cold water. Being wet and cold sucks. After my afternoon dip though, I thought a short batch may no be that bad. I hopped into the water briefly and got out to lather up. Then one more quick dunk and I was done. It felt surprisingly invigorating, and I look forward to more swims.

Dinner was burgers and brats, with potato salad, beans, and a delicious carrot cake dessert. It’s amazing how well they can cook cakes in these dutch ovens.

The hike took a lot of time out of the evening, so it’s now quite dark as I’m writing. That reminds me of last night’s stars. Amazing! I could see a billion stars, some satellites, and even the Milky Way. I just glanced up for a second and saw the constellation Cassiopeia. It always reminds me of Christine because she pointed it out to me shortly after we met. I miss her and wish she were here to share these experiences with me. I’ll have to make a third trip down here. :)

Rob reads from "Encounters With the Archdruid"

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Grand Canyon Journal - Saturday September 3rd 2005 - Day 1

River covered: Lees Ferry to Mile 19.5

Another 5AM start. I got ready by about 5:15 and headed to the Starbucks for a soy chai, a scone, and some snacks. For some reason I decided last minute that it’d be nice to have a Mojo Bar in my day bag each day on the river, so I was on the hunt. No Mojo’s were found, but I found some Cliff and Odwalla Bars. The 3 hour bus ride from Flagstaff to the drop in point at Lee’s Ferry was boring as expected, but it gave me chance to observe my comrades a little and see what they were all about.

There’s a group of five older people (Mitch, Jacque, Vonnie, Russ, Carolyn) from various parts of the country that have done a good amount of hiking and mountaineering. I expect them to be very competent hikers and I stand to learn a lot from them about the surrounding wildlife (they seem to have knowledge in that area).

There’s a younger couple from the Maryland area (Chuck and Nancy). Don’t know much about them yet, but they seem like really nice people. Chuck always seems eager to help out. There’s another couple (Keith and Beth) from Las Vegas. All I know about them so far is that Keith brought his spin fishing gear.

Last but not least is the trio from Houston, TX (John, Patricia, and Joyce). Joyce is 81! I commend her for coming down to the Canyon, but of all the trips one could take through the Canyon, why take a “hiker’s special” when you don’t like (or aren’t capable of) hiking? She at least provides some comic relief though due to her being a little hard of hearing. After the whole boat had finished discussing a cliff dwelling plant someone had spotted, she turns around and says “Hey, look at that plant” as if we hasn’t even been talking about it. Ha! All 3 of them seemed pretty unexcited about the camping experience. I hope they get over that, or it’s going to be a long trip for them.

Our crew for this trip is: Rob Elliot (Trip Leader), Nikki (Swamper – I have no idea where that name comes from), and Brent (Assistant). Brent is an avid kayaker and recently graduated with a physics degree from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. This is very first trip through the Grand Canyon. Rob has been a guide for 30 years! Already it’s clear that we’re going to get much more of a geology and history education on this trip compared to the last one. I’ll be lucky if I can retain 10% of what I hear, but I enjoy the information nonetheless.

Today Rob was explaining all the layers of rock we were rafting through. He also told us about some past expeditions and even showed us an inscription on a rock made by the 1890 Stanton-Brown expedition someone had died back in the 1890’s.

Lunch was a make-your-own-sandwich affair with turkey, avocado, lettuce, and good whole grain bread. Yummy!

The plan for the evening was to camp at North Canyon to set up camp and go for a short hike. When we got closer we could see that there was already a raft camped there so we camped at another beach nearby. We’ll do the hike in the morning.

The daily plan of attack after beaching the boat is this: Take your PFD and day bag and go find a campsite. Then come back to the boat and form a bag line to unload bags and kitchen stuff. This whole line forming thing is difficult for some people.

It looks to be a very clear night, so I laid out my tarp away from tent and away from other people. It’s a little more of a trek than some other campsites, but I think the solitude will be worth it. After I set up my space I got out my fly rod and did a little fishing near camp. Even though my wet fly technique sucks, I still caught a couple fun little rainbow trout.

Dinner was great. We had salmon with lemon, rice, and a salad. For dessert there was a pineapple cake. Following dinner we got together to let everyone introduce themselves again, give their hiking experience, and list what type of hikes they’d like to do. I was pleased with the outcome.

I said “bring it on”. (No, he didn’t say “It’s already been broughten.”) I want to do some hard hikes and some hikes that people normally wouldn’t get to do. I was very pleased to hear Rob say that it was his goal to make the hard core hikers happy. I can’t wait see where we go. I know we’ll most likely be hiking Havasu Creek. (totally psyched).

We also found out more about our guides. Nikki is Navajo. I’ve never hung with a Native American, so hopefully I can learn some things. Rob, it turns out, is the owner of the company and has an impressive resume of river guiding. I look forward to learning more about (and from) him.

Time for bed now. The stars are amazing!

My first camp siteView from my first campsite

Friday, September 23, 2005

Grand Canyon Journal - Introduction

I finally finished typing up my Grand Canyon journal, and instead of making one huge post I'm going to put them on my LiveJournal in serial form.  Starting tomorrow I'll post one journal day at a time along with some pictures.  Suspenseful, huh?  The reason I'm starting tomorrow is that the first entry in the journal was a Saturday (9/3/05), so the day of the week it's posted will match up with when it was written.

Don't be surprised if I forget a day or two, especially on the weekends when I'm not generally in front of a computer.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Back from “the great unknown”

I’ve made if back from my rafting trip through the Grand Canyon and I wanted to take a moment to update my Live Journal amidst all the other things I’m trying to catch up on.

Back in high school I went on a raft trip through the Canyon with my dad and sister. It’s hard not to be awestruck by the beauty of the Canyon and it ranked, without question, as my favorite vacation. A few years ago, my dad brought up the idea of another canyon trip, and I don’t think he even got the words out of his mouth before I told him to count me in. We both agreed that one of the better parts about the last trip was the hiking, so we found a “hiker’s special” trip and booked the 10 day trip over a year in advance.

Unlike the last trip, I kept a journal this time so that I’d have a more lasting record than my fading memory and eventually I’ll transcribe the whole journal onto LJ. (Mostly for my own edification, because I doubt anyone will spend the time reading it). I also have a ton of pictures, which I will most likely intersperse with the journal entries. For now, I’ll go with the executive summary.

In short: best. trip. ever. By pure luck, we ended up with the most amazing guide, Rob Elliot, who’s been guiding the Colorado River since the 60’s. Oh, and he also *owns* the raft company (Arizona Raft Adventures – and I HIGHLY recommend them for trips down the Colorado).

We went on several hikes, some long and some short, but all of them beautiful. I’ll detail them all when I transcribe my journal, but a couple of the highlights have to be Thunder River Falls and Beaver Falls at Havasu Creek. Havasu is amazing and I’m going to have to talk some people into hiking down from the rim some day (soon – hint, hint).

The weather was a bit warm for this time of year but the rain was sparse enough that we were able to sleep outside under the stars every night. I couldn’t believe that most of the people slept in tents every night. Aside from it being a small oven, they were robbing themselves of the opportunity to see the stars without ANY interference from lights. I lost track of how many shooting stars I saw.

I can’t say enough good things about our guide, Rob. After guiding for 40 years, Rob knows the canyon extremely well, respects it, and clearly has a passion for its geology and preservation. From the way he kept track of the location of other trips on the river, to the way he could read the water like he was reading a children’s book, I can not imagine having a better guide than this. His stories and onboard book collection have given me a geological, historical, and environmental reading list that’s sure to keep me busy for a while.

The biggest thanks of all for this trip goes to my dad. Without you, I wouldn’t have gone on this trip. Thank you for giving me a really good reason to take a vacation. Thank you for putting up with my automotive anal-retentiveness. Thank you for pushing your hiking limits and, even more impressive, leading us up the last mile of the very steep Thunder River Falls hike.

Friday, September 2, 2005

Grand Canyon rafting Trip

Today my dad and I started our Grand Canyon journey with a scenic drive from Fort Collins to Durango. Having just made the drive using the "usual" route a few months ago, I thought it'd be fun to drive some roads I hadn't seen before and also see some new scenery.

The trip from Fort Collins to Glenwood Springs was mostly non-noteworthy with the exception of the detour I took up Lookout Mountain in Golden. That's a really fun road to drive and has some spectacular views. We made pretty good time on I-70 to Vail because I was following an Audi at 90-100 miles an hour.

From Glenwood Springs, we headed south on 133 to Carbondale and then west over McClure Pass. Lots of great views of Mount Sopris and the surrounding peaks. A short ways after the pass we stopped in Paonia for some lunch at a diner. With full bellies, we continued west towards Olathe and stopped in a winery for some tasting. Afterward, we went south on 550 all the way to Durango.

550 is an extremely fun and scenic road that goes through Montrose, Ouray, Silverton, and Durango. The twisties were great fun to drive through and I'm glad there wasn't too much holiday traffic yet. There's nothing like double clutching from 4th to 2nd on a hairpin in the mountains an accelerating to 90 on the straights.

We arrived in Durango around 4 and checked into the lovely Ramada. Oddly enough, I ran into an old Agilent coworker in the parking lot who had ridden here for a motorcycle rally. Now I'm off to find some grub.

Day two started with another 5AM wakeup. Virtually nothing was open in Durango at that hour so breakfast had to wait until Cortez. The dark drive to Cortez was a little hypnotizing, but I'm glad my reflexes were awake because a deer decided to walk out in front of me. A quick slam on the brakes followed by a swerve and we were good to go.

From Cortez we headed through the four corners and down to Canyon de Chelly. The scenery was great and we drove through and stopped at all the "scenic overlooks". I'm a little scenic overlook'd out now.

Until we got to I-40, all the roads we traveled were 2 lane highways with with little traffic and loooong straights. Consequently, we made pretty good time. (It didn't hurt that I was doing over 100 occasionally.)

We checked into our hotel in Flagstaff and then headed out on the town to pick up my fishing license and check out the observatory. I'm not too into astronomy, but it was pretty cool to tour the observatory where Pluto was discovered. I'll spare you the details, but it's an interesting story.

At 7 we had our pre-trip meeting, and it looks like I'm the youngest person on the boat. I'm probably half the age of most of the people actually. I'm a little surprised because I was expecting a little younger of a crowd since this is a hiking focused trip. Some of the people have actually hike the canyon before, so I have high hopes that they're prepared to hike.

Off to bed now. I have lots of pictures already, and I'll post them up after I get out of th canyon (on 9/12). Take care of the real world for me while I'm gone.