Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Log 12 - North to Canada via motor home TIOGA II

This blog covers June 28 - July 18, 2003 where we travel inland with our recently purchased 24' motor home (called Tioga II) from San Carlos, Mexico where we stored our boat for the hurricane season, north through the US western interior, and up to Canada. In subsequent logs, we visit family and friends, then head out to the west coast and back down along the west coast.

Our route over summer 2003

Saturday, June 29, 2003 - USA / Mexico Border

After leaving Tioga late yesterday, we arrive at the US/Mexican border and pass through with a minor inspection and a big 'welcome home' from a US border guard. Our R/V is sporting Arizona license plates so we are in disguise! This border is apparently the most protected border in the world both day and night.
Crossing the US/Mexican border at Nogales
Making our way north in Tioga II

Tuesday, July 1st - Slide Rock State Park & Canada Day!

Slide Rock State Park, near Sedona, Arizona, is a welcoming retreat from the now intense and building summer heat. Oak Creek boasts a series of natural water-slides gently etched over time. Though the water is extremely cool, it does not bother Joel as he enjoys a swift cruise down from one bubbling pool to the next.
Slide Rock State Park
The entire area is set in red rock and it has a collection of buttes, spires and sheer rock walls that shimmer with shades of amazing color. We found out that Sedona and area has recently been voted the most beautiful place in the USA. Lucky us...keep it in mind for a winter getaway!!

Stunning red rock everywhere.

Wednesday, July 2nd - The Grand Canyon, Arizona

The first of our major stops as we proceed north was none other than The Grand Canyon. We arrive early to find we are only able to get a campsite for one night - all sites are reserved for the July 4th holiday weekend. We have to move fast and cover the area in two days. We don't feel much like hiking, mind you, as we have just gone from sea-level to over 8000' elevation and are feeling somewhat peaked.

Grand Canyon, here we come 
Approaching the Rim ...
As a family, we walk up to the south rim with our heads down, holding hands. On the count of three, we all look out at the Grand Canyon for the first time!! It is exhilarating to see such beauty. Our hearts are pounding and Sheila has goose bumps. The canyon is extremely colorful, steep-walled, and exceptionally deep, with the Colorado River running far below. It is about 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and almost 1 mile deep! A small section of it is preserved by the Grand Canyon National Park, which receives about four million visitors a year. We meander the rest of the afternoon along the south rim trail, noticing how a small change in distance brings about different sun exposures and thus very different perspectives.

Grand Canyon vista - pictures hard to do justice 
The two major trailheads into the canyon are the South Kaibab and the Bright Angel. The visitor centre has a display about these hikes and explains about the 'danger zone'. Temperatures on the top rim typically range from 85-90 degrees F while at the canyon bottom, temperatures soar to 110 degrees. Every year hundreds of people are rescued as they attempt to descend to the canyon floor and back up in the same day. As we finish off for the day, Joel makes a powerful statement. 'Some people leave here with empty minds, but our family is building memories!'

Another beautiful view 

Our family on the rim

Thursday, July 3rd - Grand Canyon Junior Ranger Program

The National Parks throughout the USA have a Junior Ranger program for kids. It is a hands-on program where they have to complete various tasks within a nature booklet and attend Ranger-led programs where they might, for example, build a 'lean-to' or learn about the trees that grow in the area. Once complete, but before they obtain their badges and certificates, they have to make an oath to always protect nature and the environment. Joel is a proud 'coyote' and Gerrit a soaring 'raven' in the end. A great program we looked for wherever possible.

New Junior Rangers

 Friday, July 4th - Glen Canyon Dam, Arizona & U.S. Independence Day

The Colorado River that runs through the Grand Canyon is also a major source of freshwater and hydro-electricity for seven US states, including California. The Glen Canyon Dam, built in 1963, is the first of nine dams on the river.

Glen Canyon Dam, Arizona
Just outside of Page, AZ, we catch the first tour of the day down into the depths of the dam. It took 8 years to build, cost 18 lives, and currently provides 1.3 gigawatt-hours of power. Second only to the Hoover Dam, it stands about 700 feet tall and about 1/4 mile across. Not without controversy, water backing up against the Glen Canyon Dam inundated hundreds of square kilometers of the Colorado River Basin devastating the fragile ecosystems it flooded and completely changing the river environment downstream. Further, by the time the river finally reaches Mexico's Sea of Cortez, it is all dried up.

Generating hydro-electricity

 Friday, July 4th - Bryce Canyon National Park, Southwestern Utah

Established as a national monument in 1923, and as a national park in 1928, Bryce Canyon is famous for its unusual rock formations, apparently among the most spectacular and vividly colored of any in the world. The pink, white, orange, and red sandstone walls of these canyons have been sculptured by erosion, and spires and pinnacles are common. We find Bryce Canyon virtually deserted compared to the Grand Canyon.
Bryce Canyon, Utah

Sunday, July 6th - Hiking into the Canyons with E.T.

Bryce is much more accessible for our family in that hiking into the canyon doesn't represent such a time and effort commitment as trying to do so in the Grand Canyon. There are numerous hikes of varying lengths and the temperatures are not nearly as extreme. Here up the gully, the kids spot E.T., the extraterrestrial, looking down on us.

E.T. peers down the arroyo

 Another Bryce Canyon vista ...

Bryce's colorful pinnacles and spires are breathtaking.

Tuesday, July 8th - Salt Lake City, Utah

Continuing north to Salt Lake City, the principal attraction here is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) Temple Square.

Salt Lake City Temple

The church was founded in the early 19th-century by Joseph Smith, who claimed to have had a vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ, informing him that the true church was not on the face of the Earth. The Temple itself is impressive as are all the displays and sculptures, such as this one depicting the Mormon pioneers carrying their every belonging in carts such as these across the county in search of peace.
Mormon pioneers.

The LDS church supports the world-famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir which we hope to see perform. We find out the next performance is not until Thursday night, so we settle for the daily half-hour organ practice enabling us the opportunity to hear the magnificent pipes.

Big Organ

 Thursday, July 10th - Grand Tetons National Park, Wyoming

This photo of the Grand Tetons is taken from the edge of Jackson Lake, later in the day as the boys skip stones across the lake. The entire area if full of hiking and great scenery very similar to home, the only difference being our own Rocky Mountains are much larger and more rugged. At 8100' elevation it's getting cold at night and for the first time in a long time we contemplate the use of a furnace.
Grand Teton Mountains from Jackson Lake

We find this unique X and O's board and take the time to smell to roses.

Building family memories again...

Saturday, July 12th - Magnificent Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park was established in 1872. It is located primarily in northwestern Wyoming but also extends into Montana and Idaho. The park is known for its spectacular geysers, hot springs, canyons, and fossil forests. Yellowstone is the world’s first national park.

Yellowstone National Park - North Entrance 
It is interesting to find out some of the myths and truths about the world's most famous geyser, Old Faithful. It does not erupt every hour on the hour as many people think, the current eruption interval averages every 94 minutes and lasts from 1.5 to 5 minutes. It is ever changing often as a result of earthquakes. It is one of over 300 geysers in Yellowstone, a cone geyser erupting in a narrow jet of water rather than fountain geysers that are wider spray, such as this one, which is taking a break.
One of many geysers

Sunday, July 13th - "Grand Canyon of Yellowstone"

After a day in the main camping area near Old Faithful, we head back on the road to explore this truly expansive and impressive park. There are still a lot of burned-out areas from the major fires in 1988, where over 35% of the park was scorched. A few more miles up the road, we stop in to see the Upper Falls of the Yellowstone River, which is a magnificent sight set in neapolitan-colored canyons.

Upper Falls of the Yellowstone River

Suspension bridge along the way
After our stop at the Upper Falls, is yet another fabulous picnic lunch and then a few more miles to the Indian Creek campground. On the final stretch of road, we see buffalo by the hundreds in herds on a high mountain plateau We think that Dances with Wolves with Kevin Costner must have been filmed here ( Trivia buffs??). The scenery and wildlife are truly breathtaking.

Dances with Wolves - Panoramic Photo

Tuesday, July 15th - Dillion, Montana

While retrieving emails in the nice college town of Bozeman, MT, Chris retrieves a message from good sailing friends Lisa, Eric, Max and Tally from s/v Catitude that they are in Dillion, Montana. Chris does not say anything until he checks on a map and verifies that Dillion is only about two hours away. We catch up with them at the Longhorn Saloon and Joel's buddy Max is sitting in the back of their truck waiting for us. What a fun evening!

Longhorn Saloon, Dillion, MT

 Thursday, July 17th - Canada / US Border Crossing Waterton/Glacier National Park

6:48pm - Oh Canada!

Well, we made across the border into Canada. Wow, it really feels strange to be back. We still have a longer drive tomorrow before we get to Calgary, but tonight's a celebration. And we've already been invited to our first BBQ!

Feels great to be back in Canada.
That's it for this adventure.  Join us in Log 13 for CANADA...our homeland.