Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Arizona, Day 4 - The Colorado River and Glen Canyon

I woke up around 9:30 this morning; I slept pretty hard after my long day and night. I spoke to Kelley who informed me that the doc wanted to run IV antibiotics throughout the day, and then he would reassess tonight; he may possibly discharge her then. Kelley assured me that she was okay, and she encouraged me to go on our scheduled tour so that I could take lots of pics to share with her later.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that Page AZ is located right in the middle of some beautiful scenery. As you may recall, it was pitch black dark when we arrived in Page last night, and we could see nothing in the distance. When I walked out to the motel parking lot this morning, the view took my breath away! Who knew that this was there last night?
The view from the Motel 6 parking lot...that's our car you see here

I headed over to the Colorado River Discovery store to meet the guide and my tour group. I checked in, and I browsed around the store. I realized that I had forgotten my Yankees cap, so I bought a floppy hat to wear during the trip. The AZ sun is pretty fierce, and my fair Irish skin burns after about 3 minutes in the sun if I'm not wearing any protection.

The Colorado River Discovery Store on 6th Ave in Page AZ

We boarded the motorcoach, and we were on our way to the Glen Canyon Dam for the start of our trip.

The view from my seat on the motorcoach

The scenery on our way to the dam

We arrived at the "top of the tower" or the top of the dam which is where our journey was to begin. There is a 2-mile tunnel through which we had to go to get to the bottom of the dam; the tunnel goes through solid rock. We're on government property at this point, so per Homeland Security procedure, we had to disembark the bus prior to entering the tunnel so that a security sweep could be performed. Our bags had to go down in a separate vehicle so we loaded them onto another truck while we were waiting. We then boarded the bus again and rode through a dark tunnel. I sat with a nice lady from Canada, and we chatted a bit during this ride. Neither of us understood the purpose of the bags going down in a separate vehicle; they were never searched or x-rayed...and the other "vehicle" was the unsecured back of a pick-up truck.

Awaiting completion of the security sweep

We disembarked again at the bottom of the dam where our bags were awaiting our arrival. We were required to wear hard hats as we walked down towards the boats because of rocks and pebbles that may fall from the canyon walls, as well as objects that people may throw from the top of it (!).

Walking down to the docks

Our group divided into two smaller groups, and we boarded our boats. They were motorized pontoon boats. Our guide's name was Josh, and he was pretty cute. He also knew his stuff! He was full of information about the river and the canyon, and his passion for his job really shone through.

Our cute patootie guide, Josh

Once again, my tour group consisted of several nationalities. There were three Americans aboard---a married couple and me. The married couple also happened to be from western North Carolina, same as me! There were two Australian families, two British couples, a Canadian family, and a couple from Denmark. I enjoyed talking to the Danes; their English was good, though we did have a few moments when we played an impromptu game of charades--if they weren't sure of a word in English, they would act it out. They were really sweet, and they were good sports. We laughed a lot during our brief struggles to communicate.

The Australians were lovely people. There were three sons between the two families, and I'd say they ranged from 10-12 years old. They were cute and funny. I had brief conversation with one of them about meerkats. He learned that I'm a fan of the show "Meerkat Manor", and that broke the ice between us. One of the husbands and I struck up a conversation, and he shared with me that the two families were on a 4-week holiday touring the southwestern United States. They had been to San Francisco, Los Angeles (Disneyworld), Las Vegas, and now the Grand Canyon. He gave his wife full credit for the planning and organization of the trip. He said that he earned the money for the trip, and he showed up for it...his wife did the rest. We both agreed that Los Angeles was not the place for us. I encouraged him to visit New York City some time in his life, and he asked what the difference was between there and Los Angeles. I replied that it was hard to put my finger on it, but that it was just different, especially culturally. We talked about the differences between the east coast and west coast. I advised that the next time they visit the U.S. (according to him, it would be about ten years before they could afford another trip), they should check out the east coast. Specifically, I suggested New England, NYC, Washington DC, the NC Outer Banks, the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains, and Florida. I asked about the different coasts in Australia, and he shared that the biggest battle between the two coasts is for space. There are 20 million people living in Australia (which is the same size as the lower 48 United States), but only about 20% of the total population lives in the western half; the remaining 80% lives in the eastern half.

Needless to say, our 15-mile journey was filled with beauty and awe. The weather was perfect; the skies were bright blue and dotted with fluffy white clouds. We floated during most of it, though Josh gunned the motor a few times.

About halfway through the trip, we stopped at a small beach so that we could hike and explore.

Here, we were able to hike to an area in which there are prehistoric petroglyphs visible on one of the enormous rocks. A "petroglyph" is an image that is carved into a rock, as opposed to being drawn or painted onto the surface. These petroglyphs are estimated to be hundreds to thousands of years old; they were carved by the Ancestral Puebloans, which were the area's first inhabitants. According to Josh, the Puebolans were most likely trying to communicate that this trail leads to a body of water.

After everyone stretched their legs and visited the petroglyphs, we boarded the boats and were on our way again. The tour ended at Lee's Ferry. We disembarked, bid Josh farewell (I tipped him $5, and he was very sweetly surprised and grateful), and then boarded the motorcoach to head back to Page.

The end of the line

The 1-hour ride back was filled with more beautiful scenery as we rolled through the Navajo reservation. However, I was neglected to take any pictures because I was too busy gabbing with the Canadian woman who was on my boat. Her husband, her mother-in-law, and her were on a 2-week vacation. They had the first week in Alaska and were now exploring the Grand Canyon area. She is an investment broker from Toronto, and we talked about America's financial crisis and the notorious bailout (which was voted down today, incidentally). I asked her if the Canadian economy and her clients were feeling the brunt of it yet, and she said "No, not really." According to her, the Canadian economy will most likely never fall into such lousy shape because they are highly regulated (and their regulations are actually upheld as opposed to the very loose regulations in the U.S.). She said it seems that "everytime I turn around, we're being audited."

We returned to the Colorado River Discovery store around 6 o'clock, and I called Kelley to see how things were going. She said that her antibiotics were still running, but as soon as they were finished, she was being discharged. I drove over to the hospital, we visited in her room as we waited for the meds to run out. She looked much better. The swelling was obviously down, and she looked more like herself. She was given her discharge orders and new prescriptions, and we were out the door. We found a Safeway grocery store/pharmacy, and we got her prescriptions filled. While we waited, we strolled around the store and bought some snacks. We were both pretty hungry, and wanted something to nibble on once we got to the motel. Denny's Restaurant was our next stop. After devouring our supper, we headed over to the Motel 6 and crashed. Hard.

We have about a 5-hour drive to Phoenix tomorrow, so we're going to try to hit the road fairly early. The plan is to drive back through the Navajo reservation and Grand Canyon National Park again, except we will do it during the daylight this time. Novel idea.

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

I'm thoroughly enjoying your blog during this trip. Those petroglyphs are just the coolest! One of those things you hear about in school, then you see one (or even a photo of a real one taken by someone you know!) and all of a sudden they are "real". Way cool.