After near drought conditions for the first three weeks of my trip, I’ve been blessed with three consecutive days of rain and cooler weather.
Thursday / Day 24: Flagstaff, Williams, Grand Canyon National Park, Marble Canyon, Zion National Park, Dixie National Forest
Friday / Day 25: Dixie National Forest, Bryce Canyon National Park, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Coyote Gulch*, Canyonlands National Park, Moab
Saturday / Day 26: Moab, Arches National Park, Colorado National Monument, Grand Junction, Ouray, Durango, Cortez Rest Area
I really don’t know what to say about the Grand Canyon. Everyone I know says that it’s one of the few places on earth that doesn’t disappoint. And they are right. Pictures do not do this place justice. If you have only seen the Grand Canyon through pictures, then you haven’t seen it yet.
I love looking at canyons and other rock formations and try to imagine – in time lapse – the glacial, water, and wind erosion that took place over millions of years to create these structures. I’m sure really smart geologists and advanced computer simulations already know how they were formed, and I’m sure that the placards at each of these scenic views probably tells the story. But this is one rare moment where I’d rather not let science ruin the mystery, but instead, to allow my imagination to run wild.
As awesome as the Grand Canyon was, I do not have to drive through the park again in the future. No, what I want to do is take a rafting tour down the Colorado River – see the canyons from the ground view.
Blame It on the Rain
There were few places on my itinerary that I was looking forward to more than Coyote Gulch. So it’s ironic that the rain I had practically been praying for ruined this stop. But now I understand why the NWS issues flash flood warnings. Out here, in the desert southwest, the earth is less accommodating. Thunderstorms can cause real damage and hazards.
About 34 miles out from Coyote Gulch, and 6 miles into BLM200, I encountered something I had never seen before – a washed out road. Water had flooded over a large section of the road – which in itself wasn’t so bad and even a little fun to drive through. But then I noticed that a large chunk of the side of the road had washed away. And it looked like a fairly deep gouge had formed across the entire span of the road on the other side of the flood.
On top of all that, water was rushing and churning in the river that flanked both sides of the road. Had I attempted to cross it, there’s a very real possibility that the weight of my vehicle could have caused more of the road to wash away, and we could have gotten stuck, if not fallen into the river. I wouldn’t’ve have taken that chance on a dare.
It’s not a total loss. I had already decided to revisit Coyote Gulch in the future. The accelerated pace of my trip put me there in July instead of October, as originally planned. I was not looking forward to making the hike to the Jacob Hamblin Arch in the heat we’d been experiencing.
But I’m still sad. So far, Coyote Gulch is the only place on my itinerary that I’ve had to beg off from.
Quiet and Uneventful
Although we’ve seen some gorgeous sights over the past few days, I really don’t have much else of interest to report. Tomorrow (Day 27 / July 30), I plan to hit the final two national parks on my itinerary: Carlsbad Caverns and Big Bend. It will be about 900 miles, but there’s no use in stopping anywhere in between, as the only real points of interest I foresee are travelling on old Route 666 (allegedly haunted) and passing through Roswell. Afterward, we head west through southern New Mexico and Arizona toward Slab City. Then on to LA and Route 66 back to Wisconsin.
You could say that I have mixed emotions about the end of the trip drawing near. I am still very reluctant to return to “the real world”. I still intend to find a way to carry this new lifestyle into the next chapter of my life. But there is a little part of me that looks forward to not driving all day every day. It will be nice to know where the nearest stores are and to not have to hunt for water or a bathroom or a safe place to sleep (or at least to reliably know where I will find those things). I look forward to watching movies, having a stable Internet connection, and receiving mail. And I look forward to getting my hands dirty with haunt season rapidly approaching.
What fills me with anxiety and dread is the knowledge that I’ll have a very important meeting with an old colleague right before my trip is over. That meeting will be crucial in deciding my immediate future plans. And then I’ll have to execute those plans in a very short period of time. I’m trying not to think about it too much, but I can’t help myself.