Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Grand Adventure

You know that feeling when you're in a new place and you just want to see EVERYTHING?? I understand there are people who would like nothing better than to finish up a road trip with a week doing nothing but lying on the beach. I'm not those people.

I was armed with a book of "easy hikes"...because I know my propensity for getting into things the kids can't handle. I vowed to do nothing outside the book. I almost succeeded too...sorta. Anyway, the first order of business in the morning was to vacate our pretty campsite and move to the new one.
This was the original site. It was beautiful and a little out-of-the-way, but also on a slope. I'd been happy to note, the night before, that our new, very flat and more central site was occupied by a couple of young guys with tiny little tents and backpacks. I figured they wouldn't be hanging out enjoying their morning coffee the next day. And, as luck would have it, they were gone before we got up.

In another major win, I'd purchased a collapsable wagon earlier in the summer. And it rocks! It was a pain to fit in the oh-so-full van, but worth every bit of frustration. I made breakfast while the kids took many, many trips to our new site with the wagon. By the time they were eating their pancakes, the move was nearly complete.
Just the cooking stuff and the tent left to go. It's another time when I failed to take pictures. How will I ever prove that my often-uncooperative kids had a great time trucking all our stuff a few campsites over? How will I ever know how funny Smunch and I looked as the two of us carried our giant tent through the campground to the nice, flat space we'd occupy for the next three nights? I'll just have to use my imagination, I suppose.

I did manage to talk Mam into pigtails. That's a moment to be recorded in the history books...or at least in a blog. For at least a day, she wouldn't look like an unkempt ragamuffin. And it was pretty darned cute, really.

Once our stuff was all settled in, the kids were anxious to go back to the Grand Canyon Lodge for a look at the Canyon in the daylight. My original arrival plan had been to drive straight to the Lodge and surprise them with the view. You can't see the Canyon from the front of it, but as soon as you walk in, you have a floor-to-ceiling view. But I was too anxious to get there in the waning light and we didn't go inside the Lodge in the evening.

The kids were impressed. We had willing strangers take our photo at the overlook nearby.
The dining room was very impressive, right at the edge of the Canyon. I had secret plans to have dinner there on our last night, if we could make it to the showers beforehand.
The kids wanted to know what in the world this was:
I had plans...because I always have plans when it comes to go back to the campsite for lunch and then take a short hike along a trail called the Cliff Springs Trail. It included the ruins of an Indian granary, which sounded kinda cool. So we ate our lunch and headed back out on a drive up towards Cape Royal. There are so many different overlooks and beautiful views along this route that we found ourselves stopping a lot.
And every time we stopped, we took a whole bunch of pictures. When a place is this breathtaking, it's hard not to.

Ultimately, we missed the tiny sign along the road that pointed towards Cliff Springs Trail, so we kept going up to Cape Royal to take in the view up there. It's one of the few places you can actually see the Colorado River, far, far below.
And it features Angel's Window, which is a pretty cool piece of rock, especially since it frames the river.
We met a guy from home up there. His T-shirt advertising the competitive rock-climbing team at a local gym was the giveaway. Turns out he was a pretty decent photographer.
Mam was enamored with all the flowers along the route.

On the way back down the road, we finally spotted the trail sign, and despite having walked out to Cape Royal and Angel's Window, the kids were still game for this little adventure. I admit that this was one of my favorite hikes on this trip. The granary was mildly interesting, although there was very little information about it except for what it said in my hiking book.
And there was a funny, fat little ground squirrel who insisted on posing for us until we took our fill of pictures.
Aside from that, the trail ran along the side of a cliff face where water trickled out here and there.
There was nothing particularly picturesque about the oozing water, but once you got around this bend, the view into the Canyon was magnificent.
Mam kept exclaiming how this was the best hike she'd ever been on and how every thing was SO cool!
We were having so much fun that when the trail kind of petered out, we kept going along the narrow, less-defined trail. Other people were hiking the opposite direction, so it didn't seem like a big deal. We got to the end, where it was clear that you could go no further and we stopped for a rest against the big, red cliff face.
Mam and I did a little exploring, making Smunch a tad anxious. We weren't doing anything dangerous. He's just high-strung that way and he was doubtlessly tired. We met Smunch back up on the rocks and turned around.

It's a funny thing about ill-defined trails. They look so very obvious going one way, but they can be near invisible when you turn around to go back. I'm not sure if that's what happened to us. But I know we lost the trail. And before long, we were climbing around cacti and slip-sliding across a sandy, rocky, rather steep slope. It was hard. It was frustrating. And perhaps I should have made some connections about Smunch's anxiety about then because the struggle to traverse the terrain and find the trail became punctuated with announcements like, "Mom, I don't want to die out here!" and "Well, I guess we could just sleep here and find the trail tomorrow."

All that sounds pretty alarming, but in truth, we were in no real danger. The biggest danger was that someone would truly get hurt while we were off trail..more than the myriad bumps and scrapes we already had from the rocks and prickly plants. The cliff face curves and from the point where we'd stopped, you could look back and see the trail. We could always see the main trail. We just weren't on a path to get there.

Before long, Mam started buying some of Smuch's hysteria. And a slightly stressed and frustrated mommy, who'd been calmly, but firmly reassuring moments earlier started to slowly lose it. And then there was this:
I suppose I shouldn't single out this particular agave plant. It wasn't this particular individual, but at some point, I stumbled and planted my shin firmly on the outstretched leaf of one of these plants. Know what? The spikes at the end are really sharp and they can stick into your skin a good long way. Knowing that the kids were already panicky, I muttered something under my breath and vowed to ignore my newly-impaled leg, but gosh, it hurt!

We scrambled up and down, trying to make sure we stayed close to the level of the trail in the distance. I kept thinking we'd found it, and being quickly disappointed. Finally, as we walked along a rocky outcropping, I saw the trail...about five feet below. Thankful that I could manage to keep my calm, I kept walking until we came to a small tree close to the rock and we all shimmied our way down.

Back on the main trail, tired, relieved, scraped and bleeding, we made our way back to the mommymobile. It wasn't far. We really hadn't gone that far. I said something to the kids about hurting myself, at which point they noticed the blood streaming down my leg, staining my socks and dripping on my hiking boots. "Oh, Mommy! Are you O.K.??" Mam cried.

Of course, I was O.K., I reassured her. I had her take pictures of the damage, just to prove it was merely a flesh wound.
It's not really impressive. It hurt far worse than it looked. Turns out that having an agave give you a nice hard jab in the shin will hurt badly...for days. Thank goodness I brought the Advil.

The kids declared this hike an absolute disaster. Secretly, I thought it was kind of awesome, despite the challenges...possibly because of the challenges, at least in part. There's some freedom to having the absolute knowledge that you can get out of a situation that makes some people (even little people) panic. I hoped the kids felt like I'd gotten them through the ordeal, even if they maintained their stance that it stunk.

Whatever I had planned for that evening no longer mattered. The only thing that mattered was getting back to the campsite, cleaning our wounds, making a campfire and having spaghetti. Spaghetti...and s'mores, of course.

I wouldn't have minded drinking a big, cold margarita in retribution though!

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