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A Taste of the Desert Day 8

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Our last day. We pack up without ceremony and take off, heading back to Las Vegas to catch our flight. Nestled in the wide, empty flatlands that follows beside us as we drive the long highway, we notice a sign advertising museums and tourist info. Intrigued and in need of a refuel we decide to make a pit stop to fill up on gas, food and, with luck, enjoy some complimentary wifi. We pull into what I can only describe as the back drop for the movie, The Hills Have Eyes, in which a suburban American family is being stalked by a group of psychotic people who live in the desert. It feels like the eeriest town I’ve ever encountered, and Tom and I break the tension by joking about the ‘humpin’ log’ that we assume these places are full of. The signs to the "museums & info" led to, quite literally, nowhere. We follow them to an empty parking lot and decide to give up our search for civilization.


It is for this reason that we find ourselves beginning to feel desperate as, a few hours later, our gas tank carries us further into the barren wasteland. We decide to take an exit off the highway, following a barely legible gas symbol down a tiny, windy road. In any other situation, I would have found the canyon we were driving into scenic but, in this case, it was all I could do to keep down the panic bubbling up inside of me. Then, as if on cue, the road takes a sharp curve to the right and a gorgeous blue oasis opens up like a panorama to us. It appears that luck was on our side after all, we had stumbled across Lake Mead. We park and step out; there are dozens of happy, sun-soaked people milling around, completely ignorant of our near brush with death. T and I catch each other's eyes, giggling with relief, and decide to make the most of our unplanned stop. We walk to the end of the dock with a bag of bread ends to share with the ducks flapping playfully on the water. After taking a few moments to appreciate this spectacular blue mountain lake, we hop in our car, turn on a Radiolab episode and begin a deep and serious conversation about life, the universe, and everything; which keeps our minds busy for the last few hours of the drive.


Eight days of constant companionship and we are left craving more time with each other. The prospect of going back to spending just our evenings and weekends together is disquieting, making the last moments of this traveling experience bittersweet. This little journey was a test of our ability to travel well together and we’re happy to find out that we make a good team. After a quick jaunt through a casino or two; we make haste to the airport to board the redeye flight to the east coast. On the plane ride back, I am happy to mark the last day of this trip as the first day in my countdown to our move out of NYC and into our new life together.


Posted by Yonderlust 22:36 Archived in USA Tagged travel lake south las vegas west mead Comments (0)

A Taste of the Desert Day 7

sunny 96 °F
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We woke refreshed, having gained an extra hour of sleep from switching time zones, and gulped down a cold breakfast. Armed with lunches, sunscreen and high energy we struck off for the Rim Trail, a 9 mile trek offering stunning views of the canyon, with the highest elevation point at 6,800 ft. The last time T and I were hiking at this altitude, I admit to feeling a bit winded. This time around, I handled the altitude fine as we meandered along the rim at the doddering pace of 33 minutes per mile, which afforded us ample opportunity to stop and marvel at every scenic outlet.


I noticed that T was so engrossed in the journey he nearly walked into a bush on the edge of the cliff, I laughingly pulled him to safety, successfully avoiding potential disaster. T has pinned me with a reputation for clumsiness, so it was particularly satisfying that, this time, I was the one saving him. After some rigorously scientific calculations, we decided that about 10% of our conversation was specifically allocated to me talking T out of committing very dangerous acts. Damn him and his over confidence; although, honestly, I like watching him saunter up to the edge of a mile + long drop, stare down and laugh like the world hasn't just dropped out from under his feet. Me being the more risk averse of the two of us, I crawled on belly to the very edge of the Grand Canyon and peered down. Afterwards, I scribbled three words in my journal: vertigo, breathtaking, dazzled.



We passed the evening with card playing (tying 375 to 375 in rummy) and laundry doing. Dinner was cheesy potatoes, asparagus and onions roasted over the fire. Dessert was a delicious half gallon of chocolate milk; we justified this calorie splurge as our reward for being counted as being part of the very small portion of tourists to complete the south rim trail entirely on foot.


I feel asleep remembering the days little delights. In the bathroom of the Grand Canyon South Rim Shop and Mountain Museum a sign over the toilet bowl gave me pause. In big, bold letters, it read: “WARNING: Recycled potable water. Do not drink.” I wonder how many people took a sip before posting a sign became a necessity?


Posted by Yonderlust 21:26 Archived in USA Tagged canyon arizona on grand south west camping trail foot journey rim campfire Comments (0)

A Taste of the Desert Day 6

sunny 94 °F
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Upon waking, T looks at me and murmurs, “I love waking up in your arms.” The words are bittersweet as today we travel to our last stop on this trip, the Grand Canyon. We both feel the sadness that comes with the nearing end of a great thing and are doing our best to stretch out every remaining moment. We indulge in a hot shower after enduring a swarm of nats while breaking the tent down and packing up our gear. T's response to the nat swarm: “Staying here is not a good idea.” So off we go, taking a short cut via Cottonwood Canyon road, a dirt road that takes us through the Grand Escalante.



Though it is tough on our little putt-putt, the short cut reduces about 1/3 of the driving and affords some beautiful views along the way; we pull over to take in the panorama and collect a stone. Tom still takes the time to point out every cactus flower and desert lizard that jets across our path. Seeing Tom marvel at the landscape and native animals compounds my enjoyment of the experience, and, as I am thinking this, T turns to me and says: “I love doing the things I love with someone I love.” Me too.


We reach Mather Camp Ground after six hours of driving the winding roads up and down and up again. We stop at the charming general store for supplies but find it is geared towards day trippers so a bit lacking in essentials. We hike over to the enormous and fluorescent grocery store to stock up on food. While there, I point out a massive sign with “eat a rainbow everyday” scrawled across it in bright colors hanging from the ceiling. T & I giggle over this, finding it way more funny in our low glucose level state then we normally would. T became a philosopher while checking out, responding to the clerk's polite “Have you found everything you’re looking for?” with a whimsical “Not in life....”



While we are feeling sluggish, we can't help ourselves and climb up the stairwell of the tall Watchtower at Desert View with the rest of the tourists for a spectacular first sighting of the Grand canyon. It was so vast and many layered that it looked as though it were a painting rather than the real thing...so majestic in magnitude and grace that I felt overwhelmed looking into its deep chasm.


Finally, we check in with the ranger and reach out tent site. Our section is aptly named 'Juniper Loop' and Tom and I joke about making juniper moon shine while setting up for the night. As soon as the tent poles are secured we scoot into the tent and spend some time cuddling and napping. We emerge a few hours later, in the nearly pitch dark, and Tom quickly makes a cook fire. We nom on some (humane) ham & cheese sandwiches, salad and popcorn then watch the embers die. While back in the tent, we listen to the animal sounds of the nocturnal world and I break out in goose bumps. I beg Tom to whisper ghost stories to me and he relents, relaying spooky bits from Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark until we fall asleep in each other’s arms, warm & cozy. Today was so full of grandness.

Posted by Yonderlust 20:22 Archived in USA Tagged canyon arizona grand south west road camping journey campfire cottonwood story escalante telling Comments (0)

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