So much to do. SO little time to do it. I had previously purchased a few things and put together a huge to-do list to get ready for this trip, and got almost all of it done. I made new covers for the seat backs in the camper, but didn't have time to get the actual seat cushions done. Oh well! That time is gone, and they can wait until later. Most of the prep for this trip had already been done on the June 2019 trip, when the kids and I had dry camped in the Pike National Forest. I did, however, need to put the Yakima Q-Towers on the truck cab and install the bike racks in order for us to take bikes for all six of us...yes, that's right, Lisa is going with us to see the Grand Canyon! We are also being accompanied by good friends of ours, Paul and Andrea, and their daughter Abi. I've been helping Paul and Andrea get ready by locating some equipment for them (tent, etc.).
We packed up the gear on Sunday the 23rd, and headed out right after church that night. It was an uneventful trip to South Fork, CO, where we spent the night.
This was mostly a travel day. We got up and took off as early as we could, stopped at Wolf Creek Pass to take a few pictures, and then headed towards Pagosa Springs, where we had breakfast and fueled up. We then continued on pass Chimney Rock to Durango, and only one wrong turn later, corrected our course to head in the right direction towards Four Corners. While fueling up just south of Cortez, we discovered that Paul had picked up a screwdriver bit in his left rear tire, and was losing air...FAST. No worries, I had a plug kit in the truck for such an occasion, and we were happily on our way after the 2 minute repair!
We pulled into the Four Corners area with excitement, and proceeded to the monument. The monument is on the Navajo Reservation, and isn't a national parks monument or anything, but is very well built and houses little booths in all four states where the natives can sell their wares. It's really a nice place they have put together there! We snapped a few pictures and then continued on our way to our destination.
We decided to stop in Kayenta, AZ, also on the reservation, to grab a bite to eat. Paul and Andrea chose Subway, and we chose Burger King. We were in there just barely long enough to use the restrooms and to choke down a burger. There was a very nice display about the Navajo Code Talkers in there, if you don't know the history, check out the link. These Native American Indians were very instrumental in the success of WW II! Paul and Andrea joined us at Burger King just long enough to use the restrooms, and we exited. As we approached the truck I spied one of my cargo straps on the ground between the truck and trailer and sadly exclaimed to Paul, "I bet someone stole my generator". I only had one strap on my rig, and it was to hold down the generator, but upon turning the corner, I was overjoyed to see that it was still on the rig. Several trips ago, I had used a cable and padlock to secure it to the cargo basket, but had completely forgotten about that detail. Whomever it was that was trying to steal it had quickly cut the cargo strap in an attempt to grab it quickly, but had to set it back down when they found that it was secured to the trailer. Praise the Lord for the foresight to lock it up! Paul and I tied it down with another strap I had and continued on our journey.
We only stopped one more time in Cameron, AZ to gas up, get ice for the drink cooler, and also for a restroom break. After leaving there, we headed to our final destination, but Paul too, the second exit on the round-about (his GPS was set to avoid toll roads!), and we got separated for a bit. A phone call later, we were back in sync headed for the campground. As we left Cameron, I explained to the kids that the riverbed that they had seen was the same river that went through the Grand Canyon, all the way to the Hoover Dam, which we would be visiting on Thursday. They were amazed that the river travelled all that way. We watched to our North as we headed down the road, and observed the canyon getting bigger, wider, and deeper. Each turn the kids were amazed at how quickly the depth and breadth of the canyon became, but then we were unable to see it for a while as it headed north, and we headed west. We got to the entrance of the Park, and displayed our Parks Pass, and were admitted to the park. Our first view of the park was around the South Rim Road near the Desert Watchtower, it was literally breathtaking. What a wonderful God we have to create places like this for us to visit and admire HIS handiwork! Stunning colors and textures greeted us at every turn on the way to the campground, accompanied by copious quantities of "ohhhh"s and "ahhh's" by all of us. Simply gorgeous!
We arrived at Mather Campground around 3:30PM local time, and after a brief conversation with a very chatty Park Ranger (who was amazed that we had booked our sites in February!), we found sites 216 and 218. We were able to quickly set up and then started dinner prep. This was the first time I had used the GSI Gourmet Camp Kitchen, and I am very glad we invested in it. I don't like cooking in the Camper in the summer, the stove just makes it entirely too hot, and this was just the cure! Plenty of space to do whatever we need to, including adding our Coleman Stove, or the Master Forge portable grill for our meals. After dinner we settled down for the night, excited about the coming days ahead.
We started the day with some breakfast that was quickly consumed, and then headed out to the park to visit the spots and take plenty of pictures to memorialize the trip. We started on the East end of the park at the Desert Watchtower, had a picnic lunch there, and then hit some turnoffs for some picture opportunities. After that, we headed off to the Visitors center to see what it had to offer. I discovered that they had bike rentals (which we didn't need), but they DID have something I needed. While prepping for the trip, I got Lisa's bike ready, but broke the chain. We had plans to stop at a store somewhere to get a chain, but we had forgotten about it during our trip. Seeing the bike rental place toggled a brain cell, so I asked if they sold Bike chains, which they did! I bought a chain and we went back to the site to put it on, but I quickly discovered that I had somehow not included my chain breaker on the list of things to bring on this trip. No worries, the bike tech told me that if I had issues with anything to bring it back before 5PM and he would gladly help. I took him up on his offer, taking Lisa's bike and Corey with me. Corey and I had ice cream while the bike tech completely took care of the problem! I was very surprised to see that the chain and the repair cost was only $15 total, I didn't expect that to be so cheap based on past experiences with touristy areas. On our way back to the truck, we were accompanied by another bike shop employee who commented on our setup and getup on the truck. He exclaimed in amazement, "Well now, that looks like quite the adventure machine!", and the name has now stuck. It's no longer "the truck", or "daddy's truck", it is now referred to as The Adventure Machine! My wife now laughs every time we call it that, but she knows it's true!
We ended the day with one of the kids' favorites: Hobo Tacos and S'Mores! The kids were exhausted from the day's events and the walking, and were quickly asleep. Lisa and I sang a few songs as I played guitar by the campfire, and then we turned in too, excited for what was around the corner.
Day three started out VERY early, we needed to be in Williams, AZ by 9:00AM, and that was nearly an hour drive away. We got kids up and fed, and then got on the road by around 7:30AM. Back in February, I bought tickets for the kids and I to ride the train from the Grand Canyon Railway and Hotel in Williams to Grand Canyon Village. Jesse just LOVES trains, and I thought this would be a really special treat for all of them to ride and experience how travel was in times past. We arrived and got our tickets, and then watched the gunfight in the staged western town near the Hotel and Depot. We then boarded the train and took a seat in the Pullman car (circa 1920's), and headed out on our trip. Spectacular views, entertainment, and a host that was very well versed in all things history, the train, the canyon, the area, etc., Mike was entertaining as well! We arrived at the Depot in Grand Canyon Village and decided that we would eat at the Bright Angel Lodge restaurant, where the kids had hot dogs, grilled cheese, etc., and I enjoyed a well made Reuben. Prices were actually on par with other restaurants NOT in a national park, and I was pleased with both the quality and price of it all. We left and headed down the Rim Trail, hitting such things like the Kolb studio, and the Bright Angel Traillhead, although we didn't actually hit the Bright Angel Trail. Not attempting that one with four kids under 10......
We tooled around the Village and eventually headed back to the depot and boarded the train at 3:15, and promptly departed at the appointed time of 3:30PM. The kids were enjoying themselves, although very tired. They were all just about to nap when the train was chased by masked cowboys on horseback, then stopped, and they boarded the train for a good ol' fashioned train robbery! Claire was NOT excited and in fact exclaimed her dissatisfaction at Mike's hinting around that they would NOT take kids, Claire was not happy at ALL! There's a 12 minute video of her dissatisfaction somewhere on my Mac.... But after experiencing the "nice" robbers, and her explaining to the Marshall that "They went THAT way, AND THEY STOLE MONEY FROM MY DADDY!", exclaimed with glee that "it wasn't that scary" at all. Lisa met us at the depot at 5:45PM, she had taken the truck and had met with a friend for lunch in a nearby town, and we headed back to the campground. We saw a herd of elk near the entrance (6-10 maybe?) and stories were told around the campfire. Ah, another day ended, and we were looking forward to the next day. We all very quickly headed to bed after sharing our stories with each other.
We had planned on leaving early, but got stuck with a few things that took longer than we expected. We headed out around 9:30 and headed to the Hoover Dam. Couldn't go all this way without a visit to the Hoover Dam! A mostly uneventful day, arrived just after noon, and ate lunch, saw the sights (It was HOT!), then got back on the road. Not much to say really, it's a bunch of concrete holding Lake Mead back and producing a bunch of power for the folks nearby. It is a sight to see, but after about 15 minutes, the awe wears off and you realize how hot it is, and how long you have to drive to get back to the Canyon....
We decided to take a small detour of about an hour just so that we could say we hit California on this trip...We got there, took some pictures, then I crossed into Cali, did a donut in the Adventure Machine, and we headed back to camp. We stopped at Safeway in Williams to get some firewood, hamburger and buns, and Ice for the drink cooler, then headed back. A lovely sunset that evening, and then headed to bed.
Today was scheduled to be a "hang around camp" day, but it was incredibly hot, so we decided to re-visit the Village since Lisa, Paul and Andrea didn't get to. We filled up a hydration bladder or two and headed out. Did I mention it was HOT? My goodness was it hot. We visited the sights, the kids got their Junior Ranger Badges from Ranger Kate, and returned to camp to start tearing down camp and packing as much as we can so that we can quickly leave on Saturday. We made hamburgers and had biscuits on a stick, a delicatessen epicurian delight for campers across the globe to enjoy. We packed up as much as we could and then headed off to bed.
I got up early, around 6AM, and started packing the remaining gear for the trip home. It took longer than expected, but then again, it was quicker than most trips we have made since I had three other adults to order around :-) . We were on the road by 9, and headed home. An uneventful travel day, we stopped in Kayenta (carefully watching for potential generator thieves), then got stopped by Office R.L Smith from the Arizona Highway Patrol for "following too close", (no ticket!). We continued on and I stopped at Wolf Creek Pass to throw snowballs at the kids (in June!), and we made it safely home at 9:30. A great end to a great trip!