Nothing much happened in Texas. Amarillo looked a lot like most cities, lots of restauraunts and stores.
New Mexico surprised us all, it was really beautiful. We didn't expect that at all. I wouldn't mind living there. We made it to Grants, New Mexico and spent the night.
The next day we got up and hit our first stop - the Petrified Forrest/Painted Desert. I had been here and it's an ok place, just not too exciting to me.
--- The Grand Canyon (Southern Rim) ---We then made our way to Flag Staff, Arizona. After missing a turn, we got back on track and headed up to the Grand Canyon. This place is awesome. The altitude made me out of breath but I sort of got used to it after a few days. The canyon is incredible. The girls developed an aversion to ravens here - they were everywhere. They seemed to scare the girls. We had deer walking through the campsites near us a couple of times. We saw some elk when we were at the laundry mat. I spent a couple of bucks to get on to the internet and check my email etc at the lundry mat.
We camped for 3 nights and I think it rained every night. The temperature ranged from around 52 at night to 85 during the day. Our old tent leaked the first night so we had to hang a lot of bedding out to dry the next day. We bought a couple of tarps and tied them down over the tent. The rain didn't really bother us after that.
One afternoon, I took Susan and Kimberly to see the IMax movie about the Grand Canyon. The flying shots over the canyon were wonderful but they spent way too much time talking about explorers of the canyon.
The first full day we were at the canyon, Laura, Susan, and I went to the store and left Kimberly alone. Kimberly burnt her finger on the fire ring while we were gone. We sat around for a while trying to get the burn to stop hurting. We finally took her to the clinic at the Grand Canyon. It took about 30 minutes and tons of paper work but she got in to see a Doctors Assistant. She gave Kimberly some Silver Sulfadiazine cream that instantly took away the pain of the burn. This is some incredible stuff.
The one thing that really surprised us about the Grand Canyon were the number of foreigners. There seemed to be French and Germans everywhere. Maybe it shouldn't have surprised us but we weren't expecting it at all.
There is a general store that has about anything you might want, and a laundry mat, several restaurants. and tons of shops to get your t-shirts, magnets, jiggers, and Native American crafts.
If I ever go back, I really want to avoid the southern rim and go to the north rim. The southern rim is very crowded and I recommend taking the buses instead of driving. Bring lots of water where ever you go.
--- the drive from the Grand Canyon to Mesa Verde ---The drive east of the Grand Canyon is beautiful. You really get to see some different landscapes.
We had planned on going to Four Corners (where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona meet) but there was a semi stuck that got stuck trying to turn around so we turned around and headed straight to Mesa Verde.
--- Mesa Verde (green table) National Park, Colorado ---Mesa Verde was very cool. Lots of mesa's, valleys, and ancient cliff dwellings. The altitude is around 7000 to 8600 feet. It was hotter here and dryer than the Grand Canyon. It only got down to 60 but got up to 90 during the day. It really cools off quickly thought around 6:00 pm.
The first spot we went to was the Spruce House This was a self guided tour kind of place but there was a ranger by the entrance to the restored Kiva (a Hopi word meaning “ceremonial room”). These cliff dwellings are very cool. It's hard to imagine trying live in this place. The only water comes from the seep springs that created the alcoves where the dwellings are.
After looking at the Spruce House, we took the Petroglyph Trail that starts down by the Spruce House. This was 2.5 miles of great rock formations and views. We got really hot and tired and almost missed the petroglyphs. They were a little disappointing after the long hike. To get back, you walk up about 100 feet of stairs (10 stories) then walk on top of the mesa for a mile or so. There wasn't much shade up there. Kimberly saw something big and thought it might be a bear. It turned out to be a horse. Some horses left the Navajo reservation and came to Mesa Verde and now they are feral. The horse followed us but wouldn't get very close. Then Kimberly saw a 6' bull snake. It took us a minute but we calmed down, realized it wasn't a rattle snake and walked around it. One of the kids mentioned that it couldn't strike anything since it wasn't coiled up. Doh. It was laying straight as an arrow.
The next day we went to the Cliff Palace. This is one of the Ranger guided tours. They only cost $3.00 per person and the tour is pretty good. Cliff Palace has not really been restored. They did remove the rubble from several places and fix some structures so that they won't fall very easily. This site was easy to get to and was very nice.
--- Sunday Road trip ---Since we missed Four Corners and Monument Valley on our way to Mesa Verde, we took a road trip. Four Corners This place is ok. It seems like a silly place though. Just because four states meet in one spot... wow... I can lay down in 4 states at one time. Big deal... The shops were nice
though. The Navajo have lots of stuff for sale. Laura and Susan bought a couple of fry bread ?loafs? They were a lot like funnel cake and very good.
We then went on to Monument Valley which is run by the Navajo. Don't bother going to Monument Valley. It costs $5.00 a person and you can see most of it from the highway. The roads are horrible and the traffic is pretty bad too. Go to the Valley of the Gods instead.
The Valley of the Gods was awesome. It's free, the roads are downright fun to drive on, and there was almost no one else there. Sometimes you can't see over the crest of a hill as you're driving so they are scary but that's part of the fun. It was alot like riding a roller coaster. Some of the roads were pretty bad but no where near as bad as Monument Valley. The rock formations are better than at Monument Valley.
--- the drive home ---I wanted the girls to see some mountains on this trip so we drove up to Telluride and down through Silverton to Durango The altitude really got to me. By the time we got to Telluride, I had to let Laura drive. I was pretty dizzy. We probably got up to 12,000 feet and saw some pretty nice mountains. The best part was when someone said, 'hey, is that snow on that brown thing?" Someone else said, "you mean the mountain?". We didn't go through Telluride since I wasn't feeling too well so we didn't get to look for any tram rides to the top of the mountain. Durango was terrible. So much traffic and tourist crap.
We ended up driving from 9:00 am Mountain Time to 4:00 am Central time coming home. Never again. We should have stopped in Tucemcari and spent the night.
--- Conclusion ---Time in Arizona is insane. The sun comes up at 5:30 and sets around 8:00.
The CCC guys who helped build Mesa Verde in the 1930's were very sadistic.
Some of the stairs they made are way to steep and go on forever.
Our poor old tent leaked and tore so we left it in a dumpster in Mesa Verde. The pack rat in me couldn't leave the poles though. I also cut out a could of windows for the netting - just in case.
We got hassled a couple of times at Mesa Verde because we didn't keep our site clean and free of anything that might attract bears. We never saw any but they had been seen recently. If a bear learns to come to the camp sites to get food, they will be killed. So they were right to hassle us, I just wish they gone into more detail on what they meant by keeping our campsite clean while we were gone.
This was a great family trip. We really got to spend a lot of time together and came up with some wonderful inside jokes - like: "Hey look! Dirt!" which would trigger, "Hey look! Trees!" and then "Hey look! Shut UP!"