Oregon Trail Days 8, 9, and 10

After two days camping at the Grand Canyon, we’re finally back in civilization.  The park was a ton of fun; we spent the two days that we were there hiking all along the trails that line the canyon’s south rim (I think we clocked nearly twenty miles of walking in total).  The weather was generally good, though there were a few scattered rain showers and thunderstorms.  At the visitor’s center for the canyon, the park posted each day’s projected weather forecast with high and low temperatures at different locations and the likelihood of rain.  We learned from some of the park staff that the funny thing about the canyon is that it’s actually very difficult to predict weather patterns in the area.  On the morning of our second day, a ranger came by our campsite to warn us that there were likely to be heavy thunderstorms in the afternoon with hale, so we should get out early for any activities we wanted to do.  There were a few showers that morning, but the afternoon thunderstorm never materialized (this was a major reason we did so much; we started early on our one full day in the park with the expectation that we might only have half a day of good weather, and then when it never turned we just kept going until we were exhausted).

Rachael and me in our dorky camping hats at the Grand Canyon. I’m still not very good at doing selfies, especially when it’s so bright outside.

The camping facilities in the park were extremely nice.  We booked our sites back at the end of May (before we even had jobs lined up and our moving plans were still hazy) because you have to make reservations really far in advance, and even then we ended up with two camp sites for two nights, requiring us to break down our camp and move it after our first night there.  Despite that inconvenience, we really enjoyed the campgrounds; each site had enough space to pitch two or three tents and they were significantly spaced out so you didn’t feel crowded by other campers around you.  The only unpleasant part of the experience was the rocky ground; the park advises campers to bring an air mattress or thick pads to put under sleeping bags because the terrain is so rocky.  Rachael and I brought an air mattress, and while the first night was comfortable, we suspect that in moving our camp we must have put a hole in the mattress somewhere because the second night it lost so much air that when we awoke we were nearly on the ground.

In addition to the good camp sites, the park’s general store was also very impressive; it carried most of the gear that you need to be comfortable when camping (except for tents), and it had a grocery store that was almost as well stocked as a standard supermarket.  Once we learned that we could indeed have campfires (we saw signs all through Arizona on the way to the park warning that fires were restricted because of the danger of wildfire, and so we had planned cold meals for our stay in the park) we were happy to have the high quality store nearby to get more substantial groceries.

The trails along the rim were very pleasantly designed.  Because the park gets so much traffic every year, it has a shuttle bus system in place to help visitors get around to different areas instead of clogging up the roads with their cars.  One extra advantage of the shuttle system is that it has stops all along the canyon where people can see the scenic overlooks and take pictures.  Since the rim trails follow this same pathway, anyone hiking along the rim is never more than a kilometer away from a bus stop where they can catch a ride if they’re tired or out of supplies (it’s really important to carry water and salty snacks when hiking around the park because it’s very easy to become dehydrated).  Rachael and I had a lot of fun hiking along the “Trail of Time” where markers are laid out to give you a sense of the time scale on which the canyon formed (it’s probably a four kilometer trail from end to end).  We also got to see the seabed fossils that are located on the canyon’s highest layer, and we learned a little about the geology of the region.

After we finished our time at the Grand Canyon, Rachael and I drove on to Los Angeles where we’re still visiting some very good friends of ours.  The drive across the Mojave desert was probably the most uncomfortable weather we’ve seen since leaving the South.  It’s extremely dry out there, but the heat is unrelenting; we thought we could have a brief picnic at a rest stop on the drive, but the first one we came to didn’t have fully shaded tables, so we decided to move on.  The second rest stop we found did have full shade, but it was still so hot out that we only spent about fifteen minutes eating a small lunch before we got back on the road.  After about a hundred miles in the desert we finally saw a sign for a California welcome center, and Rachael joked that they wait until you’ve crossed the desert to decide they actually want you here.

The time here in Los Angeles has been incredibly pleasant and laid back.  We’ve taken time to do our laundry (all restocked and ready for the second half of our road trip!) and visited with friends.  Last night we hung out at a coffee shop that advertizes itself as a spot specifically for writers to write, got tacos at a place in Anaheim that were remarkably good, and then went to a local brewery that’s superhero themed (I didn’t know that was the place’s motif until we got there, and I was so happy about the decor).  The plan for today is to do some swimming, restock a few groceries, and generally enjoy the company of our friends some more before we have to get back on the road tomorrow.

In reflecting on our trip so far, Rachael and I have both been struck by the relentlessly good time we’ve had even after a solid week of travel.  We’re total homebodies under normal circumstances, and we were both a little anxious about this extended leap between our old home and our new one.  I think part of what’s made the trip so good though (besides the fact that we always enjoy one another’s company) is all the time we’ve been able to spend with friends along the way.  We seen both old friends from our college days and more recent friends whom we got to meet in person for the first time, and they all continue to be incredibly neat and warm people who have welcomed us while we’re traveling.  It’s the hospitality of people that has allowed us to take this leisurely pace and see so much cool stuff along the way.  It means a lot to both of us to have such good friends; this would be a very different road trip without them taking us in along the way.


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