Otherwise known as the Grand Canyon. ("Har' Down" is Drewbie-speak for a big decline, essentially.) It was a great trip, though a bit chillier than we were expecting. The first night, the temperature dropped down to 29 deg F. And we were in a summer tent. Yipes! I learned how to sleep with a blanket over my head, something I never thought possible as it usually triggers my very mild claustrophobia. I guess my brain decided it was better to risk feeling suffocated and trapped over freezing my nose off.
The trip up was nice, though uneventful. We popped into Red Mountain off of Highway 180 between Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon so we could picnic out of the trunk and hike a very small ways toward the mountain itself. This site might feature prominently in the sequel to THUMB that's kicking around in the back of my head, so I snapped a few good pictures. One of these trips up to the GC, we'll actually hike the full route.
We hit our only snag (other than how wickedly cold it was) when we tried to pitch the tent. It's a big, complicated structure that didn't assemble quite as easily as the test run Mark and I did in the house after we bought it. So we were already a bit testy by the time it came to stake the thing. And nothing would stake. Mark was ready to keep wailing on a couple of stakes when I happen to look over and see a slab of exposed rock on the floor of our campsite. "Uh, Mark, I'm thinking that's not going to work." Note to self: do not try to pitch a tent on bedrock. We rigged the thing to stay upright with a bunch of large rocks in strategic corners of the tent. And it held, though it was rougher on the tent's interior than we would've liked for its first use.
We trekked out on the West Rim drive as far as we could go. They're in the process of shutting that entire side of the park down until November to revamp the road and route. Can't blame 'em as the ride was so rough on the patch of road still open that we thought the shuttle was going to loose an axle or something.
The Canyon itself...well, words are never quite enough, and pictures suck most of the vastness and complexity right out of it. Suffice to say, I never get tired of it and always find new things each trip.
Drew scared about half of the people who saw him gallavanting around the rim despite the tether and vigilance of whichever parental unit held the leash. At one point, I stayed up at the point while the rest of the party hiked down a bit to get to a different vantage point. As I watched the group climb back up toward me, I overheard a couple of people fretting over how even with the tether, they'd be too worried to let a little kid walk free at the canyon. I very good-naturedly fessed up that the kid was mine and shared how advance Drew is in all things kinesthetic. The ladies agreed he was destined to be a rock climber, then.
Our second day up, we drove through the East Rim and down Highway 89 back toward Flagstaff to check out the Little Colorado River Gorge and Sunset Crater/Wupatki National Parks. The Gorge was stunning. It had been seven years since Mark and I had seen it. And since it's on the Navajo reservation, there were a ton of booths with Native American crafts and jewelry. Mark picked up a couple of pieces for me as an early Mother's Day present. One was an awesome hematite and picture jasper choker, the other was a set with fired glass that looked like opal. I got a nice natural-wood inscribed pot for Mark as he's got a little collection going (not that we have it out at the moment; all of our knick-knacks are still packed away until the Drew Monster is old enough to know they are not toys). Mark's parents found a gorgeous vase in similar fashion for a dining table centerpiece.
By the time we got to Sunset Crater, it was clear that I neglected to put on any sunscreen and was feeling the pain, so I hung out in the car while the rest of the group wandered a lava field. I did 'screen and hat up for a quick trek to one of the ruins at Wupatki. It's quite amazing to see those structures and imagine what it must have been like to have lived there.
After surviving another cold night, we struck camp and drove the scenic route down to Sedona for a quick tour and lunch. It'd had been seven years since Mark and I had been there as well, and it was nice to see all of the beauty of the area even around the human presence.
It was a lovely trip full of stunning views and good company. Last year, Mark and I decided to make a trip up to the Canyon once a year, and this was a great occasion for the second year of that decision. Next year, we plan to go to one of the more western areas that are not in the park but on reservations. Eventually, when Drew is old enough and we are fit enough, we'll arrange to go to Havasu Falls, one of the most beautiful spots in the world, supposedly. It involves quite a hike to get there, though, so let the boot camp begin!