Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Cold Adventure

I have a cold. It's not an awful, horrible cold. It probably doesn't even count as a bad cold, but it does make breathing a bit difficult, especially since this is our first foray into hilly territory since Denver a month or so ago.
The first mate, knowing that I have a cold, approached me after dinner to see if I was feeling better, better enough to go on an adventure. "Just a quarter mile there and a quarter mile back," he said, surely knowing that I could not refuse to explore such a short distance. If it had been the first a.b., I would have demanded to know what he wanted me to see. He would have said something or other and I would have been satisfied that whatever it was could at least wait until morning. If it had been the second a.b., I wouldn't have had to go, because he would have described it so thoroughly that the surprise would be not so surprising and, again, it could have waited until morning. The first mate, though, being very well verses in "rules for getting the captain to go where you want her to" simply handed me my shoes and picked up the camera. "It's not far," he repeated.

Not far.
Just a quarter mile there and a quarter mile back. And the dog needed a walk anyway. So I put on my shoes and leashed up my dog, and we all headed out into what is known as The Little Sahara.

Despite the name of the area, the walk started out fairly pleasantly. There were sunflowers, my favorite.

And then we hit the trail. Sand. Hills. Thorns. Not far. . . as the crow flies.
This is an accurate depiction of the trail, it actually went straight up like that. 

This is a picture of the first mate assuring me that it is not far.
Lies. All of it.

Still, the dog really did need a walk, and the Commodore always says that fresh air is really good for people who have colds.

This is a picture of the cactus that we passed, which the second a.b. informed me it would be unwise to sit on. I'm not sure why I would be tempted to sit on a cactus in the first place, but he seemed to think it was important that I knew not to sit there.

And then we got there. The sight I simply had to see was a rickety old overlook stand at the top of a sand dune. Was it worth climbing sandy, vertical hills to get to a lookout tower where one can see over the Little Sahara? Was it worth staggering breathlessly through sand spur patches and facing a dangerous encounter with a cactus? I really don't know, but by that point I was already there, so the only thing to do was take a few more pictures.

Two people out of four smiling is actually only half bad. 

And then head home.

Friday, April 20, 2012

"And in the morning...I'm making WAFFLES"

The 2nd A.B. woke up from a bad dream at the crack of dawn and couldn't get back to sleep. The dream was so bad that it required serious distraction tactics, so we got up and sneaked out of Tallulah an early morning bike ride--complete with stuffing pillows under our blankets so the First Mate and the First A.B. wouldn't notice we were gone. Naturally, we had to take the Ship's Dog, or she would have given away. Naturally, today is the coldest one we have had in a while, about forty degrees, so when we got back, a nice hot breakfast was in order. Somehow, instead of of just frying some eggs, or making toast or oatmeal,  we decided to have a full fledged breakfast.
After some consideration, we figured out that all we really wanted were some waffles. Normally, we keep pancake mix on hand, so that mixing up a batch of waffles just includes pouring a few ingredients into a bowl and stirring, but we're out of mix. So the 2nd A.B. got to learn how to whip egg whites for Belgian waffles while the First Mate and the First A.B. were ordered out of bed to go gather firewood. Despite a stiff breeze and rather damp weather, we got the fire going with just one match (victory!) and we soon had a nice little blaze going. Then we had to cook the waffles.

The fun thing about cooking waffles over the fire is that all cooking directions instruct you to cook the waffle until the steam stops. Even the directions for the waffle iron say that. Unfortunately, it is kind of tricky to see where the smoke from the fire leaves off and the steam begins. So it's kind of a guessing game. This is especially true if it is not a particularly stable fire, as the cooking time will vary with the amount of flames you have at the moment, so there's no point in trying to figure out the perfect amount of time. 

And honestly, after you stand in forty degree weather cooking waffles over a fire for an hour, they taste really, really good, even if they aren't perfectly cooked.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

We went to see a hole in the ground...

And it turned out to be pretty impressive. I've struggled
with this post ever since. How to describe a sight that defies description? What is there to say about the Grand Canyon that has not been said before? Not much.

So the only good option is to go over our adventure and retell it the way that we saw it from the very beginning of the day.

We had instructions to be at the office of the campground at 9:00 am. Our family is SO good at getting to places on time that we woke up later than we meant to and we still got there almost early.

 This is a picture of us at 9:00 am. The door is open, and as soon as we finish washing the dishes and sorting out the coat problems, we will walk out of it. 

This is a picture of the First Mate, walking to the bright orange van that will take us to the Grand Canyon. It is approximately 9:05. Fortunately, the other family going forgot their camera, so we weren't actually the last ones ready.

The Grand Canyon is about forty-five minutes from Williams, AZ, which is where we were staying.

 Forty-five minutes is a long enough drive to put anyone to sleep. Fortunately, our tour guide Marvelous Marv spent this time pointing out interesting local landmarks, and pointing out wildlife, like this elk.

So we arrived really excited, to see the Grand Canyon, and we all piled out of the big orange van. There was plenty of scrambling for jackets and backpacks and water bottles, but eventually everybody got everything sorted out, and we made our way to the visitor's center.

Where we soon learned that we didn't know very much about Grand Canyon. We didn't even know basic things like the question answered before we even entered the building.

Answer: twenty-two people died here in 2011. Around five million people visited.

After a short video that explored some of the theories on how the canyon formed, the ecosystems of the canyon, some of the history, etc. we took a short hike to the edge of the canyon.

Just for some scale references, those are people standing on the rock in this bottom picture, and they aren't all that far away.
The North Rim, level with the First Mate's nose, is 1,000 feet higher than the South Rim, and is ten miles across the canyon, as the crow flies.

It's a vertical mile down to the bottom.

And in this picture, if you don't look straight at the screen, you can see what looks like a small hill on the horizon. It is actually an ancient volcano sixty-four miles from the place where this picture was taken.

That is not us out on that ledge. 

This is us, not on the ledge. 

So then, after we finished taking pictures of ourselves at the edge of the Grand Canyon, we ate some lunch, and decided to walk a little way down the Bright Angel trail into the canyon. Marv pointed out the farthest point that we were allowed to walk to, and we began.
 Despite the unseasonably warm weather that day, the trail was very icy. In the tracks from the mule trains going down into the canyon, we could clearly see the marks from the tungsten carbide spikes on the bottom of their shoes. The trail didn't exactly look inviting. 

And then came the signs. 
"When mules pass
Stand to the inside of trail
Follow mule guides instructions"

On the other side of this tunnel, the trail became so icy that the only climber we saw coming up was pulling himself up using the canyon wall. We decided to abandon our trek there...

 rather than following it all the way down. (Just kidding, that's an all day hike.)
 Instead, we captured this shot of a Canyon Raven. It took quite a while, as the bird kept flying off at the last minute.

And we spotted this little scrub jay.
 The buildings in the middle are four miles away on foot or mule.

In the middle, the little splash of blue is the Colorado River.

Like all good things, our visit at the canyon had to come to an end. So we all climbed back into the big orange van and drove back forty-five minutes to our campground.