Entering the security line in Albuquerque was a sad, sad, sad event, but only a few tears slipped out of my eyes.
Porkchop and I had a great trip. There were some surprises and a couple of disappointments, but we had a lot of quality time together. Time enough to do nothing but play crossword puzzles and Yahtzee and think about next year.
Here is my trip report...
Worked a half day and left for an afternoon flight. After a layover, it was on to Albuquerque! Alas, the airline made me sit on the tarmac for nearly a half hour before pulling up to the gate. And when we did, we had a "special security inspection" during which one of the travelers was escorted off the plane.
After finally deplaning, Porkchop and I picked up our ride for the week. Unfortunately, the compact car we reserved through Hotwire was not available. Our options were either a 12-passenger van or a mid-size car for an additional $5 per day. We were a bit suspicious of this, but coughed up the extra money because we really didn't need a huge-ass van.
Porkchop surprised me with a hotel room (her apartment is a bit small and only has a twin bed) and presents. One gift was a nifty map of NPR stations!
Dinner was pizza at Il Vicino (yeah, the same that's in Clayton) and then gelato at Eco. We had chai and orange-chocolate. Yum.
We left bright and early for Durango, Colorado, where we met my college roommate Jenni and her 6-month-old baby boy for lunch at Steamworks. Afterwards, we walked along the river for a bit and then left for Jenni's house. Jenni and her husband (who I also knew in college because Jenni worked as a barista at Lakota and her now-husband was a regular) live atop a mesa outside of a little town not too far from Durango. Their driveway is a crazy steep, curvy dirt road, and they only have 4 groups of neighbors. During snow season, they ski and snowshoe around their A-frame house.
This is a view from their driveway:
Jenni made a terrific dinner and we caught up while the baby played and slept.
Jenni also made a yummy breakfast of french toast and turkey bacon. Afterwards, Porkchop and I started on our drive to Tropic, Utah, which is just outside the entrance to Bryce Canyon.
The drive through Colorado and part of eastern Utah was a bit nondescript, albeit windy. Soon, however, the Utah road entered canyon and slickrock country. The scenery was beautiful, the sky sunny, and the company jovial.
Snow outside of Hanksville, a bit more than halfway through, put a damper on things. But then the sky was clear again...and then the Clouds of Doom converged again.
When our path entered the Dixie National Forest, a sinking feeling was all around. Snow on the road and more snow falling from the sky.
The road wasn't completely empty, which was reassuring. But when we stopped to clear the windshield and the car wouldn't budge when we finished, I think we were both a bit worried. However, Porkchop summoned up super-human kidney-donor strength and pushed the car through the ice and snow. Then, while I kept the speed up a bit, she ran by the car and jumped in, like it was a movie. I helped by steering to the left while she yelled, "right, right right!" Sometimes, when under pressure, I confuse my right and my left (you'd think I'd remember because I'm left-handed, but sometimes I forget and think I'm right-handed).
The road and the wether cleared up a bit after we left the forest, but it was still spotty. While Porkchop drove, I occupied the post of Worrier. When we passed a pull-off overlooking one of the canyons in Escalante National Monument, Porkchop started to pull over for a picture (it really was a grand view), I yelled, "NOOOOOOO!" followed by, "I just want to get there!"
Later, we pulled off for Porkchop to reenact her car pushing.
After more spotty weather, we FINALLY reached our cabin in Tropic. Since we had shared a wrap and juice at the Peace Tree so long away in Monticello, we were super hungry. Of course, Tropic isn't very busy in the off-season, especially late on a Sunday night. So, thank goodness for Ruby's Inn. Call it a bit of a tourist trap, but at least the restaurant was still busy and full of German and French tourists. Thank you, Ruby's Inn!
We had originally planned to hike down into Bryce Canyon, but the weather had different plans. The snow system on Sunday left lots of snow and ice on the trails. And, it was cold. Very cold. But, pretty.
Since I left my gloves in St. Louis, I picked up some sweet mittens at Ruby's Inn on our way to the park. Although equipped with new mittens, even I realized that it was too cold and windy for us to attempt the trails. Instead, we drove through the park and admired the views from the shorter paths near overlooks.
Given our abbreviated visit, we have to go back later so that we can enjoy the hoodoos from up close.
After our short drive through the park (most of the roads were closed), we left for Springdale and Zion National Park. The snowy scenery soon gave way to non-snow and a bit warmer weather.
Entering Zion from the east is grand. You go through two tunnels, including one that is a mile long. And then you enter the canyon via a series of switchbacks. Nothing but prettiness surrounds you!
We saved the scenic drive for after we checked into our hotel, the Majestic Lodge, and after a late lunch at Oscar's Cafe (sweet potato fries - yum!). During the drive, we enjoyed the view of the Court of the Patriarchs, and we went on the Emerald Pools Trail (all the way up to the upper pool, a bit inadvertently). We also speculated about which huge rock was Angels Landing.
Dinner was a small snack at the hotel restaurant - potato soup for Porkchop and a piece of blueberry pie for me. Mmmm....pie.
Porkchop was a big, stressed-out worryhead Tuesday morning. She was worried about hiking up Angels Landing while I played it cool.
Luckily, Porkchop loosened up on the trail.
The hike up to Scout Lookout, which is on the saddle for Angels Landing proper was steep but very manageable. The most strenuous part is Walter's Wiggles, a series of 21 steep switchbacks that lead up to Scout Lookout. We took a snack break at the overlook and enjoyed the antics of the ground squirrels.
When we started climbing up the first part of Angels Landing, I knew I was at my edge and turned back. Maybe if people hadn't been behind me, I would have felt a bit more comfortable looking for hand and foot holds and using the support chains. But I didn't.
Porkchop continued on, and I was surprised when she returned rather quickly. She turned around because it would have taken her quite some time to reach the top of the landing. After seeing her pictures, I was kind of glad that I turned back when I did.
After breaking for a late lunch and a brief respite at the hotel, we went on the Watchman Trail. Then it was leftovers for dinner and Yahtzee.
By the end of the day, we had climbed a total of around 1,600-1,800 vertical feet.
We were sore.
Walking was hard, but we did the easy Riverwalk so that our legs wouldn't totally stiffen up. Several people were suited up to go through the Narrows. I think the Narrows would be pretty neat in warmer weather, but it seemed so cold while we were there. Next time!
Next time, I will also try to make it all the way up Angels Landing.
After our easy walk, it was onwards to the Grand Canyon.
The Grand Canyon is a bit nuts. Seriously, it's crazy how many people wear high heels and/or leave the rim trail for a closer view over the edge. During a ranger program that night, we learned that many such people don't survive their attempts at a closer look. Seriously, SO many people go over the edge, it's crazy.
After the ranger program, we settled into our
In the morning, I awoke ready to trek down the Bright Angel trail and partially down the canyon. But, the Bright Angel trail was icy in many stretches, and the park service was recommending crampons. After going through a couple of icy stretches, I couldn't handle it when we reached another. Sure, other people were slip-sliding down the trail, but the ranger's presentation on death in the canyon was fresh on my mind. The Bright Angel trail hugs the canyon on one side and is a steep drop-off on the other. This time, Porkchop turned around with me.
Even though we didn't even reach Mile-and-a-Half House, we were still hungry enough for a suprisingly yummy lunch at the Arizona Room. We split cranberry BBQ chicken dinner, complete with cranberry dressing and creamed corn and chicken-corn chowder.
After hitting a couple of gift shops and a bit more of the rim trail, we left for Flagstaff.
Flagstaff is a neat little mountain town. On my previous trip to Arizona, I had enjoyed my stay at the Grand Canyon International Hostel, so we stayed there again. The rooms and the shared bathrooms are neat and clean, and the staff is really nice. There's also a TV room, so we were able to watch Lost with a few other travelers. We also had a yummy dinner at the Thai restaurant across the street. The only drawbacks of the hostel are the night noises - trains, a bar across the street, and a few loud guests. My earplugs helped me (free at the front desk), but Porkchop didn't get much sleep at all.
I woke up and showered super early before 7 am and then waited for Porkchop to wake up. After she did, we went to La Bellavia for breakfast. I had the trout and eggs (a whole pan-fried trout, 2 eggs, country potatoes, and an English muffin), and everything else looked delicious. SO many types of eggs benedict, Scottish oat cakes, waffles....I could eat there all the time.
The drive back to Albuquerque was a bit boring. The most exciting part was the Petrified Forest/Painted Desert...which really says a lot.
Porkchop and I hung out and did more crossword puzzles and watched movies and ate ice cream. Porkchop made an awesome dinner of porkchops with cranberry-orange sauce and mashed potatoes.
I also enjoyed a Mexican Latte from Satellite Coffee.
Was sad. The one happy point was getting two Yahtzees in one game.
And my flight is SO delayed.
Tomorrow will suck extra-hard.
Monday DID suck. My flight was delayed by more than two hours, so I didn't arrive home until after midnight and couldn't sleep at all. Murrr! And, I miss Porkchop.
Oh, also, you can read Porkchop's version of our trip and see more pictures on her blog.