We left our arid oasis and headed through Phoenix to one of the surrounding cities, Chandler. Ryan's second cousin Joe lives there and had been given a heads up that we would be passing through town. On the way, we passed Intel where we tried to get a tour. The fact that you cannot post packages more than 12 ounces from their post boxes should have been indication enough that we were not going to make it in, but at least we tried. After a dosage of a few hours at the library Internet computers, we made our way to Joe's place.
Ryan's family was awesome. Right away, Joe made us all feel at home. We didn't stick around long before we took off for dinner at his son McKenzie's restaurant Iguana Max. Food, drinks and entertainment, what more could we ask for? Joe treated us to, "The Bubba" buffet and enough cervesa Sol to go around. McKenzie hosted the arm wrestling competition in which Kenmo made it to the finals after defeating Joel. Big John slammed Ken's arm down but what can you expect? This guy owns the table from the movie, "Over the Top," and was actually in the movie himself.
We met up with McKenzie's wife Megan
who told us all about what we should expect from the clubbing district of
Scottsdale the next night. A late night dip in Joe and Betty's pool
ended the night well.
We spent Saturday day waiting for Saturday night. It was to be a big night out on the town. We warmed things up with a great BBQ that Joe and Betty put together with the relatives. We helped things along with the beer bong and daiquiris. Betty and McKenzie were good sports and joined in on the bonging
Once we were good and ready, Megan and McKenzie let us loose in Scottsdale while they took in Seinfeld live. Dos Gringos was a great place to start things off and then we moved to the clubs. For a moment Ryan and Ken disappeared into Noize to check out the scene. Ken got five dollars shoved down his pants for the famous butt dance on the speakers and Ryan had drink offers. This is where things got a bit foggy. We think the bar we spent the rest of our night (1 a.m. close time) was called Next. All that matters is that we had a good time and that we got home safely.
Megan and McKenzie piled their car
full of drunk guys destined for the Phoenix equivalent of Victoria's
"Buck-a-Slice." We don't know what the place was called but you must
have the Arizona burrito. If Ryan could remember he'd tell you how
good it was.
Thinking that we would head to the Grand Canyon today, we got the RV all prepped up only to find out that after the bar last night that McKenzie and Megan told us they would have us over for dinner tonight. Whops. This was one meal not worth missing. We had the most amazing roast for Father's Day supper.
After dinner we pulled out the photos and videos from the Wide Load and gave Ryan's family a slide show of our trip to date. Little did we know that this night would be a contribution to future slide shows. Right when we thought it was time to go to bed, out came the poker table. McKenzie called up Rob and Shane. Of course they wanted to experience the beer bong. Out of determination, Shane destroyed all previous record times on the beer bong. Rob just had bad luck and never captured his best times.
When the sky was getting light, we
figured if we didn't go to bed then, we never would.
It was not the 5 a.m. start we thought we'd have but by about noon we were off, destined to the Grand Canyon. We took the scenic route and arrived right at sunset. Out of nowhere the canyon unveiled itself like we had come to the edge of the Earth. We could see the Colorado river winding its way 5000 feet below the south rim where we sat to see the sun fall behind the planes in the West.
We found ourselves a camping spot in
the park and got our national parks pass. After the most amazing shish
kabobs, some guitar and a campfire courtesy of the free wood we "found," we
hit the sack.
This morning, we tried to get in to the good campground,
close to the shuttles and the south rim trail; no success. Then we tried to
book to get onto the trail the next day; no success. It would be the following day.
All day was spent just walking around the rim trails and taking pictures in
disbelief of what was in front of us. Our campsite that night was at
the Ten-X outside of the park boundaries. We had an early night for an early start to get
the permit to hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
It was a plan and prepare day.
We were the first ones in line to get our permit
to hike the trail. We hung out in the parking lot to find out what our
route would be for the next few weeks. Jason found out about
rides - about $350 for two days. Book two years in advance. We
got in at the good campground and just passed the time away until our 3a.m.
wake up to start our two day trek to the Colorado River and back.
After great debate the night before about when to leave, we woke up to catch the 4a.m. shuttle that would take us to the trail head. We hiked the South Kaibab trail down that morning and began what would be the most amazing hike of our lives to date. The sky was just lightening and the incredible landscape presented itself as the sun rose in front of us as we hiked.
There was the occasional hiker coming up or pack of mules but for the most part, the trail was our own. The park rangers limit the number of people who hike "The Grand" to preserve the area. It would not have looked much different even 100 000 years ago. At any given time, canyon walls or buttes were visible from right under your feet to 20 miles away. The colors and the vast openness of the canyon were amazing to take in.
We beat the heat and made good time to the bottom. By 8:15a.m. we had descended the full height of the canyon walls to reach the river and the Bright Angel Campground. At first we didn't really know what we would do down there all day, but once we got there it was an easy decision. With temperatures hitting 43 degrees Celsius (112 F), there was nowhere else to be other than the creek that ran past our campsite.
After the evening ranger talks about
the geology and the night habitat, it was an early night for another early
morning start to beat the heat on the way back up. Ken slept on the
picnic table. Joel was in the bushes, and Ryan retreated to the tent
where Jason passed out before 7p.m.
Before 5 a.m. we were back at it making our way back up to 8000 feet. The Bright Angel trail was eight miles long instead of five miles on the way down. It was worth the extra mileage to make it the climb easier. Conveniently there were water stations for us to refill our supply along the way.
The hike out was just as breathtaking as the hike down but a lot harder. With sore legs we passed each corner comparing our altitude to the canyon's upper rim. Joel was on a mission to push ahead. Ryan was on a mission to finish and not die. In between Ken and Jason were snapping videos and photos to take in the whole experience. Before noon we ran the last few steps to reach the upper edge and the end of the trail. From there it was straight to Wendy's for a well earned feast on from the super value menu.
The next stop on the tour of the
canyons was Zion National Park. This was north of the Grand Canyon so
we had to drive all the way around it. The rest of the day was spent
driving which was well accepted by everyone since it didn't involve using
our legs. We made it to the park late at night and pulled in beside
some dumpsters for a good night's sleep for a fresh start in the morning.
Zion National Park was the best park
so far in terms of organization. We spent half of the day just milling
our way through the visitor's center. There were videos, maps, modeled
landscapes, shuttles, and camping facilities. Our consensus was to hike
the acclaimed Narrows while we were here. We booked our campsite for
the following night half way through the 16 mile long walk along the Virgin
River. It's a one way hike so we reserved our spots on the shuttle
that would be picking us up at 6a.m. The rest of the day was spent at
our campsite eating, drinking and packing.
Narrows hike. Camp seven was our target. 7:25a.m. was our start time. Colder than we had expected, we could see our breath where we were in Chamberlain's Ranch. Almost immediately we were faced with a small creek crossing that intersected the trail. Little did we know this would be the same creek that would turn into a small river and the same river that created the magnificent canyon walls that give The Narrows its name. Joel forded through the water wasting no time to soak his hiking boots. Ryan, Jason and Ken balanced themselves on rocks for as long as possible before giving in to the inevitable.
Everyone picked up a hiking stick. Joel picked up two. These saved each of us at least a few falls and some embarrassment as we waded through the waters amongst the sand and slippery round rocks. The canyon walls gradually grew taller, and the opportunities to service the call of nature privately were growing slim. Jason was the first to break the seal on his "tote bag" that they give you. Luckily he found a spot early enough to make what they call a cat hole - self explanatory.
The steep walls towered overhead and the shallow shin-deep waters was a cool refreshing walk, not to mention a good way to clean the pink dirt off our shoes from the Grand Canyon hike. We all plodded on with our heavy camping bags with stops along the way for photos and videos, until we reached camp seven. The shoes came off right away to tend to blistered feet and then it was time to lounge in some of the deeper pools in the river before the sun set. We had about an hour of sunlight before the sun hid behind the canyon walls. It was priceless when Ken was spotted by fellow hikers as he lounged in the water on the air mattress he brought with him!
The highlight of the night's
entertainment was Ryan and Joel's complete use of their "tote bags."
Out in the stars we slept partially covered by a rock overhang that
sheltered our bed of sand. Jason,
asleep before it was dark again and Ken, too cold because he didn't bring a