Tuesday, August 17, 2010

It had to end

NOTE: This is the 12th post of a multi-part series chronicling my family's two week vacation in the summer of 2010.

For links to the entire series, click here.

After the Grand Canyon, our two week summer vacation had nearly run its course. All that remained was the long drive back to central Arkansas. It was late afternoon by the time we left the South Rim, so we decided it would be best to find a place to spend the night.

We settled for the evening at the Quality Inn of Winslow, AZ. We slept in a decent room for a fair price. It wasn't anything fancy or luxurious, but we found nothing to complain about either. There was an inside pool that could be viewed from the rooms. The complimentary deluxe continental breakfast was one of the better we'd enjoyed in our many stays at various Choice Hotels across the West on this trip.

Almost 1200 miles separated us from home when we pulled out of Winslow, so we decided to take a couple of days to get there. Using the free wireless internet offered at our hotel, I was able to book a campsite for the next night at Santa Rosa Lake State Park in New Mexico. It was only about 400 miles from Winslow, but camping by a lake seemed like a good idea after two nights in hotels.

We arrived around 4:00 in the afternoon, plenty of time to set up camp and explore. The campsite we had reserved had running water and an electric hookup, so we were confident the girls would be happier here than they'd been in many of the campgrounds where we had stayed. There was a nice, covered concrete picnic table and for the first time in what seemed like ages, we weren't in bear country. So no warnings about food storage or what to do if a bear entered your tent. But that didn't mean there were no pests to annoy us.

Our first task was to set up camp. We unloaded the blazer and began the now practiced drill of erecting our tents. But this time we found a previously unknown adversary in our camping experience--ants. And plenty of them! As we tried to locate the smoothest spots to plant our canvass coverings we noticed quite a few of them scurrying around. But it wasn't until we began to drive the stakes into the ground that we realized the extent of the infestation.

The vibrations created by hammering the metal pegs into the hard ground apparently annoyed the army of ants camped just beneath the surface. Long before the tents were sufficiently tied down, the ground appeared to move as the six-legged critters emerged from their subsurface domicile. We finished the job and decided to explore a little, hoping our tiny neighbors would settle back in while we were gone.

The girls were hoping to find the lake suitable for swimming but that didn't work out. The campground sat high above the lake and it was a pretty good hike over a rocky path to make it to the shore. Once we reached the water's edge, the rocks and brush lining the lake made it difficult to locate a decent place to enter. Then, once we stepped into the water we realized it was way too cold to swim anyway. A little disappointed, we wandered back along the stony path to the campground.

Our ants had settled down, but there were still plenty to be seen. Using the provided picnic table, we were able to cook supper and eat before the insects could overtake us. The running water allowed us to clean up quickly, so we avoided being overwhelmed by our underground neighbors. But they did make it necessary to pack everything not in the tents back into the Blazer. Even though we were no longer in bear country, we wouldn't be able to leave our things outside.

We weren't able to keep all the ants out of our tents, but we did manage to get some sleep. The few that did get in would occasionally bite so the night was passed in a somewhat fitful sleep.

You've probably figured it out by now, but in case anyone is still unclear, this isn't a great place to camp in a tent. If you decide to spend the night here, I'd recommend doing it in an RV.

The next morning we awoke and quickly packed our things. The Blazer was loaded for the final leg, 800 miles, and we were all ready to get home.

The drive was uneventful for the most part, but there is one picture I'd like to share. Just east of Amarillo, TX we passed a huge metal cross beside the freeway. It was great to see this symbol of our Savior, communicating the message of salvation, proudly displayed beside the busy highway.

Reminded that all we had seen and done was made possible through Him, I said a little prayer thanking God for giving us the opportunity to share this experience as a family. He provided us the means and the desire to take the trip and it is my hope that, above all, these articles glorify Him.

We have decided to take another trip next year, but haven't yet decided on a destination. In the meantime, we'll be hiking at least once a month in Arkansas and will post articles and pictures describing those trails and their locations.

God bless and thanks for reading!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Grand Canyon!

NOTE: This is the 11th post of a multi-part series chronicling my family's two week vacation in the summer of 2010.

For links to the entire series, click here.

We left the cubs of Bearizona behind and pushed north on Arizona highway 64, headed for the Grand Canyon! The ranger at the park gate took our entry fee and handed us a packet of literature similar to that we received earlier when we entered Yellowstone.

It had been more than 20 years since I had visited the park, but my wife and daughters would see it that day for the first time. On my previous visit I accompanied my grandparents, an aunt and uncle and their two small children. I recalled being awed by the gaping gash separating the north rim from the south, but not much else. We must have done nothing more than drive up, get out, and shoot a few pictures at the lookout, because there was a lot to see and do that I would discover on this trip along with my family.

For instance, I had no idea there were so many hiking trails. My visit two decades earlier didn't reveal the developed area of the South Rim Village. I'd heard of the mule rides available to descend into the canyon, but we didn't get close enough to see the skinners guiding tourists over the rim. I was blessed on this trip to experience many of these things along with my wife and daughters for the first time, even though it was not my first visit to the park.

After leaving the entrance, we continued north on highway 64 to the parking area at Mather Point. The observation area was fenced off and under construction, but the South Rim hiking trail separated the parking area and the construction zone. So we set out afoot heading east.

I was surprised, but grateful, to find no guardrails after we left the Mather Point area. The rim (the real rim with its sheer drop of hundreds or thousands of feet in places) was as accessible to us as it was to a jackrabbit! Some points jutted into the seemingly endless space and provided adventurous mini-hikes when I navigated their less traveled trails.

We could see Yaki Point soon after we left the parking lot and began our hike. It looked close, maybe less than a mile. Visible below Yaki Point was a gash in the cliff face that appeared to be a trail that would take me down into this famous natural wonder known as Grand Canyon. The temptation to enter this famous landmark was great and I wanted to find that trail.

So, with a few side adventures of me climbing out onto the rocks jutting over the expanse, we continued to wind our way east along the rim. But our daughters were tired of hiking by this point in our two week vacation, and we had not planned on a long hike when we disembarked from our Blazer. My wife and I relented against their complaints and permitted them to return to the visitors' center at Mather where they could charge their indispensable cell phones and wait for us.

We pushed on though, but never reached Yaki. A light rain began to fall, and we decided to turn back about a mile from Mather. The precipitation didn't really stop us, because we were already thinking about reversing course before the drops began to fall. The real kicker was, after hiking a mile or so along the rim, Yaki Point appeared no closer than it had when we first spotted it. It still appeared close, but no closer than before we began our march. So we turned back toward the west to link back up with our daughters.

By the time we were all four together again at the visitors' center, the rain had stopped. We walked around and viewed a few of the exhibits, but these were not what had drawn us to leave interstate 40 and pay the fee to enter the park. The beauty created by God, not the trinkets built by man, was what drew us to this awe-inspiring masterpiece sculpted by our Creator.

The map we received at the gate showed South Rim Village a short distance to the west. Lodges, a train station, and more hiking trails were marked there so we decided to head that direction. But first, we took advantage of the picnic tables provided at the Mather Point parking lot and enjoyed a lunch of sandwiches and chips prepared on the tailgate of our vehicle.

The drive west was slow, but beautiful. Our map left much to be desired as to scale and accuracy. It took several loops of the Village area to get the feel for where everything was and to find a parking spot. Parking was extremely scarce here as the Village area seemed to be the most popular on the South Rim. Our parking spot was a good distance from the rim, so it took a short hike to get back in position to enjoy the view.

By the time we reached Verkamp's Store, the girls were already tired of hiking. Once again, we allowed them to remain behind while my wife and I explored. (With much of the previous two weeks spent in areas with no cell phone service, and many nights spent in campgrounds with no electricity for charging them, all it took to make them content at this point was a charged phone with service.) With orders to stay at Verkamp's and go nowhere else, we left them behind and walked westward along the South Rim Trail.

The lodges here were beautiful, but again, these were not what attracted us. We came for the scenery and the experience. There were two man-made structures that did interest us though. The Lookout Studio and Kolb Studios protruded out over the abyss. They virtually hang over the side of the cliff and provide outstanding vistas to canyon visitors.

On the right side of the door entering Lookout Studio hangs a plaque with the subtitle to this blog, Psalm 104:24. This inspirational plaque provided an essential part of the motivation for this website, which is why I chose that verse as the subtitle and the web address. God truly blessed us with His creations, the Grand Canyon and others, and it made me feel really good to see the credit for this natural work of art given to whom it belongs. I was pleasantly surprised to see the Bible verse posted so boldly on an edifice in our National Park, with so many attacks on religion in general and Judeo-Christian religion specifically.

The view from Lookout Studio was so inspirational, my wife and I pledged to each other to bring the girls back here before we left the park to get their pictures. But not quite yet. First, we intended to continue on our westward track along the South Rim Trail.

Not far west of Lookout Studio sits Kolb Studio, where the most famous of Grand Canyon photographers lived for decades. Just outside the studio is the Bright Angel Trailhead, the mule skinners' route into the canyon. The lure of the inner canyon was too much to resist. Though my wife had no interest in dropping below the rim, she indulged my spontaneous quest to descend and promised to wait at the top.

I hadn't planned on plunging into the canyon so I was not prepared to journey deep within the walls. Seemingly everywhere along the rim were signs posted to warn adventurers of the dangers lurking below the rim. One prominent sign told the story of a 24-year-old marathon runner who embarked on a one-way journey into the depths of the canyon. The intended message was clear: if this conditioned athlete could die here, so can you! So my adventure would have to be short, due to my lack of preparation and my waiting wife and children.

My mini-adventure into the canyon took me only a couple of hundred feet down in elevation, and maybe a half-mile along the trail before I turned around. But this short journey both quenched my thirst to hike below the rim and whetted it to hike to the bottom. Though this vacation would start and end without me reaching the river that created this snaking scar across the northern Arizona desert, I pledged to return one day and reach the Colorado.

Heeding the warning signs and common sense, I turned back long before the hike and the heat got the better of me. As I climbed back out, I realized how easy it would be to miscalculate and out walk one's ability in this beautiful, scenic deathtrap. My short hike down seemed to demand little in the way of strength, but the steep hike up quickly works to wear down the muscles in your legs. Because I didn't go far, mine was a pretty easy journey down and back up. However, by the time I again reached the top, it was clear that climbing the 4300 feet from the Colorado to the rim is something one would never want to attempt lacking adequate preparation and conditioning.

When we linked up again, my wife and I continued west along the South Rim Trail for another half-mile or so. Again, distances were deceiving. We could see the rim jutted out toward the inner canyon farther down the trail, then curved back to the west. It looked like a great observation point to look back at the developed area of the Village. But again, we walked and walked and we never seemed to close the distance between where we were and where we wanted to be.

Finally, still short of our initial goal, we decided to turn back because the hands on the clock were still winding the day away. Without stopping we returned to find the girls. Over their complaints, we marched them back to Lookout Studio and descended the steps to shoot their photos leaning against the wall.

On the way back to the Blazer, we stopped and bought an ice cream for each of us. The creamy, cool treat hit the spot after the trek and our family visit to the Grand Canyon came to a close. We left the park and headed for Flagstaff where we would once again hit I-40 and point the vehicle east toward home.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


NOTE: This is the 10thpost of a multi-part series chronicling my family's two week vacation in the summer of 2010.

For links to the entire series, click here.

(You read it right. Not Arizona, but Bearizona. Read on and you will see why!)

Leaving California, we had planned to make it to Grand Canyon National Park and find a place to pitch our tents at or near the park. But we had lingered longer visiting family and left later than planned. Darkness overtook us on our eastbound drive miles before we reached the highway 64 exit where we would leave Interstate 40 and head north to the Grand Canyon. Because we had no idea if there were any vacancies at the campgrounds in the park, we chose to stay in Williams, AZ.

Evidently many other weary travelers chose to pass the night there as well. We passed numerous motels with signs proclaiming "No Vacancy" as we drove into and through town. But once again, our Lord above was there to provide for our needs that night. We eventually came to an Econolodge with still un-rented rooms.

The next morning we arose and indulged ourselves with the complimentary deluxe continental breakfast offered by the hotel. A rack near the front desk offered dozens of free brochures tempting tourists to spend their money on nearby attractions. Most of these advertised Grand Canyon related adventures: take the train to the Grand Canyon, take an airplane ride over the Grand Canyon, fly in a helicopter over the Grand Canyon, ride a mule to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, etc. But we were particularly drawn to a brochure describing a very different experience.

The title "Bearizona!" headlined the brochure with pictures of several species of wildlife. Scanning the description on the front, it became clear this was a drive-through wildlife park, just recently opened. Though we had been blessed with the opportunity to see numerous species of wildlife in their natural environment at Yellowstone, there were several species listed on the Bearizona! brochure that we had not seen. And, there were babies! The ad promised baby black bears and baby grey wolves awaited us in the wildlife park.

The wildlife park was located just off I-40 at the same exit (Highway 64) we needed to take to get to the Grand Canyon. So it wasn't even out of our way. An added bonus was the price. The advertised entry fee to view the wildlife was $11 per person. The Bearizona! brochure made clear the fee would increase to $22 per person in the 2011 season for several reasons. The park had opened only 5 weeks earlier than our arrival and construction was ongoing. Because some containment areas were yet to be completed, certain wildlife species were not yet available for viewing.

At the park entrance we paid our fee and received more literature and a map of the park. We were also warned that we were not allowed to leave the vehicle on our tour, and that all windows should be kept completely rolled up once we entered the black bear enclosure. The young lady at the booth promised we would hear these warnings again as we progressed through the park. She also let us know we could drive through more than once if we desired.

So off we went.

The most impressive species we viewed on the drive was certainly the black bear. Though we had spotted one in Yellowstone, it was too distant to get a really good look (or a good photo). Here, we were able to get really close and get several good pictures of several bears. We even witnessed two bears mating. Other species were less impressive, including the American burro and the Dall sheep. But one thing we had not seen at Yellowstone was a White bison. Here they had several. These were smaller than the brown buffalo we had seen so many of in Yellowstone, but still interesting to see.

White Bison

Dall Sheep

American Burro

Black Bear

The really neat thing about driving through was it allowed us to get so close to the animals. At Yellowstone, we could only observe them from a distance. But here we were mere feet away from the beasts. Not that the experience here was better than it was at Yellowstone, or worse. It was simply a different experience, and that made it worth the money we spent to get in.

But the best part was yet to come. The drive-through circuit through the park ended at a parking lot bordered by a gift shop, restrooms, snack bar, and the baby animal enclosures. There were wolf pups and black bear cubs in two exhibits set up much like those you would find in a city zoo. The wolf pups were beautiful, but they dozed the entire time we were there. The napping canines provided little in the way of entertainment. The bear cubs were a different story.

The two black bear cubs were different colors, one black and one brown, with two distinct personalities. While we were there, the black cub never stopped moving. Running or pacing from one end of the enclosure to the other most of the time, he strayed from that path only to launch a playful sneak attack on his brown cousin. The brown cub on the other hand ignored his black playmate unless such an attack occurred. It seemed to prefer entertaining itself by climbing trees, or playing with the pine saplings inside its domicile. But, once distracted by his simple toys, his black companion would soon engage.

We passed quite a bit of time here watching the two baby bears wrestle and play. If they had been the only animals in the park, it would have been well worth the money to come and watch. We took a lot of photos of the bear cubs, and the short video near the top of this post.

We could have stayed hours longer and watched the adorable, frolicking cubs. They were so much fun to watch. But one of the seven wonders of the world awaited us a short distance to the north. So we pointed our Blazer toward the Grand Canyon and moved out.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Our hike (and more) in California

NOTE: This is the 9th of a multi-part series chronicling my family's two week vacation in the summer of 2010.

For links to the entire series, click here.

We awoke in our tents with our vacation now back on track. Not exactly the original track, but on track just the same. We'd reserved our campsite for two days and now the plan was to make a day hike up the Summit Lake/Warren Lake trails. After a breakfast of link sausage and scrambled eggs, cooked on our now well-used camp stove, we were headed back to I-80 and the trail head.

Traveling west from Truckee, we took the Castle Peak/Boreal exit and turned left under the interstate. About 100 yards south another left at the intersection carried us to the parking area at the Pacific Crest Trail head. The weather was perfect, not too cold and not too hot. About 700 Farenheit.

Since we were now only planning a day hike, gearing up was pretty simple. Lunch and extra water went into my pack and the girls got away with carrying only one small water bottle each. My wife strapped on a fanny pack with more water bottles and her camera. Finally, we marched from the parking lot to the trail.

But the snow drifts quickly made it difficult to recognize the trail. We picked our way alongside the interstate, working our way east toward the closed rest area because we knew the trail passed close to it. After a couple of hundred yards the trail still wasn't obvious and we'd yet to locate the tunnel that passed under the highway. I decided to trek back to the parking area and double check the trail map posted there before going any farther.

As I approached the parking lot, I noticed other hikers had arrived since our departure and were in the process of gearing up. After a short conversation with one of these gentlemen, we were back on our way. He had informed me we simply hadn't gone far enough. The tunnel under the freeway was about a quarter of a mile from the trail head. So we pushed on, following in our earlier footsteps. Only 50 yards or so past where we'd turned around, we spotted orange tape hanging from the trees marking the difficult to discern trail.

Apparently left by a previous hiker, remaining on course was now a certainty and we soon found ourselves at the narrow tunnel under I-80. We passed through the shaft with the roar of cars and trucks driving overhead. But soon after exiting the subsurface passage, we were once again enveloped by the peace and serenity of the mountain forest.

A short, steep slope made its way across a small stream created by runoff from melting snow and past the closed interstate rest area. There we found a sign marking the intersection of the Pacific Crest and Warren/Summit Lake Trails. Veering right, we left the Pacific Crest Trail behind.

For the most part, the trail was easier to follow here than it had been when we embarked, but snow drifts still covered large sections. So we relied on tracks of those who preceded us, but even these were few. The trail had yet to see heavy use this year and the process of melting and refreezing had helped to dissolve all but a few traces of human passage.

But, as usual, the Lord above took us under his wing. A mountain biker passed us as he made his way down the trail and his tracks were easily spotted in the snow drifts under the trees. Until the forest gave way to an open, rocky slope, we had little trouble keeping on the trail.

Once we emerged from the trees and onto a section of the trail consisting of a boulder field barren of trees, the cyclist's tracks disappeared. For the most part the trail was still easy to follow. But we did accidentally venture off course at one point.

Following what looked like the trail led across another small runoff stream, so we made the crossing. This one was a little wider and a little deeper so I stood in the near-freezing flow with water midway up my shins to assist my wife and daughters across. Taking their hands in mine, I slung them when they leaped so they could avoid wet and frozen feet.

We continued through the jumble of boulders along the apparent trail, but after 100 yards or so I became concerned because I'd seen no sign of human traffic since we crossed the stream. For the second time on our hike, I decided to backtrack, this time scouting for a possible turn we'd missed. Scouring the slope on our side of the stream, none existed. But once again, God placed His hand on my shoulder and pointed me in the right direction.

Another party of hikers, apparently much more familiar with the trail than I was, passed by and veered left just before reaching the running water we'd crossed. The turn I'd missed was before the ford! So we back-tracked and crossed in the same manner as before.

It was then we saw where those ladies turned, through a narrow slot between two boulders. Even then it didn't look wide enough to be the trail, but once we passed between the two huge rocks we soon encountered plenty of sign of two-legged passersby. We were back on the trail and back on our way.

From here the trail was easy to follow, with or without tracks, until we reached the intersection where we had to make the decision--Warren Lake or Summit Lake. It was now early afternoon and late season snows had already made it plenty difficult finding our way this far. So we decided to take the shorter path to Summit Lake.

This proved a good decision because from the intersection to the lake there was even more snow than we'd already encountered. Other hikers' tracks made it fairly easy to follow, but without them the trail would have been difficult to recognize. The less-traveled path to Warren Lake would have almost certainly been a nightmare to navigate under these conditions.

Once we arrived at Summit Lake we ate lunch on some huge boulders by the shore, then shot some photos and headed back down. With some regret I passed by the turn to Warren Lake, but that hike would have to wait for another day. As we turned back toward the trail head, I quoted General Douglas MacArthur's 1942 farewell to the Philippines uttering, "I shall return!"

We made our way back with little trouble. The trail was now familiar and the hike was all downhill. Though our hike hadn't gone as planned, and we weren't able to reach our goal, we realized God had been looking out for us. The hard winter had increased the difficulty level of the hike. The volume of snow still covering the trail would have made it hard for someone familiar with the route to navigate, but we had never traversed it. He kept us on a safer path, and still allowed us to enjoy the beauty of the northern California mountain forest.

Heading back to our campsite, I couldn't help but still feel a twinge of regret, but I now knew everything that had happened to delay and aggravate me was for the best.

We arrived back at camp with plenty of daylight to spare. My wife wanted to do a little sight-seeing so we drove south to see Lake Tahoe. We tried to find a place to park and walk along the lake, but vacant parking spaces were nonexistent late on a summer afternoon. After a few minutes in the bumper to bumper traffic, we found a place to turn around and headed back to Truckee. Then a stop at the grocery store to resupply and we headed back to camp and settled in for the evening.

The next day we repacked the Blazer and headed south. We planned to drive to Moreno Valley where we'd spend two nights in a motel and visit family in the area. The route carried us along the northeastern corner of Lake Tahoe where, this early in the morning, parking wasn't quite the scarce commodity it had been the day before. We easily found a spot to park at the state beach access and ventured closer to the water for photos.

We didn't linger long because we had about 600 miles to travel. So we headed south once again. A few miles down the road, on the eastern shore of the lake, we did stop at an overlook where my wife and I got out and followed a short path into the rocks leading toward the water. We took a couple more photos here and hiked back up to the overlook. On the way back to the parking area we found a sign explaining just how clear the lake is. It said in 1873 a white plate lowered into the water could still be seen from the surface at more than 100' deep. Lake Tahoe is certainly another of God's marvelous works of art we are blessed to enjoy in these United States.

Back on the road, we made a left turn onto US Highway 50 and headed toward Carson City, NV. We filled the Blazer's gas tank in the capitol of the Silver State and pointed our ride to the south on US 395. When we again crossed into California, there was more beautiful scenery to enjoy, but we'd have to save that for another trip. Family members were expecting us to visit the next day in the Los Angeles area. So we cruised past the sights and pushed on through the central California desert.

The stark contrast between this barren environment and the lush mountains we'd left to the north made it difficult to believe we were still in the same country, let alone the same state. Long gone were the 600-700 temperatures we'd enjoyed on our hike to Summit Lake. On this drive, the Blazer's outside temperature display read up to a scorching 1110 at times as we made our way south. The desolate landscape seemed unimpressive compared to what we'd fallen in love with earlier. At one point, after hours in the seemingly endless fiery emptiness, my daughter roused and asked "When are we going to get out of these ugly mountains?"

We finally did make it to our destination, the Comfort Inn at Moreno Valley. After a shower and a good night's sleep we would get together with my uncle who lived in town the next day. I had yet to make contact with him at this point, but my mother (his sister) had let him know we'd be in town the next day. But after supper and a shower, I gave him a call.

Once on the phone, he insisted we stay in his home. I'd already made reservations for this night and the next, and we were settled in and ready to get some sleep. Not wanting to hurt his feelings though, I agreed we'd sleep that night at the motel and cancel the reservations we had for the next. He gave me directions to his home and we agreed we'd all go to the beach the next day.

The next morning I rose early and did laundry at the hotel. The machines actually worked correctly here so the debacle in Carlin, NV a few days earlier wasn't repeated. Once the girls were up and about, we took advantage of the deluxe continental breakfast served at the Comfort Inn. Then, we were off to my uncle's house.

His directions were good so we easily located his beautiful Spanish stucco situated in the middle of a neighborhood surrounded by grassy hills so typical in southern California. It was a beautiful home with plenty of space to accommodate the four of us and my aunt and uncle. When we arrived, he was packing his van for the beach.

We unloaded our gear after the hugs and greetings that occur between relatives who haven't seen each other in a good long while. Then, a short tour of the house and we piled into his vehicle for the 70 mile ride to the coast. He chose the scenic route rather than the overcrowded parking lots (aka freeways) of the greater Los Angeles.

The Ortega Highway wound its way through the hills between our origin and destination. This narrow two-lane highway carries travelers through the Cleveland National Forest and over mountains that offer spectacular panoramic views of the valleys below. The picture below was taken from an overlook on the scenic byway above Lake Elsinore.

We finally arrived at the beach to find the weather much different than we expected. Leaving Moreno Valley, the mercury was already reading near 1000 by mid-morning. But a hurricane had recently passed by the Baja Peninsula and was working its way north. The tempest was impacting the weather on the coast, leaving cloudy skies and temperatures in the low 70's. Still, we had a nice picnic lunch and the girls can now say they've taken a stroll on a southern California beach.

After a couple of hours, we were all ready to head back. Once back in Moreno Valley we stopped by the clubhouse of my aunt and uncle's homeowners' association. There the weather was more conducive to sitting in the sun and swimming in the pool. That evening, the sun fell from the sky and put an end to a wonderful visit with family that I rarely ever get to see.

The next morning we rose and had a delicious breakfast, spent a few more hours with my aunt and uncle, then packed our Blazer again and headed east. We were now in the last few days of our vacation and planned to visit the Grand Canyon the next day. We crossed the blazing Mojave desert looking forward to the cool air of the Arizona mountains. Near Needles, CA the outside temperature indicator in the Blazer reached 1160. But then we crossed into Arizona, fueled the vehicle in Kingman, and made it to Williams where we found a room in the Econolodge.

Our adventures in California had come to an end, but dawn would break the next day and open the door to the new experiences awaiting us in Arizona.