Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Adventure Begins

I'm back.  Well, not yet back home -- but back from the Grand Canyon.  (I'm visiting my folks in Arizona for a few days.)  Since I'm not yet home, I can't go through the 100 or so digital pics I took to illustrate my journey -- I have great hopes that maybe ten or so came out.  (Everyone says you can't really memorialize the canyon with photos.  They're probably right.  And I bet that's especially true when you don't even have a panoramic camera -- that would've at least given me a fighting chance.)

ANYWAY -- Kathy had booked the mule trip for Sunday.  We were flying into Phoenix on Saturday, then driving up to the canyon.  Now, the genius who Kathy had spoken to when booking this trip told her that you had to check in at the Bright Angel Transportation Desk the day before the mule trip -- otherwise you'd have to be at the desk by 6:30 the morning of your trip.  (We weren't real fond of this plan, preferring to sleep in as late as possible that morning.)  They had also told Kathy that the desk closes at 4:00 p.m.  In other words, we had to get from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon (and get parked and all that) and over to the Transportation Desk by 4:00 on Saturday.  The only flight we could take that would get us there in time (allowing time for traffic and/or getting lost) left the Los Angeles area at 6:50 a.m.  (I wasn't fond of this either, but at least we'd be all set for our mules, and not have to deal with all that stuff the following morning.)

It always takes me longer to pack than I think it will.  ALWAYS.  So, by the time I was setting my alarm clock (for 4:45 a.m.) and getting into bed, it was after 1:00.

Woke up after a good solid three and half hours of sleep and dragged myself into the shower.  Turned it on and waited for the water to get hot.

And waited.

And waited.

This is odd.  I got out of the shower and checked the bathroom faucet.  And the other bathroom faucet.  And the kitchen sink.  All the same:  no hot water.

I could not bring myself to take an icy cold shower at 5:00 in the morning, and just resolved to shower as soon as we checked into our hotel at the canyon.

Got to airport.  Got on plane.  Landed in Arizona.  Got rental car.  (I had originally planned to be the only driver, but Kathy thought it would be good if we paid the extra $50 so she could drive it too.  Ultimately, this would turn out to be an excellent idea.)  I drive as far as Flagstaff.  We stop for lunch, then Kathy takes us into Grand Canyon National Park.

When we pull up to the gate, we pull out our $20 fee for a permit.  The National Park guy tells us that one day out of the year, the permits are free -- and, apparently, this is the day.  This seems odd to us (odd enough that I do a quick check and make sure both of our shirts are suitably buttoned) but we take our free pass and head into Grand Canyon National Park.

We can't find a place to leave the car that is anywhere near the Bright Angel Lodge -- where we'll be staying (and checking in for the mule ride).  OK, not exactly true -- we find a spot that IS near the Bright Angel Lodge -- we just have to walk across the railroad tracks and up a two-storey staircase to get there.  Which I expect will be a problem when it comes to lugging our luggage to the hotel.

But that's not our first order of business.  It's 2:00 p.m., so we're going to check in at the Transportation Desk for our mule ride (as we've got two whole hours to spare).  We prove that we meet all necessary mule riding requirements -- over four-foot-seven; under 200 pounds; not visibly pregnant; and able to speak and understand English.  And we sign the waivers of liability.  The nice lady at the desk gives us plastic bags -- in which we are to pack a small amount of belongings to take with us to Phantom Ranch, canteens (more about these later), and yellow spray jackets (more about these later, too).  We're all checked in.  Yay.  She tells us to show up at the corral at 6:45 the next morning.

... and I think, "6:45?  We made such a point of getting here before 4:00 today so we could save ourselves a lousy half hour?!"

... and THEN I see the sign that says the Transportation Desk is actually open until 8:00 p.m. tonight.  And we point out that we rushed over here by 4:00 because that's what the idiot on the phone told us, and she was all, "Oh no; we're open till 8:00."

Much eye-rolling -- but, what can you do?  Cry over lost sleep?  It's already a done deal.  We go over to the desk to check in at the lodge for our room.  They assign us a cute little room a coupla cabins over.  At the last second I ask, pretty much as a joke, "You don't happen to have any secret special parking spaces nobody knows about, do you?"  As a matter of fact, they do.  Guy behind the desk directed us to secret special parking spaces -- from which we were ultimately able to haul our stuff to our room without having to navigate train tracks or a staircase.  (Hooray!)

We got in our clean, comfortable room and tried to figure out what to do for the rest of the day.  I looked in the bathroom and noticed something missing ... a shower.  Apparently, when you book a room at Bright Angel with "two beds and a bath," they take this literally and give you a bathtub -- not a bathtub/shower unit.  So, I took a hot bath, washing my hair under the tub faucet (a feat which Kathy correctly described as "kinda like doing ab exercises") and idly wondered when (if ever) I'd get a hot shower again.


dklars said...

I thought they quit the mule tours a few years ago.  Now I'm going to have to try it myself!  (But under 200 pounds?  Hub might have to walk behind me!LOL)
Have a great vacation!

ravenlark2 said...

Oh my goodness, sounds like an adventure of laughable proportions. Still, some good things came your park pass and secret parking spots. Can't wait to hear how the rest of the trip went.