Time for the second part of my vacation post series! On the third day home my mom and I decided to hike a local canyon. It’s about two miles wide and the track to the bottom is a wide gravel path, so nothing too bad…except that it’s in full sun. Remember, I’m the confirmed vampire. I like hiking, but that sun leaves me feeling 110 years old within seconds. It did, however, make for some gorgeous pictures. I’m not sure how many miles you walk altogether to get to the bottom, but we were probably out hiking for almost an hour. Yay for SPF 50!
Believe it or not, those little “bushes” along the river at the bottom are large trees. It’s pretty far down to the bottom! These photos don’t even come close to capturing the scale of the canyon in person. It was really neat.
These clay pot things are actually bird nests, attached to the underside of the cliffs! I guess that’s a pretty nifty way to escape predators and the heat. I don’t know what type of bird builds these.
Once again you can’t tell from the scale of the picture, but those are trees across the river. The scale of these canyons is jaw-dropping. Can you imagine being one of the Oregon Trail pioneers and winding your way through the desert, when you come to one of these canyons? There’s water at the bottom, sure, but how do you get down there? And out again?
We were both kind of worn out from our flurry of activity but we still wanted to check out some small towns nearby that have interesting shops and such, so the next day we got back in the car for another excursion. Somehow, on the one day we decided to go, all of the good shops were closed, and the others were overpriced–but it was fun to wander around and look at things, anyway. The best part was hunting fruitlessly in one town for a little boutique that my mom wanted to check out, only to realize later it was in a different town…and it was closed! I guess we weren’t supposed to spend any more money. It was fun to have all of the mother-daughter time, in any case.
After that we agreed that we were both too worn out to do any more sightseeing, so we chilled at the house for a couple of days and just ate and watched TV and hung out. Finally, after a long week, it was time to pack up and come home.
For much of the drive north again, you couldn’t go around a bend in the road without hitting a construction worker or a member of the U.S. Geological Survey. It was storming again and I felt bad for them, huddled with their surveying equipment under their umbrellas. The funny thing about these guys is that they all look like what you would expect Lewis and Clark to look like if you met them today: awesome beards and mustaches, glasses, and bright yellow rain slickers. My husband says there’s a good chance I saw his old geology professor out there somewhere, because apparently that’s what the guy does for fun in his spare time. This is also the man who led his pupils in identifying types of rocks by sniffing them. You may draw your own conclusions about him.
This picture was taken a few years ago on another trip. You have to admit the country is beautiful, but this isn’t where I’d choose to stand on the side of the road to survey.
More vehicular shenanigans ensued. There was the guy pulling a horse trailer who tried to pass a semi-truck (didn’t work very well) and the minivan of out-of-staters who wanted to drive 45 MPH even on the straight, flat stretches. Whatever magic lies in a road trip disappears on the return trip; at that point, you just want to get home as soon as possible.
Nonetheless, I was already committed to make a detour and visit my grandpa, which meant heading deep into a river canyon. It was storming by the time I made it onto that road so there was no cell service, even in town. It’s usual for there to be no cell service in the canyon, but typically you can get a bar or two at the gas station. Behind me the storm was picking up, and ahead of me was a small patch of clear sky above The Grade.
The Grade is notoriously bad for driving. The mountain is only about 1/2 mile high but the road winds back and forth through a series of sharp switchbacks from the river to the top, so you probably drive about 15 miles by the end of it. On one side you have the mountain; on the other, no shoulder, no guard rail, not even a young sapling standing between you and heaven.
This is a picture from a previous trip, when my husband was driving and I could safely take pictures. This is near the top, on one of the few turns that has two lanes for passing the logging trucks; that’s the second lane and the non-existent shoulder you see there, and then the air. The clouds you see down there are concealing the nearly 2,000 foot drop straight down into the river canyon. Did I mention there’s no shoulder?
This is how Google Maps highlights this stretch of road to go from the canyon up that “half mile” hill. It’s no wonder it takes forty minutes and fifteen miles to go half a mile up that hill. You have to mentally fold up that line so it’s all placed on top of itself; it’s like driving upwards through a Slinky.
It’s dicey enough in good dry weather but there was no way I was going to be caught up there in a storm, nor did I want to be in the river canyon during the worst of it, with the potential for falling rock, trees, and flash flooding, so I figured I’d best get myself up the road to the farm as quick as possible. I could see the lightning in the canyon below me while I twisted and turned up the road. When I relayed this story to my husband, he commented that I almost beat the record time for a trip up the hill. I say I missed my true calling as a driver in the Monte Carlo, because I was owning those turns.
Fun fact: Grandpa actually helped build many of these types of roads way back when, carving them out of the mountains and paving them. As hair-raising as it is to drive on them, I can’t imagine driving the machines that built them!
Anyway, I made it up the hill just in time, because I no sooner pulled into the farm than the sky turned black and it started hailing. Apparently this weather (and the rock slides I mentioned earlier) have been plaguing them all spring. It only lasted a couple of hours and I was able to leave before dinner time, but going back down The Grade in pea soup fog made me kind of glad I live in a decently sized town with lovely straight flat roads. I wouldn’t want to drive those mountain roads in the winter time!
Here’s another older picture of the river canyon down below.
From there I had four hours of fairly boring roads to drive to get home, and then…it was over. The highway comes around a bend and through the trees and suddenly–POW!–you’re back in town. It was a weird feeling to be back in town and home in my apartment after being gone for a week. But it sure was fun.
On the advice of one of my friends, I took a few extra days off when I got home so I could relax around the house and do some fun stuff in town, too. One especially hot evening the husband and I finally decided to head down to a local river to dip our toes and relax. On the way home we stopped at the grocery store to pick up some ice cream, and while we were in the health food section anyway I thought I’d have a poke around to see what other interesting things were available. And that’s when I saw…whatever these are.
Well, to be accurate–these are ginger candies. “Chewy ginger candy” the package declares, “made with fresh ginger!” They’re made for a company called “The Ginger People”. And yes, the little cartoon piece of ginger on the front of the package appears to be eating his own knuckles. The longer you look at it, the more horrifying and hilarious it becomes.
To understand why we found this so hilarious, you have to know that we have a redheaded friend whom
I we torment endlessly with “ginger” jokes. This picture is not of Red, but it’s scarily close. I think he has a twin somewhere he hasn’t met yet.
Don’t forget to come back for part three and see my birthday makeup haul!