We are currently hanging out in our warm and toasty hotel room in Tusayan, AZ. We arrived at the Grand Canyon 7 days ago, and had a great week here : ) The weather was not so nice most of the time (avg low was around 20 degrees on the South Rim, yikes!) and it snowed on us a few times. But, I got a walk in back country permit to hike and camp in the canyon, and the weather was near perfect those 2 days and nights : ) Patience and flexibility definitely paid off!!
This was my first overnight backpacking adventure, I did it solo. Would have loved to take the dogs, but they are not allowed below the rim. They could have handled the trail, but the mules would have been a problem. Besides, I would have had a hard time managing 2 dogs, walking poles, camera and 35lb pack!
So, they stayed at the Grand Canyon Kennel. The price was $20/night per dog plus late fee if picking up after 11am. So, I paid $95 to drop them off at 8:30 Friday morning and pick them up at 2:30pm on Sunday. Although I was thankful for the kennel, I wasn’t thrilled with the service there. When I picked them up, Daisy still had on the sweater I had asked them to only leave on at night when it was cold. As a result, she is quite chaffed. They both needed desperately to go potty and were really thirsty. In addition, they smell a bit like dog pee. At the end of the day, they both seem ok and are just sleeping their way through the day after the kennel. Moral of the story, if you have to use the kennel service there they will do…..but it is not ideal.
~watch the Ravens, they will eat any food left out and can get into a lot of containers
~$18/night for a campsite, $32/night for a hook up spot in trailer village
~$2/8 minutes of shower. you can borrow their towels. facility was clean and water was hot : )
~laundry facility on site, $1.75/wash, $1.00/30 minutes of dryer time
~free wi-fi at a cafeteria near the general store (although I couldn’t get my MAC to work on it, all the PC users seemed content)
~it gets COLD here at night in the late spring. 20 degrees with sleet/snow. pack accordingly
~it gets HOT here in summer. Plan on napping during midday and only hiking in morning or afternoon
~dogs allowed in campground and on rim trail. must be leashed at all times. plenty of room in the woods near the campground to take the pups for a couple of daily walks. Some people didn’t always keep the dogs leashed, keep an eye out depending on doggy behavior.
~backcountry permits can be obtained by applying 4 months in advance. OR, you can get a walk in permit from the backcountry office. You need a flexible schedule and patience for this option, as you may have to wait up to a week to get the permit you are looking for to camp inside the canyon. I had to wait 2 days, but then chose to wait an additional day for ideal weather. Check with backcountry office for permit procedures.
~you can ride the mules down if you like, the park service recommends making a reservation 23 months in advance.
As this was my first overnight backpacking trip, I wasn’t sure what I would need to pack and of course wanted to keep the weight as light as possible. I ended up doing pretty well, here is a list of what I packed
~toiletries; travel size sun screen, lotion, soap, body glide, toothpaste in a ziploc, toothbrush, tech towel (REI)
~handy items; flashlight, headlamp, knife, mace
~camera gear; Canon 5D, 16-35 L lens, 1 battery, (6) 2gb memory cards, cleansing cloths and wipes
~photo id, $20 cash and credit card
~gear; REI light aluminum shock hiking poles, insoles for Vasque hiking shoes, 30 degree Kelty sleeping back, inflatable sleeping pad, inflateable travel pillow, REI womens pack, 2 litre camelback, 1 liter nalgeen bottle
~food; I didn’t bring a stove, so everything was eat as you go. pack of lunchmeat, 2 bagels, 8 ounces hard cheddar cheese, 8 ounce cream cheese, (2) 6 ounce packages beef jerky, 1 cliff shots electrolyte CranRazz drink powder, 2 apples, 1 banana, 4 ounces peanut butter in lightweight tuperware, 1 cliff bar, 1 profood organic meal bar, 1lb mini carrots, 8 ounces hummus, 1/2 package of crackers (in ziploc). 8 ounces of trail mix from trader joes, 8 ounces of almonds. The only things I didn’t eat were 1 package of jerky and 1/2 of the almonds.
~clothing; Patagonia Capileene 3 long underware (super lightweight, warm and pretty expensive), Sherpa zip sweater/jacket, REI short sleeve tee, REI longsleeve shirt with zip halfway down front, Cabella’s river pants for hiking (I got these on sale, don’t love them as they chafe in the hip area) , Gordini fleece technical pants, Marmot wind/rain breaker (which I didn’t need), REI heavy weight socks for sleeping, 3 pairs REI hiking socks (these are between $15-$20/pair, and I happily spent every penny. no blisters). Chaco sandals for chilling out in (I was so happy I brought these, gave my feet a chance to breath!). Fuzzy hat and really warm gloves. I also brought 2 tank tops which I didn’t wear.
~What I didn’t bring but should have~IBUPROFEN!, bandaids or duct tape for blisters (just in case), an additional fleece for haning out at night/early morning. I had on every piece of clothing and was just barely warm enough.
After a week of beautiful scenery and internet deprivation, I have a few updates and lots of photographs. This first set is of a man I met on the way to Carlsbad Caverns. On the drive between Pecos Texas and Carlsbad New Mexico, is a whole lot of beautiful desert, and not much else. The one exception is the place where you can meet my new friend, retired US Navy and pretty interesting guy. I don’t know that I can call his place a shop, although there were a few small items for sale. Not a rest stop, b/c it wasn’t filled with truckers, RVs and public restrooms. Nor was it a café, b/c although I accepted to cold drink he offered, it was for free. As I was boogying down the road, enjoying the desert nothing, I passed a little red white and blue building with a man sitting on the porch and an open sign hanging above the door. This kind of curious thing is why I love the US and why I am loving this road trip. So, I turned around (no easy feat pulling the Scotty and on a 2 lane road with truckers whizzing by) to go and check it out. He showed me his stack of photographs of all the visitors he has had, and where people from all over the world signed the railings in rainbow sharpees. To be polite I said I would take a water when the choice of water, sprite and coke were offered. As I pulled out my wallet to pay,
me –“no, you can’t do that! How much do I owe you?”
__”I don’t know why people always tell me I can’t do that! I can do whatever I want”
“ok, thanks”. So, I shut up about it and drank my water.
We chatted a bit and I loved on Mr Jibby, his loveable mongrel (Daisy and Max, waiting in the car, were not thrilled about this development and kept setting off the car alarm from the inside, oops).
After a chat and a few photographs, I headed on my way. Signed the wall Alecia, Daisy and Max with Aloha from Hawaii.
As for the next group of photographs, they are provided by popular request! I realize that I have only shown off photographs of the Scotty pre-makeover. So, here she is in all of her 1500 lb (that’s a guess), 12 foot (I think that is right) glory! Inside I have a bed, table and benches, icebox (take that literally, you put ice in it and it stays cold inside), 2 burner stove, sink (with 25 gallon fresh water tank), propane powered heater, and ‘fantastic’ vent to help regulate temp and circulate air. The water pump, lights and fan are powered by my solar panels on top, so I don’t need to plug in (although I can do that as well if the sun isn’t shining or if I want to use the power outlets). The heater and stove are fueled with propane. A pretty sweet set up all told, and the dogs and I have managed to stay pretty warm even during the multitude of 20degree snowing nights we have somehow found ourselves in.
In the back of the Element, I have removed the back seats, put my belongings in Tupperware bins, and placed a hinged plywood platform over the top so the dogs can move around and lay down. Of course they have a bed and fluffy blankets to stay comfortable : )
I met this gentleman and his dog while searching for firewood. I took the backroads from Carlsbad to Albequrque and stayed the night at the Valley of Fires campground. The name and whistling wind were enough to keep me a bit on edge that night. Thankfully I had my faithful companions and protectors, and although none of us got much sleep (the wind was literally rocking the trailer back and forth), we were safe together and made it through the night! The next morning brought a beautiful sunrise glow on the Element and Scotty.
On the way to Flagstaff, we were caught in a crazy windstorm with gusts up to 60mph. I drove for a little while until I found a rest stop to pull into. You can see the crazy dust on the road and the way the wind is blowing cars all over the place. The 18 wheelers were literally tilting in the wind, and cars were being blown onto the shoulder. We waited it out about 5 hours. Finally things got a bit better, and we got back on the road. After about 40 minutes, it started sleeting!!! We limped into Flagstaff, found a parking lot, and called it a night.
Finally a few photographs of me and the pups on the Canyon Rim Trail. They are not allowed down inside the canyon (something about scaring the mules ; p), but enjoyed the 8 mile hike on the rim, even if they had to be leashed. Daisy was crazy brave and really enjoyed jumping on the ledge and looking out over the canyon. Max was not so crazy about it and kept pretty far from the ledge.
On Sunday I attended the world’s largest rattlesnake roundup, the 51st Annual in Sweetwater Texas. I was actually camping out in the Walmart parking lot in Childress TX (glamorous, I know! We were snowed/sleeted in for the night, and I was pretty glad I had my little propane powered heater that night : p), when my mom called and asked how close I was to Sweetwater. She had heard about the roundup on the news that morning, and it turned out I was only a few hours away….well, it looked like a few hours on the map, but really took about 6….Texas is BIG.
So, we arrived too late on Saturday to see much, but I made friends with a local Jaycee who offered to show me around the next day. I was to meet him at 7am sharp (doesn’t this guy know I’m on vacation!?, he he he). When I arrived the next morning, I couldn’t find Terry but managed to meet up and sweet talk his fellow Rooster (a Jaycee after age 40 is a Rooster) Charlie. I was later informed by several people that it wasn’t too hard to sweet talk Charlie, but that didn’t make me feel any less special ; p
Charlie was a great tour guide; he introduced me to numerous interesting people, took me backstage (where Tommy, the volunteer cook for the event, had set up his Chuckwagon and gave me some delicious samples of his old style food) and provided information about the traditions and reasons for the roundup.
According to Charlie, the roundup was started 51 years ago when local residents began complaining about too many rattlesnakes harming them, their children and their livestock. It was pretty informal at first, and just involved capturing, killing and disposing of whatever rattlesnakes they could find. Over the years it has evolved into the largest rattlesnake roundup in the world, and also the main fundraiser for the Sweetwater Jaycees. Last year they made over $80,ooo which was donated to local schools and charities.
By the time I attended, the round seems to be a well oiled machine. All the workers for the actual roundup are volunteers, and all the money raised it donated to charity. In addition, all parts of the rattlesnakes are used; nothing is going to waste. As I understand it, people acquire permits for snake hunting, and all hunting must be done on privately owned lands (you will get a ticket from the game warden for collecting snakes either without a permit or on public land). The snakes are then brought into the convention area, where they are weighed, measured and sexed. This information has a dual purpose; of course there are prizes for the longest and heaviest snakes caught, but the information also goes to the Texas wildlife department for tracking.
After the statistics are gathered, the snakes are milked for their venom. The venom is used in research and to create antivenom, and a member of the lab that buys the venom is there to oversee the process and assist in the milking process.
After the snakes are milked, they head over to be killed and skinned.
After the beheading and skinning, everything is sold. Meat is $10/lb, skins are $5/foot. Heads and rattles go as well, to be made into different goods and display nick knacks
In addition to removing rattlesnakes and fundraising, the festival is also a source of education about rattlesnake behavior and safety issues. David Sager, Rooster president, gave multiple presentations each day on the safe handling of snakes and typical snake behaviors. He informed the crowd that rattlesnakes are more likely afraid of us than we are of them, and that they will do everything they can to avoid a confrontation with large animals. We learned that snakes shake their rattles as a warning to anyone nearby that a rattler is in the vicinity so you might want to go the other way. They will also coil up and tuck their head in the coil and lay perfectly still, in effect ‘hiding’ with their camouflage until the larger animal leaves the area.
Here are a few more photographs from throughout the day, enjoy~