Saturday, July 23, 2005 - Grand Canyon to Flagstaff

The low was down to 74 degrees last night, thanks to the rain, and I slept great. Some deer were in our camp overnight, as evidenced by the giant hoof marks. I wish I'd woken up to see them. The sad part is that it's our last morning in the canyon. I'm crazy jealous of Ken, Angela, and Jenn, who are continuing on to Lake Mead, although now that I think about it, I wouldn't mind a hot shower and air conditioning and clean, dry shoes with no sand in them...


Our last breakfast on the river

For breakfast we had English muffins with egg, cheese, and Canadian bacon. It was kind of like an Egg McMuffin, except good. Then it was time to tip the guides. Always tip the guides - they work their butts off.


Our last raft ride

It was only 45 minute of rafting to the helicopter pad. We passed through a couple of tiny rapids, but Dave took it easy through them. Our gear was just thrown under a tarp this morning, not tied down and not in drybags, so we didn't need any splashing. Arizona Raft Company was at the take-out when we got there. They would leave first and then us. A new group of passengers would be joining Ken, Angela, and Jenn for three more days of rafting. We felt a little sorry for our friends as we saw the new group arrive with a bunch of kids. They couldn't be nearly as much fun as us! We rafted the most exciting part of the river, but next time I want to do the whole thing.


The helicopter arrives

Each helicopter could take five or six passengers, and they divided us as evenly as possible by weight. They asked each of us how much we weighed, and I told them to be sure to factor in that all the women were lying! Andy rode with the last of the AZ raft group, then Dotti, Aaron, Brian, Chris, and Jacob took the next chopper. Lastly, Stine, Tom, and I brought up the rear, along with two workers from Bar 10 Ranch who were down in the canyon organizing the flights.


From the chopper

The ride up to the ranch takes about six minutes, and the view is spectacular! The helicopter doors are apparently harder to close from the inside than the outside, and since the Bar 10 guys rode out with us on the last chopper, they closed the doors behind them. Well, about halfway through the ride, my door popped open! I was wearing my seatbelt, so no harm done. The guy just leaned over and held the door shut for the rest of the ride.


The Vision Air chuck-bucket

Up at the Bar 10, I had just enough time to wash the sand off my feet and put on dry shoes and socks before we piled into a tiny 19-passenger Dornier 228 airplane for our 30-minute flight back to Marble Canyon. Dotti, Aaron, and Andy were already gone. Their flight for Vegas had left while we were still in the canyon.


The spacious accommodations

Stine had fed Tom and I some meclazine first thing this morning, and thank God, because that flight was a stomach-churner. Even with the medicine, if it had been any longer, I would have been sick. The flight went along the north rim of the Grand Canyon, and the views were great.


Grand Canyon aerial view


Vermillion Cliffs aerial view

Stepping out of the plane in Marble Canyon was like being hit by a blast furnace. It was well over 100 degrees. I wish I had a nice cold river to jump into! Our cars had been sitting there a week, and they were HOT! The six of us decided to travel together as far as Flagstaff and visit Walnut Canyon tomorrow, then Brian and family would head toward Tucson, and Tom and I would go back to Vegas to catch our flight home.

We drove an hour to Cameron, Arizona, the only dot on the map between Marble Canyon and Flagstaff, and ate lunch at the Cameron Trading Post and Lodge. Several of us ordered the biggest Navajo tacos on the planet. The frybread was platter sized. They were great, but nobody but Jacob finished more than half.

It was another hour to Flagstaff, and then yet another hour driving around in circles to find a decent hotel with a vacancy. We settled on a Quality Inn with a "Welcome Martians" sign out front. That's the place for us all right! We checked in around 4:00 p.m. I've always liked Flagstaff. Nestled in the San Francisco Mountains, it's cooler and wetter here than the surrounding desert.


That would be us

At 7:30, refreshed from our showers, all but Tom went to Casa Bonita. Tom was too tired to go out and needed some alone time besides. When I returned to the room at 9:30, he was crashed out hard.


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