I belong to Angels Abreast, a breast cancer survivor dragon boat race team in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada. Every four years the International Breast Cancer Paddlers Commission IBCPC) holds an international festival somewhere in the world. In the spring of 2013, my team received a notice that the IBCPC had chosen Sarasota, Florida, USA, to hold the next festival in October 2014.
We decided to attend and while the other members were going to fly down, tour around some of the sites and head home I wanted to see more of the country and meet some of the people. My husband, Mike, and I drove from our small acreage at Port Alberni, British Columbia, on the Pacific Ocean, to Sarasota, Florida on the Atlantic Ocean.
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine the people I would meet nor the beautiful places I would see nor the adventures I would have on our ten week, 18,758km (11656 mile) journey. On the thirteenth day of every month in 2016 I will post a part of my trip that describes some of the excellent scenery, shows the generosity and friendliness of the people, and explains some of the history of the country. The people of the USA have much to be proud of.
After visiting my cousin, Betty, in Mayer for two days, our next destination was the Grand Canyon National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We stopped in the parking lot of the South Rim. Mike was able to make the short walk to the first of many viewpoints. I’d seen pictures and heard stories of how beautiful the canyon was but I wasn’t prepared for the absolute grandeur of the multi-coloured layers, the river far below, the rock formations. It was amazing to stand on the rim of the canyon and try to visualize the five million years it had taken the Colorado River to form it.
We took our time, walking from viewpoint to viewpoint taking pictures and just staring. The canyon is 277 miles (446km) long, up to 18 miles (29km) wide in places and can reach a depth of more than a mile. It is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Grand Canyon National Park was formed in 1919.
We drove the Desert View Highway and stopped at other viewpoints for a different view of the canyon and to take more pictures. At the Tusayan Ruin I walked around the small site. It is estimated that about twenty people lived in this pueblo or village. Nothing has been done to reconstruct it only to stabilize what remains of the walls, which are now only about two layers of rock high. I looked at the living quarters, the storage rooms, and the kiva. I took the short hike down to a clearing where they may have had a garden. They also used a lot of the trees and bush for medicinal purposes and for food.
It is believed that the Peublo Indians built this site around 1185 and occupied it for about twenty years. Again, I was standing in a place constructed thousands of years ago. How thrilling. From the ruins I looked into the distance and saw Humphries Peak. At 12,633ft (3851m) it is the highest point in Arizona.
Further along the highway we reached the Watchtower. Construction on this tall, circular tower on the rim of the Grand Canyon began in 1930. In order to give it an ancient look the weathered stones picked for it were left in their natural state.
Inside is a visitor's center, a gift shop, and different Hopi drawings simulating what the early natives would have drawn, on the walls. I looked up the open shaft to the third floor ceiling, then climbed the circular staircase which ran along the outer walls. On each floor there are Hopi paintings. At the top are wide windows with an excellent view over the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River. Before descending I looked down the centre shaft to the bottom level.
After the Watchtower we left the Grand Canyon National Park. As we neared Cameron we drove through miles and miles of the Painted Desert. The layers of the hillsides are made of siltstone, mudstone, and shale. These contain iron and manganese compounds that provide the pigments for the various colours. The layers are easily eroded and so the hills are a variety of reds, tans, pinks, blues, and grays.
When we rose the next morning it was still overcast and raining. We continued our drive through the Painted Desert. The blacks, reds, plums, siennas, and grayish teal were all beautiful.
We reached Marble Canyon, which is the beginning of the Grand Canyon and crossed the Colorado River Bridge. Beside it, also over the river, is the Navajo bridge, which was built in 1929. The old one is narrow and now used as a walkway.
We were on the Vermilion Cliffs Highway and following the Vermilion Cliffs which lived up to their names. They are high and vermilion coloured and run for miles along the highway. We reached the Cliff Dwellings alongside the road. I walked over to look in what remained of the homes created under the large rocks.
Sign: Cliff Dwellings-People Who Live In Rock Houses. Erosion of sandstone formations leave a variety of crevices, caves and overhangs. Over time travellers and residents found creative ways to use these natural features as temporary or permanent shelter. Around 1927 Blanche Russell's car broke down as she travelled through this area. Forced to camp over night she decided she liked the scenery so well that she bought property and stayed. The stone buildings under these balanced rock were built shortly after that in the 1930s. Before 1930 a road trip up the east side of Kaibab Mountain was very steep. The early cars had a gravity feed gas pump. When climbing the mountain the vehicles could not get gas to the engine but they solved the problem by backing up the steepest parts.
The scenery changed to mainly forest. We passed a road to the north rim of Grand Canyon which was closed for the winter. We climbed steadily to Jacob Lake. At the summit we descended to the Paria Plateau where we could see forever. We arrived at Freedonia, which was established in 1885. Just on the northern outskirts we entered the state of Utah and were in Kanab.
Zion Canyon is 15 miles (24km) long and up to half a mile deep. The North Fork of the Virgin River cut the canyon through the red and tan colored Navajo Sandstone. At the Zion National Park it cost us $25.00 to enter the park and then because of our size we paid an extra $15.00 for a permit to go through the Zion-Mt. Carmel tunnel. There were many beautiful different colours and different slants to the layers of the rock walls as we drove. We were on a narrow winding road and drove through the first tunnel. When we reached the Zion-Mt. Carmel tunnel a ranger came out to check our permit. The tunnel was built in 1929. The highest point is 13'1" (4m) while at the curve it is 11'4" high. We waited for the oncoming traffic to clear and the last driver handed the ranger a flag. He, in turn, gave it to the last vehicle in our convoy.
As instructed, we drove down the middle of the road through the very long tunnel. There were three spaces where an opening allowed us to see the scenery on the passenger's side. Once out of the tunnel we snaked downhill on steep switch backs into the canyon. We turned off the main road onto the Zion Canyon scenic drive. There are walking bridges across the Virgin River to get to trails on the other side. At the end of the drive there is a river hike that follows the river through the narrowing canyon. It is a two mile round trip but I didn’t have time to do it.
I met a young woman from Australia. She and her boyfriend were touring for two months in a van borrowed from a friend.
“We’re from Vancouver Island and we've been on the road for almost ten weeks,” I said.
“Where on the island are you from?” she asked.
“Really? I worked at Mount Washington Ski Resort a few years ago and really liked it. I’d like to go back sometime.”
Mount Washington Ski Resort is about a three hour drive from Port Alberni.
It was December 4, Day 68 of our trip. We now had no schedule. Instead of being on a holiday we were on an adventure to make it home before running into snow. We looked at the map for the fastest, yet warmest route home. Over the next three days we drove northwest through Nevada, Oregon and Washington. We drove through fog, rain, and snow and reached Port Angeles on December 6th. On December 7th , we crossed the Juan de Fuca Strait and pulled into our driveway in the early afternoon. We’d driven 18,758km (11656 miles), travelled through two provinces and nineteen states and been gone ten weeks.
What an experience.