Trip of a lifetime

I came across an old notebook in my dresser the other day. It’s from 10 years ago. I know because it had a draft of an itinerary for our family trip to the Grand Canyon on it. Jenny, Andrew, Robert and our golden retriever Frosty took a 2-1/2 week trip in late July and early August of 2007.

First day, Cozad, NE; Second night, Monticello UT; Third night, Williams, AZ. Williams is about an hour west of Flagstaff on old Route 66 and directly south of the Grand Canyon National Park.

We put a lot of planning into that trip… this was before we owned a laptop computer, and tablets and smartphones were in their early days. We looked up places to stop and printed a lot of pages and put them in a loose leaf binder. The second day of the trip, at our first stop, we spent about 10 minutes looking for the binder. We finally determined that it had probably been left on the roof of our van as we drove out of the parking lot of the Rodeway Inn in Cozad.

Fortunately, we had a second list that had all of our hotel reservations and we had the AAA travel books that we had marked up, so while we lost some of our detailed information we had gathered, we had more than enough to get by.

The second glitch on our trip happened on the second day. We were somewhere in central Colorado on the interstate when traffic came to a standstill. No one was moving. Eventually, we learned that a mudslide had closed the interstate and it would be a few hours before we would get going. Fortunately, it was a gorgeous day outside and a lot of people got out of their cars and enjoyed conversing. There was a car with Minnesota plates nearby and three college-age men got out of the car, opened the trunk and took out their golf clubs, taking turns launching tee shots into the river that ran along the highway. They were on their way to Las Vegas for a vacation before heading back to school.

One of the rules we set was that we were going to avoid chain restaurants during the trip. We pretty much kept to that rule, with two exceptions. The first was that second night when our driving schedule was delayed. We stopped at an Arby’s in Grand Junction, CO, about 9 p.m. knowing we were still about two hours away from our destination. The second was midway through our trip, when we stayed overnight in Page, AZ, and ate at a Sonic Drive-in. We made that exception because at the time, there were no Sonics in Minnesota.

Most of the rest of the trip went as planned. We stayed the first two nights in Williams at a motel/campground, then stayed a few nights in a campground in the National Park.

The highlight of the trip was a two-night stay in Supai, AZ. Supai is the only permanent settlement - an Indian village - at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. The only way to get to the village is on foot, by mule train or helicopter. We checked into the hilltop station and checked most of our camping equipment onto the mule train, then hiked the seven-miles into the canyon. We chose to split up when we got to the village. Jenny and Andrew and the dog - the more adventurous ones - hiked another two miles to a campground at Havasupai Falls, while Robert and I stayed at a motel in the village. The next morning Robert and I hiked to the campground and when we got to the falls, it was an incredible site… The area looked like a large waterpark. We spent the day resting and enjoying the falls, hiking trails and swimming. That evening, Robert and I hiked back to the village with plans to return the next morning. While we were getting ready to leave, there was a knock on the door. It was Jenny and Andrew.

There had been heavy rains in another part of the canyon overnight, and that meant flooding was expected in the campgrounds and they had to evacuate. During the hike back, the water was already starting to flow on the formerly dry creekbed and the water on the falls, which had been a gorgeous shade of blue-green the day before, had turned brown. So instead of another day at the falls, Jenny and Andrew had the chance to shower and wash up and we enjoyed a day in the village while waiting for an afternoon helicopter ride out of the canyon and back to the hilltop station, then began our journey home.

We felt fortunate to have experienced Havasupai Falls… In August 2008, a little more than a year after our trip, a huge flood wiped out the trails, changed the terrain and altered the course of the river. One of the falls in the area - Navajo Falls, was lost due to a change in the course. It was, however, replaced by two new falls. The campgrounds and trails were closed for nearly a year after that flood for reconstruction.

We had a few other stops on the way home… a few days in southern Utah, where we stopped at Arches and Canyonlands national parks, a relaxing day in Glenwood Springs, CO, and another night in the Denver area, but nothing compared to our hike into the Canyon. We called it our trip of a lifetime then. We’ve taken some shorter, closer by trips since then, but nothing compared to that experience.

I showed the notebook to Jenny and we smiled at some of the memories. So much has happened in the 10 years since. Sometimes, that trip seems so fresh in our memories, and other times, it seems like a distant past.