Saturday, September 5, 2009

US National Parks

The next leg of our 12 day trip took us through breath-taking scenery and into some of the real jewels of the American landscape. Not that the midwest was boring, but it's more familiar to me and therefore less interesting and beautiful. We carried on south till we came to the Grand Canyon, a place that loomed high in Adrian's imagination, he says, without a real vision. He just knew it was important, but didn't really know why. As we drove in from the east, we stopped in for our first views, just before sunset. The views took our words away, and we just stood there hugging each other and saying nothing. It was awesome, inspiring, and just plain beautiful. The next 2 hours were less than awesome as we looked for a campground with availabilities, one day before the July 4th weekend. All of the closest campgrounds are first-come-first-served, with no reservations. We got sent away by 2 campgrounds, and eventually got sent back to the farthest one, close to where we'd seen such lovely sites 2 hours before, feeling less than gratuitous, but at least fortunate. The next day we woke up early and trekked down the infamous Angel Trail following mule treks and countless other hikers. We took plenty of water and laughed at all the signs warning illprepared hikers about the dangers of acting tough by trying to hike in desert conditions without sufficient water. We made it half way down (4.5 miles) and back in under 4 hours. Adrian left me behind in his dust on the way back up, as it was getting hot by then mid-day, and I was holding him back with my adult sluggishness. (That little boy has so much trekking energy, he just races up mountains like a mountain goat!) A few more hours of canyon gazing, a couple more sunrises and sunsets, and Adrian was ready to be back in the car again. One of his high lights was seeing all the wildlife along the canyon, including tons of yellow-bellied marmots and even several male deer with racks larger than 4 feet tall!

Our next stop was the Great Salt Lake, otherwise known to Adrian as the stinkiest lake on the planet. The dead fish and salt smells were noxious, but didn't stop me from sinking my body into the salt water for my tourist photo op. Adrian obliged to be photographer, but wouldn't even touch his toes in the stinky water. I remember swimming there as a child with my family and enjoying the salty feel on my skin, but don't remember the smell quite so much. Maybe it's changed a bit, or maybe I just have a kid with a hyper-sensitive nose.

Our final park, Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, had the most impressive wild animals of the entire trip, as well as photographic bubling mud displays. The spontaneous bubbling mud baths of various colours and sizes bubbling up throughout the park were more impressive than the predictable Old Geiser, which was smaller in size and all in one place. Adrian took lots of photos with the changing sunlight and walked around dazelike. But then the animals. Within minutes of entering the park, we saw our first bison, also known as the great American buffalo. They are big, hairy monsters that look like something from your nightmare when you meet them on the road. We were close enough to touch one, but fortunately were in our car, and could choose not to touch him, and just take his photo instead. One of Adrian's highlights was a horse trek through the park one morning. He got the ornery horse and had to ride in the front, because his horse kept trying to wander off to eat. We rode through a herd of over 200 elk and deer, including lots of babies and their mothers. Have you ever heard the sound that distressed elk make? It's something like a cross between a coo and a groan. We also saw mule deer with droopy ears, a coyote, 5 more bison, and an American bald eagle on its nest. Stunning wild life everywhere!

One more night spent camping at a KOA in Missoula, Montana, a few hours from where I was born back in 1964, and we arrived in Cranbrook, BC. We'd covered 6000 km in 12 days, and averaged 500 km per day, and spent not a cent on car repairs. Not bad for a mother-son team and a 12 year old car. We also listened to Adrian's iPod for 4 complete cycles of all his tunes. I can sing along with all his Billy Talent alternative rock songs, and sound vaguely cool with the teenagers. Adrian and I really grooved together, except for that 24 hour period around his 12th birthday when he got mad at me for some silly reason and cried himself to sleep that night and wouldn't talk to me for the next whole day. Welcome to the land of teenagers, even though he's only 12. An offer of an extra large chocolate chip cookie dough blizzard at Dairy Queen seemed to break the ice and restore normalacy. Looks like I might be visiting there again in the near future.

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