The Grand Canyon

No tourist’s visit to the west of the U.S. is complete without a stop at the Grand Canyon, and we were no exception. We stayed in a little village (consisting mostly of the motel and gift shop) called Cameron for a couple of nights. From there it was only about an hour’s drive west to the Grand Canyon.

On our second night there, there was a spectacular sunset, with a storm brewing on the horizon. Ben had been wishing for a great big thunder/lightning storm during our trip, and this was the night it happened! We were able to sit on our balcony outside and witness the most amazing natural lights show either of us had ever seen on the plains behind the motel. The lightning just went on and on for about 2 hours, with lots of spectacular fork lightning too!

As we visited the Grand Canyon on a Sunday, we drove in early and attended a little Baptist church there in the Grand Canyon Village before heading off and doing a bit of sight-seeing. We were there with two little ones, so the possibility of any hikes down into the Canyon were (thankfully) non-possibilities, so we did some of the Rim Trail and took photos.

The Grand Canyon is named that because it is really grand. Huge. Amazing. Awe-inspiring. And simply too big for me to really be able to take in and comprehend. So big and amazing that after about an hour of looking at it, you’ve got brain frizz and just have to leave. I expect you get a better idea of it if you hike down into it, or do some rafting on the river, or even take a plane or helicopter ride over it, but as it was, it was “too lofty for me to attain.”

Of course, there had to be a few close-calls, didn’t there? What really struck me was that there were only a couple of viewing points that had any kind of safety barrier. For the rest of the trail, you could just walk off the trail, and jump off the cliff if you wanted to! That’s so different from New Zealand — there would be safety barriers everywhere and if not, oodles of warnings to stay away from the edge!

Driving through Monument Valley

After our time in Moab and Arches National Park, we traveled south to the Grand Canyon. What we didn’t realise was that our road would take us right through Monument Valley, a beautiful and dramatic piece of creation. There was some very heavy rain while we were driving, and we could see the rain coming down in sheets far ahead of us. It was really a spectacular sight, and one that we didn’t even plan on seeing!

(All the photos were taken through the car window, so their quality isn’t spectacular, but I think you still get a pretty good idea of how beautiful the landscape is!)

Next time (who knows when that will be!) I’ll share some photos from our visit to the Grand Canyon.

A visit to Moab and Arches National Park

One of the scenic highlights of our roadtrip was the state of Utah, where we went to Arches National Park, and drove through Monument Valley on our way to the Grand Canyon. We both loved the Grand Canyon (post still coming!), but Arches was just so much more accessible and had so much variety, it was a great place to visit.

We spent 3 nights in Moab, UT, just 5 minutes drive from the Arches entrance, at an old-school motel where John Wayne stayed back in the day when he filmed his old westerns.

It was really hot there, and we used the motel pool, the town’s pool facility and some local swimming holes quite a lot in between our sight seeing.

On the first morning there we got up early and headed off to Arches to explore a bit before it got too hot. We stopped at the first look-out spot where I took photos of the interesting rock shapes and where you can see how the earth ruptured into the Moab fault.

From there we went on to a part called Park Avenue, because it reminded the people who named it of walking down a city street that has high sky scrapers on both sides:

In the early morning there was quite a lot of nice shade, so we stayed down there quite a while so Ben and Marica could scramble around on some rocks. They got quite high up!

A bit of perspective:

Esther and I were sensible and sat in the shade and played with sand and looked at geckos and jet trails.

Paths are marked by stone cairns that people like to keep adding stones to. I thought they looked quite neat.

By the time we got out of ‘Park Avenue’, it was getting to be scorching, so we opted to do a bit of an air-conditioned drive and we saw the southern part of the park, deciding to come back the next morning for the rest.

We headed back to the motel for lunch and a swim, and in the late afternoon we went looking for a water hole that a local told us about (it was pretty nice that he did, too, because we were inquiring about hiring some crazy-expensive bikes which we realised were just out of our price range, and then he told us about that pool!).

We went down there and saw some small and shallow wading pools,

but quickly realised that we had missed the real thing. We followed a path that others were taking too, and came across this lovely, deep, cool pool. There were apparently more and better pools if you hiked upstream another half an hour or so, but we decided that this would do just fine!

It even had a natural water slide.

We enjoyed those pools till it was almost dark, and then headed back to the motel. I just loved the colour of the sky on the way back to the car park:

The next day, we hoped to start even earlier so that we could go on a hike to Delicate Arch. By the time we got there, however, despite being early we quite quickly realised that the kids just would not be up to hiking in the heat. I was SO keen to get photos of it, so I hiked up there while Ben entertained the kids near the car park. It was the fastest up-hill hike I’ve ever done (I didn’t want them waiting in the heat too long!). I did stop to take photos every now and then and to drink some water, but other than that I walked as fast as I could!

Some of the views going up the trail to Delicate Arch are quite stunning:

And look at that arch in the distance that looks like an elephant!

For a while it felt as if I was never going to get there, but just as I rounded this corner:

there she was!

On the way down, I noticed this arch. To me it looks just like a cheesy bread knot.

After Delicate Arch, we drove around some more to see some more amazing scenery:

Doesn’t the rock in the middle look like the dinosaur in Toy Story?

Arches has its own Balanced Rock, which is much bigger and higher than the one at Garden of the Gods!

There was this valley of rock spires that looked as if it just poked right out of the rock around it. It was a ways in the distance, and my camera zoom couldn’t get much closer than this, but it just looked so strange, almost like a rock city in the middle of nowhere.

Proof that I didn’t steal my photos off the internet. :-)

Garden of the Gods at sunrise

When we were visiting the Boonzaaijers’ in Colorado Springs, I decided to get up early one morning to go and take some photos of the Garden of the Gods. I had heard that it was particularly beautiful at sunrise, so I got up at 5am and headed on down there, just as the sky was changing colour. It was so quiet and I only saw two other people before the actual sunrise, which was a big change from the day we went there with some family members during the Tschetter reunion. It was also horribly hot that day, so to be there in the cool of the morning in the complete stillness, being able to take photos without holding anyone up was a delightful experience.

The photos mostly speak for themselves, so I’ll just let you enjoy them without my commentary getting in the way!

Visit to the Boonzaaijers’

So, getting around to posting these last roadtrip posts have crawled to a terribly slow pace, but I’m determined to finish them up. When I get to that point, I’ll evaluate whether or not I keep AliensInTheApple going, or change its name, or just say “So long, and thanks for all the fish.”

But, moving on in our roadtrip, we spent a wonderful 4 nights in Colorado Springs at Ben’s cousin Erica and her family’s place. We had a really great time getting to know them all better (having only met Stephen and the kids at the Hoyt reunion). They are a really fun family, and I was encouraged by what great parents they are — I learned a lot by just observing them!

Erica is married to Stephen, who is a great baker (I speak from experience!). We enjoyed many treats from their Dutch bakery, and even got a tour of it.

One afternoon after Stephen got home from work, he took the kids (and us) out to a nearby reservoir to do some fishing.

Esther’s favourite part was finding bugs and wildflowers.

One afternoon Ben and I went with Stephen to drop off some wedding cakes that he had made to see how he assembles them and gets them all prettied up for the wedding. I must admit I felt a bit nervous about this method of transport, but apparently they’ve never lost a cake in transport!

This one we dropped off at Glen Eyrie, a beautiful old castle. While we were there, I took the opportunity to take some photos of the grounds and building while everyone else decided whether the cake should be left inside our outside (there was a storm brewing). What an impressive place!

About a week before our visit to the Boonzaaijers, the Waldo Canyon fire saw them evacuated from their home and bakery for a few days, so we weren’t even sure we’d be able to visit them, but thankfully it was contained, and although the fire came close to their house, their home and business was spared. The fire also came to the hills right behind Glen Eyrie, as you can see here:

All over town there were posters thanking firefighters and I saw this card on a table at Glen Eyrie:

I totally forgot to get a whole family shot of the Boonzaaijers, so in the end I just took a photo of the two cousins, Ben and Erica. (Stephen and Erica’s baby has since been born, and it’s a cute little girl named Tabitha.)

And I just have to leave you with this: spot the gecko! (I promise there really is one! If you click on it, you’ll get a bigger picture.)

One of the mornings we were staying with them I went back to Garden of the Gods, seeing that I had lost all my previous photos when my computer crashed. This was way better anyway, going at sunrise, and I got some great shots that I’ll share with you next time.

Manitou Cliff Dwellings

After the Tschetter reunion we stopped at the Manitou cliff dwellings museum on our way to visit Ben’s cousin Erica and her family in Colorado Springs.

Call me thick, but I only just realised after reading wikipedia that the cliff dwellings are not original, but instead have been relocated to their current location. I’m not sure how we missed that bit… but oh well. It was still an interesting thing to get an idea of how these people lived. I think it’s a pretty cool idea to build a house where you don’t need to build the roof — it’s already there!

What was really great about this place was that you were allowed to go inside, and the kids could climb through the windows and things. How nice when a museum isn’t also a no-touch zone!

Apart from the houses part of the museum, there was also a more museum-like building with history and photos and old tools and whatnot (and of course a great big gift shop where we got a lollipop with a scorpion inside which now lives on our fridge and entertains visitors). One of the most interesting things in the museum (to me) was that the Cliff Dwelling Indians carried their babies on their backs in these wooden cradle/backpack things which resulted in the babies’ heads being flat on the back, bulging over the ears, sometimes so badly that the head was as wide as it was long.

One of the corridors at the back of one of the houses had some great light coming in. I quite like this photo of Marica in black and white, taking advantage of the stark contrasts in the lighting.

Return to the Roadtrip: On to the Tschetter Reunion

Some of you might recall that it was at the Tschetter reunion (Ben’s mum’s side of the family) that my laptop hard drive died, so I lost photos of the first half of that stop as well, which is a real shame because Ben’s mum’s Uncle Herb and Aunt Susan came to visit one evening and I got some really nice shots of them, but hey, so’s life.

We stayed at the Rocky Mountain Mennonite Camp (which, incidentally, is not just for Mennonites) in an 11-room chalet. We had plenty of space, a very well equipped kitchen, a stunning view, and some great walks nearby to boot. With it being Mennonite-run, Grandpa found many connections and interesting people to talk to about knowing (about) some of the same families and places.

I do have a few photos I took of our 4th of July celebrations and some of the beautiful scenery around our chalet, so I can share those!

This was to be our last 4th of July in the States for who knows how long, so I volunteered to make dinner that night. Somehow it’s easier to feel patriotic in the States — there is vitually no patriotism in NZ!

I made some traditional food, or what the internets told me was supposed to be traditional 4th of July food: hamburgers, chips (not fries), potato salad, that kind of thing. I also made  a rather patriotic-looking cake (cake decorators, close your eyes!).

All around the grounds were little ground squirrels (if someone can explain to me what the difference is between a ground squirrel and a chipmunk, I shall be much obliged) and they move so fast and unpredictably that I was glad to finally get a shot of one. The cheeky little things even made their way into our chalet one time by chewing a hole in the window screen and then having a little dig through some of the food in the kitchen!

There was a little pond on the grounds too with some kayaks available for use, and Marica was quite chuffed with the fact that she could go in one all by herself.

At our previous Tschetter reunion in 2010, I took many more photos of wildflowers. For some reason this is the only one I have of this past reunion.

Of course, we worked in quite a number of Dutch Blitz games as well as some scrabble games with Grandpa.

We finished two puzzles too, which I always enjoy doing — I never do it at home (as in adult puzzles, the ones I do with the kids at home don’t really count!), so puzzle building on holiday is always a treat for me.

One morning Ben had to get up at 5am to go hike Pike’s Peak with Hannah, Eva and Aunt Marti, and then I couldn’t get back to sleep, so I went outside to the little hill out the back of our chalet where there was an outdoor worship area. I was hoping to catch some sunrise photos, but the sun didn’t quite rise where I hoped it would. I still got some nice shots, though and had fun trying some different things. It was also a rather marvelous place (and time!) for being alone and for prayer.