Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Trip to Grand Canyon (sometime in 2003)
It all started when my brother came to Las Cruces on a visit. He and his friends are jolly good fun and they hit off real well with my roommate and close friends (Vidya, Wiplove and Srujan). So we decided that we should visit them for the spring break too. A rough plan was chalked out and then we forgot about it. Close to the spring break the idea caught heat again. But Albuquerque (where bro is) is only a few hours away and we wanted a road trip. In came Elephant Butte Lake, Sandia peaks and the incomparable Grand Canyon. The car rental (Dodge Stratus) came to 250 bucks. So we scouted around for another traveler to join us. Enter Harshad. That made five of us. A quick trip to Walmart (supermarket) and supplies were in place. Maps were downloaded from yahoo and we were ready to roll.
We set out close to the midnight of the 22nd. High spirits was not the word. We were on air. Once in the interstate we settled down to a comfortable speed (80mph-abt130kmph) and the party started. Food was pulled out, cokes were opened and loud music filled the night air. Words can't describe the exhilaration we felt. We were off to the canyon, one of the seven wonders of the natural world. A couple of hours later we had all settled down. I was in the navigator seat and Harshad was driving. Music was off and the rest of the guys were slowly dozing off. That's when Vidya looked out of the window and up to the sky. It was picture perfect. Quarter moon painted on a clear cloudless sky with twinkling stars dancing to a merry tune. We pulled over to the shoulder an got out of the car. All were quiet taking in the marvel called creation. After a quiet few minutes we got back in and set out again.
At abt 4 o clock harshad and I gave way to vidya and wiplove (Wiplove driving and vidya navigating). That's when the trouble started (Vidya would say I missed the trail but I strongly contest the statement ). The map pointed to a Coronado trail (god knows if it exists) about 120 miles from where vidya took over. We were supposed to take it and join up with interstate 180 a few miles later. Wiplove drove for abt 300 miles...no trail. The sun rose...still no trail. Vidya threw up his hands and gave up. Our savior came in the form of a Ranch (full scale with horses and stuff). We got in and asked for directions. Much to our relief we were on a road parallel to the highway we were supposed to take. So we dint have to turn back. The ranch owner gave us a sumptuous breakfast (sumptuous for the non-veg guys.. harshad and I ate salad, bread and jam). It is amazing what a full meal does to your attitude. Our confidence restored we set out again to the canyon. A few gas stations for directions and we were back on the route.
That's when we came to Holbrook, A quiet town off Flagstaff (which is a pretty big city). Pristine and peaceful, we were caught in its spell. We parked at some corner of the town and another photo session followed. Then off we set to flagstaff. It was abt 9:30 in the morning by then. The sun was well up and time was slowly becoming critical. The speedometer slowly crawled up to 90mph. Flagstaff came and went. That's when the whole route turned green. I've never seen nature more brilliant. What hues and colors for flora and fauna. To top it the conifer forests beckoning like some irresistible force. We knew we had to stop. And stop we did.. not once but many times.
Finally at close to 11:30 we reached the canyon. Our first view of the canyon was a humbling experience. We were overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude and splendor of Mother Nature at its peak. The Colorado River was so small in comparison. it was incomprehensible that that was the architect of this marvel. For those of you who go to the canyon I would suggest you don't just stop at the first drop, take a few pics and push of. I've known many who did that. They felt there was nothing more to see. The thing to do is to hike down the 'Bright Angel Trail' down to the bottom of the canyon. The trail is 4 feet at the widest and as thin as 2 feet at places. On one side is the sheer drop of the canyon and the other is the security of the canyon wall. The descent itself is something one would treasure for the rest of ones life. But what lies below is even better. The Colorado river in all its splendor still digging deeper into the earth as if what it has made is somehow not enough, greenery not seen anywhere else in the world, Rock formations better than any sculpture. A world on it's own. Those who go down should take camping equipment and camp for the night as the descent would take a whole day. We dint have any of those. So we went halfway down and then climbed back up. All of us have resolved to go back someday and go all the way down.
There's something about the trail that brings out the adventurer in you. There were so many things we did there that I would never have done even on a wall 10 feet high. I remember a rocky ledge jutting out into the canyon with a hole in it. It was called Angel's window. The ledge was abt 1/2 foot wide (no kidding). A slip would mean a sheer drop. And all except Srujan were bold enough to climb onto the window for pics. We played ice catch on the trail. we laughed, we screamed, we ran, for that short period we were free from the world. We wanted to be there forever but time stops for no man. Evening had come. We visited the Grand Canyon museum and bought a few souvenirs. Albuquerque and Indian food beckoned and so we set out again
Harshad and I took over again (me driving this time). The drive was pretty much uneventful. Halfway through Srujan took over the wheel while I took a nap. Pretty late into the night we reached Albuquerque. That was where we saw the first and only hitch of our hasty planning. I dint have my brother's address. A few phone calls and a long wait saw us through that. It was too late for the Indian hotel though. We settled down for a good sleep after more than 24 hrs in a car. The next day we went to an Indian Hotel. It was the first time I was going to an Indian hotel after coming to the US (we don't have one in Las Cruces). We showed it there too. Forks and spoons were thrown aside. Words came to a halt. For the next half hour the only thing I saw was Pulav, Nan, Kurma, Paneer Palak, Payasam etc. Gorged to the hilt we got up not without a tinge of regret that the meal was over.
Everybody was very sleepy. Harshad Vidya and Srujan went back to the flat. Wiplove and I however were not done with exploring. Off we went in search of Sandia peaks. It's a winter ski resort. Both of us knew it would be closed this time...but hey what the heck. Gas station again pointed out the way to us and soon we were climbing the hills to Sandia. We clicked a couple of photos on the wayÂ and suddenly we ran out of reel. A quick discussion and we decided to junk the photos and continue. The climb was genuine fun. Hair pins, U - turns and what not. The Dodge held gamely and soon we were on top. A spectacular view of Albu was a fitting reward for foregoing the sleep. We hung around for abt 15 mins and returned to my bro's place. We were at the final leg of the road trip and by 7 o clock we were on our way back. The enthusiasm had still not died down and so we decided to go to Elephant Butte lake (which is close to Las Cruces) the next day. We dropped Harshad off at his flat and returned to sleep in our flats.
The next day we set out for the Butte. A drive of abt 1 hour took us there. The lake was amazing. Clear blue set against a flawless sky. The sight is to be seen, not described. We checked out the rate for speedboats, concluded it was too high and so chucked that plan. We had a small picnic at the sands of the lake and set back to Cruces, our wanderlust just whetted by what we had seen.
P.S ... I've still not gone back .. but I will .. but I will