Sunday, March 26, 2006

My, that canyon sure is Grand

Well, we made it to the Grand Canyon and home in one piece. Back when we were discussing where to go for a vacation, we wanted someplace sunny and warm for a spring trip. I mean, what do you usually think of when you picture the Grand Canyon? Big, bright sun, the dry desert, blue skies, shorts and sunburn, right? As it turns out, that is only true for certain months of the year. Months that do not include March. Our vacation started off just fine. Our flights to San Francisco went smoothly, and we enjoyed some delicious sushi and an entire relaxing day with Roger and Marian before we packed up the van and headed east. As the long 12-hour drive came to an end, things turned ominous. The last hour was very dark and a little snowy when we finally got close late Sunday night. We couldn't really see much of anything, including the street signs, which made finding our lodge somewhat frustrating. The next morning, we decide to start off easy by walking along the Rim Trail, which doesn't change elevation and is actually paved most of the way. Here is my first view of the canyon. (Note: All pictures can be clicked on for a larger image.)  Posted by Picasa

I should have read the signs more carefully, as here is one that seems to be saying there is more snow on the way! Posted by Picasa

Basically, this natural wonder is so immense my mind can't really seem to grasp it, even in person. While standing right next to this huge crater, it still looks like a painted backdrop or something. Posted by Picasa

We walked leisurely on Monday, taking lots of pictures and browsing all the gift shops. The plan was to do a more serious hike on Tuesday after the scheduled helicopter ride. Oh wait, the helicopter ride was scheduled for Monday? Yikes! Hurry back to the room and call to reschedule the flight for Tuesday afternoon. We can still get in a hike in the morning. Of course, Tuesday began glumly. We weren't sure our footwear would be sufficient for the trail, so we tried to hurry to get a good look before lunch. Although the ground was snowy and stiff with cold, it was the sky that told us another story. Posted by Picasa

I decided that I definitely wanted some boots and by the time we got to the general store, the snow had started. It seemed very light and wasn't sticking to the ground, so at first we weren't concerned. However by the time we got our new boots, it was really coming down. In fact, we had to reschedule our helicopter ride again to avoid weather problems. As the night continued, and the snow kept coming, we even discussed cutting our trip short. Yet driving in the snow was a big deterrent, and the predictions seemed better for Wednesday, so we waited it out. Here you can see the results of the storm. Posted by Picasa

At this point our helicopter ride was scheduled for 11:00am, so we planned to hike afterwards. The sky seemed pretty clear and I was very excited to get in our specially-designed EcoStarPosted by Picasa

We flew over the Kaibab National Forest first - a protected woodland area the size of Switzerland. Is that the canyon over there? Posted by Picasa

The pilot told us to look directly down as we flew over the edge, and it was as dramatic as he predicted. Again, the views are so impressive that it doesn't seem quite real. Posted by Picasa

Unfortunately, the vistas weren't as clear as we hoped. The pilot explained that the clouds roll in and get stuck on the ridges. Posted by Picasa

We were airborne over a protected portion of the canyon, so the pilot wasn't allowed to fly down closer to the river. However, the ride was still worth it. It was definitely something that I will not forget. So after the amazing views from above, it was now time to "get down in it". We filled our backpacks with water bottles, beef jerky, and granola, and started down the South Kaibab trail. Posted by Picasa

The top was pretty scary because of the slick, packed-down, icy snow. By the time the ground turned into a slushy mud, we were in the middle of the clouds. Posted by Picasa

In a way, I was actually glad of the whiteout. This enabled me to focus on my feet since I knew I wasn't missing out on any awesome sights. But we eventually made our way beneath the clouds and came to the first stop, called Ooh Aah Point. Posted by Picasa

By now, the temperature is rising, not only because it is later in the day, but also because we are at a lower elevation. The trail is almost completely puddles, with some areas of mud. Yet despite the disagreeable path, the views make up for it. Posted by Picasa

We make it to Cedar Ridge, and stop to eat and refresh ourselves before going back up. I have seen some courageous wildlife in my time, but never before has a squirrel actually climbed onto my backpack sitting right next to me! Posted by Picasa

Here is a shot of Justin and Roger out near the end of Cedar Ridge. Posted by Picasa

By the time we finished, we had hiked for about four hours, over 3 miles, and a change in elevation of about 1200 feet (both ways). Despite the ache in my calves (continuing three days later!), the effort was worth it. And something we hope to do again - in better weather of course! Posted by Picasa

Thursday, March 16, 2006

A Dated Thriller

Last night we watched House of Games, a Mamet movie from 1987. Typical of early Mamet works, the dialog was very stylized. Yes, I would say stylized. It was.... It is memorable because of the sytle. Anyway, I can only rate it a 4 because I thought the acting was flat too. I am trying not to judge the script too harshly given its time frame. I mean, we are such an educated audience these days, that the "unexpected" twist seemed completely obvious. Basically, it was not very good. Other than that, I am gearing up for the trip to the Grand Canyon. We leave tomorrow afternoon!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

You probably heard about the micro-burst storms hit all over the midwest on Suday. While I was visiting a friend in Lawrence, Justin experience a brief hailstorm, that left dime-sized ice pellets all over the place. Here is a picture of the deck after the brief downpour. Posted by Picasa

This is another cool shot, of the gutter drain next to the house. So strange! Posted by Picasa

Friday, March 03, 2006

Vacation update

Justin and I are still planning on going to the Grand Canyon. In fact, Justin's best friend Roger and his wife Marion thought the idea was so cool they decided to come along with us. So we changed our driving plans and are flying out to San Fransisco to meet them. The four of us will drive together to the canyon and probably have a day or two in California together as well. I'm a little bummed that I won't be able to see my brother and sister-in-law this time. But now I have an excuse to plan a special trip just to visit them in Oklahoma!

More mediocre movies

So it seems like Justin and I haven't really missed much on the movie front by not having a theatre for nearly the last two years. We've been watching again -- trying to catch up on lost ground -- and I am still very unimpressed. I was hopeful with some recent picks, starting with Flightplan. I mean, anything with Jodie has to be better than expected, right? Yes, it did have a few things that I thought were done well, but overall the big plot holes and hollywood-esque scenes left me very unsatisfied. I'm rating it a 4. So then last night, we tried Proof. I was hoping for some interesting math, like in A Beautiful Mind, or even some cool intelligent banter like in Good Will Hunting. Alas, that was not the case. However, the story was somewhat interesting and I didn't fall asleep. I'm rating this one a 5.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Getting in over my head?

As the trip to the Grand Canyon approaches, I have been thinking about how in shape I am, and if I'm ready to do the all-day walk. I try to go on walks around the neighborhood, but it is hard for me because I am so picky about the weather. Of course, we have an elliptical machine inside that I can use when the weather is prohibitive, however, you know how easy it is to find something else to do. Well, yesterday at work they found something else to inspire me to seriously get my act together. I signed up for the Kansas City Corporate Challenge. And boy did I sign up! I think I've put my name down for so many things that I may later regret: raquetball, soccer, volleyball, pool, and bowling. Most of these are things that I have done at one time or another, but none of them recently. So the fear of publicly humiliating myself in front of my coworkers is now my motivation to get my body into shape. We'll see how well it works. Stay tuned -- the events are not until May, but I will try to post updates on my "training" as it gets closer.