Road Trip Out West

Jim n Katie Patterson take me n Dottie Moffett to Vegas from Red River, New Mexico in their Ford LTD.

Colorado1973 (4).JPG own pic
We go via Colorado where we catch a steam train from Durango north to Silverton

(see steam train)

Then via Utah, where we visit Bryce Canyon and Zion NP

Bryce Canyon small

Vegas – We stay at The Stardust on The Strip. It boasted (natch) the ‘biggest neon sign in the world’! I learnt to gamble, I learnt to win. I battled to lose. Dottie was a good luck charm! I kept on and on gambling, determined to lose. Finally as dawn approached we were $10 down and went to bed.

We saw Joan Rivers being delightfully rude and Petula Clark warbling away (also Joan warbled a bit and Pet told a joke!). I saw Jim slip the doorman a cri$p note to get us better seats!


After Vegas we stop off at The Grand Canyon: We stare down at this awesome sight from the lookout on the south rim. We only have a few hours there, so we’re just look-see tourists. Suddenly I can’t stand it! I have to get down there. I start running down the Bright Angel trail. It’s about 10km to the river. I’ll give myself an hour, I think. The run was easy on a well-maintained track with the only real obstacle being the ‘mule trains’. Every now and then I’d have to step off the trail and let a bunch of mules pass, sometimes with a steep drop inches away. I made sure I was always on the upside!

Bright Angel trailhead
Bright Angel Trail seen from the South Rim. Grand Canyon NP, Arizona.
 At first it was all open desert trail, but at Indian Gardens I was surprised by the amount of greenery in the canyon. From the rim it looks like all desert, but in the protected gorges there was green shrubbery and even some tall trees.

Indian Gardens Grand Canyon.jpg

In about an hour I got to just above the river. I stared in awe at the swiftly-moving blue-green water. I had never seen such a large volume of clear water flowing like that. Our South African rivers mostly run small and muddy and I wasn’t expecting clear water. Right then I thought I MUST get onto this river! If I’d been asked I’d probably have said on a raft, little knowing that in eleven years time I would kayak past that very spot, under that same bridge in 1984 on a flood-level river! *(see below)*

bridge grand canyon.jpg

The hike back out was steep, but hey, I was 18yrs old! Cross-country running had been my favourite obsession the year before, so no (or an acceptable amount of) sweat!

Then we headed home by and large following the old historic Route 66 – the new I40. Flagstaff Arizona, Albuquerque New Mexico, Amarillo Texas, back to Oklahoma. Me to Apache and Dottie on to Ardmore.

I learned later:

  • They tell you Do Not try to hike from the rim to the river and back in one day!
  • The 10km climb down Bright Angel is about 1000m vertically, and every metre you’re going back about 100 000 years in geological time!
  • The name Colorado was for its muddy colour and its clarity is in fact an undesirable artifact because of Glen Canyon Dam upstream;
  • Jim has hiked the rim to rim hike through the canyon a number of times since – an annual pilgrimage – the last I heard when he was 70!

These pics off the ‘net – I’ll add my own when I find them! –


Footnote – Eleven years later, in ’84, I arrived under that bridge in my kayak: (own pic)

GrandCanyon'84 Greeff (27)

The level was high, and the Little Colorado poured brown floodwaters into the Colorado, so the water wasn’t running clear.


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It's about life, marriage, raising kids, paddling rivers, travel in Africa . . . re-posting thoughts written over decades - at random, I'm afraid.

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