If you pay attention in places like Skyline Drive, VA you’ll see America driving to see their country. This morning here at Einstein Brothers we enjoyed Wifi and a rare store-prepared breakfast of lox. Then we realized we could have used the drive-through. That seems frequently the mode of vacationers too. There are pull-offs at each viewpoint and overlook along that nice ridge in Virginia, many in Grand Canyon, Zion and Arches. We remember our earlier post comment that <1% of visitors go below the Rim at Grand Canyon. Driving, eating, stopping, peeking, snapping a few pictures, we humbly do our share that way too.
Sometimes darkness looms, or a destination beckons. Whatever our mindset, we often feel driven to keep driving. We do, however, try to experience a place in some way. Remember, 1/2 mile from any parking lot it is nearly empty and you’ll find a peaceful solace. With this in mind we left California to drive across the Mojave again. Rarely retracing steps like this we saw few realistic options out here. Mountain ranges and deep valleys line up travel mostly into North-South barriers. Think Donner Pass etc. To get around differently would require a 2-4 hundred mile trek North.
The Mojave delivered its usual dose of challenge for Marfa. A 24 mile climb varying back and forth from moderate to steep. With only a Pinyon bush each mile or two as shade, I pointed out the scarred asphalt on the shoulder from cars that burned…some looked scorched and completely melted with the telling white powder of a fire extinguisher or two. The Transmission light ON AGAIN even with a new radiator! (As of now, a week later, I have added Water-Wetter. Physics to the rescue; it is a wetting agent that allows water/antifreeze to contact metals better. Should be another 10-20% difference and was easy to find in the desert at a Moab auto parts store. Jeeps, 4X4’s, and off-road motorcyclists know about it too. Marfa’s temperature gauge reflects this so far, fingers-crossed again as it stays cooler, “left of center” in all climbs so far).
Back to my original tangent, the road and travels continue. Moab was calling us with a predicted three sunny days above 60 degrees. Pressing today’s drive further than average we saw the little corner of Arizona offering a BLM campground. I usually avoid driving into darkness, but with a camping destination it always seems easier. Darkness, wind and the high baffling walls of a canyon arrived at the same time. Hadn’t seen this one on the map really. The Virgin River cut a canyon as deep, dark and surprising as could be, and man stuck this road down in there. Maybe I was tired, but here was another white-knuckle downhill with the thought I’d have been parked safely by now.
Awakening in a place darkness had concealed is another true joy of this sort of trip. The Virgin River Canyon was another of those brightening experiences. Fortified by sleep, pancakes with butter and real maple syrup we are coaxed out for a morning hike to the river. Water again. Real, running water. Life giving water. Jane and I sat enjoying the sparkling morning sun imagining what a sight this would have been to find for thirsty ancient travelers. In every epoch, humans thirst. Ancestral Puebloans, Spanish explorers, all thirst, especially in the arid high desert.
After leaving the little 27 mile corner of Arizona, we veered off of I-15 and chose to go through Zion and investigate several hikes. One suggested by Mark back home was The Wave. Unfortunately access is limited to 16-20 visitors per day and a four month lottery had already filled those slots. We drove through Zion and it’s one mile tunnel through a solid rock wall and saw what strikes so many as one of the most beautiful places. Canyons of striking red and sand colors are also verdant. The difference appears to be water. Big trees, streams and a wetter desert with delightful coniferous forests abound. Our hike was kept short as we “wanted to get where we were going”. Moab called, but we probably could have enjoyed a week in Zion. “At least we left the road for a hike.”