Travel to Sedona, AZ 2019

Bell Rock close to our hotel

Tuesday, September 17.

“Let’s go to bed an hour early tonight,” I implore my husband on Monday evening. We need to get up at 2:45 a.m. if we are going to make our 5:45 a.m. flight. As is usually the case, I find that I can’t fall asleep. I am afraid that I won’t wake up in time. I set my regular alarm clock, my travel alarm, and Hubby sets his phone alarm. That should be enough to get us awake on time.

            “Bling, Bling, Bling!” over and over assaults my ears. I roll over and peer at the clock. It is 1:45. I groan. Why is the phone going off at this time?

“Your phone is an hour early,” I grumpily mumble to my spouse.

“It’s not my alarm,” is the response. “It’s the airline texting to say our flight is on time.”

“Seriously? You have got to be kidding me.” Now I am awake and irritated. I could have slept another hour. I roll over and snuggle back in. Maybe I can fall back to sleep. A few minutes later I hear Hubby get up and go downstairs. Then. . . brring, brring, bring! Now my travel alarm is going off. It is now 2 a.m. I had set it for 2:45 but it is going off at 2 am. Is someone trying to tell us something? Any hope of sleep is now gone.

Our trip to the airport goes without incident though I am anxious and wishing I had not turned down Hubby’s offer for me to drive. When did we turn into the old couple cautiously peering out the window and approaching every obstacle with trepidation? The traffic lights in downtown are all green because it is still the middle of the night, but my dear spouse slows down as he approaches each one. Doesn’t green mean go, not slow down? We creep along ten miles under the speed limit on the deserted streets. I bite my lip to keep from being the dreaded back seat driver. We do arrive just as the airport is coming to life.

We sail through security without any issues and settle down to wait for our flight which is still on time. I have not bought an upgrade for this “short” 1 ½ hour flight to Chicago so Hubby tucks his lanky frame into the standard issue seat. His legs have begun to numb even before takeoff. But before we know it, we are safely on the ground in Chicago. A fairly long walk to concourse K is the next order of business. I am learning not to schedule tight connections for our flights because we are way too old for this running business. We have quite a leisurely morning stroll and even some time for breakfast before it is time to board our flight to Phoenix, AZ. This time we have hit pay dirt with our seat choice. Not only does Hubby get an exit seat but he gets one right where the plane narrows leaving his window seat with no seat in front of him – all the leg room he could ever want is within his reach.

Out of the airplane

Another beautiful touchdown in Phoenix ends the air flight part of our journey. Then it is on to boarding a bus to take us to the rental car terminal. I reflect on the fact that it is only 11 a.m.  here in Phoenix but we have been up for ten hours already. My head hurts and I need a nap.

This time when I rent a car, I decline all upgrades even though we are told that means we will have to ride in a VW bug. When we pick up the car though, it is not a VW bug but a Ford Fiesta. Our butts are almost sitting on the ground and we need Hoyer lifts to get ourselves up out of the car every time we stop but it does successfully perform the task of transporting us around. We soon discover that the left blinker doesn’t work, and the tires are bald. It does have 43000 miles on it, so I think it needs some loving attention. Hubby just cannot live with a car that lacks a working signaling system, so he buys a bulb the first day in Sedona and replaces it.

Driving in Phoenix is like driving in any big city. The speed limit says 55 but it is like we are a beetle crawling up the road while everyone else catapults by. Phoenix is a dry and barren landscape with some beautiful cactuses scattered here and there. What do these people do here for a living? We wonder. As we get north of the city and the elevation begins to increase, the landscape begins to change. It now looks more like the grasslands of Africa. The grass is brown and dry, but it was once grass. Short stubby trees are struggling to grow and the tall stately cactuses of earlier have disappeared. The land begins to take on a reddish hue as we get closer to Sedona. Once we turn off the main interstate 17 onto 179 north, the beauty of the landscape becomes apparent. The red rocks of Sedona rise in stately spires towards the skyline. We end our day by previewing the landscape in preparation for our coming days.

Zipling on Big Mountain

690Today is the last day of the conference. They decide to start 15 minutes early so one of the presenters can catch an early flight. We are done by 12 noon. Since I am not expecting Hubby until 1, I lay down for a nap. I never get to sleep before he arrives. We decide to take off at 1 pm for the Big Mountain Resort just north of our hotel in Whitefish. We plan to ride the gondola to the top of the mountain and have lunch at the restaurant there. We choose the enclosed gondola as Hubby is not sure he is able to ride in the open one. It is a little dizzying as we climb higher and higher up the mountainside and hang above the treetops. What a view out over the Whitefish valley below. To the north, once we get to the top, are the majestic peaks of the Glacier Park mountains. We have a leisurely lunch at the restaurant. My meal consists of a Portabella mushroom sandwich and a huckleberry shake. Huckleberries seem to be a local delicacy in Montana. After spending a few minutes drinking in the spectacular scenery, we head back to the chair lift for the ride down.705

“Can we ride in the open chair lift?” I beg my spouse.

“I don’t know if I can do it,” is his response but he goes along with my plan.

“We want the bar down,” we tell the chair lift operator. Sometimes, they don’t even put the bar down and one sits there swinging freely in space. With the bar down, we begin our ascent high above the world below. The things I drag my hubby into.

At the bottom, we realize that the Alpine slide begins where we get off and goes down to the main building. We also realize that the main building is where I need to be in about 1 ½ hours to begin the zip-line tour that I have signed up for. The package I bought also contains 2 rides on the Alpine slide. 736I really have not had any interest in going down the Alpine slide but there it is, right in front of me and it takes me right where I need to go next. So, I get in line for a shot at the slide. One sits on a little car, something like the bobsled racers, and careens down a long twisting tube. There is a stick in the middle of the car that slows it down or allows it to go faster. I look around at the other people. There are old people and young people and no one has been issued any protective gear – no helmets, no knee pads, or elbow pads. How dangerous could this be? I decide to give it a try. It turns out to be a rather mellow controlled slide down the mountain. Perfect! Now I am where I need to be.

The next adventure of the day is to go zip-lining. I am starting to have second thoughts about this venture but I am not one to chicken out so I head on in and sign my name. I sign the standard “you could be killed but we are not liable” form and then I am issued a safety harness and a helmet. None of this is making me feel exactly secure about what I have contracted to do. Once everyone has assembled we head out for some practice runs on some shorter runs of cable.Z01_5823

We are to line up by twos and I quickly realize that I am the lone man out so I wait until everyone else has gone. I get to go at the same time as our guide/instructor. She throws a set of trolley wheels over the cable and snaps me onto it with some large carabiners that are attached at each hipbone. Then it is time to push off. We are supposed to start out by leaning back in a “pencil point” position, transition to a spread-eagle position, and then draw our feet up in front of us for landing. I, personally, like to hang on but during the two smaller practice runs, I am able to do the first two. Being able to tip back and get my feet up for landing is a bit more of a challenge. When coming in for a landing, one first hits a gymnastics type mattress backed up by a spring. The landing is somewhat of a shock.

Our third run, we are told is 2000 feet long. As I look at the cable stretching off into nowhere, I can feel the panic rising. Can I do this? I make a conscious effort to slow down my breathing and talk to myself. You can do this. Just take nice deep breaths and take it one step at a time. Soon it is time to make the leap. I hold on for dear life as I step off the platform into the nothingness that runs 200 feet above the trees. I think I am holding my breath. By the time I am approaching the platform, I am able to relax enough to look around. Then I am hitting the stop. I made it.Z02_7980

Each run is similar. There are seven runs. In between each run, we hike uphill in the heat to the next one. I am puffing and can hardly keep up. But there are two children who are overweight that keep lagging behind the group. I guess I am not doing too bad if I, as the old woman of the group, can out hike the young things. I am ready to be done by the time we sail down the last and fastest section of cable. Maybe God did not intend for me to be a bird.

Our evening is spent in our hotel room eating the last of our food, packing, and getting showers in preparation for our early morning departure the next day.

Drive Along West Side of Glacier

 

The day starts out with the conference occupying the morning. We don’t have big plans for today so we leisurely make our sandwiches and eat when I get back at 1:15 pm. We decide then to check out the gift shop here at the hotel and then the beach on Whitefish Lake. It is sunny and scorching hot so I really have no desire to sit on the beach. Behind the hotel, there is a 30-acre wildlife preserve that sports a walking trail through it. At least the trees there shade the sun some. As we wander through the preserve, we feel water drops hitting our head. At first, we think it is sap off the trees. “But it is not sticky,” I proclaim. “Well, it can’t be raining. The sun is shining. Maybe they are shooting water up over the trees from that truck we hear,” is one of our differential conclusions. As we walk along, though, more huge drops hit our heads and the ground. “It IS raining.” The clouds above us are slightly darkened but not at all like we would expect rain clouds to look. It is very dry here, having not rained for most of the month so we are shocked by the wetness coming from the sunny sky.

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Town of Polebridge – just south of Canadian border

Not knowing what else to do in the heat, we decide to hop into the car and drive up along the west side of Glacier. This is an area that is not highly traveled by tourists and most of the road is gravel. It is still beautiful countryside and follows the North branch of the Flathead River. We have a leisurely drive to a little town called Polebridge. It is the last town before the Canadian border which is closed. Polebridge reminds me of an 1800s town. It has a café, a bar, a store, and some cabins and I notice some solar panels outback which is the only thing that doesn’t fit the 1800 motif. We buy some delicious homemade pastries there and some drinks for the road. We take a different road into Glacier Park from the west. The entrance is not even staffed due to the low number of tourists who enter from this direction.

Of course, I need a souvenir from this trip to Montana so we make a quick stop at a gift shop near the entrance to West Glacier. I soon spend almost $100 for a t-shirt, a sweater, and a book. Then it is back to the hotel to kill a couple of hours before we drive back to the Hungry Horse Dam where Hubby would like to take some night pictures.

I think somehow, we ended up renting a car with limited driving miles of 750. I didn’t think anyone did that anymore but I guess I will find out when we return the car. We crossed the 750-mile mark yesterday, Wednesday, already.

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Sunset at Hungry Horse Dam

We leave around 8:30pm for our foray to the dam. We stop at McDonald for our supper with plans to eat on the way. The sun is just starting to slide towards the horizon as we begin our climb up the dam access road. A beautiful orange sunset extends up from behind the mountains. Hubby is looking for a good place to set up his camera equipment where he can take some night pictures of the road over the dam and then when it is dark enough, try to take some star pictures. I find a flat rock to lay on and absorb the warmth of the sun. Hubby is able to get some good pictures of the dam as night falls but the stars are slow to appear as the light seems reluctant to fade into total darkness.

Grrrrr! Grrrr! Reaches our ears. “What was that?” Grrr! Grrr! Again. “That sounds like a bear to me,” we both say at once. I am instantly on my feet and peer into the darkness. “Do you mind if I bring the car closer?”

“That’s OK. We’re leaving,” Hubby replies as he begins disassembling his camera equipment. I think our night time picture taking is over. It is time to head back to the hotel.

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Hungry Horse Dam at night

 

Whitewater Rafting – Glacier

 

IMG_6583I am off to the conference this morning at 7:15 for my breakfast before the meeting. I have yogurt with fruit and granola like at home. I leave class at 12:15 pm so that we can have time to eat lunch and get to the Glacier Rafting company in plenty of time. I did not wish to have a repeat of yesterday. We end up being about an hour early. We unload everything from our pockets and I reluctantly remove my hearing aid. The rafting company has lots of stuff to hold our glasses and caps on and they really want to sell it to us. Hubby buys a device to hold his cap and another device to secure his glasses. I decide to risk it. Right at 2:30 pm, we are loaded onto a school bus for our ride to the put-in site for the rafts. The guide talking to us on the bus is silly and entertains us while we wait to get by at another road work site. She counts us out for four different boats and goes through how to put our life vests on. Soon we are on our way again.

We pile out of the bus into the hot 90 degree Montana sun and are directed towards “our” raft. Derrick is to be our guide. He loads our raft from the front and then pushes it out further. Well, my shoes are wet before we even leave the beach. One person needs to sit in the middle and not row as there are an odd number of people. As the oldest and least interested in rowing, Hubby gets that seat. That leaves me in the back with the guide. He informs us that the people in the back are most likely to get pitched out while navigating rapids. Oh great!IMG_6581

We start out floating through some fairly calm water on our journey to the middle fork of the Flathead River. During this time, the guide gives us instructions on how to row together and how to respond if we end up in the water. There is an awful lot of emphasis on what to do if we end up in the water. Is this an omen? Maybe this is a really bad idea – too late now.

We make it through the first rapid with little problem. In the raft behind us, one man gets tossed out. The second rapid contains rougher water and in an effort to keep from ending up in the water myself, I grab the “chicken” rope that traverses the middle of the boat. I end up in the bottom of the boat but that is preferable to ending up over the side. Hubby grabs the lady beside him to keep her in the boat. She is terrified of ending up in the water. Once one gets the idea of riding with the waves, hanging on when necessary, and being prepared for getting soaked, this is quite fun. It’s a little bit like riding a horse. If you get the hang of riding with the motion, it’s simple.371

By the time we land for supper 2 ½ hours later, I am completely soaked from mid-chest down but I have not taken any dunks. It is 5:30 pm and our guides grill chicken and steak for us at a picnic grounds by the river. I am hoping my clothes will dry in the warm heat. We feast on raw cauliflower, carrots, and chips with salsa. The meal is topped off with a small cheesecake. Then it is back on the bus and back to pick up our car. As we head for the hotel, we cap off the evening with a Dairy Queen treat. It has been a fun and daring day.372

 

Boat Ride on Lake MacDonald – Glacier

281A brilliant sun greets us this morning. It is the first day of my anesthesia conference so I am off to breakfast at 7:30am. Hubby and I meet back up at 1 pm in our room. He has gone shopping and makes some sandwiches for lunch while I change clothes. We have another boat ride booked for 3pm – this time on Lake MacDonald. I think that if we leave by 1:30 pm, we should have no problem reaching our destination by 2:45. It is only about 35 miles and I am still in Minnesota mode when figuring drive times. What we have failed to consider is that this is a high tourist destination and traffic jams are quite normal. Our first hint of a problem is when we reach the entrance gate to West Glacier. There are three lines of traffic waiting to enter and the line is only creeping along. We already have our weekly ticket but there is no way to get around the line. I look at my watch as the minutes tick by. There is still hope-maybe. By 2:35pm, we are pulling away from the entrance. But we still have 10 miles to go and the speed limit is 40 mph. We can still do it if we keep moving. Then the last straw – “one lane road ahead” for road work. “Noooo!” We screech to a halt again. Another 10-minute wait. Hope is slipping away. On top of these obstacles, I need a bathroom before I get on any boat for an hour. Finally, by 2:47, we are moving again. We are both holding our breath as we strain to see the sign to MacDonald Lodge. “There it is,” I proclaim. We have 5 minutes left. But the parking lot is full, there are hordes of people everywhere, and it is a 500 foot walk to the lodge. I hand Hubby the ticket receipt. “Go ahead and see if you can pick up our boarding passes while I run to the bathroom.” I make a beeline for the bathroom only to be met by the usual waiting line outside the women’s bathroom. Could this get any worse? I impatiently wait my turn then speed out the door and down the steps to the still waiting boat. Hubby gets on when he sees me coming and they loosen the ropes and pull away as soon as my feet hit the deck. That’s cutting it close. Not my style at all. A relaxing ride on a cool blue glacial lake makes up for the stress preceding it.286

We decide to take the rest of the afternoon at a slower pace and head back towards Whitefish. Along the way, there is a sign for Hungary Horse Dam. It is a 564-foot-high concrete dam across the south fork of the Flathead river. We decide to make a detour to see it. It is a marvel of human construction that fascinates the eye. At one end is a permanent crane designed to be moved out over the dam on a kind of railroad tracks that can lift 125 tons. The massive structure holds back a 23,000-acre reservoir. Below the dam is a power generating plant.

We head back towards Whitefish again around 6:15 pm. A stop at A&W for a root beer for me and a chocolate shake for Hubby along with sandwiches wraps up our day. Tonight will be a time for rest.328

Visit to St Mary’s Lake, East Glacier

175We decide to get up at 6:30 this am to get an early start to Glacier which we have been told gets very busy if you don’t get there early. I am expecting to be able to just walk up to the registration desk downstairs at the hotel and pick up my rental car. I approach the desk and ask, “How do I go about getting my rental car?”

The desk attendant looks at my strangely and says, “We don’t have any rental cars here. And the person who takes care of that won’t be here until 8 am.”

“But I was told when I called a couple of months ago, that I didn’t need to worry about a rental car. I could rent it at the hotel.” I respond, my frustration level rising.

“Well, she shouldn’t have told you that,” is the response fired back at me. “This is the busy time of year and you need to reserve a rental car ahead of time if you expect to get one.”

I bite my lip and try to push down my mounting anxiety. “So, what am I supposed to do?”

The desk attendant sends us to the valet attendant to see if he can help us. He promises to make some phone calls to see if he can find an available rental car. “No one is open until 8 am.” He tells us.

So much for our getting started early so we can get ahead of the crowds. We decide to get ourselves some breakfast while we wait. Soon I am working on downing my yogurt, fruit, and granola. The valet attendant checks back in with us and tells us he is pretty sure he has found a car for us at the Kalispell airport. “It will be ready by 9 am,” he informs us.

I want to cry. “But the day keeps getting later and we have an appointment at 2pm at St. Mary’s Lake for a boat ride,” I blurt out.163

“Don’t worry,” he says. “We will get you the car and if you go around on the south side of the park on US 2, you will be able to get there on time.” There is not much else to do so I take a deep breath and try to make the best of the situation. This was my plan for Wednesday but I guess it will become Sunday’s plan. The valet attendant has us to the airport by 8:45am and we are on our way by 9. The road along the south side of the park offers beautiful views of the river and of the train track that we traveled the day before. We stop at an overlook and lo and behold, we spot a moose pulling up weeds for lunch out of the river below.130

We stop in East Glacier for some quick lunch food bought at a grocery store and then enter Glacier. We make it to Rising Sun for our boat ride by 1pm. A short nap is in order while we wait. We board the boat right at 2pm and push off. A ½ hour ride on St Mary’s Lake follows. The wind is quite strong and the water keeps splashing back at us through the open window.

The boat is docked and we begin a 1.5-mile hike through the forest to St. Mary’s Falls. 169The sun is hot and beats down on us. The temperature is in the 90s. There is no tree cover due to a forest fire in 2015. We are told that we must be able to walk 2 miles/hour on this ranger led hike. Hubby is not sure that he can maintain that pace. The ranger instructs us to clap our hands and holler, “Hey, bear” periodically to scare away any Grizzlies that might be lurking about. Hubby and I and, I am sure a few others, feel a little self-conscious with this behavior. There are carpets of purple and blue flowers everywhere. After what seems like an eternity, the falls comes into view. The water is beautiful as it cascades over the rock.

But we cannot stay long as we are told we have 45 minutes to get back to the boat which leaves at 5 pm regardless of whether you are there or not. Hubby is dragging and the pain between his shoulders that he sometimes has is stabbing him by the time we trek back to the boat. We plunk down on the outside deck as I want to feel the cool breeze. As I look up at the mountain that towers above us, I see a white goat high up on the rock face. One of hubby’s desires is to see mountain goats.

It is 5:30 by the time we tie up at the dock and we are far from the hotel. We resume our drive west on the “going to the sun” road. The overwhelming majesty of these mountains takes one’s breath away. There are no words to describe the towering peaks with snow when looking up and the valleys that fall away into depths below just over the edge of the road. We make one last stop at Logan Pass which is located at the continental divide.

There we see two wild rams and one wild sheep just wandering about. After a long drive along a steep winding narrow road, we finally arrive weary back at our hotel.