I am up by 6:30 a.m. because of a need to visit Grover. Grover is the portable toilet that gets placed in the great outdoors usually with a lovely view of the Green River. There is a 5-gallon bucket to balance upon for urine only and another little toilet shaped canister for number two. The instructions for disposing of human waste out here in this wilderness seems rather strange to me. The urine gets put in the river and the stool gets hauled back to headquarters. And yes, one is supposed to pee in the river in front of one’s companions during the day. Privacy is forgotten as someone of importance has decided that this helps the environment.
The next task is to take down our tents and stuff everything back in the big blue watertight bag for the day. Dawn and I each have separate tents, but we find that performing this task is much easier as a team. We drop and roll each tent and then do some creative stuffing. The tent goes in first with our personal duffle bag stuffed down beside it. On top is positioned the sleeping bag and any extra items. One person can hold the bag open while the other person reaches in and guides the items past each other. Lastly, we roll the top down three times and fasten the fasteners. This will keep everything snug and dry until we need it again tonight.
Breakfast is waiting by the time we are done our morning chores. Mine consists of an English muffin with fried egg, Canadian bacon, and cheese, along with hot chocolate. It takes our guides 1 ½ hours to get all the supplies and utensils stowed back in the rafts. I watch Haden for a while and realize he is pumping air into the rafts. Is that a bad omen?
“Is there a leak that you need to pump air into the raft,” I question.
“No,” he says, “The air expands during the day but at night when it cools off, the air contracts so we fill up each morning” Whew! That’s good to know.
The sun is coming over the top of the ridge by the time we push off. The rafts have been broken apart today and the motor stowed away. Haden will be rowing one raft while Marla rows the other. Dawn and I hop onto Marla’s raft. Alex, Colin (14 years old), and Casey (17 years old), the other members of our party, are trying out the inflatable kayaks. They will paddle between the rafts.
The sun is bright today as well with a smattering of clouds. As we start out this morning, the wind is gusty and in our face. Marla struggles to keep the raft moving downstream. At one particular bend in the river, the wind catches the 2000-pound raft and spins it into an eddy, or an area where she rows and rows and rows without making any progress. Finally, she is able to get us out of our predicament and continue the slow paddle.
Rapids are intermingled with areas of calmer water that require full body powering of the oars by Marla. A roar announces the arrive of a rapid and the water bubbles and churns over the rocks submerged beneath. These hidden rocks present a challenge with the entrance into each rapid. At one of these rapids, Marla enters in an area that looks to be obstacle free but as we bounce over the rolling swells, the raft scrapes over a huge rock and comes to a halt in the rushing torrent. Marla tries to bring the craft around, but we are stuck. Before I know what is happening, Colin has bumped into the back of the raft with the kayak and flipped. He is left clinging to the side of the raft. His water bottle and paddles have floated away downstream. Marla’s priority now becomes hauling Colin in by his PFD. Once everyone is safely on board, it is back to the work of freeing ourselves. Dawn, I, Colin, and Casey, who came on board earlier, are instructed to move to the front and jump up and down. Now jumping up and down on a rubber floor for two old ladies is a hazardous activity and isn’t about to happen unless one wants more people in the river. Dawn and I mostly bounce while grasping the side. Colin and Casey are left to do the jumping while Marla gets out in the rushing river and tries to pull the raft off the rock. Several versions of this procedure occur repeatedly throughout the day as we hang up on various rocks. As an alternative to jumping, I decide to grab both sides of the raft and rock back and forth. Amazingly, this actually has better results than the jumping.
Further down the river, a voice calls out, “Did you lose a paddle?’
“Yes, Colin did,” we shout back.
“The park ranger has it up ahead,” we are informed.
Thankfully, the Bureau of Land Management ranger has caught Colin’s missing oars and returns them to him as he rows by.
Just as yesterday, around 3 p.m., the sky darkens, and a downpour begins. Today we planned for this, so I have my rain jacket. And no ice balls clunk on our heads either. But the water still wets our heads and trickles down into my pants and underwear before ceasing twenty minutes later. The sun comes out and the canyon wall sparkles with the moisture. We soon pull over and proceed to hike to an old abandon homestead from the early 1900s. Swedish immigrants who were given free land in the new world made an attempt at farming in this hostile climate before abandoning the efforts after just a few years. There are the remains of a stone roofless house, a wooden shop with star gazing potential, and a small stone chicken house. The fences were constructed with pieces of tree branches positioned at various angles. Soon we are drying out and warmed up and we tromp back to the rafts to continue on to a camping site.
A couple more hours bring us to our overnight camping spot. The sky is again clouding up and the same mad scramble ensues to get the tents up in the wind before the next downpour. I am getting rather frustrated with this crazy weather every day. Casey has come up with a new name for Desolation Canyon. She calls it Bipolar Canyon.
The alarm is set for 4:50 a.m. but we are awake by 4:40. We have been told to meet at the airport at 6:30 a.m. for our air flight to the put-in site for Desolation Canyon. As I walk out our hotel door at 5:15, I am met by wet payment and the smell of rain. Light sprinkles touch my face. I didn’t know that rain was expected but it has cooled the atmosphere from the prior day’s heat. By the time we arrive on the north skirts of Moab, it has stopped drizzling. The cloud cover is starting to move on, and the sun’s rays are peaking through. It is sixty-eight degrees – a beautiful day.
We arrive at the airport shortly after 6 a.m. and settle down on a bench outside to wait. The airport lobby door is locked and there is no sign of any other passengers. The air is cool and the morning pleasant but as the minutes tick by, butterflies begin to awaken in my stomach. Did we misunderstand? The clock ticks slowly by 6:30 and still no one has arrived. Two small planes sitting on the tarmac fire up, taxi away from the hanger, roar down the runway, and disappear into the sky. Now our anxiety has spiked, and we begin to pace back and forth. We have no cell phones and no way to contact anyone. Did they leave without us? Are we at the wrong airport? There is really nothing we can do about our situation, and we feel helpless. We check all the doors again– still locked. Finally, a car pulls up to the Redtail Aviation Maintenance building. We rush over to the gentleman who emerges.
“Do you know anything about a flight leaving at 6:30?” I question anxiously.
“There is a flight scheduled for 7:30,” he responds, “I’m the pilot and my name is Dan. I will be taking you today.”
Whew!! What a relief. They haven’t left without us after all. I let out a huge sigh. Now that our panic has been eased, we settle down again to wait some more. Right around 7:30, the remaining people arrive. There is a dad, Alex, and two teenage kids, Casey and Colin. We are soon led out to a small eight-seater airplane. Decked out in red and white, it greets us with an open door. There is no ID required. After a short orientation, I am soon strapped in with a seat belt and shoulder harness. Headphones finalize the ensemble and the pilot throws instructions our way while revving the engine. Soon we are speeding down the runway and lifting into the air.
Below us, the dry barren land of Utah gives way to the sandstone cliffs of Desolation Canyon. The land east of the Green River in the canyon is part of the Utz Indian reservation so we will only be able to camp in the wilderness area on the western side. Our route takes us north along the canyon’s course just a few thousand feet above the ground. A forty-five-minute flight later finds us bumping along the pebble strewn ground of the makeshift landing area of a flat mesa above the river launching area. Soon we are bouncing along a rocky dirt trail in a pickup winding our way around and down to the river.
We have been informed that the river is extremely low this year due to a small snowpack last winter and little rain. The river is at 800 cfs (cubic feet per second) which is the lowest level they have ever rafted at. The two rafts that we will be taking have been lashed together and our guides, Haden and Marla, will be using a small outboard motor to move us along in the slow flow and calm water. Any rapids today will be class 1 or 2. Dawn and I clamber into the front of Marla’s raft. The first thing I notice is that there is water seeping into the boat at my feet. Having water coming into out floating home doesn’t seem like a good way to start out a water trip.
“There’s water coming in,” I point out to Marla.
She chuckles. “These are self-bailing boats,” she proclaims, “They have openings to let the water drain out if we get swamped in the rapids. Otherwise, we would have to hand bail.”
Oh, that’s an interesting concept I never thought about. At least I know we will not be sinking in the first hour.
The sun is bright and warm. With a little breeze, the day is not uncomfortable. We move along slowly, not unlike a barge and a pusher on the Mississippi River. We weave this way and that attempting to navigate in deeper water. Sand bars extend into many areas of the channel. Several times, we get bogged down in the sand and Marla and Haden jump into the water and push our stranded vessel out of its predicament. Then we motor onward.
Around noon, we glide onto a sandbar purposely and our guides set up a table to serve us a meal of pita bread with fixings. The temperature is quite warm, and I wade into the water to wet my feet while simultaneously trying to clean the mess off my pants that I have made from being a sloppy eater. The afternoon starts out much like the morning though clouds have now started to obscure the sun at times. This makes for a much more comfortable temperature. But as the afternoon progresses, the sky continues to darken and over the next couple of hours, the dark clouds advance. By midafternoon, lightning flashes occasionally and rumbles of thunder punctuate the silence.
“Should we be getting off the river?” is the question being asked. We are from Minnesota and electrical storms mean “get off the water.”
Our guides seem unperturbed, “With the canyon walls being ¼ mile high, there is little chance that we will be struck by lightning” is the sentiment and we continue with our water journey. Soon splashes of water touch my skin and bounce off the raft. But what starts out as sprinkles soon turns into a pouring deluge. Then those raindrops begin to feel rather hard. Ouch! Ice balls bounce off our heads, collect in the raft, and create large ripples in the water. It is hailing. I hunch over miserably as the water and ice creeps down my back under the personal flotation device and into my underwear. All our raingear is packed away in the dry bags which is not at all helpful. Haden and the other three guests grab helmets to protect themselves from the onslaught. I am too wretched to move. Marla comes to join Dawn and I bringing a six-foot long by three-foot-wide seat cushion which we hold over our heads while we huddle together shivering. Marble size hail balls sting the skin on our hands and legs. Dawn develops bruises from them. It seems like this ambush from the sky goes on forever. Is this ever going to end?
Just as quickly as it began, the torment stops, and the sun comes out. But we are cold, wet, and shivering. Haden makes a decision to land at the next campsite so that we can move around, dry out, and warm up. We are led along a trail through the desert sand in the sunlight to a cliff with petrographs. This is just what the doctor ordered. The sun warms our torsos and begins the drying process of our clothes. My scrub pants and underwear are still soaked but at least I am no longer hypothermic once we jump back into the raft.
A few more hours of navigating lead us to our campsite for the night around 6 p.m. The sky has again clouded over and thunder rumbles. We grab our dry bags with all our possessions and scramble up the sandy hill. The race is on to get our tents erected before the rain begins again. Then we dive in while the downpour cascades from the heavens. I am exhausted. But soon this shower too has passed and the sun shines on us for a pleasant evening.
As we sit in lawn chairs waiting for our supper, someone spots a small brown head gliding just under the water in the river. As it emerges on the opposite bank, we are able to identify the creature as a beaver. He or she splashes merrily around for our entertainment. The Bureau of Land Management ranger who visits us the next morning reports that a bear was also spotted across the river on this evening. I am so disappointed that we missed this appearance.
Our guides cook and eventually serve us a scrumptious meal of shrimp alfredo pasta along with a salad. It is topped by strawberry shortcake for dessert. By 9:30 p.m., we are stuffed and ready to crawl into the sleeping bags and tents for the night. I discover after I arrive in my tent that my carefully checked and battery replaced flashlight does not work. Great! Just great! There will be no light to find anything in my tent and no light to stumble my way to the bathroom in the middle of the night. I also brought along an air mattress and a small battery-operated air pump. The air mattress is waiting for me positioned on top of one of the seat cushions from the raft. This arrangement will work out splendidly. It cushions my body perfectly as I lie there trying to fall asleep. The wind has picked up outside and the tent begins to rock back and forth. These tents are designed to sit on top of the ground without staking corners into the ground. Here stakes wouldn’t stay anyway due to the loose sand that covers the landscape. In the escalating wind, my tent begins to rock back and forth. It bows almost to the ground on one side. As it bends over, everything on that side of the tent gets dumped up on me. Flaps flop up and down like a bird with wings. I lay there in the pitch dark wondering if I am going to be trapped inside this enclosure. I finally fall asleep after I decide I probably won’t smother if it does totally come down on me. (to be continued)
My traveling partner, Dawn and I arrived in Moab, Utah around 5:30 p.m. local time on Monday, July 12, 2021. The temperature is 105 degrees. “At least, it’s a dry heat,” people often say but it is still hot. Red rock rises into the sky on both sides of the highway and the landscape is dry and barren. Nothing grows green. Moab is a sprawling western tourist town with probably more motels than anything else. We check into our accommodations at Bowen Motel and then decide to walk across the street to Wendy’s to get supper. Apparently, Utah is still hanging onto the Covid 19 restrictions yet regardless of whether one is vaccinated or not. Wendy’s lobby is locked up tight but there appears to be cars going through the drive thru. We turn away and stroll south along the sidewalk. There has to be something open within walking distance. However, each place we pass has a “closed” sign on the door. I am getting hot and frustrated. Dawn wants one thing and I want another. We are like two old married people who can’t agree. We finally decide to walk back to the motel, get the car, and drive through Wendy’s drive thru. We are the fourth car in line. Our hopes rise that we will soon be chowing down and filling our bellies. Unfortunately, the minutes tick by while we chomp at the bit. They finally take one order and fifteen minutes later, another. The gas idles away as we wait. Fifteen more minutes goes by.
“Let’s go somewhere else,” I finally say, “This is ridiculous.”
I quickly check the GPS for suggestions of other nearby fast-food places since the ones unique to Moab all seem to be closed or not open for dine-in. I am so glad I brought my GPS along. It has provided useful information on restaurants, gas stations, and rest stops along our route. McDonald’s is just .6 mile down the street. We are met with the same drive through line only there but at least it is moving. We soon have some sandwiches, fries, and a milkshake to satisfy our growling stomachs. We have made it safely to our destination.
The sun is peaking over the cliff just to the east of our motel when I enter the warm morning air. The temperature has not dropped below 80 degrees during the night. Orientation is scheduled for 10 a.m. at the Mild and Wild Rafting office in Moab. Dawn has brought along an electric skillet, and she whips up some French toast. This along with grapes is our breakfast meal.
A little before 9:30, we head out for the rafting headquarters. It only takes a few minutes to make the drive. A young lady sits at a picnic table under a shady canvas canopy. There is a light breeze which wafts away the feeling of overwhelming heat.
“Can I help you?” she greets us.
“We are here for the orientation,” we respond.
“You are early,” she says, “but I will go see if I can find one of the guys to do your orientation.”
Soon she is back with a young man, Haden, who is to be one of our guides on our adventure. “You are the only two that will be here for orientation so I will just do it now,” he declares, “The other family is not flying in until this evening.”
He gives us each a waterproof sack twice as big as a pillow. Into this, which already includes our tent, we each are to stuff a sleeping bag, a mattress, and a duffel bag of personal clothes and necessities. With a little creative stuffing, I finally get the task accomplished. And that is the extent of our orientation. We are ready to leave and go about our day by ten. So why did we come a day early?
We make a decision to drive the short distance to Arches National Park. After reading on-line about the overcrowding of our national parks and the high chance of being turned away if one is not there by 7:30 in the morning, I have grave doubts that we will be able to get in. But there is no line, and we easily zip through the ticketing process. Motoring around the park in our vehicle is mostly our means of sightseeing. Large red rock formations rise against the sky. Many of them have acquired names for their shapes. This national park is known for its sandstone arches of which there are many. We swing into a parking pullout every so often to snap a photo. Even a couple of very short hikes are in order, but the heat soon chases us back to the car. Before we know it, our stomach is calling us to head back to Moab for some food. We discover at Denny’s the same issue we had the night before at Wendy’s. They are extremely short of help with only one man seating patrons, cleaning tables, taking orders and delivering food. In spite of this, we are back out the door within an hour.
After an afternoon siesta time, we head downtown on foot to scope out the various shops and enjoy an ice cream treat. Our final task of the day is to deliver our electronics to the rafting company office for safekeeping. Leaving them in a 200-degree car for four days does not seem like a prudent idea.
Sunday, June 20 is Father’s Day. We stay snuggled in our sleeping bag until 8 a.m. We have no where to be. Because it is supposed to rain today, we left the car last evening out at the end of the ½ mile trail to the yurt. I was able to walk back in ten minutes – not bad. That should be a doable hike on Monday morning carrying the rest of our belongings.
The day breaks with the sun shining before slowly sliding into cloudiness. After a light breakfast, we decide to go for a slow meander along the prairie path and down another track that ends at a stagnant marsh. Budding spring flowers line our path and stopping to photograph them is required. Mosquitos swarm us every time we stop moving. A wet splop lands on my nose. What was that?
“I just felt a rain drop,” I report, “Time to start back.”
We spy some moose tracks in the beaten path close to the yurt. That is probably as close to a moose as we will get. One last visit to the lakeshore and we head indoors.
A steady pitter patter on the canvas roof and sides of our abode meets our ears not more than fifteen minutes after getting back from our journey.
“It’s chilly in here. Can you see if you can start a fire in the stove?” is my next proposal.
Soon the fire is slowly burning emanating a toasty warmth. It has become a day for me to write and to read and for Dave to play solitaire while the rain pounds a steady rhythm of song on the canvas roof.
The wind howls in waves throughout the night while the rain continues its steady drumming. Just after midnight, I am awakened by an “Oh, no!” by Dave. His portable CPAP machine which I have bought for trips like this has died. I had bought a lithium battery to power it here due to no electricity but really had no idea how long it would last. We tried to do some recharging using the car cigarette lighter during the day on Saturday when we were driving around but apparently, it was not enough. The whole concept has worked beautifully up until now. But now I spend the rest of the night dozing off and on listening to my hubby stop breathing and then wake himself up over and over gasping.
By 6 a.m. on Monday, we decide it is time to get up and get ourselves together since we aren’t sleeping anyway. The temperature on the thermometer on the pole outside is 42 degrees. Time to hustle if one does not want to freeze while dressing. As I pack up our stuff and put away the rest of the food in the cooler, I notice that the trail mix bag has a semi-circular cut out of it and the mix is scattered all over the metal cart top. I think we had a visitor during the night.
The sleeping bag is rolled up and tied with rope so Dave can sling it over his shoulders while also carrying a small leather bag and a medium sized duffel bag. I throw a small backpack on my back and hoist up the cooler. We are ready. The ground is soggy with puddles which require skirting. My hands are freezing so I call for a stop to roll down the sleeves on Dave’s quilted shirt which I am wearing. Fifteen minutes of strolling through the cool morning sunshine brings us to our car. We are soon headed homeward. That planning ahead managed to work out splendidly for us. We have survived one more daring trip into the wilderness.
As daylight filters into the globe of the yurt on Saturday morning, the sky is heavy with clouds. Snuggled into our sleeping bag against the 52-degree chill, anxious thoughts flit though my mind. Is it going to rain today? How are we going to get out of here if it does? What about our plans for today? With my stomach all in a tizzy, we finally roll out. We can’t sleep anymore anyway. A quick visit to the car at 7 a.m. allows for listening to the weather forecast. It is the only way we have of knowing what is being predicted.
“Cloudy today,” says the announcer, “with a high of 65 and 90% chance of steady rain tomorrow, Sunday, with a high in the fifties.”
Ugh! That means today is probably going to be OK but what are we going to do about tomorrow. Will we be able to get out of here after it rains for a full day? Hubby and I make a decision to rearrange all of our belongings so that we are keeping only the bare essentials. The rest we will load in the car this evening and leave it at the beginning of this bumpy, rut and rock filled path so when it rains, we are not stranded in mud. I think I could probably mud my way out but don’t really want to do that to my car. What is left of our belongings we will hike the .5 mile with on Monday morning. As we begin reallocation of our belongings, it begins to rain. But it’s not supposed to rain today!! So should we go on our BWCA daytrip or forget it?
The plan for today has been to go pick up a Kevlar canoe from the yurt proprietor and haul it to the Duncan Lake BWCA entry put in site. Our car does not have a canoe rack, but our original plan was to pay the outfitter to haul it for us to the site entrance. But she was very hesitant when we requested this.
“You will have to help me lift the canoe and tie it on my car,” she said, “I don’t have any help this summer and my husband recently had a stroke.”
Feeling sorry for this lady and her unfortunate set of circumstances, our objective is to figure out a way to haul the canoe ourselves rather than burden her with our need. We wrack our brains for ideas. We have front to back bars on my Subaru but no crossbars to take the weight of the canoe. How do we prevent damage to the sunroof? By Friday evening, we still had no real good answer. Then after arriving back at the yurt on Friday, I glanced at the front tire on the driver’s side of the car. The tire appeared low. We do not need a flat tire out here in the middle of nowhere. I wondered if we have any kind of a spare. To calm my apprehensions, I decided to check the trunk to see if we had an acceptable spare should that become necessary. As I pulled up the carpet board covering the “trunk” and spare tire, I discovered a treasure. The “trunk” is fitted with three pieces of molded foam. Wow! Just what is needed to place on each side of the canoe and support it. We had brought along ratchet straps, so we are all set. It struck me as amazing how one potential problem has led to the solution to another.
By 9:30 a.m. on this Saturday, it has stopped raining and we set out for the home of the outfitter to pick up our canoe. Our devised plan for canoe transport works like a charm and by 10:30 a.m., we have set our canoe in the water at the Duncan and Daniel’s Lake entry portage. I have also come up with a plan to wear sandals for launching the canoe and then change to tennis shoes and socks for hiking and portaging. That way, I can wade out into the water without worrying about getting my shoes and socks wet. Getting into the canoe without capsizing is always the first struggle for Dave and I as we age. Canoes are notoriously tippy anyway and we are stiff and not very nimble anymore. Dave struggles to get his feet up and over the side when entering the canoe and even more so when exiting.
Finally, we make it safely into the canoe and we are off and paddling across Bearskin Lake toward the Duncan Lake BWCA entry point. The wind is steady making slightly rolling waves that are at an angle to our direction of travel. This makes for a vessel that wants to rock back and forth. Maybe it is the operators and not the conditions. It has been a long time since we last paddled a canoe. It is still cloudy but not an unpleasant day. The personal flotation devices add just the right amount of warmth to a mildly chilly day. Before we know it, we have paddled across the lake and glided into a shallow smooth rock-covered-bottom portage. There are quite a few people backed up at the portage, so we move our canoe off to the side to rest and catch our breath. Because of neck and back issues for Dave, we agree that I will carry the canoe and Dave will bring the rest of our gear. After a few minutes, Dave helps me hoist the 17.5-foot Kevlar canoe to my shoulders and I am off. The trail begins with a steep upward climb before heading back down onto a more level area. I am puffing with the exertion, but the load is easy to handle. Watching my stumbling feet is the challenge with roots and rocks and gullies to traverse. Slow and steady I trod the 81 rods or about ¼ mile. The last portion of the trail heads steeply downhill again to Duncan Lake. It is not that far of a distance, but it seems like miles. I need a breather and a drink before putting into the water again. Our final destination is Staircase Portage that leads to Rose Lake. Along this portage is a spectacular fall, Staircase Falls, that we wish to see.
All of the portage landings today have been what I call “nice” landings. They all have a fairly shallow water level with a rock or hard sand base. There is no need to worry about disappearing into the mud or drowning if one falls in.
Paddling is a little tricky in Duncan Lake but once we adjust our direction to face the swells, the canoe is more stable. Methodically we make our way over the lake. Three or four canoes are ahead of us making it easy to spot the portage opening. As we glide into the small cove leading to the portage, two swans glide silently along just a few feet from us. Paddling behind the leading swan are two little signets. They seem unperturbed by our presence. I count four or five canoes stacked side by side at various locations around the portage opening. We plan to do the same thing as all these other people – leave our canoe and hike the portage only to see the falls.
We decide to first spread out the lunch we have brought along on a large rock. We will relax and eat until some of the people return to lessen the congestion in the area at the falls. Bread, a salmon spread, chips and trail mix make up our luncheon while we wait.
It is a fairly short trek to the falls once we get started. Staircase Falls tumbles and turns several times on its way to Rose Lake. We descend a set of fifty or so steps to the base of the main falls and then decide to explore the portage a little further. Soon we come to another set of steps that disappears into the foliage on its way down to the lake shore. It is time to turn back. I can see why one would not want to portage this particular crossing. It looks like the portage from hell especially carrying a canoe.
After spending fifteen minutes or so photographing this hidden beauty and enjoying its splendor of cascading water, it is time to head back. By now, it is around 2:30 in the afternoon and the sun has appeared to add its warmth to the day. We wonder aloud if this trek might be our last canoe adventure into the BWCAW. Our stiffness and waning balance have become a safety hazard. Not only that, rowing and portaging is physical torture for these aging bodies.
“It starts to get more fun,” declares Dave, “after I have forgotten all the pain.”
Friday morning, June 18, dawns with the sun shining brightly throwing rays of daylight through our clear dome on the yurt. Last evening in the light of the ½ moon, the dome threw out the impression of being a round bubble with domes extending down as well as up. We peer at it intently in the morning light. No, it only extends up. I wonder what gives it that illusion.
Our plan is to launch the canoe onto Hooker Lake this morning and tootle around. But I am extremely anxious and struggling with our plan. The lake is a dying lake; it is not very big, and it is shallow. One can see the algae and lake grass growing just below the surface across most of the lake.
“Don’t try to swim in it,” voiced our proprietor, “or you could get stuck in the mud.”
When asked about moose using this lake, she responded, “If a moose goes in there, he won’t come out.” To this she added, “But it’s fine to canoe in.”
By now, I am doubtful about the “fine to canoe in” part of that statement and I am totally freaked out about even trying to canoe. I can see us getting stuck in the mud and disappearing forever. One such experience occurred for us on a prior BWCA trip and probably has scarred me forever. It was a year in which the water was low, leaving many of the portages with receding landing areas. As we approached this one particular portage, the water had receded approximately 100 feet from it’s original, leaving an extremely muddy landing. Previous travelers had placed a series of tree trunks through the mud out to the water to hop out upon. We came in further to the right with the idea of getting our canoe as close as possible to shore and then dragging it over the rest of the wet muddy spot. This technique resulted in us becoming hopelessly mired in sucking mud. There was only one choice. Someone had to get out and make their way to dry land and that someone was me as I was in the front of the canoe. I took rope with me and jumped as far as I could. Of course, that was when I could still jump. Down into the mud I sank to a level above my knees. I knew I had to keep the momentum going or I was in real trouble. I pushed off with my right leg followed by the left, leaving my shoes in a miry grave. Fear of being sucked to China filled my soul and provided the energy for the onward plunge. Thirty seconds later, I was safely on dry land but covered in dark goo as high as my thighs.
An hour of exhausting pulling and slowly inching the canoe forward finally resulted in Kaitlyn being able to reach over the side of the stuck vessel and retrieve my shoes. Finally, the rest of my family was able to make their way safely to shore and we finished retrieving the canoe. Our daughter has never wanted to go BWCA canoeing again, and I now realize I have a permanent fear as a result.
Instead of canoeing this lake, we decide to go hiking. I have found a pamphlet titled, “Hiking On The Gunflint Trail Scenic Bypass.” There are twenty different hikes to choose from along the 56.6-mile Gunflint Trail from Grand Marias to the Canadian border. We decide to start on the Moose Viewing Trail. It is listed as “easy” in difficulty and is only a mile round trip. The path ascends at a thirty-degree angle. If this is easy, what is difficult? I guess it all depends on your perspective. Butterflies of various colors flitter around, and the way is bordered by little yellow flowers and white petaled ones backdropped by green leaves. A few stops are made for photographic opportunities and then we trudge onward. Soon we veer off onto a narrow trail that leads down to the viewing platform. The air is warm, but the wind is chilly here in the canopy of trees. One hundred yards through the pines is the perfect spot for moose to feed. A small pond is visible with cattails and lily pads scattered about. It is a tranquil scene, but no one has put out the moose today. Soon we make our way back to the car and plan for our next stop.
Daniel’s Lake looks like a good option for hiking as well. It is actually in the BWCAW and requires a permit. It is also listed as “easy” and is a 3.75-mile trip along an old railroad grade which was once used to acquire white pine lumber on Rose and Clearwater Lakes. This looks promising. We follow the directions without a problem down Clearwater Road to the West Bearskin Lake boat landing where the trail is supposed to begin. There is a self-permitting station to pick up a permit, but we can find no entrance or head to any trail. OK, this is frustrating. We drive several miles further on this road before we give up and turn around.
“How about Crab Lake Trail then?” mentions Dave, “It says it is ‘easy’ too. It’s eight miles to Crab Lake but we don’t have to go that far.”
It’s decided. We return to the Gunflint Trail and head north another eleven miles. “Turn right on the road to Loon Lake Lodge and drive .9 mile. The trail head is just past the lodge,” says the brochure. As we drive past the lodge, there is a small parking lot for “guests.” We assume that means lodge guests but no trailhead to be seen.
“Let’s go on just a little further,” Dave suggests.
Soon, I am creeping down a narrow rocky road. Still no trail head. We are having terrible luck today finding our targets.
“Water crossing ahead,” flashes the yellow sign on the side of the road. Ugh, I am not doing any water crossing. I think it is time to turn around. On this small one lane path, I do just that.
We decide to make one more attempt at finding another trail before throwing in the towel for today. Topper Lake Trail head is just four miles south from here on the Gunflint on our way back to the yurt. It is also listed as “easy” and only 1 ½ mile round trip to the lake and back. The directions actually lead us to a trailhead. Hurrah! Uphill we saunter for ten minutes until we are puffing mightily and then back down again. Finally, the lake comes into view. Ah, an actual BWCA lake. The sky has clouded over, and the wind causes one to shiver.
“We are going to get wet before we get back,” announces Dave.
“I hope not.”
I look around for a couple of rocks to sit upon and hoist a flat rock into place to spread our picnic lunch upon. Tuna salad is mixed for sandwiches and some chips and trail mix are thrown in for our dining by the lake. Soon it is time to head back before we do get wet. A stop at the store for some ice on the return trip is in order. Thankfully, it never does rain on us.
We build a roaring fire in the fire pit at the yurt on our arrival to our home away from home. The smoke chases away the swarming mosquitos and allows us to treasure a few smores while listening to the repeating songs of the various birds.
gets up at 5 a.m. and leaves the hotel. I am awake anyway so I might as well
get up. I wander over to the conference early and eat my breakfast alone
outside on the patio. Our scheduled adventure for today is an ATV ride at 1
p.m. I had a little panic attack this morning while looking at one of the maps.
I see an Arizona Off-Road Adventure company located close to Camp Verde. My
ticket has an address in West Sedona. Did I make a mistake? If we show up at
the wrong place, we have thrown away a bunch of money.
head back to the hotel room after the next to last lecture and meet Hubby in
the hallway on his way back to the room as well. We hurriedly throw together a
lunch as the GPS says it will take us a ½ hour to our destination. “The traffic
is terrible this morning,” is Hubby’s report for the morning.
arrive with time to spare and my anxiety about showing up at the wrong place is
not justified. We sign the usual, “This is a dangerous activity and we are not
responsible if you die” paper before being fitted with a kerchief to cover our
mouth and nose, a helmet to protect our brains, and googles to protect our
eyes. Now we look like bandits. We settle down to wait for other people to
arrive before being taken to a small track outback to practice driving. “For
how many people is this the first time they have driven an ATV?” asks our
instructor. All four hands in our group go up. Well at least we are not alone
in needing to look like beginners.
wants to go first?”
some instruction on how to push the throttle and how to apply the brakes, I am
off. Slowly I crawl around the track. They purposely made it with deep holes
and rocks and short turns. Turning the machine seems to be my biggest problem
but I make it around without any significant problem. Hmmm! Maybe I can drive
this thing. Everyone else takes a turn before we are ready to leave. Hubby does
his trial run without any problem either so soon we are piling into a van to be
hauled to the Coconino National Forest. Contrary to my preconceived notion, national
forests in Arizona do not necessarily contain trees. This one has short scrubs,
mostly dirt, cacti, and stones.
I am a little apprehensive but also a little excited. This has the potential to be smashing fun. We are soon lined up behind our guide. We will be riding 25 miles of dirt trails covered with rock and holes and twists and turns. It takes a little getting used to the throttle which needs to be operated with one’s right thumb. The temperature is only about 80 degrees but the helmet with the face kerchief makes for a smothering sensation. I soon ditch the kerchief over my face. It doesn’t seem that dusty. As I get more used to the machine, accelerating in short burst is a thrill. We travel down a forest road first and then turn onto a path through the “forest.” It is more like a cow path through a dry and barren land. We eventually climb higher on the Sawtooth Ridge and stop for a break. We gaze out over a vast valley below to the red rock formations miles away. Then we begin our ascent back down and back to our starting point. The last few miles takes us on the gravel forest road, and we step up our pace. With the wind in our face, we throttle the machines and sail towards the drop off spot. Whee! A little taste of risk-taking enhances the thrill. Our ride takes about three hours and before we know it, we are back to the truck and heading back to Sedona.
Our plan for the evening is to watch the sunset from the airport above Sedona so we pick up some Subway sandwiches to picnic there. The person working in Subway is sullen and inattentive. I think she would just as soon have not been there. This is our second attempt at buying Subway in Sedona and neither one has turned out particularly well. The last time, the bread on the sandwiches was hard and the cookies stale. This time the sandwiches were good, but the cookies were still stale. Time to give up on Subway here.
The drive up airport road is one of twists and turns. It cost $3 to park in the parking lot there but the view is awesome. We wander down a trail along the ridge and settle ourselves on a bench there. Hubby sets up the camera to get some pictures. The wind is getting cool as the sun goes down. We keep expecting the rocks to turn red with the sun sliding below the horizon but the color changes little. Hubby is somewhat disappointed as the hype has been great that it is such a spectacular view at sunset. It is still a great view. It just doesn’t meet what we have been told to believe. Oh well, time to get back to the hotel.
Saturday, September 21, 2019
Today is my last day of the anesthesia conference and our last day in Sedona before we fly back tomorrow. Hubby left early to explore so I thought I would get up and visit the Pink Jeep concierge desk at the hotel before the conference starts. We made a last-minute decision last evening to see if we could get reservations for the Pink Jeep trip to the Honanki Indian ruins in Boyton Canyon. I walk up to the concierge desk, but no one is staffing it.
“When does the concierge desk open,” I ask the hotel desk attendant.
“They don’t start until 8 a.m. on the weekends.”
Well that’s weird. Why would one have less coverage on the weekend when it is busier than during the week? Oh well, I guess I will have to come back between conference sessions.
When I return at 8:30, a gentleman is available to help me. And I am in luck. They have a 2 p.m. time slot for the venture we are looking at. That should be perfect. I can attend the whole conference on the last day, maybe get in a nap, and still make it to uptown Sedona by 1:30 p.m.
arrive back to an empty hotel room as Hubby has not yet returned. I spend a few
minutes gathering our things together for travel home tomorrow before he
have to go right now,” he announces.
I ask. I was planning on a nice little nap. “Don’t we at least have time to
are thousands of cars today with a two- mile backup on route 179. I don’t know
why it is so busy, but it took me ½ hour to travel just a few miles.”
let’s at least try to eat first. We still have an hour and ¾,” I implore.
hurriedly eat our usual cold cut tortilla lunch in the hotel room and set off
on this beautiful day. Traffic is slow but there are no extended periods of traffic
stoppage. I try to relax. We will be just fine. The sun is shining
brightly with no clouds in the sky. The temperature is about 80 degrees. We
have had no cloudy or rainy days since we arrived here.
reach Uptown Sedona where the Pink Jeep headquarters is located with time to
spare. The next order of business is finding a parking spot. The town is
flooded with people. I don’t know if this is business as usual for Sedona or if
this is extra ordinary. We decide to try out some back streets and do find one
parking spot in front of some mailboxes in Lot B. Is this a legal parking spot,
we ask? We look high and low for any signs indicating our car will be towed if
we park here. There are none. Next we need to figure out how to get across the
street. The one thing the designers of round-abouts forgot to address was
pedestrian crossing. When there is wall to wall traffic with no breaks in the
continuous flow of speeding vehicles, how does one get across? Soon I notice
that some traffic control people have been called into service on this busy Saturday.
One activates a traffic signal that was dark and dormant and another stands at
the next round about up the street and stops traffic periodically to allow safe
have arrived with an hour and a half to spare. We do some shop browsing before
settling down in the waiting area of the jeep company. At 1:45, we are given
some basic instructions on our trip. The most humorous one is the instruction
on how to fasten a seat belt. Then we are assigned to our driver. There are six
of us in the open-air pink jeep with overhead roll bars. And yes, the jeeps are
pink. The first part of our journey is on a hard-top road. It then turns into
dirt as we again enter the Coconino National Forest. The roads are of the same
status as the ones we traveled on the ATVs. They are strange uneven rock
underlay and are full of potholes. We bounce around as we wind through more red
rock country with tall mesas off in the distance. After about an hour ride, we
arrive at the Indian ruins. The sun is hot as it beats down on us. We have a
fairly short walk through the “forest” to the ruins. A slight breeze blows and
we get intermittent shade from the scrubby trees. One lady in our group is
almost 80 years old resulting in a rather slow walk for the rest of us
not-quite-as-old folks. There are some rocks and tree roots to stumble over and
a short section of natural stone steps to traverse.
are told the walls built of stones mortared together with mud that connect
directly to the cliff wall are left over homes or community buildings from a
people that lived there in the 1400s. On the cliff walls, in some places barely
visible, are various sketches and drawings made by these people. It looks like
a rather unique place to live – hidden up against the 1000-foot-high cliff
lady in our group is unable to take the pictures she wants as her batteries
have reached their useful life expectancy. Noticing her predicament, my always
generous husband offers her his backup batteries. She graciously accepts.
Hopefully, his will last until we get home as they are rechargeable.
soon return to our pink jeep. There are two elevated seats along each side and
one in the back. Hubby and I squeeze into the back seat for the ride back. It
is a little like riding in the back of a school bus, but we enjoy the cool
breezes as we head back to town. There, we decide to eat in a restaurant along
Sedona’s Uptown streets. There are many to choose from. First, I remind Hubby
that we were going to stop at the chocolate shop. I saw a tasty looking bar there
earlier that reminded me of the peanut butter bars I used to love. They have a
peanut butter core covered by chocolate. My mouth has been watering all
afternoon. The chocolate covered orange sticks are attracting my hubby. As we
check out, the smiling young lady with flowing long pigtails greets us
cheerfully, “Thank you for coming back. I gave you a 20% discount for stopping
again.” She remembered us from earlier even with the multitude of people
flowing through the shop.
mouth is watering for a hamburger, so we pick a restaurant called the Cowboy
Café. The waiters are dressed like cowboys with one even having a gun on his
hip. I am not sure if that is just for looks or if it is actually loaded. Afterall,
Arizona is an open carry state. I about fall over after previewing the menu. I
was hoping for a reasonably priced meal, but this is anything but that. It
looks more high class. We finally decide to order a plate of appetizer for us
both. It includes rattlesnake sausage, buffalo skewers, breaded fried cactus,
and some type of spicy “bread.” Each item comes with a sauce. I keep forgetting
that we are close to Mexico and finding food that is not spiced up is a
challenge. We will need to get out the Gaviscon tonight.
the time we finish eating, it is time to head for the Red Rock Rangers station
where they are holding a View The Stars Party. The hour-long astronomy
presentation is following by star viewing through several different telescopes
outside in the dark. The sky is cloudless and the stars shine brightly. The air
is cool enough to require the addition of a sweater. All the rocks and things
to trip over are lined with red lights which supposedly does not affect one’s
night vision. I soon realize that I will have trouble navigating in the dark as
my balance since my stroke in February seems to be dependent on having visual
orientation. Hubby’s primary interest is photographing the stars and the milky
way. By 8:30, we are both tired and head back to the hotel.
last evening is spent packing up and getting ready for a quick departure in the
morning. Our flight is not until 12:15 (noon) but we have a two-hour drive, a
need to return the rental car, then catch the rental car shuttle to the airport
and get ourselves through security. We get all this accomplished with two hours
to spare to eat a leisurely breakfast. “Traveling would be so much fun,” I
comment to Hubby, “if there just weren’t
any people.” Take a deep breath, I tell myself, and take it one step at a
time. Maybe by the time we are too old to travel, we will have this travel
thing figured out.
first segment of our journey to Chicago from Phoenix goes quite smoothly. There
are some thunderstorms in the Chicago area with rain pouring down on arrival.
This leads to some turbulence and rather panicked instructions to stay in our
seats and buckle up, but we arrive a ½ hour ahead of schedule. We have a
three-hour layover here so there is no need to hurry. Our text message from
American Airlines gives up a gate number of L1A. We settle in to wait. I spend
the time catching up on my writing and do some reading.
5:58 p.m., our cell phones ding to tell us that our flight has been moved to
gate L3. We gather up our luggage and move a few gates down. The board still
says this flight is on time for takeoff at 8:45 p.m. At about the time the
electronic board indicates we should be boarding the plane, the cell phone asks
for our attention again. Time for takeoff has changed to 9 p.m. Five minutes later,
the next message says the gate has changed to H3A with the takeoff time still
being 9 p.m. We get up and begin our walk across the airport this time to a
different wing. We have no more started our walk than the next message informs
us the gate has been changed to H1B. Seriously people! Is it that hard to
figure out what you are doing? And now departure time has been changed to
head is spinning, and I am beginning to doubt that we will be arriving home
tonight. Finally at 9 p.m., another arriving load of travelers deplane and we
almost immediately begin boarding. Maybe there is still hope. Once
everyone is comfortably seated, the captain announces, “We will be pushing away
from the jet bridge in just a few minutes but expect a 40-minute wait for
takeoff.” I groan. But as promised, by 10 p.m., we are airborne and headed for
walk into the house at midnight. “Kitty Kitty Where are you?” Several times
while in Sedona, I wondered if I had put her food out and I couldn’t remember but
I convinced myself that I couldn’t have possibly forgotten something so
important. I look up at the shelf where I put her food so that I could just set
it down before we left. OH NO! The bowl of food still sits high up on
the shelf. I never gave her the food on the way out the door six days ago. Poor
Snowflake. She greets us with her usual “Meow Meow Meow Meow!” She does not
seem any the worse for the situation. I am not sure if she is protesting that
we left her alone or that she is starving. I quickly feed her, but she doesn’t
seem particularly over hungry. She is just happy we are home and wants us to
“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!” 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
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
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.
We leave the hotel in Bar Harbor, Maine at 7:15 a.m. We soak in the beautiful fall colors during the peaceful drive to Bangor where we return the rental car without any difficulty. Our flight is not scheduled to leave until 1:10 p.m. so we nourish ourselves with food from a gas station with the plan to eat lunch when we arrive in Newark, NJ. We have plenty of time to kill and settle in for some people watching and internet surfing.
We overhear other people talking about having been put on this flight as United canceled the 6 a.m. flight that morning. No one knows why. I question the desk attendant around noon as our flight is not on the board. “It is delayed ½ hour,” she states but confirms that there is still a flight UA4299. It does appear on the board around 12:30 p.m. and indicates that it is “on time.” However, the boarding time passes and then another ½ hour and another ½ hour, and a third ½ hour. We are starting to get antsy along with all the other passengers. We only have a two-hour time frame in Newark and then we will miss our connecting flight to Chicago. No one has made any announcements or tried to update the waiting people. I finally wander over to the desk attendant again, “What is the holdup?”
“Traffic control issues in Newark,” she responds, “The wind is very gusty there and they have had to change runway directions.”
About this time, they announce that we will board in ten minutes. Finally, around 2:50 p.m., we begin boarding. I breathe a sigh of relief. Maybe there is hope yet. Boarding goes smoothly and soon we are taxing to the runway for takeoff. The captains voice comes on the loud speaker, “Sorry folks, I have bad news. We have just been delayed for another twenty to thirty minutes.” I groan. Will we ever get off the ground? Finally, twenty minutes later we lift off into the air.
I do some quick calculations in my head. We should arrive in Newark around 4 p.m. Our Chicago flight starts boarding at 4:10 p.m. How can I expedite this process? Hmm! Those magazines in the back of the seat pocket always contain drawings of various airports. I tear out the one for Newark. We will be landing at the B terminal and need to cross the airport to get to the C terminal for our next flight. “What is the best way to get to the C terminal?” I question the stewardess.
“Take the stairs at B28,” she instructs, “and get on the bus to terminal C.”
I am ready. Now I have a plan. Dave is seated further back in the plane, so I cannot discuss anything with him. My instructions on boarding to him were, “I will find out where our next boarding gate is until you can catch up with me.”
C95 is the gate listed for UA 1180 and it is currently boarding. Great! Down the stairs we go along with a bunch of others. The bus is waiting. Within a few minutes, we arrive at terminal C. We keep moving and arrive with a few minutes to spare. They haven’t gotten to Group 3 and 4 yet. Made it.
I soon realize after boarding that we are also going to have a problem in Chicago. This one is my fault. I didn’t look close enough at the times when buying the tickets. It seemed like we had an hour between flights but now I realize that the distance between landing and boarding is only 35 minutes. The time is quoted for takeoff, but one needs to be on the plane long before actual takeoff. Oh dear! I hope our departing gate is close to our incoming one. If it is, we might have a chance. We do leave Newark on time and the pilot initially indicates that we will arrive in Chicago fifteen minutes early. Hurrah!
My cheers and feelings of hope are soon dampened when the pilot announces, “We have been doing some S flying to delay our arrival in Chicago.” This results in a loss of fifteen minutes. It is very windy and cloudy in Chicago we are told, and this is affecting flight times coming in. My stomach is tight, and I breathe shallowly as I alternate between hope and gloom. I do not have the boarding gate number for Chicago making it impossible to do any pre-emptive planning as I did with the last flight.
The pilot is still hoping to arrive by 6:30 p. m. The clouds hug the aircraft as we descend. We cannot see the ground for the thick white that surrounds us. All of a sudden, our downward projection is reversed and the engines roar as we begin an ascent. Now what happened? The captain’s voice soon comes on the loudspeaker, “We have aborted our landing. An animal was hit on the runway and they have to clear the runway before we can land. We will be circling until they are able to make sure the runway is safe.”
Noooo! What else can go wrong? We might as well give up any idea of making the next flight. We might as well plan on driving home. We fly, what seems to us aimlessly, in the thick soup around us for what seems like an eternity but in reality, is probably about fifteen minutes before we get the OK to land. The clock reads 6:50 p.m. I search frantically for an electronic board to see what gate our Rochester flight will depart from. We are in C terminal and the board indicates our departure is out of F27. You have got to be kidding me!!! The only thing that gives me hope is that it doesn’t say that they are boarding yet. The problem is this is in another terminal as far to the end as is possible. We decide to give it a try anyway.
Down the escalator we go, taking steps like a regular stair along the moving steps. Then I am trotting. I glance back at Dave to make sure he is keeping up with me. Through the tunnel and up the next escalator we speed. Next is the moving walkway and we hurry along it. Dave is puffing. I am getting hot and feel like I am burning up. My mouth turns dry and feels like it is full of cotton balls. Onward we race, as fast as two over sixty-year-olds can go. I am running out of breath and slow down to a more sustainable pace but there is no time for a bathroom stop. Where is F27 anyway? Of course, it is the last gate at the end of the terminal. We roll up just as the last two people are boarding. I need to get rid of some clothes before I melt.
“I bet you $100 our suitcase won’t make it,” I comment to Dave. But we have MADE IT!
The flight to Rochester is uneventful and we soon stand back from the luggage conveyor and watch others collect their baggage. We do not expect ours to be there. Soon the bags have all disappeared and the conveyor stops. We stand there along with another young man.
“That’s it,” I say to no one in particular.
“You’re joking, right?” the young man responds.
“But my clothes for the wedding tomorrow are in there,” is his anguished assertation.
Well, at least all ours contained was dirty clothes and a few personal items. Soon we are filling out forms documenting our lost luggage.
“It should be here by tomorrow at noon,” the airline agent assures us. “Where do you want it delivered?”
At 11:00 a.m. the following day, the med-city taxi glides to a stop outside our house. “Here is your suitcase.” I’m impressed. Now, that is service.
Today 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.
“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. I 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.
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.
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.