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Old 10-10-2012, 04:30 PM   #11
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For those interested, Bob did post an update of the trip on Facebook this morning. It was another well written and excellent report.
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Old 10-12-2012, 09:39 AM   #12
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For those who are on Facebook, FROG has posted some beautiful pics of the Grand Canyon. Makes me very jealous.
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Old 10-12-2012, 10:24 AM   #13
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He should post on this site, some of us don't do facebook
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Old 10-13-2012, 06:21 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by torben View Post
He should post on this site, some of us don't do facebook
I don't know why he hasn't been posting the updates on this thread. Perhaps he's too busy with the rally to post on more than one site.
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Old 10-14-2012, 01:30 AM   #15
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Some days, words fail you. “Awesome” is way overused. “Magnificent” is a good start, but doesn’t quite do it. “Grandeur” goes to the size, but not to the incredible colors and eerie shapes. Sometimes you just have to stare silently and be overwhelmed.

On Sunday we arrived at the Grand Canyon. Words fail.

On another beautiful sunny day, the FROGs rolled out of Kingman and headed east. The night before, a large group of us had gone out to dinner at a nearby park lodge, and had further cemented friendships. Individually and in small groups, on Sunday afternoon we pulled into Trailer Village on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. After hooking up and settling in, we set off on explorations.

Your first view of the Canyon can stop you dead in your tracks. Breathtaking, spectacular, awe-inspiring – pick your own adjective, and bump it up. The place is crawling with activity, maybe because of the three-day weekend for Columbus Day. Tourists are everywhere, with languages from around the world. The train comes up from Williams, and the mule trains set off for the trip down the Bright Angel Trail to the base of the Canyon. Beautiful and historic lodges, several of them on the National Register of Historic Places, beckon you to enter.

But everything else pales before the Grand Canyon itself. On the way from Kingman, we passed the elevation signs – 4,000, then 5,000, then 6,000 feet. The South Rim actually lies about a mile above the city of Denver. Even at the base, almost a mind-boggling mile below, the river still is as high as Denver. Many of the formations in the Canyon look as if they could have been man-made, rather than carved by water and wind over the eons. The colors, already bright in the midday sun, absolutely glow in the light of a sunset.

Words fail.

Yesterday, the early risers were greeted by elk wandering thought the campground, completely oblivious to those observing them. Later in the afternoon there were again elk, along with a 10- to 12-point buck resting next to the driveway.

FROGs headed out to explore the Canyon and surrounding area. Many caught the free shuttle buses to the more remote sections of the South Rim that aren’t accessible by car. Others walked the Rim on their own, while yet others took in the lodges, visitor centers, ranger programs, and other attractions. In the evening we gathered at the Yavapai for a group dinner of beef tips, roasted chicken breasted, and mahi-mahi, and, a great opportunity to swap stories and compare adventures.

This morning there are two mule deer bucks lying in the grass in the campground. Today we’ll again set out to explore the area, and to marvel at the vastness, the depth, the enormity of the Canyon. We’ll gaze at the incredible colors in the layers of the rock, and at the eerie stone formations carved by the elements. We’ll see some of the ruins that testify to the various cultures that have called the Canyon home over the millennia.

And still, words will fail us.
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Old 10-14-2012, 01:31 AM   #16
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A little more about our time at the Grand Canyon, but first a correction. The South Rim of the Canyon lies about 2,000 feet higher than Denver, not a mile higher. The Colorado River, about 5,000 feet below the South Rim, is about a half mile lower than Denver. OOPS!

The Canyon is truly breathtaking, not only because of its beauty and grandeur, but also because of its elevation. For a few of us who are built more for comfort than for speed, there was some exertion involved in what would ordinarily not have been such strenuous hikes. Short walks from the shuttle stops to the observation points invariably reward the visitor with incredible panoramas that somehow seem unreal.

A few photos posted below give only a hint of what we saw. We'll be adding more from various times throughout the day. Even more important than the views, and destined to be longer-lasting than many of the memories, are the friendships being built among FROG members. It’s a part of the fun to see them teaming up in various combinations from day to day to explore the area.

Some of our experiences were just dumb luck. A few of us were outside visiting around 9:30 Tuesday evening when three mule deer bucks decided to stroll through the campground. During the rut, or mating season, bucks are typically rivals. These three, however, seemed content to stroll together and stop for a meal of scarce grass while about a dozen of us stood around watching and taking photos or simply enjoying the moment.

On our last day at the Canyon, many of us chose to travel to the east end, where the Observation Tower at Desert View provides an overarching view from the highest point on the South Rim. The Little Colorado River, flowing into the Canyon and cutting its way toward the Colorado River, will continue to cut and shape the Canyon as it has for millions of years. The plain stretching to the east gives no hint of what a traveler from that direction is about to encounter. Further east and south toward Flagstaff, however, alternating gorges, prairies, and towering rock formations cause one pause.

Near Flagstaff, in an area appropriately named the Valley of the Winds, tumbleweeds bounced effortlessly across the highway in our path. The final climb into the San Francisco Mountains, blanketed with a mix of evergreens and brilliant golden aspens, provide a beautiful spectacle. These mountains, visible from the South Rim some 65 miles away, would later be visible again from the Painted Desert, 120 miles to the east.

At Flagstaff, we turned east on I-40, bound for Holbrook and unexpected treats and adventures on that leg of the trip.

More to come.
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Old 10-14-2012, 01:32 AM   #17
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Having turned east and left Grand Canyon National Park behind, the FROGs were again in for some unexpected and sometimes quirky treats.

Ancient pueblo ruins attracted some, along with a volcanic cone. Along I-40, you can’t miss the signs calling your attention to the Meteor Creator. Meteor Crater? Heck, how can you turn that down? Tuning in the local “informational” channel, you learn that you really must stop and see “the first confirmed and best preserved meteor crater on the planet.” And, as it turns out, you really should stop if you’re in the area.

This spectacle turns out to be a crater over three-quarters of a mile across and over 550 feet deep. It’s believed to have been created about 50,000 years ago, when a meteor 150 feet across survived a descent through the earth’s atmosphere and struck Arizona, destroying most of the life forms in the area, and many across the planet. Apollo astronauts trained here to learn the nature of crater debris and how to collect it when they would later venture to the moon. Spacesuit design was completely revamped when an astronaut tore his suit on a rock, an accident that would have resulted in immediate death had it occurred on the unforgiving lunar surface. The visitor’s center shows a short film about the crater, boasts a rather extensive museum, and offers an optional no-additional-cost guided tour along part of the crater’s rim.

Just east of the Meteor Crater, you might as well stop and find yourself “standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona” in a small park dedicated to the Eagles hit that brought fame and some small degree of fortune back to Winslow. Located on old Route 66, the corner boasts a statue of Don Henley, along with a mural, a small grass park, a flatbed Ford, and a little more. Just down the street is La Posada Inn, the last of the great Harvey House restaurants that were built to serve travelers on the Santa Fe Railroad in the early 20th century. Completely renovated, the inn served several of our members excellent lunches or dinners in a beautiful Spanish décor.

By about 5:30 nearly everyone had arrived in Holbrook, our home for the next two nights.

On Thursday, following a continental breakfast of muffins, bagels, donuts, fresh fruit, juice, and coffee, some of the FROGs chose to have a “down” day, relaxing and catching up on chores. Most, however, set off on yet another adventure. Nearby was Petrified Forest National Park, for many of our members a much lesser-known member of the national park family. In a 27-mile drive through the park, we encountered such a vast array of environments that it was hard to guess what might come next.

At the South Visitor Center, there is a walk through a fallen forest on now-petrified trees, some over four feet in diameter. Originally part of a tropical sea environment, they were eventually flooded and then covered in silt. Protected from oxygen, they did not decay, but rather were “pickled” for thousands of years in a salt water brine that eventually petrified them into a stone resembling agate. On most, it’s possible to see the rings in the trunk as well as the still-present bark.

Further on there are countless buttes, mesas, brilliantly colored rock formations, and more, highlighted by the Blue Mesa. Human existence in the area is revealed in the ruins of several pueblos, and then brought into focus by Newspaper Rock, the largest of several huge boulders containing extensive Indian pictographs. These tell the stories of the early inhabitants of the region, but many have never been fully translated and lie mysteriously unknown to the modern world.

Finally, after traversing wide swaths of prairie, the incredible panorama of the Painted Desert unfolds. Mile upon mile of brilliant desert landscapes and cliffs startle the visitor. Following some late afternoon storms, seeing the surfaces bathed in brilliant western sunlight against a nearly navy blue sky only enhanced the effect.

It was a long day, and most of the FROGs returned to Holbrook to settle in for what would turn out to be a short night.

More to come.
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Old 10-14-2012, 01:33 AM   #18
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Having spent a busy day at the Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert on Thursday, most of the FROGs decided that they had a well-earned night of rest coming. A good night’s sleep seemed like just the thing before starting out in the morning for Albuquerque, the last leg of our journey. The plan started out in very promising fashion, and remained so right up until the 2:30 a.m. tornado warning.

Yes, tornado warning. We’d had high winds and some recurring rain throughout much of Thursday afternoon. Later that night, the rain turned into a heavy thunderstorm. Sleeping in a thunderstorm can be quite relaxing, but none of us was really expecting what came next.

Two of our members woke just before 2:30 a.m. to a tornado warning blaring from their smart phones. Thanks to David and Ginnie and to Jeff and Anjanette for getting out and starting a door-knocking chain to alert the entire group. In short order, everyone was assembled at the laundry / restroom building for whatever shelter it might afford. We quickly took a roll call to ensure that everyone was accounted for. At that moment, knowing that tornado survivors often described the storm coming in sounding like a freight train, we all tensed as we heard exactly that sound. Relief came as we heard the grade crossing whistle, and realized that we were in fact hearing a freight train.

As several members monitored the storm on smart phones and smart pads, we contacted the emergency center at the local sheriff’s office. We were able to determine that the storm track had veered to the north, that the warning was cancelled on schedule, and that the danger seemed to be over. We trudged back to our units and crawled into bed for what remained of the night, knowing that we had yet another memory to add to the trip. (As a side note, it’s fortunate that apparently no one took photos of the assembled FROGs, so there exists no documentation of what some of us look like crawling out of bed at that hour of the night.)

When morning once again arrived, nearly everyone gathered again for a continental breakfast before heading east. But Mother Nature had one more trick up her sleeve. Consistently strong and gusty winds initially followed us eastward, providing a welcome tailwind. Soon, though, the winds shifted and came from the south, resulting in strong crosswinds and gusts that made driving a challenge. Mix in some heavy rain, and a bit of hail for good measure, and we were in for a drive to remember. Fortunately, the skies dried out, although the wind continued to howl. But by mid-afternoon, everyone had arrived safely and checked into the grounds of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, home for the next three nights.

The winds continued unabated through the afternoon and evening, forcing the cancellation of the Friday evening balloon glow, in which many of the balloons are inflated and continue to fire their burners in the dark while tethered to the ground. The “glow” creates in beautiful nighttime scene reminiscent of glowing Christmas ornaments, while visitors wander the balloon field. The nighttime fireworks, on the other hand were able to proceed, and created a beautiful finale to a rather long 24 hours.

More to come.
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Old 10-14-2012, 01:34 AM   #19
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Saturday arrived crisp, cold, and dry. The winds had abated. The sun had not yet risen. And yet there we were, outside and bundled in coats, sweats, blankets, and whatever else might keep us warm. Clear weather and light winds could only mean one thing – the morning glow, the “dawn patrol” in which selected balloons were allowed to launch prior to sunrise, and the mass ascension were a “go”!

A few hardy souls ventured down to the balloon field to see the morning glow and to watch the inflations. Many of the rest gathered in lawn chairs to watch for the first of the balloons to launch. Patience paid off around 7:15, when a dozen balloons on “dawn patrol” rose over the field. At first, the fleet slowly proceeded south, approaching our viewing site. Soon they began to move slowly to the east.

About ten minutes later, the sky began to fill with wave after wave of balloons, from the traditional teardrop shape to varying whimsical shapes. A huge cow soon dominated the skyline. A larger-than-life stagecoach made its appearance. Three huge bumblebees, a fire hydrant, and a child in a wheelchair joined the party. An angel encountered an angry bird. A woodpecker and a buffalo came face to face. A penguin was able to fly. Each of the shapes, along with the brilliantly colored traditional balloons, added to the charm and the spectacle filling the crystal-clear blue skies for the next hour and more.

Everyone agreed that witnessing the mass ascension was well worth the early wakeup call. News coverage later showed that Darth Vader, Smokey Bear, Elvis, a shark, and several others had inflated but had never left the balloon field.

A little later, our tour bus came by and the FROGs were off on yet another adventure, as we journeyed to Sandia Peak. Our commute to the top of the peak included a 2.7-mile ride in a gondola car, suspended by cable as high as 990 feet above the ground at one point. Our nearly mile-and-a-half span between two of the support towers is the longest in the Western Hemisphere.

Reaching the top, we were greeted by a change in the weather. While the air at the balloon park had been warmed as the sun rose, the top of the peak boasted 23 degrees and 20 mile per hour wind. We quickly convened in the High Finance restaurant for a wonderful lunch, and made short work of enjoying the view of over 11,000 square miles of New Mexico from the observation decks.

Returning by gondola to the base of the peak, we set off again for our next stop, a local winery. Touring the vineyard and Spanish-style buildings, we learned about the history of winemaking in New Mexico, which dates to 1629. That is when a group of Franciscan monks imported Mexican grape vines in violation of Spanish law in order to alleviate a chronic shortage of altar wine. Winemaking has since become a major industry in New Mexico.

Following our tour, we gathered for a wine tasting session, which resulted in numerous sales from the tasting center’s shop.

Our return to the Balloon Fiesta campground left us with time to relax before catching a free shuttle to the launch field to enjoy festival food and shopping, and evening glow, and a spectacular closing fireworks show.

Sleep likely came early for many of our folks tonight. Tomorrow, most will likely be up early for the glow and the final mass ascension of the Fiesta. From there we’ll be off on our last formal event of the trip, a visit to Acoma, the “Pueblo in the Sky,” and to Old Town Albuquerque.

Sunday evening there will likely be exchanges of memories and addresses. Some will get together for dinner. Plans will be laid to take part in future FROG trips, or just to get together for camping outings. And that’s the best part of these events. The friendships will endure well after the trip has ended and the memories have begun to fade.

More to come.
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Old 10-14-2012, 01:40 AM   #20
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Late afternoon sun highlights some of the incredible formations within the Grand Canyon.


The sun casts its last light of the day across the towering spires of the Grand Canyon.


Sheer cliffs, towering spires and monoliths, and incredible colors combine to make the Grand Canyon a stark and overwhelming landscape.


Seen from the observation tower at Desert View, near the east end of the Canyon, the Little Colorado winds its way toward the Colorado, adding to the incredible forces that carved out the Grand Canyon.
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