Early in 2003, Kevin brought up the idea of making a road trip to the Grand Canyon sometime that year. In July we managed to get around to it.
Omaha » I80 » Lincoln » I80 » Lake McConaughy
- Heading Out - After packing the Miata up all morning, we headed out on Saturday afternoon. We made a quick stop in Lincoln to pick up some supplies and then were on the road for the rest of the day. We reached Ogallala as night was falling, giving us just enough time to pitch our tent at Lake McConaughy, eat some dinner, and crawl into bed.
- Lake McConaughy I - We woke up bright and early the next morning when the sun came up, had some breakfast, and pulled up camp. We decided to explore the "Big Mac" area for a bit before leaving, so we drove down to the dam and did a little poking about in the rocks, grass, and trees. Eventually we were satisfied and moved on for the next leg of driving.
Lake McConaughy » I80 » I76 » Denver » I70 » 91 » Leadville » 91 » US24 » US285 » Poncha Springs » US50 » Curecanti » US50 » Montrose » US550 » Durango » US160 » Mesa Verde » US160 » Four Corners » US160 » 98 » Page
- Colorado - Lake McConaughy isn't far from the Colorado border, and we quickly found ourselves beginning an upward climb into the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The hills even more quickly gave way to the mountains themselves, so we eventually had to stop at least once an hour just to look out at the beauty. We had lunch on the edge of a cold mountain lake where we then spent a little more time exploring. Later we stopped at Blue Mesa Resevoir before reaching Curecanti.
- Curecanti - We spent the night at Curecanti National Recreation Area in a beautifully deserty/mountainy area. The next morning we woke up to our first taste of very cold mountain weather, but were able to eventually crawl out of the tent and pack up. Again we explored the area before leaving it, this time finding an old narrow-gauge train on display on a trestle in one of the canyons. We also took a few pictures of a genuine Rocky Mountains rocky stream before beginning our day of driving.
- Red Mountain Pass - Between Montrose and Durango is a stretch of highway through the Red Mountain Pass. It's full of winding roads, steep dropoffs, and great views, and was the perfect place to drive the Miata through. It isn't, however, the perfect place to drive a camper through. We wound our way through the pass, stopping to look at waterfalls, old mines, and pretty mountains.
- Mesa Verde - We made a quick stop by Mesa Verde to see the very old cliff dwellings there. I remember reading about them in my social studies class in grade school, so it was a lot of fun to see some of them in person. Unfortunately, it was too hot to go on a long trek to see the more isolated dwellings, so we moved on after looking at a few of the more easily-accessible sights.
Page » US89 » 67 » North Rim » US89 » Sunset Crater » US89 » I40 » US180 » Petrified Forest
- Four Corners - After our beautiful morning drive through the mountains, we started a very different drive through the desert. The drive southwest through the Four Corners area was dry, hot, and lonely, with only the power lines to be our friends for some of it. Eventually we got to the most remote tourist trap of all, Four Corners itself. We stopped just to make a tour of Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico all at the same time, and then moved on toward a night in Page, Arizona.
- Kaibab Forest and the Grand Canyon - After a very hot night in Page, we got up really early and drove on to the Grand Canyon itself. Acting on tips that it would be less touristy, we headed toward the North Rim. This took us through Kaibab Forest, which was very interesting. After driving through desert for about a day, suddenly hitting grasslands and forest was a big change. Eventually the forest thinned and we returned to desert land, just in time to hit the canyon itself. Amazing how that works, eh?
- Sunset Crater Volcano - When our time at the Grand Canyon was over, we started back by heading further south. Along the way we saw a sign for Sunset Crater Volcano, so we decided to investigate.
- Meteor Crater - Another sight I read about in my grade school social studies book was Meteor Crater, a giant crater down in Arizona. We were driving by it at one point, so I demanded we stop. I'd suggest anybody else who wants to see it do it by airplane.
- Petrified Forest - We arrived at the Petrified Forest just in time for it to close for the day, so we pitched our tent at a weird little campsite down the road so we could be first in the next day. That next day we got up and headed in, and I took way too may pictures of tree-become-rock. We also saw some of the Painted Desert, but heard that it wasn't as pretty as usual due to fires that were happening elsewhere but that were making the air in the area dirty.
Petrified Forest » I40 » I25 » Santa Fe » I25 » I76 » I80 » Lake McConaughy
- Santa Fe - We spent the next night in Santa Fe visiting DesertDave. He took us to a great little restaurant, and then took us on a nighttime walking tour of the old section of the city. It was a great time.
Lake McConaughy » I80 » Omaha
- Lake McConaughy - We left Santa Fe early the next morning and started The Day of Driving. The day took us through three states (New Mexico, Colorado, and Nebraska) and was easily the most driving we did on a single day for the entire trip. But when that day was done, we were back where we stayed the first night. We decided to stay in a different area this time, pitching our tent down at the bottom of the dam.
- The End - The next day was spent driving across Nebraska, getting us back to Omaha late that afternoon. Kevin immediately started back to St. Louis, and I packed my stuff up to head back to Lincoln. The trip was a success!