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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Ontario Canada

    Default Grand Canyon / Storm Chasing 2007

    Trip pictures here.

    First day uneventful. Left Barrie Ontario Canada at 11:45 a.m. in my Corolla - female / solo trip. Drove till midnight or past midnight (can't remember) to a truck stop just south of Gary IN. Slept in car.
    Second day. All going okay. Took longer than planned to go from Chicago area all the way to Marshall TX (past Texarkana) which was my planned stopping point. It being the Memorial Day weekend, I was glad I took the lesser populated I-57. Turns out a very pleasant scenic highway - all farmland the whole way. No big cities to go through - & therefore, no city "exodus" for the weekend. HOWEVER, by late evening, everywhere was swarming with highway patrol. At one turn in a small town, there were four cruisers on the corner I needed to turn on - two on an angle front ends in blocking in a red pick-up truck from the front as if they had to get it stopped, one cruiser behind it, and one across the intersection. Then when I got gas, one of those cruisers came flying by, and further up the road just past the gas station, there were another huge pile of cruisers - lights flashing. Anyhow, at 12:30 a.m. I was pulled over. The trooper was very pleasant. He said my rear licence plate light was out. He gave me a warning -then asked me where I was going and suggested things to see along the way, and told me to be careful travelling alone this late.
    I stopped at 1:00 a.m. at Marshall TX at a truck stop for the 2nd night. It rained quite heavily I think the 2nd night - or it might have been the first night...

    Day 3 today I went from Marshall TX to Galveston. It POURED going through Houston. Really heavy hard rain. Then from then on it has been off & on very light rain or extremely HEAVY rain. It has stopped now and seems to have cleared up now here at Corpus Christi. I stopped for a couple pictures in Galveston - a very small classic car show was on display along "The Strand" - historic buildings, the "Wall Street" historically of the USA back when Galveston was very very wealthy port city.
    I had planned to drive the coast and down to Port Aransas & South Padre Island before going to Corpus Christi, but because it was raining & slowed down the day's travels, I went along the seawall of Galveston to Freeport, then up to #35 and across directly to Corpus Christi. Rodeway Inn overnight.
    Had breakfast (continental) - cereal, juice, and watched how others used the "waffle iron" before making a pancake. Looks like it will be another rainy day. Just very cloudy right now. Has been high 80's most of the trip.
    Toured the USS Lexington and the aquarium at Corpus Christi. Both interesting.
    Continued on to San Antonio TX where I went to Fort Sam Houston & remained in the car during the light rain to listen to the symphony concert & watch the fireworks. KOA campground overnight - in my car backseat.

    To be continued......
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 06-28-2007 at 04:40 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Ontario Canada

    Default report .... part 2

    Next day drove from San Antonio to Albuquerque - about 820 miles... Stayed with friends - well shall I say, I arrived so late that they did not hear the phone ring and I stayed in my car in their driveway overnight. Went out for breakfast with them next morning then carried on my merry way.
    Oh, and after the first several days on the road, I now have a nice big crack in my windshield... Okay, back to the point...
    To Page AZ. Rodeway Inn. Drove up to Lake Powell / Glen Canyon Dam for some photos. Next day - Antelope Slot Canyon photographic tour. This tour gets you to the canyon over the noon hour when there are the famous sunbeams, and also gives you two hours there instead of just one. I highly recommend it. Still very busy with tourists and not much time to snap your shots with no people in the view, but a beautiful spot nonetheless. You cannot go into the canyon without a guided tour, and are restricted to two hours max. A beautiful "hidden gem" of America.

    From Page to Grand Canyon - Mather Campground overnight. Came in at the east end gate of the south rim - but it was already getting dusk/dark quickly so I didn't bother stopping at all the lookout points (I've been here twice previously). Checked in at Bright Angel Lodge desk for the MULE RIDE tomorrow morning.
    Okay, here's the email I sent home after the mule ride...

    Wow - emphasis on "ow" :-)
    Well, this was a couple days of "firsts".
    first time down into the Grand Canyon
    first time down into the Grand Canyon by MULE
    first time ever fainting!
    first time fainting ON THE BACK OF A MULE!
    first time fainting on the back of a mule at the bottom of the Grand Canyon!!!!

    I slept in the Grand Canyon Mather Campground in my car the night prior to the mule ride, so that would have been let's see, Wednesday night.
    My cell phone was topped right up for power when I arrived there at 8 p.m. I guess it started "searching for service" which sucked the battery dry while I slept. At midnight, I was awakened to the phone signal that the battery was low. Great, just great! Whatever am I going to do now? I did not bring a spare "real" alarm clock. Silly me. I'll never do that again. Counting on "modern technology"!! I plugged in the car charger at midnight and turned the car key on enough to start charging. I let it go for half an hour then thought I better turn the car on so I don't suck the battery down on the car. I was SURE all the campers around me would appreciate sleeping to the soft purr of a car motor nearby, wouldn't they? It would just lull them to sleep, right? Well, too bad! I wanted to be able to go back to sleep with the assurance that my alarm would sound at 5:30 a.m. I turned the car on and sat there watching the cell phone charge for another half hour. I turned the car off and went back to sleep. The cell phone chirped again at 4:00 a.m. that the battery was again dead. I then just sat there in the car awake - not wanting to let myself go back to sleep because I had no alarm clock. I moved the car over to Bright Angel Lodge parking by about 5:00 a.m. and waited out the time there. We met for the mule ride at 6:45 a.m. There was a large group (approx 40 people) however many of them were only going on the DAY trip. Only 17 of us were overnighters. Casey (the mule/wrangler/company manager) gave us a good orientation telling us what to expect and how to handle the mules, follow instructions, etc. He wanted to be sure everyone knew that first & foremost our knees will be sore within the first half hour . That if anyone has had knee surgery or other such problems, they might not be able to endure this. The next thing to go of course is a little higher up than the knees, and a little lower down than the neck! He also said many will experience lower back soreness and abdomen soreness. The Grand Canyon mules are world famous for what they do, and covering the world's harshest terrain/environment. Anyhow, he offered a FULL refund if anyone wanted to back out now before we start down the trail. The minute we start down the trail, there is no refund. Instead, you are having to pay to be rescued. Nobody backed out. He then went over all the rules about handling the mules / listening to our wrangler / don't lean in the saddle even if you are scared the mule is too close to the edge!, just let the mule do it's thing - they are naturally herd animals and will want to follow their leader, etc. Be sure when we stop, that they are facing OUT with their head out over the edge... Because there is no way they are going to jump over that if they can see it. If you let them stop sideways to the trail or backwards, then they could lose their footing..... In the 100 years they've been giving mule rides into the canyon, there has NEVER been an incident. They have the best record of any type of transportation. Theodore Roosevelt was one of / if not the first mule rider down into the canyon. They also warned us to be sure and tell them the MINUTE we feel "funny" (nauseous, light headed, or otherwise). If we tell them fast enough, they can treat it.

    To be continued....

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default A long time coming!

    Syv, I have been looking forward to this trip report since I learned you were going storm chasin'!


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Ontario Canada

    Default report - part 3

    By 9:00 a.m., our group of 7 riders and the wrangler Dusty were on our way down the Bright Angel trail. Dusty was in front. I was 2nd in line behind him on Bibi. Dusty was training a new mule. We stopped at about 10:45 a.m. for lunch break (good boxed lunches they provide). By this time, yeppers, I was surprised how much my knees hurt. My butt wasn't as bad as some of the people with skinnier posteriors than I. We didn't have long for the lunch break before they wanted us back up on the mules. They hosed each of us down with water to keep us cool. The switchbacks were not as narrow as I had expected. There are no railings at all of course. It is all pretty natural. No lighting other than sun/star/moonlight. The switchback 180 degree turns were the scariest. When the mule walks right out to the edge before turning sharply back onto the trail...
    I can see why so many people hike it. I am surprised how many hike it overnight, in the dark. We talked to several at the bottom at Phantom Ranch who had made it down in 2-1/2 hrs, and were turning around and heading back up that same night at midnight. Dusty was telling us that there are folks who come down the north rim trail (14 miles) and then go back up on the Bright Angel Trail (a little over 7 miles I think) or the South Kaibob Trail - all in the same day. Once a year there is an event where folks JOG down the north rim trail. The DOWNhill is much harder on the mules than uphill. It is also harder on the riders. Our legs / joints - feet / knees are acting as the shock absorbers, whereas on the way up, the mules are built for that and take the work in their hind end.

    Okay, enough of that. Back to the story.
    After the lunch break, the wrangler who had the rest of our group of 17, was following our group for the rest of the way down to Phantom Ranch.
    We arrived on the canyon floor at about 1:30 p.m. and started walking fairly flat for a bit. We could now see the river and the creek. I asked Dusty how much further. He said there was still quite a bit. I then told him that I thought I was starting to feel "funny", perhaps a bit lightheaded. He said we'll stop around the next corner. We went another 100 feet and he stopped. He wet his bandana and gave it to me to put around my neck. He dunked my hat in the river to wet it before putting it back on. He then asked if that helped. I said now that we are stopped I feel worse. He said let's give it a minute & see if the cool water helps. He started to ask if anyone else wanted their hats wet. This now... is what I've heard from the others...
    Dusty went down the row taking peoples' hats to dunk in the creek. I apparently just suddenly swayed a bit one way & the other and then gracefully just plopped right backwards with my head and back down on the mule's rump, still in the saddle, feet still in the stirrups, passed right out. Rhonda was on the next mule back to mine. She tried to scoot her mule closer and reach over and hold me while they were all yelling "help": to Dusty. Dusty and the mule wrangler from the next group ran up and were getting me off the mule.
    Now back to me. I do not recall hearing anyone yelling for help at all. The first thing I heard was the wranglers saying "get her down". I came to sitting up in the saddle with the one wrangler on my left and Dusty on my right, with them saying to get off / get down. They were going to dunk me in the creek. They helped me walk down into the "ditch" to the creek. It is only about 6 -7 inches deep of water there. They had me sit right down in the water and then the one wrangler started splashing water over my back and hat and head. I was holding my camera out as far as the cord would go so that they wouldn't get it wet. I still didn't know I had actually fainted. Nobody had told me. Rhonda offered to hold it so Dusty took it from me and she kept it on her mule for the rest of the way. While the one wrangler was splashing me, Dusty was quickly mixing up some Gookinaid - a special energy drink that is much higher in elecrtrolytes and lower in sugar than just energy drinks like Red Bull or whatever. He told me to quickly drink as much of it as I could possibly hold.
    They got me back on the mule and we carried on the rest of the way, with Dusty looking backwards more often than he had been... I'm sure to check on me.
    We were already on the canyon floor when this happened. He said to the group that almost every day, someone gets sick right at that very spot. It was very fortunate for me that it happened right there beside the creek, not up on the trail where I might have fallen right off the mule, and onto a rock or worse, off the ledge and bye-bye!
    I hadn't felt bad at all. It just came on all of a sudden and even when I mentioned it to Dusty, it still wasn't anything much at all. I just thought I better mention it "in case" as they had told us to do so. Once we stopped, then it "hit me" - I started to see "spinning / going black" while he had gone to wet other people's hats, and I guess that was it.
    I asked the group right away if anyone had taken my picture! Nobody had. A couple I had been talking with before & during, said if they'd known my personality they would have; it had crossed her mind, but she thought some might think it was a rather crass / psycho thing to do. I told them I never knew I was that flexible- ha!

    We spent the night at Phantom Ranch. The river itself is a little further away - not running right through the ranch area, but the creek runs right through the ranch. I had my own cabin with a queen size bed. The cabins were very nice. It is amazing to think the mules brought everything there - the timbers, building supplies, everything to build Phantom Ranch. They also brought all the equipment to build the couple of bridges that span the river. The one is long enough that the Statue of Liberty laid across it would only cover 1/3 of it. The two cables are 530 or so feet each. The mules carried rolls of the cable with local natives carrying 50 lb spools, all of course one big cable so it is all joined and cannot be cut. The natives made it down the canyon carrying the cable in 1-1/2 hours I think Dusty said. It was 1-1/2 or 2-1/2 hours. No more than that.
    A couple of hikers on the way were rude about the mules going by, or making comments to Dusty to "be nice" to his mule. It was his mule's (in training) first day down that trail so he had to mutter a few epithets at it a few times. Another time, three teens went onto the trail where they are not supposed to go and cut through across in front of the mules while we were stopped. Dusty told them to wait there, that they could not pass while we were stopped. They kept walking and went past a "railing" on the canyon floor and then cut back through and walked between two mules. Dusty was very UNimpressed shall we say the least. He didn't say anything but told us later that if a ranger had of seen them, they would have instantly been fined $1, 500.00 for walking past into that area beyond the railing. He said there was a time when hikers were banned from the Bright Angel trail and that that is soon coming again from the way things are going. The more hikers complain about the mules, the sooner hikers will be banned from the trail. The hikers (tourists) do not understand that this is a registered LIVESTOCK trail and NOT a hiker's trail. The mules bring all the supplies to the Phantom Ranch every day and pack out all the trash. They also carry the mail both ways, etc. The mules have a job to do there, not just carry tourists down. We saw the herd of pack mules carrying out huge bundles. Dusty worked the pack mules for part of his time. He said they get going at 3:00 a.m. after loading 1,000 pounds of supplies onto the mules. They then carrying back up the trash from Phantom Ranch.

    We had a nice steak dinner, family style in the "canteen" dining area. I left the dinner and went straight to have a shower and get to bed. The canteen reopened after dinner at 8 p.m. for sales. I waited until then to buy a package of that Gookinaid to mix in my canteen for the way back up on Friday. I also bought some Advil since by now I had a splitting headache. I was in bed by 8:20 p.m. and didn't hear a thing until about 4:00 a.m. when many of the hikers were up and about ready to start walking back out of the canyon. We came back up on the South Kaibob Trail - a different trail, with many rest stops for the mules which gave us opportunity to take photos. We left at about 7:00 a.m. and were back to the top at about 12:15 p.m. Heather & Devon invited me to join them for lunch. Did so, then went to the campground shower facilities before starting back out on the road. The car seat seemed quite "cushy" after that. But it was a great experience and pretty nice views that I would never have experienced just driving the rim at the top.

    I continued on Friday afternoon to Albuquerque. I phoned Ben & Joan at 9 p.m. to tell them not to wait up, that I wasn't going to arrive before 11 p.m. They left the door open and gave me the combination to open the gate. I told them I would be on my way again by 7:30 a.m. I left the next morning while they were still in bed. Drove to Oklahoma City today. Arrived here at Julie & Lester's around 7 p.m. Took their family & Sandra (Julie's sister) out for supper / ice cream. ( Ben & Joan are the couple I met while on our Prague/Budapest tour / Julie & Sandra are from hometown Ontario now living in Okla City, who I taught in grades 2-3).

    To be continued.....

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Ontario Canada

    Default report - part 4

    Now storm chasing !!
    Sunday morning I went to the motel for our Tempest Tours meeting point/ orientation. One couple had been with the tour the year previous and returned, bringing his sister as well. Another guy was on his third chase year. They all were hooked & were going to keep coming until they see "the big one". We had orientation learning a bit about how the radar & other various sources work, and what they are looking for to find storms, etc. Then we loaded up the van and started out that very afternoon. To see detailed info & very good pictures from our tour guide storm chaser Brian, click here.

    To start off, Yes - I would definitely do it again. No, we did not see any tornadoes. But every day except one, we saw a nice storm with lots of lightning, great cloud formations, and a couple big supercells, one of which was starting to rotate. Watching the storms while on the plains gives such good views of the "whole" storm, not like when it is suddenly dark over our town/city back home. We put on over 4,000 miles chasing storms. You drive each day to get to the target where you think the storm will brew that evening. The one day there were no storms, we went to Cadillac Ranch near Amarillo, ate at The Big Texan (none of us took the 72-oz steak challenge), and went to Palo Duro Canyon south of Amarillo. Even the drives from point to point were very scenic. Our driver Doug was excellent. Brian would book motels on a day-to-day basis once he knew where we would end up that night. All in all a very interesting experience. After the return on Sunday June 10, it was basically just the long drive straight home & back to work. A great time.....

    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 06-28-2007 at 05:30 PM. Reason: formatting was showing in the text

  6. Default

    Loved this,,,,,,,,,,,,,was so funny to read about your GC Trip what an experience, sounds like you had a great time
    Last edited by max44; 07-10-2007 at 02:01 PM.

  7. #7

    Default Cool!

    Fantastic report -- I'm off to look at the photos now!

    The trip down into the Grand Canyon sounds awesome. I am afraid to say that there is no way that I could ever hike down into there - I am sure it would literally kill me! - but I'd never thought of doing what you did. It sounds fantatic (apart from the fainting bit which sounds kinda freaky!) I might give that a go next time I'm in the area...

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Great storytelling!

    I have hiked both the Kaibab and the Bright Angel and several of the lesser known trails in the canyon. I loved the telling of the mule ride -- best description I have ever read. Too bad you never saw a tornado --- but it sounds like you still had a wonderful adventure!

    Thanks for sharing so much of it with us.


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