Once again, insert my usual excuses about not blogging often enough.
Sun 20 May 2012 - Mon 21 May 2012
When I left off, we were watching solar eclipse. After the annularity, we jumped back in the car for a longish night drive all the way up to Goosenecks State Park in southern Utah. It was yet another campsite of convenient location, which had the added advantages of being open 24 hours and costing nothing. On the way up, via a long, straight, unlit country road through a night that was thick pitch black except for the reflected glow of the 70mph speed limit signs, I had the roadtrop's first dangerous encounter with large animals when I narrowly escaped plowing my car into some horses.
Yeah. Horses. Free-range horses. Crossing the road close to midnight on a moonless night.
Above is a free-range horse we passed the next day that looks similar to one of the horses that nearly totaled our car in the dark.
Goosenecks State Park was likewise very dark when we pulled in, and we couldn't make out any scenery at all, but for the outline of a few RV's parked nearby. Matt had read something about the park being perched on a sheer cliff, so I drove extremely slowly, and imagined scenarios whereby I accidentally hit the accelerator instead of the brake and sent us shooting over the edge like a reluctant Thelma and Louise.
This is what we woke up to when Monday dawned:
OK, Goosenecks State Park. That was pretty awesome. And a good warm up to our subsequent drive through Monument Valley.
Unfortunately, by the time we realized we had missed the turn for East Mitten Butte, we were in Arizona, d'oh. I guess we'll have to come back someday.
A couple of years ago, we made a rather spontaneous trip to Phoenix and Sedona, so we had seen some of Arizona's landscape before. The first thing we wanted to check out this time was Meteor Crater, which we ran out of time to visit in 2009. It's an eye-popping hole in the ground that makes you realize we're all doomed to destruction from outer space. I do find it a little disconcerting that the site is privately owned, because as far as I'm concerned, something this significant should be public land.
We also whipped down south for a look-see of Montezuma Castle and a speed run through Sedona, and finished off the day with a continuation of the space theme that's run through much of the roadtrop: a stop at the famous Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, which is open at night for telescope observation. On Monday night, the telescopes were pointed at a star cluster (damnit, I can't remember the name. M5? Something like that.) and Saturn. A couple of nights previously, Matt actually found Saturn through our wee Orion SkyScanner, and we could clearly make out the ring, but of course, the 32-foot-long two-foot aperture telescope did a better job, go figure. Saturn wasn't much bigger than it was in our telescope, but the resolution was such that we could differentiate a couple of bands.
Monday night was a repeat of Sunday night: a long lonely drive on dark country roads, but this time our destination was the Grand Canyon, and the large animal I nearly hit as it crossed the road was an elk.
AN ELK. IT WAS TALLER THAN A VAN. IT HAD GIANT ANTLERS.
More about our Grand Canyon adventures, including additional elk encounters, in the next entry.