So, this will be the last of the three installments about the southwest trip, and then it's back to our regularly-scheduled programming.
When we left Cortez, it was raining and cold and windy, and we were all pleased as punch that we'd gotten the good weather for hiking in Mesa Verde. I don't mind hiking in the wet, but slippery trails above cliffs and high wind do not, in my opinion, mix. We headed out through Four Corners, because who doesn't have to take the obligatory "I'm standing in four states at once" pictures?
(That's Younger Daughter holding her Flat Mrs. R in all four states at once, too. Flat Mrs. R -- her teacher -- comes along on all of the kids' trips, ever since one enterprising classmate who was going on a cruise brought in a flat version of herself to sit in her desk while she was gone, and took a Flat Mrs. R along with her. This is now so popular that there are two Flat Mrs. Rs for domestic trips, and one for international travel.)
We also had to take the obligatory "Look, we're all standing in different states!" shot.
It was cold and windy. We followed this up with some frybread and honey (mmm.... frybread...), and then shopped around at the booths. It was cold enough that a lot of the craftspeople hadn't come yet, but I did fall entirely in love with a bracelet being offered by its maker, a very small old lady, who laughed (as I knew she would) when I asked if she'd take a check. I'd brought some cash (I know better, truly I do), but this was more than I'd brought, and I wanted it badly enough to ask. I was very sorry to walk away from it, and was still thinking about it six miles down the road when we saw a convenience store with an ATM. I looked at Rick and he looked at me and said, "You know you're going to." And I did.
I headed back along those six miles, my little stack of ten-dollar bills in my hand, and turned in again at the Four Corners, with our already-paid-for tickets in my hand to show the booth attendant. She laughed and waved us in. I pulled right back in next to the stall and found the lady there with her husband, drinking coffee. She, too, laughed when she saw me. She and her husband were of a piece; neither came up higher than my shoulder, and both had clearly spent years and years in the outdoors. Neither of them spoke much English at all, but they both joked with one another in Navajo and laughed at me; I knew I looked crazy in the wind with my tens in my hands, but she handed me the bracelet, and we shook hands on it and smiled at one another, and I'm glad I went back.
And then we were really and truly off to the Grand Canyon. The hour time change worked in our favor this time, and we got there in the mid-afternoon, thinking on our way in that we might have time for a ranger talk (part of the requirements for this park's junior ranger badge) before dinner -- there was even a ranger-led geological hike that made Rick's eyes gleam. By the time we'd gotten well and truly in to the park, it was thunder-snowing. Thunder means lightning, which means no hiking on the rim of a canyon. But the ranger gave the talk inside the observation station (whose windows were blanketed in white; no looking down into the canyon for us); he was so enthusiastic about his topic that we all had fun anyway.
We went to check into our hotel, Rick and I assuring the girls that even if we never did get to see the canyon on this trip, it would still be there, and we could come back. But as we were walking (shivering and huddled into our coats; my lovely red EZ mittens got a workout, thank goodness I'd stashed them in my glove compartment!), the clouds lifted just a bit, and the sun began to shine deep in the canyon, even as snow lined the rim.
It's times like this that I wish I were a photographer. Ansel Adams would have known what to do. I eventually just put my camera down and watched the scene unfold. It was magic. Sometimes the clouds lowered a bit more, leaving snow-covered pine trees lonely along the edge of the canyon.
And sometimes, even as we were standing in falling snow, we could see sun deep below us, shining on an unreachable green fairyland.
The clouds really lifted just as the sun was setting, and we ate dinner and went to bed feeling hopeful that the morning would be sunny.
It was plenty clear enough to go hiking, so hiking we did go. Only for a couple of hours, as we needed to hit the road for home, but it was enough time to drop some 400 vertical feet into the canyon (need I mention that I made the girls hike along the wall side of the trail?) and back up again.
One more picture of Flat Mrs. R at the top,
a quick swearing-in as junior rangers,
and we hit the road. We were home by bedtime.