A fast track weekend trip to a couple of scenic places out West. Back home and chill during the week. Perfectly innocent. Well planned. Well timed.
Friday 8.15 PM. Bill and moi at Las Vegas Intl Airport.
Me: I hate this place.
Bill: You masochist you.
Me: You mean you like this city?
Bill: No, I just don't hate it. Let's just say that this is the least likeable city I have ever been to.
Me: Same thing.
Bill: No its not.
Me: Wait, why are we going inside a PGA tour store? The others will be at baggage claim.
Bill: I forgot my belt.
Me: Good to know. But the question remains.
Bill: Do you see any other store here that I can get a belt from?
Me: You want to buy a belt here? And I suppose I get to pay for it.
Bill: The idea did cross my mind, yes.
Ten minutes later, at the cash register:
Register Lady: Are you guys on your way out?
Me: No, we just landed.
RL: Are you staying at the strip?
Me (vehmently): No. We are driving into Utah.
Bill: Yeah, there are a couple of national parks that we are going to. Zion and Bryce Canyon.
RL: Oh. Are you Mormon?
Me: What? Do we look like Mormons?
Soon we met up with the others. Happy reunion ensued. Anoop and I go to get rental car while others went up to grab some food. At the Hertz counter:
Me: What car did you say you reserved?
Anoop: A GMC Yukon.
Me: Is it on this sheet? Show me.
Anoop: Here, this one.
Me: That thing! You expect me to travel in that monstrosity?
Anoop: There are seven of us plus luggage. You have a better idea?
Me: Wait! Not only do you want me to travel in this bus you also expect me to drive it. I am not used to driving trucks. Where are you from anyway? Texas?
Anoop: Well, actually yes.
Me: I should have known. Get a Texan to book a car and you get a Yukon. I guess I should be happy its not a Hummer.
Soon we are one, big happy family driving out of Nevada on our brand new, red GMC Yukon listening to Kill Bill and catching up on the latest gossip. BM and I were just about done with people from school and getting to bloggers when the driver interrupts. Anoop asks us to look for Bumbleberry Lane. Apparently we are staying at a place called Bumbleberry Inn which happens to be on Bumbleberry Lane. Do not laugh, Anoop does not think that's funny, neither does he care to enlighten us what a bumbleberry is. We find the Inn finally, surrounded by omnious mountain ranges (this is 1.00 AM) the building looks like something out of a horror movie. We pull up to the entrance, no lights are on, the lobby is closed. Stuck to the door we see a note addressed to Mr. Iye. (The R is silent dammit.) It asks us to go directly to our rooms; the check-in can be done in the morning. We trudge along to our rooms. They are spacious and sort of normal. Quite a disappointment after all that scary movie setting. All fall asleep.
Next morning, after a sumptuous breakfast at the Bumbleberry Restaurant we made our way into Zion National Park. First thing on the itinerary is the Scenic Highway tour which can only be taken using the Zion shuttle. We all crowded into the shuttle. Regular tourist crowd. Older white Americans, some Europeans, just one big desi family other than us. All with SLRs and Rebels and Insurgents and whatever it is that they call them nowadays.
First stop: Court of the Patriarchs. That's Abraham, Jacob and Isaac. (Not exactly in that order.) Could very well have been Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva I guess.
We decided to walk along the Virgin River to the next shuttle stop instead of taking the shuttle. It looked beautiful. What we did not realise however was that the trail was still being used as a horse route. Which meant that for the next one mile, we were treated to the earthy fragrance of horse shit. The genteel among us complained. The rest of us shut her up.
After a brief trip to some Emerald Pools (there was really nothing much to see there, I'd rather go with the waterfalls of Kutralam, thank you), we chilled around Zion Lodge for sometime. I mean food was around, so it made sense. Then we boarded the shuttle for the Temple of Sinawawa. Saw some pretty mountains on the way. The mountain ranges in the distance were either red or white depending on whether the top layer was iron oxide or calcium carbonate. Angel's Landing looked quite majestic and Anoop was very much interested to scale its heights but I had a readymade excuse. Vertigo. We reached the final stop, the Temple of Sinawawa.
We went down a trail to the Narrows - apparently the canyon narrows to about 4 feet in certain places with the river running in between. We did not get to see it as the trail was closed after a certain point as the water level was high and flash floods was a real possibility. We could do with some flash floods, I thought, it was about 96 degrees by then. The Virgin River looked quite inviting, so I ran along and jumped. Freezing water. Nearly died in there but dutiful Anoop came running. Bill, needless to say, was laughing his head off.
After I was rescued and properly cared for(I got more than my fair share of snacks), we decided to head back to the Inn. As we waited for the shuttle, Bill got talking to this cute, hep, old Indian couple.
R: Have you noticed something about Bill?
Me: What? That he is really quiet? We all know that.
R: No, not that. Have you noticed that he talks more to strangers than he talks to us.
Me: I can't say that I haven't.
R: Why do you think that is?
Me: Because strangers talk to him?
R: That's not the point.
Me: What are you trying to say dude?
R: He doesn't like talking to us.
Me: I see. Here he comes. Lets ask him.
R: Who are those people?
Bill: They are super nice. They live in Chicago and they just retired, so they are taking this big national parks trip around the country. Cool no?
R: Yeah? How did you get talking to them?
Bill: I don't know. They talked to me.
R and I exchanged glances.
Later, over lunch at our favorite Bumbleberry place(none of us were willing to try the Bumbleberry Pie as Anoop refused to tell us what a bumbleberry is), we figured out plans for the rest of the day. Our original plan was to do Mt Carmel Highway, but instead we decided to go to Kolob Canyon. Kolob Canyon was supposed to be really beautiful at sunset and we figured we could get to the Mt Carmel Highway the next morning on our way to Bryce Canyon.
We set out. Things got a little dicey as I was made the designated driver - Anoop wanted to shoot. As I mentioned earlier, I really wasn't used to driving trucks. The biggest thing I had driven until then was a big Japanese car so you see the problem. But not only did I manage to drive that bus perfectly, I even climbed on top of that thing and got Anoop to take pictures. In the interests of keeping up my bleeding-heart liberal image, I will not make those pictures public but instead, here are really awesome pictures of Kolob Canyon at sunset.
The next morning, we set out bright and early. The Mt Carmel Highway was out of the world that time of the day. Mountains on all sides, the road had a series of switchbacks leading up to a narrow, dark 1.6 mile long tunnel. If you were a heavy vehicle(since this is America, ours did not qualify), you would need to be escorted through the tunnel by a park vehicle. Coming out of the tunnel, we were treated to a number of checkboard mountains, the most popular one being the checkerboard mesa. The vertical and horizontal lines are formed by two completely independent processes and that they happened to occur at the same place is either an amazing coincidence or a proof for the existence of a God depending on which side of the fence you are on.
Coming up next: Part 2 - Wooing/Voodooing the Hoodos.
PS: If you are wondering where I disappeared for a week since all this was last weekend, no interesting excuses. 16-hour work days. Punishment for wooing the hoodoos, I am told. I will explain, I promise. Patience.
PPS: All photos courtesy of Anoop Iyer.