Sunset Crater Volcano, AZ

It has been 900 years since its eruption, but Sunset Crater is still the youngest volcano on the Colorado Plateau. The volcano’s red rim and the dark lava flows seem to have cooled and hardened to a jagged surface only yesterday. As plants return, so do the animals that use them for food and shelter. And so do human visitors, intrigued by this opportunity to see nature’s response to a volcanic eruption.

Grand Canyon National Park, AZ

The Grand Canyon is more than a great chasm carved through the rocks of the Colorado Plateau. This canyon is a gift that transcends what we experience. Its beauty and size humble us. In its vast spaces we may find solace from our hectic lives. The Grand Canyon we visit today is a gift from our brilliant Artist and Creator.

There were a decent number of people at the park, but we were still able to watch and photograph a gorgeous sunset. I bought a great book at the gift shop that chronicles all the deaths that have occured in the Grand Canyon – quite the thriller.

The next morning we got up at 4AM and drove to the East Rim. There we watched an amazing sunrise. The way the changing light affects the canyon walls and shadows is amazing.

Hoover Dam, NV

Hoover Dam is a testimony to a country’s ability to construct monolithic projects in the midst of adverse conditions. Built during the Depression; thousands of men and their families came to Black Canyon to tame the Colorado River. It took less than 5 years, in a harsh and barren land, to build the largest dam of its time. Now, more than 60 years later, Hoover Dam still stands as a world-renowned structure. The dam is a National Historic Landmark and has been rated by the American Society of Civil Engineers as one of America’s Seven Modern Civil Engineering Wonders.

Traffic into Hoover Dam was TERRIBLE. Not only was it the day after the 4th of July and everyone was leaving Vegas, but there were Securiity checkpoints inspecting each car before it went over the dam.

Once at the dam though we took a very informative tour that took us deep into the dam to see the power generators. Unbelievable that they built that thing out in the desert in four years.

Journal: EXTREMEHauns

It’s been several days since our last email – I guess we got a little distracted by the “stick in hand” incident. The common theme running through the last couple places we visit seems to be “extremes”.

The General Sherman Tree

For example, the Sequoia National Park we visited had extremely large trees. In fact, we were able to see General Sherman, the largest living thing on earth. Estimated to be over 2300 years old this thing creates enough wood each year through its bark and branches to make an average 60foot tall tree! Why is it called General Sherman? Apparently, it was common practice in the 1800s and early 1900s to name large trees after famous people that recently died. We saw a General Grant and an Abraham Lincoln. Heidi and I have decided to name our oak tree Ronald Reagan… and we’ve got a nut tree we could call Marlon Brando.

Death Valley

After Sequoia we went through the Sierra Nevada mountains and down into Death Valley. Wow was that place hot. Driving through with our windows down you could feel the intense heat blowing in the car. It was honestly like sitting in front of one of those fan heaters. Just thick hot air blowing on you. Not having any A/C though actually turned out to be a blessing. Throughout the valley about every 5 miles they have Emergency Radiator Water stops. We saw 10 or more cars pulled over with hoods up at those things. They just didn’t understand that you can’t run your Escalade at 90mph through 130degree heat and expect your A/C to keep you at a cozy 65degrees without any problems. We even passed a Lamborghini steaming at one of those stops – you can’t help but grin. For some odd reason there is a satisfaction in seeing a hotshot in that sort of car broken down. Kind of like passing someone on the Interstate who has been pulled over for speeding. Hey! That was me you were laughing at!

Just today I found out that when we went through Death Valley it hit record high temperatures. I think we deserve t-shirts or something – “I Drove through Death Valley with no A/C”.

Our hotel room

So after the extreme heat, we hit Las Vegas. On the 4th of July it was EXTREME INSANITY!!! But we got lucky in Vegas – unlike so many others. The hotel upgraded our room to a fancy-schmancy suite – giant hot tub and view of the Strip. As for lucky gambling… that wasn’t exactly the case. We left Vegas with $8 less in our pockets after gambling $15 in slots. You see, we don’t quite get into the whole gambling thing. Sitting at a machine dropping money into doesn’t float my boat (or pop Heidi’s corn). Half of the games we couldn’t even figure out – some of those video touch screen ones are impossible! We would sit puzzled at a machine and give up after a few quarters, only to have someone jump in our spot and grab the machines on either side and start cranking away. Like it was nothing!

And speaking of gambling addictions – our favorite character was a lady who at 8AM was sitting at a slot machine with rollers still in her hair. I guess she had just gotten out of the shower and was struck by the urge. You gotta do whatcha gotta do.

Now I have to go back a little and describe our hotel. We stayed in the Alladin Casino & Resort. I didn’t pay attention to the Resort part when I booked it but, WOW, they weren’t kidding. This was the kind of place that you could stay in for weeks without seeing the light of day. It had dozens of restaurants, a shopping mall, a spa, two theaters, and two levels of casinos AND 23 floors of hotel rooms. We got lost in the shopping mall when we arrived – we must have looked pretty dumb hauling our luggage in circles when the girl from The Gap pointed us in the right direction.

The Aladdin

I guess we were just distracted or more like confused by the decoration in this place. The inside of the mall was made to look like the outside of a Persian village. Every detail was perfect – everything up to the sky. The sky was painted to look like a real evening sky (and was very well done). But here’s the kicker – every 30minutes, the sky would darken, you would hear thunder and see flashes of lightning and the sky would rain. YES, water actually fell from the ceiling! It was insane!

Now I’d like to get up on a soapbox and tell you about the stuff going on in the streets of Las Vegas, but I believe this has gone on enough. We’ll just say it was EXTREME perversions and EXTREME crass.

Now with almost 6000 miles behind us,

William and Heidi

Las Vegas, NV

Located in the Las Vegas Valley, a desert surrounded by the Spring Mountains and the Sierra Nevada. Las Vegas serves as the center of one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the United States. Its population has multiplied by a factor of 30 since the 1940s-more than that of any other major American city. Las Vegas is renowned for tourism, gaming, a dry and vigorous climate, and an assortment of indoor and outdoor recreational activities.

The Alladin Casino & Resort where we stayed was like nothing we had ever seen before. Every inch of the interior was intricately decorated to fit their Persian theme.

We got extremely lucky when the hotel offered to upgrade our standard room to a deluxe suite at no cost. We had a great view out our window of the Strip and the Bellagio water fountain. Plus the suite had a nice big jacuzzi tub.

Gambling isn’t our thing so we lost only $8 in slot machines. Half of that was wasted trying to figure out how to play some of the complicated touch-screen games.

Rhyolite, AZ

This remote location on the eastern edge of Death Valley is a ghost town turned outdoor art exhibit.

In 1984, a Belgian performace artist created his piece “The Last Supper” and dropped it off in the middle of the desert by the abandoned town of Rhyolite.  We walked through the various outdoor works of art that have accumulated over the years in the scorching heat.

Death Valley National Park, CA

Death Valley is a land of extremes. It is one of the hottest places on the surface of the Earth with summer temperatures averaging well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. It encompasses the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere at 282 feet below the level of the sea, and it is the driest place in North America with an average rainfall of only 1.96 inches a year.

We made it through Death Valley and not have AC turned out to be a blessing.  We saw a dozen people stopped at Emergency Radiotor Water stations because they were overheating.  Don’t get me wrong, we were miserably hot, but just glad we didn’t break down.

Sequoia National Forest, CA

These parks are home to giants: immense mountains, deep canyons, and huge trees. Thanks to their huge elevational range, 1,500′ to 14,491′, these parks protect stunningly diverse habitats. The Generals Highway climbs over 5000 feet from chaparral and oak-studded foothills to the awe-inspiring sequoia groves. From there, trails lead to the high-alpine wilderness which makes up most of these parks. Beneath the surface lie over 200 fascinating caverns.

Saturday, July 3rd we made the hop south to the Sequoia National Forest.  We camped in the National Forest and not Sequoia National Park to avoid some of the people out for the holiday.

Journal: Lions, and Sticks, and Bears, Oh My!

Yosemite National Park

Looks like the Haun adventures, just keep on coming. We couldn’t let the mountain lion story be the highlight of our trip. Today we saw a bear off the side of the road as we drove to another hiking point in Yosemite. We got out to take some photos (now the only major wildlife we have to see is a coyote – maybe tonight). I had the zoom lens and was getting some pretty good shots from a safe distant (see, I’m learning from my cougar lesson). After taking a couple, I turned around to head back and slipped off the fallen tree trunk I had been precariously balancing on to frame my shots.

The bear

I fell to the ground but put out my hand to break my fall. I felt a sharp pain in my hand and jumped up to find a stick about a ½ inch in diameter protruding from my hand. It had lodged itself firmly in the palm of my left hand just next to my thumb. My first instinct was to pull it out, but I tried and couldn’t. The pain was too much and it was in there good. I ran to Heidi holding up my now six fingered hand. After insisting she take a photo (see attached), we ran to the car to get our First Aid Kit.

The injury

If you were wondering, yes, it was just like in the movies. Heidi ripped off her clothes to reveal that she indeed was the caped…err…lab-coated … crusader – none other than SUPERDOCTOR. She put a tourniquet around my arm and got pad of gauze ready. On the count of three and with a scream like a woman, I ripped the stick out of my hand and she immediately applied pressure to the gaping hole in my hand.

To our surprise, the stick had been lodged a good inch and a half in my hand (see other attached photo). We jumped in the car and began driving to the nearest ranger station at the south entrance of the park. Here I am forced to be critical of our National Park Service. The Information Center we stopped at was run by some pimply faced college students with “Volunteer” on their shirts. The girl we asked about getting me medical attention look more grossed out than concerned about my story and waited patiently for the other voice-cracking volunteer to finish his lecture to a visitor on bear-proof containers. Then he simply referred us back up the road to another Ranger Station.

To make a long story short (though remember I was enduring the pain for the long version), we went to that Station to only be referred to the Fire Station. We went to the Fire Station to find it abandoned. Finally, we decided to just leave the park and drive the 70 miles to Fresno – a large city bound to have hospitals.

The stick

While driving out we saw a Park Ranger and stopped to ask him for help. He said to follow him and meandered slowly p to the building nearby. There he asked another Ranger what to do. “Hmmm, well you could drive back up into the valley about 35 miles to the Medical Center. Or… there’s an Urgent Care center about 20 miles south. In fact, I took my wife there when she had her foot stepped on by a donkey. That was, well, that was about two years ago. Heck, that was to years ago and a day… right Jeff?”

“That’s right” the first Ranger responded.

After tea and biscuits with Dumb & Dumber to get their life stories, we sped south to the Urgent Care center in Oakhurst. And after the paperwork, we waited another two hours to be seen by a doctor. I met several nice folks: little 8year old Johnnie was naked and needed stiiches in the back of his head. Mr. Croner had decided not to use the handguard on his table saw and lost the top of his thumb. Another older man had had chronic diahrea for the past 20 days and was severely dehydrated and refusing to use a bed pan. Ms. Creskie, well, I’m not sure what was wrong with her. She kept wandering in and out of the Emergency Room in a daze complaining that she didn’t have all day because she had things to do – particularly her husband’s laundry. What a good wife.

After the ordeal

When I finally did see a doctor I was told my hand would be OK. The wood didn’t splinter or leave chips deep in my hand and by the grace of God, I miraculously missed the Ulnar nerve in my palm by several millimeters. That is the nerve that controls your grip and finger motion. Had I hit that, my life as a computer programmer would be over. Well, I could continue to type one-handed and rise to fame as “Wiley One-Handed Willy”.

So praise God that I have my hand – the inconvenience of the pain and bandaging is minor. And we are now in the car heading south to Sequoia National Park.

Thanks for your prayers and concern,

One-Handed Willy