Submitted by Catherine Cedars

In early September, Raymond Cedars, 93 going on 94 in November, set out for a road trip with a daughter, a son and “grand-puppy” B.J. in tow. His first stopover was at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. One of Earth’s most powerful, inspiring landscapes is 277 river miles long, 18 miles wide and over 6,000 feet deep. The commercialized Grand Canyon Village was brimming with activity, from many countries. The group, then headed on into the South Entrance visiting the South Rim Trail Visitors Center, Hermits Rest, Hopi Point, The Abyss, Yavapai Point, Mather Point, Yaki Point and Navajo Point with its elevation of 7498 feet. On the exit drive heading east, several stops were made along Hwy 64, including the Grand View Point, Moran Point, Tusayan Museum and Ruin, then lastly, the Desert View Watch Tower and out the East Entrance. Driving northward towards the North Rim of Grand Canyon on Hwy 89 through the “Painted Desert” and the Navajo Nation Reservation over the Colorado River, the trio came across “Lee’s Ferry” after crossing the Navajo Bridge in northern Arizona.

Lee’s Ferry is the only place in more than 260 miles where the Colorado River is not hemmed in by sheer canyons walls and one can easily access the Colorado River from both sides. They crossed the Marble Canyon and those “dare not look down cliffs” past Jacob’s Lake into the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The views from the primitive north rim were just as awesome as the commercialized south rim, according to the group. They arrived at Bright Angel Point, with an elevation 8,255 feet. After staying at the Grand Canyon Lodge, where the canyon views are just steps from your door, the visitor’s center, general store and dining areas were on the agenda, as well as the view from the patio area of the grand dining room. Then onwards to Point Imperial (the highest elevation in north Grand Canyon), peaks at 8,803 feet, Vista Encantada, Roosevelt Point, Walhalia Overlook, Angels Window and Cape Royal. As the trio retraced their steps out the northern rim, they went north again by way of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, which has three geographically-distinct regions: the Grand Staircase, the Kaiparowits Plateau and the Escalante Canyons, and by Bryce Canyon to the North West. Temperatures were getting cooler as Cedars and his entourage headed north passing up Salt Lake City, Utah, to go into Jackson, Wyo., then making it to the Grand Teton National Park.

The Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming is approximately 310,000 acres, including 40 miles of Teton Range of Mountains. The driving tour through the Grand Tetons began at the well-known “Jackson Hole” Village, then driving westward on Hwy 22 to Teton Pass Hwy, entering through Granite Canyon Entrance. This scenic ride consisted of viewing White Grass Ranch, Murie Ranch and Capel of the Transfiguration, Mared Noble Cabin and Menors Ferry, also visiting “Luther Taylor Cabins,” the abandoned cabins that provided a scene in the movie “Shane.” Much of the movie was filmed in this valley including those cabins with the Teton Mountains as a backdrop. Then to Cunningham Cabins, Mormon Row, Jenny Lake Visitor Center and Ranger Station. Elk Ranch Flat, where pronghorn deer, elk and bison graze freely, then Beaver Creek #10, Bar BC Dude Ranch and finally to the Jackson Lake Lodge. The group said the view there is “breathtaking,” where 60-foot floor to ceiling windows frame the pristine Jackson Lake and the majestic snow-covered Teton Range, even in the summer months. They continued past the Teton Mountains and a lush forest, where bison grazed as people entered Yellowstone National Park, the world’s first national park. It consumes a 3,472 square miles, 2,219,789 acres and is actually an active volcano. They passed a group of about 25 cars and a huge crowd of people. They asked what was going on and was told, “Oh, they are all running into the woods to see the bears.” Guess they did not read the tips about animals and how to stay safe information on the leaflet that was handed out at the gate. They drove past the Continental Divide and headed to see Old Faithful. No trip to Yellowstone National Park would be complete without seeing the Old Faithful Geyser, referred to as “Eternity’s Timepiece” or “The Restless Giant” because of its consistent eruptions every 35 to 120 minutes, lasting for one-and-a-half to five minutes, with heights of 90 to 185 feet. They walked the boardwalk over to see the Old Faithful Inn, the largest log hotel in the world with its “log and limb” lobby area that is supporting seven stories. They viewed the massive 85-foot stone fireplace and said of its chimney, “huge is an understatement and it’s absolutely massive.” From there they followed the boardwalk around to view multiple thermal pools and springs, the Grand Geyser, Riverside Geyser, Bee-hive Geyser, Daisy Geyser and Cedars’ favorite, the Castle Geyser. They thought they had missed the Castle Geyser eruption, because it started spewing while they were around the other side of the boardwalk. It has the largest cone and may be the oldest in the basin. Castle Geyser erupts every 10-12 hours but last a very long time and one can be very close when viewing. Cedars actually got pretty wet coming from the left side of ole Castle on the boardwalk. They had lunch at the Visitors Center café and collected a few souvenirs as they watched the Old Faithful Geyser do her thing several more times then visited the Old Faithful Village. The trio headed out on the lower loop, passing the Continental Divide again.

When you cross the Continental Divide, the waters in the rivers actually run the opposite direction as the other side. When on the north side the rivers run northward and on the south side, the rivers run south. The Grand Prismatic Spring was a pretty impressive site with crazy-bright colors and it’s enormous size is the largest hot spring in the U.S. and is the third largest in the world, being 370 feet in diameter, 160 smothering hot degrees and deeper than a 10-story building. They continued onward to the West Yellowstone Entrance, Virginia cascades and Hayden Valley (where the buffalo roam), Fishing Bridge Lake and Village, Bridge Bay, the South East Entrance (to Cody, Wyo.), West Thumb Geyser Basin (where mud pots, boiling springs and geysers lie), Grant Village and the awesome Yellowstone Lake, all 136 square miles, with 141 miles of shoreline and the greatest depth is over 400 feet. They viewed the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, over 4,000 feet wide, 1,200 feet deep, with 20 miles of breath-taking views, including three waterfalls, then to Tower Fall, which plummets at 132 feet. Then onto Roosevelt Lodge, Tower-Roosevelt Visitor Center, the Petrified Forest, then the Northeast entrance to Beartooth Hwy., Lamar Valley (where wolves, herds of bison, elk, black and grizzly bears are). Then back to Black Tail Plateau Drive and onto Mammoth Hot Springs, where the old U.S. Army Fort used to be and is now Fort Yellowstone. It serves as the home base for park employees. This area has its own general store, post office, cemetery, hotel and restaurant. Just north of there lies the North Entrance (where the Roosevelt Arch Entryway stands), and then to Norris Geyser Basin, where “STEAMBOAT’s” home lies, the world’s tallest active geyser and has temperatures of 459 degrees, only 1,087 feet below the surface, making this the hottest geyser in the world. It spews steam and water over 380 feet high. The last eruption was May 5, so they did not see the Steamboat “do its thing.”

Both upper and lower loops inside the National Park combined are over 142 miles of beauty and nature’s splendor: the upper loop is 70 miles and the lower loop is 96 miles. Yellowstone has over 500 geysers and 10,000 thermal pools. Leaving Yellowstone, they headed out the East Entrance through Sylvan Pass, elevation at 10,267 feet. They thought the Marble Canyon, Az., road was bad and those hanging cliffs, sharp curves, “don’t look Ethel,” put your nails in the seat bad. But, eventually they entered Cody, Wyo., and there they saw more deer in yards and streets and roaming down the highway like they were in the middle of the woods. As they traveled eastward, they took a slight detour to see Devils Tower, 30 miles off I-90, in the middle of nowhere, in the Black Hills country of South Dakota. The tower is sacred to over 20 Plains Tribes, including the Lakota, Cheyenne and Kiowa Tribes. Devil’s Tower rises 1,267 feet above the Bell Fourche River. This was the first declared U.S. National Monument and was also used in the movie, “Close Encounters of The Third Kind.” Onward to and through Sturgis, S.D., home of the motorcycle rally. They didn’t travel far south before they got to the Keystone area and Custer State Park. The Crazy Horse Memorial in Custer County, S.D., is still under construction for the last 70 years now. When and if he is completed, it may become the world’s largest sculpture and will depict the Oglala Lakota Warrior Crazy Horse. It is being carved out of Thunderhead Mountain and has been in progress since 1948. The face is only partly completed, still leaving the upper body of the horse, Crazy Horse’s arm and upper torso to be carved. Next day, they woke to misty rain, clouds and overcast. Devastated because this was the day to see Mount Rushmore they later were told at this altitude it was just clouds and overcast and the sun would burn it off quickly. So it did. In the Northwest Corner of Black Elk Peak high on the mountain lie four U.S. presidents carved in stone. Originally started in 1927 and completed in 1941 high on the granite face wall having taken only 14 years, at a cost of less than $ 1 million, the 60-foot faces are of George Washington (completed 1930), Thomas Jefferson (completed 1936), Theodore Roosevelt (completed 1939) and Abraham Lincoln (completed 1941). This monument is known as the “Shrine of Democracy.” The long journey home had begun, but not before stopping for a moment to visit and pay respects to the Oklahoma City National Memorial, to honor the victims, survivors, rescuers and the people of the Oklahoma City Okla. bombing. The Reflecting Pool, the Fields of Empty Chairs, the Survivor’s Wall and Tree, the Memorial Fence (has everything from teddy bears to prayer cloths) hanging upon it and across the street from the “9:03 gate”, the statue of Jesus facing away from the devastation, his face covered with his hands weeping, lies a brick wall with 163 gaps in it, representing the voids left by each life lost that day. The only thing keeping them from shedding tears was the loud Mexican-jazz music playing in the park next to the memorial. Arriving home later in the month, Cedars, son Brock, daughter Catherine, and grand puppy BJ felt “blessed” having not seen or been in any accident.

Cedars said, “Wow, what a ride!” In all, the trio (and puppy) traveled three miles short of 5,000 miles and the total states traveled in this trip was 15. What a ride indeed!