Kates Diary Installment Five - Yellowstone to Grand Canyon

Thursday 2 September 2010, Filed in: General

We didn't get very much sleep last night! A family of skunks was outside our tent climbing into our panniers and eating our bread. In the end Dad had to bring all our bags inside. They were very cute with pointy noses and stripey tails but they smelled worse than my parents! I think we're having a hotel tonight. Mum was just sitting outside the supermarket just having a rest and a man came up with two dollars and handed it to her and said God bless you this Thanksgiving!


It’s maybe time we tidied ourselves up a bit!

In Grand Teton the snow was very deep. We woke in the morning and our tent had almost disappeared! We stayed there for 3 days and went for walks in the thick thick snow. We followed the prints of wolves, deer, bison, elk, moose and a wolf ran right in front of Mum with a big rabbit in its mouth. The temperature dropped to minus 13 degrees c. Our water bottles froze (inside the tent!) The people in the lodge were very kind and let us use their living room to stay warm. We watched TV and used the computer and played Earthopoly which is like Monopoly but about saving the planet.

There was a big elk hunt on in Wyoming. In Afton we went under an archway made of elk antlers. It is made of 3000 elk antlers! It goes right across the road and is the biggest elk antler archway in the world.

The roads around Salt Lake City were fast and busy and very scary. There were no signposts anywhere and Mum and Dad kept getting lost. One night we camped by a natural hot spring. It looked like a big pond but it was so hot that we looked like lobsters when we got out. After Salt Lake we started to see red rock and it was more like desert with small cactus and lizards and lots of red sand. Moab is famous for its red rock and its National Parks like Arches and Canyonlands. Mountain bikers come here from all over the world.

Halloween is BIG in America. People decorate their homes and gardens for weeks before like we do before Christmas and you should see the size of the pumpkins for sale!!! We went to the Moab Pumpkin Chuckin’ Festival. There were about ten teams and they had all made these big tall structures as tall as houses with catapults and weights on them called trebuches. The idea was to see which one could throw the pumpkin the furthest. There was also games and a bluegrass folk band and a bike jumping competition where people on mountain bikes rode off the top of a bus, down a ramp and did stunts off the top of two piles of sand. Some of them went really high and did whole somersaults on their bikes!

For Halloween we decorated our bikes. We carved out 3 pumpkins and put them on the back of the trailer with branches and a helium balloon. I was a witchy vampire and Mum and Dad had scary pumpkin masks and wore their big black hooded fleece tops and on our bikes we were the black riders. I even made pumpkin costumes for otter and floppy. I met a girl called Corrina who was 8 and we arranged to go trick or treating together. We met at the school. Corrina was a bat. Her mum and little sister were pirates. Halloween in Moab was amazing. Some of the people had decorated their gardens like haunted houses or the ghost train at a fun fair. I ended up with a very heavy bag of sweets.

The sweets made a good trail mix when we went exploring Arches. This whole area once used to be under the sea. There are hundreds of archways here made from red sandstone. The arches are made by weathering. Water gets inside little cracks in the rocks. When water freezes it expands and cracks the rocks like ice cracks water pipes when it freezes. Then the wind blows the loose broken rock away and the cracks get bigger. The stronger rock that is left behind forms the pillars and archways that we can see now. We also saw some horse petroglyphs. These are pictures carved in rocks and is the writing of the Ute Indians that lived here 300 years ago. On the Potash Road we saw petroglyphs made by the Fremont Indians over 2000 years ago. They showed hunters and big horn sheep. We also saw dinosaur tracks here.

We went to Mesa Verde. This is where the Ancestral Puebloans, once known as the Anasazi meaning the ancient ones built their homes into the sides of the cliffs about 800 years ago. The remains can still be seen today and it is a National Park. When we got there we got to the visitor centre and I got my junior ranger book. To get the junior ranger badge you have to complete some tasks and fill in the book. First of all I had to look around the museum and find out about how the people lived. This is what I found out.

They were skilled at making baskets.
They also made beautiful pottery bowls from clay which they painted with black and white patterns.
They farmed the land and grew vegetables. Their most important crop was corn. They planted corn with a digging stick and they ground it up with stone tools called mano and metate.
The only animals they had were dogs and turkeys but they hunted deer, bison, bighorn sheep and rabbits.
They got their water from little springs seeping out from between the layers of rock.
Other foods they had were pine nuts from the pinyon tree, squash, beans and prickly pear.
They used yukka leaves to make fibres to make rope, sandals and baskets and they weaved turkey feathers in with the yukka fibres to make blankets.
They used stone and bone to make their tools.

Then we went outside to look at the buildings. First we went on a guided tour of Cliff Palace. This was the biggest dwelling where 100 people lived. We had to climb down lots of ladders and steep stone steps in the cliffs. The ranger talked a lot and was very bossy. She told Mum off for taking photos while she was talking and nobody dared to take any after that. We liked Spruce Tree House better because we were allowed to go there by ourselves. They built walls of sandstone bricks and clay using the overhangs and alcoves in the cliffs. I climbed down a ladder through a hole into a round room with a firepit, called a Kiva. The kivas were very important. They were used for ceremonies and gatherings or telling stories. They did weaving there and women had their babies there. We could still see the black soot from the fires on the overhangs. The grain store was also a very important room.

We stayed ten days in Moab. Corrina and me became good friends. We went swimming together, had a sleepover and went on a bike ride. I was sad when we had to leave. We also met a lovely lady called Jeannine who has hundreds of pink flamingos all over her house (not real ones) She has traveled all over South America and showed us her pictures of Peru and Equador. She is a writer for the Moab Times Independent Newspaper and she has written an article about our trip.

Go onto www.moabtimes.com and look for family trekking articles by Jeannine Waite (12th November) and you can see it. I was on the front cover too!!!

We went down Monument Valley. This is the land of the Navajo people. They had lots of stalls by the side of the road selling beautiful jewelry and pottery and dream catchers. I bought a bracelet made of silver and pieces of turquoise stone which is mined in Arizona. It had a little Kokopelli symbol on it. Kokopelli is found in lots of art work around here. He is a fertility God who plays the flute.

We went to Navajo National monument to see Betatakin Ruin. This is also a cliff dwelling of the Ancestral Puebloans and the Hopi people who live near here have descended from them. It was a very long hike into a steep, deep canyon and the ruins are underneath a giant cave roof. We saw pictographs (paintings on rocks) from the water clan, the sun clan, the corn clan and the fire clan. Our ranger Patrick was from the sun clan. He told us that the Hopi people believe that they came from the centre of the earth and that when they die they return to the underworld as clouds. They pray to their ancestors for rain and water from springs is very sacred to them. The Hopi people still return to Betatakin for prayer and ceremonies.

We went on a walk in the juniper and pinyon forest and learned about what every plant was used for in food and medicine and making things. We found pieces of pottery on the ground. The people here traded their pottery with other tribes for turquoise and shells and even parrots!
Hey! You know pine nuts. Well this is where they grow! The local people are all out picking them to sell to buyers a bit like us picking winkles!

We went to the Grand Canyon. It was a very steep ride to the rim from 4000 feet to 7500 feet in one day. Dad said that it was like cycling up a Munro. A canyon is a deep gorge that has been carved out by a river. The Grand Canyon has been carved out by the River Colerado. We hiked down below the rim at sunset. You can see all the layers of rock that have been formed over millions of years. The oldest rock is at the bottom and is 2 billion years old!

We rescued a bird from the middle of the road. It had been hit by a car. We sat with it in our hands for twenty minutes waiting for a ranger or someone and suddenly it just flew away. It had a long beak and red tail feathers. None of the rangers could work out what it was. It might have been a thresher. We also saw lots of elk. They were bugling which is their mating call.

I got my third junior ranger badge here. We went to a talk about geology to learn how the canyon was formed. I learned about DUDE which stands for deposition, uplift, downcutting and erosion.

We left the Grand Canyon and went through the San Francisco Peaks and camped in forests of big Ponderosa Pine and now we are at Sedona.


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