Reading this summer: Faulkner, Murakami, Chabon, Cleave…

So the summer began a few weeks ago, but during the June 21 (my birthday) – July now period I have been reading the first twenty pages of books and books. Among them:

Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
The Bees by Carol Ann Duffy
White Teeth by Zadie Smith

They are all on the final summer list, though I suspect I’ll be taking some liberality with the designation “Summer” when it comes to Pynchon’s book. Like maybe next summer…

I have read two works since planning this post (since Wednesday… what day is it now?):

Sarrasine by Honoré de Balzac and
The Model World and Other Stories by Michael Chabon

And now, the plan:

Franz Kafka’s complete story collection
Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami
Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Vladimir Nabokov’s complete story collection
Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia
Tinkers by Paul Harding
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

And, of course, the four mentioned above.

I’ve solicited suggestions and am open to more. Have a lovely summer reading, all, no matter what you choose. Here are the books I currently have. I must have left Duffy’s collection at work…

Cross Country Tripping: Grand Canyon, Arizona

Grand Canyon National Park, July 18-19, 2011

We drove from Las Vegas, Nevada to our campground in the Grand Canyon National Park on July 17th. We were tired and sad because the women’s national soccer team had lost the World Cup that morning (okay, I was sad) but we built the tent and a fire, made dinner and settled in for the evening.

I had a hard time waking up the morning after our Vegas-venture (stay tuned for a Las Vegas post!), but we managed to make it out of our campground with a hiking plan in mind before 9:30 in the morning. I packed our trip’s itinerary with so much driving and sightseeing that sometimes we had to catch up on sleeping. We headed for the South Kaibab Trail, parked the van at a viewing point on the South Rim and walked a mile on the Rim Trail before beginning our descent into the canyon.

Before we’d gone more than a few tenths of a mile into the canyon, we ran into a park ranger. At this point one of the most humorous interactions with a stranger we had on our trip occurred. The ranger asked us how deep we were planning to go. When we told him our destination was Skeleton Point, about three miles away, he literally gasped and vehemently urged us to change our plan. He informed us that we should have started earlier in the day and carried about ten times more water than we had with us. He also told us that 20-30 hikers were rescued from the canyon every day in the summer due to heat exhaustion and sometimes more serious afflictions. and that we should only venture that far into the canyon later in the day.

Well, Brian, perhaps predictably, took this as a challenge. He let me know in no uncertain terms (after we’d left the ranger and continued on our way) that we’d be hiking to Skeleton Point and that we’d be fine. We both felt determined to at least venture past the recommended stopping point, Cedar Point, and then to see how we felt as we continued.

It was a cloudy day, which was lucky, and though the ranger told us it would reach 108 degrees, it didn’t feel too hot. And, of course, going down is much easier than going up (at least in this case… it’s not always so: see my Badlands post). We made it to Cedar Point and rested. Then, despite my half-hearted protests, we decided to continue on to Skeleton Point. It was tough, dusty, rocky, and mule-excrement ridden, but we saw a large lizard and it was a very exciting hike.

AND THEN WE MADE IT!

The hike up was strenuous. I wanted to play 20 Questions for distraction but Brian said we needed to conserve strength and water and all that logical stuff. A half mile from the top I wanted to quit, but we made it!

We had lunch and bought souvenirs; Brian bought me a present, the loveliest little silver ring. I bought some gifts for my aunt and uncle, my mom and dad and my friend Elisabeth. We also bought a pack of cards; we’d been collecting a pack from each place we stopped (stay tuned for culminating photos of the collection).

That evening, we made a fire, drank wine we’d planned to give to friends, had a good talk and a better night’s sleep. The next morning we headed to Grand Junction, Colorado for a stop on the way to Denver!

Cross-Country Tripping: Yellowstone, Wyoming

Gasp! My Thursday Travels post is going out on Friday! To my avid readers… I apologize!

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Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming  – July 5-6, 2011

My first huge trip planning mistake came around to bite us on the drive from Gillette, Wyoming to Yellowstone National Park. Despite the fact that we were already in Wyoming… the state which houses the park… I had obtained Google Maps directions that took us north through Montana. Brian pointed this out to me before we left, but I said: “We’ve been doing fine with these directions so far. Let’s just trust them.”

Well, I imagine you can see where this is going… almost eight hours later we arrive at the North entrance to Yellowstone National Park, hungry, tired, having to use the bathrooms, and then we see on the sign: Grant Campground, 79 miles.Oops.

I was soooo crabby about my mistake so Brian found a lovely unpeopled copse of trees and cooked me a 5 p.m. lunch. Then, after some super illegal U-turns to avoid the evening’s Old Faithful traffic, we arrived at our campsite! Brian did all the tough camping stuff like pitching the tent and building a fire (my job was to set up the bed inside the tent). We made friends with our neighbors and then went to sleep.

We woke up early the next morning to see the Old Faithful geyser before too many other visitors had the same idea. When we arrived, the rangers informed us that the next eruption would occur in approximately an hour, so we made coffee in the van and found a good place from which to watch the theatrics. Perhaps not surprisingly, the event wasn’t as spectacular as I remembered it being when I was young. But still… water shooting almost a hundred feet into the air because of pressure under the ground caused by hot magma. We learned that water’s boiling point there is 199 degrees Fahrenheit!

After seeing the geyser we drove back to our campsite and had a nice big breakfast. Then we took the drive (Yellowstone is huge; getting anywhere took at least half an hour) to the Upper and Lower Yellowstone Falls and the hiking trails there. We first saw the Upper Falls:

Then we hiked the South Rim Trail, which led to an overlook a few dozen flights of stairs below offering another, closer view of the waterfall.

We then hiked to Artist’t Point, which was crowded, and had hoped to continue on a prairie-and-woods-filled hike but found our way blocked; the trails were closed due to bear activity!

When we’d left the park and gotten back in a cell phone-serviced area we found out the horrible truth: a man and a woman had been attacked by a grizzly bear near where we were, and though they did everything right, the man was killed.

That afternoon we saw the Mud Volcano area were has the sulphur-emitting natural wonders for which Yellowstone is known, in part. Brian found the area very stinky.

We then went on a log and stick hunt; exploring the area around our campsite was fun. We were right on the edge of Yellowstone Lake.

Over a perfectly huge and roaring fire we played many epic rounds of 20 Questions, one of my favorite parts of our trip.

The next morning we had to leave, and it was terrible. On our way south we saw so many more beautiful sights and trails and we hadn’t even known they were there!

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Overall conclusion? We should have stayed there a week. The best parts of the park are the hidden parts, the dangerous and wild parts, and I can’t wait to go back someday.