" O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, For purple mountain majesties above the fruited plane! America! America! God shed His grace on thee, And crown thy good with brotherhood From sea to shining sea! "
The trip that led to my interest and motivation to travel. Above are just a few of the pendants that were purchased on that trip. Most of my money was spent on pendants that were placed on the walls around the bedroom. In the 50's and 60's their seemed to be more of an aura concerning the National Parks of America. At that time their was a growing interest in traveling with the new interstate highways being planned. The parks did not have so many visitors as today and were being made more accessible to automobiles.
1960 Humble Interstate Map
The maps that have our recorded route of the trip on are an old HUMBLE OIL COMPANY and an ENCO map of Central and Western United States. There are very few interstate hwy markings on the 1960 map. The sections of the interstate that are marked are short and not complete. Much of Route 66 was as it used to be. Another era. The map used showing the route is the 1967 map because it is not so marked up with other trips.
1967 Happy Motoring Guide Map
The trip of wonder, the trip of awe. For a 12 year old who had very limited experiences in traveling; to travel to so many beautiful and exciting places in two weeks was thrilling. Just imagine a 5 or 6 year old experiencing the wonder of the Christmas season. That is the feeling back in the summer of 1961. That was the year that I traveled with my Grandfather, Grandmother, Aunt, Uncle, and Cousin on the trip that would set in motion and mold future interest. Think of your own interests that gives you so much satisfaction and pleasure. How were you first exposed to them? Who was it that sparked your interest in going a certain direction? You will shortly read of the beginnings that would direct me into two areas. From that time forward the interest were to travel; and to take pictures! For an introduction click on Cameras at the top for more info.
My cousin Allen graciously allowed the use of some of his slides of that wonderful trip. Those slides will be mixed with others as we revisited some of the sites later. Some of the old post cards that were picked up on that trip will be used as well. Looking at the old map that has the route marked; as time allows, sights and experiences that were encountered on that trip will be written about. There were several things that happened that almost killed that trip before it began. If that trip had not occurred, I wonder what interests, if any, would have taken their place pushing me in another direction. We have made attempts in the past to follow that same route on later trips but was never able to make it happen. We had the best intentions but it just did not happen. There is just to much to see and do.
The Summer of 1961. Try to imagine the times and put yourself into the proper mindset. Can you remember what was going on. Who was president. What music was playing? Who was playing baseball and football? My friends were playing with Lionel Trains. There was more interest in train travel with its great service. Then the Great Northern Railroad rolled into Glacier National Park in Montana. The Santa Fe Railroad stopped at Grand Canyon National Park. The national parks had more of an aura about them. If you picked up a National Geographic Magazine and read about the parks they seemed to take on proportions bigger than life. The opportunity to travel was less back then, compared to today. My Dad worked for the Santa Fe Railroad in the 40's and 50's, I treasure the memories of visiting the Santa Fe depot in Carthage. The telegraph key would be chattering. There were Santa Fe train calenders on the wall. They even kept then an old steam engine to switch the train cars. Occasionally they would let me ride in the Diesel engines. What fun it was to be allowed on the switch engines and ride while the cars were shuttled around to make up a train. One wondered just where each car would wind up and what State they would be unloaded in.
At our family get together s it was announced that my granddad, grandmother were thinking about taking a trip to Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon. Grand Dad talked about going through Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming Idaho, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and home to Texas. The excitement began to build as the summer of 1961 approached. Then Granddad asked if I wanted to go. Yes! if Mom would let me. At first she said no, but after time I wore her down and she finally gave in. Granddad let me remove copper wire from the armatures of starters and generators before the trip to make some spending money. Finally enough copper was removed to come up with $20.00. I was rich!; at least in my mind.
As the day approached we were becoming more and more excited. What an experience; the thrill as we woke up that morning ready to start the trip. The map above shows our intended route. It turned out that we kept by it most of the time. Notice the route marked by a pen. Like all trips it was an adventure! The excitement was the journey; what would we see? Who would we meet?; and where would we go?
Granddad always liked to get up and get started before daylight. You know, age is an interesting thing. I can remember details of what happened 50 years ago at age 12, but today I'm not sure what happened 2 days ago. The mind is a amazing creation. Back to the story. I remember not sleeping much that night. When everyone began to stir the morning of the trip what excitement. We ate breakfast that morning took the picture below and then hit the road. I had my money, snacks, binoculars, and maps so that we would make it ok. Then out came one of the maps for tracking the trip. We had a long way to go just to get out of Texas, but trips are not just arriving at a destination; mostly they are the adventure during the journey. We would have more excitement(probably not the right word) the first two days than we bargained for!
The Beginning of the trip. My Uncle, Me, My Aunt, Grand Dad and Grand Mother.
Remember earlier it was mentioned that this trip almost did not happen. Three times this trip was in jeopardy of being derailed. The first challenges happened shortly in the first 100 miles. We stopped to eat lunch at a Tastee Freeze in one of the towns just short of the Oklahoma border. Thirty miles later down the road at the next town, Aunt Marie realized that she had left her purse on the table that we ate at. All of their money for the trip was in that purse. Oh my! Was the trip dreamed about for so long over already. If her purse was lost we would have to turn around and return home. What a mood swing; from euphoria to the dumps dreading that we would turn around and head back home. When my Aunt, Uncle, and Cousin went back to check on the whereabouts of the purse another problem came to the surface. Granddad was having trouble with the air conditioner in the car. He went to a repair shop in town to have it checked out and yes, it was broken; it would have to be replaced. Oh my, can you sense the dread that was running through my mind. I was waiting at any time for the dreaded words, "we are out of money, the trip is over." Granddad left us at a bus station where we could eat and rest while the car ac unit was replaced. That took in the neighborhood of 3 or 4 hours. In the meantime the news began to improve. My aunt returned with her purse and hallelujah all the money was there. Some kind lady had picked up the purse and returned it to a Tastee Freeze employee. As soon as the car was repaired we struck out again on our journey.
Remember we were now 3 or 4 hours off schedule. Granddad was one of those people who wanted to make 500 miles a day. He was determined to go all the way to our planned first stop even though it was a long way distance. That destination was Woodward, Oklahoma where we would camp at Roman Nose State Park, just out of town. We had planned to stop on the way at Lawton, Oklahoma to visit an American Indian Museum and gathering site but there was no time now. We drove past and headed North. We stopped to eat supper just before nightfall at El Reno just west of Oklahoma City. We arrived at Roman Nose State Park around 10 P.M. We were all tired and anxious to get to sleep; it was dark, no lights. We stopped the cars, erected the tent in a sandy but level area; pulled out the sleeping bags and tried to go to sleep. That night there was a strong steady breeze. We woke up the next morning with sand in our teeth, clothes, sleeping bags, and hair. Because we arrived so late we slept a little later. When we looked around at daylight we were amazed. We were out in the middle of the dirt rode in a turnaround. The plush campgrounds with the grass, tables and other campers were about a 100 yards away. I know they must have thought that we were nuts! Thank God no drunk came down that rode that night.
OK, it is day number 2, a new day with a fresh start. That morning we ate a good breakfast in Woodward and headed toward Kansas. Granddad told stories about cowboys and indians; he loved to read western novels. He also was part American Indian. Our plans are to stop that afternoon and go to the replica of Dodge, City Kansas of a 100 years ago. We were on schedule talking about what we planned to do. I was ready to spend some of my money at a souvenir shop some where. About a 100 miles from Dodge city Kansas before we crossed the border, we pulled in to a filling station to get some gas and check the water on my Grand Dads car. We get back on the road and then about 20 miles down the road water and steam start boiling out the car. Now what?? This just cannot be happening again. After pulling over to the side of road and opening the hood, we see the problem. That station attendant had forgotten to reseal the radiator cap properly and all the water had boiled out the car. We had a problem. All the water had boiled out, the only water we had was iced down. We waited approximately 1 hour and then poured some of the ice water in the car. Grand Dad was worried that it might crack the engine block but we had to get going. We would drive about 20 miles, then add more water and then start again. That was a long 100 miles. When we finally limped into Dodge City they did find a station attendant who could back-flush the engine to try to get the rust out of the radiator. He fixed the car! That night was spent in the City Park right next to a pony ride with music which did not close until around 10:00 pm. So far this trip was not much fun. However that night the museum and souvenir shop was open at Boot Hill so a least we visited there before we went to bed.
Lets have an object lesson here. With all the problems that we encountered there was talk about turning around and going home. However Grand Dad would have none of it, we had started this trip and he was determined to carry it through. Looking back over the years from today one thinks of the difficulties that arose when we go after something special. Sometimes the moment would look bleak, but continuing would bring about blessings. The best things usually don't come easily, they seem to come about only with time and persistence.
Leaving Dodge city to start day three we all wondered about what would happen next, so we started out that morning with some doubts and trepidation lingering in our minds. Each time before when we crossed a state line there were problems, but when we crossed into Colorado we were excited. Highway 50 that runs between Dodge City, Kansas and Pueblo, Colorado is a wonderful way to get introduced to the mountains. As we drove along after crossing the state line, eventually the foot hills of the Rocky Mountains came into view. As we traveled along gradually the mountains loomed larger and larger as we neared Pueblo, Colorado. Remember back in the early 60's there were no seat belts. I was bouncing back and forth across the back seat of the car asking questions about how we would go over those mountains. The excitement of seeing the outline of the Rocky Mountains for the first time was just thrilling. I can still remember reaching Pueblo and winding around some of the mountains as we headed to our first big tourist attraction at Canon City, Colorado.
The Royal Gorge
The Royal Gorge is huge, steep, and deep; and has a suspension bridge over it. Even today getting close to the edge it gives a sense of breathlessness and awe. Something that deep and that steep, it is awesome. I consider it one of the big 10 tourist attractions in the USA. The Santa Fe Railroad and the Rio Grande Railroad had a gun battle over the right of way to this pass back in the 1800's. The Rio Grande won.
After leaving the Royal Gorge we headed North East up to Colorado Springs, Colorado. What a beautiful city. There were the red rocks at Garden of the Gods and cliff dwellings. Also were Cheyenne Mountain and Pikes Peak. I asked my Grand Dad if we could drive up to the top. No he said, there was a slight knock in the motor and he did not want to chance it. But still he was persistent; we were going to finish this trip.
Grandmother, Aunt, Uncle, Granddad, and me.
The Manitou Cliff Dwellings are located in Manitou Springs, Colorado, at the foot of Pikes Peak, the mountain that provided the inspiration for the writing of, America the Beautiful.
Our Campground in the Evening
We drove into the Air Force Academy. What fun, we were looking for the air planes but never saw any. I had built a plastic model of a F-100; oh how I wanted to see one of those.
Next we headed up to Denver. There we turned onto famous Hwy 287.This highway begins at Port Arthur, Texas and travels all the way up through Glacier National Park to Canada. What a beautiful Hwy. Years ago I remember reading an article about a trip along this hwy in some magazine but so far haven't located it. Out of Denver we drove by beautiful scenery, then we began to climb till we went over the pass that looked down on Laramie, Wyoming; just beautiful!
Me and Grand Dad
On 287 we ran across this historic land marker. Just think, the overland stage began crossing here during the civil war.
Back in 1961 there were few large chain store eating restaurants like McDonald's etc. Each town or city that we went into eat was an adventure to see what we could find to eat. The menu and the flavor were always different. But one could always find a Chicken Fried Steak. Besides the sandwiches that we carried that was what I lived on during this trip.
The trip from up 287 from Laramie, to Rawlins, to the Great Parks travels through some diverse and changing scenery. One of the interesting areas was an area that traveled through some huge red rocks and passing an interesting butte. As time allows I will find and place the pictures of those here from a later trip.
Just before entering the Parks we crossed the Continental Divide. Beautiful!
The signs were an interesting part of the trip. The signs up in Colorado and Wyoming have that rustic national park flavor. Just neat!
The great parks of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Please, if you travel visit these areas, you will not be disappointed.
Next big stop is Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. We would drive through Laramie, Rawlings, and then on up 287 to the park. On the way we run into one of those golden nuggets that one finds very infrequently in LIFE. Hwy 287 enters on the East Side of Grand Teton National Park. This place is just beautiful. The scenery looking west out of Rockefeller Lodge is one of my favorite views of anywhere in the United States. These mountains are the American version of the Alps. A lush green plain with Snow Capped mountains just on the Horizon; with a big blue water lake just in front of the mountains. All I can think of is WOW. The view from Signal Mountain is right up there beside the other view.
My Cousin Allen the photographer in front of the 13,000 ft. Grand Teton Mountains.
Bears are Hams!
Bears begging for food
Wow and we haven't even made it to Yellowstone. That evening we drove into Yellowstone and camped at West Thumb campgrounds on the south end of the park. The Yellowstone Park of that day was different, it is not the same. Then; there were bears everywhere! In the early years of the sixties bears were still allowed to beg for food in the human populations. You had to experience it to get the awe of the Park. I remember one evening just before dusk when the light was beginning to ebb away. Allen and I were strolling through the camp ground looking for opportunities to take pictures. One bear was almost upside down in a large trashcan looking for food. When he pulled his head out of the Allen snapped the picture and the large flashbulbs that he used startled the bear. Then the bear growled at us and we were the ones that were startled; we were only about 20 feet away.
Bears usually won't attack but if they do you are in trouble. Those sharp claws can tear off your face with one swipe. The mother bears are the most dangerous if you accidentally get too close to their cubs. One lady reached out to pet one of the cubs and the bear swung at her. If her husband had not jerked her back she would have been injured. In bear country there are two other facts you have to keep in mind. The first is to make noise as you walk through the trails in the forest, you do not want to startle a bear and surprise him with your presence, especially if you have your family along.The second is to not leave food out. They are attracted to fish like a magnet. All the campgrounds and trails repeatably remind you with signs. The first night we were there, the people next to our camp stayed away that night but left fish out. When we woke up the next morning their camp was in shambles, we heard not a sound that night.Sobering!
Looking at the map of Yellowstone above the main tourist roads to the big attractions are shaped like the figure 8. From West Thumb Campground we traveled west on the first leg of the journey. Next stop: Old Faithful Geyser! From year to year the time frequency is a little different but it is very predictable. After years of reading about it, here we were standing waiting for Old Faithful to erupt. Thrilling! When it finally erupted we were not disappointed; it was huge. In geyser country you need to look carefully after your children. The water looks so clear. But it is scalding hot. If they get off the marked trailed they can be burned badly, or maybe even killed. The west upper side of the figure eight is surrounded by the geyser basin, almost one geyser after another.
At the very top of the park is the northern entrance at Gardiner, Montana. This place is just beautiful! This is a great place to spend the night and just visit. Coming southeast from there the next big stop is Mammoth Hot Springs. This is a mountain where flowing water with calcium has turned the side of the mountain white; again just beautiful. Tower falls on the way back down is one of the next big stops.
Then probably the most beautiful place in the Park, right in the middle of the figure 8 on the east side. The Lower and upper falls at grand canyon of the Yellowstone. Indescribable wonder!
Inspiration Point - The Lower Falls at Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
Then on back down past Grand Lake back to the campground at West Thumb. There are a lot of wonders on the way but you should discover them for yourselves when you make the opportunity.
That night at camp we rested after a wonderful day of site seeing. My Granddad changed the oil in his car. The next days plans were to head south through Grand Teton National Park and then on to Idaho.
The Teton Range
Buffalo are plentiful in the Park
Streams are ice cold in this park!
There are lots of fun places and trails to walk around the park. They want you to make noise so you hopefully will not startle a bear.
Downtown Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Remember this from the movie "Any which way but loose?"
Our girls love the mountains as well. We made this trip in 1984.
Just incredibly beautiful!
The Snake River that winds around the park
Looking down on the river
The Chapel of Transfiguration in the Park
After touring Grand Teton National Park and Jackson Hole we headed south.We skirted the border of Idaho, cut the southeast corner of the state passing beautiful bear lake and headed for Utah.
You may recognize this chorus from the folk song, “Big Rock Candy Mountain,” attributed to Harry “Haywire Mac” McClintock and made famous in a 1950s recording by Burl Ives.
Shortly after the release of the song in 1928, some local residents, as a joke, placed a sign at the base of a colorful mountain in Utah naming it “Big Rock Candy Mountain.” The name stuck, and the mythical Big Rock Candy Mountain of the song became perhaps one of the most recognized geologic sites in west-central Utah.As a 12 year old I thought this was a cool post card. I remember this song well from the 50's.
Then down the state line between Wyoming and Idaho just taking in its beauty. We stopped at one the roadside pull outs for a scenic view and started talking with a family. They were from Longview, Texas which was very close to home. We turned into Bear Lake and just cut the corner of the state of Idaho. Then it was almost straight south to Utah. We drove through Ogden and then on down to Salt Lake City. What expansiveness and beauty witnessed as we drove in the wide open spaces of that area. We met some of the friendly people. They even allowed us to camp on the church grounds not far from the Tabernacle and very close to the park in the picture below. Allen bought a copy of the "Book of Mormon" and was comparing scripture verses with those in the Bible to see how they differed.Me in the park
One of the things that stands out in my mind was a visit to either the State Capitol building or maybe it was a museum. We were high on one side of town looking looking straight down one of the longest and steepest streets I have every seen. It seemed like the street stretched on down the Mountain for 10 miles.
It was here that we had a clash of the wills again. My Grandmother and Aunt wanted to turn South East and head straight for home. But my Grand Dad said no way, Mike was going to see the Grand Canyon. I still remember that moment.
We turned south and drove a long way. The scenery was changing, the trees was getting scarce and the temp was getting hotter. On the way we passed right between Zion Canyon and Bryce Canyon National Parks. We did not stop, not enough time.
After dropping south through Utah, we turned east at Kanab, Utah and headed toward Glen Canyon Dam, Lake Powell and Page, Arizona. When we reached the dam site, the 710 foot dam of today was only about 200 ft high at that time.
Summer 1961 Present
In 1961 only the Arch Bridge was completed. It took your breath away to look over the side of the Bridge 700 feet high down to the dam being constructed.
As we left page Page, Arizona we headed south toward Cameron. The scenery was beautiful in its own way. Barren, desolate; this was the scenery I can remember seeing in many Western movies. Somewhere between Page and Cameron I vaguely remember high in the mountains passing through two rocks. There was a sign that came up stating "test your breaks" including the picture of a a truck going down a steep incline. As we passed trough the opening between the large rocks on each side of the highway suddenly a huge, beautiful, panoramic vista appeared before us. For the next 7 miles we went from the top to the bottom with my Granddad worried about the brakes on the car getting too hot.
We stopped at Cameron to get Gas. As we exited the car; it was hot, it was white from the glare on the surrounding area, and the wind was blowing hard enough for you to almost lay back into. I was glad to have my clip-on sunglasses.
Now as we left Cameron we were excited. We were nearing the Grand Canyon thought of so often. Driving along the highway we passed small canyons, but when we first caught site of the main canyon, there are no words to do it justice.
The scale of the immense size of the Canyon is just staggering. Its chasm is 277 miles long and up to 18 miles wide. The bottom of the canyon is 2,400 feet above sea level, about 4,500 feet below the South Rim and 5,400 feet below the North Rim for an average depth of about one mile. The Colorado River flows west through the canyon and averages about 300 feet width, 100 feet in depth and flows at an average speed of four miles per hour. Your senses are wowed by all this expansion, it is one those awesome times in life.
Just about everyone has heard about the famous mule rides there. If you plan to ride you have to make reservations at least 9 months to a year in advance. You need to be in shape. If you have ridden a horse you know how that saddle can feel like if you are out of shape. But here you can't get off to relax those muscles, you have to grin and bear it through.
Look carefully at this picture and the one above
For the hikers there is Bright Angel Trail that leaves from Grand Canyon village, but be careful. It is also recognized as the second most dangerous trail in the U.S.
"The descend form trail’s highest elevation of 6,860 feet down to 2,480 feet is 8.1 miles long and is very strenuous. Water is limited and a lot of cases of overexertion occur. This is definitely not a trail for beginners and is open year round for those who are daring enough to take on this trip."
People can do stupid things on vacations. I never will forget the time that Beth and our girls were on vacation at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Colorado. There were signs everywhere warning of cliff dangers. We were walking along one trail at the top of the ridge, off the beaten path, and then I saw a small brick ledge about one foot high along the trail. We got closer and closer. I peaked over that ledge - it was a shear cliff - 2000 feet straight to the bottom. "Get back" I yelled and, "grab the girls' hands". After that sobering encounter my casual meandering ceased. I can still vividly remember that sight peering over that shear cliff. Be extra careful when children are along. Only responsible, experienced people should be taking part in some excursions.
Everyone should visit the Grand Canyon. Like a child's expectation of visiting Disney World, every American should experience the grandeur of the majestic mountains and valleys of the USA. Each is Stunningly Beautiful in its own way. What a wonderful heritage this country has!
Granddad, Me, and Allen the Photographer
The Santa Fe Railroad had a line that ran into Grand Canyon Village. I can still visualize the Santa Fe Calenders from the depot and travel posters of "Visit the Grand Canyon on the Santa Fe". As we walked around the village and the rim trains came to mind quite often. Here is an example of one poster below.
Well, we finally had to head towards home. This was a time of relief for my aunt and grandmother, but kind of a downer for me. The time left on this trip was beginning to run out. We left Flagstaff, Arizona and drove to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Albuquerque has a high 12,000 foot mountain not too far from town. We stayed in a motel that night and I thought, " We have one more night after this on the trip." The next morning we were on the road early. Only we did not stop! We drove through Santa Rosa, New Mexico into Texas arriving at home that night at 2:00 p.m. driving straight through.
One interesting thing happened leaving Lubbock, Texas. We got lost! We had to back track 20 or 30 miles and start out again.
Family is important. The memories made are replayed mentally in our lifetimes influencing our future interest and decisions. How our lives are enriched by people who share their enthusiasm for their interest with others. As you can tell I am so thankful to be allowed to tag along on that trip.