North America: Canyonlands

Turtle life 

In Utah there is a place called Hurricane that is surrounded by rocks that looked like fat steaks. It was here that we stopped at a Wal-Mart where mum went in to gather some food, since I was eating everything we had in The Turtle. Mum and dad cooked dinner, I ate most of it, and then we all slept soundly to the pleasant sound of crickets chirping, to the sight of the beautiful sun setting on the stunning red rocks and of the luminous, throbbing glow of the huge Wal-Mart building.  

It was in the corner of the Wal-Mart car park we camped for the night. It was free, you see.

Zion National Park

Zion is brilliant. It’s like a big pottery experiment. It’s red. And it has beach! All the rivers we’ve visited so far have been lined with big round rocks. At Zion the rocks are as small as sugar grains, and it was lovely and soft to sit on and rub my little toes and fingers through it. But dad was very insistent that I not eat it. It looked pretty tasty to me.

To leave Zion we drove through a tunnel. One minute we were all ogling at the lovely rock out the window, and then were inside the rock, in the dark. When the lights came on again we were above the valley, in a landscape that looked like a whole pottery school had made crazy round striped shapes in hues that made me hungry – salmon, caramel, rock melon.

Mum and dad kept stopping to adore it all, to take pictures of the zany bumps that crowded the road, and then suddenly it was gone, as though a blanket of green grass had been tossed over it, much the same way as dad hides my toys under a towel to see if I know that they are still there (as if I don’t know).

Campsite shopping 

RV parks are a bit like the deli counter in supermarkets: when you arrive you get a number, which tells us where to park and hook up The Turtle to its water and energy drink. But in national park campgrounds, we get to choose! Mum and dad go camp site browsing.

And this browsing normally occurs at a time when I’ve been sitting in my throne for a few hours in a wet nappy and all I want to do is get out, eat a few bananas, look at the other turtles and do a bit of sky-diving on the couch. But mum and dad unhurriedly circle around these big campgrounds looking for a place to park for the night. All the squares of dirt look the same to me, and I’m sure The Turtle doesn’t care where it rests.

“Ooh, that one looks nice!” mum would say about one.

“No, not flat enough” or “no, someone has that one” dad would reply. More slow, slow circling.

“Hey, that’s a nice spot by the creek!” dad would say.

“No, not enough shade”, would be mum’s reply.

And so we would go, round and round, until finally we find a shady, flat place to park. Then, after all that effort of finding a lovely spot, we leave The Turtle and walk somewhere else.

Bryce National Park 

I’ve discovered a pink fairyland castle! It was a surprise to see it: after setting up camp in busy Bryce National Park we walked a short distance to a small cliff, and there it was below us.

Stretching way, way across the valley was a maze of old, pointy, pink stone walls that were built by pixies and imps, with paths winding their way down and up and all around them. Some of the walls had little round windows – I’m sure I saw the flash of fairies through some of them. 

There were rocky orange spires climbing into the sky, and pink columns too, many that looked like they were built with the wrong sized blocks could soon topple over. Some paths went though little doorways in the rock, leading to other open air rooms of the castle. It was magical.

Bryce Canyon

Good chickens 

Americans are so friendly. Everywhere we go they smile at me and say hello. And that’s not just because I’m incredibly cute. They do talk to mum and dad as well.

In a supermarket dad and I were queuing at the checkout with a chicken - a BBQ chicken in a bag. A voice behind us said: “The chickens are good today”. Dad turned around to the source of the chicken comment. An elderly chap stood there smiling. Was he talking to us? Did the man just say some secret code? Was dad a spy?

Dad: “Huh?” I don’t think dad was a spy.

Old chicken man: “The chickens are good today. Yesterday they were a bit small. Not enough meat on ‘em. Today they’re nice and plump.” This guy was obviously a regular in the poultry department.

Dad looked at our chicken. It did look like it was a once a rather well-feed bird. He looked back at chicken guy. “Well. We’re just passing though. It’s lucky that we’re here today, eh?!” Dad still needed to work on his supermarket conversation skills.

The old guy smiled. “You picked a good day for a chicken.”

Yep, Americans are friendly. They’ll talk to you anywhere. 

Monument Valley 

After driving through rainbow coloured land of sand and rock, we camped at a place where huge red monument hats sat in the desert, at Monument Valley. Here you can sit and stare at the gargantu-lossal rock pillars or go on a safari. We did both.

Now when mum and dad were talking about a safari with a real American Indian, I was getting excited about a face-painted chap in feathers, buffalo skins and moccasins on a finely muscled steed. When the Indian pulled up in a jeep wearing jeans and a shirt, I was slightly disappointed.

But what a ride! Mum, dad and I were whooping as we swerved and bounced over sandy tracks. The jeep tour took us through the maze of the monumental hats, past rocks that had animals painted on them long ago. And although our Indian driver wore denim instead of half a buffalo he knew every part of the valley like an old friend, all the names and stories of all the hats and painted animals that we could see. 

But it would have been nice to see him shoot something with an arrow.

Monument Valley

The Grand Canyon 

Here we saw the ends of the earth. The Grand Canyon is where the makers of the planet didn’t quite finish the job, and you can see deep inside the world, underneath where the ground should be, so deep that you can’t see the bottom.

You can see the other side, the other end of the earth, where I’m sure there were people looking across back at us, and also wondering why the makers ran out of ground and couldn’t complete their project. Perhaps they got some of their measurements wrong. Perhaps they made some of the mountains too big and ran out of rock and dirt. Perhaps there was a nice pub nearby that distracted them like they distract dad. 

Wildlife crossing 

By the canyon we saw a very small and hairy dog on the road. It stopped traffic. People took photos of it (mostly mum). Dad got very excited about it. It moved slowly, ponderously, as if testing the ground with each hairy step. Perhaps it was worried that it would fall off the earth’s edge. 

And then I noticed something about it: it had eight legs. It had more than two eyes. And it had a really big bum.

It was a tarantula. 

It was probably finding somewhere warm to sleep. I would have thought the end of the earth to be warm, but no. We had to wear all the clothes we had just to go for a little walk. When it started to snow it was time to leave! It was time to head for the coast.