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(before the trip, how it came about, preparations, etc)

(if you want to skip this stuff and go directly to the story with the pictures, click here)
My Dad was born in 1920. November, 1920, to be precise. Born to an era of muddy city streets, no television, Model-T Fords, and of George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue". A time far removed and different than our current networked world, with e-mail and instant messaging and jet transports and Gore-Tex and GPSs and.... on and on. Yet, it is precisely these strange new things, which must have seemed to him so alien at first, that have resulted in this presentation you read today. It is precisely the fact that my dad has accepted and embraced all of these new things, with all of the enthusiasm of a hip teenager, that you read the words before you now.

As may be known by some of you already, I have become a lover of great outdoor adventures, of exploring, and of relishing the world around us. And recently, as a result of my educational background in computer science, I have created this webpage that you are reading today. For some reason I desired to record, document, and share my experiences, for myself and for others.

Wishing to share this information was one of the reasons that I set up my dad with Internet access just a few years ago. These were totally alien concepts to him, this 'computer' thing, and this 'internet' thing. In his day a tube-stuffed radio was considered a high-tech instrument. Now he was presented with a grey plastic box with a myriad of controls, acronyms, procedures, and complexities unimagined. What seemed second nature to someone who grew up in the information age was not obvious to one who hadn't: What's the point of left-clicking versus right-clicking, anyway. What's window focus? What's with all those funny little buttons on windows? What about all of these different passwords, userids, codes, .... what is the point, how do they manifest themselves in real life?

You might be thinking... what's my point here? Isn't this supposed to be a presentation about desert hiking? Why is he going on and on about the struggles of coping with technological change? Well, my point is that he did it. My dad, in what to me is a model for how to keep one's outlook on life fresh, took to his new computer and the internet like a duck to water. Oh sure, he still accidentally screws up his desktop, or mixes up his login credentials, but all things considered, he's an internet maniac. web-surfing, e-mailing, instant messaging. He is 82! Think about that. My dad is 82, and when I see an instant message pop up on my screen while I'm working that says "this IM thing is really cool", I have to stop, smile, and be very proud. When I am 82, I hope I take to quantum teleportation and telepathic communication and whatever other fantastic things they have then as well has he has to this!

Ok ok.... back to this trip. Because of my web page, and because of my dad's internet nosiness, he has, over the last year or two, been following my adventures via my web reporting quite closely. He has enjoyed my narratives, marvelled at the pictures, and, over time, I began to see in his e-mails to me a certain longing, a wistfulness. A kind of regret, in a way, that he had never been able to adventure in the way that I have been. My realization of this brewed for a while, maybe a year or more. And then, last fall, a germ of an idea entered my mind: maybe wishes can come true. Why not do better than have him read a stuffy presentation? He can actually GO on one, I thought! I thought also, of course, of what the popular reception to this idea would be. I'd get "he's too old", or "his knee is bad", or "you can't risk leaving mom alone". But, dammit, life is meant to be lived, and when one has a dream, of what use is it to hide in comfortableness, in what is normal, in what is expected? The only use for that kind of attitude is to generate regret!

So, slowly my plan hatched.... I would do what I could not to suggest, or to ask, or to plead for him to go; But instead I came up with a plan to ensure that he could not say no, but that he be compelled to go, period! I'd give him a Christmas gift, I thought, that he'd never forget: a hiking trip, with his son, to a place of fantastic beauty that he'd never seen before. And he would enjoy it. My beliefs were unwavering on this matter, and I was going to make it happen, no matter what. The perfect location, I thought, were the desert parks of Southern Utah and Northern Arizona. I have for many years been in love with the stark beauty of the area, where the word 'desert' transforms itself into a different and uniquely beautiful landscape in each and every separate park.

So I dreamed up a "contract" (really a long-winded letter that said my dad had to go with me or else...), wrapped it up along with a hiking pole and booked a flight home for Christmas in Bathurst, New Brunwsick. Before I left, I discussed this whole matter with George, my oldest brother, and while doing so, thought about how great it would be to have him along as well. It would be a great dynamic... Dad, oldest son, youngest son. In the end, after some discussion, George decided to come along. Things were sliding into place.

I was very cagey at Christmas - I wanted this to be a surprise. I brought along hiking boots for sizing... I hid the hiking pole as a gift, and I asked lots of questions about how my Dad was, how was he feeling, how was his knee (he had had some knee surgery a few years ago) - did it hurt going up, or down, had he been exercising.... I'm sure he must have thought all of this attention was a bit strange, but he seemed to be oblivious to my ulterior motives.

My Dad's reaction Christmas morning was a bit mixed. He didn't get the import of my letter right away, and suspiciously regarded the hiking pole as some sort of cane, symbolizing old-age and infirmity. Well, I thought, after all, he has never been on any sort of trip like this, so he really doesn't know what it will be like.

I realized early on that the success of this trip hinged on having my dad in shape enough to be able to enjoy himself and accomplish our outings. So I spent the next bit of my Christmas break impressing upon him the need to walk, and walk a lot, to do hills, to walk for long amounts of time. I joined him for the first few walking sessions at the local arena. He did well, but I could tell that it didn't take too long before he found the fast walking a bit tiring. There were 3 months to get him into shape!

Fortunately, after returning to Ottawa after Christmas, my dad really ramped up the exercise, going almost every day and doing harder and harder walks. His enthusiasm seemed to drive him, and I was pleased to see his progress. I kept having to tell him to slow down and walk longer, since he seemed to be tending towards walking as fast possible over the same period of time. With hiking, endurance is key, not sprinting.

So, the weeks ticked by... January, February.... tickets booked, car rentals made, motels reserved. I made up gear checklists for both George and Dad, rifled through my mess of gear, borrowed extra stuff from friends when needed. We agreed on a 7-day long trip : from March 18 to March 25. This is an excellent time of year to head to Southern Utah and Northern Arizona: the temperatures are moderate, in the mid-teens to mid-twenties (Celcius), and the crowds of summer vacationers have not yet arrived. The port of entry would be the colorful city of Las Vegas, cheap to fly to, rent a car from, and close to the areas we wanted to visit.

Below is an overview map of the area, and of our intended path:

our intended travel path

Ok. Now that you are familiar with the background, and with where we were going .... Click on the 'Next Page' button to start our coverage of the trip!
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(last message posted on Thu. Aug. 09, 15:17 EDT 2012 by George)
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