Grand Canyon Love Story chapter two

Two Goals Accomplished 1922

Having graduated from high school in a sleepy Michigan town surrounded by cow pastures and lakes, we figured that college could wait. With our parents’ blessing — so we recounted to the Eberlys — we set out to hike America’s 48 states1 and work our way as we went. Some of our objectives were hazy, but five principal goals stood out — the Rocky Mountains, Yellowstone Park, the Pacific Ocean, California, and Grand Canyon. Through geography lessons in school, and the reading of popular travel novels, these five scenic wonders of America had become part of our lives.

With our parents, we had made trips by train to the East Coast and the South, so were familiar with that part of America. All our new goals lay westward.

We hiked much, but we rode a lot more, with lonely truck drivers, homesick salesmen, farmers and ranchers, once with an escaped convict who pulled a gun on us (to see if we were armed) before letting us into his wheezing Hupmobile. A 19-year-old girl picked us up out of Mason City, Iowa. She said she was married but had had a spat with her husband. Giving us a ride, then telling him about it, so she felt, would make him jealous. We didn’t wait to find out. We always enjoyed the company of 19-year-old girls, but preferred them less conniving.

When pocket money dwindled, we landed a job in the North Dakota wheat harvest, then traveled and worked our way across the Great Plains.

At Bismarck, North Dakota, a tiny ferry carried us across the Missouri River into the Rocky Mountain time belt. A large roadside sign struck us head on: “Mandan, Where the West Begins.” Winfield and I both shivered with excitement. We were in a new world.

Cultivated areas became scarcer. The topography changed; the rolls and swells developed into abrupt buttes. Broad valleys were strewn with bare, massive rock mounds. It was a freakish landscape. We had entered North Dakota’s Bad Lands.

A few days later, while enjoying a particularly long lift in a classy Nash which took us into Wyoming, the country made another sleight of hand change. Open range land spread on either side of the road. Once we saw cowboys rounding up a herd of Herefords. The horizons expanded even more on either side of us, but seemed to close in toward the west.

“Looks cloudy there ahead,” I said. “Do you suppose we’re in for rain?”

The driver of the Nash laughed, a little patronizingly it seemed. “Those aren’t clouds, son. Those are the Rocky Mountains.” The shivers which Win and I had felt upon crossing the Missouri River changed to goosebumps which seemed as big as those misty peaks looming in the distance.

By dusk we could see a whole range of well-defined mountain giants, with the haze of other ranges in the distance back of those. The sun set between two peaks which formed the eastern gateway to Yellowstone Park. Here, in one giant eyeful —or rather, a whole week of snow-peaked, steaming, geyser-strewn, grizzly-beared eyefuls — we would experience the first two goals on our list — the Rockies, and Yellowstone Park. After several glorious weeks of seeing, it took a month or so of digesting. Winter began closing in. Cold winds and snow flurries whistled around our ears. In the Coeur d’Alene Mountains of northern Idaho we found a job, working for two months in a silver-lead mine half a mile below ground, where the temperature never changed.

On the day after Christmas our feet began itching once more, and our next goal commenced calling. We cold-footed it for California.