This was published in the June 10th edition ot The Providence Sunday Journal

My wife, Diane, and I have traveled to many places, but not enough in our own country, especially the national parks. It was time. So many told us how magnificent and indescribable they were. “You have to see the canyons to believe them.”

That was more than we needed. We booked a tour to the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon and Zion national parks.

The trip started in Kingman, Arizona, the historic town on Route 66, where we met Diane’s cousins and visited their home in the desert. It started with me walking too close to a rattlesnake coiled at the corner of their fence. I never saw him. In a second walk around, Mary Ann pointed it out. She stammered, “Oh my goodness, you walked so close. You’re lucky because this species is the most venomous.” Experienced in the ways of the desert, she bagged it and took it away.

I tried not to think of what might have happened, but at the same time, I felt a (slight) exhilaration with a confrontation with danger.

After a nostalgic visit to the Route 66 Museum, we were off to the Grand Canyon. It was all people said it was and more. I’ll try some words that do not do it justice: magnificent, marvelous, magic, miraculous. We both had cameras and filled the flash cards with too many pictures.

In two days, we were off to Utah to visit Bryce Canyon and Zion.

Monument Valley

Bryce Canyon. Hoodoos Rock Formations

Though the daytime temperatures hovered near 100, the air was dry, and a cooling breeze carried the smells of the desert. The unique beauty of canyon reds, streaks of white, cliffs of brown, mountains of purples, oases of greens, golds, reds and oranges, and the brilliant blue sky brought the desert alive.

With Navajo Joe, a Guide

The sky was bigger, closer and bluer than I remembered from my days at the Rhode Island shore. The galaxy seemed within reach. Diane asked, “What words other than spectacular, stupendous, showy, simple, sometimes complex, romantic and substantial can you add to what we see?”

“How about supercalifragilisticexpialidocious?” I liked it.

Vast vistas with vivid, intense technicolor. Peach-colored sandstone rocks of all shapes and sizes – mushroom and egg-shaped – were born millions of years ago. Did our guide say 20 million? Early inhabitants were the Navajo, Hopi, Havasupai and Pueblo. Did she say 16,000 people?

The tour reminded us of how important our country and its beauty are to us; how prized the parks are and should be. They sing out that we must exercise caution in our respect for this land. It is our soul. The national parks experience did not replace the other wonderful travel experiences, but they rose quickly to near the top. We achieved what we wanted. We saw and savored more of our country, leaving us wanting more.

The power and beauty of nature makes one wonder about an “energy” out there, no matter what one calls it.

The rattler and the parks … unique, unexpected, exciting and extraordinary, are etched in our memories.