19 August 65 : Fun, friends and fire : Grand Canyon, USA

This continues the letter dated 16th August 1965, which began:

Dear family,

Thursday 19th August

Grand Canyon

We spent the last two days in Bryce Canyon National Park – which was fascinating.

It consists of many deep canyons, and all in reds, oranges, blues, white, grey and almost every other colour you can imagine. This has all been caused by erosion over the last 60 million years, and has left some spectacular sights. From the deep canyons you see huge pillars above you which have been left as the softer soil erodes away.


Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah P17.jpg
Tony’s postcard, captioned: Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. Located in the mountains of Southern Utah, Bryce Canyon offers many colorful and scenic views. It may be reached by Union Pacific Railroad to Cedar City, Utah, thence by delightful motor bus tour through unsurpassed Western scenery.  


Believe it or not we have become quite interested in all this nature around us, and yesterday morning we arose early to join a group and go on a conducted hike down through one of the canyon trails. The ranger who took us explained all the facts and features and it was a most absorbing walk – although the climb back was grim!!

Also, we were able to meet a lot of people in the group and one couple, who had been to England last year, and who said they had received great hospitality, insisted on returning it by buying our lunch for us – which was very much appreciated.

We spend the rest of the day sightseeing in the van and went up to one viewpoint which was at 9,100ft. As we were looking for a site to camp we saw a young fellow all alone, and he was eager for us to join him, and we had a very pleasant time with him. He insisted on making our breakfast this morning and we had flapjacks and maple syrup which were great.


Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah P13.jpg
Tony’s postcard, captioned: Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. Bryce Canyon called by the Palute Indians “red-rocks-standing-like-men-in-a-bowl-shaped-canyon” is a series of fourteen enormous amphitheatres in which the walls rise in sculptured terraces and pinnacles nearly a thousand feet above the floor of the canyon.   


He had had a stroke of bad luck in Colorado recently. Driving along he had run into a heavy mountain storm, and egg sized hailstones crashed on his car smashing every bit of glass and putting about 100 dents all over his car, which was a small Volkswagen. He was heartbroken as he didn’t have the full insurance to cover this.

We had two great nights at the park, all these parks have a lodge and an inn, and at this particular lodge there was a lecture with slides, about other parks.

This was followed by a great show, put on by the employees, who are mostly students. It was great fun and made for one of the most enjoyable evenings we have had in the US. Last night there was another lecture, and then a Walt Disney nature film, which too was very good.

We had a very unfortunate incident the day before yesterday. I was putting a new gas capsule into our stove when it burst. All the gas shot out and exploded when it reached the other burner, which was alight. The stove was inside the van, and so was Colin, who vanished behind a wall of flame.

The whole van was filled with flame, but luckily Colin acted like lightning, and swept the whole lot (dinner and all) outside – and we escaped with nothing more than a scorched roof (since cleaned) and a singed head of hair (Colin’s)!!! We haven’t used the stove since, and plan to buy a Primus stove when we get to Las Vegas – which is the next big town we hit. Since then we have been cooking over wood fires which is great fun and a lot more convenient.

We left Bryce Canyon National Park this morning and headed south for the Grand Canyon and arrived this afternoon.

We drove down through some beautiful countryside and went through a place where the film The Greatest Story Ever Told was filmed. Also a lot of Walt Disney films and western films are shot in Bryce Canyon.


Queen Victoria Bryce Canyon National Park Utah P14.jpg
Tony’s postcard, captioned: Queen Victoria, Bryce Canyon, National Park, Utah. One of the best known formations at Bryce, Queen Victoria is located on a palisade of pink and white limestone in Queen’s Garden, near the floor of the canyon. 


We entered Arizona today, adding another state to our list. Arizona is a nice state (judging from the little we have seen) although it’s very desolate and in places very flat.

I am at present writing this in the Grand Canyon Lodge where we have just seen their show. These shows are all good and make a very enjoyable evening out.

We keep meeting people that we have seen in other parks. This afternoon we were walking up a road in the Grand Canyon park and we saw the English couple in the Land Rover, and they stopped and we had a chat. We have seen them several times on the road, and they have seen us too. They gave us the address of their relatives in New Zealand and urged us to go and see them, which of course we will, as this usually includes a free meal!!!

We told them how our last meeting with them had caused us to cancel all our tickets, and they roared with laughter, especially when we told them we would blame them if we are stranded in America for a few more months.


The lounge at Grand Canyon Lodge, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona P7.jpg
Tony’s postcard, captioned: The lounge at Grand Canyon Lodge, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. Built of native stone and timber on the brink of the North Rim of Grand Canyon, Grand Canyon Lodge is unique in design and arrangement. The huge plate glass windows of its lounge and dining room command excellent views of the Canyon. 


It’s funny how things change so suddenly. A few days ago I was dreaming of a voyage to New Zealand, basking in the sun on deck, swimming and eating like lords, instead now I shall probably be stoking the boilers!!!

Well, I am thoroughly enjoying my trip and my one big regret is that you can’t enjoy it too. Still, I expect you had just as enjoyable a time in Cornwall.

I am looking forward to getting some mail in San Francisco and getting up to date with all the news. By the way you had better forget the other dates and places I gave you, and only write to San Francisco until I tell you when we are leaving there.

I’m sorry my plans keep changing, it must be quite confusing for you, but that’s the best part of this sort of life – we are ‘footloose and fancy free’.

Well, that’s all for now. I will get this off before the weekend, as I left it rather late last week. So look after yourselves and give my love to all, especially to Carol, who I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye to.

All my love,                                                                                                                                           

Tone xxxx

Notes from Tony:  We felt incredibly sorry for the fellow who’d been caught in a hailstorm as the damage to his VW was quite severe – it looked as if someone had been hitting it all over with a hammer. He said he had cried when it happened. 

As for the gas explosion in our own van – this incident was far more serious than I made it appear in this letter to my family.  It was quite horrific and could have had disastrous consequences. The empty gas cylinder was being replaced by a full one and something went wrong resulting in all of the gas from the full cylinder pouring out.

Stupidly, we were doing this replacement while the other burner was lit – hence the resulting huge explosion of flame. Thankfully, Colin’s reaction was immediate, and he swept the whole lot i.e. the burning cooker and the meal being cooked – out of the open doors of the van, and onto the ground.  The panelled roof of the van was soot covered and scorched, as was Colin’s hair, but apart from that there was no other damage, thanks to Colin’s quick thinking. We had a very lucky escape.

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3 thoughts on “19 August 65 : Fun, friends and fire : Grand Canyon, USA

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