I generally avoid answering questions regarding when we will be returning to Australia, as we have no desire to pinpoint an end date and then feel obligated to keep it. Hence a visit from my parents has diverted any feelings of guilt I may have felt regarding time between catch-ups and the possibility of missing my Mum’s 70th Birthday! So thanks to their initiative we’ve dodged a bullet!!
They would cruise the Pacific for a few weeks before arriving in Seattle, have a wander around San Francisco and then head for a reunion with us in Flagstaff!
Sounds like a good idea!
I know I will sound spoilt, but we were quite envious of the few weeks my folks spent cruising! Yes, we spend time as ferals in the scrub, but we can also use cutlery in the correct order and have no problem undertaking the arduous task of eating, drinking and relaxing aboard a 5 star moving Hotel!!
Reunion hugs dealt with, we proceeded to smash our way through a mountain of smoked ribs and other samples of local cuisine at the “Bigfoot BBQ” in Flagstaff before the 4 of us headed out toward the Grand Canyon.
We had a lovely log cabin booked about 80km from the South Rim sporting great views across the Arizona plains and it proved to be an idyllic location to catch up and relax!
The next few days passed easily with another visit to the Grand Canyon South Rim, (which never gets old), along with a journey to the picturesque towns of Sedona and Jerome where we again practiced stomach extension exercises devouring lunch at the Haunted Hamburger!
Our time under one roof ended with a road trip to Seligman on the old “Route 66” and then into Las Vegas via the Hoover Dam.
Linq Hotel in Las Vegas had a perfect location and provided my folks with the next few nights’ relaxation whilst Jen and I settled into the Circus Circus RV Park within walking distance of all things bright and shiny on the strip!
I guess you could call Las Vegas a bit of a zoo but we absolutely loved it. From the tacky kitchiness of the souvenir shops to the upmarket hotel end of town it was a truly liberal party zone with entertainment to suit all expectations from the seediest imaginable right through to Broadway shows and 5 star cuisine!
People watching takes on an almost professional level of intensity, and at times the lack of clothing can be rather nice – at other times, however, it’s a little startling! Hard to believer that it’s possible to expose skin in such large cubic meterage but when you are 150kg, I guess the wrapper has to go with it! Goggling tourists and stress relief seeking locals had the overall effect of a pretty friendly vibe, maybe the giant Pina Colada was helping!
The Bellagio Fountain gracefully enhanced the strip during its regular choreographed performances and The Venetian Hotel was another standout with amazing spaces created to replicate Venice! Some may think it’s a tasteless reflection of the real thing, but I beg to differ. It has the clear advantage that if you fall into the canals in Las Vegas, you won’t die of an incurable disease!
Hugs and sad faces were inevitable as our time together drew to an end! My folks continued their own adventure via Los Angeles and then made the long flight back to Australia. We had spent a great week together and despite the internet technology that keeps us so easily in touch, a personal rendezvous can’t be undervalued.
The mercury had been rising constantly whilst we’d been in Vegas and was pushing 40 degrees C when we departed. Adding to the oppressive heat, it had also been Memorial Day Weekend, which was reported to have brought in somewhere in the order of 330,000 extra hot and sweaty visitors to the desert metropolis! It was certainly packed and yet I thought the overall feel had been enhanced by the inundation of weekend revelers.
Departing Vegas and an hour or so later we were camped upon the shore of Lake Mead and by ourselves once more.
Zion National Park is a stunning gorge with sheer rock faces enclosing a lush, almost tropical, valley. Climbers dangle here and there from cams jammed into cracks as they defy gravity! You have to submit yourself to mass commercial tourism at this heavily visited wonder; an official bus the only way to access the numerous locations within the park assuming you can even find a parking space on the bus route!
It was all a little too much for me. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit but after a few hours of what was really comparable to wandering around a large supermarket on Christmas Eve trying to get those last minute items, we bailed out! I’d lost the ability to concentrate on the marvellous scenery, not able to see anything past the sea of “North Face” clothing being worn by the unquantifiable number of adventure seeking visitors.
I think I’ve had it on my own terms for far too long now. The smothering effect of the masses is something I need to prepare myself for. Visiting Vegas and other such destinations, you just expect it and I guess, as such, don’t really notice it. Then again, in those destinations it’s the people, in a way, that make the experience, where as a National Park for me is an interlude with nature and solitude rather than a trip to Walmart!
The drive east from Zion NP was spectacular. A vista of ancient creamy coloured sand dunes turned to stone with the obvious windswept patterns that we see so often in shifting sands, now laid bear after centuries of nature’s chiseling efforts.
Onward to the south through the rather attractive little town of Kanab and a stop at the visitor info centre bore fruit! On their advice we backtracked a few miles up the highway before we deflated the tyres and drove a long sandy stretch of arid landscape and descended into a dry riverbed. A little while later and we were camped right at the entrance to Peek-a-boo slot canyon! We had our own private slot canyon for the afternoon and relished in the cool environment that lay within.
National Forest camping is as easily located near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon as it is on the South Rim but with sites even presenting on the rim itself! At around 800ft higher than the South Rim, it does have a different feel! Having had the privilege of spending time at each geographic location, I’d have to say they both have their own attraction and if you’ve the chance and time, then I’d suggest you indulge in a visit to both!
Picking our way into the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, (GSENM) we were looking for Buckskin Gulch, a photo of which we’d seen on the cover of a Utah tourism publication! After a long dusty drive, we found the Wire Pass car park with a full quota of cars resting in the blazing sun whilst their occupants were out and about exploring various trails in the area!
Spellbinding is the only description I have for this treasure. I’ll admit it was quite difficult getting motivated to hike the exposed mile and a half to the start of the canyon after soaking in the Patrol’s icy air con whilst outside temperatures stayed in the high 30’s despite the late afternoon hour! We stood outside with solar radiation microwaving us as we loaded up the backpack and staggered off along the dry red sandy track in a style akin to Lawrence of Arabia!
After a couple of kms, the track narrowed and the sandstone rose skyward. Just like that, you’re in a slot canyon! Cool and shaded, it was like diving into a clear blue sea on a hot summers day! Ahead of us lay around 25km of the most stunning slot canyon in the US! It’s able to be hiked end to end if you’re prepared and have a ride organised at the other end, but for us a few km was enough to be subdued by it’s beauty.
Narrow and high, strewn with rounded formations along its sandy base, it twists and winds its way along the desert floor! From above it must appear as a maze, a groove threaded through the inhospitable red desert landscape whilst down below it’s truly magnificent.
A few hours later, the Patrol was a welcome site after the shimmering return stumble along the baked sandy track. In need of a campsite, we’d not seen much in the way of shaded offerings in the area, but fortunately a chat with a great BLM officer pointed us in the direction of Pareah Townsite a little further north!
With a little maneuvering, we were able to camp within the limbs of a huge foliage laden cottonwood tree, even indulging ourselves with a swim in the clear running creek just behind the camper! We were grateful for the fortuitous meeting with Kara as a sun soaked campsite with glaring heat by 5 in the morning was not something we had been looking forward too! In complete shade with a cool breeze we’d arsed the perfect site!
Dusty washboard roads and capstone before again popping out on the black top – Bryce Canyon luring us in for a visit!
The professional pictures seen constantly in tourist brochures really do show many natural wonders in a manner that seems quite alien to their actual appearance – Bryce a victim of this style of art! Much like an airbrushed anorexic pale-faced super model that in person looks more like a starving homeless person than a sexy example of what we all apparently strive for!
Absolutely stunning and with amazingly eroded sandstone spires, particularly due to the light altering effects of sunset, but for me there was only really one overlook that made Bryce a must see.
Every location/state/country has it’s list of scenic attractions but when you put them all together in global terms, attractions that could be perceived magnificent in isolation may pale against greater world comparison. With the unfortunate problem of that perspective, it’s pretty easy to cherry pick the magnificent from the amazing and the “really? -that’s it?” When travelling for a shorter duration or to single destinations, I don’t really think the comparison angle comes into it!
We chose to drive the Burr Trail – around 100km of more ridiculously lovely natural landscape. I’ll have to lay off the descriptions as I’m running out of ways to describe such beauty without constant repetition!
Another lakeside camp, although on this occasion, found with a lot of U-turns and dead ends! It felt as though every gap along the shoreline of Lake Powell that was available to camp in was filled with some form of camping equipment!
Lake Powell is a large watery playground fed by the Colorado and San Juan Rivers in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and extends from the previously visited Page in the south, northeast for 185 miles. Houseboats tethered to moorings in their hundreds, jet ski’s and ski boats providing noise pollution like a swarm of hornets and kayaks in every nook and cranny! If the Bass Pro Shop sells it then it’s to be found here!!! With miles of navigable canyon formed by the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam, there is without doubt a truly relaxing waterborne journey to be had wandering downstream and exploring the water filled canyons. Might put that on the bucket list!
Swimming in the lake was akin to sensual pleasure as that evening, the mercury strayed no lower than 26°C! Our little “swampy” aircon in the camper, whilst a welcome relief against the stifling oppression, was providing a breeze akin to laying in front of an exhaust fan in a fish and chip shop!
Car ferry across the Lake and the journey led us onward to Natural Bridges National Monument.
We ascended the “Bears Ears” peak to find ourselves aloft the hot desert landscape in a cool forest respite perfect for camping. We explored a 4WD trail to Beef Basin for a bit more Ancestral Puebloan Indian history! A fairly rough track with constant rock steps requiring some concentration, I was rather keen on keeping the oil in my diffs rather then returning it to the earth via the actions of a rock encounter, so it was a slow journey and I wasn’t overly sad to complete it.
The heavens opened the following day with torrential rain and thunderstorms – care would be required whilst off the beaten path now as without doubt there would be inundation of tracks traversing low canyons and creeks!
Receiving our first taste of Canyonlands NP with a visit to the Needles District, it already seemed as if the descriptions of the inspiring terrain ahead were understated.
The storms vanished as quickly as they had arrived and the dust reappeared unfortunately.
Needles overlook pics cave houses pics and hole in rock bridge cave thing pic.
Approaching Moab, we again looked for high, forested ground for the night. The cooling effects of camping at altitude are addictive and fortunately the Manti La-Sal National Forest in this part of Utah provided the opportunity to retreat thousands of feet above the hot desert floor to camp providing a much cooler nights sleep.
The following day we continued up the scenic forestry track to around 11000ft with the cold demonstrated by a good covering of snow. Unfortunately the trail surrendered itself to a rather large snowdrift as we approached the pass that would see us descend into Moab on the other side. Judging by the lack of wheel tracks in the snow beyond our location, I felt we’d reached the limit of our travel on this trail and a U turn was required.
Walking the snowy section, I was quite relieved that I’d called it when I had. There was no way past the snowy blockage without shoveling for hours or foolishly trying to drive over the snowy obstacle no doubt resulting in an exciting slide down the near vertical pine tree laden scree that awaited.
I’m sure the intrepid driver before us found himself vacuumed onto his seat given the near death location of his tyre tracks. He’d obviously come to the same realization as I only 50 meters farther along the track before precariously reversing out!
We later discovered, via the Forestry Service Office in Moab, that all of the high trails in the area were completely impassable having received a completely unseasonal and late dose of snow!
Hmmm – that would have saved us some time! Funny how you always find out after the event…
Cya – Justin.