My wife Rebecca and I just got back from a great trip out west! We took advantage of her spring break to head out to see some of our great National Parks. The trip was awesome. I had been to Arizona before so I had seen some desert landscapes. And I had been to Utah before but that was for skiing. But there is no preparing for the beauty of these parks. They were unlike anything I had seen before.
You can read the stories below, or just look at the pictures included, all of which were taken with my camera. If you click them, they get bigger!
After spending a quick night near the airport in Las Vegas, we hopped in our cool rental, a blue Chevy Malibu. In about two hours we arrived at Zion National Park. Our first stop was the campground to find a place to sleep. We got a nice spot with a fantastic view! It was March 31 and Zion’s official season started on April 1. That meant it was the last day that cars are allowed on the scenic road through the park. So we decided to take a car-tour of the park. We stopped at the Court of the Patriarchs, Weeping Rock, and a few other stops, eventually making our way to the Temple of Sinawava. The sites were great all along the way. Dinner was Rebecca’s famous (well, famous for us) Campground Pizza cooked on the open fire. The next morning I made us omelettes with fresh bell pepper and cheese (on the camping stove) and we headed out for Angels Landing. This is a great day hike (1500 ft climb in 5 miles, about 4.5 hours including a 45 minute lunch break). A lot of people tried to scare us off this one saying it was too scary and dangerous. That’s because the last 1/2 mile is a steep hike on narrow cliffs. There are permanently anchored chains to help you hold on. But in the end we didn’t think it was too scary at all. That didn’t take away from the fact that it was an amazing hike. After an exhausting hike up the steep lower portion of the trail we got to the even more steep “Wiggles” which brings you to the first great scenic overlook. This is where a lot of people end their day but we continued on the true peak. Scrambling along the rest of the way with the help of the chains was a lot of fun. And the view from the top was well worth it. It was a great place for our lunch. Not a good place to be if you are scared of heights but otherwise great. The hike down was much quicker but pretty tough on the knees!
Our second night was fun, we had an easy dinner… mac and cheese. The sky was again very clear with an almost full moon. The next morning after pancakes we were off for Bryce Canyon National Park. Bryce is hard to explain, you just have to see it. Bryce is full of Hoodoos, these crazy rock formations that. From a distance, you’d swear must have been man made. After once again pitching our tent on an incredible camp site, we headed off to the scenic drive to check out the awesome vistas. After an early dinner (I made sauteed chicken and red bell pepper with couscous on the camp stove) we headed back to Inspiration Point (I kept thinking of Ritchie Cunningham…”I found my thrill on Blueberry Hill”) to watch the sunset. After a “chilly” night at around 30 degrees, we went out for a day hike of the “Figure 8″, an 8 mile (I think) combination of three trails: The Navajo, Queens Garden, and the Peek-A-Boo Loop. It goes right through the heart of the park’s natural “amphitheaters”. On this trail we got to explore the Hoodoos that we had admired from above on the previous day. The sun was bright and hot, it was hard to believe the temperature was only in the 50’s all day. Also, we have learned that the key to solitude in these parks seems to be the longer day hikes. You start out with a lot of people but if you hike out a little bit the crowd thins as most people don’t do the 4-6 hour hikes that we like. So we did have some quiet, peaceful time out with the Hoodoos.
After another night camping around the freezing mark, we packed up and headed down to warmer climates at Lake Powell in the Glen Canyon Recreation Area. Since the lake was about 1/2 way to the Grand Canyon, we figured we’d spend a day there. After a quick stop to check out the Glen Canyon Dam (a pretty cool dam) we pitched our tent at the campground overlooking the lake. Since the previous parks did not have showers, we figured this would be a good time to wash up. We grabbed a handful of quarters and hit the “pay” showers. All cleaned up, we were off to the town of Page for lunch. Unfortunately, we quickly discovered there wasn’t anything to do in Page and the Lake didn’t offer much entertainment without a boat. Uh oh, time for a change of plans… we are outta here. We decided to bail on this stop and head for the Grand Canyon. This would give us an extra 1/2 day there to explore. There are really only a few decent hotels near the Grand Canyon in Tusayan (I knew the ones inside the park itself were already sold out). I called all 5 of them and got lucky on the last one, getting a room for the night. By the time we checked in there were no vacancies left in town so I think we got lucky! (We changed hotels the next day to the one we had booked previously) From here on out, we are no longer camping. Hotels, restaurants, and climate control!
Our first view of the Grand Canyon was from the Eastern entrance by the watch tower. Of course we had big expectations and the Grand Canyon did not disappoint. It is huge. It is beautiful. It is amazing. There is no question why it is one of the 7 wonders of the world. We stopped along the way a few more times to check out the vistas (it is a long drive into park) and before long it was near dusk so we stopped one last time to check out the sunset. We spent our first full day at the Grand Canyon hiking the South Kaibab trail (6 miles round trip, very steep, no available water). Unfortunately we planned this trip too late so we could not get a permit to hike to the bottom and camp overnight. But the Kaibab trail was a great way to go part of the way down into the canyon for a short while. It was pretty crowded until the first rest area where most people quit. We pushed on and made it to Skeleton Point where we could see the Colorado River for the first time. We had lunch and relaxed before the hard part, the hike back up the canyon. That evening we caught up with Rebecca’s friend Shaine and her husband Brett who drove in from Colorado to spend some time with us at the Canyon. Brett used to guide hiking and rafting trips in the Grand Canyon so spending the day with him is like having a personal tour guide. It was very educational and a lot of fun for me since I like a lot of facts. Since they have a four-month old baby Rosie, we were limited to the rim trails for the next day but the views were incredible and we saw a lot of the canyon, staying now mainly to the west side of the park. We also had the treat of several California Condor sightings.
The next morning we headed back to Las Vegas for one night before our flight home on Sunday. But I’ll write more about Vegas, it deserves its own post.
Once again Rebecca and I had great adventure. We met a lot of nice people along the way, saw many, many incredible sights, and had a lot of fun together. I am already looking forward to our next trip (which has yet to be planned)! Also, I am planning on posting some more pictures on the web soon.