We had a couple of weeks to kill before our flight back to the UK so decided to go and do something completely different: this involved a LOT of driving, some hiking in some national parks (NP), most of which were full of red rocks, and some chilling by the pool in the Las Vegas. We were also lucky enough to meet up for one final final time with the Aussies – hopefully see you guys in the UK or Oz at some point soon! I got to see a rattlesnake AND two tarantulas (Adam’s very jealous) and we think we had a black widow spider in the bed one night (and I had been worried about Australia where we only saw dead snakes).
In LA we had found a WarmShowers host to look after our bicycles for a couple of weeks to save us lugging them around in the back of a car, so once they were all boxed up, we picked up a hire car, got fleeced by American insurance costs and hit the road. We had a vague plan to head to the Joshua Tree NP and camp there for a few final nights under our holey canvas but incredibly, we got to Yucca Valley in the desert, and it was raining and continued to do so for two days. So we holed ourselves up in a motel for a couple of nights and instead lived the American Dream and just drove around the park instead. Finally on day three the sun came out and so we packed up the tent and headed to one of the campsites in the Joshua Tree NP and set up for the night. I got to see a rattle snake about 10m from our tent (yay?), thankfully from the safety of the hire car, and we sat up some of the (cold) night watching the sunset and star gazing. Our Nordisk tent has now done its job and with all of the holes in the outer will sadly have to buried somewhere. It has done us proud and we are already talking about a buying a new one when we get home.
From Joshua Tree google told us it was about 4-5 hours to Apple Valley, near Zion NP; it was actually more like 6 or 7 hours and a LONG day in the car, but we were rewarded with the magnificent location and stunning scenery in Zion. We had planned to go and do the “iconic” Angel’s Landing hike in Zion, which apparently involved a “strenuous” last 0.5 mile walk, with a few chains drilled into the rock for help. However, what it didn’t mention was how crazy busy it could be on a weekend and so after we made an attempt to ascend, I decided it was outside of my comfort zone so sat down on a rock whilst Adam continued. He turned around a few metres later owing to “a clusterfuck” of people making it almost impossible to go anywhere. It was certainly very steep, it wasn’t a hike, more of a scramble and with all the people it was just crazy; I’m surprised, given all the H&S stuff we’ve seen in the US, that you’re actually allowed up there!
From Zion we drove to Bryce Canyon NP, again full of red rocks but of a different formation; the most stunning way to appreciate Bryce, in my view, is to go and do the Queens Garden/Navajo loop/Peekaboo trail figure 8 combination, which will take you up close with the impressive hoodoos (the tall rock structures). It’s impossible to pick which NP was my favourite – Bryce or Zion – both are well worth a visit.
The next day we headed to Monument Valley, stopping off at the Lower Antelope Canyon, a slot canyon, on the way there. Whilst this was quite spectacular, it is also very popular and it took us 2 hours to cover the 400m owing to the number of people. The guided tours didn’t really explain the geology or history, but seemed more there to point out water carved rock formations that looked like animals for people to photograph on their iPhones with selfie sticks.
Our final day of red rocks (I was pretty red rocked out by now) saw us getting to the Grand Canyon. We went walking separately as Adam wanted to do the South Kaibab trail, whilst I was feeling a little grotty and so didn’t fancy the prospect of walking down and then back up the steep Canyon, coupled with the moody grey clouds overhead. After the Angel’s Landing debacle in Zion I was also wary of hikes referred to as “strenuous”. Adam did part of the South Kaibab Trail down to Skeleton Point, a round trip of 6 miles which was described as taking 4-6 hours; Adam did it in 1hr 45 mins. I instead walked along the South Rim trail, taking it easy, and got to see tarantulas on the path (ha Adam!). I tired to take a photo with my foot for perspective but the tarantula got a little aggressive so I hastily removed my foot from his (?) personal space.
We knew the Aussies, Neil and Ali, were camping in the Grand Canyon that night so we drove to the campground and drove all around it and were about to give up when we spotted them. It was great to see them one final time, give them our firewood and wish them well on their travels for the next few months; one of the highlights of this trip has been meeting like-minded people on the road and realising that in fact we’re not totally crazy for embarking on this trip.
After all those red rocks we were ready to relax in Vegas for a few nights. Vegas is not a relaxing place. It is 24/7 crazy. We’ve been to Paris, Venice, Rome, Egypt all to a backdrop of gambling, drinking and general merriment. The view from our hotel room is a Sphinx’s bottom. You can walk into Prada/D&G/Christian Louboutin carrying a yard of margarita dressed in not much more than a bikini and no one will bat an eyelid, in fact they will welcome you in (note: I did not do this, nor did I buy any Louboutin’s – dammit). It is insane but we’ve had a brilliant time. I think five nights is more than enough though.
We head back to LA tomorrow to pick up the bikes and mooch around for a night ahead of our flight on Wednesday night back to normality/reality. :-O After being the USA for nearly three months we’re both ready for a decent cup of tea (with milk, not bloody half and half!). Heading home after all this time away will be strange and it will undoubtedly take a while to adjust…