It’s not the Sahara, nor the Gobi. But somehow after a few days we even get a kind of a desert feeling in the US: a dusty car, hot sun, cold nights, grinding of the teeths, hikes in the sand, … A visit to some of America’s most famous national parks. Magnificent landscapes hard to beat anywhere in the world. But also the feeling we’re rarely far away from the civilisation.
Zion National Park, 15th April
Beautiful Page. A last glimpse and we leave it. Dear Page we won’t miss you. You’re not as miserable as your reputation; nevertheless it still needs some improvement to take you to our hearts.
A look at Lake Mead’s very low water level. Presumably again due to unfair raining pattern – probably caused by Chinese or other guys. How unfair – no fake.
Then we head on to Zion National Park. The day is beautifully sunny, but pretty chilli and very windy.
On the way a short hike to some toadstools – these strange mushroom like rocks in the middle of nowhere.
Further on thru the Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument. Some colourful landscapes, a former place captured in many Western Movies. Can still imagine John Wayne chasing Paul Newman (of course before he became a salad sauce producer) to defend Maureen O’Hara’s hard-wearing honour. Or something similar.
In the afternoon we arrive at Zion National Park.A stroll to the famous Canyon Overlook …
… then the famous sunset pic – fully synchronized with a few others taking exactly the same 1.
The next day we need some real views of the national park. There are only 2 options. Angel’s Landing – a cliff pretty high up above the valley. As it’s a weekend there’s probably no chance to get up: it’s too crowded. Remains the Observation Point. Less folks, but double length and double height. Never mind, let’s go.
1st we have to find a parking. Everything is full within the park, outside you get a chance for a hefty 20$. Thanx, nice guys. Then we have to take the park’s old fashioned buses. Finally it takes nearly 2h to reach the starting point for the Observation Point Trail.
Whatever. We don’t have to queue up on the path. But still quite a few courageous guys trying to get up. Whatever, temperature is ok, it’s not really too strenuous, neither too long – and it’s a delight for any vertigo addict. Just have a look at the side of the path – the valley is just a few 100m below.
To start with a number of steep ramps to get up to a side canyon. Strangely, the guys even paved the path.
Then we’re up – beautiful view on Angel’s Landing on the other side of the valley.
On thru a narrow canyon …
… then up to the top of the mountain in many more switchbacks, …
… admiring the best view in Zion NP, …
… then the same way back. Just to have an excellent Thai dinner – as an alternative to standard American eat-more-than-you-can fare.
The next day: 1st a huge American breakfast. Motel style. Incredible what these guys consider reasonable and delicious food. We’re so impressed we have added an extra post about American breakfast customs.to the story
Having eaten too much of this food stuff only some strolls in the valley of the National Park seem to be feasible today.
A walk to The Narrows – the trailhead of the homonymous trail thru the bed of Zion’s Virgin River.
Then to the Emerald Pools. At least we’re not alone. It’s rather a matter of queuing up. Whatever. We find the pools. Unfortunately the emerald colour of their water has turned into a brackish brown.
Nevertheless, a nice stroll, many opportunities to say excuse me, sorry, thank you each time you bump into a co-hiker or 1 of their numerous kids.
Enough of Zion National Park. A short drive to Kanab. We have to go to nearby Coyote Buttes South on 17th – exactly.
The story. You’re not allowed to enter this place in the Paria Canyon – Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness as you like. Access to this famous area of eroded sandstone is strictly limited to 20 guys per day. So we had to carefully organize this trip. 1st of course, we tried The Wave – probably the most famous sandstone formation in the US. Similar conditions to access, but much more people trying to access. About 500 every day. That’s why they organize a lottery you can apply 4 months in advance. No need to mention, we’ve not been among the happy 1s. Nevertheless, we applied for the Wave’s sister in the south. For that you just have to be fast enough to get the permit when they open the competition exactly 4 months in advance; on the 1st of the respective month, exactly at 12am local time: go to their website, fill in everything as fast as possible, pay a few bucks – and if you’re lucky you get the permit. We’ve been lucky. Crazy system isn’t it? Whatever, some 2 months after having done this, a letter from the US Ministry of the Interior arrived in Laufaburg with the permit. This all-important paper has to be fixed on your pack during the visit. If not probably you’ll be shot immediately by any ranger.
Well, on 17th April, in the morning we drive the 100km to the Coyote Buttes South. The last 20km some sand to a place called Cottenwood Cove. Prado gets really enthusiastic, thinks we’re in Namibia’s Kaokoveld again. Arriving there only 3 other cars. Nobody around. So we start searching our way to these famous sandstone cliffs. It’s a walk thru deep sand, no path, just OSM on the Garmin and MapsMe to find the places. So it takes some time to reach these awesome formations. Then we arrive …
… climb up the rocks – the Cottonwood Teepees, …
… to admire this truly impressive scenery created by wind’n’water.
The colourful, steep cliffs and the fantastic landscape dotted with so-called teepees.
A last glance at these structures – and we’re on the way back to Kanab.
We find a beautiful old-fashioned motel by the roadside …
… and a great place to have a beer.
The next day another adventure in the Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness: Buckskin Gulch – the longest slot canon in the world. We don’t intend to walk the whole length; we decide to be happy to see the entrance. Fortunately the guys did not yet have the time or did not feel like installing a complicated permit system. We just pay a few bucks and we’re on the way.
At the beginning the trail follows the path to the famous Wave – this place with the lottery system to get a permit. Thus there are serious warnings about how easy any hiker may be shot if not behaving correctly.
Soon we reach a 1st slot canon, …
… it gets more’n’more narrow, …
… finally we reach the intersection with the Buckskin Gulch.
A few petroglyphs to admire.
Then we head downstream. After some distance the trail is blocked by mud and water.
Walking the other side – upstreams is slightly easier. Still some water. Anyway, we’ve explored the entrance of the canyon.
We head on to Page. On the way a look at nearby Marble Canyon – nothing too interesting.
As really bad weather is forecasted we decide to evade southwards, to Monument Valley. Maybe we have a chance to avoid rain, snowfall and gusty winds.
Kayenta, 19th April
The next morning we leave Page. The weather forecast proves its reliability. Clouds, windy, dusty.
We drive to Kayenta. A desolate settlement in the Navajo Reserve. But a couple of motels and some fast food eateries for the odd tourists visiting Monument Valley; absolutely no watering holes.
Arriving there, the receptionist can’t help showing her unfriendliest side. As we’re a little earlier than the official check-in time mentioned on internet she categorically refuses to check us in – even if the motel looks pretty empty. Should you ever think about staying in the Monument Valley Inn – think twice, there may be more customer oriented places.
What to do? We decide to drive towards Monument Valley until it’s time for THE RECEPTIONIST to receive her distinguished guests.
In the meantime we drive thru a sandstorm. Thus visibility limited to a few 100m. No reason to visit Monument Valley today.
So we head to Mexican Hat and on to the Goosenecks – this bends of San Juan River. At least those we could see.
The next morning. Storm is over, some sun, some clouds, icy temperatures.
Now it’s our turn to visit Monument Valley. Arriving there we’re astonished what infrastructure they have in order to handle all their visitors. After paying the quite heavy entrance fee we arrive at a huge parking. Adjacent a kind of a hotel, a huge souvenir shopping mall and a restaurant. Beside that the famous campground where you may pitch your tent for 45$ – just to get a chemical loo and nothing else. Let’s hope their huge visitor center is better value.
Whatever. We head for the 17 miles loop. The only road or trail you may use without taking a considerably expensive local guide. On the way everything is well marked. Especially, all you shouldn’t do without getting into severe contradiction to Tribal Law or their commercial interests.
Well, there still remain numerous picturesque places to visit.
Even if there are more’n’more providers of all kind of wanted or unwanted services settling in the middle of the most gorgeous landscape.
Thus some places remember somehow to oriental bazars in the Moroccan desert. Especially, if large package tours arrive.
Ignore it. Drive a little away, walk a little out of the loop – if nobody sees it. And explore the nice places.
2h later we’ve seen what we had to see.
Anyway another storm is approaching.
Monument Valley in the retro perspective: The landscape still looks pretty nice. In some places you may still imagine the Marlboro Man smoking hard before he died of a cigarette poisoning. However, we’re not sure if the place is still worth a visit. Maybe an improved balance between the customers’ expectations and the local operators’ economic interests may lead to more satisfaction for everybody. Who knows. Maybe that will only happen once no tourists will visit any more.
We drive back to Page. On the way some nice snowfall.
Brice 22nd April
The next morning nice sunshine is back again. So we plan to try the Cottonwood Canyon Road thru the Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument. A gravel road connecting Page and Bryce National Park. Described as 1 of the last real adventures in this region. Some others even advice not to travel it with 1 car only. What the hell – it’s only 60 km.
However, nobody should ever try to drive this road when it’s wet. At some parts the loamy surface will convert immediately into bottomless swamp. Well, due to the rain yesterday we ask at the visitor’s center about the road condition. They haven’t got a clue; maybe they´re simply too anxious or too lazy to find it out – or their operating budget is nowadays entirely used to build the great Mexican Friendship Wall. Who knows. We decide to give it a chance. Indeed, there are a few signs of humidity on the road, but no problem at all. And we’re not the only 1s trying it.
Beautiful drive, …
… a very colourful landscape, …
… and some short hikes to explore a little more along the way.
At the northern end of the road the famous Kodakchrome Basin. An entrance fee to be paid. No idea for what reason.
Anyway there’s a rumour that this area is more interesting for girls than for boys. So Monika gives Martin no chance to avoid this place.
Whatever. We have a look at it, some short walks and …
… late afternoon we head on to Bryce National Park.
Bryce – probably the most gorgeous park in the US. We have to have a look even if sunset takes place on the other side of Bryce’s famous rocks. Nevertheless, still a lot to admire.
The next day a hike below the rim. Fortunately a shuttle bus drives to the starting point – and another bus picks us up at the end of it. A look at the panorama of Bryce Point – Nomen est Omen.
Then the trail going up´n´down and winding thru rock formations for many km until we reach a few hours later Sunrise Point.
And at the end what a reward:
a real fat American hotdog.
And that’s it for this post. More incredible adventures, unfair stories’n’fake news, plain and alternative truths from our American trip in the next post. Soon – promised.