Hiking and biking
Trip Start Aug 31, 2010
20Trip End Jan 04, 2011
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Where I stayed
We arrived in Durango, Colorado and got a room at the Days End motel for $40, cheaper than the $45 advertised on the internet. It appears that 'walk ins' get better rates than reservations. Durango has loads of old style Western buildings, but by the time we got the free trolley bus into town, it was too dark for photos. Anyway, in our attempt to sample as many local microbreweries as possible, we ate and drank at the Carver Brewery, then walked the mile back to our motel.
On Tuesday, we drove to Mesa Verde, a national park with ancient Native American cliff dwellings, dating from around 1200 AD (and that's really ancient for the USA!). The park alone would have been worth visiting for the views - we could see for about 70 miles in every direction. For a measly $3 each, we went on a guided tour of Cliff Palace, the biggest of the cliff dwellings. The buildings were fascinating, and so was our very knowledgeable and amusing guide, Ranger Ray.
On the drive from there to Moab, Utah we reached our 4000th mile on the road and crossed into our 10th state. Scouring the motel discount coupons, we'd discovered that Moab wasn't cheap, but we'd found one that was reasonable. Unfortunately, due to the Jeep convention taking place in Moab, they didn't have any rooms available at the coupon price, i.e. they didn't need our business. So, with some trepidation on Amanda's part, we checked out the dilapidated Lazy Lizard hostel and booked into one of their little cabins, for $33 a night. In fact, it was great value - comfy bed, very close to the toilet block, excellent showers, a space in front of the cabin where we could cook, and wifi in the common room.
Wednesday dawned bright and sunny for a mega fun-filled day of mountain biking. We hired a couple of REAL mountain bikes with bouncy suspension everywhere and big, fat tyres - worth $2800 each! We did the 10 mile Klondike Bluffs route - amazing! It had rocky tracks, difficult sandy trails, but best of all, 'slickrock'. That's what they call the big, relatively smooth expanses of bare sandstone (relatively smooth, because actually they roll with dips, breaks, the occasional hole and even dinosaur tracks!). It was a revelation to both of us what it's like to ride a really good mountain bike - you just glide over most of the bumps - but not all of them! We're now trying to work out how many hours of supply teaching we'd need to do to buy better bikes at home...
Moab itself is a great little town – everybody there seems to be on vacation and every other shop sells outdoor gear or rents mountain bikes – so it has a very laid back feel. After the hard work of the day, we decided we'd earned ourselves a meal out, so we visited...another microbrewery. This time it was the Moab Brewery, which offered us good food and beer, with the added advantage that it was only 20 minutes walk from our hostel, although it did include the scariest part of the trip so far, crossing the seven lane highway in the dark – these roads aren't designed for pedestrians. We slept very well that night!
The plan for Thursday was to head for the Needles district in Canyonlands national park, but we'd been warned that their campground with 24 sites filled up every day, so we set off early in the morning and managed to get one of the few vacant sites. This was the first time we've ever had our tent pitched by 10:00 am! The weather forecast warned of thunderstorms, but luckily, it stayed dry for our 7.5 mile hike through some breathtaking scenery. One of the things that surprised us about desert terrain is how varied it is - as well as the expected sand, cacti and sagebrush, wherever there's some water you get lots of greenery and colourful flowers. Despite all the beauty, by the time we got back to our campsite we were exhausted - two days of vigorous activity at altitude had done us in. We were both asleep by 9:00 pm, but awake again at midnight, due to the torrential rain hammering on our tent. It rained, and rained, and rained, and rained...we packed up a very wet tent in the morning.
On the drive down to Flagstaff, Arizona we had more rain, but still managed to see some of the fantastic rock formations of Monument Valley from the road, as well as the one that gave the town of Mexican Hat its name. As we approached Flagstaff, Humphreys Peak looked stormy and dramatic. In our continual search for cheap motel rooms, we arrived at the Knights Inn because we'd seen an internet ad for $39 a night. Turns out it was a different Knights Inn and this one was $50, but when we turned around to go, the manager decided that since the motel was nearly empty he wanted our business, and knocked it down to $39. So now we've learned another trick in motel pricing!