Zion, Condors, Dam and Glitz

Trip Start Apr 20, 2012
Trip End Sep 01, 2012

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Where I stayed
Day Suites of America
What I did
California Condor

Flag of United States  , Nevada
Friday, June 8, 2012

Thankfully we had a very cool night and all enjoyed a good sleep and a nice break from the 100 degree weather. We were up early and into Zion National Park by 8am. Because it is a small park and it receives over 3 million visitors a year, they have introduced a mandatory shuttle system for getting around the park. In other words, you cannot drive the scenic drive and instead hop on and off the free shuttle buses (powered by propane) as often as you want and at any number of different stops.This works surprisingly well and the wait is no more than 7 minutes between shuttles. So we hopped on and traveled to the end of the scenic drive in order to see all of the stops and options and plan our route back to the beginning. The last stop involved a mile long walk to where the canyon narrowed dramatically and also included the option to walk up the river as at the top end, the canyon was no wider than the river. As a Kiwi, it was interesting to note the people who chose this option all were outfitted with walking sticks and what looked like special rubber and waterproof shoes that they had clearly hired. We worked this out when a group of 5 people all showed up with matching red and black shoes, followed by another group with matching black and yellow shoes. Back home, we would have gone up in our hiking boots just like on any other walk. Nevertheless, it was a great walk and we all enjoyed being at the bottom of a canyon for once and looking up at the top instead of down at the bottom. As well, this walk was in the shade and was quite cool, so much that the kids had to wear their jerseys to stay warm, what a nice change!
Then we made our way back down through the park and there were two other major highlights. The first was when we stopped at "The Big Bend". It was here that we had been told that we might be able to see California Condors. Lo and behold, there was a ranger set up there with a spotting scope and it was trained on a condor in a tree. As we listened to her talk and learned about condors, it actually lifted off and went for a short flight above the canyon floor. What a treat. Apparently there are only 400 California Condors in the world, half of which are in captivity and only about 80 in the Colorado Plateau. And, they migrate back and forth between the Grand Canyon and Zion, so we were extremely lucky to see one of eighty and to see it fly. It truly is impressive and with a wingspan of nearly 10 feet, a massive bird. The second highlight of our walks was the walk along the VIrgin River and spotting the cottonwood trees that had been recently dropped or gnawed on by the resident beaver population. We are feeling very lucky in our animal sightings.
Overnight, Jess and I had made the plan to get out of the desert and to the ocean, as Jess puts it; "we are cool, coastal mountain people, not dry, hot, desert people!!" So, and this will sound like it runs a bit contrary to the above statement, we headed to Las Vegas, Nevada which is bang, smack in the middle of the desert. However, we had cleverly arranged this as a midway point between Zion and San Diego and booked a room in an air-conditioned motel. But, right near to Las Vegas is a sight in the desert that Eli had remembered from his "Landmarks of the World" book: The Hoover Dam. Sitting just 30 miles outside of Las Vegas is this impressive structure and before we checked in to the motel, we headed out there to take a look. It was built between 1931 and 1935 and not only is it an important source of power, its building resulted in Lake Mead and the ensuing recreational area. One mile out from the dam we had to go through a police checkpoint. They said hello, looked in the car and waved us on???? When we stopped and paid for the parking garage so that we could walk across the Dam, Jess asked the attendant why there was a police checkpoint. He told us that it had been in place since 9/11 because the Hoover Dam is considered to be on of the top 5 terrorist targets in the USA!!! Well, good thing us Kiwis made it through the checkpoint. We walked across the dam, took some photos in the blustery wind and after half an hour back in the heat, we were ready to get back in the car and head to the hotel. 
We drove around Vegas and spotted some of the famous casinos and are planning a drive later tonight when it is dark and the full neon world is on display. Jess told Eli that since he wanted to see the pyramids and we were unlikely to make it to Egypt, she took him to Las Vegas to see the Pyramid Casino instead. Despite the motel advertising a kitchenette, it only had a microwave and fridge. Therefore, Tim crouched down around the corner on the opposite side of the highway from The Strip, and cooked dinner on his camp-stove. It was nice that today worked out as planned. On through Joshua Tree National Park on our way to San Diego tomorrow.
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Gramma on

FIFTY is quite an impressive number + a condor spotting is wonderfully amazing! On to San Diego!!


Have LOVED all the amazing photos of the deserts and canyons, just spectacular. Have to say you are doing a great sell job on the States!

h.o.t. on

Hi there,
We really are having a great a time and seeing some amazing sights. We are very lucky. The places we have been may be good for others traveling in the near future!!!
Hope you are keeping warm.
H.o.t. xx

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