I think i've drank more in the last two ...
Trip Start Jul 23, 2002
66Trip End Jul 23, 2003
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Yosemite would have been the last place where it was coolish - we wound the windows up on the car as we were driving out of the park through the high pass, but the windows were soon down again as we got back into the desert. Yosemite is a beautiful valley, but it was a lot more commercialised and crowded than I was expecting. We checked out some of the falls and Mirror Lake, but being in the middle of summer there wasn't a great amount of water flowing but you can imagine the difference you'd see in spring with large volumes of water moving. Driving through the road in the back country region was a very different experience and made me want to just go hiking in the back country for several days - very few people, no trails and just the park itself to explore. There's a lot of area in Yosemite, Kings canyon and Sequioa that can only be reached on foot, and I'd love to be able to have a look at some of it - but that will have to wait for another trip.
Death Valley gave me my first real taste of the desert heat. We arrived there sometime after 10 at night and did not require sleeping bags that night - and we were camped at one of the cooler camp sites! The next day it was hot early, and it didn't get cool that day or night - the low at Furnace Creek (very appropriate name) was 29C so naturally the sleeping bags made good mattresses again that night (after a high of 45C in the shade). We drove around the park for the day and had our eyes opened by all the sights there. It's certainly not a dead valley, but life is very very harsh there.
The things to see were very widely varied from sand dunes, to canyons with solid marble on one wall and a mosaic of other stones in the other, to canyon walls that have a huge variety of colours in them (blacks, whites, pinks, purples, reds, browns and many shades in between), to a volcanic crater that had winds so strong blowing across the top of it that they would push you backwards if you didn't have your feet firmly planted on the ground
After Death Valley we headed towards Lake Mead for the night (where it was slightly cooler) with some time spent in Las Vegas along the way. Las Vegas is definitely not my favourite place, but it was worth a look to see just how extravagent the place is. I was glad to get out of there though and to head onto the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest via Hoover Dam. At the Painted Desert we got a backcountry permit and after having a bit of a look at a few of the first view points and chasing up some things outside the park we headed down into the desert to camp for the night. Thought we'd be the only people for miles, but after setting up camp for the night we heard a hello from the ridge up above and found that there was someone else camping out there for the night and we just happened be in similar areas. Getting to where we set up tent for the night we walked though something very unexpected for being in the desert - mud. Our shoes had his added weight of a thick layer of mud on them (we found out there had been a brief rain a few hours earlier - not that you could tell from the sky).
The next day we drove around the rest of the park and admired the crystals that had taken over the trees
Saturday saw us head to the Grand Canyon where we had several days actually down in the canyon itself. We'd been lucky enough to be able to book two nights camping down at the bottom of the canyon only four days earlier (after having to drive to the office because we couldn't reach an actual person on the phone - all automated which is not very helpful!). Quite often the number of available permits are all allocated well in advance, but I think the heat might be making a few less people want to be there just at the moment, especially when you consider the fact that it can be 10-20F hotter at the bottom of the canyon than on the rim. We had a late start heading down on the South Kaibab trail and so a lot of the walking was done in the heat of the day. Not the most difficult path to walk, but it was certainly one of the walks I've done that's taken the longest time. It was a bit slower going as I was being a little more cautious with my ankle and also the heat was taking its toll.
The next day was an extremely tough one. We remained at the campsite and spent most of the day in the creek where it was cool. There are areas where the water in nice and gentle and you can just enjoy the cool (and having your feet nibbled at by the little fish in the creek) or other areas where the water is moving much more rapidly and will push you downstream if you aren't holding onto something - better than a spa. It didn't seem so hot when you were sitting in the water but as soon as you got out, you discovered that, yes it was 45C+ in the shade and even hotter in the sun, so your wet clothes were soon dry. Dinner was had at the Phantom Ranch that night with all the stew, salad and corn bread you could eat which makes a very nice change from the normal camping food. Later that night the dining room turned into the best bar at the bottom of the canyon (nothing to do with it being the only one at the bottom of the canyon!)
The next morning we were packed and on the Bright Angel trail well before 6am, but the sad thing about that is that we were one of the last groups to leave the camp that morning - mainly because we were only heading halfway up the canyon that day
When we did reach the top it felt like 2 or 3 in the afternoon but it wasn't even 9am yet. So after getting some food we wandered around the rim a little and found some green grass (yes truly green like lawn) and laid down for a while - well at least until the sprinklers came on and made us move! We checked out some of the viewpoints further along the edge of the canyon and some of those from which we could see the paths we'd taken and just how far we'd travelled - Phantom Ranch looks so small from the rim (showed Paddles where we'd been for the last couple of days - he didn't get to come as he just isn't pulling his own weight when it comes to hiking!)
Next stop was the Navajo nation where we drove through the Hopi reservation before ending up camping at Canyon de Chelley. This canyon is a little different to the Grand Canyon and an important place to the Navajo Indians. There are a lot of ruins to see and travelling around the area gives you some information about the lifestyle of the Navajo Indians and you can understand why the Canyon is special when you compare the richness of the environment at the bottom, with the desert surrounding it.
Next stop was the Navajo National Monument for another night in the tent (after finding ourselves in a duststorm that night which made seeing very far in front of you very difficult so driving was very slow for a while). The last place we've been to today has been Monument Valley having a look at the rock formations. Some of them just seem to appear out of nothing and you wonder how on earth some of the rocks haven't fallen from their precarious perches up high.
Right now we're at a campsite with showers, a pool and luxuries like that (especially when you consider it's still desert - which is all I seem to have come across in the states so far). Time to refresh, actually find somewhere where we can access the internet (which is proving to be a bit of a headache when you are out of the cities) and figure out the plans for the next couple of weeks.
(and Paddles and Nomed too)