Published: June 29th 2012June 28th 2012
Woman on the edge
North east canyon, Grand Canyon
For weeks we layered up and bunkered down against the crisp, cool air, absorbing any window of sunshine in an attempt to give the bodies a snippet of respite from the bracing conditions. This week it's been shorts, t-shirts and the quest for shade from the sucking heat.
Admittedly we drove in the right direction but the Wyoming/Utah border was like a barrier between winter and summer. I don't know what happened to Spring but it must be stuck somewhere around the 41st parallel.
A few days in the south of Utah the mercury hit 42 degrees. The 2% humidity made it bareable but the extremes can reek havoc with the body thermometer.
Prior to entering Utah, a smidgen of pre planning needed to be addressed. Trying to snavel a drink in this state can be a challenge so up we stocked in Wyoming. Budweiser proclaims itself as "The King of Beers". American ale royalty may not taste all that sweet but at $19 for a slab of 30 it's the king of prices. I also threw in a 4 pack of Myrcenary ambers and at 9% I was all geared up to show those Mormons down south
a thing or two about supping brews.
Then another thing transformed on crossing that border into Utah. Out with the snow and jutting peaks and in with the red rocks and big holes.Penny can cover the travelogue section on Bryce Canyon, Zion NP and the benchmark of holes in the ground, The Grand Canyon. I'm going to limit this blog to a confession.
The Angels Landing hike in Zion is touted as one of the seminal half day jaunts in the Americas. 8.7 klms reads simple enough but the 500 metre elevation rise can ratchet up the thigh burn. Park brochures and ranger speels throw another joker in the pack:
"Young children or anybody with a fear of heights should consider another trail".
Fear of heights! Whilst not exactly an acrophobe, neither do I get my rocks off staring over the precipice. Convincing myself that the warnings were merely OH&S overkill, and with the words of Roosevelt (I think it was him),
"You have nothing to fear but fear itself",ringing in my subconscious, off we strode.
Reaching the summit, internally chuffed with myself and chatting with a couple of other tourists on "top":
"So, not too shabby a view up here".
"Yes, but it's better from the peak".
"The PEAK"? Swivelling 180 degrees,
Now that did look daunting. Certain parts of the anatomy commenced a tingling on staring up at that final 1 klm along a ridge line, at parts less than 2 feet wide, sketchy footing and with a 1500 foot drop either side. The whole plan was disfiring and I was on the verge of pulling the pin until a pre teens lad and his father unnervingly sauntered past on the up whilst a pair of 70 ish year olds did the same on the way back down, as if this was standard fare. Mildly emboldened by their nonchalance, I decided that not to go would be irredeamible so,
Don't look down, don't look up, in fact I didn't look anywhere except at the feet and maintain a white knuckle grip on the guide chain. OK, I did steel a sideways glance at an Osprey that swooped within reaching distance but I swear even he looked nervous.
20 minutes later and reflushed with my own trivial achievement, I staked a tiny claim at the
peak of Angels Landing. The resultant view over Zion Canyon is otherworldly even if I didn't dare shuffle within stumbling distance of the edge.
Surprisingly, the down phase was a piece of cake. I felt sufficiently confident to hypocritically look down my nose at the poor fellow in front. While I may have been nervous, this guy was positively terrified and dragged himself down the entire descent on his backside. He looked like a dog with a bad case of the worms but you had to admire his pluck.
I don't know where it's gone but hauling the WHOW into Vegas following the Grand Canyon, 2 months of trailer trashing some of North America's finest has been flushed into the memory cells.We are whittling away our final supplies which has presented its own issues, particularly in the toilet paper department. We really only needed, at most, 1 more roll, but try buying TP in anything less than a 12 pack in America. Granted, seeing the size of some of the rear ends in this country (Australia may be the world's second fattest nation but we are still about 50 million Big Macs shy of the gold medal) the
bulk buying of soft double ply has some resonance. We've therefore been relegated to the demeaning task of stockpiling folds of precious bum wiper after each visit to the public gentlemans. Don't you love the undignified lengths one can sink to on the road.
With a misty eye we drop the WHOW at home base and jet out of Vegas with a tinge of unfulfillment. Perhaps we lingered too long in some places but better to linger than to whistle stop for the sake of ticking boxes. Thus we bypassed places such as Capital Reef, Monument Valley, Canyonland and The Arches (if one more person tells me The Arches is the highlight of Utah, you'll hear the screams back home).
At least we now have an excuse to "pull a McArthur", Quote:"I shall return".
Yeatesy Wyoming to Idaho to Utah to Arizona and finally to Nevada, all in 10 days and the WHOW has sadly come to the end of its journey with us. With a tear in the eye, we bid our trusty home of 2 months farewell. It's been a good home giving us warmth and a cosy bed in those freezing
weeks up north, and air conditioning, and a good freezer for the icecream, beers and cold drinks in the last few days where we have endured 42degree days. The final 10 days of this leg of the journey have been a fitting crescendo with my highlight being Bryce Canyon and of course the one and only Grand Canyon. Driving across so many states these last few days has seen the exit of the lush pine forests replaced with dry desert earth covered in scrub and the odd cactus. Gone are the native plants along the roadside. We no longer saw bear, moose and bison but instead there were bush turkeys, ravens and condors. All worthy additions to our animal encounters. Our four main stops were Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon, North Rim and South Rim. A few additional stops were added to the drive (the shortest route, thanks to Tom-Tom only to find the roads closed due to avalanches at some stage). The drive leading up to Bryce Canyon passed through Red Rock, an area exactly as the name describes. We were so excited at seeing these huge red mass forms, we were out of the car every few minutes stopping to get a photo, holding up traffic and being the painful tourists we complain about of others. Having got that out of our system we were ready for Bryce Canyon. Best described as a massive cave with no roof and huge stalagmites called hoodoos throughout. My favourite hike, and one I recommend to all, regardless of fitness, was the Queens Garden hike. The hike takes you down into the canyon, past Wall Street (I thought that was in New York) past the rock statue of Queen Victoria and into her garden of hoodoos, then up out of the canyon along sunset point. There are a few switchbacks along the way, all adding to great photo opportunities. If you agree with the analogy that everything American is big, then Zion (our next stop) fits the description perfectly. I was also impressed how the shuttle bus stopping at each of the vantage / hike trails announces the stop "this IS ... The Grotto, your safety is YOUR responsibility". So very few railings, plenty of great hikes, and all at your own risk. We managed to quickly tick offa few of the hikes, my most impressive being Angels Landing, a walk up the mountain approx 4 miles, to a landing point where you think you have conquered the ascent only to discover you then have to shimmy across a narrow ridge and ascend the next mountain with a few areas where you need to hold the chains in order to climb the narrow upward path. A really daunting but an exhilarating climb. Add to this was the hidden canyon hike, and a good stop for WHOW for a few days. WHOW was probably more excited that it didn't have to move for a few days and we managed to sell the better of our two bikes to lighten the load. Goodbye Zion, on to The Grand Canyon, via a drive through the blasted mountain roadway which we had to pay $15 to get a permit for the Rangers to stop the traffic at one end to give WHOW the entire tunnel to travel through as the width would only allow the van to travel up the centre of the road. Shame we were not allowed to stop along the way and take photos. Back on the road and our final stop before Vegas was The Grand Canyon, North Rim and South Rim. Now that is one massive gorge. The North Rim being quieter meant for easy hikes along the rim and of course the obligatory stop at the Lodge for the evening aperitif. A place I would love to spend more time visiting. However, the South Rim was calling with our reservation at the south camp ground. A long drive (not really for the passenger) but a scenic drive following the Colorado River. And finally we arrived in Vegas. I thought the strip was entertaining but a visit to Walmart (across the street from where we prepared WHOW's handover) provided even more entertainment. We felt like the odd ones out, we didn't have a cart, wheelchair or oversized trolley, but we both did manage to get haircuts. I was the only person in the salon that sat in the salon provided chair, the other clients brought their own mobile versions. Goodbye WHOW I am going to miss you, I've got a date with David Coperfield Penny.
Man on the edge.
North east canyon, Grand Canyon
There are more photos below