We left Bryce Canyon early in the morning and drove east to Moab. Along the way, we passed through some pretty powerful winds and rain. We got to Moab in the afternoon and set up camp at a campsite near town, leaving us enough time to walk around the town before heading out to some friends of friends for dinner. The rains really picked up on our way to their house. After our lovely dinner, we headed back to the campsite and we shocked to find that our tent wasn't where we left it. It turns out our attempts to place rocks on the stakes to keep the tent in place were not enough for the strong winds and our campground neighbors had to rescue our tent from blowing away. The tent was damaged, but we salvaged it - luckily it was our last night of camping! The next day we spent the morning at Arches National Park, but unfortunately couldn't investigate it to its fullest. Just another reason to return to the area.
Bryce Canyon was beautiful. I loved how you could walk through the canyon and around all the hoodoos (that's what those towers are called). It seemed like everything was so fragile - go soon before it all erodes away.
+ More photos at Flickr
The next stop on our trip was Zion National Park, which was one of my favorite stops on our trip. I wish we had more time to explore, but the part that we did see was amazing. Part of the park sits inside a canyon, and its beautiful and lush inside the canyon, along the Virgin River that flows through the canyon.
By the time we secured a campsite, it was getting lake, so we only had time for a shortish hike, but it was beautiful - a hike to a serious of pools called the Emerald Pools. Amazingly, all the pools were full, filled by water seeping out of the steep rock face. Unfortunately, it was almost dark by the time we finished the hike, so that was the extent that we explored the canyon. In the morning, we took a hike up the Watchman Trail, which overlooked the base of the canyon and the neighboring town of Springdale, which was pretty, but not as nice as further in the canyon.
After our hike, we had to leave to head to Bryce, but we took some time to check out the sights on the top of the canyon. The contrast between the lushness and green of the canyon with the arid dessert of the plateau.
+ More photos from Zion over at Flickr
On our way to Zion from the Grand Canyon, we had to drive right by the Glen Canyon Dam. So being the enginerd that I am, I insisted that we stop at take a look. Sam might not want to admit it, but it wasn't THAT hard to convince him. The visitor's center was actually quite interesting, discussing the harmful impacts dam construction has on the environment, as well as the effects drought is having on the power production of the dams. If you're in the area, its worth a stop.
Our second national park was the Grand Canyon. We got there close to sunset, so we set up our tent as soon as we got a campsite and then rushed to take showers. After two days at Joshua Tree, we really needed it! Since there were plenty of places to eat nearby, we decided to indulge and eat at a restaurant for dinner, though we didn't realize until we were inside that it was really a glorified cafeteria. It was dark and we were hungry, though, so cafeteria it was.
After a good, but VERY cold night's sleep, we ate a nice big breakfast, got a wee bit lost taking a short cut to the visitor's center (totally my fault), and took the shuttle bus to the end of the rim trail to see the canyon. Now the Grand Canyon is beautiful and all, but after a while, it gets a bit boring. We didn't have time or water carrying capacity to hike all the way into the canyon, and walking along the side gets a bit boring, despite the amazing views. But at other parks, you see different things with each turn in the trail, while here it was more of the same. Beautiful, but just not as exciting as the other places we visited. After a lot of walking, we headed back to the tent to grab some warmer clothes in time to make it back to a good spot for the sunset. The moonrise over the canyon ended up being a lot more spectacular.
The next morning, we hit the road towards Zion. The last photo above is taken from the car on the way there - no idea what they are but they looked pretty awesome.
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We arrived at Joshua Tree around 3:30, and after a visit to the Visitor's Center, we were steered by probably the dorkiest park ranger ever (seriously, Sam and I both thought McFly) to a very nice camp site at Hidden Valley. After setting up our tent, we went over to the Hidden Valley nature walk and took a short 1 mile hike. And that's when we discovered the climbing of the rocks, aka the most fun activity you can ever have. All around our campsite were people with climbing gear, but it wasn't until we went on the trail that we saw people climbing with just their bare hands. We climbed a few small rock piles, but when we saw a group of people atop a huge rock structure that we knew what our goal should be. It was getting late though, so we decided that we'd get up early and do it in the morning. That night we watched the sun set over the camp grounds while feasting on Norweigan salmon, grilled asparagus and a spinach, cranberries and goat cheese salad (we stopped at Trader Joe's on our way out of LA). Mmmm, camping is the life.
Cleaning up though proved to be more difficult an endeavor. Since Joshua Tree is such an arid location, you have to bring in all your water with you, so cleaning up plates and the portable grill becomes a bit of a challenge. It makes you much more aware of your dependence on water though - I think all National Parks should do away with tap water so that people start thinking about it more.
It got dark around 7:30, so after cleaning up, we made some tea and and went into our tent to play cribbage and hit the sack. I think we were asleep by 9:30. So when I work up around 6:15, I had actually gotten a full night's sleep. It was pretty cold out, but the sun was starting to come up so I braved the world outside my nice warm sleeping bag to climb some rocks and watch the sun rise.
After the sun came up and we warmed up a bit, we made some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and headed back to the Hidden Valley hiking area to climb our big rocks. Amazingly, we made it pretty much to the top, even though we had our doubts at a few places. And we were able to make it back down! To celebrate our conquest, we made lots of bacon and eggs and chowed down back at the campsite.
A few hours of reading and napping in the shade later(in the shade, its actually quite cool, but the sun is brutal!), we decided upon the Ryan Mountain hike. Boy are looks deceiving on that one. You keep thinking your almost at the top, but then the trail loops over towards the adjacent peak. You loose sight of the trailhead/parking area about 1/3 of the way up and don't see the actual peak until you're probably 7/8th of the way there. Once you're at the top, though, you can see for miles. Hard work but worth it.
We had to head out of the park to get some more eggs and water, so we picked up some meat as well. Since we're a bit low on seasonings (read: none), we picked up the fajita mix the butcher had prepared, and boy was it tasty! We also puchased some paper plates and a dish cloth, so cleanup got a bit easier too. We slept better our second night of camping - I actually slept until 7, when it was pretty bright out, and Sam slept until ~7:30. We took our time making breakfast (eggs, sausage and tea), broke down the camp site and packed up the car, and then headed to do one last hike before hitting the road. 49 Palms Oasis. And what do you know - among the barren hills of Joshua Tree, thre was a little oasis tucked away with a huge stand of palm trees. Unfortunately, there was no sign post or anything once you got to the end of the trail, which is a bit unsatisfying since it wasn't exactly clear where the end end was, but also because there was no explaination of why such a place even exists. But it was still a neat place to see and it was great to have shade under the plams as a break from the hot sun. And with that nice rest, we headed back to the car and headed towards the Grand Canyon.
+ More pictures from Joshua Tree over at Flickr
We got into LA around 1, and had a nice delight when we picked up our car. Not only was it a cute little light metallic blue Mazda 3 (good for the hot sun), but it had a pretty little GPS unit in it, even though we hadn't asked for it. We were staying with my friend Monica in Manhattan Beach, and she suggested heading to her area for lunch rather than going in to LA because traffic gets really bad around LA on Fridays, so we enjoyed a great lunch at Pancho's and then walked back on The Strand, watching the surfers and checking out the nice homes. Unfortunately, the beautiful sunny weather started disappearing during our walk, and sure enough, it started raining by the time we got back to Monica's. In September. In California. The place where you can pretty much count on it never rains from May to October. There was even thunder and lightning later in the evening. By then, Monica was finished with work and errands, so we just ended up hanging out at her place for the rest of the evening, catching up since we hadn't seen each oher in about a year and a half, and then crashed pretty early since we were still on East Coast Time.
For our only full day in LA, we packed a lot in. A trip to the Farmer's Market, a great place with almost any food item you could imagine. Except produce. Highly enjoyable. It started raining later, so we headed to the LA County Museum of Art nearby, hoping to hang out there while the storm passed. Did you notice? More rain! We really enjoyed the museum - very interesting collection, but not too big so that you got to see a lot of different types of art - so it was almost a good thing that it rained since we probably wouldn't have gone there otherwise. By the time we left, it was drizzling a bit, but not pouring, so we went to the Walt Disney Concert Hall to check it out. It was beautiful, and I thought the setup was really great. There were stairs and pathways all around and on top the the building so people can really explore the structure from the outside, not just from the inside. After the concert hall came the requisite stop at Pink's. We made it back to Monica's in time to change and have a few drinks with her friends before heading out to Monica's birthday celebration at a bar near by. We just happened to be in town for it, which was nice. I even got to see a friend from Tufts who came down to celebrate.
And that was our short but sweet trip to LA. The next morning, we walked on the beach a bit while people woke up, and then hit the road after brunch.
+ See my other LA photos over at Flickr
We got back today and we've spent the day doing laundry, unpacking and going through mail. I have to go through my photos so it might take awhile to get my posts up, but here's the lowdown.
2 Maximum number of nights spent in one location
5 National parks
24 Miles hiked
1717 Miles driven
10 Average number of hours slept per night
17 PT Cruisers seen while driving from the Grand Canyon to Zion before we lost count (they seem to be an unusually popular car amongst the national parks circuit)
1/2 Weight (in pounds) of the burgers we consumed at Ray's Tavern in Green River, UT
3 Dinners cooked on our campstove
6 Breakfasts cooked on our campstove
2 Pounds of bacon consumed
26 Eggs eaten