The planning for this trip began long before December, but it was for Christmas 2010 that I opened a gift, which started with 3 nights in Las Vegas, after that a driving trip, returning to Las Vegas 2 weeks later! But first things first – we travelled to Grande Prairie on Friday May 6th, 2011. On Saturday we attended our daughter’s convocation at the college where she received her degree in nursing from the University of Alberta. Later that night we had a surprise party for her, and a great time was had by all! Sunday was a short 5 hour drive to Edmonton, where we overnighted before catching our flight to Las Vegas. This was not our first time to Vegas; we first travelled there roughly 1988 – when The Dunes Hotel still stood tall on one of the famous 4 corners, the Mafia, or those connected to it were still rumored to run some of the hotels. The Dunes has long since disappeared, and been replaced with the Bellagio Hotel. In fact, there isn’t much that is the same as back in the day. Gone are the leisurely strolls down the strip. You are lucky to get close to the road as you are rerouted over the strip and before you realize it, you find yourself indoors, usually in a casino, which you have a devil of a time finding your way out of. Is that smart planning or what? The $5.00 prime rib dinners, or the free drinks while you played even the nickel slots are few and far between. People look at me like I’m crazy when I say I’m not a huge fan of Las Vegas anymore; it has just gotten too commercialized! But with that said, I just mean it is not so friendly to those just looking for an inexpensive, short holiday. Still a very spectacular city, it never ceases to amaze me.
We spent 3 nights at Bally’s Hotel at centre strip. The weather was great, for us Canadians. Of course you could tell who came from the cold northern winter, as they were out basking in the sun by the pool! Life guards likely would have drowned if they had to save anyone as they sat in their tower chairs overlooking the pool donning sweat shirts, hats and blankets wrapped tightly around them! The Luxor Hotel had both the Titanic, and Bodies Exhibitions housed there. I didn’t realize so much had been retrieved from the Titanic. I have mixed feelings on the retrieval of the artifacts wondering sometimes if things just shouldn’t be left as they lie – but on the other hand, I really enjoyed seeing all the pieces that were on display. It was one of those exhibits that upon arrival, you are given a card with a person’s name and address on it. You carry it throughout the self guided tour, and discover at the end whether or not “you” survived. Sadly neither Gary nor I survived that maiden voyage of the Titanic. The Bodies exhibit, which again was a self guided tour, was like no other. There had been a great deal of controversy over this exhibition, yet we wanted to go order to form our own opinions. Again, I had mixed thoughts on this exhibit as these were REAL bodies that had been preserved and presented to show not only the external, but also the internal components of a human body. All these bodies and parts, and there were many, were left to science, and some people specifically left their bodies to this particular exhibit. Some bodies were displayed in their entirety, while others were only cross sections of specific parts. I’m not sure if it is right, or wrong. It’s not a question that came up while wondering around the exhibit. It is my opinion, one must first see the exhibit, and then if you must choose between right and wrong, make your decision then. Or one could just enjoy the experience in seeing the exhibit as it is meant to be, as an educational adventure into the dynamics of the human body; like never before shown. We respected the exhibit, and what it was meant to represent. Gary, having just had surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome 3 weeks prior, found looking at the different views of wrists in unusual positions, and at rest interesting. It helped demonstrate exactly what the surgeon had discussed with him about the syndrome. Who knew? Upon leaving the exhibit, there was a booth in which to pick up donor cards. We elected not to fill them in. Highly recommended on any trip to Las Vegas is at least one of the Cirque show. They are all very unique and showy. Not only are the performers truly artists, but the producers/Directors of all these shows are talented beyond belief to not only create the illusions that occur, but to actually have the performers perform under sometimes extreme conditions. This trip we attended KA at the MGM. What an outstanding show. I can’t believe anyone would be disappointed with any of the Cirque shows; you always get your money’s worth.
After our 3 days in Las Vegas it was time to make tracks, and start our road tour portion. We headed north, past the Nellis Air Force base and Carol Shelby Museum looking for a left turn onto Highway 95 which would take us to Death Valley. We continued on the freeway until we decided we must have missed our exit, so easily turned around and went south, searching a little more intently for our exit. Somehow we missed the exit sign yet again! Once again we headed north. The only thing that changed going back north was we saw fighter jets (3) in formation low to the ground, it was impressive! Traveling as far north as we did the first time, we turned and pulled into a Love’s Truck stop. There we not only purchased a map, but received actual directions from an employee! He told us that at that point purchasing the map (atlas) would be a waste; however, as we had many more miles to travel, we did purchase it. Hind sight being 20/20 and having wasted so much time travelling to and fro I have say we should have opted to pay extra for a GPS in the rental.
After finally finding our way to highway 95 we started the trip into Death Valley. We stopped for lunch in Beatty, with our next planned stop being the historic town site of Rhyolite, which was established as one of several mining camps that sprang up after a prospecting discovery in 1905. The town lays in a sheltered basin near the region’s biggest producer, the Montgomery Shoshone Mine, and is now a ghost town. Still lots to see, but the strangest was the sculpture constructed by Albert Szukalski “The Last Supper”. Ghostly like cloaks cover nothing, and appear to be hovering over a table. Tom Kelly built the bottle house with 51000 beer bottles and adobe mud. It took him approximately a year and a half to build the 3 room house. Some of the bottles he used were from medicine, but the majority were Busch beer bottles that the 50 bars in town donated to him!
From Rhyolite we drove through the long, straight desert highway into Death Valley.
As desolate as it appears, it was striking to go around that last corner and at its finest Death Valley came into view. I’ve wanted to make this trip for years! It was a cloudless day, it was hot and dry which felt nice after the cold winter, and furthermore, I was on the verge of crossing an item off my bucket list!
Before we left Canada, we had made the decision not to book any hotel rooms in advance, other than the three nights in Las Vegas. Our thought process was that we wouldn’t be restricted to any time lines. As we drove past the duly named Furnace Creek Ranch in Death Valley, it was early afternoon and we decided to do a u-turn and try to get a room before continuing on to visit a few touristy spots along the valley. Furnace Creek Ranch opened its doors in 1933.
There was only one other place to stay in Death Valley, and the 2nd option was very pricey! We got the last room available for two nights! We didn’t even go to the room; we were back in the car heading south to visit a jeep rental shop across the road from the Furnace Creek Hotel, which incidentally appeared to be very impressive accommodations. We secured a jeep for the next morning and then continued through the valley to Bad Water Basin. It was extremely hot but slathered up in sun protection and headed out to check out the scenery, with hundreds of other tourists. This basin sits at 855 meters or 282 feet below sea level.
We walked quite a distance to get the photo with the bus and the sign slightly left, and above the bus on the rocks. You can’t read it at this distance, but it shows where sea level is. When we returned to the car we discovered it was 92 degrees! We were hardly acclimatized for the heat. From this point we started to make our way back in the direction of our hotel. We took a paved side road that took us through Artists Pallet which was absolutely beautiful. I didn’t think rocks and soil could have such vibrant colors, but the pinks and purples, were very vivid and were very noticeable here. Unfortunately neither Gary nor I are the photographers that we wish we were, so we were not able to catch the colors as they appeared. We did come across a pull out on the short Artist Pallet drive, and went for a short jaunt up a dry wash. We got up close and personal with the beautiful rocks, and sands that cover this area. If you ever find yourself in Death Valley take this short side trip, well worth the views!
From Artists pallet we drove up the hill to Zabrinski’s Point. The fellow we rented the jeep from said that you can observe some spectacular sunsets from that area, so we timed it to arrive at the point, more or less, just before sunset. We travelled along what is called the 20 Mule Team Road to get to the point, and it was simply beautiful. (more about the team to come) There weren’t the orange and red hues one expects to see as stunning sunsets, but the golden light playing on the hills and washes were impressive.
From our beautiful vista of the sunset we head down into the Valley, and Furnace Creek Ranch. What a wonderful break from the heat as we stepped into our totally air conditioned room. After showering, to remove the dust and salt, a cold beer was welcomed as we sat on the deck, in the shade, and fixed our eyes on the view. It truly is an oasis in the desert, very lush all around the Furnace Creek Ranch which by the way, boasts having the lowest golf course in the world.
We are up bright and early the next morning, and stepping outside the air conditioned room we realize it’s going to be another hot, dry day as we head over to pick up the rental jeep. You do need a high clearance vehicle to navigate through Mengel pass and down Goler and Coyote Canyons. Our rental guy was very adamant that the directions for the loop we wanted to make was well marked, and said we wouldn’t have any problems finding what we wanted to see, and added if we are lucky we might even see some wild burros. He also suggested if we had time to take another side trip to Aquereberry Point, overlooking Death Valley, 6433 above the desert floor. We loading the jeep with our gear, of course putting the top down and smearing on sun screen, and without further ado, we headed west towards Bad Basin, and turned right onto West side Road. This road basically cut like a knife through the salt to the other side of the valley. It seemed to take forever to get to the other side, nothing but flat, salty, jagged land for miles on either side of the road. Perception was distorted with nothing to assist in distance. I cannot imagine walking across this back in the day…although thousands did in their quest of finding gold!
Once on the other side of the valley, there were roads veering off up into the mountains every few miles. We did take a few short side trips. One such detour was to the rock caron grave site of an old prospector, Shorty (Frank) Harris. It was about a mile off the West side Road, heading into the center of the salty desert! A few shrubs surround the site, but basically in the middle of nowhere.
Back onto West Side Road we continued until we reached Warm Spring Canyon Road, we turned right and headed up and out of Death Valley and through the Panamint Mountain Range.
We drove passed many abandoned mine sites, some much larger than others. There is not a great deal of mining taking place now, since the area has become a park, however, if an person had mining rights prior to the area becoming a National Park, mining could continue with restrictions, of course. We stopped at one beautiful oasis along the road where remnants of mining equipment were left to rust, and deteriorate. It was very interesting to see the equipment used for their mining operations during the early years. There was a stream flowing through the area, with beautiful large trees lining it. Birds were abundant and loud as we wondered about the old equipment. A house sat on the other side of the stream, obviously occupied, with a somewhat new vehicle parked near and as smoke coming from the chimney it was a very apparent that someone was home! We continued for another hour or so, seeing several derelict cabins scattered along the road and numerous old mining digs dotting the hills.
As we reached the top, and went around an outcrop of rocks, we came out onto a beautiful vista overlooking Butte Valley. It was here, as we stopped to take in the view that we spotted our first wild burrow! Very difficult to see in the high brush, and didn’t appear to be too concerned with our surveillance of him. As we were relaxing, and having a snack we considered the hard lives the prospectors must have had, how they endured working in the heat of the desert, how they survived in such a harsh environment. We were soon brought back to reality as a low flying fighter jet roared past us. As we had not descended into the valley at that point, the jet appeared to be at the same level as we were. Likely it came from The China Lake Naval Centre or Fort Irwin National Training centre which are just south of Death Valley. We continued along the winding road, really a goat or should I say Burro trail, which took us down to the valley floor. As we got to flat ground, and rounded a corner, Stripped Butte came into view down the valley. What a magnificent site. It just seemed to push up, sideways in the middle of the valley, with beautiful shades of blues, purple, and white. Again, we really ought to take a photography class to establish the best techniques to capture the colors and beauty of such landscapes.
I’m sure there were hiking trails on the butte; however, we had the jeep for 10 hours, and elected to maintain our planned route, if we got lost, it would give a search party the best chance of finding us. It would be so easy to get lost in the desert, ‘specially for us. With so many side roads and trails veering off, it would be easy to take the wrong one, and taking wrong turns could take you to places unknown. Distance is so deceiving. We travelled only a few miles until we viewed the geologist cabin. The fellow we rented the jeep from told us to watch for it, although it would have been difficult to miss sitting high above the valley on a bluff. It seemed forever to get there, the road being what it is! It was a small one room cabin built of stone and mortar in the 1930’s. Beside the road, just below the cabin was a burro enjoying the cool water from a small pond, obviously it had water running into it from an underwater spring, as there was no visible water running anywhere else!
The public are permitted to stay in the cabin, on a first come first serve basis. The cabin is open, no locks out here in the desert, and with no one occupying the cabin, we were able to see the cabin inside and out. Although still early in the season there were some desert flowers blooming close by. Not sure what any of them were, but they were bright and beautiful in contrast to the rest of the surroundings. Taking into consideration anyone can stay in the cabin, it came as quite a surprise to find it clean, tidy and a very charming. I’m sure it would be very comfortable; although not sure the distance one would have to travel to pack firewood! In the heat of the day it was hard to imagine that the temperatures in the desert at this time of year can drop below freezing at night. The rule of thumb is to leave something behind that could be used by someone else. The dry and canned food was plentiful, as was the water. Staples of which would be needed if stranded by flash floods, or snow. Unfortunately we didn’t have anything to leave – except bottled water, but as we were not done our expedition, we kept it with us. Before leaving I did sign the guest book. Could you imagine waking up to that view out the cabin window in the morning?
As you can see from the photo, the road got rough as we left the cabin and began the climb into Mengel Pass. Possibly due to the road being not as travelled, or maybe due to the close proximity of water at the Geologists cabin, there were countless wild burros along this portion of the road. They all appeared to be in beautiful shape, with coats that looked more like velvet than hair. We reached the top of the pass to find another Caron with a plaque celebrating Carl Mengal’s life
We came to a Y in the road, and sitting atop a knoll, we dug out the map, and some granola bars and tried to decipher which way to go. We had sat there for about 5 minutes, a Jeep roars up over the hill and just about lands on us! He drove passed us about 5 vehicle lengths, and before we could discuss how strange it was that he didn’t stop, another jeep came up, then another! Six jeeps in all came up over the knoll – some totally, as the first one, in the air. We chatted with them all for about half an hour and they gave us directions, to Barker Ranch. After they left we got back in the jeep and took the left turn to go over the hill where the jeeps just came from. We started down and realized it wasn’t so much a knoll, as a huge piece of rock, with a 3 foot drop at the bottom. I told Gary to stop and let me walk, however, he couldn’t as it was too steep, and it was sheer rock, who knows what would have happened had he hit the brakes! Obviously we made it! Returning home I looked at Google earth to see where the other turn would have taken us, and low and behold, it would have just been a few yards out of our way, and we would have just drove down a sandy road, around the rock, and came out where we “fell” off the knoll! But it wouldn’t have been near as exciting. For the next several miles, it seemed we had left the desert behind. We followed a small stream, it appeared like a rain forest, but soon we entered back into the dry, hot, dusty desert. When we got to another junction a sign pointed to Mengel Pass and Barker Ranch in the direction we had just come, we missed yet another turn! We back tracked a mile to find the turn. By this time, I was getting really anxious to see the gate to the Barker Ranch. I knew there was an accidental fire in 2009, so it didn’t come as a surprise that the house had no roof, and anything wood remaining. The layout of the house was easily distinguished as the cement/rock walls were still intact. Even the kitchen benches and bathtub were. With the location of the Ranch, it was not only difficult to transport lumber over the goat trails, but it was also very expensive, as there is not a great deal of timber anywhere in the desert, lumber is costly. It was a strange feeling to be walking around, not only what was once the house, but the whole area of the ranch. Knowing the type of person Charles Manson was, as well as his followers, and knowing they had hid out here after committing the horrendous crimes in Los Angeles. Even though it has been over 40 years since the arrests; it was a little creepy to be there. There are rumors that bodies are buried in the general vicinity of the Ranch, but…we didn’t see anything to indicate that! People still go stay at the Ranch, and some have said it is haunted. Hearing people screaming for their lives has been a common account. We didn’t see, or hear anything except Mother Nature and her ways with the wind as it blew through the bushes, trees, and the odd piece of tin or fence line. We spent about an hour and a half wandering around, looking into buildings that still stand. We chose to not go in any as they all looked pretty run down and disgusting. I’m sure home to countless spiders and bugs I had no desire to see. I did stand in the dry swimming pool that allegedly Charlie built.
I want to say; I am NOT a fan of Charles Manson, or his family members per say. I have always been captivated by the dynamics of serial killers and cult leaders. So much so that years ago I enrolled in several university courses in Psychology, just for the heck of it. But there is history at Barker Ranch, history that shook the world, as horrible, and devasting as it was. I’m sure the relatives of those deceased are still haunted by the nights that the “family” went on their killing spree. It doesn’t mean that I condone the actions of people taking others lives, nor agree with the final results of this particular trial, but it is history. It’s my hope that I am not judged any more than those millions of tourists that visit Pearl Harbor, Auschwitz, Omaha Beach, or countless other sites that have a horrifying and disturbing history. Furthermore, the Barker Ranch was there long before Charles Manson walked through the door making it his hiding place, and those are interesting tales as well. It was first established in the late 1930’s. The Thomason’s built the cabin/ranch so they could move into a more simplistic life style away from the city, and of course, to try their hand at gold mining. The Barker family purchased the ranch in 1955, and added more out buildings and structures to the property which would accommodate their large family gatherings. We still had miles to go, and lots more to see before returning the jeep, so we elected to not go to the Meyer’s ranch, and began our drive down Coyote Canyon, and then turned left – which would take us through Goler Canyon, to the Panamint Valley. We were grateful for the blue skies, and the likelihood of a flash flood nonexistent as we negotiated through Goler Canyon. When someone asked Charlie how he got his bus to Barker Ranch his reply was “I flew it up”. After travelling the canyon road, I nearly believe it! The Ford Escape would not have made it down the canyon. I got out several times with the pretense of capturing photos of the jeep on the road. However, I just didn’t want to be in it as it came through some of the dry washes, and rock ledges and outcrops!
Once the road opened up into the Panamint Valley, which was stunning, we followed it along the base of the Panamint Mountain range, until we reached Ballarat. Established in 1897 as a mining camp, and supply center for the mines on the western slopes of the Panamint Mountains, it had a population of approximately 500 people, and serviced many more. Along with a post office and bank, there were 3 hotels, a school, a jail, morgue, and 7 saloons! The town quickly began to die when the Ratcliff Mine ceased to operate in 1909. Eight years later the post office closed, and the town became a Ghost town. There isn’t much left anymore, a few signs of adobe buildings, but the unforgiving climate has pretty much flattened this once bustling settlement. We still had water, but by this time in the day, it was getting warm. It appeared the one and only full building standing, and mostly intact, was somewhat of a General Store. A fellow was standing on the porch (visualization of the movie Deliverance), and somehow Gary thought I should go see if they had water.
As I approached him, I asked if they had any water and as I followed him into the store, he told me he had just sold his last 2 bottles an hour ago, and continued on to tell me he had some cream soda, and root beer and maybe some orange pop left as he dug around in an old rusted fridge. I said no thank you, and started wandering back towards the door, taking notice there was not much else in the “store” but a deep freeze and fridge! He got my attention just before I stepped back out into the sweltering sun when he piped up again, “I do have some cold beer in this freezer, right over here, if you think that would quench your thirst”. Two ice cold Budweiser’s in hand, and only 4 dollars out of pocket, I head out the door to join Gary in the jeep, and we sit for a minute to drink our beer looking around which was once a very active mining town. I asked the store operator who owned the truck outside, and he commented that it is rumored that Charles Manson drove it around the valley and hills. After our beers were done, we walk around, checking out the cemetery, another “strange” thing I like to do. Seldom Seen Slims grave seems to be the only one that is taken care of, and gets visitors laying flowers and coins. But out here, there is no need to worry about being over grown with grass and weeds; I would imagine it would be the sand storms that raise hell on these cemeteries.
From Ballarat we travel across the Panamit Valley floor to the main road where we head north, and start looking for the turn which will take us to Aguereberry Point. The drive to the point was uneventful, in fact, probably could be described as downright boring. However, the view was spectacular! We made it in plenty of time to watch the mountains, and dry washes again turn golden as the sun set lower and lower.
It was a great vantage point to see all of Death Valley. At times, it appeared that we were looking at an ocean with the waves lapping the shores. The top of the Panamint Mountains are the results of the land tilting along active fault lines; the valley floor drops, and the mountains rise! You can easily see the sloping rock layers which is a good indication of these massive movements taking place. Happy there were no movements, massive or otherwise, while we were standing there! Back down the hill joining up again with the main road that would take us to Stovepipe Wells. It was approximately 10 pm when we got to the Gas Station. I got out of the jeep to help put the top back on, and we both got several welts on the back of our legs as the wind had picked up considerably in the last hour, and was blowing pebbles against our bare legs. Still VERY hot though, like someone holding a hot blow dryer against us kind of hot! The next day, back into the Escape, we headed back to Stovepipe Wells to see the Dunes, and also get the directions to the actual Well that the town was named for. The well site was the only place in the Dunes area of Death Valley that water was available. It was at a junction of two Indian trails that crossed the valley. In the hay day of Rhyolite and Skidoo mining eras, it was the only water source on the cross-valley road. During wind storms, the sand would totally obscure the site, and so a piece of stove pipe was inserted as a marker, making it visible for miles around, thus the unique name. As you can see from the photos, it was a long way across the valley – being without water was not an option. In 1931 Val Nolan succumbed to the elements, and was buried where she passed away – only yards away from the well. A small wooden tomb stone is erected along the road into the well site.
From Aguereberry Point, it was very apparent how the sand dunes were formed near Stovepipe Wells, at that end of the valley, with the prevailing winds depositing the sand and silt from the mountains on either side of Death Valley.
From the Dunes, we headed back south, and stopped to visit the Harmony Borax Works site, which was the first borax mine in Death Valley, operating from 1883 – 1888. Few men made fortunes mining gold in Death Valley, but White Gold (Borax) was profitable. It was an interesting site to say the least. The 20-day round trip started 190 feet below sea level and climbed to an elevation of 2,000 feet before the 165 mile journey was over. Between 1883 and 1889, the twenty mule teams hauled more than 20 million pounds of borax out of Death Valley. During this time, not a single animal was lost, nor did a single wagon break down
From there we travelled south again, through Furnace Creek, Bad water, Shoshone, onto Baker, where the world’s largest thermometer sits, and arrived at my relatives place in Rimrock California late in the afternoon. We had a great visit, and went for a mini tour of the area in their jeep. I cannot believe how many people live up in these hills above Yucca Valley, many of them totally off grid. Rimrock is situated just north of Pioneer Town, which is an old movie set. They do old western, shoot ‘em up shows for the public during the summer, however, we had just missed the show and went into Pappy & Harriet’s for dinner along with my cousin and husband who travelled out to visit us from Los Angeles.
After two nights visit with my relatives, we hit the road again, this time heading east through to Lake Havasu. Who would have thought we would go to Arizona to see The London Bridge ? It was built in the 1830s and formerly spanned the River Thames in London, England. It was dismantled in 1967 and relocated to Arizona. We continued on the day’s journey heading north to Kingman Arizona, and then headed west to Williams where we stopped for the night. Of course we had to travel Route 66 where everyone, at one time, got their kicks.
We had a short drive into the Grand Canyon the next morning. We chose to hike the Bright Angel Trail to the Plateau Point. It was a 12 mile hike round trip, and the weather was perfect. Filling our back packs with water, lunch and a snack we headed down into the Canyon. The half of the trail is very steep switchbacks.
But as you near the middle portion of the trail, you come upon Indian Gardens. A beautiful little oasis, as the creek runs through groves of trees. There is a Ranger cabin there, and a picnic area. There were many plants along the trail that I’ve never seen before, some were even in bloom, and we hadn’t expected that due to the time of year. Geckos were plentiful on every step of the trail, and lots of squirrels. A deer even made an appearance as we sat at Indian Gardens for lunch on the trek back to the rim.
From here the walking was a little easier, although still on a downhill grade, it did flatten somewhat. Once we got out onto the plateau the view was spectacular. We were about ½ way to the mighty Colorado River, which snaked below us. As we were taking in the view, a rafting expedition came through, and stopped on the river banks underneath us. Maybe on another trip through the area we could arrange to do that!
As we turned and made our way back up the trail, the sun was getting lower in the sky and the colors of the cliffs continued to change color all the way back up. It was pretty spectacular, and such a different perspective then when we had descended. It was a tough hike back up, as we had expected, and as we neared the top the wind increased, and it was cold. We got back to the car and immediately turned the heater on, and headed out of the Grand Canyon area towards Page Arizona. We did stop at a couple of view points along the road, I could hardly walk when we got out at the hotel in Page. I was a little surprised, but I think it was mainly the way the trail was constructed, and you could not get into any rhythm with the steps!
The next morning we went to Horseshoe Bend, just outside of Page. It is about ½ mile off the highway, and then a short ¼ mile trek to the overlook at the edge of the river. There was what seemed to be a bit of a storm brewing off in the distance, so we were not going to waste any time going to have a look. As you stand at the overlook, the Colorado makes a 270 degree turn 1000 feet below you. There are all sorts of rock formations here that are extremely interesting. I climbed a short bluff, and was checking the view of a different angle. Gary joined me, and shortly after we decided to head back to the car. I started to climb back down, so didn’t see it – but he did trip, on his shoe lace, and fall – so I climbed up to check the damage. He had scraped his hand/wrist where he had surgery. We climbed back down and headed for the car so we could go back into Page and get something to patch him up. We were just about to the car when he realized he had lost the keys! So back I went, climbing back up and fortunately found the keys where he had tripped.
After getting the injury cleaned and bandaged up, we headed out to visit Antelope Canyon. These canyons are magnificent, a must see. A Navajo guide takes about 16 people on a walking tour through the canyon, explaining how they were found, and pointing out different shapes that the locals have named such as a buffalo, an eagles head, etc. He also said that several years back a group of German tourists were touring the canyon when a flash flood occurred. Sixteen perished. The water could come from a thunderstorm 100 miles away, and take a day to hit the canyon, so the Navajo keep a close watch on not only the weather in the vicinity of Antelope Canyon, but also the weather conditions “upstream” from the canyon. This would not be a great trip for anyone with claustrophobic tendencies.
Returning to page, we stopped to look at the Glen Canyon Dam. We walked down to a lookout point, and I have to admit, my legs were still giving me grief after the Grand Canyon hike. We took highway 89, travelling northwest of Page. As we climbed the hill from Page the beautiful Lake Powel came into view. It was created with the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam. Going back to this lake, and renting a houseboat would be a beautiful trip. We continued north, looking for The Toadstools. There is parking right off the highway, with a map to give directions for the 1.8 return walk into the area. Although walking in sand is not my favorite past time, there was lots to see on the trail. Again, wild flowers and rock formations and colors were exceptional. These are spectacular formations, which have taken years for Mother Nature to create. The softer rock being eroded away, leave hard rock sitting atop of a spire like column. The whole area was very interesting, with Caves, and amphitheaters washouts hundreds of feet tall.
Back in the car we carried on to Knab, Utah. Knab was often used as a movie set back in the 1950’s, the streets were lined with statues, and plaques which commemorate the movies filmed there. Unfortunately the museum was closed, it would have been interesting, but we did go on to find the Treasure Trail Motel, which was somewhat of a museum itself. Being built in the 50’s, it came complete with pink toilet, sink and bathtub, as well as steam heat. It was clean, and that is the important thing – that and maybe hot water for a bath, which for some reason I didn’t get, but Gary did 20 minutes after me!
The next day we continued on to Zion national Park.
We made several stops along the way to Springdale, where we had 2 nights booked at the Best Western. The first stop was the Checkered Messa. Not sure how the lines were formed, but was interesting. We also stopped beside the road which at this time was a small creek. However, in a down pour you could see it would get very large and wild. The running water made fascinating features in the sandstone creek bed. The holes in the rock were formed when smaller pebbles dig into the sand stone, and then are swirled around by the water carving out a perfectly round indent. The highway takes you through several small tunnels and the longest Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel had windows cut out in the sheer rock wall that it went through is 1.1 miles long. It was blasted and cut in the thick Navajo sandstone during the early 1900s After exiting the tunnel, and starting the series of switchbacks to the valley floor, the windows into the tunnel became visible. The weather had deteriorated by the time we got to Springdale. We checked into the hotel room, and then went for a dip in the hot tub in the heavy rain. My body deserved that! We were so happy to awake to beautiful blue skies in the morning.
It was looking to be a wonderful day for a hike up Angels Landing. I had spotted this hike on Google Earth, and the photos looked stunning. I wanted to see if for myself. The access to Angels Landing is off a spur road in the park, and with public vehicles not permitted to travel this road, we parked the car at the visitor centre, and rode the shuttle bus to the trailhead.
Although the trail is paved to Scouts lookout point, it is a difficult climb. Many steep switchbacks, in fact one such set was named “Walter’s Wiggles” as it has 21 extremely steep switchbacks. We couldn’t get great photos of this while hiking, but its worth uploading photos of it, – crazy! Once we reached Scouts Lookout Point we started to question our choice to go carry on, it was intimidating to say the least. The trail was no longer paved, and it was narrow – with 1000 foot drops straight to the bottom, on BOTH sides. Of course, I had seen the photos, but standing there in person, about to embark on the climb, was slightly different. There were cables anchored to assist with the climb, and you could see people snaking their way up to the top. So, we went for it! Not wanting to slip, or trip, we took our time going up. I also kept checking Gary’s shoe laces so we didn’t have an accident on the way up or down. I think the photos tell the story the best. ( an awesome video of the hike can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=igI1OFitYFk )
We had time at the top for a few photos, and then there was a loud crack of thunder! We immediately started the descent, the rain started soon after, which made the climb down a little tricky on the slippery rocks. We were saturated by the time we got down the mountain, we went across the road to the Zion Lodge, and was able to grab a table, with hundreds of other soaked tourists to have some warm soup and coffee. We caught the shuttle back to the visitors centre and went back to dry off at the hotel. The sun did come out later that afternoon, and we wandered around the beautiful little town of Springdale. Lots of interesting little shops, to spend the afternoon in, I have to admit, I did pick up a few little souvenirs. The next day we loaded up the car again, and went out on a couple more hikes before leaving the park. It was another beautiful day with brilliant blue skies, and bright sunshine. There are so many hiking trails, each with their own unique features; it was difficult to decide which to go on. We rode the shuttle to the last stop, and hiked to the end of the canyon, which is the start of the Narrows hiking trail on the Virgin River. From there we hiked back several miles along the Virgin River; it was utterly a stunning walk among the tall mountain tops that seem to all go straight up from the Virgin River. It is from here that we were able to get photos of mountain climbers, crazy people, and of the Great White Throne – standing admirably above all that surround it.
At one point we crossed the road and took the trail up to the Emerald pools, the flora and fauna became very noticeable. All the colors were so vibrant. The hike was not difficult at all, although we were a little disappointed at the end result. There may be a specific season that the pools are an emerald green, but this was not it. We did get a little damp on this hike as well. The trail took us behind a waterfall, which over the years had created a large cavern; the spray, and the weeping rocks made for a damp experience, although in the heat of the day, it was somewhat refreshing.
Back in the car, we headed west until we reached Interstate 15 at Saint George, then south, just crossing the border into Nevada, we found a hotel overlooking the town of Mesquite
The next morning we continued south, and drove past Las Vegas and the Hoover dam. We had toured the dam before, but the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge was new, so we did stop to take a short walk at the memorial, and on the bridge itself.
The bridge is a very impressive piece of construction, and such an improvement to the highway. Unless one wants to tour the Hoover dam, you no longer have to zigzag your way down to the dam, and then back up the other side. We arrived Laughlin in the early afternoon. I was happy for a short driving day. We stopped at the Aquarius hotel, and I proceeded inside to inquire if there were vacancies, which there were. I asked the price of the room, and he told me it was $35.00. I asked if that was overlooking the Colorado River, and he looked at me apologetically, and replied, “No those are a little more”. I asked how much more to which he said, $45.00! I said, we would splurge, and take the River View room. We had not paid much more than that for rooms throughout the trip, but this room was by far the most elegant with floor to ceiling windows, and beautifully decorated, and yes, overlooking the Colorado River. We checked in, and settled, and went for a walk along the boardwalk. We considered renting Jet skies, but decided the river was too congested already with jet skies, lake boats, river boats and paddle wheelers; it would have been very stressful trying to maneuver through it all. It was extremely hot, and playing on the water would have been refreshing. Instead we went into the air conditioned Casino.
The next morning we got up and headed north to Las Vegas. We returned our rental car, and took the shuttle to the airport. Our trip was done. We had hiked many miles, and saw such beautiful country. Can’t wait for another road trip……you are able to see so much more from the vehicle than from a plane!