Two people exploring the world, seeking adventure & unique experiences.
Boston to Las Vegas
We cheated again with long distance travel and a flight from Boston to Vegas for $130 each with Delta. Las Vegas was a staging point for our mini road trip of 11 days to the many National Parks of Arizona and Utah.
We stopped in with 2 nights at the Paris Hotel ($70/night) to relax a little and get supplies for our camping road trip. We’ve both been to Vegas several times before and since we both don’t gamble we spent our time shopping and taking in a few sights we had missed in other trips.
We even treated ourselves to seeing the Blue Man Group who were much better than we’d expected.
Let’s get on the road
With the rental car picked up, a black Chevy Cruz, and filled with cheap Walmart camping goodies, we set off for the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. This would be around 425km and 5 hours of driving. Rodora’s dream at the time was to hike North Rim to South Rim. We’d tried the last couple of years to get accommodation either camping or at the ranch at the base with no real luck. We’d been tipped off that arriving at the North Rim we might be able to get a spot from a last minute cancellation. We started off with a night at the North Rim campsite and then got lucky by getting 2 nights camping at 2 different locations in the canyon. A little unexpected, but that’s what we were there for.
North Rim to Cottonwood
The views at the top of the North Rim really are quite stunning. It’s worth allowing some time to stop and take in the view. The North Rim is often much less crowded than the South which means you can also get to enjoy the tranquility.
First day was roughly 11km distance with around 1,000m elevation down to Cottonwood campground. This was brutal on the toes of our feet. There were very few other people around and we were rewarded with a spectacular overnight view.
Cottonwood to Phantom Ranch
This day was around 12km to Phantom Ranch. This is like a mini resort/oasis on the base of the Canyon and right next to the Colorado River that carves the Canyon itself. Monsoon weather played its party trick with a wet and wild afternoon and night. The magical $30 tent held up quite well considering the punishment.
We treated ourselves with a beer in the ranch from the Grand Canyon Brewing company.
With camp setup, we went for the short walk to see and touch the Colorado river. The brown murky colour was not particularly inviting for a swim.
Phantom Ranch to South Rim
We were up at 5am along with many others to beat the morning heat as we had a 15km hike up the south rim. This was a cruel and unusual punishment. We got some mildly wet conditions for the 6 or so hours it took to get up. By the time we saw the rim top; the whole canyon was covered in fog with maybe a 100m of visibility. In hindsight, breaking that final day in half by staying at Indian Gardens would have been a much better choice. It was truly a great experience and the achievement was stamped hard into our memories.
With the weather closing in we chose against camping and upgraded to a room in the Bright Angel Lodge ($100/night).
How to get to the North Rim?
The way back is by a 5hr shuttle bus ($85ea) the next morning full of other people telling their stories of survival in some rapidly changing weather.
Zion National Park
With the weather still being very wet and not so nice we went west to Zion National Park and were met with some really torrential rain. Driving into the park there were waterfalls spilling onto the road in places that we would find out the next morning almost never exist. With the campsites half flooded and the threat of an awful night of sleep, we chose again to stay in a hotel ($132). This would turn out to be a budget killer for us, but what do you do in this sort of weather?
Zion is spectacular. We covered a few small hikes after an interpretive tour to try and make the most of our time. A number of the big and major hikes were closed including going up river into the narrows. We ended the day early and drove onwards to Bryce Canyon.
Bryce Canyon National Park
The drive towards Bryce canyon along scenic highway 12 is truly amazing. Thankfully some sun and blue sky would behave for a few hours to allow some nice photos.
Bryce Canyon is yet another unique gem of a park with its key feature being “Hoodoos” that got covered in cloud and heavy rain after our early morning hike. We survived camping overnight thankfully.
Capitol Reef Park
Our trip continued East along scenic Highway 12 toward Capitol Reef. The weather was warming up and we pushed in a few quick hikes. The reward was a Strawberry and Rhubarb pie that ranks as one of the best pies we’ve ever eaten.
This park was actually a real surprise for us and we’re glad we took a few hours to stop in. Maybe it was just the fact we had some sun and blue skies for the day to make us extra happy. This was the venue for Rodora’s first shoe/foot photo.
Moab with Arches and Canyonlands
The next destination was Moab which is the home of Canyonlands and Arches. Canyonlands is famous for the movie called 127 hours where an adventure seeker gets stuck in a canyon with his arm trapped by a rock. He needs to use a pocket knife to cut his arm off and free himself and save his own life.
Whitewater rafting on the Colorado River
Moab is a town that really surprised us. We saw a lot of similarities with Banff in Alberta, Canada. This town was being held together by tourism with any type of adventure seemingly possible. Toby wanted a dune buggy tour but we ended up with a whitewater rafting day in Westwater Canyon on the Colorado River with Tag-a-long tours. This sadly didn’t turn out as we’d expected. They had 3 rafts on the trip and 20 people. They would have a 6 person paddling raft and 2 other rafts crewed by a guide and the people on board as passengers only. Toby was a little disappointed that he didn’t get the option to be on the paddle raft, but this was soon overcome after seeing them all popped out on one of the rapids. This was a fairly hectic time as the rapids came in close succession and getting them out of the water was difficult. Most of them went through the next rapid in the water. The look on all of their faces was one of shock and fear. One guy said he didn’t want to be on their raft again and joined ours for the remainder of the rapids.
Arches and Canyonlands
Arches National Park is a true tourist haven. It was a very busy park, maybe by way of its design and lack of a shuttle service. Personally this had the best views and hikes compared to Canyonlands. Though Canyonlands is so big and we barely saw 1/3 of it, so we’re being a little unfair. The highlight of Arches was a hike into the Fiery Furnace. Toby had read about this online and booked it about 1 month in advance as they only have 2 hikes a day with 25 people each. It was booked solid. The 3 hour hike takes you through narrow canyons, tall spires, arches and all sorts of awkward climbing and jumping.
Page Arizona for Antelope Canyon
We drove another 430km and 5+ hours to get to Page for a view of Antelope Canyon. This is a must see if you get a chance and you’re somewhere in the area. Try and work out by time of year when the best lighting for photos will be. 11am is roughly the best time in September. Don’t go earlier and booking in advance by a few days should get you a spot. You can only go in by tour, there’s no other way as it’s native land.
Onwards to Vegas
With half the day gone, we had to get the rental car back to Vegas and onto our overnight bus towards Albuquerque. It was a busy afternoon full of adventure, especially for Rodora waiting alone in the bus station.
Plenty more to explore. Keep following the blog and our Flickr account for updates. http://www.flickr.com/photos/toraadventure/