Saturday, August 14, 2010

Days 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 – August 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 From Las Vegas to Zion NP to Bryce Canyon NP to Grand Canyon NP through Monument Valley to Moab and Arches NP to Park City to Evanston - 2ND PART

Day 7 - 2nd Part

We left Zion NP and drove to Bryce Canyon. On the Zion scenic road, there are tunnels like we never saw before. The longest one is 4 miles long, cut into the rock in 1930 (you can actually see the cuts), very narrow and there are no lights in there, authentic. Nothing like an Austrian or Swiss tunnel…
At Bryce Canyon, the first thing that surprised us was how high we were (above 8000 feet = 2700 m). The second thing was a cold rain.  We went for a walk then came back to our campsite. It stopped raining right on time for us to eat chili con carne and go to see the sunset above the canyon. The sky was splendid: several thunderstorms above distant mountains, heavy rains above others.

Day 8 – Bryce Canyon NP and Grand Canyon NP
The night was very cold. We managed to wake up in the morning to see the sunrise above the Canyon. There were dozens of people waiting with us. But they just took pictures and went back to the lodge or to their campsites whereas we drank some orange juice, ate a muesli bar and went for a hike in the canyon. It was great. The light was filling up the canyon and there was almost no one down there except for  us, a couple, a guy that looked like a ranger but wasn’t one, a few chipmunks and even a Utah prairie dog. The Utah prairie dog is an endemic species and wanders only seldom in the canyon, since his home is the prairie above. We were quite happy about not seeing any rattlesnakes.
In the afternoon, after a few hours drive and a nice guy at a gas station who taught us how big a tip is expected for which services (we asked…), we arrived at Grand Canyon’s North Rim. Our first impression was completely different from what we expected. Most of the National Park on its North Rim are astonishingly big and beautiful alpine meadows and pine and aspen forests. We expected just rocks… what a big mistake! We managed to put our top down just a few seconds before rain came.
Upon our arrival at the campground, we couldn’t go to our campsite until 4 pm (it was about 2 pm) because of some roadwork being done. We went to the lodge, had a meal with the view of Grand Canyon, did some laundry and the access to our campsite was ready. We planted our tent and went for a hike on the Widforss trail which has nice forests and a view of the Canyon. Since it was almost evening, we were the only ones on the trail. We even met some animals (one deer was about 3 meters from us) and we were quite happy none of them was a bear.
Night fell quickly and the starlit sky was amazing. We thought the next day would be as nice as this one and planned on going into the Canyon (for a bit) to see the way down into Grand Canyon.

Day 9 – Grand Canyon NP and a drive through Monument Valley
Our plans didn’t go as expected. It started raining during the night. The rain intensified in the morning. We managed to pack our tent when the rainfall calmed down. Then it started heavy again. After a breakfast at the local shop and a quick connection to the Internet, we were off to our next destination – Moab, UT. It was very heavy raining all day, which meant we didn’t see much of Monument Valley. There were some areas on the road we think were flooded about an hour after we passed there. I don’t think that heavy rains are common in the Desert…
After an all day ride, we finally arrived to Moab. ALL the motels were full and the campgrounds in the park as well. We managed to get the last available tent site in the city campground. It was an unpleasant night. 
Since it was a private campground and it was in the city, campers were extremely different from those in the National Park Campgrounds with no pool and playground etc. 
The tent sites were very small and ours neighbored with one occupied by an extremely crazy Polish family. They didn’t respect quiet hours (in the evening and in the morning). That was our only night here in the US when we had to use our earplugs. It still was horrible (Polish TV series ‘till midnight then Polish radio in the morning – at 6.50 am).

Day 10 – Arches NP and a crazy trip to Park City
We were happy to get up and leave. Getting up early was a good idea since Arches NP is basically a desert. We drove into the heart of the park and went for the ‘Devil’s Garden’ trail. That’s the one you can see most Arches at. I think it’s eight. First third of the trail is quite ok, it’s paved or compacted sand and it’s an easy walk. Then, after the Landscape Arch, the trail becomes primitive which means walking on sand or climbing up and down sandstone. There were moments with impressive drop offs but the good point was, it was far less crowded. First and second parts of Devil’s Garden trail were equally hot. Very hot. We got back around midday, which was about time – more people and more heat were on the way.
The Arches were extraordinary.
Then we’d had enough of rocks and were off to see something different. We decided not to stop in Salt Lake City but to go to Park City – a mountain town that hosted skiing, ski jumping and sledding disciplines during 2002 Winter Olympics. The drive up there was very nice. We went up a nice valley, around a lake and up on the plain. There it was, Park City. We checked our Lonely Planet and decided to stay at Chateau Apres Lodge for the night. We spent the better part of an hour looking for Norfolk Avenue. No on really knew where it was plus we didn’t know Park City and there are many dead ends and one ways. When we finally found it, it was closed. We peaked around for a while then decided to try the hotel just next to it. Its check-in office was closed on the Sundays. After looking around for another 20 minutes, we found out all the check-ins of all the hotels were closed. Park City obviously isn’t a place where you can come for just one night. We managed to see a bit of Park City’s Main St, which dates back from the 19th century.
Then we were off to look for a motel on the road. Super 8 in Evanston was a very clean and comfortable place to stay.

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