29 September 2017 | 0 comments

The rock, the shapes and the colours, this amazing journey did not disappoint. As we travelled around Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Colorado, our main focus was on the magnificent landscape, but there was plenty more to see: the ancient stone villages, the Navajo reserve, petroglyphs and the spotlessly neat Mormon towns.

Hats off to the Arches

Our team was great too: from the UK, Roy, Jim, Judith, Chris, Dave, John, Chris, Caroline, Mike, and from Australia, Craig. And our fabulous bus driver Manfred. This charming and courteous man kept the shiniest bus on the road day after day.

Manfred and the joy of shiny black wheels

We land in Las Vegas: the top of the Stratosphere to watch people bungee jumping and rollercoastering off the top. Insane. It did have some redeeming features: the food, the dancing fountains and comfortable beds. When a friendly American said to Judith, ‘I apologise for this city on behalf of the American Nation’, I understood. Enough said.

On to the start of our travels. The most inappropriately named ‘Snow Canyon’ in a scorching 103 degrees C. We set off down the ‘Hidden Pinyon’ Trail for a gentle 2 hour walk, there were some lovely rock formations, sand, new plants to see. However, before long, all we really wanted to find was the shade of said Pinyon tree, and with some praiseworthy teamwork, we managed to escape before heat exhaustion set it in a more serious way. Celebrated our survival with dinner at Rusty’s Cabin.

Not deterred, and hugely relieved by a drop in temperature back to the low 90’s, Zion National Park had treats in store. A spectacular climb to Scout’s lookout, via the Refrigerator Canyon (this time well-named and welcome) and for some, on the VERY narrow and VERY steep ridge to Angel’s landing, then the beautiful gentle riverside walk up to the Narrows. Paddling in the stream.

Bryce Canyon

Onwards to Bryce Canyon and the hoodoos. Looking out over the most spectacular pillars from the rim, was quite surreal, a walk down into the bowl was astonishing; we loved picking out the strangely names shapes: Queen Victoria riding a camel ?! Wall street definitely had tall walls. Our dinner in Ebernezers with cowboy style music was a laugh.

Continuing at speed to Capitol Reef park and another lovely canyon walk to break our journey, viewing the original settlers barns along the way. Stopped by at the delightful Kiva Coffee House. A kiva, we discover later, is an ancient Pabloan style meeting or living room set into the ground, with the entrance through the roof, and a symbolic pipe in the floor to recognise that humans did originally rise up from within the earth. This place, whist tucked almost invisible into the Cliffside, served fantastic coffee and cakes, with a view to match.

Arches National Park was just like the photos, but better, because not only are there these most fantastic sandstone arch formations, but the ridges of slickrock that make up parts of the trail make for great walking. We all climbed up the Devil’s Garden trail, some on to the Dark Angel. Much teamwork around some fairly big rocky steps. More arches the next day – the pictures tell the story.

Park Avenue

Next stop Mesa Verde National Park, all about the archaeology here. A ridge trail around the rim of the Mesa (massive table plateau at 2000m, some 1,000m above the surrounding land) and Cliff Palace, a village of stone dwellings some 600 years old, built to take advantage of the cliff overhangs formed by springs emerging from the cliff side as water hits the harder rock layers.

Cliff Palace

The next day we see ruins of a mesa community complete with reservoir,  Balcony House – ladders and tunnels-  and a favourite walk: the Petroglyph trail, where patterns are carved on the rock by scratching on the darker surface. Our stay in Mesa Verde felt like a time to relax and contemplate history and culture.

Then, Monument Valley, those iconic shapes, the set for all those films. We make a note to see at least Forrest Gump and the Eiger Sanction again. Manfred does an amazing re-enactment of Forest Gump in purple poncho. We get carried away with the mittens. A bouncy jeep ride into the Navajo reservation seeing rock pictures and listening to the haunting flute. Tasty steak cookout in the middle of nowhere, iced tea was pretty amazing.

To see the short video, click on this link Manfred does Forest Gump

Finally we reach the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. We take a few snaps at the busy Visitor Centre viewpoint , but quickly move on to find a quieter spot. Shoshone Point is exquisite and deserted. The Canyon looks moody and threatening as thunder and lightening rumble around.  In the morning we walk along the South rim but have to dive in to the Bright Angel Lodge to shelter from thunderbolts and heavy rain. Later we love the geology trail which has rock from every level of the canyon as we walk along, from the sandstones and limestone of the upper layers to the granite and basalt of the inner canyon.

Then it’s our ‘practise’ walk half way down the canyon on the North Kaibab trail to Skeleton Point. Lovely shady picnic spot. Ooh Aah point is pretty ooh aah. we make fabulous time, confidence is high and the forecast is good!!

And 7.30 am we’re off down the Bright Angel Trail. Whilst it’s busy with people and mules, nothing can detract from the scale and splendour. Indian Gardens half way down, a lush green oasis, comes as a wonderful surprise.  The trickle of the stream the rest of the way through pretty gorges and stunning rock formations is amazing. The sight of the enormous brown monster that is the Colorado river, is breath-taking.

Phantom Ranch is on strict water rations as the pipeline is broken, so no shower tonight, but the stream next to our cabin is lovely. Very weird – no water but fully functioning air conditioning units. The milky way is sparkling it’s full glory.


The Colorado River Bridges

The 1750m ascent to the North Rim on the North Kaibab trail is even better than the descent – quieter, longer and more dramatic, there’s no doubt in my mind it deserves it’s place in the world’s top hikes lists. The inner canyon is so hidden and narrow and secretive, then you twist up onto the shelf of the higher canyon, only to have to wind your way through layers and layers of bright red sandstone, then to delightful cool pine forests approaching the North rim.

Joyfully reunited with Manfred (comes seeking us in ‘le ever shiny bus’) and the rest of the team, we hear stories of their wonderful helicopter ride above us as we walked down. And Happy Birthday Jim.

Dawn at the north rim

All that remains is a smooth trip back to Vegas, a night out on the town, fond farewells and a safe journey home. An unforgettable trip, thank you all.



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