We got out of bed at 7:00 this morning and were on the road by 8:00, ’cause that’s how we roll. The weather alternated between sun and rain, but luckily when we arrived at Bryce it was sunny so we set off on the Navajo Loop trail towards Sunrise Point. The route led straight down through the hoodoos, and while hugely impressive it nonetheless instilled a fair amount of dread for the return trip – I’m in decent shape, but being at nearly 9,000 foot elevation has a way of making the lungs forget how to properly inflate; luckily the route up was more gradual, and with a rainstorm approaching we had added motivation to keep moving and thus avoid becoming human lightning rods.
Given the weather, sunset didn’t provide the expected fireworks, and with my limited photography skills anything less than absolute natural brilliance generally fails to translate well in photos. It was still nice to see, however, and our plan for tomorrow is to be up by 6:30 to catch sunrise. Audrey is surprisingly tolerant of me wanting to take advantage of the light and spend the days hiking, but I suspect some lounging time will be in our future lest we both collapse in a heap in the Utah desert. On a more random note, for reasons that are a mystery to everyone Zion is full of German speaking tourists, but Bryce is the destination of choice for the French speakers; Arches may be full to the gills with Italians…
Audrey has mostly let me set the agenda for this trip, although after setting out for the Angel’s Landing trail in Zion National Park she let me know that she had done some reading about the trail I was taking her on. Despite her misgivings we both made it back alive and she worked the chains and tight ledges like a pro. For anyone who hasn’t done this hike, you spend two miles going up switchbacks including “Walter’s Wiggles” (look at the trail map and you’ll get it) and then a half mile pulling yourself up and across ledges with sheer drops of 1000 feet on either side; it’s fairly memorable.
After the morning’s entertainment and a side-trip for ice cream we headed up the Narrows and sloshed through the Virgin River for a bit with massive sandstone walls rocketing up on either side of us. Audrey and I clearly possess the grace and balance of ballerinas since neither of us took a header into the river; our most unsteady moment came while wading through waist-deep freezing water with a large family behind us yelling what I can only assume were very colorful Spanish phrases as the water rose past their waists. The entire experience was best summed up when Audrey remarked “this is exactly as weird as I pictured it would be”. Tomorrow we’re off towards Bryce Canyon National Park (me likee the canyons), followed by a trip to Moab to see Arches and Canyonlands. Roadtrips are truly wonderful things.
Today was one of a handful of days on this trip that required a lot of driving, so after setting off we covered over 450 miles through the deserts, going from Indian Wells up to the borders of Zion National Park. The obligatory stop in Las Vegas yielded a tasty lunch at PF Chang’s and $7 in winnings at Haywire Deluxe (that’s right, I’m the big winner), then it was off on Interstate 15 and through the Virgin River Gorge to our destination for the evening. I’ve got Audrey suitably frightened about the hike up to Angel’s Landing tomorrow, followed (hopefully) by a trip through the Narrows. All is well in the land of Holliday.
The great roadtrip of 2009 is underway. Audrey and I left Culver City yesterday morning while I was suffering from a fever and a wicked headache, but after several hours of driving and a vast amount of Advil both the headache and fever had miraculously subsided and we were off to Balboa Park for a friend’s wedding. Despite some mix-ups with the wedding start time, seating arrangements, and one curious vow (“ear cleaning” ???) it was a really fun wedding for two friends who really love each other.
Audrey and I decided to enjoy the comfy hotel and slept in this morning before heading off to the gym, and then finally making a visit along the San Diego waterfront. Having never been on an aircraft carrier (my patriotism is clearly suspect) we made a quick trip up to the decks of the USS Midway. In addition to taking in the coolness of a 972 foot, 60 year old carrier I also had the fun experience of discovering I’m somewhat uncomfortable standing on a sloping steel platform where i could potentially plummet a hundred feet into… well, water; Audrey was unsympathetic and laughed prodigiously.
When we finally left San Diego around mid-afternoon the route led through the mountains, past some impressive non-desert scenery in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, and eventually to the Salton Sea which I had last visited in March 2005. During that time it has gotten no less hot, stinky and strange, and we were met with 105°F heat, massive numbers of dead and rotting fish on the shoreline, and the vast vacant lots of Salton City where once a booming vacation town was expected. While in the 1960’s the Salton Sea attracted similar numbers of tourists as Yosemite, today it is a stinking, putrid mess with the majority of the few homes in the Stephen King-esque town showing a “for sale” sign and prices starting around $30,000. After leaving the stench of the lake behind us we headed to Indian Wells for the evening, and due to the fact that there are less than a dozen rooms occupied in the masive Indian Wells Resort Hotel we were upgraded to the largest hotel room I’ve ever stayed in for the low room rate of just $51; so far the trip is off to a pretty good start.