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Vicki’s Travel Diary

Friday, 21 Oct 2011

Location: Grand Canyon, USA

MapWell, here I am, half way through my trip already, at the Grand Canyon. So what have I been up to since my last entry?
The road from Escalante to Capitol Reef was really scenic, partly because of all the snow! I camped in a small place called Fruita, which was an old Morman fruit growing area - the campsite was in the orchard and you could pick apples for free! Apart from it being cold at night, and there were no showers, this was a really good camp site. You can see photos of Capitol Reef NP from the other day. It was another stunning place with great hiking.
From Fruita I drove to Moab, via Goblin Valley (the photo explains why!), which was a bit of a detour, but worth it. Moab was a very out-doors sort of place - lots of mountain bikers to do the Slick Rock Trail, and it has it's own microbrewery, that also served very good food.
On Friday I went to Arches NP. Sorry to keep using the word, but it was awesome! Some of the arches could be viewed from the road, but most were on hiking trails. The hiking was great, especially when I got off the main trails and onto the primitive ones. Lots of slick rock (exposed, weathered sandstone thats grippy when dry but slick when wet or covered in sand). Many of the arches were very spectacular, as was the scenery generally.
On Saturday I went to the Island an the Sky area of Canyonlands. The best way to see this was to do lots of short trails off the road. The views were great and the short trails were pretty good, although I did think this wasn't quite on a par with the other plcaes I'd been to. One of the walks was interesting because it had an old Indian granary hidden in the rocks below the top of a butte. On the way back to Moab, I stopped at Dead Horse Point, which was equally as scenic, and watched the sunset. (I've done that a few times on this trip!)
My new tent had been delivered to the motel in Moab, so before I left on Sunday I thought I'd better test it, and put it up in my room!
Although the Needles area of Canyonlands is a long way off the main road, I decided to go and visit that. It was brillient! Even the road to it was great - lots of autumn colours and a stop off at Newspaper Rock which has loads of petroglyphs. This area is much better than Island an the Sky. You have to camp, as there's no motels etc, so this was a good opportunity to test the new tent. The campground was very basic (cold water, no showers) but very quiet and dark, and surrounded by magnificent scenery. I did some superb hikes in the 2 days I was here. The autumn colours in the canyons are great, but the best thing is climbing from one canyon to another - scrambling up and down slick rock, with amazing views and rock formations at every turn. On the first evening I went to a ranger talk about geology - outside in the open - it was very interesting. It is so dark in these places that the Milky Way is visibly right across the night sky! The first night wasn't too cold, which was a good thing and a bad thing. Bad because lots of beasties were attracted to the light in the tent, and because the inner tent is all mesh I could see them crawling up the mesh - including an enormous stick insect! The next night was really cold, but at least there were no creepy crawlies! I think the tent is better, but I've yet to be convinced.
On Tuesday I drove to Monument Valley. I'd originally planned to stay there for at least one night, but there was no rooms left in the hotel. I went on a jeep tour of the valley, which was great. They take you round the various mesas and buttes, pointing out the names of them, the history and all the John Wayne movie locations. Our guide was a Navajo (the land is owned by the Navajo people) and he told us a lot about their history, culture and traditions. At one of the places we stpped at, a natural ampitheatre, he played some music on his indian flute. Then another group arrived, and their guide also played some music - flute and drum and they sang some indian songs, which was really nice. Then an indian in bright costume came running in and did some dances - I wasn't expecting any of of this, but it was very enjoyable.
As I had "done" Monument Valley by about 4pm I decided to drive to my next planned destination, which was Tuba City, about 100 miles further on. When I got there it was dark, but I had gained an hour as I'd gone into a different time zone. There were 3 motels in Tuba City and all of them were full. One suggested I try Cameron, which was about 25 miles further on. I phoned them and got a room. So a lot of driving on Tuesday, but it was worth it because Cameron was only half an hour's drive from Grand Canyon - my next destination. Cameron was a Trading Post, run by Navajo. There was a motel, store, gift shop and filling station. That was it - oh, and a dining room (not restaurant!) - the food was Ok but no alcohol. But an amazing room - lots of indian carving and tapestries and an ornate ceiling made of tin.
So I arrived here at the Grand Canyon by 9am on Wednesday, and was booked into a camp site by 10am. (They fill up very quickly). The Grand Canyon is - yes, you've guessed it - awesome! It's so big, and the colours are amazing. The campground is pretty good and it does have hot showers. There is a shuttle bus that runs around the village, which saves fuel. I'm booked in for 4 nights and have been here for 2 so far. The days are warm and sunny, but it's really cold at night. And the sun sets at 5.45pm. So my cunning plan is to get the shuttle to a bar every night to keep warm for as long as possible! It's worked so far. I've done 2 trails into the canyon so far - the South Kaibab Trail, which was on my list of must dos, and the Grand View Trail. There are dire warnings of certain death if you go down to the river and back in a day, so I've only been going down about 1000m, but it's great hiking, and it gives me time to use the computer in the community library.
I've got some more photos but they will have to go on in another computer session, as I'm over my time already.
So quote of the month this time? Well, it's not so much a quote as a "If I had a pound for every time"... someone said to my "Good for you!" when I tell them what I'm doing - alone.
By the way, does anyone know what the "issue" with Blackberry is? I can't get onto the internet at free wi-fi places, and Vodafone have told me it's a global problem they're trying to resolve.
So, that's it for the moment. More news when I can next find a computer.