Kings Canyon 

Breakfast on the deck today, admiring the mountains and watching woodpeckers and humming birds. It was hard to set off for the short but lengthy drive to Kings Canyon, I could have stayed here all day!  

   We decided to avoid the hairpin bends in Sequoia and took a different road. It wasn’t long before we were lost in the maze of fruit trees. Road signs had been non-existent, even in the town where we wanted to turn right. The satnav didn’t really help, fortunately we had 4G so could use the iPhone maps. That put us on the right road. So much for avoiding the bends – this road was almost as bad, down to 15mph for nearly 20 miles! But we made it, and the views were just as stunning. Although I wasn’t impressed when I saw the road disappearing round yet more hairpins into the depths of the canyon!  

 We stopped for lunch at Grizzly Falls – good job we’d packed butties and a flask as food was non-existent!  

 On to Roads End, literally. We walked for half an hour along Copper Canyon trail, climbing steeply all the time. There wasn’t a soul about except us. The views were fantastic.  

    Made our way back, stopping to admire General Grant, another huge Seqoia tree at over 268 feet high, 40 feet wide and 1700 years old! Saw chipmunks and Mule Deer. These trees are amazing – so massive, I love them. 

     In an attempt to avoid the bends we took another route back – still lots of bends but not so sharp. It was a long way round though. Supper at a Pizza Factory, before enjoying the last of the sun and wine on the deck – excellent! 

Sequoia

Had a lovely time at the AirBnb, great value, really comfortable. As we left Bakersfield we saw acres and acres of fruit trees and vines – oranges, apricots, walnuts and grapes. But within a few miles, the fruit trees were interspersed with ‘nodding donkeys’ , apparently the area is a productive oil field.  

 
  It was a relatively short drive today, and we were soon approaching Sequoia. At tunnel rock we were glad we didn’t have the RV any longer!  

    Took this photo of a granite outcrop, not realising we would later be climbing it!  

 Our first encounter with the giant Redwoods that Sequoia is famous for – they are truly spectacular!  

 
  View from the top of Mora Rock. And looking down at the hairpin bends that were a real white knuckle ride! 

    We’re going on a bear hunt, we’re not scared! Sadly we didn’t see one.  

Next stop was The General Sherman tree – officially the biggest tree in the world. Not the tallest, but biggest mass of trunk. It was huge! 

   Lots of the trees had lightening damage. 

  

The journey back along those hairpin bends was ‘interesting ‘ to say the least! Even the Satnav struggled!

 

Tonight we are at another AirBnB, this time a small apartment. Sat on the patio near the pool with a glass of wine watching humming birds and soaking up the view. This is the life!

Death Valley to Bakersfield 

Stepping out of our room yesterday was like stepping into a hot oven – a blast of hot air. It was a lovely sunset too. 

 It was only 80 degs when we set off this morning after a comfortable night. We were relieved that we didn’t discover the numerous Blackman beetles until we drew the curtains- apparently it is the season for them. 

Today we were leaving Death Valley, heading to an overnight stop at Bakersfield. We drove from near sea level up to 5000 feet, back down then back up again. Warning signs on the roadside told us to turn the aircon off – fortunately it wasn’t too hot yet. We stopped at Father Crowley Viewpoint, where the lava flows changed to rainbow coloured rock. It is an area used by U.S. jets for low level flying training and we witnessed two jets fly low and fast down the narrow canyon beneath us. Sadly we didn’t have the camera ready. 

We then approached Owens Lake, with snow capped mountains beyond. It’s strange to think that our accommodation in Sequoia is just over that mountain range, about 30 miles away, but we would be driving nearly 200 miles.  America’s highest point is in that range, just 80 miles from it’s lowest point at Badwater Basin.

   Found a lovely rustic western cafe for a much needed cuppa, apple pie and lemon meringue pie!  

 

Back on the road again to Bakersfield. We decided to take the scenic route through Sequoia Forest Park, and it was worth it. The desert scenery changed to rocky mountainous views, with a lengthy, slightly hairy, twisting descent. Lovely views of a lake enroute, and an ice cream stop at the quaintest shop you’ve ever seen, a sign saying no photos was the warning! It was like stepping back in time.  

     

Now we are at an Airbnb in Bakersfield. Lovely place, everything we could ask for, including wifi! Time to find some food!

Death Valley

Interesting start to the day. Up early, as is becoming the norm. Packed and spruced up The Beast, then set off in Las Vegas rush hour traffic to collect the hire car, before dropping off the RV. Oops, Hertz have moved! Fortunately just a few miles away. Found the place, but they hadn’t got the car we booked, claimed they had no big cars and offered us a small car. No way would our cases fit in that. We were politely assertive, and got a free upgrade to what she called a mini van – we called it a people carrier. I set off on my own to drive to the RV depot with Pete following behind in the Beast. I had tried to memorise the route, but missed the turning! I saw the RV in my mirror, happily heading back to the depot, while I was driving satnav-less into the depths of Las Vegas! All on my own! Help! Fortunately I found a spot to turn round and was soon back on the right road. 

Eventually we were on our way, relieved to leave Las Vegas behind, heading into the unknown that is Death Valley. Names like Funeral Mountain and Devil’s Garden did nothing to encourage us. The temperature climbed, over 90 degs. We detoured to Dante View. A long climb up a narrow road, but WOW! We were rewarded by fantastic views of the Badwater Basin – massive salt flats, 80m below sea level.   

  Next stop was Zabrinski. Amazing coloured rocks. We were just in awe, never seen anything like it.  

 

  
The temperature was climbing and peaked at 106 F! We descended to 78 m below sea level.  

 
  A quick stop at Furnace Creek resort, a much needed cold drink and ice cream before the last 30 miles to our hotel – Stovepipe Wells. We had a lovely dip in the pool, which surprisingly is heated. 

Today has been amazing. The desert is beautiful beyond words. Hot, windy, but what an experience. 

Zion

Today was the third park in the Grand Circle – Zion. We didn’t know what to expect here. Up early again and managed to get one of the few RV parking spaces at the Visitor Centre, then caught the free shuttle bus to the far end of the canyon. Zion is a place of towering peaks, and a narrow canyon and river.  

  We walked to the start of The Narrows, where the path continues through the river. It’s supposed to be spectacular but we didn’t have the right gear to tackle it. Next time… 

The warning sign of a high flash flood risk today wasn’t putting people off either. 

 We found a trail that went along the side of the rocks to the emerald pool. It was beautiful there and as peaceful as it could be on a public holiday.  

        We didn’t have time to do the more strenuous hikes so we headed back to the RV, taking in every bit of the fabulous scenery.  

        We’ve got neck ache today from looking up all the time. Even the shuttle buses have windows in the roof so you can see the peaks!  

 So now we are heading back to Las Vegas. We say goodbye to FB Beast tomorrow and pick up a car for the next leg. 

Heading to Zion

Well it’s been an interesting day! We took the upper route across to Zion, as we had been warned about the switchbacks and tunnel on the alternative road. I spotted a bit of snow in amongst the trees, which got more widespread. The snowplough should have been the warning!  

 

   

 We stopped at a viewpoint and got chatting to a nice couple. They recommended avoiding the main Zion Park, with it being Memorial Weekend and visit the quieter Kolob Canyon, still part of Zion, and do the Taylor Creek trail to the Natural Arch. ‘You’ll cross the creek a coupl’a times, but there’s lots of stepping stones, it’s not a problem ‘ So that’s what we did. I’m not kidding, we crossed that creek over 50 times in the 6km hike to the Arch, which was actually a cave, and very pretty.  

The creek crossings were pretty easy, and Pete dropped a few rocks in to make it easier in the deeper sections.We had a welcome sit and cuppa at the cave then set off back. We were pleased to see that the creek level had dropped considerably in a short time, as Pete’s rocks were now more exposed.  Our joy was short lived as we turned a corner to find other hikers contemplating a deep pool. Some lads were climbing a steep slippery section of rock and we thought ‘how silly’, then we realised why. What had been a shallow crossing at a boulder fall had become a dam in the space of 30 minutes. We either took the dangerous scramble or waded through! We watched a couple of people wade, and decided that was the best option. Fortunately it was sandy, and the cold water soon numbed our feet so we couldn’t feel anything anyway!    

 

The rest of the hike was uneventful and we set off on the final part of today’s journey to Zion River RV resort, and very nice it is too. Good wifi and a few beers, wet socks drying in the sun. 

First view of Zion: 

 

Bryce Canyon

Into the park bright and early. Very foggy at the top, but as we trekked down towards the Peek-a-Boo trail, we were teased by glimpses of the hoodoos in the murk. The fog lifted and we were in the middle of the most amazing rock pillars. We were virtually alone, it was beautiful. 

   

  

  

  

  

 The climb up out of the canyon was steady and easy. By now it was starting to rain, and we were lucky to find one of the few places in the park to get a coffee. Then I spotted the horserides desk! A ride was about to set off, so I went too. My mount was Paris, a mule, and she had a habit of walking right next to the edge! We rode into a part of the park where we hadn’t walked and it was just as spectacular. 

   

 Another great day – moving to Zion tomorrow. 

A day on the road

Today we head north to Bryce Canyon, 111 miles as the crow flies, 283 by road! The satnav reckons it’s nearly 7 hours! So, up early and on the road by 7.15 – yes, 7.15, if you’re reading this Andy and Sue! 

First stop was Desert View, and last glimpse of the Canyon. It was lovely, really peaceful and quiet – too early for other tourists!   
    Next stop was Horseshoe Point – a spectacular curve in the Colorado river. It was a mile’s hike across the desert to get there, but well worth it.
   
 Back into the RV for a short drive into Page, restocked with food and fuel, then back on the road. Oh, and cold remedies because someone has man flu. Although he’s just suggested it’s altitude sickness…

The scenery today has been varied – wide open plains, rocky mountains, Native American settlements and the beauty of Lake Powell. 

Time to get back on the road, still got a few hours to go! 

Grand Canyon 

Arrived late at night to the RV park, temperature dropped to freezing overnight. Looked out of the window at 6am to see this:

 Ok, so the photo won’t load, it was an Elk!  
 
They would be regular visitors over the next few days. 

We were at the local airstrip nice and early ready for our first sight of the canyon. As we flew over the rim and got our first view there were gasps from everyone! We had 30 minutes flying over the canyon – it was just fantastic! Even better, we had seats in the front!

Photos to follow when we get better wifi!

Tuesday morning found us up and out before 8am, as we headed off to trek down the Kaibab Trail into the depths of the canyon. The early morning light was perfect and the views were spectacular. The warning signs of heat exhaustion and the return ascent had put off all but the hardiest souls and we had lunch 3 miles down at Skeleton Point, probably the best lunch stop in the world. We could see the rafts on the canyon far below. Tens of thousands of people at the top, just half a dozen where we were. It was just fantastic, awesome, amazing. The return hike was steep but manageable, and we were rewarded by a flying display by the Californian Condor. He was huge and came so close we could see his wing tag! Number 23! Yes, I got a photo but can’t upload it until we get home!

There’s very poor wifi here, will post more photos when we get a better signal. 

RV day

We couldn’t collect our RV until after lunch, so spent the morning mooching around Vegas. Glad we’ve seen it, but it just seems like lots of shops and casinos to us. We were amazed at how many people were on the slot machines at 9am! 

By the time we’d been shown round our little RV, and stocked up with provisions at Walmart, it was 3pm before we hit the road. 250 miles to the Grand Canyon, ETA 8pm! Think we mis-judged that a bit, and should have stopped overnight halfway. 

Meet our little RV – home for the next week. Nicknamed FB Beast! I’m sure we booked a smaller one! 

  
The scenery is amazing – wide open plains, mountains and tumbleweed! 

  

Las Vegas

Loud, busy and brash. Not to mention sunny and hot. Dropped the bags off at the hotel and headed out to explore. We’ve lost count of how many hours we’ve been up, but we’re only here for one night and need to see as much as possible. First stop was the dancing fountain, hilarious to watch a mother duck and her ducklings negotiate the jets of water. Sat in a street cafe just soaking up the atmosphere. 

   
 

   
   

USA Trip

An early start for the drive to Manchester Airport. No queues at bag drop, no queues at security – made a bee line for the coffee shop. Sat watching the planes and grey skies, bring on the sun in Las Vegas! Oh, forecast is rain tomorrow, and 0 degrees overnight at the Grand Canyon! I hope the RV has heating!  

  
 

Final Day

Stayed at the most fantastic B&B in Kinlochleven last night, the best one on the entire route. After a magnificent breakfast we set off in drizzle, but with the promise of better weather later. We were at sea level and were soon climbing, a steady slog up to 300m.

The views got better and better, the terrain wilder, and the clouds lighter. Blue sky was peeping through. 

We met up with other walkers who we had seen nearly every day. We all exchanged stories about the walk, accommodation and ailments! 

After a short lunch stop we came across all our new found friends and had a group photo! Hopefully they are now reading this! “Hi everyone! It was great to meet you all!”

It was a long slog down into Fort William, not helped by them moving the finish line by over a km further! 

We met our German friends at the finish line – he’s a photographer so took lots of photos of us. Sat in the cafe next to the finish writing this and our USA friends arrived.

It’s been a fantastic adventure, we loved every minute. Here’s to the next one!