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Trip Report Grand Circle Trip Report Oct/Nov 2013

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Day 1 - 28th Oct.(15 miles) Our weather reports had told us that overnight and morning would be the worst storms in the UK for 25 yrs. Got to be true as they had been forecasting it for days and days before. Obviously this had a bearing on my 11 am flight. Was initially panicking that the flight would be cancelled, but come the day, it was just a bit windy and flight left London on time.

End up being seated next to one of eight cheerleaders from the US who had come over to London for a month to promote the NFL which now play a couple of games at Wembley each year. As well as being stunning, she was very down to earth and very chatty for the duration and made for a good flight in. By the way, did i say she was stunning. Very pretty, like the type where you find yourself awkwardly staring.......anyway.

Immigration at LAX was long and even then my bag arrived late. Ended up being pulled aside to have my bags checked. Once finished, the whole place was deserted. The bag checker must have been a part time worker for the Arizona tourist board as once he knew of my intentions, never stopped talking about some caves in southern AZ (forgotten them).

Alamo went smoothly and straight to my line of SUV's. Was expecting an Escape but only about 3 to choose from, none an Escape, one of which was a 4x4 Jeep, so took it thinking it would suit me to the ground. Had planned a quick detour to Playa Del Rey for a few photos of the ocean before heading to my hotel in Inglewood. Good job i'd drove a few miles as i soon noticed a wobble in the steering at 40mph so promptly took it back. I did the quick paperwork and this time the lane was full. Picked out a GMC Terrain AWD which i must say fortuned me well as it proved fantastic for my trip. Overnight at Inglewood.

Day 2 - 29th Oct. (512miles). Well....i say overnight. I was asleep by 7pm having been awake since 3am UK time. Woke at 11pm and was soon on my way out of L.A. Barstow arrived in 2 hrs and i parked up a bit further at a rest stop for a power nap.

Destination was Amboy which i was there for about 5am so really dark and quite spooky, with only the faint lights of Roys to keep me company. Really busy railroad tracks with huge train length of carriages, even double deckers. Waited for the horizon to lighten up then did the trail up the crator which took about an hr r/trip. Caught sunrise at the top of the crator. Nice. A great hike that would be ideal for kids.

At Needles took the Oatman Rd and via Oatman and Sitgreaves Pass which was a great start. Got too close to some cacti and soon found my boots punctured with dozens of spines...ouch. Good job i had my multi-tool and used the pliers to pull the spines out. Wow, they even sunk into the soles of my walking boots, even in my leg. Too early for the burros.

Got some shopping sorted at Kingman including another Tracphone for my trip as the old one id brought back was deemed void (since it had been turned off too long apparently).

Started to flurry a bit with snow at Williams and got real cold when stopping briefly at the gas pump museum.

Checked in at Tusayan (boo/hiss i hear you say) which i quite like, and got my America the Beautiful Pass for my duration. Mather point for a quick stop before sunset at a big snow storm again but only lasted a few minutes. Actually, the brilliant sunshine came back out for a fantastic sight of which i could still see the snow cloud hovering over as it passed leaving a rainbow behind.

Day 3 - 30th Oct. (32 miles) Woke at 2am but had to force myself to stay in bed. Left at 6am to the rim, again under some snow flurries. Got to Bright Angel trail and it was quite icy with a snow covering on the trail. So got my cheapo crampons (eBay arrived the day before i left) onto my boots and made my way down. Plateau Point was the destination. Some how one of my crampons must have popped off and i couldn't find it, but thankfully the snow covering was shortlived and had disappeared well before 1.5 resthouse. I made no stops on the way down but did do videoing, leaving photo stops for the way back up. Going down was quite uneventful and lonely as i saw noone else, but after 3.0 resthouse saw some campers on their way back up. Great vista point of Plateau Point before Indian Gdns. In fact you can see P.P nearly all the way through the trail so you always know how near/far you are. Indian Gdns is a pleasant oasis. The final 1.5 miles to Plateau Point seemed longer and was quite tedious....until you actually reach there. Wow. Again i was the only one there so a few stategically placed stones propping up my camera for timer shots. I was hoping someone might be there also, but actually preferred the isolation this time. It took me exactly 2hrs to get to P.P. I spent 1hr at the point of which i saw some rafts getting ready and finally setting off down the river. Had my breakfast and filled my tummy. Hey, water and salty snacks are the order of the day. A couple of cereal bars help too.

No stops for the first 3 miles up to 3.0 resthouse except for photo stops. I did have breaks at 3.0 and 1.5 resthouses. Nevertheless, it still only took me 2.75 hrs getting back up to the rim. I like to get into a rhythm when hiking up or down and seems to work well. So 4.75hrs return hike plus 1hr at the bottom. I did pass the mules (twice) on the way up as well as many hikers, yay - people! Going back was ok, but i really suffered in the last mile. I think my pace had finally caught up with me. Kept an eye out for my rogue crampon, but never found it.

When i had climb Mt Snowdon in the UK with my family, we had a budget altimeter which i brought along with me here just for fun, i suppose. But i was surprised how accurate it was when tallied up to the elevations at resthouses, rim, P.P, never more that 30ft out.

Back to Tusayan for lunch and a 2hr nap. Came back out to Yavapai Point for a great sunset.

Day 4 - 31st Oct. (232 miles). Woke at 4am (still not got this waking up thing sorted but getting better). Checked out at 5.30am was waiting at Desert View for sunrise. Loved stopping at L.Colorado Gorge again.

Done the loop and all the stops at Wupatki and Sunset crator, including the lava trail. If im honest, i now know why ive never really bothered with these two in the past as they were just ok. Went on to Walnut Canyon which i really enjoyed (which proved to be the start of 3 continuous days of cave dwellings and ruins). Part of the island loop was closed so you had to return the way you came.

Carried on to my overnight at Holbrook which included the mandatory stops/photos of the Wigwams/classic cars. The HoJo had an indoor pool and hot tub which was empty so had a quick swim and soak for about 1/2 hr on my own.

Day 5 - 1st Nov. (359 miles). Took the short drive to the southern entrance of Petrified Forest. Got there and waited for the 7am opening of the sliding gates. Now, being honest, in the Holbrook area i already got to see almost nothing but petrified logs everywhere so by the time i had driven through the park, it was not so appealling. I visited as it was en-route to other destinations. If i came specifically, then the park in general was quite bland. Painted Desert, on the other hand was amazing. As you go over the I40 and over the brow of the hill, the sight that you see is just spectacular. Im so happy i did this combo coming from south to north. If doing the other way, will leave you flat. Plenty of photos taken here at all the vistas which were all great, but definately Pintado Point was the best. Beautiful. The Pet Forest/Painted Desert combo took me 2hrs for the drive and overlook stops.

Roadworks at the Chambers bridge made for a 20 mile detour, but nevertheless got to the Hubbel Trading Post for a brief stop.

Onto Canyon de Chelly for my long awaited visit. Waited 30yrs for this. Ive done a T.R seperately but since arriving at 11am, finished the S.Rim at 2pm. This included all the viewpoints as well as the hike down to White House Ruins which took me 1.25hrs r/t inc about 20 mins at the bottom. Its a great hike which would suit families. I'll definately take my boys when i return. Been told off by Redrox for not taking a tour, but will definately do so next time, but i was blessed with 20 mins with a vendor explaining his house at the bottom which i had just taken pics of. The park was near empty and only saw 3 people throughout W.H ruins hike. Bought a hand carved plaque from him which he personalised which was appreciated. The first 2 stops on the S. Rim are stupendously beautiful, even more so (for me surprisingly) than Spider Rock.

Did all the viewpoints on N.Rim but were not as as appealing as the S.Rim, so of you are short on time, definately do S.Rim first.

Now, as per Tet, i wanted to get to Cortez via Shiprock (peak) which meant going via Indian Routes (which i now understand). North Rim route to Tsaile was easy enough, but i hadn't printed out the map for the rest, thinking i could remember. I missed the turn for IR13 by 10 miles so had to turn back round. I soon realised, because the sign had been knock down by a vehicle. Anyway IR13 is spectacular (even if the 1st sign is shot through with bullet holes) with the most amazingly steep, icy, snowy, switchbacks that proved a great drive. Its a good job that im a solo traveller as the driving on these bendy roads is a pure pleasure for a driver, but not for passengers. Incredible sights throughout to Shiprock include a knob of a rock before the Shiprock peak, speaking of which you can see for miles and ages before actually reaching. Even more amazing is the weird and undescribable thin, long strip of rock formation leading up to Shiprock Peak on both sides of the road. It looks like a man made wall but is defo a natural feature. Google streetview just does not do it justice, you need to see it. Again great scenery from Shiprock to Cortez, especially on RHS including a Monument Valley effect buttes and chimney rocks. Event better with the sunset shining down on them. Finally get to Cortez after a long day.

Day 6 - 2nd Nov. (83 miles). Mesa Verde day. Cold day and i had the makings of a cold too, but i was brave and persevered. Now, lazily i'd forgotten to change my clocks, forwards/backward/daylight saving? .... i don't know!

Got to the visitor centre about 7.30am to get my ticket for Cliff Palace (last day of season for tours...good timing eh!). Was waiting in the car as it says it opened at 8am, but noticed a couple coming out with some maps/papers. So i went in and thought, thats nice, they've opened earlier than the specified time. It had still not clicked in my head. Anyway got the first available tour at 10am. That proved enough time to do all the overlook stops en-route to Chapin Mesa, Spruce Tree House mini hike, as well as the 6 mile scenic loop stops. Plenty of time i thought as i got to the Cliff Palace overlook for 9.30am. However the car that was at the visitor centre was parked up and empty and it was only then i realised. As a car pulled in to the parking lot, i meekly asked him what the time was and he said 10.30am! Arghh! I went down to the overlook anyway and took my obligatory photos/videos of Cliff Palace. I could see MY tour group of only 10 people down below, earlier ones are usually the best ones to nab.

Many people were now turning up so i had to swallow my pride and made my way up. As i was doing so, the Ranger for the 11am tour was walking down. I explained the errors of my ways and she said that she should be able to get me in if there was less than 50 people. With 10 mins or so to go, people just kept flooding in. Secretly i was counting them one by one with a frown on my face. As she collected the tickets, i reminded her of our chat, and she thankfully said she would have let me join anyway as she liked my English accent even with my blocked dose (get it!).

Tour was great and very informative. The Ranger genuinely took pride in the words she was speaking about a place she obviously admired alot.

Went back to the Museum area as i wanted to do a hike. Chose the petroglyph one which was a 2.4 mile loop. Again a great fun hike which would be great for kids as the loop out goes over and under, up and down alcoves and allsorts. Brilliant. I did see bear poop at the beginning which spooked me a bit as again, no one about on the trail. Got to the petroglyphs which were smaller than i expected, but nice. The return loop has some fun inclines before the mainly easy flat walk back to the museum. Loop took 1hr and highly recommended.

Again lovely roads to drive back down on, and my altimeter was reliable again.

Relaxing end of the day back at hotel where i had most of pm free.

Day 7 - 3rd Nov. (161 miles). Left Cortez for arrival at 4 Corners for 8am. Waited................waited...............erm this Navajo times coming into effect again. Lady turns up at (MY TIME) 8.45am and proceeds to open gate. Eventually, when i got ticket at (MY TIME) 9am i asked her what the time was and she said 8am.

Man, this was going to be one confusing trip.

Anyways, a typical brief stop to get my photo ops and finally can say ......got that part out of the way. All but one other of the 10 cars waiting for opening were actually the stall holders setting up to sell their wares, so only a couple of guys there with me making our funny foot and hand gestures that we would not normally consider anywhere else.

Decided on taking 191 North and coming into M.V from the north. I did M.V 2 yrs back and was welcomed by overcast days and no sunset and came in from Kayenta. Even when i had left the following day, milemarker 13 view was a washout with gloomy skies. So i thought i got a chance with beautiful day to get a good view in. Actually 191N was quite scenic too, and i got my perfect MM13 shots in brilliant sunshine, so was happy.

Since it was just me, i thought i'd book at tour at the lot, but when i was taking initial pics from the verandah, thought i'd just test out the self drive road for a bit to see if it was worth doing. I'd actually had a 4x4 this time, but i must say that apart from the first 2 miles or so which are very bumpy, i had no issues with the rest of the drive which was mainly sandy, smooth and/or hard surfaces with the occasional bump here and there. Now. i could have learnt a lot from the tour and i expect RedRox to chew me up and spit me out for not doing so, but there were hardly any cars about and i had the viewpoints to myself.

Actually it was more serene and personal doing the loop in my car, i feel anyway. I had time to soak up each spot and plenty of pics. I did catch up with a Goulding tour at Totem pole and the guys piled out like released sheep taking obligatory photos before being rounded up to the next stop. Im being blaze, and i know they were getting their monies worth with commentary info, but i was happier in a more relaxed approach.

Artist view was my highlight. Inspiring.

Came back up and decided to do the Wildcat hike again. I was the only one throughout the trail and only met a couple of couples nearing the return trip out. It seems many people don't do this which is a shame as you get right up close to Left Mitten and is a great experience. Like last time, i somehow lost the trail on the return loop as i followed footsteps instead of the cairns. Anyway, a bit of cross-countrying didn't hurt and i actually found myself following horse hoof prints instead of shoe prints.

Checked in at the View and waited for sunset stuffing my face with a beaut of an apple pie from the restaurant.

P.S - no further restaurant feedback from me as i don't eat anywhere out, prefering to make my own stuff.

Day 8 - 4th Nov. (227 miles). Left after getting some good sunrise shots. Straight to Goosenecks where i came a couple of yrs back....and still can't get it all in one shot! Cold morning.

Drove up the Moki Dugway. Last time i came up, the road to Muley Point was snowed under. This time, nice and clear. And just how clear was it, smooth and sandy and very dusty, but easy to drive on. The view was overcast though but at least i got here this time. Would have been nice to experience a clear view. Back down the Moki.

Turned off at V.O.T.Gods Rd which i haven't been on before. The sights are fine and make for a nice drive if you have the time. The road, however is what everyone says. Now, it was passable, quite easy in fact but im only talking about the 70% which is relatively flat..ish. The other 15% is bumpy and fun. The remaining 15% consist of the crossing of the numerous dry washes and even with my 4x4, i grounded the front a couple of times. I only saw a couple of other 4x4's and one Mercedes camper, no sedans. I would not attempt it in a standard car even in good conditions.

En-route to Moab was uneventful till i got to Blanding. As i was driving out and 45mph speed limit where 2 lanes converge into 1, a big black Dodge Ram comes right up my rear and flashes its blues and twos (UK terminolgy). I had to gesture in the rear view mirror innocently if it was me...it was... so i pull over. Officer walks up and tells me i did not indicate to merge back into lane. Allegedy im supposed to indicate for 3 seconds. He takes my license and rental paperwork to check out and returns with a smile asking me of my plans...again you guys like the English accent since he picked up on and decided to chat for a bit. Now, before and so far since, ive not seen any other vehicle indicate to merge back into lane other than when they have joined from a side road/freeway, so i suppose im the only driver that does now.

Anyway, stopped off at the reservoir a couple of miles after Blanding for my picnic lunch. My 4x4 meant i could drive down a gravelled ramp to the shore and parked up for 15 mins or so, even if i wasn't sure if i was allowed.

Wilson Arch is just great. Surprised again at just how large it is, and i suppose relatively unadvertised as such.

Got to Moab at 2.30pm but soon realised it was 1.30pm. (I give up!). Got myself checked in. I opened up the tailgate (trunk) and found red dust in all the reveals, also in all the door openings....actually on the dashboard too! Someone's got to do some cleaning at some stage to get rid of the evidence.

Bit of time to kill and although was overcast, decided to drive to Arches and do Delicate Arch trail. About 1.25hrs return hike including 15 solitary minutes with the arch all to myself. Did meet some guys just turning up and noticed their immediate English accents, so asked where they were from and they blanked me..typical Brits. Hope they trip on they way down.

Day 9 - 5th Nov. (152 miles). Woke up at 4.30am (my usual UK time) and was a bit at loose ends. I wasn't sure if i was doing Arches or Canyonlands as i didnt check the weather. Anyway, decide to head for Mesa Arch for sunrise. Last time i came it was cold and dozen people. This time, it was even colder but only 4 people. Usual shots taken then moved on. I tried to drag out Canyonlands as realistically you can be done and dusted in 2-3 if you do just viewpoints. Did about 2 miles rim walking and Grand view point as well as Green River overlook. Upheaval dome again, and still didn't impress. Decided on the Aztec Buttes trail as i hadn't done before and was happy i did. Great, fun and easy..ish trail that climbs the big butte on slick rock at 45 deg angle or more. Mostly sandy.

Did Dead Horse again and even decided to go back to the dino tracks near the microwave tower. Had my water to fill and expose the tracks, but really are naff potholes, only one Allosaurus footprint looked anything like a dino track.

Quick return through Arches and only did Park Ave, back to Moab and got some food/gift shopping done.

Day 10 - 6th Nov. (73 miles). Got to Devils Gdn and was at Landscape Arch for sunrise. Carried onto Dark Angel which took an hour via Double O.

Decided on the primitive route back. Was a bit nervous from the reviews that say its hard to follow, but it was really easy as most is sandy, There is the middle bit over slickrock which take a few seconds to locate the cairns at weird junctions. Return trip took 1.5hrs.

Did Windows section on return.

Went down Potash Rd and did the hike to Corona Arch. The arch is beautiful and the hike is straightfoward, taking 1hr r/t inc 15mins for photos.

Realistically, Arches and Canyonland were uneventful this time. Im not much into the active sports, so the parks were the main focus. I did do extra bit to previous trails and some new ones, but am ready to move on.

Day 11 - 7th Nov. (242 miles). Now, my lodging at Bowen motel was perfectly fine and even had reclining lounge chairs. However evenings were peaceful until about 9pm thru 12pm when the nocturnal creatures in the room above would come alive. Belive me not, for the next three nights, in those three hours only, they would pace around non stop as if they were having a relay between the front door and bathroom.

Left at dawn an headed for little Wild Horse Canyon. Had seen Goblin Valley before so was not on the agenda. LWHC was really cool. I didn't do the loop of Bell Canyon, instead just went to the end of the the second slot which was enough to see what i had to. One car parked in the lot, but saw no-one. Had now gone past 2000 miles on my trip.

Good job i had downloaded some music as the radio stations just fizzle out once you get a signal, and most play funny music anyway. Can't do a road trip without good music.

Got to Capitol Reef and looks like the Hickman Bridge trail is still closed as the signs have been removed. Made my way down the scenic drive after a brief stop at the visitor centre. Went to the end and then through Capitol Gorge road. My schedule meant my time was limited but wanted to get some hikes in. Ended up going to the 'Tanks' which took me a 45min r/t. Pretty neat sight as you follow them down.

Drove back up the drive and took the Grand Wash turn off. Decided on the Cassidy Arch trail. The Arch is magnificent and can be seen after about 1mile of the 1.5 mile hike. Got to the top and you can actually walk on top of it, without actually knowing you are doing so. Looks great from up top looking through. R/T took me bang on 1hr, even if i did jog down a bit.

Was booked at Hojo in Torrey but when i pulled up, all was empty and deserted. Did not look promising. Hand written signs on the entrance stated that due to issues with hot water system, all bookings transferred to Days Inn. Got checked in and went back out to Panorama to try and get some sunset pics. Sunset fizzled out. Goosenecks disappointed also as there was hardly a trickle flowing and looked weird.

Day 12 - 8th Nov. (187 miles). Left at dawn again taking a chance of some darkened skies. Only took about 10 mins before it started lightening up. Plenty of deer on and around the road so some careful driving in order. Got to Larb Hollow lookout for sunrise.

Got to Calf Creek trailhead and wow what an amazing sight those falls are. Like an oasis. Had the trail to myself which was cold on the outset, but soon warmed up nicely. Took exactly 2hrs car to car including 15-20mins at the falls. Great walking by the river towards the end third and seeing fish swimming against the flow.

Went direct to Escalante visitor centre to get a heads up on HITR road and was advised it had been recently graded, so fine to go on. The helpful lady gave me some good plans/guide on Peek-a-Boo and Spooky. Set the display on the car to show tire pressures as i was more worried about deflation than anything else. Took 1 hr to get to the parking lot, man that last 1.5 miles was fun.

The trail down into the main wash was a bit random but all was fine. Peek-a-Boo still had the deep well but no water. Wow it was hard to get up. My rucksack proved to be the pain in the butt as it was quite heavy as i carry all my valuables, laptop, etc, so had to partly throw it up first. Sticks and stones helped getting me up. The sides are so slippery and sandy its hard to get a footing. Tore a big hole in my pants as i was trying to do the splits or something. The problem i had was i was trying to video in one hand and photos in the other. I then needed to climb or negotiate and put them back in my rucksack only to have to take them out as each turn was amazing. I can now do a side shuffle and a reverse crab upward climb thing.

Went about half mile to Spooky. Nice and shady walking along wash/canyon walls. Same problems with rucksack so left to a side for a bit and walked through as far as i could. Great, great fun. Im really happy i managed to do both. 2hrs car to car to do both.

The return was broken halfway at the stop at Devils Gdn. Wow, what a whimsical fairyland that place is. Beautiful. About a mile or so after D.Gdn, saw a big truck in the middle of the road. Only when i got near did i see an Escalante Police truck with some people standing around. On passing, it soon was clear that they'd managed to overturn their vehicle into a side ditch. Cant see how they would have managed that!

Checked in at B.West Grand at Bryce then went out to Sunset point for some fizzling out sunset pics.

Day 13 - 9th Nov. (94 miles). First hot breakfast..yay!. Left in time to just about catch the glory of sunrise for the first time i'd visited Bryce. Beautiful.

Now i've got to give Bryce Canyon a bit of respect and owe it an apology. This is my 3rd visit in 3 yrs and up till now had thought it as just being ok, and nice to see. 1st time i came was also in Nov and was in heavy snow. It was so cold and the trails were unnoticable so gave it a miss. Last year it wasn't in my plans, but being at Kanab and having the pm free decided to shoot up to Bryce to see it without snow - i stayed for half hour, before shooting back. This time i too was expecting snow, but to date have experienced cold mornings, but glorious days so far. This is the first time ive ventured down below the rim and have to say it it truly beautiful. Did the Queens Gdn / Navajo loop and must agree that it could probably be the best 3 mile walk in the world, as it claims. Literally i was taking photos at every turn from the loop starting at Sunrise Pt. It also has proved to be my most relaxed hike ever.....mainly strolling through it and NO clock watching this time. I was impressed.

However, after the throngs of people at the Sunrise viewpoint, i only got to see 3 people throughout the whole trail which, for once i didn't mind as it was so peaceful.

After 2 bridges, you get the Walter's Wiggles theme climbing back out of the canyon.

Started the trail in the cold with my coat, halfway though had only my fleece, but by the top and the rim trail back was in a t-shirt.

Passed on Red Canyon on my way to Zion as i'd explored it before.

Now as you join SR89 i have to say that that Sevier River is a little gem. It follows the road and never wants to go in a straight line. It's beautiful watching it meander after a few dozen metres leaving behind ox bow lakes in its track. Really cute. Catch it if you can if you visit.

Love the ECO house at Bryce/Zion campground about 5 miles before Glendale. I would love to live in that little dome!

Think its a free weekend for National Parks, hence the hoards, did i say hoards of people at Zion. Cars lining every turn out as i drove in.

Decided on doing the 'Many Pools' hike 0.8 miles before the small tunnel. I'd read up on it and wanted to see it. Again its great and you soon catch the first pool so you know which route to continue on. I think it must be no more than a mile or so of following the slickrock up tracing the pools as you go. Wow, i'd love to see the water water running through these in real life. The power and beauty of water is impressive. It was correctly called 'Many Pools' as guess what..... there are so many. Followed up to the top of the waterfall sections and did not go further. Trees, rocks, you name it are wedged and smooth furrows are there to show the route the water takes. Caught up with only one family with 2 little girls who were inspecting the water of one pool for the many bugs. Nice.

Carried on and did the obligatory Canyon Overlook trail again. Just as nice as before and a good welcome to Zion. Could have done the Conga..ooh...ah.. going up and down as there were so many people following in a procession. A first for me, this visit.

Was going to drive up the Canyon rd before getting to my lodging in Springdale.....yes Springdale, im usually a favourite for Hurricane, but this time i'll give it a go. However the road was closed to Shuttle only which i didn't expect.

Anyways, checked in at 1pm, had a few Utah 3.2% beers (water more like it) and relaxed for the first time in a while. Good job ive still got my 1ltr of Brandy...yay! Decided to type this leg of my trip and relax in the surroundings. Will have a walk around this so called Springdale town later.

Last leg will be done at home in about a week or so. Bye for now.

Day 14 - 10th Nov. (9 miles) Busy day planned. Left for the visitor centre parking lot to catch the first (7am) shuttle out. Got to the Grotto for 7.25am. 1st time to Angels Landing was a learning curve for me and a spectacular hike for a non-hiker. Last year, i went for it and got to the landing for just shy of an hour. This time, a tall guy got on the trail first just ahead of me and became my Ethiopian type pace setter. I wanted to beat my last yr's time and boy did that tall guy walk fast. I even tried to match his footprint steps in the sand, but it was like a little kid trying to jump to each step. Anyway, thankfully i gave up on that idea and made my own way up. As i reached the top, the guy was about to make his way down. Had a quick chat praising his speedy effort, but he said he was just a quick walker and had his wife and two kids waiting for his return. He was a Scottish guy who lives in Alaska. From shuttle to the end of the landing took me 52mins of which im proud of. R/t took 2hrs total after 15-20mins of solitude at the top, returning at 9.25am. All was done in the shade. Just missed the shuttle going to Weeping Rock.

My plan was to to A.L and Observation Point back to back. I have usually done these on separate days, but this time i had planned for the same day. I felt really fresh and had a quick snack waiting for the next shuttle. Last yr i had my mom with me and she made it up to O.P which was a geat feat in itself, but for me it was very labourious as two mismatched hikers don't work well. The switchbacks out of the canyon this time posed little resistance as i must have been running on adrenaline. More than half the way was still in the shade, before the sun finally showed its face. From leaving the start of the trailhead at 9.45am, i was at the marker for 11.05am. 1hr 20 mins for the upward hike. I spent an hour at the top just taking it all in and fighting off the chipmunks from my sandwich. Loads of people at the top including a protracted group of 30 Chinese youngsters who i passed bit by bit who all arrived and were obviously a group. Many more making their way up as i descended. Im glad a lot of people try for O.P as it can be quite demanding, especially at the beginning.

Had a leisurely stroll back down spending quite a bit of time around Echo Canyon.

Going down was really hard as my feet were stomping on the hard concrete. I think going down is actually harder.

That's it! My ending of a love affair for these two hikes that i will do no more.

I've created a lasting memory and by far, these are my two favourite hikes of any park.

Rode the shuttle to Riverside, but didn't bother with the walk, just found a nice sunny spot by the river and sat, finishing my lunch for an hour. Boots and socks off only inches away from the water. Glorious sound. I actually dozed off for a bit, but woke as some giggling children walked passed. Not at me, surely.

Back to the Visitor Centre to get my Permit proper for my Subway hike tomorrow. Had to pay $10 on top of my prepaid $5 reservation. Really friendly and helpful guy advised that water should only be ankle deep and to watch for the exit point as many people miss it. I have waterproof boots and a pair of water closed shoes, so don't plan on going to an outfitter after hearing his words.

Back to this Springdale place at 73 deg F for some watery Beer and Brandy. Views are amazing and i'd have to admit 100% better than Hurricane.

Day 15 - 11th Nov. (54 miles) Woke up at same time but no plans to leave early this time. Wanted the sun to get up a bit and would welcome seeing a few faces on the route to the Subway. If i needed to get any bit wet, i'd rather in sunshine. However, i was kicking my heels and before i knew it i was at the parking lot at 7am.

Got to the parking lot and place my permit sticker prominantly on the dashboard. This is to confirm that im rightly able to park to pursue the trail, but also to confirm my car still aint parked in the same spot the next day, otherwise they'll come looking for me. There was one other car at the lot, a bit of re-assurance that i may have company.

About half a mile or so of relatively level sandy walk gives way to a real steep decline into the creek, just as everyone and every review tells it, but boy is it steep. There was a ribbon tied to the bush at the bottom, however i made my own visual landmarks within a few minutes, namely a clean large tree trunk laying right across the only natural route would give my 5 minute warning on the way back.

Now, a bit of bush wacking and rock climbing created a fun route to the final destination, the only worry was getting poked in the eye from a stray branch. River crossings probably were about 15-20 mostly with strategically placed stepping stones. In fact the whole route was quite easy to follow as it is well trodden and also easy to spot the sand remnants of footfall over the rocks and boulders identifying the route. A few missed turns were the order of the day. If you go down a route and it just doesn't look right, then it most probably isn't and you'll soon realise the easier option. You will definately take a different route on the way back that you came.

Got to the Subway in 2.5hrs and never saw the other guy who's car was in the lot. So i had it all to myself. The alcove is the marker to let you know you're just round the corner from it. Love the few inch wide channel which is many a photo'd, and there are a few of them of varying degrees. Strategic foot positioning is the key as its so slippery near the main water rush, nevertheless, if you round the area on the more scratchy part, its easier for photos.

The Subway and pools were beautiful. I misread a pot hole and was knee deep in water, but no issues other than a bruised ego. Mind, i had a camera in one hand and video in the other, so have an excuse. Spent about 45mins in the Subway including an early lunch. It was cold as the sun didn't reach down into the canyon, but was just sufficient to give me satisfactory iconic lighting shots.

Coming back was so much easier. Took 1.75hrs making a round trip of 5hrs. Route finding and river crossings were easier with a bounce over each boulder. Finding the exit also proved no issue. Common sense is really all you need. The climb out however was so hard. Literally hands in front climbing up what must be mostly a 45 deg climb out. I was a sweaty little pig by the end. Saw about 20 people on their inward hike on my way out. It was funny to see when they are inward and you are outward on opposite sides of the bank. Counted 15 cars in the lot as i arrived.

Back to Springdale for a brief rest then did my final view of Zion up the scenic drive top to bottom. This is my last time in Zion and im happy i've seen the best of it (exception of the Narrows which i regret due to my previous Oct/Nov timings). Sat at my patio just soaking it all in and did nothing else all afternoon.

Day 16 - 12th Nov. (369 miles). Left at 4am and was in Vegas to catch some nightime lights....again for my last time, so was pre-planned. Drove to the end of the Strip on I15 then drove up with some videoing. Im a sad git sometimes. Got some shopping done, including buying a pair of shorts as i didn't pack any. Went to Orleans for an hour of gambling which i broke exactly even. Stayed for their breakfast buffet. I like their cheap but nice buffet which ive had a few times......i don't care for the expensive ones. Did some typical gift shopping. Then i went for a foot massage in Chinatown....legit of course...all fully clothed but did full body and hot stones on my back....that sorted me out.

Left by 12 noon via Pahrumph and Beatty en-route to D.V. Did Rhyolite last year but wanted to do Titus Canyon this time. Drove about 4 or 5 miles, but by then i was fed up. That washboard road was doing my head in and my car which had self-cleaned itself from previous dirt roads by then was getting messed up again. Arghh, i turned around and passed it up. The Daylight Pass was a good compromise anyway and 4000ft + to zero sorted out some well needed fuel economy, with the video on the dash...yeah!

Got to Furnace Creek where im staying in a cabin this time. Stayed with my mom in the deluxe room in the blocks at the bottom, last yr. This cabin is just to the right and rear of the reception block and perfect for my needs. Old and rustic but perfectly clean, modern and servicable inside. Ventured out and chatted for half hr to an Oregon couple who were bicycle riders, the guy had a recumbant one due to a disability. He even let me have a go and man it was so relaxing...hey it was built in the UK too. Had a dip in the pool for a bit. Weather was overcast so no sunset so did not venture out... couldn't even if i wanted too as the proper beer i'd just bought at L.V and Brandy had somewhat poured itself.....fancy that!

Don't watch too much t.v except for Discovery, so Moonshiners (weird or what), Fast and Loud (funny) and Wheeler Deelers are the order of the day.

P.S - you Americans have some funny food... however this 69cents Old Fashioned Chocolate Eclair Pie from WalMart is literally the best thing i have ever tasted!...good job i bought a few.

Day 17 - 13th Nov. (160 miles). Uneventful day. Yes! 160 miles just in D.V in an uneventful day. Have seen Zabriskie and the Dunes at sunrise before and Dante's at sunset, so thought Dante's at sunrise would be a good idea. And it was too. Thinks it's actually better for sunrise than sunset as the sun lights up the mountains behind......but i would say that wouldn't i. My fleece that i'd last worn at the Subway was really itchy. It was only when i took it off i found little micro spines? puncturing my arm. 20-30 if them WTF! Stayed for an hour or so part of the time pulling the little buggers out, some of which just snap off leaving bits in my arm....man this this Amazon stuff. Then drove down for some shots at Zabriskie. Back tracked and went up 20 Mule which was as beautiful as last time. Did the routine Badwater and Artist's Drive. Badwater was actually quite cold until i'd walked out to where the sun was hitting the salt flats.

Came back for a snack then thought if could be bothered to go out or just start drinking.

Decided to shoot out to Mosaic Canyon (never got to see last time) which was just ok, then had a bit of a play about at the sand dunes. Did think about driving up the two-way section of Titus Canyon but didn't bother. Maybe i was just getting lazy at the end of my trip. Had an hours soak in the pool which i had to myself as everyone was either eating or having a changeover. There was actually a queue out the door for the buffet restaurant as i walked to the pool, hence the lack of people at the pool.

Sat on the patio on one of those rocking chairs, good job next door hasn't arrived yet otherwise we would be only 2 metres apart, so uncomfortable viewing. Actually they did arrive soon after and soon realised they were a nice couple from Belgium coming to D.V for the first time. Thats my boring day. Hmmmm.... go out to try a sunset at Zabriskie. Nothing really came of it. Now got back and someone is in my parking slot which is dedicated (presumably) for each semi detached cabin (2 spaces between 2 cabins). You can only really park in your own spot as no one is parking in the narrow road itself. Anyway, the hogger of both spaces in the next building comes up to me thinking she'll apologise and move, but instead she asks me to move from where im parked so she can carry on her painting. I asked why she has taken (obviously both her cars) my space and she says...oh, they are not designated, you can park next to any cabin....what!, there is only one space per cabin and she's in mine. I haven't the time for this malarky so i leave my car where it is. Hopefully, it now features in her painting. I've got to sort out the car and pack for an early start. Some people are really funny...even when i was going to the pool, my door card somehow was playing up gaining entry into the pool. A lady inside ingnored my 'excuse me's' and then her husband stopped. I asked can you let me in as the door is not opening and i showed him my door card.......oh you can try the other gate......why when its 50m walk when you are just standing next to the gate you little $.!t. His wife was an ugly one so i can see why he has a grumpy persona. He was walking on his way out too!!! I've met some great people on my trip but also have met some gits. You get the same sort the world over. I think i need a vacation after this. Maple syrup sachets work a treat, by the way, nuff said.

Tet has warned me my planned route out tomorrow has been closed, washed out by a flash flood, so currently working out how i'll plan my exit day to L.A. Leave early, or hang about....decisions...decisions. Decide on a chintzy, shnittzy...how do you say...anyway a typically touristy straight run to L.A. My Trona Pinnacles will now be bypassed, going against my strict planning. Touching 3000miles.

Day 18 14th Nov. (353 miles). Left about 4.30am after waking at 3am. I wanted a long day as I can sleep in planes, so wanted to make myself tired. Anyway, drove the first 100miles to Olancha without seeing another car…at all! Caught a beautiful sunrise soon after. Drove through Red Rock Canyon S.P but did not detour off to explore.

Got into L.A at the height of rush hour but thankfully did not get held up much. Did a swing to the west as everyone else was heading into town. Drove down to PCH1 via the Topnga Canyon Rd which was fun. Stopped at the overlook but noticed the prohibited sign (even thought about 10 cars with people in were enjoying the views) on the way out with camera enforcement. Still didn’t get it if I was allowed or not, so will have to check C.C bill to see if I get fined.

Again loads of incoming traffic to L.A on PCH1 so still head west for a sit down on the beach at Malibu. Homeless guy sitting in the shade under a tree near my car got given all my left over water and loads of snacks as I had a final clearout. No liquor left for him unfortunately. Drove into town and drove up Sunset and S.Monica getting some iconic videoing and to kill time. Got cramp in my right leg from all the brakes/gas/brakes/gas.

Never bothered cleaning the car at the end as I handed it back, most of it had self cleaned.

And that was that. Headed home.

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