tour of 3 national parks and vegas...

Jul 19th, 2011, 03:50 AM
  #1  
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tour of 3 national parks and vegas...

Recently returned from 10 days in the wild west with my great but cynical and judgemental family... they gave me free reign to plan this trip which was a shock, but now looking back on it i think they were very pleased with the way it turned out.

Flew from Philly to Las Vegas on Southwest...arrived late afternoon and rented an SUV from Enterprise... all of this went very smoothly and we were at the Signature MGM Grand no more than 1:15 after our flight landed. Check-in was a bit tedious however... a couple of large groups of young guys in front of me. Being that the Signature is a no-smoking, no-casino hotel, I had guessed it would be quiet and family oriented. Wrong. It is connected directly to the MGM Grand via a long walkway, and the partying goes on all night. None of this impacted us directly though, we were up on the 16th floor and slept well.

The pool looked great but was mobbed with young adults cavorting and imbibing.. I think I remember what that is like. We got ready for what felt like a late dinner, having missed 3 time zones. Very hungry, we hit Wolfgang Puck in the MGM which turned out to be the most expensive meal of the trip... I thought the food was good but family did not agree, except for dessert.

Next morning we woke up early to get ready for the trek to Utah and our first stop, Zion National Park. We were surprisingly still hungry, and didn't really want to look around for breakfast so it was back to the MGM for the buffet. I hadn't heard great things about this buffet, but it was good basic food and quite a variety. Fueled up at Starbucks for the drive, and off to Zion around 10 AM. More later.
wrongfoot is offline  
Jul 19th, 2011, 07:37 AM
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Looking forward to your next installment.
annesherrod is offline  
Jul 19th, 2011, 11:41 AM
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Sounds like the trip I'm about to take in a few weeks so looking forward to your experience.
isabel is offline  
Jul 19th, 2011, 02:23 PM
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I don't think anyone should ever venture into Las Vegas with any sort of expectation of ANYTHING being family-oriented. It's just not that sort of place and never will be. There are plenty of adults who go there for the shows and restaurants but who do not gamble, and that is who the "no casino" resorts/hotels are geard to, not families.
hazel1 is offline  
Jul 19th, 2011, 02:43 PM
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I think it is one of the least "family oriented" places, but there are some things to do there with kids and as a family.
The swimming pools at the hotels there are very nice. Some of the best thrill rides there. Ethel M Chocolates is a nice family place to visit and it is free. Very good restaurants. Most of the Cirque shows and some others are fine to go with a family. There are actually several non-gaming hotels in Vegas. I think at least 11 or 12. I don't gamble, don't drink, but I enjoy Vegas from time to time. It is a place we fly into and usually stay there 1/2 to a full day before heading off to Zion, Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Bryce,or other parks in the area.
Probably the best thing we have done in Vegas was to eat in the Stratosphere on July 4th and we timed our meal to coincide with all the fireworks going in the area, very nice sunset that night as well.
spirobulldog is offline  
Jul 19th, 2011, 06:50 PM
  #6  
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Just a comment before moving on... maybe I misspoke when I said I was expecting "family oriented". I was actually expecting an adult atmosphere, not mobs of partying 20-somethings. The pool was unapproachable.

On to Zion.. on a previous trip I had driven to St. George, and was amazed by the way they carved the highway (with plenty of dynamite) thru the Virgin River Gorge at the Nevada/Arizona border. My family was equally impressed, on approach it appeared we were going to drive thru the mountain.

We had two night's reservations (reserved almost a year in advance) at the Zion Lodge... our second floor room was great with a big TV and AC which is necessary in July... but it turns out there were vacancies at the lodge (as there were at Grand Canyon and Bryce lodges). Arrived in Springdale around 2:00, looking for lunch so we wanted to hit the Pizza and Noodle but found out it opens at 3... we grabbed sandwiches and headed up to the lodge. After relaxing in our room for a while we decided to ride the shuttle and see some of the sights we had heard so much about. Everything is more amazing in person than in pictures or videos. The Zion shuttle is in our opinion better than the Bryce Canyon shuttle, better info given by the drivers and a more consistent schedule.

Before dinner we wanted to do a short hike so we headed to Weeping Rock... although a short hike it is steep, and 4 lowlanders from NJ were sucking wind on the climb. The view at the top is rewarding, great photo ops and the water dripping feels good when it's 95 degrees.

Dinner at the Lodge, we sat outside and enjoyed the variety of selections... this is basic comfort food and well prepared. We hit the sack early in preparation for an assault on Angels Landing the next morning.

We've read the stories and seen the pictures and videos... it really is a difficult hike if you are not used to altitude. I think the hardest part is the initial climb up the long switchbacks before reaching Refrigerator Canyon. Don't think we could have done it if we waited until 9 AM or so... we were at Walter's Wiggles by 8:00 and took our time getting to Scout's Lookout aka chicken-out point. And that is where our hike stalled... my wife and I are in our 50s and just don't feel comfortable walking a half mile on a 3 foot ledge holding on to a chain. My 19 y.o. son wanted to go on, but not by himself. We stayed there for at least 40 minutes, the view is one of a kind. It is a must hike if you are in the park, IMHO.

The breakfast buffet at the lodge hit the spot after all that climbing, then a short mid-day nap. In the weeks before our trip, I had been tracking the water flow in the Narrows and telling my wife how low it needed to go before they would let us in. She didn't seem too gung-ho, but after reading up on the experience while back seat driving, she was the one who wanted to drive to Zion Adventure Co. for the neoprene shoes, socks and walking stick. At 3 PM we headed up the Riverside Walk (left the youngins in the room), and jumped into the 58 degree water. It was quite an experience for this non-swimmer. (An aside... I wasn't that impressed with the Riverside Walk, it was mobbed and i couldn't even see the river for the most part). Once I stepped into the water, it was all I could do to stay upright. Although the water was only knee deep, the base is slippery rocks, and the flow was 112 cfs directly against us. It is quite a challenge to progress upstream... I made it about a half mile (my wife went a little farther)... shortly before that, there is a 30 foot stretch where the water was almost up to my chin. I wasn't worried but it was getting cold. The walk back was much easier, the hardest part is keeping our footing. I was very happy to get back to the room without an ankle twist. One incredible sight is people rapelling hundreds of feet up the canyon walls.

Finally got to the Pizza and Noodle for dinner... a strange ordering system but the food comes right out and the pie is good. Ice cream across the street and back to the room to pass out.

Not much energy the next morning for the Emerald Pools... honestly I wasn't that impressed with the hike. July 4th and before departing for Grand Canyon, we had to watch the hot dog eating contest from Coney Island. Zion is a beautiful park with amazing views and lots of excellent hikes... just wish we were in better shape to enjoy it all. It's a 3 hour drive to the North Rim... more tomorrow.
wrongfoot is offline  
Jul 20th, 2011, 08:59 AM
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I was there last September with my daughter. At Scouts Lookout (I'm in my mid/upper 60s so I don't feel bad about stopping at Scouts Lookout) my daughter wanter to continue.

I told her I wouldn't mind if she didn't have parents, a husband and daughter. Also, I told it it might be difficult as I would be hanging on to her ankles.

She got over it after a few minutes.

So, did you go the rest of the way?
Myer is offline  
Jul 20th, 2011, 10:44 AM
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Myer, I am impressed that you even got to Scout's in your mid 60s. But no, we did not go on from there... lots of young folks were however. It was very crowded up there even at 8:30 AM.
wrongfoot is offline  
Jul 20th, 2011, 05:19 PM
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Great report. Looking forward to hearing about the North Rim!
luvtravl is offline  
Jul 20th, 2011, 06:35 PM
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The drive from Zion to the North Rim is beautiful... starting from the switchbacks to the tunnel leaving Zion... many more miles of Zion-like rocks with scenic overlooks, including the awesome checkerboard mesa. A few miles out of the park we saw buffalo in a meadow... there are plenty of stops for gas and food along the way. After turning south from Mt. Carmel, the drive begins an inexorable climb thru the towns of Kanab and Fredonia before crossing a vast open space into the highlands north of the Grand Canyon.

While passing thru the towns, we noticed again the first letter of the town's name carved into a mesa (as we had seen in Hurricane UT). Nearing Jacob Lake AZ, the road twists and becomes more forested. Then it winds thru meadows all the way to the park entrance.

Grand Canyon Lodge is the only place to stay at the North Rim, except for the campgrounds. We had reserved a Western Cabin, and it was well placed only 50 yards from the rim. I am hoping not to disappoint people here... but the first view of the canyon through the windows of the fabulous lodge were not as great as expected. Not the fault of the canyon, but it seems that haze from California was rolling through the air, diminishing our view across to the south rim and beyond. Having said that, we still had a great time sitting outside the lodge, enjoying the atmosphere with a cold beverage, and walking out to one of the many lookout points high above the gorge.

Dinner choices are either in the dining room, hot dogs in the saloon or quick snacks at the deli. We had a reservation for the dining room, and we all enjoyed our dinner which was basic lodge fare in good sized portions. After dessert, we watched the sun set (it was partly cloudy so not spectacular), and fairly exhausted we retired early.

No AC needed at this lodge, the cabin was great and it's very quiet out there after dark. We had planned to do most of our hiking on the days we were not en route between parks, so my son and I needed to rest up for the trek into the canyon the next morning on the North Kaibab trail. The plan was to make it to Supai Tunnel, about 2 miles (1450 feet of elevation change) down, then take as much time as needed to get back up. This hike becomes problematic, even at 6:30 AM, due to the severe slope of the switchbacks and the massive amounts of mule dung on the trail. Drinking water all the way down, we were still fairly wiped out when we arrived at the tunnel. A long rest, then a little bit at a time coming back up and we made it in a total of about 3 hours, counting the 1.2 mile walk back to the lodge from the top of the trail. It's a beautiful hike and it was worth doing, but I would rate it as more difficult as the Angels Landing hike, due to the 3000 feet of extra altitude and the mule droppings. I can't even fathom hiking all the way up from the river in one day.

Running out of steam here, I will try to finish the Grand Canyon portion of the trip tomorrow morning. I'll have pictures at the end of the report.
wrongfoot is offline  
Jul 21st, 2011, 04:13 AM
  #11  
 
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Sounds like a great trip so far. I must admit, I think the views of the GC from the south rim are even more beautiful than those from the north, but is great on both rims and even better when you go down into it.

Keep it coming!! Thanks
emalloy is offline  

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