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Trip report 6-26th Sept 2008. San Francisco, Zion, Bryce, Page, Monument Valley, Grand Canyon, Las Vegas

Trip report 6-26th Sept 2008. San Francisco, Zion, Bryce, Page, Monument Valley, Grand Canyon, Las Vegas

Oct 21st, 2008, 01:15 PM
  #1  
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Trip report 6-26th Sept 2008. San Francisco, Zion, Bryce, Page, Monument Valley, Grand Canyon, Las Vegas

This trip, which was in the pipeline for 2 years and booked at least a year beforehand was everything we expected and more. Much research was done beforehand, questions on Fodors, checking accommodation on Trip Advisor, Travel guides thumbed until we felt that we had the itinerary and schedule to suit us.
Two couples, late 40s travelling from Bristol, England on a trip which came to be known as Ď12 days looking at rocksí. If weíd thought about it a bit more it was really 21 days looking at rocks as we saw Alcatraz every day while in San Francisco and Las Vegas Ė well that just rocks!

As this could develop into a major novel if I am not too careful, I will try to limit myself to some barebones and our best bits so that anyone reading doesnít get too bored. Throughout the trip the weather was fantastic, no rain just a distant thunder and lightening storm in Monument Valley which made the place even more atmospheric. Talking of things going bump we also had a very minor earthquake on our first night in San Francisco, luckily we didnít realise that is what happened until two days later else I could have got quite worried. As first time visitors to National Parks and the shuttle bus system we were very impressed with the parks and facilities.

San Francisco, 6 nights in 2 bedroom suite at Cow Hollow Motor Inn.
Hopped on/off sightseeing bus tour on 1st day to get acquainted with the geography and recover from the flight. Then got 3 day muni pass which was such good value as we made use of buses, trams and cable cars to explore the city quite widely. Also took a boat trip to the Fallaron Islands with the Oceanic Society and were privileged to see Humpback Whales doing what they do best, swimming free, also various dolphins, porpoises and sea birds. Hopefully I didnít looked quite as fluorescent green as some of our travelling companions, this was not a rough trip by any means but it is only fair to say that some folks didnít appear to have brought their ísea legsí.
Most meals were self prepared but we did get local recommendations while there for Ristorante Milano and Roseís which we thoroughly enjoyed. Beach Blanket Babylon was a definite highlight, we managed to keep up with all the satirical humour, possibly as we had previously spent the happy hour in the bar across the road which boasts Ďrecommended by Betty Ford Clinicí. We DID Fishermanís Wharf, I know itís touristy but we are tourists and were graced with an appearance by the bushman and smelled the Sea Lions and had Clam Chowder.
Walked around a lot, saw (mostly heard) the green parrots in many places, got to the top of Coit tower and Grand View park for great views, also Cheesecake factory top floor Macyís on Union square views and cheesecake. Found several stairways as recommended here including Filbert and the Mosaic stairway on Norago which were a spectacular testament to the community in that area. Didnít have long enough to do much of Golden Gate Park although we did see a humming bird there, walked halfway over Golden Gate Bridge then along the coast path to the Marina. Loved the wave organ, this doesnít seem to be very well known but has a very restful ambience and haunting sounds. Benefit of night time Alcatraz tour was the day/night views of the bay. Even having 6 days we left San Francisco wanting more, took flight to Las Vegas to pick up hire car for 12 Days looking at rocks. The views on landing whetted our appetite for the end part of the holiday

Zion Canyon, 3 nights at Zion Park Motel.
By the time we got to Zion it was dark so we had a pleasant surprise on waking to see the cliffs around Springdale lit up in the sunshine. While there we hiked The Narrows, had come prepared with walking poles and water shoes which we were very glad of, possibly Iíve lost my sense of adventure but I donít understand people embark on this hike in flip flops or bare feet which we saw. We also went up Angelís landing, although not right to the end, had left 2 at Scoutís Lookout (unfairly called Chicken point by some Ė I think it is quite an achievement in itself especially for those of a nervous disposition and fear of heights) and didnít feel that the last thin section was for us as the knees were quite wobbly after the first couple of chain sections. We enjoyed an evening walk towards the Watchman as the moon was nearly full and actually cast shadows. Had a couple of meals out in Springdale, Bit & Spur and Majestic, otherwise lived on snacks and picnics. Again I donít know where the time went but we have an excuse to return one day as we didnít do Emerald Pools.

Bryce Canyon, 3 nights cabins very near the rim.
Arrived in Bryce mid afternoon so had time to stroll to the rim for our first view after unpacking. It was spectacular, we were between sunrise and sunset points and blown away by the view, mainly because it is so unlike any thing else weíd seen. While there we hiked fairytale loop and also down Navajo up to Bryce Point, I believe the path has been closed until recently due to rock falls. Also did ranger Full moon hike and saw sun rises and sets changing the colours of the hoodoos. Couldnít believe that Navajo Mountain was visible over 80 miles away. In 3 days we felt that we had seen most that Bryce had to offer, including controlled burning out past natural bridge.

Page, 1 night Debbieís, on street of little old motels, 3 bedroom motel suite.
The reason for stopping in Page was to take the Float trip down Colarado River from Lake Powell Dam to Lees ferry, this was a 15 mile leisurely trip with 15-20 others, stopping to see petroglyths on route and 1 hour coach trip back to Page. As we had floated around horseshoe bend we walked to see the view from above next day which gave a great perspective. We also walked through lower Antelope Slot Canyon. Like Bryce this was extra special as, despite seeing photos beforehand, the actual views and atmosphere in the canyon is spectacular, enhanced by guitar playing by an enterprising teenager along the route. Luckily someone was crawling out of the slot in the ground that counts for an entrance as we didnít actually realise that you had to clamber down, I had mistakenly expected a sort of archway entrance. The memorial near the entrance to 9 hikers drowned in a flash flood was fairly sobering, but we knew there had been no rain recently and none predicted.

Monument Valley, 2 nights Red Hill House, 3 bedroom house - part of Gouldings.
As we had booked 15 months in advance we were able to snag a 3 bedroom house for less than the cost of 2 motel rooms and what a treat it was. The views were awesome and we had fantastic food at the lodge, including Navajo frybread which certainly needed to be walked off next day. 2 took a horse ride while the others tried to take a hike around a mitten. Unfortunately the Wildcat Trail sign which said Ď follow the piles of rocksí beat us as there were so many piles of rocks and we setoff in the wrong direction. Not wanting to desecrate any hallowed ground we turned back to get directions from the visitor centre. Eventually we did do part of the hike but it was getting hot and late so we didnít get all the way round the mitten. Probably the best sun rises and sun sets of the whole trip, Iím not normally one to get up and out by 5:30am but it was well worth it. Not sure I like the style of the new hotel complex but hope it benefits the native people as well as big business.
We visited Mexican Hat, to see the rock formation which gives the town its name. Hmmm, not sure what they will call the town or if anyone will visit once the big flat rock on top topples off the tiny round one underneath!
Leaving monument valley we took historic Route 66 part of the way. Selligman seems to be one of those places which look better on photos than in reality. It really is tired and the old cars and manikins are looking very frayed around the edges but at least we got our kicks.

Grand Canyon South rim, 2 nights Bright Angel cabins
We arrived at the East entrance and were totally unprepared for the numbers of people. So many coach loads of people on tick-list tours, Iím sure itís a great way to see lots of places and hope they are able to get some of the Ďfeelí also. We managed to keep our eyes closed to the top of the Desert View Tower where the crowds were less to get the first view of the canyon. We were impressed, and spent time just taking in the views then driving the 20 miles to Bright Angel stopping at all the viewpoints along the way. Although fairly fit we didnít have time or energy to do rim to rim this time so we hiked Bright Angel to the first rest house, passed by 5 mule trains along the way. We also took the shuttle and walked the rim trail back to the cabins from Pipe Creek. We had dinner reservations at El Tovar which was not a disappointment. We thought weíd seen Condors wheeling about in the sky but found out they were Turkey vultures, either way they produced a fantastic show and left us in no doubt that the canyon was their natural place to be.

FINALLY to Vegas, 4 nights 2 bedroom suite, Mandalay Bay.
After so many days of natural beauty we were in for a real culture shock in Las Vegas. It took some getting used to but in many ways was just as spectacular. The view from our rooms looked straight up the strip and was particularly stunning at night. Walking in Vegas can be just as exhausting as the canyons and we probably covered similar distances to some of our hikes. We mooched into most of the themed hotels and people watched a lot, I rode the rollercoaster in NYNY. Most impressive was the Bellagio, the conservatory was done up in an Autumn (Fall) theme, the roof of the reception is glass flower trumpets and the fountains outside are incredible. We saw the fountains several times and especially liked them set to classical music. Freemont Street was quite an experience too, again the light/music show varied so we saw it 3 times. We spent some time by the pool, but not enough really as there was so much else to see and do. We did attempt to gamble but found it not to be too exciting, I think this may be because on the machines you donít even need to pull the handle (just push a button) and any winnings donít chink out of the machine you print a supermarket style receipt to reuse or cash in. so if I never go back to Vegas I wonít worry but if I get the opportunity to visit again Iíll be there.

If I can get with the technology I will try to post some photos, but we took hundreds and are trying to whittle them down to a sensible number, also they look much like everyone elseís that have already appeared here.

Hilary

planning_ahead is offline  
Oct 21st, 2008, 02:27 PM
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Hilary,

What a great trip report! I like the occasional play on words you used. I've been to most of the spots you visited, and I'm sure I couldn't have described them better. Nice memories...thanks!
roundthebend is offline  
Oct 21st, 2008, 02:27 PM
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Thanks for reporting your trip. Feel free to add or elaborate on any other details. The more info on LV, Utah & Arizona would be great, since not many trip reports are posted here.

I hadn't been gambling in a while and was surprised by the "no coin" slot machines. No fun. Part of the excitement was the noise of the winnings clanking out of the machine. Makes the casinos quieter though.

Your Farallon trip sounds interesting. How did you get info? Is there a web site? Would you recommend it?

Glad you enjoyed our "rocks".

MY
MichelleY is online now  
Oct 21st, 2008, 03:22 PM
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I'd love to see the photos! Been to most of the places you've mentioned, and it would be fun to see them through your photo-eyes!
FainaAgain is offline  
Oct 21st, 2008, 11:59 PM
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Michelle
The Whale watching trip is May-Nov weekends only. The website is www.oceanicsociety.org follow the link to farallon islands. I think I saw one old report on fodors before which introduced me to the idea. Husband and I really enjoyed the trip as we don't get the opportunity to see whales too much around the UK unless they get lost up the Thames! There is a naturalist on board who narrates a bit and gives some background to the area, ours was very knowledgeable and identified sightings and answered questions, the captain and mate also knew their stuff and were flexible in the schedule to get the best chance of viewing but they didn't harass the creatures. As for the whales, you take pot luck, there is no money back guarantee. For $105 you get about 8 hours on the boat, take packed lunch, basic toilets on board and also go under Golden Gate bridge twice which is a different view.
Hilary
planning_ahead is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2008, 02:23 AM
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Thanks for the report.

Great trip!!!

I too would like to see photos as I've been to much of what you saw.

Myer is offline  
Jan 10th, 2009, 10:56 PM
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Bookmarking.
kiwi_rob is offline  
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