Greetings from somewhere above the Pacific Ocean on my way to Honolulu. See, I’m being productive on my 5 hour flight.
Now let’s see where did I leave off……oh yes, Phoenix. Hot, hot Phoenix despite it only being April. Clearly I needed to head North, so I did.
I found a great campsite online just North of Flagstaff, and that’s where I headed. On the way I went through Sedona which was just as beautiful as I’d heard. Amazing red rock formations, perfect temperature, and a positive vibe throughout. I tracked down my campsite (thank you GPS), but wasn’t thrilled with it. So I consulted my handy campground book (thanks Darline!) and GPS, found a new campground and headed one hour farther North. uuuummmm……..Hello Grand Canyon…….you’d have thought one of my sources would have mentioned the campground was in a National Park! Luckily they had a spot for me and before I even got settled I took pictures of the elk and deer grazing at the edge of my site. The ranger who checked me in gave everyone a lecture regarding the ravens. Apparently they are like raccoons with wings and nothing can be left out from trash to food to car keys.
I got up early the next morning and was on the South Kaibab Trail (the same trail the mules use) by 7am. This trail goes all the way to the bottom of the canyon, but I was only going to Cedar Ridge which is a 3 mile round trip that goes 1,120ft below the rim. After a mile or so, it dawned on me that this was the same trail I’d hiked some 20 years earlier. Hiking it slower and not on a mid-summer afternoon made it much nicer this time. Yes, the views were amazing! Check out the pictures. I headed out of the park via the Desert View entrance and stopped at every lookout, view spot and every other thing they had to offer and took copious pictures- too many of which will be in my slideshow. It was awe inspiring. Next time I want to go to the North Rim of the canyon which doesn’t open until mid-May due to snow. In fact as I drove North I passed by the road to the North Rim and then took a detour down a National Forest road. It was cold, windy and beautiful. And there was still patches of snow on the side of the road (April 21).
Now where the heck was I going? Right, the Vermillion Cliffs which I’d seen pictures of somewhere, and they looked amazing. But first I was camping at Lees Ferry (Arizona) for the night. Well, this place turned out to be much more than a very nice camping spot. It was chock full of history!
From their website – Lees Ferry is the only place within Glen Canyon where visitors can drive to the Colorado River in over 700 miles of canyon country…. A natural corridor between Utah and Arizona, Lees Ferry figured prominently in the exploration and settlement of northern Arizona. Just upstream from the Lees Ferry launch ramp is the ferry crossing site and several historic buildings. Different ferryboats and pioneers, miners, Indians, and tourists crossed here from 1872 until 1928.
I got the see the Colorado River up close and personal after seeing it from WAY up on the rim of the Grand Canyon, plus I checked out the old town and hiked about on the grounds of the Lonely Ranch. The whole thing was a beautiful, unexpected find.
As I drove toward the Vermillion Cliffs (which I never did manage to hike in) the next day, I came across the Cliff Dwellers site on the side of the road. Here’s the story: In 1920 Blanche Russell, who was a successful dancer in a The Ziegfeld Follies, headed West with her husband after he got TB. When their car broke down at this spot they fell in love with it, bought it and built the structures. She ended up running a trading post there for 10 years. It is much, much cooler than it sound – just see the pictures! There was also graffiti there from the 1850s on the boulders.
My goal for the day was to end up near Kolob Canyon in Utah for the night so I could do some hiking first thing in the morning. Kolob Canyon is technically part of Zion National Park, but it’s located to the West of the main park and not physically connected to it. The canyon has no camping, so I ended up at a commercial campground (my first) for a windy, windy night. So glad I have sleeping in the car down to a science. Hiking in Kolob Canyon was as expected – beautiful, not too crowded, full of red rock goodness. I started by hiking up the 1 mile (round trip) overlook. It was chilly so I zoomed up took some great pictures then zoomed down again. Then I found the Taylor Creek Trail (5 miles round trip) and hiked that. I barely saw anyone. It was just me, the woods, that creek that I crossed about a million times, and mountain walls all around me. On the way back quite a few people passed me heading out on the trail but no other solo women. Oh, and I totally got caught talking to a chickadee by a bemused couple. I’d been hearing a bird song for a while and it sounded like a chickadee but not quite. The western ones have a slightly different song it turns out. I was so pleased when I finally caught sight of it and it WAS a chickadee, I couldn’t resist talking to it.
(Finishing this up from the Kaimuki Public Library in Honolulu which is packed on a Sunday.)
After my hike I hopped in the car and drove to Great Basin National Park in Nevada. Most of it was on a very straight road that went through mountains and valleys repeatedly which kept it interesting. Once at Great Basin I discovered I was just in time for a tour of the Lehman Caves. Yes, it did occur to me that hiking 6 miles and driving for 3 or 4 hours already made for a full day —- but I took the tour anyway! Unlike the Mammoth Cave tour, this was a wet cave full of stalactites and stalagmites and helictites which are small branching formations that defy gravity. It was a fascinating cave unlike any I’ve seen before. Very Gothic. Just look at the pictures, and you’ll see what I mean. It was a great addition to my day. But wait, I wasn’t done yet! I also took the scenic drive up Wheeler Peak – well most of it. The topmost section was closed due to snow. Funny you should ask, I did make a tiny snowman and write in the snow. I finally ended my day camping (aka sleeping in the car ‘cause it was cold out!) in a stand of birch trees. Brrrrr…. 27 degrees the next morning.
Vegas baby! Here I come!!! And there you go……. Yeah, I didn’t stay in Vegas. I just wasn’t feeling it, so I just kept driving. I did stop in Caliente, NV for an excellent breakfast in a diner filled with local color – the waitress liked my jacket and her mom (the cook) made perfect bacon. I finally stopped at a campground just south of the Hoover Dam on the Colorado river that is part of the Lake Mead National Recreation area. I even used the tent which hadn’t seen the light of day since Oklahoma. The blustery wind died down at bedtime making for a pretty good night in a very crowded campground. Next morning I continued on my trek toward Chula Vista, CA.
First stop for my day – Oatman, AZ. Well, technically my first stop (at a pull off) was on a narrow, twisting part of Route 66 in the mountains on the way to Oatman. How had I missed that I’d be driving on such a tiny road with such amazing views? Photos needed to be taken! I was really glad to be on the road early with little other traffic. Oatman is an old mining town on Route 66 filled with old timey shops, restaurants and burros. Yup, one of their tourist attractions are the wild burros that roam the town unimpeded. The burros are descendants of the domesticated ones used in the mines that were released when the town went bust. Did I see any………check out the photos to find out.
Guess what it was still windy. Gale like windy. Crazy windy. So sick of the wind windy! I’d had it with the wind a couple of hours into my drive. A quick text and I was heading to Chula Vista a day early. HA! Take that wind! (the wind seemed unmoved) Even arriving at the start of rush hour was better than another night in the wind. The best part was that the drive there took me through the Santa Rosa mountains which were so much more interesting than the freeway (in California you HAVE to say freeway not interstate).
In Chula Vista (and San Diego), I got to see all the best stuff (& eat very well) because I have awesome friends. Some of the highlights were Imperial Beach, Border Park (yup, right on the border), Cabrillo National Monument, and the airport.
I’ve been in O’ahu for a week, and tomorrow I fly to the Big Island for 9 days. I hope to post about it in the near future, but yeah, so far it’s been great. 🙂
For pictures just click the image below. I apologize in advance for the length of the slideshow. Please blame the Grand Canyon for being so picturesque.