I apologize for the long delay in posts. It’s a little difficult blogging from a tent, not to mention the road. And honestly, I guess I had no idea how little down time we would have on our trip. Anyway, I’ll be making up for lost time within the coming days, beginning with this one.
Our last day in Cali began how I could imagine any typical morning would if we were to live in L.A. We went for a 3 mile run along the edge of Manhattan Beach so we could also people watch as the surf and volleyball festival wrapped up its final hours. Not only was the weather perfect, but there was so much to take in. How I dream of living in Cali! Gone would be the days of running hills in 100 degree summer weather, with a humidity factor of 1,000, like we get here in Atlanta. The hubby and I were talking the night before and decided, we’ve never seen so many beautiful people in one place at one time, which definitely makes the run more enjoyable. ;)
We decided to hang around the beach for a bit before meeting up with our friends to catch the L.A. Galaxy vs. Chicago Fire soccer game later that day. Unfortunately Uncle Bill’s Pancake House had a 45 minute wait (typical of this place), so we headed down the street to The Kettle for breakfast. It was our first time there. Not a bad choice for second fiddle.
The plan was to head to Venice or Malibu for a few hours before the game but due to traffic (maybe the only reason I wouldn’t want to move to Cali), we decided to stay close to the house before heading out mid afternoon.
I have to say, for a girl that doesn’t care much about sports, the stadium was pretty nice. The hubby of course was in heaven, especially after Bob Bradley just so happened to walk by our car as we pulled in. For those of you who don’t know, that would include me as well until I was so enlightened, he is the manager of the US Men’s Soccer team. The same team that just played in the 2010 World Cup, which made it extra special.
The game proved to be a good time. It was actually pretty exciting to see Landon Donovan play just after watching him on the world stage for the World Cup. The final score was 3-2, Chicago. Oh well, better luck next time. At least we got to squeeze in a game.
The remainder of the evening was spent running errands, trying to prepare for our cross-country drive back home. We had decided a few weeks prior that it would be fun to camp a few nights along the way. We also thought it smart to just buy the necessary materials out west so that we wouldn’t have to worry about the extra luggage at the airport. (More on that later!) Anyway, we purchased a tent, 2 sleeping bags, a cooler, a small tube of bug repellent, as well as snacks and food for the road. Luckily we slept well after a good pizza dinner. Turns out, we would need that sleep for the coming days.
We were on the road by about 7 am, after a coffee stop of course. Interestingly enough, the hubby always teases me about my addiction to coffee but it was he who was pushing for a buzz this particular morning. For those of you that know him, you know he’s not a coffee drinker. However, lately he’s taken a liking to some of the more chocolatey, sweeter coffees in order to stay awake and stay away from his other preferred caffeinated bevies, sweet tea and coca-cola.
Once awake and ready, we set out for the 8-ish hour drive to Zion National Park in Utah. Since we were passing through, we had originally discussed staying in Vegas a night in between but due to limited time and knowing that Vegas meant gambling, a nice dinner and a hotel, we opted not to spend the extra money. We figured that would have to be a separate trip another time.
Holy cow was that drive beautiful! I’ve always heard so many wonderful things and feel so lucky to have experienced it. The mountains in the south east, of which I’m familiar, are a completely different breed. Our mountains are more rolling and greener, not to mention much smaller. The mountains out west are huge, with interesting shapes and bright, warm colors.
We got to Zion a little later than expected and as all the message boards and reviews said, you should definitely book your accommodations well in advance during the summertime months. Again, we wanted to camp but found the two sites inside the park were completely booked for the night. It just so happened that we found another campsite about 50 yards outside the park, Zion Canyon Campground & RV park (behind the Quality Inn) that had a few spots left. We rushed over and were able to get one just in time. By the time we set up camp, they were full.
I can honestly say, we haven’t set up a tent in years so although the instructions said “5 minute setup time,” it took us slightly longer. ;) The good thing is, once you figure it out, it really does take 5 minutes for takedown and setting up. Since it was getting late, we headed back to the park for a bus tour along Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, where we were able to stop and do the Weeping Rock hike, and part of The Watchman hike since the sun was beginning to set and we didn’t have flashlights. Although the Weeping Rock hike was short (a quick half a mile), the view from the top was awesome. The trail takes you up under a waterfall and even though it was more of a drip, it was pretty breathtaking standing under the falls. If I lived anywhere near there, that’s where you would find me on a rainy afternoon or when I just needed some “me” time.
On our walk back to camp, the hubby almost stepped on this, had it not been for my trained critter spotting eye. Ahhh!!! A little too close for comfort if you ask me.
It was a little hot and slightly noisy trying to sleep that night in the tent. I guess that’s what we get for going during the hottest and busiest time of year.
Up early again this morning and headed towards the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Pretty excited about it too since this is one of those “Must See & Do” before you die sort of places. Fortunately the drive from Zion to the GC was much shorter, only 3 hours.
And again, upon arrival, we realized we should have made camp reservations ahead of time, however, luck was on our side once more. We found a really nice camp site a couple of miles north of the park entrance, called DeMotte in the Kaibab National Forest. The park ranger at the GC mentioned that a lot of people actually prefer this site over the one offered in the park and it’s no wonder. The campground itself, opens up to a large field that overlooks route 67. It was a little more rustic than the campground at Zion but so much more beautiful and peaceful. We felt like we were far enough away from other campers but close enough if we were to have any problems.
Here’s a shot of our tent from the road. I’m convinced we had the best spot on the grounds, especially because the following morning we woke up to several deer grazing just a few feet from our door.
We had agreed on the North Rim vs. the South Rim because a good friend had recommended it and mentioned it was the road less traveled. He was right. After a little research, we realized 90% of visitors to the Grand Canyon every year, choose the South Rim over the North. That’s mostly because it’s more accessible, offers more accommodations and better views of the Colorado River. With that said, the North Rim, because it is less accessible, the trails are more rugged and more remote, meaning you not only have to be the more adventurous type, but it also requires a greater degree of physical fitness. Also, because it it more remote, you’re able to see beautiful Canyon views from a different perspective than most. We were up for the challenge!
Once camp was set up, we made a quick trip to the GC visitor’s center to ask for recommendations on a hike and what to do with only a day at the park. The woman at the desk said if we had time, we should check out the Widforss Trail (10 miles round trip) that winds around the forest and along the rim on the way up to the Widforss Point Overlook (8000′) and to also try to squeeze in the Cape Royal drive (23 miles one way), which offers some of the North Rim’s most spectacular views and the highest vantage point in the park, via road.
We set out to Widforss Trail and realized the impending thunderstorm was inevitable. And because I had read and seen info all over the park about staying away from the rim during a thunderstorm, I wasn’t willing to take a chance. We opted instead to only do half of the hike (5 miles instead of 10). It’s a good thing too because by the time we arrived back at the car, the thunder was just behind us and the rain began to come down as we pulled into the Lodge to grab a bite to eat.
We waited out the rain at the Lodge before making our way back out to do the Cape Royal drive.
Before you check out the pictures below, let me first begin by saying, the Cape Royal drive offered the MOST INCREDIBLE VIEWS of the North Rim that we had seen all day. I would absolutely recommend this 23 mile drive (one way up the mountain) to anyone just passing through the Canyon or those that only have a couple of hours to spare. Each view was prettier than the next. Although we hadn’t planned to, we drove up just before sunset, which in my opinion, made it that much more beautiful. The colors were more vivid and the whole canyon felt alive. Trust me, sunset or sunrise is the time to take the drive if you can time it right.
Just so you know, I am deathly afraid of heights so I wasn’t sure how this whole GC trip would be for me. I actually found that if you stay far enough away from the edge, it’s not so bad. And, I was pleasantly surprised that neither our hike nor our drive had us too close the the edge, unless we chose to get closer on our own. I was also surprised to find that when you look out over the canyon, because it’s so vast, it didn’t seem real. Instead, it felt like you were looking at a giant screen, which calmed me a bit also. Of course I have to say, you never want to get too comfortable or else you may just find yourself looking at the canyon from a perspective you never wanted to. Crazy thing was, a couple of days after we left, we heard about this guy. Amazingly enough, he lived!
Anyway, we found ourselves back at camp after dark, which I don’t recommend if you’re not an entirely skilled camper. Although the drive was completely worth it, it wasn’t easy trying to start a fire and get dinner ready with only a small light. The temperature had also dropped tremendously. By this time, it was probably around 45 degrees, which, in my book, is cold! I grew up in Florida so I don’t do temps less than 75 without feeling chilled to the bone. The next 30 minutes or so (although it felt like an hour), we tried relentlessly to make a fire. We realized our matches were too old, our newspaper was too damp and our firewood didn’t want to cooperate. I eventually broke down and asked our neighbor campers to borrow some matches. :Once we finally had a fire going, we grilled our hotdogs and sat under the most amazing star filled sky I have EVER SEEN in my life! There were more stars than I ever knew existed! We sat directly below the Milky Way, which was so cool. Once we cleaned up, were were off to bed. Unfortunately for us, we had a long drive ahead of us the following morning and this night proved to be one of little sleep. Although we both had on pants, socks, a long sleeve shirt and a sweatshirt, we were still cold. And since we needed our sleeping bags to keep us warm, we didn’t have a lot of padding underneath us, which meant we were basically sleeping on hard ground. We realized too late that we hadn’t really prepared well enough for the camping portion of our trip. Ah, the joys of being adventurous! Lesson learned – stay in a hotel. I guess we could also pack better if we decide to brave it again in the future.
Enjoy until next time,