Friday, July 26, 2013

Our 100 Day Trek, part 11, Zion

Zion national park has a no car policy for its inner sanctum. So we booked a room at the lodge in that sanctum. Our privilege was, that we could drive into the parking lot of the Lodge with a special red tag on our front window, along with the other privileged people staying at the lodge. The common folk had to use buses to get where we were going. Unfortunately to go deeper into the canyon past the lodge required us to join those commoners.

Sight walking to dinner
A view driving to the lodge

This was our first encounter with high red sandstone cliffs all around. Dining al fresco staring up a thousand feet or more wherever you look, while on the lawn beneath your deck, mule deer and their offspring graze in the dusk that gradually envelops you into full darkness, requiring a flash light to walk back to your room.

The turkeys at dawn
Mother and hungry fawn

On our balcony we have perfect night sky views allowing us to find configurations, but that requires us to buy another app on our iPad, so that we can name them. By the way, the next night there were wild turkeys on the lawn in front of the lodge. Earlier I took pictures of a deer with its fawn.

Deer on the lawn at dusk
From the bus deeper in the canyon

This is the park that advertises its famous slot canyon: The Narrows.

We took the bus that blocked our views of what was above us and rode to the end to take a few pictures of the beginning of The Narrows, which required a leisurely walk of half a mile.

Walking to the Narrows
Navajo sandstones beyond the Narrows entry
The Narrows start here

However, we also found out, that to see the best of the Narrows we would have to walk in the ice cold river for at least another mile or more and in case of a flash flood (that day not very likely, we were told) press ourselves against the canyon wall preferably in a niche and wait it out.

Tourist trap at the park entrance
Kolob Terrace road sight
Not Red thus Navajo sandstone
Strange formations
The bands show millions of years

We felt too old to "enjoy" this experience and so all we did was take a few pictures of the returning and starting people with the river as a background.

This main part of Zion was a bit too well organized, but luckily there are other parts of the park: the Kolob scenic drive and the Kolob Terrace road.

The sun highlights walls
Again amazed by another view
A Mesa in the distance
A red butte

The Kolob scenic drive brought red mesas and buttes and left us with indelible memories that photos can hopefully replicate.

No words to describe this
People climb to walk the top ridge

The terrace drive brought us to a beautiful 10,000+ ft. high reservoir and farms on a canyon floor a thousand feet down.

Views leaving park
Winding road towards these

The final beautiful drive was leaving the park through tunnels surrounded by walls of red canyons on our way to the Grand Canyon.

So red so high
Checker board formations

We found no red walls there, but returning to Utah later on, we were again enchanted by them.

The picture on the right was the last surprise, just outside the park: a "checker board" formation.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Our 100 Day Trek through the US of A, Part 10, highway 50.

With Hansie showing proudly his amber engine light we traversed from east to west on "America's Loneliest Road". On certain portions the daily count of vehicles is 500 or so. Life Magazine unkindly coined the phrase in a 1980's article but the state of Nevada made it a tourist slogan. It seemed to have worked, because we encountered many a vehicle on this otherwise desolate stretch of two lane desert road. We detoured in the wrong direction to the city of Ely for 15 miles to get gas and it was good we did so because otherwise we would have run out of gas on this famous road. Although the next city, Austin, just over a high summit was in "gas range", the owner had permanently closed the station and left the premises.
They show ruins of pony change station
This is the road where the short lived pony express trail can be found frequently crossing our highway. History tells that the company, employing young unmarried men with preferably no family, only existed for 18 months from April 1860 to October 1861. Riders rode ponies 1800 miles in ten days to deliver mail across these barren lands from pony exchange station to pony exchange station, sometimes chased by Indians. The dangers of this job was the main reason for the hiring standards. Marconi's invention proved too much for the fledgling enterprise. How can one ever outrun the transmission of messages in mere seconds?
Beautiful building of days long gone
More modern neighbor of beautiful building
On this 409 mile stretch of the highway in the state of Nevada you will find only four townships: Ely, Austin, Eureka and Fallon. We saw them all and slept for one night in Fallon, known as Top Gun town, because of its Air Force base, where pilots train in air to air combat.
Side by side with old people
Elders have more ugly building
Sage brush as far as eye reaches
Do I exaggerate?
Ely and Austin were the most authentically preserved towns, Austin was almost a ghost town speck in the desert, and Fallon had lost its charm due to modern lifestyle and rich farmland as a result of 50,000 acres of irrigated pastureland and alfalfa fields. I only recently learned to identify this crop (part of this tours educational value) and cantaloupes, which we did not see at this time of the year.
Miles of stone made names on roadside
Sand dunes are a state monument here
The sense that one gets traveling hundreds of miles on a straight line two lane desert road climbing and descending summits with endless views of nothing but sage brush and once in awhile bicyclists (where do these idiots come from and where are they going? Actually I know where they are going as there are no side roads, but the real question is where are they overnighting?)
Lone bicyclist with no luggage!
Moral of this story: unless you visit Lake Tahoe and or Las Vegas, you have no business being here. Of course one does have to traverse Nevada on the way to somewhere else, as big lorries showed us in passing.

At least they battle endless miles together
It was here where I started to hanker for Ghost towns and their stories. Ironically I had to wait until California to see one as you have already read.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Our 100 Day Trek through the US of A, Part 8 to Reno

When leaving Groveland on our way to Reno Nevada on the 4th of July we found ourselves on really scenic, very winding roads through the mountains where once again we could not find words between us to describe the views.
This is a very narrow CA state road
Sandee loves these hairpins
A mountain lake higher than Lake Tahoe
Volunteer Fire brigade
When we reached South Tahoe Lake the road was in both sides filled with parked cars and people walking miles from their parked cars to go to the beach. We decided to have lunch and ended up in an Irish Pub sitting in the shade outside sharing one of the better shepherd pies I can remember eating. Talking about eating, being on the road and loosing weight, becomes a real problem, and I already started this trip heavier than I should be. I promise not to tell what I weigh when I come home, only if I have lost weight, will I announce this proudly.

Another shot at the lake

The drive alongside Lake Tahoe was even better than the drive through the mountains. We visited Hunter, George and Saunders daughter and OB's great niece, at her home in the lake area, where she treated us to a wonderful home cooked southern fried chicken and potato salad dinner - she definitely got that Ferebee gene - and a bit of July 4th celebration. Leaving her for our hotel in Reno near the land rover dealer where a diagnostic test revealed a faulty fuel regulator, we crossed another mountain where on scenic viewpoints many cars were having tailgate parties waiting for the fireworks to come over the lake. It was time for haircuts also while in Reno on the fifth, a bit of visiting the city, among which walking into Circus Circus and having free Bloody Mary's sitting on a bar in front of screens where one can play and drink for free. The waitress thought we played, but that is not one of our vices.

Circus Circus one of many on the Reno Strip
Shot from our bar stool
Back in Civilization?
We had our only five course gourmet meal of the trip in this town, sitting outside as the night fell engulfing us in darkness.
Up to Tonopah where you can supposedly see the best night skies above a dark town somewhere in nowhere land.
Next day we spotted a mountain on fire
Last sight of alcohol options before the desert