America the Beautiful part 2

UTAH continued

  • Bryce Canyon National Park

Some of more distinctive rock formations are present in this park – hoodoos. They look like red and white very steep pinnacles and thousands of them form amazing walls of all shapes. To me they looked like some petrified ancient army…

The Hoodoos of Bryce Canyon

There are many lookouts conveniently located within a short walking distance from the car parks and the views are truly amazing. There are a few longer walks too and apart from the rim walk, most of them take you all the way to the bottom of the canyon – so you just need to bare in mind, that whatever height  you lose walking down, you will have to climb it all the way back again. As our luck would have it, the one walk that we wanted to do, through a great slot canyon was closed, due to a rockfall.

Long way up and down

I guess we should be glad that all those rocks fell before we got there and not while we were there.

Park rangers try to encourage people (especially young ones) to discover the park through various walks and for those who can prove (either by photo or by a stamp) that they walked the required distance, and say at least three designated signs, the special surprise prize awaits…

Posing for my surprise prize

Of course I got mine! And besides the prizes we were leaving Bryce Canyon dusty and tired…

  • Zion National Park

The park is most famous for its infamous hike to Angels Landing that has claimed several lives over the last few years. The last kilometer or so is a straight up climb over the sheer rock face with massive drop-offs on each side. There are a few chains, but with the crowds going up and down, more often than not you have to hug a stranger to be able to get a grip yourself. It really it more of a challenge and a kind of prestigious achievement that draws thousands of people to do the hike each year, as there are better lookouts elsewhere in the park. Just not the same thrill or potential for death!

Walters Wiggles on the way to Angles Landing

Admiring a view of the valley from Observation Point - Angel's Landing below

I felt the need to get to Angels Landing myself, but Geoff not being a fan of heights himself, wouldn’t let me go on my own. We did go as far as Scout’s Lookout and climbed the famous Walter’s Wiggles, from where we could see people struggling to get to the top of Angels Landing and back down again. It could have been done, but if there is one thing I hate about hiking, it definitely is traffic. This little episode conclude one thing – Geoff is going to let me get a horse (that’s what Monika thinks anyway), which I am going to name it “Angel’s Landing”.

Muddy tracks = muddy boots

We have spent a few days in Zion. We weren’t camping within the park, but each day we were travelling to and from Washington (not DC!) where we were staying with Bud and Carol – our couchsurfing hosts. It took us no time to feel like a part of their family. They were warm, welcoming, very generous and highly dedicated to the idea of couchsurfing. They even had a guest book complete with pictures of all the people who stayed with them and who left thank you notes and bit of travel info on the countries they were from. Carol is into scrapbooking and we got to see her masterpieces – really impressive! We enjoyed their company and Zions views so much, that instead of the initial three nights we had “booked”, we stayed for five!

A lesser visited Kolob Canyon

While in Zion we did a tour in a shuttle bus – cars are only allowed up to a certain point within the park – and stopped at the lookout points. We got our shoes covered in mud in Kolob Canyon. Decided to walk The Narrows, but the river levels were too high and the water temperature was a bit too cold to carry on further than the first few bends. We went to the wonderfully named Emerald Pools, which were anything but emerald or wonderful  (at least in our opinion). And finally we hiked eight long and steep miles through the spectacular Echo Canyon to Observation Point – a truly amazing spot with breath taking views of the park below. A hike well worth taking. And even after those few days spent in Zion, we could easily come back and do all the walks that we didn’t get a chance to do.

"Hiking" The Narrows...

Echo Canyon

ARIZONA

  • Grand Canyon National Park

The big, almighty Grand Canyon. Unsurprisingly it is one of the most visited national parks in USA. A few hours drive from Las Vegas makes it a popular destination on many a roadtrip in America. It is called grand for a reason – not only due to its size but most importantly due to the rewarding vistas all around.

Grand Canyon

We wanted to visit the less popular but apparently more beautiful North Rim, but while we were there (mid May) the roads were only starting to open after winter, and the main access road was closed due to a landslide. So we changed our plans, went to Vegas first (oh those lazy days spent by the hotel pool…) and from there went to South Rim instead. I’ve been to Grand Canyon before, but the views impressed me just as much, all over again. There are buses that take you all along the rim to Hermit’s Rest and let you get off at any of the many lookout points or hike trail heads. So even if you don’t fancy a walk, you can still admire its beauty in all its glory. But a hike down the canyon is a great experience and reveals a whole new point of view. Just few steps down and you are dwarfed by the massive canyon walls, millions of years old. That really puts your own existence into perspective.  And if you want to experience it, but don’t feel like a hike, you can join one of the organised tours and ride a mule.

Giving way to mules while hiking in Grand Canyon

The one thing they do warn you all around the park is attempting to hike from rim to rim. There was a story at the head of our trail about a young girl – a marathon runner – clearly fit and in prime condition, who died trying to do just that – walk from south to north rim in one day. Many have done that and live to tell the story, but the risks of dehydration, exhaustion and sun stroke are great and can really cause death.

But the canyon is beautiful and the views will make you stop for a good while and try to take it all in, especially when the place gets quiet during dusk and dawn…

View of Colorado River

We have plans to come back, do the rim walks and experience it all yet again.

Dry trees add to the desert feel

Of course American beauty doesn’t lie just within its national parks. We found it in wetlands of Florida and Louisiana and on beautiful beaches in Florida and California. We saw redwoods in NP – the tallest trees in the world (a family of previously mentioned sequoias – largest by volume). We had to miss out on spectacular Crater Lake in Oregon, because there were 12 inches of fresh snow on the road and we had no snow chains. But we have seen beautiful tulip fields in Woodburn (Washington) instead. We also went to see amazing Columbia River Gorge on the border of Oregon and Washington and we were amazed by the majesty of Mt Hood, still very much covered in snow in late April. We hoped to see it again while in Seattle (it has a prominent place in the city’s skyline), but the usual clouds made it impossible this time.

Tulip fields in Woodburn, Oregon

Mt Hood towering over hundreds of pear tress

There’s also a massive emptiness of Montana’s prairies, with horses feeding on vast grasslands with towering Rockies in the background. There are also peculiarities such as petrified forests (we saw one in Washington, but there are few other ones around the country) and Craters of the Moon – which might not be beautiful, but are definitely interesting and magnificent in their own right.

Vast emptiness in Montana

There were national parks we missed out completely (Yellowstone) and some we barely touched (Glacier NP). And although we have definitely seen a lot in our three months in America, there is still so much to see, that we have to come back for more, some other time…

Pictures of all the places we have seen will be appearing slowly on our gallery. So if you want to take a virtual trip with us, keep checking that space!