As a wise man once said, you can’t always get what you want. Our intention had been to take the car through Death Valley at night on our way back east but we ran into some unaccounted-for difficulties and at around 2am, on the advice of one the few locals still awake and driving around, we turned back for the main highway. Without air conditioning and only a half tank of gas until the next attended gas station (our European cards weren’t accepted at the self-serve stations) he strongly recommended that we drove around rather than through. “It’s called Death Valley for a reason folks!”
The next day we made it a priority to find a garage to charge the AC system a little. This done, and now, for the first time in weeks feeling deliciously cool and *not* sticky, we drove on towards Zion National Park, arriving in the evening. Our track record for early starts over the trip has been pretty terrible but we made it out before 6am the next morning. We were walking up Angel’s Landing – a tall, narrow rock formation and one of Zion’s more popular attractions. After a long slog up the trail’s switchbacks we made it onto the ridge. Sunlight was just starting to spill into the valley and the temperature began steadily rising. The final part of the walk takes you along some fairly steep rock sections that are chained to help people along. There were a few points with some pretty intense exposure (think: two foot-wide ridge with roughly 1000 foot drops on both sides). The summit widens out and gave gorgeous panoramic views up and down the valley. The red cliffs dominate the view but also visible is the subtle green of trees filling the valley floor but also speckling up the cliffs.
We would have loved to spend more time in Zion but at this point in the trip we’ve started, sadly, to become aware of a certain degree of time limitation. We’ve laid out a plan for how we’re spending out last days and that required driving on further west. We stopped in Page, AZ, where we stayed at what turned out to be one of our favourite campgrounds. The nights were so warm there that we pitched our tents without the rain covers and could watch the stars through the mesh ceiling as we lay and fell asleep. Before that though, we drove to the famous Horseshoe Bend of the Colorado River for that evening’s breath-taking sunset. We think that the frequency with which a person is able to sit and just watch a sunset or sunrise is a viable method for measuring quality of life. By this measure, our quality of life has been at its absolute peak these past few weeks.
The next morning we went to Lower Antelope Canyon, a beautiful example of a slot canyon. For a number of confusing reasons we weren’t at all sure what time it was – we still don’t really understand how it all worked but it was something like Arizona, Utah and the Lake Powell Navajo Tribal Park were all on different timezones and our phones were all connected to different masts that gave different times. Even the locals we asked seemed to have different ideas of exactly what time it was. Anyway, the upshot of all that confusion was just that we arrived an hour ahead of our scheduled 8am meet-up time. For the whole of that hour we were no more than a couple of hundred feet from the canyon we were to be walking around but had no idea. From above, there is almost no trace of it – only a narrow slit. We entered, being led by a local guide, by descending steep staircases fixed to the rock. As soon as we reached the bottom and started looking around, we were exposed to the beautiful rock walls on either side of us. The sandstone rock of which they are comprised took on swirling shapes of all colours that seemed to change as the light shifted. It’s another place that is very difficult to describe adequately with words but completely engrossing when experienced in person. If you’re in northern Arizona, go.
We’re now driving down to the Grand Canyon – we should arrive in time to cook some food and then watch the sun set over the western rim. We’ll let you know how that all goes and whatever else we get up to next time.
Road trip. Two months. Five European friends across Canada from Toronto to Vancouver and through the States from San Francisco back to Toronto via as many cool places in between as we can find. We’ve used cities as way-markers but our interest is in the land we’ll travel through between them. Along the way we’ll pass through more National Parks than you can shake a stick at. Camp stoves, beaches, forests, mountains, waterfalls, adventures and waking up in a tent somewhere new every morning.
Keep up with us throughout our journey via the weekly blogs posted here that we’ll be writing for Osprey Packs or follow us on Instagram: