25 July 2017

South West US (Bus tour)

Breaking the rules here.
We had just finished an absolutely stunning and most memorable 31 day trip through the Eastern Sierra Nevada of California (in their -then- hottest summer on record). I started this blog with a view to only post bushwalking/hiking/tramping/trekking trips, but this one so rated a mention (and it did have the odd little bit of walking in it) that I had to post about it. Bindlestiff Tours (there are plenty of companies out there, but we think we struck lucky with these guys) do a great 3-day minibus tour out of Las Vegas (and after visiting Vegas, there's nowhere else you want to be but out of it!) of Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon (right), Antelope Canyon, Monument Valley (including the most amazing sunrise you may ever see!) and the Grand Canyon. My most accurate description of the trip is jaw-dropping. They are all great places to visit (and spend much more time than we did on our whirlwind tour - so if you have your own wheels, just give yourself at least a whole day at each place).

Relief filled us as we left Las Vegas (we're not bling people) and we headed from Nevada through the top-left corner of Arizona to Utah and the Zion National Park. Carved out of sand deposits that had turned to stone, Zion canyon was stunning to behold. Would have loved to hiked through more of this, though it was spanking hot when we visited.

On the same day, we had a bit more time at Bryce Canyon (also in Utah), less a canyon and more a hillside that is decorated with the most amazing formations (called hoodoos).

The following day we hit Hoover Dam (a little boring from a bus, would be more fun in a boat) and then Antelope Canyon (now in Navajo Nation, surrounded by Arizona) - a real highlight. Being on the tour allowed us to skip some of the queues, but it is definitely worth queuing for! The Navajo guides are hilarious in their tour-group leadership, based largely on one-upmanship with other group leaders. If you allow yourself to be distracted from the stunning beauty of the the canyon, it would be easy to feel like you're being pushed through a sausage machine, but we were completely captivated by the colour and shapes, not to mention entertained by the guides. 

Next major stop was Monument Valley (still in Arizona) for an overnight camp. The tour in the afternoon was truly very nice , eventually getting out and away from the crowds and then with some lovely musical moments from the two Navajo guides, but the definite gob-smacking, jaw-dropping, heart-stopping highlight was what greeted us in the morning as we climbed out of our tents at six in the morning... (here are the West and East Mittens).
Having harvested several dropped jawbones from the surrounding landscape, day three led us on to for me the most moving geological formation of the whole trip, the Grand Canyon.
The Grand Canyon is one of the earth's monumental reminders (Uluru is another) of our fleeting existence in this universe. On our most bored (or depressed) days we might think that our lifetime is overly long, but if you get to glimpse the depth of time shown in the rocks of the Grand Canyon (and there are other places in the world that do this too) you can feel truly insignificant! Hopefully that is liberating in it's own way...

As seen on Andrew Purdam's Bushwalking Treasure Box blog.
Disclaimer: The information given is of a general nature only and whilst all care has been taken, no responsibility can be assumed by the author.Conditions change, regulations change. Any reader doing these hikes after reading these notes must show due diligence and be experienced enough to take responsibility for their own decisions and actions.