Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Turning 30 and the Grand Canyon

Hooray! I have made it to 30 years of age! To celebrate we went out to dinner and had a few drinks in Payson, Arizona. A bit of advice to people who may be passing through: don't look for a big night out in Payson; I just don't think it's got the goods. I'm going to be celebrating my 30th over the coming months as we meet up with friends along the way. So, if I'm coming to a town near you, be ready!

We'd picked up our friend Rosita the day before my birthday and the day after we drove to the Grand Canyon. The next morning we were up bright and early and heading out for a hike. With three litres of water, sandwiches and snacks stowed away in our backpacks we were on the trail by 8:00. The morning was chilly, but the sun was shining.

We chose to descend on the Bright Angel trail. By the time we got to Indian Garden, four and a half miles down, my calves were already complaining. Too bad for me because we weren't even a third of the way through our 15 mile hike.

About five miles in we moved onto the East Tonto trail. This trail was relatively flat, lined by scratchy little shrubs and cacti. We got to see both Prickly Pears and Claret Cup cacti in bloom. The blossoms are only open for a couple of days a year, so I felt pretty lucky. Bright reds and pinks stood out against the relatively colorless ground.

Along the Tonto trail we came upon an oasis. Even way down in the dry canyon, frogs have found a way to make a life for themselves.

Walking along and watching my feet to ensure I didn't trip over rocks, it was easy to forget where in the world I was. Each time we paused for a rest or I stopped watching my boots the grandeur was overwhelming. Soaring canyon walls and deep valleys were all around. At certain points one misstep could send you plummeting to your death.

Plummet to our death we did not. After 11 hours of hiking we hauled ourselves up the last hill of the Kaibab trail just before dark and onto an awaiting bus. We all made it, but it was llllooonnnggg haul. Had we known it was going to be so long, perhaps we would've chosen a different route. As with so many of our travel experiences, it's something I'm glad to have done, but I'm not sure I'd do it again.

From the Grand Canyon we dropped Rosita off at the airport. Last night was a bit lonely without her. She sure did make a good travelling companion.

Our next stop is Apache National Forest on the Arizona/New Mexico border. Then to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico where we'll be "wwoofing" at our first farm! More to come soon!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Another Perspective

For those of you interested in a different perspective on Rohan and my travels, check out his blog: http://xploreyourworld.wordpress.com/. We're going to try very hard to avoid overlap on photos and opinions.

This morning's visitor to our campground.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

On the Road Again

As I write I can hear the running water of Beaver Creek. We are in Coconino National Forest in Arizona, also known and the Red Rock Area - quite an apt name. Ever which way we turn there is a towering steeple of, well, red rock. And this update comes neither from a dirty little internet cafe or a McDonald's parking lot, but from our campground. Bless those modern conveniences!

Lake Isabella

We left Paradise and did a massive drive on our first day. We went through Kern Canyon and had it been warmer, we may have stayed there for a night, but it was freezing, quite literally. Instead we pushed on through and after 13 hours of driving we arrived in Death Valley National Park. Our first day in Death Valley we played super tourists. We went to the salt flats at Bad Lands (lowest place in the world at 292 feet below sea level), took Artist's Drive and walked around Zabrinskie Point. The wetness of the salt flats surprised me. It felt kind of like walking on snow, though the salt crystals don't melt. Instead when they get between sandals and feet it feels like walking on broken glass (must've been what Annie Lennox was talking about. . .).

Bad Lands Salt Flats

Because it's spring time, wildflowers are everywhere. Yellow, pink and purple color the landscape. We were lucky enough to see a bit of wild life. Four burros, a coyote and a herd of Big Horn Sheep crossed our path.

Desert Flowers

Death Valley is enormous and there's so much to see! Unfortunately this desolate wasteland, miles from nowhere is not an original place to visit. Vista points were shared with heaps of other tourists, peaceful walks left us sandwiched between noisy kids and campgrounds were wall-to-wall RVs running noisy generators. Ugh!

Mesquite Dunes

Artist's Palette

The sheer number of people in Death Valley finally spurred us on to our next stop, Mojave National Preserve. Here there were a lot less people. The dry desert is covered with a variety of different cacti and drought hardy bushes, with cute little bunny rabbits hopping between them. Unfortunately neither Death Valley nor Mojave had a shower available, so after five days without we decided we simply must get clean.

Barrel Cactus, Mojave

That brings us to now. Last night I showered and after five days without felt close to bliss afterwards. It's the simple things, really.

Our current campground is near Sedona and we heard rumors of a farmers' market there tomorrow. It won't be the same as waking up late and strolling two blocks down the street (ahhh, Chico), but I'm excited about the chance to chat with some local farmers and pick up some fresh, seasonal fruit and veg.

Sedona, Steeple Rock