October 18th, 2008 @ 9:39 am by John · 11 Comments
We arrived in Miami at about 8:30am where we had about 4 hours sleep in 24 hours. All we wanted to do is sleep. It took over an hour on two buses to get to our hostel. When we arrived we were told that there was no room ready until 3pm which meant no sleep for us. The good news was that the receptionist upgraded us to a private 2 double bedded dorm with a flat screen TV and en suite bathroom. So we locked up our bags in the hostel and just walked around Miami for a bit.
The weather wasn’t great. It was dull and cloudy. Most of the side streets were flooded right up to the entrances of shops. There was a supermarket we was interested in going to which had a small bridge to get over the flood. Unfortunately, it was crap and still got our feet wet.
We really not much motivation to do much, but as we had s much time on our hands before check in, we decided to do the half hour walking tour to see some art deco examples around Miami. It certainly had lots of it.
The half hour tour turned out to be a 10 minute tour that we cut short. We headed back to the hostel we slept on the common room sofas and played free pool for the rest of the day. By the time we could check into our room, we just grab the keys and hit the bed for a few hours. We were so shattered. We got up about 8pm and headed towards Espanola Way and treated ourselves to a decent meal.
The next day, we just headed to the beach for a few hours to catch the sun before it hid away again. We had a dip in the Atlantic ocean which we shared with jellyfish.
We didn’t want to do too much this day as we were heading to Ecuador the following day. After the beach, we grab a few beers and some fod to cook at the hostel and just enjoyed a few games of pool, table tennis and watched a few films showing on the big screen TV.
Not a huge amount happened in Miami. Just the beach, some pool and mainly sleep.
October 18th, 2008 @ 9:39 am by Chris · 5 Comments
We left Ventura our last stop on the Pacific Coast Highway before we get to Los Angeles after filling ourselves up and our bags on a free and full breakfast, we raced (obeying the speed limits) along the interstate to drop our bags off at the USA hostal bang in the centre of Hollywood and drop Sheila Number 2 off at LAX.
We left dropping the car off to Mike and Kev leaving them a couple of hours to return the car whilst we explored in and around the hostel. Before we left hostel Kev came racing back into our the room completely out of breath, almost collapsing with exhaustion to say the car wouldn’t start and the key was stuck in the ignition in a petrol station and we needed to call Avis to let them know. As I got downstairs to make the call Mike came racing in saying the car was working and the reason it wouldn’t start was because the gear shift wasn’t in Park (rookie mistake). They rushed off once again to give back the car, returning later to let us know the little detour had made them 8 minutes late and cost us $60 for another hour.
Another expense added to the PCH, another lesson learnt we started to explore Hollywood! beginning with Hollywood walk of fame towards the Hollywood & Highland Center home to the Kodak theatre where the Oscars are held and one of the places you can see the Hollywood sign from (albeit not the best view, see below), then further along to the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre to compare our hand and footprints with some of the famous names of hollywood past and present.
After enjoying a relaxing strole we were given tickets to a free movie screening at the Mann Chinese 6 Theatre. Although we wasn’t told what it was, we began thinking that maybe we would be part of the audience to a unreleased film and we might influence what scenes are chopped in this good or bad film. We took a gamble and started to get in the queue about 2 hours before the film started to ensure we got a place. We were in luck, it was Ghost Town, Ricky Gervais’ first showing on the big screen. It didn’t disappoint with Gervais being his usual entertaining self and with a more serious tone halfway through. After we watched the film and got money off vouchers to a future film we established we were Guinea Pigs for the adverts before the films rather than the film itself, slightly disappointed with didn’t get to leave our creative flare on the flim but an expected outcome given the film was already available to watch in the cinema.
In the evening we arrived late to the open mic night held in the bar inside the hostel to enjoy some free entertainment and cheap beer, where all the up and coming stars perform.
The following day we decided to head out to Universal Studios where we enjoyed a day of fun after initially waiting in the ticket queue for what seemed like forever. Though it was definitely worth the wait to get to go on the rides inside, a few we had a go on were:
- The Simpsons Ride, is a simulator that replaced the Back to the Future ride. Before we did it there were reservations it was going to be like the 3D simulator you might get at a fairground. Far from it! It was an action packed 10-20 minutes that did an excellent job of giving the impression you were on a real rollercoaster with more, it wasn’t surprising this was the ride we had to wait the longest for.
- Waterworld, the most popular show at the park and after seeing it I can see why. From the moment we sat down the actors were there entertaining the audience and really making those people who had sat in the “wet” seats regret that decision. The show was pretty spectacular too with lots of fire effects and a surprising arrival halfway through (I won’t say what because it would spoil the surprise).
- The Universal Studio Tour, gave a nice exposure to some of the sets including Desperate Housewives and Jaws though a little too staged for my liking. The behind the scenes tour would have been more impression but that gives us something to come back for
- Revenge of the Mummy, this ride imursed you in total darkness and put you in a really fast rollercoaster that could go backwards and forwards allowing for some nasty surprises and an interesting ride picture, sorry that one’s not in the gallery!
After arriving back we arrived in time to endure enjoy the free comedy night by the hostel, it was a tough crowd for the comedians - there weren’t many laughs in the house but it was a nice end to the day and allowed to relax with one or two beers.
We couldn’t come to LA without experiencing ‘Muscle Beach’ first hand, so on Jingkei’s final day we headed off to the beach. The gym section wasn’t quite what we were expecting since it was all enclosed and a fair distance away from the sandy beach, plus we must have picked the wrong time of the day/week because it was empty. Further along there was a gymnastic area where there were a few people (including Kev and John who couldn’t resist having a go).
We spent the remainder of the morning sitting around on the beach followed by a walk from Venice Beach to Santa Monica beach in seach of a place to stop for lunch, after which we continued with the tanning process - which was still enough time for Jingkei to get burnt whilst trying and get rid of those T-Shirt tan lines before he headed home from his stint with the Goonies On Tour.
As it was Jingkei’s last day we splashed out on a nasty equivalent of KFC to wish Jingkei bon voyage and once we had waved him off we mourned the loss of our temporary goonie with lots of beer and free shots from the bar staff.
On our final day in LA with spent our time exploring more of the area, heading in the general direction of the RockWalk on the Sunset Strip where you can find more hand and foot prints only this time of famous Rock Stars and Guitar Heros as well as a shop with some very expensive electric and acoustic guitars. Kev and John looked longingly at some of the ones on show, possibly wishing they could bring one along for the rest of the trip, personally I think I’d prefer my iPod. We ended our final day with a strole back along the Hollywood Boulevard though the very posh looking neighbourhoods all with private security protecting the houses, with streets lined with palm trees and the gardener trimming the hedges continuing onto where the Walk of Fame begins.
On to Miami the last leg of our North America trip.
October 18th, 2008 @ 9:39 am by Mike · No Comments
What the Goonies Did
1. Make car hire reservation on the day you require the car. $660
2. Drive fast to save on travelling time. Free
3. Get a speeding fine for doing 96mph on a 65mph speed limit road. $396
4. Get photographs holding ridiculously expensive speeding ticket at Santa Maria Police Station. Priceless
The way the Goonies did the Pacific Coast Highway was foolish and expensive. We have estimated that we would have saved around $300-400 if we had stopped chasing our desire for a convertible and instead made a car hire reservation well in-advance. Also the fact we got caught speeding did not help meaning we spent approximately $800 extra than we had originally estimated to complete the Pacific Coast Highway road trip.
Getting caught speeding in America is extremely stupid considering how strict they are about speeding. When being the lone driver and driving on sections that were straighter than Chuck Norris with no Pacific Coast in sight, boredom easily set in. The more bored I got the quicker we wanted to complete the section. Before the incident there were no other cars on the interstate, so I applied a little more juice to push through the section faster. Then out of no where there was the flashing lights of a police car behind us. It was too late we had already been clocked as I slammed on the brakes massively late. Being totally confused with silly images of the possible consequences, I ground to a halt in the middle of the interstate. After regaining focus we pulled over to the hard shoulder where the officer told us to stay in the car until further instructions. To my amazement the officer did not ask how fast I was going which I was expecting. But instead just came out saying I was way over the limit going 96mph in a 65mph. The officer then proceeded by saying there is no chance he could let us off as he had caught another Englishman speeding the previous day.
Expecting to pay a fine on the spot we were further shocked when the officer said he had to escort us back to the sheriff’s department to post bail. On the journey back to the sheriff’s department we had Spandau Ballet’s - Gold playing which will now always remind us of this incident.
At the sheriff’s department everything was relatively simple, we had to post my bail immediately and got our photograph’s around the station with no questions. On a different agenda we all still had some of our ‘manwich’ left from the day before which would have gone down a treat if we heated it up, maybe they had a microwave in their office. Sadly, no one had the nerve to ask.
The Arresting Officer: Officer MiClare
The Offender: Mike
The Accomplishes: From the left John, Chris, Jingkei (aka Sleep Too Much Clan)
And finally Kev and Shelia Number 2.
October 18th, 2008 @ 9:38 am by Mike · 3 Comments
On the list of 50 things to do before you die is to bike the Pacific Coast Highway. With a limited time constraint to travel the world in one year, here is the Goonies’ attempt to drive the Pacific Coast Highway in style instead.
After blitzing San Francisco in 3 days it was time to complete the Pacific Coast Highway. With no pre-arrangements, the Goonies decided to make car hire reservations on the day we check out. The idea behind this is an desperate attempt to snap up a convertible enabling us to complete the Pacific Coast Highway in style (This madness / in-genius idea was never questioned). Unfortunately for us it was Friday, thus the weekend meaning finding any suitable car rental was going to be mission impossible. After numerous rejections we managed to secure a Ford Edge 4×4 but paying well over the odds and me being the solo driver to save on cost.
In Shelia Number 2 (Ford Edge) we immediately drove to our first chosen destination, Santa Cruz. Here the weather was absolutely scorching so was decided to forget about all our responsibilities and hit the beach to soak up the sun. After many hours in the sun and the team making a reading chair in the sand, reality hits home and the quest to secure tonight’s accommodations begins. With no availability in Santa Cruz we explored the next town. The same story occurred over and over again with no availability in each hotel we tried. This got the team worried as it was very snug and cosy as we had to share a medium size SUV between 5 people. In the fourth town we searched (Wastonville) we hit jackpot securing accommodation in an Economy Inn.
After having a relatively relaxing day in Santa Cruz, the Goonies pressed on to explore the area called the Big Sur on the Pacific Coast Highway. The first port of call is Monterey Bay where we drove down the Cannery Row which was made famous as it was once the capital of the sardine canning industry. From Monterey Bay opens the gates to one of America’s most scenic drive simply called the ‘17 Mile Drive’. It is home to many points of interest such as the Lone Cypress (very old tree clinging onto a rock), Spanish Bay and a few golf courses (Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill) which is host to some famous golfing tournament (Golf is not my cup of tea). Despite being one of America’s most scenic drive we found it rather disappointing but this could be partly due to the weather as it was pure overcast making the day feel more miserable than it really was.
At lunchtime we stopped at Safeway as we wanted something cheap and quick so we could make more progress along the Pacific Coast highway. Here we probably encounter one of the largest sandwich (aka manwich) we ever had. Infact the sandwich was so big that it took us until the next day to finish.
With lunch (dinner + breakfast) sorted, we completed the ocean drive around Big Sur to Morro Bay. For me this was probably the best part of the Pacific Coast Highway drive. From a drivers point of view the roads were absolutely amazing with uphills, downhills, bends all over the place as you cruise around cliff edges and with the power of Shelia number 2, it was always going to be a winning combination. For the passenger, the views were truly beautiful and something that everyone should try to experience once. Looking down the cliff edge of the continuously windy roads and seeing the sun shine on the never ending Pacific Ocean is enough of a reason to travel to America just to drive down the Pacific Coast Highway.
In the evening we stopped of at Morro Bay visiting Morro Rock, a quick night cap at Otter Rock Cafe and retiring early for our final day on the Pacific Coast Highway.
On the final day of our Pacific Coast Highway road trip we pressed on hard to ensure that we completed most of the Pacific Coast Highway to get us closer to Los Angeles. Our first stop of the day was to Guadalupe, used to film some scenes from the film ‘The Beach’. With silky undisturbed sand and barely another sole in sight you can see why Guadalupe was used.
Next stop Santa Barbara for some seafood and spot of sunbathing. However, on the way the Goonies (possibly more me) got caught for our first felony. We got caught speeding and had to post bail so that we could continue on our way. (See next post for full details). At Santa Barbara we still managed to get a lovely seafood lunch at a restaurant on the pier and even had plenty of time to lounge about on the beach despite it not being very warm. Santa Barbara itself was a very nice place with very clean beaches, vast stretches of palm trees and the feeling that everyone who lived there was pretty wealthy.
After spending the whole afternoon in Santa Barbara, the group decided to drive on further so that we had less of a drive in the morning to get to LA. We just stopped of in a town called Ventura as it was only about 40 miles away from the hostel we was staying at in LA.
Next stop LA and considerably poorer
October 18th, 2008 @ 9:38 am by John · No Comments
It´s a new day in San Francisco, but have moved out of the hotel an into a hostel. We was up early today as we had to drop off our car rental, check into our hostel, drop off our bags and get to the pier for the trip to Alcatraz. Thankfully, we made dropped the car off without the need to fill up with fuel. But the rest of the time was tight and we needed to catch a cab to the Pier for Alcatraz. We was cutting it fine but our immaculate timing meant we never missed the ferry to the island.
Only me, Mike, Chris and Jingkei went there in the end because Kev had already been. The four of us arrived on the island which was riddled with flies. Unfortunately, the island is on its fly breeding season which meant we had to put up with the pests for our time on the island. It didn´t really affect us much when we went into Alcatraz Prison. We got to see the cells of famous cellmates and hear the stories of escape attempts which were interesting.
Following Alcatraz, we met up with Kev and did a walking tour around, visiting various areas such as Chinatown and the Coit Tower. We also stopped by the Chinese History museum which essentally informed us about how the Chinese population in San Francisco grew. The walk was thirsty work and so we treated ourselves to a beer. We found this Thai bar that seemed to be a massive Manchester City Football club fan as they had their memorabilla all over the place.
We continued on from the bar to a small chinese cafe who were offering an all you can eat Dim Sum buffet for about 5 dollars. This was perfect for lining our stomachs for the pub crawl we signed up for at the hostel that was to start on the same evening. It was a good night and met loads of new people. Surprisingly, most of the people on there were British. Infact, we met a people from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
The morning after, our plans for getting up early to explore San Francisco by bikes were delayed by a few hours. We still made it to a bike rental place by about 11:30am. Apart from a wobbly seat and dodgy brakes, the bikes were perfect.
We rode along the coast of San Francisco towards the Golden gate bridge. We then rode south towards Golden Gate Park where we enjoyed the nice view of the beach. Soon after we entered Golden Gate park where we saw the buffalo sanctury. The next stop was to ride along the golden gate bridge.
It turns out that Kev rode all the way to Solstice as he thought we would do the same. He realised that he needed to go back to the bike shop to hand his bike in and so he goes and catches the ferry across the bay instead of riding across the beach as it was quicker. Whilst waiting for the ferry a very very loud bang suddenly lashed out which clearly gave every else waiting for the ferry a shock. Kev ended up walking back a fair way, but at least he made it back safe.
We was leaving the next day to start our road trip along the Pacific coast highway and so we decided to grab a curry that was recommended to us and call it a night.
October 18th, 2008 @ 9:38 am by John · No Comments
As we moved closer to San Francisco, the weather was dull and seemed pretty foggy. Then we found out from the Lonely Planet guide to the USA that the temperature doesn’t usually get higher 70 degrees and can be foggy most of the time.
We arrived in San Francisco a day earlier than planned and we had booked a night in the Hotel Marina as the hostel we planned to stay in for the duration was fully booked up. Not wanting to waste time we parked up our rental car and dumped our bags in our room and headed off to look around. We walked up some very steep streets which were pretty tiring. We eventually ended up at Lombard Street where queues of cars line up to drive down a very narrow winding road. The road itself is actually a residential area. There were masses of people on both ends of the winding street. I don’t know how the locals put up with it!
From there we headed off to the very touristy Fisherman’s Wharf. We strolled down a few piers but the most interesting of them all was Pier 39. This was home to the sea lions. They were very smelly and noisy but entertained us nonetheless.
After, Fisherman’s Wharf, me and Chris had to go back to Vallejo to pick up Mikes glasses. It was about 20 miles away, but it was the only pair mike had so we had to get them. The distance wasn’t a problem. The problem was that we left during rush hour and we had planned to drop the car off on the same day. It took over an hour just to get to Vallejo when it should have taken much quicker. Another bad thing was that about on the way to Valljeo, the fuel light comes on telling us we were low on fuel. We still had about 20-30 miles left to do! The car rental company told us to left the car fuel as empty as possible. This influenced our decision not to buy any fuel but it was pretty nerve racking considering that the car manual says when the fuel light comes on, there is only 2 gallons remaining in the tank. The minivan we was in runs 20 miles to the gallon so we were cutting it fine. Fortunately, we made it back to San Francisco, but never made it back to the car rental place in time. This meant a daunting task of driving another 1.5 miles to our hotel and then driving it back another 1.5 miles back in the morning with virtually no fuel…
Anyway, we just left the car in the hotel parking lot and left our worries for the next day. We decided to go stufff ourselves with chicken wings and beer from infamous Hooter’s bar to end the day.
October 18th, 2008 @ 9:37 am by John · 1 Comment
The day starts off in Yosemite valley where only Chris is awake before 6am. No one moves when the alarms goes off and so Chris takes the liberty of taking the down the tent while the rest of us were sleeping in it. But boy did that work. It was freezing and lights were seeping through the mesh walls of the tent. It wasn’t quite like a cold shower feeling, but close to it. After fumbling around, cleaning up our stuff from the bear safe lockers, we are all packed up and ready to go by 7am.
After about driving 80 miles we enter Napa Valley, the wine country of California. Pretty much all of us didn’t have much of a clue about wines, so we thought we would visit the Vistor center and find out more. Kev managed to get a map with some of the cheapest wine tasting we could get.
The first on the list was the Napa Valley Winery where we managed to get a wine tasting for $10 for all 5 of us. We never knew what to expect from a wine tasting since we were more beer conissieurs than wine ones. We gingerly walked in to this oval type bar where a barmaid greeted us. We was honest and told her we had no clue and wanted some cheap wine tasting. Thankfully, she was understanding and very helpful. We learnt to swish the glass of wine to release some flavours and attempted to pick out individual flavours just like the experts. We managed to try about 6 wines and at the end we were persuaded to buy a bottle of Folie A Duex White wine Zinfandel.
After the Napa Valley winery we had time to go to one more. We headed to one called Sutter Winery which looked pretty upmarket from the outside. Infact, we felt quite underdressed for occasion. We all were in shorts, T-shirts and flip flips and also a bit merry from the wine tasting before. This was proven when we entered into the winery to be greeted by a middle aged Californian woman who thought we we collge kids who just graduated. She even thought we was from Santa Cruz! The woman fired question after question like the spanish inquistion but finally stopped and let a nice chap called “Ralph” who guided us through the wine tasting. We sipped through about six different wines which I thought were very tasty (and I’m not a wine person). It was so tasty we bought four bottles for the group and Kev bought 2 for himself. I must also add it was only about 4 US dollars a bottle!
I had to be a little careful about tasting these wines as I was driving. I couldn’t help myself to just gulp down the wine but I had to spit out the last few and just appreciate the taste as I could feel the alcohol reach my head. But the others didn’t think twice to spit it out!
After the wine tasting, we safely got some to eat and found a hotel of which all 5 of us bundled into a room. The night was still young and there was no bars nearby. But there was a cinema which was showing Tropic Thunder of which we went to see to finish off for the day.
So this was the last day of our road trip. The next day we will have to drive San Francisco to hand the keys back for the minivan we have lived in for the past 3 weeks. It definitely has been fun and got to see many parts of the USA that couldn’t be reach by public transport alone. We say goodbye to the van who we affectionately named “Sheila” and hope the guys who get her next will have a blast as we did. Adios!
October 18th, 2008 @ 9:37 am by John · No Comments
Seeing as we walked so many trails during the national parkathon, it feels only right to document in more detail our collective favourite hikes.
So here follows a short countdown of our hiking highlights…
8, Ooh Ahh Point, Grand Canyon
It´s only fair to mention our first successful hike. This was a short 1.5 hour round trip which hugged the steep sides of the eastern portion of the grand canyon. We learned quicky not to walk too fast up these trails, especially in the incredile heat. Ohh Ahh point looks like this…
7, Hidden Canyon, Zion
This was a short but steep trail which led sharply upwards from the Weeping rock (A constantly flowing waterfall comes flowing right out of a huge rock) towards a small canyon out of sight from the valley floor. The climb was pretty uninteresting but once near the top having to navigate large boulders and steep drop offs the fun started.
A sign which greeted you at te entrance to the Hidden canyon indicated… ”Scrambling required” !! More fun! This was more akin to an assaut course in here, each large set of rocks in the way posed challenges to hurdle, but most had routes which allowed “scramblers” to pass. Finally my progress wat halted after about 40 minutes in the canyon at this tricky obstacle. Scrambling = fun!
6, Observation Point, Zion
This is one of the longest day hikes in Zion with a multitude of different scenic views all the way to the top of the point. It starts off as a daunting steep zig zag up a hill which slowly enters between a narrow canyon. The path follows on into the canyon, gradually getting higher and hotter. the higher you go the steeper it gets with uneven paths and sheer drops. The higher you go, the more amazing the views. Eventually, at the top of this great hill, it´s feels like you are in another world where there´s a variety of vegiatation and wildlife that doesn´t seem to exist in the rest of the park. As you walk through this mini ecosystem, you reach the end of the trail where I was rewarded with a beautiful view of Zion Canyon.
5, Navajo Loop, Bryce Canyon
This was not a challenging trail, more of a gentle stroll but the scenery walking in between the vast hoodoo´s of bryce canyon was amazing. The sculpted switchbacks were fun to decend and walking amongst the trees was a new experiance after the red rockyness of all trails which we had completed before this.
4, Half Dome (Nevada Falls), Yosemite
After completing all other trails in our paths, we decided to take on the toughest of them all. Half Dome plateau is a staggering 8000ft ascent and we gave it our full attention leaving on the first bus for the trailhead to start this 14 mile / 12 Hour hike. We followed the Mist trail which included a few impressive sights on en-route, the first being the mega steep steps up to the Vernall falls.
Out of season the waterfall was only a shadow of its raging self but the trail to the top was hard and strenuous, making the view from the top more special. Beyond some scenic emerald pools and yet another steep climb we reached the next checkpoint on the trail. Nevada falls is equally as impressive as Vernall but the view of Yosemite valley from its rim is far more spectacular.
Full of confidence we struck off on a flatter section towards half dome´s summit. This confidence was soon to be extinguished as word of mouth has spread rumours of a trail closure. Sure enough we were stopped in our tracks by a ranger and told to turn back. A forest fire was blocking our way and the fire crews were busy at work trying to contain the inferno. Saddened at the news we somberly skulked down back to the valley floor disappointed You cannot win them all!
3, The Narrows
This was a tremendous difference from all trails which come before it. The Narrows trail follows the virgin river upstream through ever decreasing widths of canyons & ever increasing velocity of water. Sure footing and balance were required as you planted each step on the extremely cold riverbed. One wrong move could have easily sent one for an unscheduled swim! Thankfully nobody fell, I was however rescued few times by my trusty walking pole/branch.
This hike was extremely long and we decided not to tackle it all, but the scenery in the narrow canyons with the raging river and various waterfals throughout the watery world was great.
2, Bright Angel
This is the first trail we tackled which was a 12 mile round trip hike all the way to the hot and desolote Plateau Point. It was a nice relaxing walk all the way down passing through the a few resting stations adaptely named “A Mile and a Half Resthouse” and ”Three Mile Resthouse”. The scenery quite spectacular nearr the rim where you can see miles into the deep canyon. There was a few wild life such as condors and lizzards and some cactus plants dotted along the trail. It was all different when we reached the last major resting point called “Indian Garden” where there was lots of vegetation and a river that run through. This resting point marked the 4.5 miles from the rim and it was onlt a further 1.5 miles to Plateau Point. However, the last 1.5 miles had no cover from the canyon cliffs or trees. it was pretty flat and the sun was pounding on our backs. We survived this part and was greeted with a nice and close view of the Colorado River.
By now we wasn´t that tired or worn out and ready for the trek back up. This was certainly the hardest part. It was pretty much a very steep 5 mile hike back up in the blistering heat. The resthouses didn´t matter so much on the way down, but they sure did on the way back up. In summary, you get an outstanding views of the canyons from a distance and close up. But be prepared for the enduring walk back up.
1, Angels Landing
One of Zion´s best day hikes in the park that´s challenging, thirilling and palm sweating. It starts off with a nice stroll up which progressively gets steeper. Nearer the top of the trail we get the steep paths that zig zag all the way to a point called Scout´s lookout where you find most people stop. It´s only a short hike to the summit, but involves narrow paths with sheer drops either side.
Hike is the wrong for the last bit of this trail. It is defintely more of a climb. There is a chain provided along side parts of the final climb that provides some support in surpassing the paths the barely exist.
Once at the top, the view is amazing. It is a good spot to catch a tan, but was fairly small and got easily crowded. The climb down from the top of Angel´s landing is just as exilerating if not more of a rush than climbing up due to the fact you have the sheer drop and images of death constantly in view. All in all, although a short hike in comparision to other trails, but one of our favourites.
October 8th, 2008 @ 5:13 am by Kev · 1 Comment
Back on the road again…
Sad that we had to leave behind the glory of Zion canyon, we plotted a California bound course and the whole un-red rockyness (woo!) of Yosemite National park. Our faithful drivers, John and Chris thought they would test their metal again the roads and undertake an epic 15 hour overnight journey via the Extra Terrestrial Highway. The first 2 hours of which we ended up getting stupidly lost winding up in the middle of nowhere, with a sat nav no less!!! Yup we really are that good, haha!! Abandoning the ET highway plan we burned the midnight rubber and flew back past the incredibly bright lights of Vegas, rounded bakersfield and eventually coming to a halt at 7am in the car park of Camp 4.
After not booking ahead we were rather lucky to get a pitch on the main Yosemite valley floor and in one of great historical significance to American Rock Climbing. This place is absolutely crawling with climbers which made for a great atmosphere at the foot of a giagantic granite cliff (the less than basic facilities were rather annoying… $5 a shower too…ouch!).
Not being climbers we headed to refill some spent gas and popped into Yosemites largest grove of Sequioa’s. Sequioa trees are a testament to natures ability to grow and outlast anything in its way… these virtually naturally indestuctable trees stand hundreds of feet in the air and are truly gargantuans of the forest. Their sheer size puts all other forests i’ve seen to a humble red faced shame.
Hiking through the lower and upper groves we gazed upon a number of large and iconic trees such as the Grizzly Giant, Washspin tree, the Faithful Couple, California Tunnel tree’s and the Fallen Monarch.
After not keeping an eye on the time we sped back to Glacier Point for a great (if not darkening) sunset view of the entire Yosemite valley. The moon was bright and glowed behind the parks trickiest day hike finishing location, Half Dome, which looked menacing standing at over 8000 ft. We were to attempt the trail to its summit the following day, we knew we were in for a rough ride, but more on the trails soon.
Sadly our times in americas natural wonderlands has come to an end. After nearly 3 weeks of non-stop hiking, driving, sleeping on the cold hard ground, cooking (mainly noodles) on our stove and being witness to some truly amazing sights and landscapes we drove off in search of civilisation once more.
The journey (still) continues however….
October 7th, 2008 @ 3:18 am by Kev · No Comments
Back on the road again…
Bright and early we rise with the sun(ish), then head out into the Arches National park which is another expansive park littered with (need any clues?) natural sandstone Arches.
The only way to see these naturally sculpted beauties is to drive the scenic drive that winds its way through the park. Overlooks of the major landmarks and trailheads such as the Fiery Furnace, Balancing Rock, North/South Windows, Delicate Arch and Park Avenue were easily accessible along the way.
So after a busy day driving and trail walking, we decided to make up some time and drive immediatly to our next location which is another predominantly red rock-esque attraction, Bryce Canyon.
Bryce Canyon feels like the little brother of the grand canyon who was blessed with the good looks rather than physical stature. The red rock weathering here in the colder climate (they get lots of snow here) has shaped these cliffs and stacks into odd shaped Hoodoos. The mix of the vibrant red and yellow stones are instantly striking amongst the valley.
The abundance of life and the addition of tall pines adds the finishing touches to each amphitheatres (spherical canyon) beauty. Staring down into each amphitheatre from one of the many impressive lookouts is very cool. These sites of observation include Inspiration, Sunset, Sunrise points.
The next day we dediced to hit the Fairyland trail early and once we had completed our trek we headed straight to our next and final location (after a cheeky shower stop at Ruby´s Inn & a big buffet lunch obviously) in the state of Utah, Zion National park.
Zion is quite unique amongst the parks we have visited thus far, Its red rock canyon is awe inspiringly huge, staring towards the sky while sitting at its base is an amazing sight all of its self. The abundence of wildlife is fueled by the free flowing Virgin river running throughout the length of the canyon adding another dimension to this spectacular park.
There is so much to do here as well. In our short time here while camping at the Watchman Campground we managed to complete uphill treks, conquer both watery, rocky & mountainous trails, pop out the park for slap up dinner at Pizza & Noodle (which didnt agree much with jingkei’s stomach much…oops) and sample some of the “apparently” famous Bumbleberry pie.
The great thing about this park in my eyes is the amount of wildlife we ran into and the feelings that even though you are one of the millions who visit each year, you are a true explorer (none more so than on the Angels Landing and Narrows trails..details soon). Each hiking trail is unique and sets new challenges, who’d have thought rock climbing skills and nerves of steel would come in handy on US national park service maintained trail.