States visited: 49!

visited 49 states (98%)
Create your own visited map of The United States
Miles driven so far -
LOOP 1 (Aug 2009 - Aug 2010): 29,000
LOOP 2 (May - August 2012): 10,800

Highest altitude with camper: 11,158ft (I-70, CO)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Las Vegas

Passing many Joshua Trees, a beautiful, though uneventful, trip to Las Vegas on Memorial Day brought us to the Las Vegas Thousand Trails campground. 

We had taken advantage of the $500 deal to buy two zones in the Thousand Trails system.  We can stay up to 30 nights in TT campgrounds along the west coast consecutively, for free, as long as we do not stay longer than four nights at each one.  Alternatively we can stay 14 nights and then be out of TT’s for seven nights.  Our intent is to really make good use of these parks and save a little money of course!

The oppressive heat when we arrived was almost unbearable, ugh!  The kids immediately requested a trip to the pool where they remained for the next couple of hours.

On Tuesday evening, we went to Sam’s Casino to watch their free water fountain show.  This is an off-strip casino, hence the less flashy ‘show’.  It was fine, free, enabled us to gorge on dessert, and got us out of the camper and into air-conditioning!

Jake’s remembered highlight of our previous stop-over in Vegas was the amazing number of buffets offered by the casinos.  He pled his case and we agreed to a breakfast buffet.  Research led me to Terrible’s Casino.  Their breakfast buffet was considerably cheaper than others, especially those on the Strip.  For the incredible price of $5.99, we could fill ourselves.  On arrival, Dave discovered that by buying a ‘gaming card’, he could get a discount and each breakfast would only cost $3.99 – wow, bargain.  Jake was in heaven! 

That meal filled us for the rest of the day, enabling us to drive to California without stopping, passing more Joshua trees, Mohave National Preserve, the Gateway to Mohave and Death Valley, and apparently the world’s tallest thermometer.  Also, I managed to snap a not so great shot of one of the tucks carrying trucks - we saw a number of these the year we traveled; we're always amazed.

We were happy to depart the 102ยบ heat of Vegas!  As we were close to our campground in CA, a couple of guys on horseback were waiting at the lights - not our everyday sight!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Hiking the Narrows

So, the day dawned and we embarked on our long-awaited (well, two years!) return to Zion National Park, another geological wonder on the Colorado Plateau.  We had one mission today: hike the Narrows.  In 2010, we were here too early in the spring after a particularly harsh winter, so the snowmelt was causing copious amounts of water to flow through the canyon down the Virgin River.  The entire route was closed to hikers understandably as there would have been no way to walk through, swimming against the torrent would have been impossible as well!

Thankfully today was entirely different.  This year’s winter was particularly mild, so there had been minimal snowmelt in comparison to other years.  We made it into the Park quite early, easily found somewhere to park (we’d later return to discover every parking lot full and driving home, every available side-of-the-road space in town taken), and immediately climbed aboard a Park Shuttle which took us to the end of its route along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive: the Temple of Sinawava, about a forty minute ride.  It was neat passing all the places we’d previously hiked and gazing up at the Canyon sides.

We completed the one mile Riverside Walk and then began our hike into the water to continue along The Narrows.  The brochure’s description of the trail: The Virgin River has carved a spectacular gorge in the upper reaches of Zion Canyon – 16 miles long, up to 2,000 feet deep, and at times only 20 to 30 feet wide.  The Narrows, with its soaring walls, sandstone grottos, natural springs, and hanging gardens can be an unforgettable experience.  It is not, however, a trip to be underestimated.  Hiking The Narrows means hiking in the Virgin River.  At least 60 percent of the hike is spent wading, walking, and sometimes swimming in the river.  There is no maintained trail because the route is the river.  The current is swift, the water may be cold and deep, and the rocks underfoot are slippery.  Flash flooding and hypothermia are constant dangers.  Good planning, proper equipment, and sound judgment are essential for a safe and successful tip.  Clearly we did not go as far as the swimming point although we did meet a couple in full dry suits who were planning to do just that!

The pictures clearly tell a better story than my words.  It was incredible.  We had come prepared and knew it was likely that we’d be up to our waists in water in some places.  Within a very short time, we were up against a deep pool.  While others turned back at this point, we continued on – Nate moved across on Dave’s shoulders.  The kids were absolute troopers the entire way, helping one another across and navigating the flowing River covered with boulders very well.  Some parts were certainly challenging but everything was more than worth the effort.

We made it to the split in the River and hiked a little further down the right slot canyon: Orderville Canyon.  As I slowly returned with the three younger kids, Dave and Jake hiked a little further along the main Narrows route.  They eventually caught us up and commented that it was tough going against the strong knee-deep water current toward the area known as Wall Street.  I’m sure we’ll make it that far one year – maybe a summer return is in our future!

Dave's shoe uppers disconnected from their soles about half way through the hike.  Determined not to soak his hiking boots as well (he had those in his pack), he put his socks OVER the entire shoe.  The solution worked well until almost the end when his socks gave up.  He then tied part of a bin bag over his foot - no-one can say my hubby isn't redneck stylin'!

We were surprised at the number of people passing us, heading in the opposite direction as we hiked toward the end of the water route.  I’m so glad we started out much earlier in the day and were able to enjoy the relative peace of the Canyon – it was incredibly beautiful.  I have to admit, I was a little hesitant, but Dave can be quite persuasive!  I’m happy that he was so encouraging; we had a wonderful, though tiring and exhausting, day!

Returning to our truck via the Park Shuttle, we noticed a Jucy rental was parked nearby - these converted minivans are RV rentals ( with two double beds, sink, stove, plus more - probably a tad claustrophobic!