Tuesday, 22 September 2009

South West USA: Trails and trials

Oof, tough decision. Do I fill you folks in on what happened between Sedona and Durango, or do I tell you about yesterday's weirdness? I fear that the Grand Canyon is going to lose out on this one. Could I appease the gods of continuity by making a summary?

Here it comes!

After we left Sedona and the stunningly beautiful Oak Creek Canyon we drove up north to the Grand Canyon. We arrived at the South rim just as the last rays of daylight hit the rocks. The sun sets so much earlier here than in Holland at this time of year, since it is much more south, so we are constantly aware that we need to be at a certain point at a certain time if we're going to enjoy the views. In case of the Grand Canyon, that is totally worth it.
The hotel was not very good, the restaurant was not good at all. (It was The Grand.)

The day after that was a full one indeed. It was our longest drive of the whole vacation, over 400 miles, and packed with activities on the way. The Grand Canyon was neat of course but we (the man and me) have been in that area several times but never managed to see Antelope Canyon... We tried last time but there was danger of flash floods so we couldn't go in. This time we did. That meant getting into the back of a jeep with Henry the Navajo guide, a bumpy ride through soft sand, and waiting for other people to satisfy their photo urges. Because Antelope Canyon is really a photographer's dream. Gods how I missed my wonderful camera!

But! No time to ponder!

The trip to Antelope Canyon took us more time than expected, meaning that we had to make our way to Durango in only the afternoon. It was a looong drive. Coming up to Colorado (driving through New Mexico, our third state on the trip not counting the Detroit transfer...) we ran into the most dramatic rainstorm yet. It was amazing. The rain came down like a heavy curtain, making it almost impossible to see the road. Luckily it got better as we came into Durango and could look for our hotel in peace. We found it: a beautiful place where we got _the last two rooms_. We had decided the night before to book in advance anyway, because it seemed online that Durango was pretty full. It was. But it was great fun – as you could read in my previous entry.

Leaving Durango. The road down from the Rockies into Utah is beautiful. There is no other word. You pass through so many different landscapes, it is mindboggling. The space! THE SPACE!

*Let me tell you something about space. Coming from a person who was born in Haarlem and moved to Amsterdam about 20 kilometres down the road. A person who travels between Holland's two main cities. A person who has cycled around the 'quieter' bits of the Netherlands. Here it is: _anyone who says that the Netherlands has empty, quiet, peaceful spots too... IS LYING._ There is no emptiness over there, not like here. Illustration of 'space' in SW USA: from Capitol Reef you can see for 285 kilometres into the distance. That would mean that I would see Germany from my house...*

We did a novel thing on the way: we took the ferry across Lake Powell. That was nice. Up to that point, everything was peachy. From that point something went wrong. We tried to go over the pass in the south of Capitol Reef NP. This was marked as having unpaved roads with a bit of shallow water to go through (our Aspen had enough clearance for that!) and steep switchbacks. Okay, no problem. Except that we encountered extremely bad weather just as we reached the first peak. First hard rain was falling, then hailstones started hammering our windows. We had stopped the car at this point because it was really not safe to drive, and we couldn't see an inch in front of us. The storm rocked our (heavy and heavily packed!) car back and forth like a cheap shed. Since we didn't know the state of the switchbacks in front of us and the red dirt around us was quickly turning into mud streams, we decided to turn around and head back the way we came. The road was flooded more deeply now, but more risky were the mudstreams across the road here and there. We made it back to the main road and continued down to Hanksville. It was a strange experience up there, especially since about twenty minutes later we were driving down the plains in bright sunlight. Summer was back, the winter storm a thing of the past.

In the evening we arrived in Torry after a beautiful drive through Capitol Reef. The hotel had only two rooms left but they weren't finished yet. So we had to wait. The restaurant had no tables (!) so we had to wait. We ordered drinks but there were no glasses left (!!) so we had to wait. The silverware was in the dishwasher (!!!) so we had to wait. The waitress offered us some bread but it was still in the oven (!!!!) so we had to wait. Did we have to wait long for dinner? Yah: !!!!!

And now we are in Zion Canyon. I will tell you more about the trip here, with visits to Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon, later. Probably. We hit a new state today: Utah. And it feels SO GOOD to be in Zion Canyon again.

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