Friday, July 18, 2008

The End

Tonight we sleep in our own bed. The adventure has come to an end. A brief 4 hours home and normality returns. For the numerically minded of you, here’s the trip in numbers.
39: nights away from home
16: nights in hotels
14: nights under canvas
1: night in a Teepee
4: nights in log cabins
1: night in a mountain resort
3: nights in a family home
6: States visited
35: notable towns or cities
7: nights without Josie
106: highest temperature
38: lowest temperature
12,020 ft: highest point above sea level
6723: miles traveled
1,234,567: bug bites endured
3: trips to the launderette
5840: pictures taken (not included the deletes lightening ones)
2: speeding tickets
1: dent in the car
56: free wireless hotspots

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Splashing about

We’re spending these final days in a lovely Forestry Service camp site. Being run by the FS means several good things for us. Firstly, its very dog friendly, secondly, we can have a camp fire, and finally, we get to sleep with bears amongst the trees. The only downside to this place is that it’s run by morons who should have died 30 years ago, (Deanna’s quote not mine). For those of you not familiar with bear country, if you look at the picture, that brown box next to our tent is our panic room. In the event of a bear sighting, we’re to lock ourselves in there and wait until it passes.

We had planned on rising before the sun and doing interesting things with cameras but the morons that run this place will only let us stay night by night, so they asked me to see them at 8am to confirm the following day. It’s a pain and it ruined the morning’s rise. To make matters worse, when I did check with them, they denied the 8am story and asked me to come back at 2pm. I may have to buy a gun.
Still the day was far from ruined. We choose a stunning 5 mile hike up to Grass Lake. The trail took us over rocks, up hills, through 3 streams and finally allowed us to play in a waterfall. The dog loved it. Deanna fell in.

On the way to the trailhead, Deanna miss-directed us up a tiny mountain road, forcing me to do a 93-point turn in the Wagon. Cliff on one side, forest on the other. And everywhere big boulders that I couldn’t see. So here we are after almost 7000 miles, we’re less than 4 hours from home and now the Bus has its first dent.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Smells nice

Nevada really is rubbish.
There is nothing here worth visiting. Full stop.
We've spent the day running away from the poverty, boredom and nothingness, and finally, with 6640 miles on the Fuzz Magnet, we're back in lovely California.

Our 5 week house construction project is running 6 weeks behind schedule (cue surprised look), so we've decided to spend a few days in Tahoe. We'll return home at the weekend, but for now, the forest, the water falls, and the lakes, they're all calling to be played with. The temperature is a balmy 81 so we're back under canvas in the middle of the forest.

It smells like heaven should.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Turn and run

As we rolled in to Rachel so did the thunder. We’d driven 200 miles in to the middle of the Nevada desert searching for the super-secret Nellis Air force Base (aka Area 51, Groom Lake, etc): the place where they test the next generation flying machines and according to rumor, keep the captured UFOs. The plan was to visit the only town nearby, camp there and spend the night watching the stars for suspicious activity.

Rachel is a tiny trailer park on the side of the highway. Its only claim to fame is the Little A’Le’Inn, a friendly little bar littered with pictures of UFOs and tall stories. There are 3 things to do in Rachel: 1) look at the Black Mail box. The mailbox supposedly belongs to both the Air Force Base and also to a local farmer. It is the most photographed mailbox in the world. The idea is to let those who believe in UFO's write notes to aliens and place them in the alien drop box attached to the mailbox. 2) Try and see Area 51 without being arrested. 3) As mentioned, stay up all night and watch the sky.

The nice barmaid explained to us that someone had taken a shotgun to the mailbox a few years ago, so that was no longer on the list. The thunder was rumbling outside, so that shortened the list of star gazing and canceled our camping plans. “Drive over the hills, make a right at the unmarked blacktop, then drive 20 miles. When they point their guns at you, take a picture, turn and run.” How could we not?

Actually the guard was a nice chap. He explained that he was authorized to use deadly force if I came a step closer. He also said he was a bit bored because nothing much was going on at the moment. So I took my picture. He refused to point the gun at me (I ask politely too!), and we drove off.

The trouble with Nevada is that its rubbish. There’s nothing to see, nothing to do, and hundreds of miles to do it in. With the camping plans canceled we drove. And we drove, and we drove. The only things we saw were military bases. Lot and lots of underground bases, with odd names like Navel Under Sea Warfare Experimental Testing Ground. (Now remember we’re a 1000 miles from water here). A dozen or so failed towns (America really is a 3rd world county outside of the major cities). We also saw this, a hooker ranch in the middle of nowhere. This country is odd.

Finally we rolled in to a scary looking place called Hawthorn. Everything about it said we were going to be in trouble if we stayed. We crawled through town at 15 miles per hour peering in to bars and hotels. Finally the buildings faded in to the background and we’d decided not to stop. Accelerating away, we heard, for the second time, the dreaded sirens. Nice cop. Name of Mark, He advised us not to stay and to drive the “short hour and a half” to the next town, “its safer for people like you”. Oh and he also fined me for speeding. Git.

Stupid weather

They wouldn’t rent us wet weather gear to wade the Narrows. Apparently the danger of flash floods is too high today so instead we planned on climbing that Angel’s Landing thing we said we wouldn’t. But we failed to do that too because of, well, err, we didn’t.

So instead we took a nice walk along the river, took a few pictures and did a little wading.

Returning to Springdale mid-afternoon we decided to tube the local rapids. Again they wouldn’t rent us the gear we needed but we insisted and eventually they relented. These pictures are taken about 90 mins in to the superb ride. The final 30 mins were spent in the midst of a stupendous thunderstorm (not pictured). We managed to make it out of the river just before a flash flood raised the water line by 2 feet. We were soaked, cold and very very happy. Sometimes, its all about the timing.

Sadly we start the journey home tomorrow. We’re heading in to Nevada to chase Aliens, and then its home. If our house improvements / construction is not completed, we may just swing by Yosemite or Tahoe but generally, this feels like the end.

JOSIE UPDATE: we collected her from the DoggyDudeRanch this evening where she had a great time swimming, playing and climbing. Yes climbing. According to the owners, there’s no fence tall enough to hold her. Apparently I was right about her being part mountain goat. Houston, we may have a problem here.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

I need new knees

We rode in to Zion as the sun came up to knock off a quick 2 hour warm up hike at the Emerald pools. Pretty stunning stuff but nothing to blog about.

Feeling like there was nothing we couldn’t accomplish we decided on another hike that actually isn’t on most of the standard issue guides. After all, the path less traveled etc. We visited Echo Canyon and were rewarded with stunning views over the top of Angels Landing – the hardest climb in the park and not one we’re ever going to do. This hike has destroyed us, it climbed too high, and it went on for too long but we loved it. Everything hurts now. We're sticking to the guide next time.

Before we go to bed, we’re off to the Adventure Center to rent our wet water gear, for tomorrow we’re going to spend several hours hiking up the center of a river to visit something called the Narrows. Stupidly, I’m going to take my camera so this could mean the end of all photos for the rest of the trip.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

False start

Waking up in a teepee was a bit disorientating. Bloody Microsoft had screwed up the time on my phone so we skipped one-leg-in-pants mode to the Love Bus and high-tailed it out of the place hours before we actually had to. So much for a lie in.

Driving back to Zion National Park, we spent the day browsing the art galleries in Springdale and planning the next 2 days of hiking and fun.