With South America now officially over, we flew into Las Vegas via Los Angles arriving about 10:30pm. The airport was enormous and stuffed with slot machines; you could gamble while waiting for your bag at baggage claim!
A quick taxi ride and we were at our hotel for the night. Nothing flashy as it was for about 7 hours in total; the big famous hotels would wait until we were back from our 3 day adventure in the Wild Wild West! First however we took a walk to the Stratosphere, where we were being picked up in the morning, and found our pick up spot. As we were there we put some money in a jackpot machine and lost it immediately. So after a beer we got a couple hours sleep before our early pick up.
First we had 1 hour to Mesquite a small town on the Nevada, Arizona boarder know for its cheap gambling deals and golf courses. After a quick stop for some supplies we headed on 1 and half hours to Zion passing through Arizona (the Grand Canton State) and into Utah and the Virgin Gorge. The desert terrain had given away to beautiful red, orange and white mountains, gorges and valleys. The colours in the rock were created from their composition: yellow- high sulphur; red-high iron oxide; and white high calcium. The spectacular landscape had been built by a mixture of erosion and tectonic activity over millions of years.
Zion National Park is know for its striking rock formations made from sandstone from blind arches to peaks and pools of water. It is basically a long Canyon with beautiful views and walks. A lot of the rock formations are named after religious ideals from the Mormons who founded the area. We had 3 hours here and decided to do the Emerald pools trail one of about 20 trails.
After being dropped off we caught the shuttle bus from the Museum to Zion Lodge. Being summer it was very busy with lots of American tourists and families. Our trail was about 3km and a moderate walk according to the map.
It started off gentle and then became an uphill trek. The temperature was 38 degrees and the sun was beating down so lots of water was needed.
All along the trail spectacular views of different peaks and the canyon could be seen. It was one of those walks were we stopped every hundred metres to take a picture of another gorgeous view.
We reached the Lower Emerald Pools which consisted of a path underneath a hangover of rock with water pouring down creating a small water fall you walked underneath. Very refreshing in the heat and the sheer rock wall was impressive. The trail then continued up to find the source of the water the Upper Emerald Pool. Here about 50 people had hiked for lunch and some children played around in the cooling water full of tadpoles. We ate our packed lunch and then began the climb down. The rugged path made it tricky and it probably took a little longer to come down than going up. It offered different views going down that we had missed going up.
At the bottom, we made a slight detour and found a quite spot to fly LARS. It struggled with signal in the canyon but we got a couple of pictures nonetheless. We caught the shuttle bus back to museum and waited for some of our group who were running late.
We then had a 2 hour drive to Bryce Canon National Park. We had climbed in elevation so the temperature here was a much more comfortable mid twenties. Bryce was a smaller national park and less well know so slightly less busy.
Our guide explained the route we should take a 5km round trip down into the Canyon and back out. A drop and climb of about 200/250m. First we looked from the view point at the top and were astounded by the view. A huge canyon filled with ‘Hoodoo’s’. Hoodoo’s are formed from erosion of the limestone canyon walls by frost and ice. Arches or windows are created in the thin walls and once the arch collapses, you are left with a stack which is further sculpted by rain. These are called Hoodoos. People use their imagination and see different things in their shape from Thor’s Hammer to Queen Victoria. From the view point hundreds if not thousands could be seen, creating a beautiful serene landscape.
We started our hike down the winding path into the canyon. Every turn revealed a new Hoodoo and view. Curious chipmunks accompanied us at every turn. We posed for photographs at various canyon points and arches until we reached the canyon floor. Here tall Ponderosa Pine trees grew with a sweet smell. We walked through the Canyon taking pictures of the odd shaped Hoodoo’s.
Next to a hoodoo of Queen Victoria Mike briefly flew LARS to capture some of the amazing landscape. We carried on and hiked up the side of the canyon which seemed to go on for a long time with false summits. Eventually we reached the top and were treated with amazing views.
A short ride away was our campsite. We were camping and after putting up our tent (which we did quite quickly and were quite proud of) had dinner and sat around the campfire with Marshmallows and beer in between the thunderstorms.
A great first day, we slept looking forward to our busy second day in the Wild West.