Archive for the ‘Road Trip ’08’ Category

Road Trip part six: Goldstrike Hot Springs and the ER

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

Finally, four months after the fact, here is the final installment of the road trip blog…

After making it back up to Hualapai Hilltop and driving back to Las Vegas, we had a quiet night to recover. The next day we woke up unsure of what to do. Our flight wasn’t until the following day, and none of us could stomach the thought of Las Vegas in the daytime (*shudder*). Solution? Why, go hiking again of course!

I had found some info on some hot springs by Hoover Dam on the intertubes, so off we went. I’ll just copy and paste my trip report from NWHikers because I’m too lazy to write something more interesting:

To get to the trailhead from Vegas, we drive towards the Hoover Dam for about an hour. 0.5 miles or so past the Hacienda Casino, turn right onto a road that passes under the new highway they’re building. When you reach a fork in the road, turn left and drive to the end where there is room for parking.

The new highway

The hike is about 4 miles roundtrip. At first you walk through the canyon looking at all the remnants of car crashes from the old highway above.

One of many old car wrecks along the trail

At around 1.5 miles, you start having to scramble over and around some huge boulders – it’s all good fun though, no really scary parts…even for a wuss like me. I did, however, fall flat on my face and had the pleasure of my bum being photographed with a wide-angle lens.

Big boulders

Jules manouvering down some steps cut into the rock Shuddup, it's a wide-angle lens! JK avec rope

After getting over all those boulders, you get to relax in the hot springs (heaven for our post-Havasu leg muscles). There are three separate pools, but we stayed in the first two since the third one (where, apparently, there is some sort of tunnel you can swim through to get to a little grotto) was full of them thar young’uns drinking beer.

The two upper pools

Lazing in the middle pool

Definitely a hike I would recommend if, like me, you’re allergic to the sight of Las Vegas in daylight and need something to do! :o)

After soaking in the pools for a while, we drove back to Vegas. Somehow, Julia convinced us to eat at the Hooters Hotel (why? whyyyyyy??). A couple hours later I suddenly started feeling weird, so I went to bed…only to wake up the next morning to an inferno of projectile vomiting and (how do I say this delicately), uhm, other excretions. After a couple of hours of this I was so exhausted and dehydrated that JK and Jules had to take me to the ER.

Two bags of IV fluids and several shots in the bum later, I was feeling better but still couldn’t really walk. Lame (literally). We ended up having to postpone our flight one day until I was able to fly back.

A really really bad ending to a very very good vacation. I would totally recommend our whole route and itinerary – but whatever you do, don’t eat at Hooters.

The Trio at Excalibur

Road Trip part five: Havasu Canyon

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

I’m having a bit of a rough time right now, so in order to think of something else I’ll write about the next (and the best) leg of our road trip: Havasu Canyon.

Sometime around Christmas, I had a show about the Grand Canyon on the Travel Channel on in the background while working on my computer, and I caught a glimpse of a spectacular, turquoise waterfall. Being a hiking geek, I immediately got online to get the details – thus the idea of the road trip was born.

Havasu Falls is located on a reservation outside of Grand Canyon. To get there, you either have to hike 10 miles (slackers send their packs in on mules) or take a helicopter into Supai, a tiny village a mile away from the falls. Young and sprightly as we are (hah!), we backpacked in.

Hualapai Canyon

Mule train:

Jules and her new friends ..or are they horses?

The hike itself is beautiful, but nothing compares to the first sight of the turquoise waterfall after ten miles of red rocks and desert. I have never seen anything like it.

Wii gl'iiva; the Watchers Havasu Falls Huzzah!

We were pooped after the hike in (hiking in that heat with a full backpack = gaaaah), so we found a campsite (there’s room for over 300 campers; this is not the place to go if you’re looking for solitude), slept, slept some more, and then got up in the morning to swim and explore.

Brrrr

On the other side of the campground you find Mooney Falls, notorious for the sketchy trail you have to descend to get to the bottom.

The trail down to Mooney Falls

It’s not really a trail at all, just an old miner’s route blasted into the wall. Julia and I made it down the first part and through the tunnels (eep) before freaking out and turning back. JK lacks the vertiginous gene, so he made it all the way down. If you keep hiking even further, you’ll see even more waterfalls and eventually reach the Colorado River. I’ve already promised JK that I’ll do it if we ever go back…

Descend at own risk Ladder Going back up

Luckily, you get a great view of Mooney even if you don’t go all the way down:

Mooney Falls

In the evening, we tried to take some exposure shots of Havasu Falls, had dinner (the dehydrated camping food you get here in the US is surprisingly tasty), played cards with a new friend we met, and I got my first spider bite – huzzah! It wasn’t a black widow or a brown recluse, so I could breathe easy – desert life amongst poisonous spiders, snakes and scorpions is quite intense for a gang of Norwegians!

Dusk

We headed back the next morning. Because we’re total idiots, we started around ten, hiking out during the hottest hours of the day. I have never ever been so tired in my entire life. By the time we reached the hill up to Hualapai Hilltop, where our car was parked, I was spent. Even though we had three liters of water each plus two bottles of Gatorade that we picked up in Supai, we all ran out of water before we hit the switchbacks. I ended up having to sit down for a couple of minutes any time I could find some shade.

Eventually we dragged our asses up to the parking lot where gallons of lovely water awaited us in the car.

So...hot... Now tell me how you really feel

The worst part is that I would totally do this again. :D

Havasu Canyon must be one of the most beautiful places on earth, but it was a completely different experience than what I’m used to as a backpacker. First of all, there are so many people. Many send their stuff in by mules or helicopters and many don’t even hike in, so the place is full of people who have never heard the term “leave no trace”. We saw huge groups of people living it up with full-sized barbecues that they had sent in, people washing themselves and their clothes with soap in the creek, and the most disgusting toilets I have ever experienced (including that toilet in Poland (ugh) and all the ones in India).

Backpackers are usually very nice and helpful, but here people were pushing other people’s tents out of the way so they could take their spots (and a group of “women” (they were acting like they were 13) took the table from our camp and refused to give it back). I hope the area gets a tighter permit system soon, but since the tribe needs tourists to survive I doubt it will happen.

Also, the story of the Havasupai tribe is, as with most Native American tribes, really depressing. I recommend reading the book I Am the Grand Canyon: The Story of the Havasupai People and this article from Backpacker Magazine.

Anyway, enough whining. Next stop: Route 66, Vegas and Goldstrike Hot Springs!

Road Trip part four: Grand Canyon – South Rim

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

I just realized that I never finished blogging about our road trip. Since it happened in April, this is getting somewhat ridiculous…so, without further ado, our next stop on the trip: the Grand Canyon!

On our way from Page, we hit our first ever sandstorm – it was pretty intense for us non-desert dwellers. (Also intense: all the squished bugs on our windshield.)

Sandstorm

Driving towards the national park, we could see the ground opening wider and wider…

Patriotism

…and finally we could see the famous Desert View Watchtower:

All along the watchtower

We also got our only sizeable wildlife sighting of the trip (the rest were all chipmunks, squirrel-type things and lizards):

Mule deer

Jules posed for her favorite soccer team:

Heia Lyn!

After setting up camp and eating a quick dinner in one of the lodges, we just ended up playing cards and going to bed. This sounds horrible, but we were all really underwhelmed by the Grand Canyon. I think it was partly because we had already seen so many beautiful places on our trip (I know, we’re spoiled), but I have to say that the South Rim lacks some of the charm you can find up by the North Rim…in other words, there were just too many tourists and too many fancy buildings. I would probably like it much better if we had time to actually go for a hike and explore it without busloads of loud humans around us.

Anyhoo, enough whining. If the Grand Canyon is the low point of your trip, it means your vacation has been pretty freakin’ awesome.

Sunrise (sort of)

After a freezing (literally – we were somewhere around 7,000 feet, so it dropped below freezing) night in our tents, we got up early (ugh, really early) to see the sunrise. We all looked amazing:

Zzzzz

Afterwards we quickly stuffed all our crap into the car and drove on to our main adventure of the trip: Havasu Canyon. Huzzah!

Road Trip part three: Page, Arizona

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

I seem to have neglected my road trip recap, so here’s part three. After our beautiful hike in Zion, we drove southeast to Page, AZ. The main goal for our stay there was to see Antelope Canyon, probably the most famous (and certainly the most photographed) slot canyon in the world.

Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon is located in the Navajo Nation, so if you want to see it you will have to go with a Navajo guide. Unfortunately, there are 5-6 different guide services and they all cram as many people into the canyon as possible. Instead of getting to explore this amazing canyon on your own, you’ll spend most of your time waiting in line and looking at this:

Slot canyon paparazzi

Cornerstone

Corkscrew

By the time our tour was over, we were so sick of other human beings that we decided to go where they weren’t – the beach! Lake Powell was formed by the damming of the Colorado River and is the second largest man-made lake in the U.S…and apparently it is insanely cold in April. No wonder we were the only ones there :o)

Lake Powell

JK captured our looks of horror/hypothermia as we braved the water:

Brrrr

Before driving on the next morning, we stopped by Horseshoe Bend. I have to say, this is one of the most awesome things we saw on the entire trip – even more breathtaking than the Grand Canyon. The drop-offs are insane though – if I ever bring kids here, they’re all going to be on leashes!!

Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend

Next stop: Grand Canyon South Rim!

Road Trip part two: Zion – Observation Point

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

When JK and I visited Zion National Park in September, we only had time to do a really short hike. This time we got permits for the Subway, supposedly one of the coolest hikes ever…unfortunately though, hiking the Subway requires walking through water almost the entire time, and the ranger we spoke to told us the water was 45 degrees – eeep! So we quickly abandoned that idea and decided to hike up to Observation Point instead.

The hike is 8 miles round trip with an elevation gain of over 2,100 feet, so needless to say it begins with a seemingly endless row of switchbacks out of the main canyon – luckily we got to do those in the shade, so we didn’t start dying just yet. The fun started once we were done with the switchbacks and entered the beautiful Echo Canyon:

Reflection

The sun started toasting us just as we hit the white slickrock area, so we decided a potassium break was in order (we had to make up for a lot of sweating…) before hitting the next set of ruthless switchbacks:

Banana break

We kept looking for rattlesnakes and other exotic wildlife our entire trip, but we had to make do with good, old-fashioned lizards. At least they’re really cute :)

Lizard doing pushups

I don’t know why I keep going to high places when I have such an insane fear of heights…or, ok, yes I do – it’s because you get views like this:

Observation Point

Me

We had lunch on the cliff, then turned around and hiked back.

Crossing a stream

Zion is such and amazing place, I’m sure this won’t be our last trip – after all, we have to go back and hike the Subway some day (when the water is muchmuchmuch warmer). Anyway, we drove on and reached Arizona just in time to enjoy the sunset on the Glen Canyon Dam by Lake Powell:

Glen Canyon Dam

Next stop: Page, Arizona.

If you’re interested in hiking in Zion, Joe’s Guide to Zion National Park is a fantastic resource – it has descriptions and photos of all the most popular trails in the park.

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