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USA 2006
Red Rocks Tour

Week 1 Week 2 Week 3

Saturday, 29th April – Flight Düsseldorf - Las Vegas
Accommodation: Motel 6, Las Vegas

We left home shortly before 7 a.m. for our 9:40 a.m. Delta flight to Las Vegas. After 9.5 hours flying time we landed on schedule in Atlanta at 13:40 local time. Our connecting flight to Las Vegas was due at 15:13. But first we had to pass through immigration and customs. We were lucky as we were able to jump the queue when there was room at the desk for US citizens. So we made it through there in just 30 minutes! We had to transfer from the international to the domestic terminal which took another 15 minutes by train. The 3.5 hours flight to Las Vegas departed on time and we landed 20 minutes early at 4:30 p.m. local time. Just before landing we flew over the Grand Canyon - what a fantastic view! It was hot, around 30 °C. We took the shuttle bus to Alamo to pick up our rental car. We had booked the Equinox category but were allowed to choose any car in the Choice Line. Though there were just 4 cars to choose from. We decided on a 4WD Jeep Liberty.

As hotel prices are expensive in Las Vegas on the weekends we had booked Motel 6 in Tropicana Avenue for the Saturday night. It was still $89 including tax. The room with 2 beds was small, but good enough. The motel is just a few minutes walking distance to the Strip so we went for a short stroll and to grab something to eat before we called it a day as it was already 6 a.m. German time (9 p.m. local time).

Sunday, 30th April – Valley of Fire
Weather: 30 °C, sunny
Miles: 183
Accommodation: Travelodge, Hurricane

On Sunday we woke up as early as 5 a.m., had breakfast at "Coco's" round the corner and did some shopping at Wal-Mart. We were ready to go by 8 a.m. Via Interstate 15 we drove to Valley of Fire State Park ($6 per car) which is an hour’s drive from Las Vegas. We did the Arch Rock Loop Drive and drove the road to the White Domes which features some amazing rock colours: red, white, yellow and so on. We also did a couple of short hikes. We left the park around 2 p.m. and reached the town of Hurricane, Utah, around 4:15 p.m. Pacific Time (while it was already an hour later according to local Utah time). We checked into the Travelodge for 2 nights ($43,50 per night incl. tax for 2 beds, fridge, microwave, W-LAN and coffeemaker). There's also a small heated pool and spa and continental breakfast. For dinner we had burgers at JB’s.

Monday, 1st May – Zion National Park
Weather: 30 °C, sunny
Miles: 70
Accommodation: Travelodge, Hurricane

We breakfasted early and left around 7:30 a.m. The 23 miles to Zion National Park took 30 minutes. At the park entrance we purchased the National Parks Pass ($50 per car) which is valid one year. At 8:15 a.m. we boarded the shuttle bus as it's no longer permitted to access the canyon by private vehicle except during the quiet winter months. The early morning air was very crisp, but we soon got hot after we got off the bus at The Grotto and started to climb Angel's Landing. The trail goes up 453m over 2.5 miles. The highest point is 1.763m. It took us an hour to reach Scouts Lookout, afterwards it was quite a steep climb over rocks and through narrow passages with dangerous drop-offs. After another hour we reached the summit. It was 11 a.m. and we probably had around 22 °C. The view over the valley with its surrounding cliffs was gorgeous. The return trip took 1.5 hours. Down in the valley it was 30 °C by now.

After a short break we took the next shuttle bus at 1 p.m. to Temple of Sinawava. From there we did the Riverside Walk that leads up to the entrance of The Narrows. From there the trail that continues through the river was closed due to high water. We got back on the shuttle after 2 hours and returned to the Visitor Center which took 45 minutes. We got back into the car and drove to the Canyon Overlook Trail on the road to Mount Carmel Junction. It was a nice 30 minutes hike with beautiful views. By now it was 4 p.m. and we drove back to Rockville where we followed the sign (easy to overlook) to Grafton Ghost Town. There were a church plus a couple of old houses and a cemetery. We returned to Hurricane via the Smithonian Butte Scenic Backway which is a dirt road connecting onto Highway 59. We were back at the Travelodge shortly before 6 p.m. We had Mexican for dinner at Lupita's ($18.50 including tip).

Tuesday, 2nd May – Cottonwood Canyon Road
Weather: a.m. 30 °C, sunny; p.m. ~20 °C, cloudy
Miles: 164
Accommodation: Bryce Canyon Inn, Tropic

We left around 7:30 a.m. to drive towards Zion NP. The road to the East Entrance leads through phantastic colourful landscapes. Eventually we reached highway 89 towards Kanab and Page. At 10:30 a.m. we entered Cottonwood Canyon Road, a 46 miles long dirt track which becomes impassable when wet. It leads through some beautiful landscapes even though disfigured in a way due to power poles. After 14 miles we stopped at the turn-off onto Brigham Plains Road where we left the car to hike to Yellow Rock. The beginning of the trail wasn't easy to find but we made our way through Cottonwood Wash and discovered the trail slightly south at the entrance of a small canyon. Then it was up a steep hill of crushed rock. And here our path was crossed by a big snake! We also saw a couple of collared lizards which I enjoyed much more than the snake. The following part was less steep but partly sandy and marked with cairns. After an hour we reached the bottom of Yellow Rock which is a fossilized sand dune that appears in a myriad of colours, mostly yellow and white, but also streaked with orange and red. We zig-zagged across the rock and took a lot of photos. As Yellow Rock is off the main routes and not very well known, we were all by ourselves. The return trip was just 30 minutes while we almost skidded down the hill of rubble. We were back at the car after 2.5 hours.

It was 3 p.m. when we reached Grosvenor Arch. By now some dark clouds had appeared so it was good that we had reached the end of Cottonwood Canyon Road and were back on the paved road which starts at the turn-off to Kodachrome State Park. We entered the town of Tropic around 4 p.m. and had a look at the motels which all showed vacancies. We decided to check out the Bryce Canyon Inn. The motel room with 2 beds was $72 (incl. Tax). We had dinner at the motel restaurant, basically a pizza place. Here we met a German couple, Eva and André, who we were in contact with via an internet forum. They were travelling a similar route at the same time as we were. We had exchanged photos beforehand and they saw us strolling along the street looking for a place to eat. We would meet them three more times during this trip, while looking for a restaurant in Escalante, on the road in Capitol Reef National Park and at the hotel in Page, Arizona.

Wednesday, 3rd May – Bryce Canyon and Kodachrome Basin State Park
Weather: a.m. ~20 °C, p.m. ~30 °C, sunny
Miles: 156
Accommodation: Prospector Inn, Escalante

When we got up in the morning we surely didn't have more then 0 °C. The restaurants and cafés were still closed at 7 a.m. so that we bought some muffins in plastic-wrapping from the village supermarket and made use of the coffee machine in our room. We left at 7:30. The 10 miles to Bryce Canyon were covered quickly and shortly before 8 a.m. we reached the park entrance station which wasn't staffed yet. The Visitor Center was going to open at 8 a.m. but I still had a map from our previous visit and we had the National Parks Pass, so we didn't linger. It was still too early for Sunrise Point as the light was coming from the wrong direction. We stopped at nearly all the other viewpoints on our way to Rainbow Point where the park road ends after 18 miles. We were still able to drive ourselves but from Memorial Day at the end of May till the end of summer a shuttle service will be operated. At 9:30 a.m. we turned back. This time we stopped at Sunset Point and hiked the combined Navajo / Queens Garden Trail which took us nearly 2 hours. I was actually hoping to see some snow in Bryce which can stay up here till May due to its high elevation, but most of it had already disappeared this year. We left the park around 12 p.m. By now it was 20 °C.

Stopping off once more at the supermarket in Tropic we bought something for a picnic lunch, then we drove to Kodachrome Basin State Park ($6 fee). We drove to Shakespeare Arch and did the little hike of 30 minutes. Then we started off on the Grand Parade Trail, however, we were a bit tired of hiking by then and it wasn't very spectacular, besides the temperatures had reached 30 °C by now. Thus we didn't finish the trail and were back at the car after 40 minutes. By 2:45 p.m. we were on our way to Escalante which took us about an hour. We got a room at the Prospector Inn for 2 nights ($63 per night incl. tax). The room was large with 2 Queen beds. As it wasn’t that late yet, we went to find the Moqui Marbles which are not officially noted anywhere and thus not so easy to find without GPS. But we did come across a description on the internet. Approx. 10 km from Escalante we turned off on a dirt road and after 40 minutes we had found the spot where you can see lots of Moquis that look like small cannon balls. Collecting the marbles is prohibited. Shortly after 6 p.m. we were back in Escalante and had dinner at the Cowboy Blues Restaurant (Chicken & Steak) which was good, however the service was unusually slow.

Thursday, 4th May – Hole-in-the-Rock Road
Weather: 27 °C, sunny, late p.m. cloudy
Miles: 104
Accommodation: Prospector Inn, Escalante

The following morning the Prospector Inn showed ,No Vacancy'. There was a large group of bikers staying at the motel. We went to get some pastries and coffee from the petrol station, then we checked the weather and road conditions at the Escalante's Visitor Center which opens at 7:30 a.m. Hole-in-the-Rock Road, which is 55 miles long, is only accessible in dry weather. The ranger advised us of a 20% chance of rain, especially in the afternoon, but we should just keep an eye on the weather... We wanted to hike the Peek-a-Boo and Spooky Slot Canyons which can be accessed via Dry Fork Road 26 miles down Hole-in-the-Rock Road. It took us a bit less than 30 minutes from Escalante to get to the parking area. Shortly after 9 a.m. we started our hike down into the wash following a number of cairns and it didn't take long to reach the first canyon entrance. Slot canyons are very narrow like a tunnel, with usually a lot of twists and turns. They are subject to flash floods after heavy rain, and thus can be dangerous. We went as far as we were able to squeeze in, then turned back. After 2.5 hours we were back at the car and more and more people arrived.

Next we drove as far as Mile 43 and turned off on road 276 to Willow Gulch. Here we were entirely by ourselves. At 1 p.m. we started off on the trail to Broken Bow Arch (3 miles return). You basically hike in a sandy and rocky wash and follow a small river. We reached the arch after an hour and it was really impressive.

While it was fairly cool in the morning, temperatures had reached 27 °C in the afternoon. Some dark clouds came up on the horizon, but luckily it remained dry. We started on the return trip, but made another stop at Devils Garden where we arrived at 4:20 p.m. Here we spent another 30 minutes exploring the peculiar rock formations, before we drove back to Escalante. For dinner we went to the Cowboy Blues again. The burgers were good.

Friday, 5th May – Burr Trail und Capitol Reef
Weather: ~20 °C, sunny, late p.m. cloudy
Miles: 188
Accommodation: Austin’s Chuckwagon Motel, Torrey

We had breakfast at the Prospector Inn Café and left at 9 a.m. It was a bit cooler, around 20 °C during the day. Highway 12 between Escalante and Boulder is very scenic with rocky landscapes in various colours. We reached the village of Boulder, Utah, after approximately an hour with a couple of photo stops. Here we turned off onto the Burr Trail which is paved up to the Burr Trail switchbacks. Earlier on the road passes through scenic Long Canyon with its red cliffs. At 12 p.m. we reached the bottom of the switchbacks and turned south. We did a short hike to the entrance of Surprise Canyon. By now dark clouds were threatening on the horizon.

Instead of the unpaved Notom-Bullfrog Road north towards Capitol Reef we drove back the same route to Boulder and from there continued on Highway 12 to Torrey. The road passed over 2900m high Boulder Mountain which had some remnants of snow and the aspen trees looked almost dead as they didn't show any budding leaves. It certainly wasn't much more than 10 °C up here, or even less. We reached Torrey at 3.15 p.m. and got a room at Austin’s Chuckwagon Motel. The room was large and clean, with 2 Queen beds for $70 including tax. As it was still fairly early in the day we drove to nearby Capitol Reef National Park and visited the major highlights such as Chimney Rock and Goosenecks Overlook. We also entered the Scenic Drive which leads to Capitol Gorge but we already did this hike through a narrow canyon when we were here in 1998. Otherwise the scenic drive does not have much to offer. Back in Torrey 1.5 hours later we had dinner at the Capitol Reef Inn Café, a recommendation from the internet. We had steak and smoked trout with a large side salad and drinks for $42 including tip. It was very good. While we ate it started to hail outside and a wonderful rainbow appeared.


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