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USA 2006
Red Rocks Tour

Week 1 Week 2 Week 3

Saturday, 13th. May – Grand Canyon
Weather: ~30 °C, a.m. cloudy, p.m. sunny
Miles: 201
Accommodation: Holiday Inn Express, Page

For breakfast we bought some stuff at the shop in the Cameron Trading Post and by 8 a.m. we were on the road again. 40 minutes later we arrived at the East Entrance of Grand Canyon National Park. Now that I was there for the third time we were finally lucky with the weather (first time there was snow and no view, second time there were clouds and hardly any view). The entrance fee has increased from $20 to $25 this year, but we had our National Parks Pass so we didn't have to pay anything extra. We stopped at nearly every viewpoint and reached Grand Canyon Village around 11 a.m. While the morning was still a little cloudy, we had perfect weather from midday, up to 30 °C I would say. We took the Shuttle to Maricopa Point and walked along the canyon rim to Powell Point and Hopi Point. A new Mass Transportation System is going to be introduced in the near future so that it will no longer be possible to travel anywhere by car within the park boundaries. With the large number of visitors at the South Rim each year, parking at the different viewpoints is an issue. By the time we had returned to the village the train from Williams had arrived and we took a photo. We also saw a few condors circling above the Bright Angel Lodge.

At 1:30 p.m. we left the park towards Page where we arrived around 4:30 p.m. We checked into the Holiday Inn Express where we had prebooked a room with king size bed for 3 nights ($81 excluding tax). When we asked for 2 queens instead of the king we were told that the hotel was fully booked. But the room was large with free W-LAN and there was a coffee maker. In the breakfast area they offer 24 hours complimentary coffee as well. A luxury continental breakfast was included and there's an outdoor pool (the water was freezing though). For dinner we met Eva and André who were staying at the same hotel and we went to Ken's Old West which had live country music on the Saturday night.

Sunday, 14th May – The Wave
Weather: ~32 °C, a.m. sunny, p.m. partly cloudy
Miles: 89
Accommodation: Holiday Inn Express, Page

14th May saw the highlight of our tour: The Wave! We had managed to get permis for North Coyote Buttes via the internet a few months in advance. We woke up early as we were still used to Utah time, so we were on our way by 7:15 a.m. Arizona time, on the 89 towards Kanab. It was sunny with a light wind. A few miles beyond the Paria Contact Station we turned left onto Houserock Valley Road, a dirt road that becomes impassable when wet, even for a 4-wheel drive. An hour after our departure we reached the Wire Pass trailhead. The hike to the Wave via unmarked trails took 1.5 hours. With the permits we had received a trail description with photos. There was no shade on the way. We even met a ranger who checked our permits.

The Wave is a fossilized sand dune with fantastic swirling patterns (see 360° view). We met a few Americans and two German couples. We were told that 50 people tried to obtain a permit via lottery at the Paria Contact Station the day before. Only 20 people are allowed each day: 10 via internet permit and 10 via local lottery. We found the Second Wave and climbed up to Melody Arch, saw the Brain Rocks and the Hamburger. In total we spent 3 hours here. We left at 1 p.m., however, the way back wasn't always easy to find and we had to fight against the heat. By now we had 32 °C but a few clouds had appeared. We both drank 2 litres of water and we still had 1 spare each. (In 2008 we had the chance to visit the Wave a second time!) At 4 p.m. we were back in Page and I tried out the pool. For dinner we went to the Fiesta Mexicana restaurant around the corner ($27 including tip). It was very good.

Monday, 15th May – Wahweap Hoodoos – Toadstool Hoodoo – Paria Movie Set – White Rocks
Weather: ~32 °C, sunny
Miles: 154
Accommodation: Holiday Inn Express, Page

Today was hoodoo day. We left at 7:45 a.m. The sky was a perfect blue. We went back on the 89 towards Kanab and tried to find the Wahweap Hoodoos. Between milemarker 17 and 18 we turned north on Cottonwood Canyon Road. After 1.4 miles we turned off right onto BLM 431. After 4 miles on this road we came to a crossways of BLM 431 and 430. We continued on the 431 to the right. Then we had to pass through several gates, always following the main route. After 10 miles from CCR the road goes down a hill and it more or less ends after another gate, unless you want to drive in the riverbed. Here we left the car, it was shortly before 9 a.m. We went south for a mile, some white cliffs could be seen in the distance. After rounding the cliffs, in the second side canyon, we saw them! The white pillars with brown caps looked spooky. The best light is certainly in the morning. 20 minutes later we were back at the car. It was 10 a.m. On the return trip we met some other tourists. We drove back onto Highway 89 and turned right.

We went to see the Paria Rimrocks afterwards. At milemarker 19 there's a small parking area (no sign) right at the trailhead. It was just a 15 minutes walk north following the wash, then we stood right below Toadstool Hoodoo. It is brown with a dark cap. The best light is probably in the afternoon but it looked good anyway. At 11:45 a.m. we were back at the car. Next we visited the Paria Movie Set. The location can be reached via a dirt road starting off at milemarker 30. We reached the movie set around 12:15 p.m. The site was flooded in 1998 and the original buildings were destroyed. The last film that was shot here was with Clint Eastwood. The reconstructed wooden buildings still looked very new and they were destroyed by fire in August 2006, just a few months after our visit! But the colourful landscape in this area is absolutely fantastic and still worth a visit. The only remains of the original Paria Townsite is an uninteresting graveyard a bit further down the road.

Back on the 89 we turned left, back towards Page. Shortly after Church Wells we turned left at milemarker 13 (no sign) onto a dirt road towards the White Rocks. The road ends after approx. 5 miles. We saw several small hoodoos and some white cliffs, but compared to the Wahweap Hoodoos this area was fairly uninteresting. After just 30 minutes we were back on the 89. Then we drove to Lone Rock, a huge rock that stands in Lake Powell (day fee or National Parks Pass required), the Wahweap Scenic View looking down upon Lake Powell and to the Scenic View Drive in Page with a view of the Glen Canyon Dam. At 2:45 p.m. we were back at our hotel.

For dinner we went to Bella Napoli. They had an All-you-can-eat buffet including drinks for $10, but it was just so-so. Afterwards we drove to Antelope Point (day fee or National Parks Pass required) to view the sunset at 7:30 p.m. Arizona time, but it wasn't a good location.

From Page boat trips to Rainbow Bridge, a very large arch on Navajo land, are offered, but they are expensive, around $100 per person for the 7.5 hours trip.

Tuesday, 16th May – Lower Antelope Canyon – Horseshoe Bend – Johnson Canyon Movie Set – Coral Pink Sand Dunes
Weather: ~25-30 °C, a.m. sunny, p.m. cloudy
Miles: 251
Accommodation: Bob Bon Inn, Kanab

On Tuesday we left shortly after 8 a.m. We took the 98 towards Kayenta to Lower Antelope Canyon ($15 fee) which is on the road to Antelope Point. Both Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon are on Navajo land meaning a usage fee of $6 has to be paid in addition. Upper Antelope Canyon is famous for its sun beams at midday, however we chose Lower Antelope Canyon because you can just park there and climb right into it and it's less busy. For the upper canyon you have to make an appointment with the Navajos for a tour and there's a time limit. Apart from the beams the lower canyon is even said to be more spectacular. We brought a tripod all the way from Germany to be able to take pictures inside the narrow canyon as it gets pretty dark down there. We spent a couple of hours and left the site at 10:30 a.m. On my birthday in 1997 11 tourists died in the canyon when they were surprised by a flash flood.

After our visit we drove to the 89 and parked at the trailhead to Horseshoe Bend Overlook. It wasn't far to walk but the path was rather sandy and it was hot. All in all we spent 30 minutes. Horeshoe Bend is best photographed in the morning. Our next destination was Kanab and we travelled the Vermillion Cliffs Scenic Highway (Alt 89) with at stop at the historic Navajo Bridge that spans across Marble Canyon, and the Cliff Dwellers, before the road climbed up from 4000 to 8000 feet. In Jacob Lake the road turns off to the Grand Canyon's north rim. More and more dark clouds appeared and there was lightning in the distance.

At 2:15 p.m. Arizona time (3:15 p.m. Utah time) we arrived in Kanab. We got a room at the Bob Bon Inn. It was fairly large with 2 beds, fridge and microwave for $66 including tax. Only the small pool seemed to need some cleaning. After checking in we took off again towards Johnson Canyon, 10 miles east on the 89. We turned left and after another 5 miles we saw the Johnson Canyon Movie Set on the right hand side. Unfortunately there was a fence and the gate was locked, so we could only look at it from a distance. But it looked like a real old west town. Apparently "Gunsmoke" was filmed here. We continued on the road, which turned into a well-maintained dirt track after a while, and followed the signs to Glendale. The map of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument from the BLM office was really useful here as it gave us a sense of direction.

Eventually we hit the 89 again, turned south and not long afterwards we turned off right to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park which was another 12 miles. When we got there at 4:30 p.m. (Arizona time - we stuck to this as we would be back in Nevada the following day which observes the same time) the sun had disappeared behind a cloud. So we didn't pay the $5 day fee at the entrance station, but had a quick look from the access road. Then we returned to Kanab. We got there at 5:15 p.m. and had an early dinner at Houston's Trail's End Restaurant where the waitresses are carrying colts! When we were finished, shortly after 6 p.m., the sun was shining again and we went right back to the sand dunes! It's just 18 miles to the south entrance. This time the light was much better but the dunes glowed orange rather than pink... An hour later we were back in Kanab.

Wednesday, 17th May – Zion National Park – Las Vegas
Weather: up to 39 °C, sunny
Miles: 205
Accommodation: Aladdin Resort & Casino, Las Vegas

Wednesday was sunny and warm. We left Kanab shortly after 9 a.m. and took the route via Zion NP, instead of Route 59. The distance is about the same. In Hurricane we had a quick milk shake at Dairy Queen. There was a lot of traffic around Las Vegas. At 2 p.m. we checked into our pre-booked hotel, the Aladdin Resort & Casino. We had made the reservation at a special promotion rate for $49 plus tax per night (the 2nd cheapest hotel of our entire trip!). During the week you can easily get some great offers, while prices double or triple at the weekends. The room at the Aladdin was large with 2 beds, a large bathroom and a safe. W-LAN was charged at $12 per day, so we did without. A room with a view of the Bellagio Fountains costs $30 extra. In 1998 the old Aladdin was torn down but the new 2600 rooms complex is currently being redesigned as Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino. However, we did not get inconvenienced in any way by the reconstruction activities. The pool area on the 6th floor has a view of the Eiffel Tower which is neat. In 1998 we stayed at the Stratoshere Tower Hotel. It was fine, but quite a way from the main part of the Strip. From top of the Stratoshere Tower you can also get a good view of Las Vegas.

In the afternoon we strolled along the Strip and had a look into some of the casino hotels (Paris, Flamingo, Venetian, Mirage) as well as the Forum Shops. On the street the air was like in a baking oven: 39 °C! We admired the artificial skies in some of the hotels and the hourly Rainstorm in the Aladdin shopping mall as well as the singing gondoliers in front of and inside The Venetian. At the Mirage you can see the white tigers (no charge) or visit its Secret Garden with dolphin habitat ($15). The MGM presents a lion habitat that's also free of charge. For $9 you can go to the top of the Eiffel Tower and look at Las Vegas from above.

For dinner we went to the Flamingo buffet which was good ($18 with drinks, excl. tax and tip). Here we met Carsten from the USA Stammtisch travel community and afterwards we had a drink at a bar with still another guy from the travel community, Uwe, and his mum.

Thursday, 18th May – Las Vegas
Weather: 39 °C, cloudy
Miles: 17
Accommodation: Aladdin Resort & Casino, Las Vegas

The next morning we had breakfast at the Aladdin buffet. The regular price is $13 per person including drinks but we got a 2 for 1 voucher with our reservation. The buffet was really good. Afterwards we did some shopping at the Las Vegas Outlet Center south of the airport. The sky was full of dark clouds but the air was still hot. In the afternoon we repacked our luggage for the flight the next day, then we went for dinner at The Cheesecake Factory in the Forum Shops at the Caesars Palace Hotel. The ceiling in the Forum shops changes slowly from day to night and back again. The restaurant was already busy at 6 p.m. and we had to wait 25 minutes to be seated. Those that came after us had to expect a 40-minutes wait. But the food was worth the wait. We paid $46 incl. tip for 2 chicken dishes, table water and a lovely cheesecake which I absolutely had to try though I was already full... While we waited the hourly 10-min. Atlantis Water Show went off in front of the Cheesecake Factory next to the saltwater aquarium. After dinner we went to see the Volcano at the Mirage which erupts every hour after sunset and the Sirens of TI Show at the Treasure Island Hotel. The latter is scheduled every 90 minutes from 7 p.m. and lasts 20 minutes. It replaces the Treasure Islands Pirates Battle and features music, dancing, acrobatics and swordplay with a lot of pyrotechnics and a sinking ship!

Friday, 19th May – return flight Las Vegas - Düsseldorf
Total miles: 2997

The 19th was the day of departure. As the flight was rescheduled for 7 a.m. we had to get up early. We returned the rental car and by 5 a.m. we were queuing at the check-in. This took 30 minutes, followed by the security scan. Then we took the shuttle to the domestic terminal. 40 minutes later we were at the gate. The flight to Atlanta took 3.5 hours. Here we had to change to the international terminal but we didn't have to go through another security scan nor pick up our luggage. Thus it took just 30 minutes to get to the gate. After a 1.5 hours wait the flight left in time and we arrived in Düsseldorf even an hour earlier than scheduled, at 6:15 a.m. on Saturday morning. This was the end of a great trip.

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