Early in the morning we have a small breakfast and leave Yosemite National Park for our final trip to Dublin, CA next to San Francisco where we have to drop off our vehicle. A sad moment, when you realise that now the final part of your vacation starts. But on the other hand we are really looking forward to see again this wonderful city.
At the car rental we step outside our RV and say goodbye to it.
It is cold, frigging cold in San Francisco. The last places of our journey have been very warm and even hot. So we wear casual clothes with t-shirt and shorts. This is definitely not adequate for San Francisco in June. A lot of people checking in at our hotel seem to have the same problems. Our first try to explore the city only lasts for a few minutes and we go up to our hotel room to change clothes.
San Francisco is the only city I really love. Usually when I visit cities I am very glad to leave them after a day. Not so in San Francisco. This city has a vast variety of beautiful places. I would love to have one or two weeks to explore it.
We have a brilliant time here. We buy a visitor pass to be able to travel to the places we want to see by bus, train or the legendary cable car. Our hotel is located next to the cable car station on California St. & Van Ness Ave. so we can start our day trips with that historic attraction of the city.
On one day we visit the famous island of Alcatraz which is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and formerly used as a prison. Nowadays the island is a memorial and a big refugium for sea birds. Thousands of tourists visit this crowded island to get an impression about its history and how it might have felt to be here as a prisoner.
The building which touches me the most is the Golden Gate Bridge. Although we have already seen it, I could spend hours and hours on going over it or seeing it from different locations. So on one day we do a big hike from our hotel to the bridge crossing beautiful Crissy Field. There we take a cab to get to the Sausalito side and then we go the way up to see Battery Spencer and finally end at Kirby Cove.
All in all we have only four days to spend in this city. This is too short, much too short. So it is a sad moment when the last day of our magnificent journey began. We have seen a lot of this country. We met nice people from the U.S. and from all over the world and of cause: we met our beloved family. So there are a lot of reasons to come back and we will come back, I promise! :-)
Yesterday we had an impressive trip through the desertlands of Death Valley and today we are ready to enter Yosemite National Park – a region like a picture book. We enter the park from the east like two years ago. The road is called Tioga Pass and is one of the most beautiful drives I know. That mountain pass in the Sierra Nevada is at an elevation of 9,943 ft. / 3,031 m.
We follow the route and although we already made that trip two years ago we stop at a lot of points to enjoy the astonishing views or to have a small hike into the breathtaking scenery.
Toulumne Meadows is the first region we cross. Two years ago we spent a few nights here. This is that part of the park which is less crowded maybe because of the higher elevation, which means that you might have nights with temperatures below 32° F (0° C).
This time we cross Toulumne Meadows and follow Tioga Road heading to Wawona campground, which is at the south border of the park located at a much lower elevation and because of that with a very warm climate.
Most of the people want to be in Yosemite Valley. The temperatures are very comfortable there and you find all the attractions there with connecting buses, a supermarket and all the tourist stuff you need.
Wawona is less crowded and approximately an hour drive from Yosemite Village. Our campground is paradise. It is located next to Merced River and our campsite has a direct access to it. If you step down and put your feet into the water you arrive in a dreamland like in a picture book.
In the middle of the river there are some granite rocks formed by the water in a very organic shape. Although it is granite the shapes of the rocks are very ergonomic. On one day I slept on such a stone for an hour without feeling uncomfortable. The perfect place to relax a half day after being on a hike.
On our last trip we had five days in that park. And after leaving we recognised that we only saw a fractional amount of things we wanted to see. So this time we don’t go to Yosemite Valley and concentrate on hiking next to Glacier Point.
When you are on the way to Glacier Point you see all the attractions of the park from a higher elevation. A lot of hikes lead you to viewpoints with breathtaking 360°-views and that’s exactly what we are searching for.
Well, after spending another five days in Yosemite National Park we still aren’t feeling confident about having seen everything we wanted. But unfortunately our trip comes to an end and we have to drop off our RV in San Francisco tomorrow.
Early in the morning we start our next part of the trip at the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park and drive back to “civilization”. Our route takes us back to Las Vegas, where we have two nights at a hotel. Usually I am not a gambler but how would it be having spent nights in that city without gambling? After I lost a couple of dollars my wife Parisa did it and won about $350 :-D We had a nice evening.
After two nights in Vegas we set off again towards California. Our plan is to spend a few days in Yosemite National Park before dropping off the RV in San Francisco. The last time we were on that route we decided to drive the roads around Death Valley National Park, because we weren’t allowed to go there. The rental company of our RV told us that no insurance will be valid in this region and that we have to go on our own risk.
This time we decided to visit Death Valley on our own risk and it was definitely no mistake. The air is burning at above 115° F (about 46° C) and the first miles in the National Park feel a bit strange. I always look at the gauge to verify that the engine is not overheating. Although the air conditioning is on the highest load it is hot in the car.
Incredible that there are living animals and people here. A short stop at the visitor center shows us that “Death Valley” is everything but dead. I remember a very expressive quote of an indigene woman who was interviewed within the presentation movie of the park. She was asked: “Why are you living here under those hostile conditions?”. And she just answered: “What should I answer? It is my homeland!”
We leave the visitor center which tells you a lot about the geological and biological history and enjoy driving through a surprisingly alternating scenery.
The engine of our RV survives even the steepest ascend of the route towards the western exit of the park without overheating (although there are traffic signs encouraging to switch of ac to conserve the engine). We end our trip at Lone Pine at that day. Tomorrow we will continue to the last National Park on our route, Yosemite National Park.
We say goodbye to Page, Arizona and come back to a place we already visited two years ago. At that time we visited the South Rim which is the most popular part of this National Park. This time we want a little less crowded stay. North Rim is at an elevation of 8255 ft. – a couple of feet higher than the South Rim, so it gets really cold at night and there are less places to stay.
We drive through an area in which a big fire took place a few years ago. But the ecosystem is recreating from that and after that big fires new plants and trees restart growing. If you look out of the window you see only black-colored tree stumps and heathland. But if you stop and go a few steps into the former wood you easily recognize that you’re walking on burnt wood… on ashes covered by grass and other plants.
A few miles later, you leave the burnt area and you are driving through the woods. Suddenly – out of the nothing – the signs tell you that you have just arrived. The forest ends and in front of you there is one of the most astonishing views you can imagine: Grand Canyon – a grand hole in the ground.
There is a scenic drive and you can – in contrast to the South Rim – go there by your own car. The difference in elevation is immense. Our RV has a lot to do and burns a lot of fuel to drive the steep roads. Nevertheless it’s all worth it, you will be rewarded with breathtaking views.
The buildings here at the North Rim are very special. The Visitor Center and the Grand Canyon Lodge are huge brick wall buildings giving you the opportunity to have a relaxed stay here. The lodge is a good restaurant in the evening. It is opened the whole day and the best thing about it is the terrific patio. You can sit on the wooden chairs, put your feet up and just take a long, long view over the canyon.
Heavy rain accompanies us, when we drive from Monument Valley to Page, Arizona. The sky is dark and the wipers work hard. Our first stop is at Walmart in Page but we can’t cross the parking lot because a huge torrent divides it into two pieces. The loads of water coming down from heaven are very impressive. Later on we find out that the flood washed away some roads around Page. What a contrast: loads of water within the desert.
But we are lucky to have arrived after a strenuous ride. We have a reservation at a campground directly next to Lake Powell with full hookup.
At Lake Powell you can do a lot of activities. On day one we visit Glen Canyon Dam and take a guided tour through the whole building and the power plant.
On day two we go to the marina and take a short trip by boat. The guide knows every edge of the canyon and tells us a lot about its history. Glen Canyon Dam was built around 1966 and a wide area of land has been flooded just to have a water reservoir and energy source for heavily populated areas like California. This building changed a lot of things in this region and the consequences weren’t only good for all.
One highlight in that region is Antelope Canyon, a very photogenic slot canyon. There are two major entry points to take a look at the canyon: Upper Antelope Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon. In 2013 we visited Upper Antelope Canyon. The canyon we saw was very impressive – nobody of us has seen something like that so far. But the spot is very, very crowded. You can park your car on a dusty parking lot and then you buy a ticket. With this tickets you are put into a 4WD-vehicle and the carry you to the canyon in group of approx. 20 persons.
When you arrive at the slot canyon you recognize that hundreds of people are here to see it. It is crowded and loud and your guide always emphasizes that you have only a few minutes to see each spot. It’s a hard job to ignore the stress and to concentrate on the really unique impressions you get there. The colors and the shape of the rocks are something we never saw before. You can imagine how many flash floods ran through the canyon until it has come to this shape.
This time we have another try at lower Antelope Canyon. People said that it would be less crowded and they are right. Even here you are in groups of approx. 20 persons and you are not allowed to leave the group, but it is by far more relaxed than the Upper Antelope Canyon. Our guide does his job very well and we enjoy an impressive tour through the “cave” and shot a lot of great photographs.
Our last day, we spend within Glen Canyon National Park. A one hour drive leads us to Navajo Bridge and Marble Canyon. We do a few hikes near Colorado River and enjoy the orchards of Lonely Dell Ranch – a historic ranch bought by the National Park Service. Everybody is free to harvest the fruits from the trees. And so we leave with a sizable amount of apricots and plums when we go back to our campground.
We explore the park by driving the scenic view. And plan to go on a hike on the next day before we have to leave heading to Monument Valley.
One of the most impressing spots is Buck Canyon Overlook. The next photos are from here. A perfect place to rest and take a look into the width of the nature. I remember a very relaxing stay here.
Unfortunately we have not enough time to hike a lot, so we only have a short one at upheaval dome (which is an impact structure of a meteorite) and afterwards we leave heading to Monument Valley.
Monument Valley is not a National Park. It is a region of the Colorado Plateau located on the Arizona-Utah state line approximately 3 hours away from Moab, UT. The region is within the Navajo Nation Reservation and everybody might know it by old Western movies. But also modern movies use the breathtaking landscape with its sandstone buttes as their backdrop.
Officially it is not allowed to drive down the unpaved road with an RV or a trailer, but you are free to do it “on your own risk”. Well, due to the fact that dark clouds raised and there was a flash flood warning we decided to stay at the museum. I don’t want to get stuck down there when a flash flood happens.
Heavy rain hits us on the road when we just leave “Forrest Gump Point” – the spot where Forrest Gump stopped running in the famous movie by Winston Groom. Loads and loads of water come down and it is very hard to drive. The heavy rain continues until we reach our next stop, Page in Arizona.
After three hours we reach the park entrance of Arches National Park, but we don’t enter the park yet, because we just want to take a brief look at the city of Moab, UT which is only a few minutes from here.
Moab is a very small city (according to wikipedia it has only about 5.000 inhabitants) but it has a few supermarkets and… fast food restaurants. :-)
After a big pizza we enter Arches National Park and we don’t need a mile of driving to understand which terrific and outstanding national park we are in.
The most national parks we visited offered a big variety of ways to explore its beauty. Usually the national park services maintains a lot of trails for hiking, mountain-biking or other sports activities. But even if you are not able (or just don’t want) to hike or to do sports, the most parks offer a “scenic drive” on paved roads which leads you to the most important spots.
So sometimes driving a scenic drive is the best starter to get in touch with the national park around you. And here we are. We have to follow that drive to get to our campground. From the park entrance we need about an hour to get to the end of the road to finally reach “Devil’s Garden Campground”. Fortunately we have got a reservation, because each and every other site is already occupied.
The campground is the most impressing one of the whole trip. It has no hookup and is located in the midst of the desert. It is surrounded by multiple impressive sandstone formations. Their organic forms are so magical that you immediately start thinking about how the desert formed them within the last centuries, millenniums or millions of years.
We arrive in the early afternoon. When we park our RV and step outside the vehicle we recognize, that the sun is standing directly above our head. The shadow on the ground is minimal, the air is burning: 112° F (about 44° C). Fortunately the vehicle has got a shade sail, so we use that to sit a few moments in the shadow. But even if you’re doing nothing you don’t stop sweating.
We have a few days to explore this park and we plan to go on a few trails here. Hiking in the desert is special. On the one hand the conditions are sometimes very rude (hot, once we had a sand storm). But on the other hand these rude conditions in combination with the beauty of the desert and the well maintained trails gives you an increased amount of self-awareness. If you start your day early (i.e. 4.30 a.m.) in the morning you can go on a hike in the morning, take a rest until 5 p.m. and then do a second hike. There are a lot of things to see in that park, a sandstone hiking paradise.
Arches National Park in the summer can be very crowded. At daytime thousands of people are in the park exploring it by car, by motorcycle or by tourist bus. On a popular trail you usually meet hundreds of people. Nevertheless all the trails are worth going for it. But if you are searching for some quite places or hikes, you should find the “primitive trails”. Those are less crowded and because of that sometimes more impressive.
At nighttime on the campground, everything changes. Everything gets lonesome and silent. I will never forget the last night there sitting on a big rock watching the sunset.
We get up early to do a small hike around Zion National Park and continue our journey heading to Capitol Reef National Park, which is a four hours ride. The weather turns bad and worse. Rain pours down and the air is getting cold.
When we arrive at Fruita campground within the National Park we recognize, that it is already full, although the park doesn’t seem to be very crowded. But it was no problem to find some alternatives at the next village called Torrey, UT. The very friendly people at the campgrounds make a few phone calls and then they describe us the way to the next campgrounds with a site for us.
So we find our way to Thousand Lakes RV Park in Torrey, UT and we got full hookup on a camp site with a terrific view.
In the night the temperature was falling below 41° F (5° C) and it was a hard thing to get up early in the morning but we decided to leave at 7 a.m. and try to get a site at a camp ground directly within the park, which is much better when you want to hike a lot. And we have good luck… at 8.30 a.m. We parked on the last available site there.
Capitol Reef is the right park to stay if you hate crowds of people and like to take hikes and enjoy nature. We hiked a lot and met interesting people at the camp-fire in the evening.
The people on a campground are chatty, that’s what I like. When you sit at your fire ring it takes only a few minutes that your neighbor says hello and another few minutes later on you know a short story of their lives. A very peaceful, comfortable feeling.
At one evening we join a park ranger talk at the amphitheater of the campground. It was about the story of the National Park Service and we learned a lot about its history. This organization is something really cool, because it tries to combine nature, education and social life and makes it available to everybody – even for those with less money. I really love the concept of the national park service and the national parks.
So our journey continues after the short stop at Las Vegas. From there we are heading north east towards Zion National Park in Utah. The first stop after the desert of Nevada is Hurricane, UT. At a big supermarket we find everything we need for the next days and weeks. After an hour or two our vehicle is loaded with enough proviant, fire wood and stuff so that we are ready to leave civilization again. The climate here is still hot but much more comfortable than in Vegas.
The National Park is very crowded and the campground within the park is already full when we arrive there in the late afternoon, so we have to turn back and find a place to stay outside the park. The next village is Springdale and you can find a couple of hotels and one campground there. Fortunately we got the very last site of the Quality Inn Campground on that day and are very happy about it.
The campground doesn’t look so beautiful but nevertheless it is at a good quality and the surrounding mountains give you a spectacular view when you leave your RV.
Each camp site has a fire ring and a few of them have full hookup. But the best thing of this campground is located on the far west-side: Virgin River. If you have good luck you get one site directly next to the river, but even if not you are able to take a cool bath in there… this is paradise.
On the next day we got up early in the morning, because we wanted to go the Angel’s landing trail. To go there you have to begin with the West-Rim-Trail – a strenuous pre-hike – which takes you through the beautiful scenery of the mountains and goes steep up to the starting point of Angels Landing.
Driving an RV on the freeway is very easy. The street goes straight and is very wide. This changes a little bit in Zion National Park. If you are used to drive a regular car like me you don’t think about the height of your vehicle. The Mount Carmel tunnel in Zion National Park forces you to think about that.
If you want to drive through this tunnel with an 13 ft. high RV you have to know that the maximum height of your vehicle is just enough to drive directly on the center line of the street.
That’s why a park ranger is holding a stop sign at the entrance of the tunnel when you approach to it. You have to wait until the traffic from the other side of the tunnel has been stopped so you can safely drive through the tunnel using the center of the road. It is not very difficult to drive for you but it is a strange feeling, because you simply don’t want to collide against the roof of the tunnel. On the other side of the tunnel astonishing views and mountains wait for you.