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.
We are cruising straight forward on the freeway towards a hill at the horizon. Behind the hill we go straight on to the next hill. And out of the nothing this oasis is appearing surrounded by a big halo in the night skies.
After a few miles on the Interstate 15 it becomes bright as it was daytime and the small desert freeway turned into a 10 lane collossus with heavy traffic. The facades of the nightly illuminated hotels of the strip appear. Finally we can leave the freeway to arrive at our hotel.
Actually we don’t need a hotel. We are doing a road trip with an RV and so we have everything we need onboard. But we decided not to stay at a campground in Las Vegas, which would look like a parking lot with an attached small swimming pool. In this city it is important to have a silent and cool room where you can relax and recover from all the excessive party, noise and heat out on the streets.
It’s no fun to drive a 22 feet long RV at night up and down the busy Strip to find a parking lot for this vehicle. Although the manager of our hotel said that there was some oversized parking space for us, there is none because of the constructions taking place at the hotel. Well, finally we find a free parking lot at the Wild Wild West Casino next to the freeway entrance. It is non guarded and seems a little bit dubious.
So it is at night after a long journey from Los Angeles and we were happy that we found this little place. We were not sure that this was a safe place. But we should have good luck.
Hotels in Vegas are not as expensive, when you compare the prices to other American cities. The ressorts benefit from the fact that the guests stay in the hotels for gambling and so they spend a lot of money there. On the other hand those cheap hotels don’t offer that much service you are used to from other hotels. Those who want to have a luxurious stay and a good service have to pay a few dollars more.
If you walk down the strip and look at the big hotel resorts with their abundant parks and attractions you will soon come to this typical Las Vegas feeling: you lose your feeling about time. Is it day or night? It really doesn’t matter.
Everything you want to do in this city you can do 24 hours a day. Casinos, restaurants, shops are open all the time and everywhere you see people drinking, smoking, gambling, partying.
Remarkably you don’t find those dudes we call “Schnapsleichen” (i.e. people who are too drunk and sleep on the street) or aggressive guys. Everything seems to be very easy and safe.
Approximately a 15 minutes taxi ride takes you to Fremont Street. That amusement part of the city is a wild one. It is located in downtown Las Vegas and there is an exhibition of old neon signs which is really worth viewing.
At nighttime here you see loads of people drinking much more alcohol, people partying hard, even nude people on the streets – which is quite unusual for American cities. There is a big roof over Fremont street, which also is a big video screen. At nightime you see concerts and shows there and loudspeakers from everywhere generate an atmosphere of permanent noise. Below the screen you see a zip-line and every 10 minutes tourists are “flying over” the crowd enjoying this attraction while yelling. Weird absurdities are everywhere in this city, although it is worth seeing it. :-)
There is one quote about a former attraction of the city I really love. It is about the Bazooko’s Circus (now it’s called Circus Circus):
“Bazooko’s Circus is what the whole hep world would be doing every Saturday night if the Nazis had won the war. This was the Sixth Reich.”
Hunter S. Thompson: Fear and Loathin in Las Vegas
This describes exactly what you feel at some attractions ;-) Anyway, I like and dislike that city at the same time.
This is the first part of my approach to write about our vacation we had in 2015. Since we came back from our first journey to the U.S. in 2013 it was clear that we will come back soon, because we felt in love with this country, its people and the nature.
Our family in Los Angeles gives us a warm, heartily welcome when we arrive from Germany. So this is a magnificent start of the vacation. On the next day we have good luck at the car rental, because we booked a car at the lowest rate and “unfortunately” they only have got a Ford Mustang for us. What a pity! :-D
Driving in the streets of Los Angeles with this car is really cool. But on the other hand going by car in L.A. is a mess because of the heavy traffic everywhere in the city. Sunday morning was the best time to take a ride to Downtown Los Angeles. The streets were almost empty and it didn’t take too long to go there.
For me Los Angeles is a city I know from several TV shows telling stories of the daily life there, the freeway, the big buildings, the problems of the big city. It’s like a dream to drive by this locations and to feel how much changed and how many things are like they are shown on TV.
And the time in Los Angeles is – once again – too short. It is a very sad moment to say goodbye to our awesome and loving relatives there. After a couple of days in the city we change our Mustang to a 22 feet long RV which will be our home for the next three weeks.
I really love it when people say that they like my pictures. Often people ask me where those urbex locations are. Answering this question is not so easy.
The atmosphere of the urban exploration pictures lives from the fact that everything seems to be very lonesome and unsullied.
When I visit a location I’m very lucky if there’s no grafitti and no vandalism. For me the ideal photograph is about untouched decay. The more photographers talk about their locations, especially in social networks and in the internet the more crowded those locations get. And the more crowded the locations are the more owners of locations will do something against photographers and guys like them. An increase of possible vandalism is connected to that, too. So that’s not what I want and that’s why I don’t say anything about my locations on social networks or on the Internet.