Posted by: glenswatman | November 17, 2007

200711 – USA Nevada Arizona



THURSDAY 1 NOVEMBER 2007- Set out on our
morning walk in the other direction and as soon as we have telephone signal we
get a text message.  Mum has been in
hospital and we need to phone Netty.  We
don’t have a strong signal to make calls and there is no phone in the small
village but we find a homeowner who says we can use our calling card and his
landline.  It turns out Mum
inadvertently took a wrong tablet and it acted badly with some of the other
ones she takes.  She ended up vomiting
blood and was taken to hospital where they found out it had caused a peptic
ulcer.  The good news is that she is now
home and starting to recover.  Return
along the shore noting just how few vehicles are left.    We’ve been watching a bit of TV in the
evenings and now conclude that of the numerous commercials the vast majority
fall into 3 categories, car sales, food or drugs. The thing that amuses us the
most are the warning given with all the medication especially the one for
depression that has umpteen possible side effects including making you feel
suicidal!   However maybe if this
happened in England then Mum would have been aware of the lethal concoction and
would not have had the “bad” tablets in the first place.



FRIDAY 2 NOVEMBER – It’s a very windy day with
gusts that blow the sand around.  Steve
chats to a fisherman and learns more about the area.  End up having to put the awning in as it is flapping in the wind
but this means we don’t have shady area out of the wind so end up inside. 



SATURDAY 3 NOVEMBER – With the wind even
stronger we are assisted in our decision to move on.  Mum texts to say she is feeling a bit better and has been up town
on the bus and walked around with a stick. 
She is due for a hip replacement in January and I am very pleased to
hear that she is using a stick in the interim. 
Back on the main road we double back about 1 mile to check out Blue
Springs, a little oasis in the desert. 
The pools where the fish are supposed to be are dried up and following
the warm stream back to the source we find it is almost completely
overgrown.  Just a few miles further
along we turn off to Valley of Fire State Park, $6 (£3).  The early morning sun shows the rocks to
perfection and it’s easy to see how the park got its name.  From the east entrance a short walk takes us
to Elephant Rock and from the right angle we can see a beast with a trunk.  A drive to Seven Sisters where we see people
dressed in Americana including a Statue of Liberty.  There’s a table with drinks and we learn that a charity bike race
is about to come through.  Climbing for
a view of the rocks we also watch the leaders pass by.  The visitor centre has some interesting
exhibits but the side road behind it leads to the parks showcase areas.  Driving on a narrow road between bright red
rocks is impressive in itself but the walk to “Mouse’s Tank” reveals excellent
petroglyphs and the natural water tank that sustained a renegade Indian who hid
out here in the 1890’s.  We see lots of
young children and adults with buckets and find out that a cub pack has struck
a deal with the park. In exchange for free camping they are going to do the
hikes and remove any modern graffiti, usually etched into the soft sandstone.
At Rainbow Vista we catch a wedding in progress.  The wedding company have arrived in a luxury motorhome complete
with photographer and priest.  The young
couple have no guests but get a beautiful setting for their ceremony followed
by a wedding breakfast in the desert. 
We make the 1-¾ mile hike to Valley of Fire overlook and find it quite
hard going.  As with the last walk you
are trudging through soft sand and with little shade to keep you cool.  In this instance we feel that the view was
good but not worth the walk whereas the vista from the parking lot is
excellent.  The road continues through
undulating land with superb scenery and comes to an end at “White Domes”.  The White Domes Loop Trail is 1.25 miles
long and takes us past a number of points of interest.  It starts over a large sand dune but the
magnificent multi coloured rocks at the side spur us on.  Over the years the wind has blown different
colours of sand onto the dunes and in many areas water and pressure have
changed these into the superb rainbow rocks that are enhanced by the mid day
sun.  Bands of yellow, grey, green,
orange and pink can all clearly be seen. 
Many films have been made in the park starting with the Raquel Welch 100
years BC right through to Transformers filmed just this year.  Nowadays the film crew are not allowed to
leave anything with lasting effect on the park but that was not always the case
and we pass an area with walls remaining from a set.  Slot canyon is very narrow and has many features carved by the
water, often several feet deep that tears through after a heavy rainstorm.  The camera is on permanent stand by and we
take dozens of shots, as we are so impressed. 
Back track to the main park road then continue towards Atlatl Rock.  Here a staircase has been made to get you
close to the petroglyphs.  The nearby
beehives are a bit of a let down but overall the park has exceeded our
expectations.  Leave by the Lake Mead
entrance then turn towards Overton.  A
few miles further on we drive over the top of a hill to suddenly see motorhomes
parked up in all directions.  Select a
spot by the top of a canyon with fine views towards Overton.  This area is open for free camping from 1st
October to 1st April and with no stay limit many of the snowbirds
are here for the duration. 
Unfortunately the beauty is spoilt by a noisy nearby generator running
until 11pm



SUNDAY 4 NOVEMBER – Last night was the end of
daylight saving time in Nevada so the clocks went back an hour but as we are
heading into Arizona tomorrow so won’t bother. 
In Overton we do a bit of grocery shopping and internet.  Apparently the people in the town love it
when all the winter motorhomes arrive, as it is good for business.  Once we hit the freeway Steve realises how
bad the wheel wobble is so we will overnight in Mesquite and get it checked
tomorrow.  There’s free camping in the
Oasis casino parking lot.  We are amazed
to learn that first time sign up of their members club gets you a free nights
stay, no catches you don’t even have to pay the taxes.  You also get a coupon book with vouchers for
2 for 1 buffet amongst other things. It’s already lunchtime (well for us at
least) and the champagne buffet brunch is being served so $10.99 (£5.50) buys
us both a great meal.  Along with breakfast
foods there is also a salad bar with prawns and crab, a full dinner menu
including steaks cooked to order and unlimited champagne.   An hour or so later we are replete and walk
over to check out our room.  We have a
king sized bed and all the usual motel facilities plus parking for Harry directly
opposite.  Once settled in we set out to
explore the adjoining area.  As a border
town near to the non-gambling state of Utah there are many casinos.  Across the road Casa Blanca is part of the
same group as Oasis but have their own separate members club and also offer a
free night in their hotel so we may take that up for tomorrow.  They seem to cater for everyone as they have
their own car park style campground at $23 (£11.50) night plus free camping in
another area.  At the other side of the
motorway there is a Wal-Mart and we shop there and feel rather strange waling
back to our motel room rather than camping up on their car park!  I’m keen to return and make full use o the
room where there are free movies and time during the excessive adverts to have
a bath.  Steve pops down to the sport
bar and uses the “free chicken wings” voucher to have a snack with his beer.



MONDAY 5 NOVEMBER- Whilst I am doing my hair Steve nips across to Casa Blanca
joins the members club and gets us checked into their hotel.  Take a drive to the local “Big O tires”
depot and they find the same warped rim on the other front tyre.  Apparently the wheels can only go on in one
position as they have to line up with something but the lad at the brake place
did not do this.  Having used our only
spare to swap the other rim we can now only balance the other wheel and put it
back in the correct position in the hope that it will work.  We’re now at the far end of Mesquite and
near Virgin River casino so call in to check out their member offers and yes
they also offer a free nights stay so I sign up and book in for tomorrow.  What’s even funnier is that we are now just
enrolling one of us so in theory we could return to each place and get another
room in the other persons name for another night!  Driving back on the freeway Steve finds the wheel wobble
completely cured but on slowing down there seems to be some problem with the
brakes catching.  Will return tomorrow
as we are now back at the Casa Blanca car park.  Their buffet lunch is $8.61 (£4.30) and we use our 2 for 1
voucher making it another cheep meal. 
En route to our room I decide to put $1 into one of the slot machines and
walk away with over $10.  The swimming
pool is closed for the season but Steve sits beside it in the afternoon whilst
I take a nap and watch TV.  The rooms
here are in a large tower block, more hotel style and slightly more luxuriously
appointed.  Today Steve has chosen a
room with 2 queen beds for a change.  In
the evening I watch movies whilst Steve go across the road for the free chicken
wings.  His $2 gamble returns $37 so we
are really having a good time.



TUESDAY 6 NOVEMBER – After leaving our room we
shop at Wal Mart, return to Big O for them to clean up the brakes then check in
to Virgin River Casino.  Today we have
motel style rooms overlooking the swimming pool, twin beds and to Steves
delight the Liverpool match on the TV in our room. Just how good does it get –
well Liverpool winning I guess would be the icing on the cake – and they do
8-0.  Again we get a 2 for 1 buffet
lunch this time at Virgin River Casino, $8.61 (£4.30) but we are now learning a
bit of restraint.  Walk across the road
to Eureka Casino in the evening and get a free drink and shrimp cocktail with
their voucher book.  Back at Virgin
Casino the 7pm bingo proves quite a challenge. 
We’ve had 2 books for the price of 1 and it’s a square 5 x 5 number
sheet and the calling is very fast. 
Don’t think we won!  Our next
voucher is for 3 games of bowling for the price of 2 and at $2.50 (£1.25) per
game and the same for shoe hire it’s quite reasonable.  Steve bowls 131, 170, 194 and I manage 114,
115, 145 so both quite pleased with that and the free hot dog that
follows.  What an amazing 3 nights in
Mesquite, free accommodation, food and drinks. Back at the room I find it
impossible to remove my wedding and engagement ring to put them back in place,
being a left handed bowler I always swap them over.  Think my fingers must have fattened up with all the binging.



WEDNESDAY 7 NOVEMBER – I’ve had a terrible
sleep as my finger has swollen badly and is throbbing.  Have tried ice, heat, oil and soap in all
combinations but the rings won’t budge, the swelling is worse and my finger is
going a funny colour.  Call in to the
visitor centre to find out where I might get them cut off.  Steve heads to the jewellers whilst I do Internet.  He returns and tells me they can cut them
off for $25 (£12.50) each but have to send the rings away for repair.  Steve pops to the toilet and returns to
suggest to me using soap and holding my hand under the blow dryers.  This gets the rings moving further and with
the addition of oil and more heat I finally force them off spurred on by the
thought of paying out $50.  Finally hit
the road on the I15 heading towards Utah but first we must go through a small
section of ARIZONA.  Finally our clocks
are right after our not so brief visit to Mesquite so now 7 hours behind
GMT.  By the freeway is Virgin River
Recreation Site with cheap camping at a lovely spot with spacious sites.  We camp on the edge to get privacy and spend
the afternoon sitting out reading.  The
hotel rooms have been fun but it’s nice to be home again.  This area adjoins the Grand Canyon north rim
and has similar style rock formations and these look stunning at sunset.


$8 (£4), (Half price with Golden Eagle pass)


THURSDAY 8 NOVEMBER – It’s really very
pleasant here so we will stay another day. 
Mid afternoon I follow the trail down to the Virgin River and get some
idea of just how deep the gorge is.  By
evening it is cloudy, cooler and becoming windy.



FRIDAY 9 NOVEMBER – It’s a very windy morning
and Steve notices it whilst driving, as we are quite high up.  The freeways are very scenic with lots of
cuttings through the rocks and amazing rock formations in all directions.  In UTAH we top up our tanks before returning
to the ARIZONA strip and our first stop at National Pipes Monument.  We’ve not been able to get any maps or info
on Arizona so it’s a bit of a mystery but only ½ mile from the main road.  It’s $5 (£2.50) pp (inc in pass) admission
to a Mormon farming site, interpretive centre plus a guided tour.  We are the only visitors so our guide takes
us straight over to “Windsor Castle” a very impressive building from the late
1800’s where bigamous Mormon wives came to stay.  The whole community was almost self-sufficient having a natural
water source from the spring.  They grew
crops and reared cattle with surplus goods used for trade.  The house is full of original artefacts and
it’s all surprisingly interesting.  At
Jacob’s Lake we turn off towards the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  At the visitor centre we learn that from 15th
October everything is officially closed and fees no longer apply.  However you can still visit until the first
snowfall.  The campground is still
accessible for free dry camping and we can do all the hikes.  It’s a one way in and out road to the rim
and it heads through forest of various types of pines where in one section they
are doing a controlled burn. 
Interspaced with the forest are huge meadows but the grass is all dried
up.  We are now over 8000’ high and the
temperature has dropped accordingly.  At
the end of the main road we park by the visitor centre and lodge and head off
on “Bright Angel Point Trail”.  We walk
out to view the canyon and are immediately over awed by it all.  The half-mile trail takes us out along a
narrow rock top with views in 3 directions into different sections of the
canyon and along the Angel Bright fault line that runs through to the South
Rim.  The rock colours are fantastic,
it’s easy to see the many different layers, and the cloudy/smoking skies give
it a kind of ethereal look.   For once
the Americanism of awesome is not out of place as the views are truly
spectacular.  True to form we are
sufficiently impressed to take far too many photos. From below the lodge there
are a number of viewing points on rocks that edge out into the canyon but Steve
finds them quite unnerving as you are so high up.  The campground is right by the rim of the canyon so we have a
view of the rocks through the trees. 
There’s an abundance of firewood so Steve can’t resist a fire after tea
but the cold soon drives us indoors.



SATURDAY 10 NOVEMBER – It’s been a cold night
and we are late getting up so by the time we hit the trail it’s 10.30am.  We want to walk part of the way down into
the canyon along the North Kaibab track. 
It’s very steep and in the season you can go down on mules but I think
that would be even scarier as you would be looking down from a higher
point.  We’re amazed to find joggers
coming up the track towards us.  Just
over half a mile in we reach Coconino Overlook with stunning views.  Today there is a clear blue sky but in spite
of the sun it’s still quite cool as most of the trail is shaded.  Another 1-½ even steeper miles further we
have dropped down to the Supai Tunnel.  There’s a clearing with water and toilet and rails where we
suspect the mules are tied.  Just
through the tunnel we can see the track hair pinning it’s way downwards but
this has taken us 50 minutes and we have been warned it will take twice as long
climbing out.  We’re still very pleased
to have got a feel for what the canyon looks like from below the rim.  Many of the 10 different rock layers are
visible to the naked eye and it’s really beautiful.  Some of the joggers and now heading back down and we are amazed
to learn that they set off from the South Rim at 4am to do the descent to the
bottom, up to the north rim and return in the same day, a total of 43.2
miles.  Are they crazy or mad?  I soon realise how unfit I am as we begin
our climb out.  It’s really hard going
as the air is cold on your chest but we plod on taking frequent rests and make
it back up in 75 minutes.  It’s the
first long uphill walk since I rupture my Achilles tendon and it has swollen up
a bit.  Unfortunately the road out to
Cape Royal is closed today so we revise our plan and head out of the park.  We begin to see smoke in the distance and
presume it is another prescribed fire but this time west of us or maybe they
are now burning the piles of logs that littered the roadside after they had
felled the trees close to the highway. 
Back on the main 89a we soon find a turn off to a clearing in the forest
where we can stay overnight.  Tonight is
even colder and we go to bed with 2 duvets and wrapped up in tracksuits with
blankets over our heads.  Steve looks
like a devout Muslim with all but his eyes obscured!



SUNDAY 11 NOVEMBER – The road descends rapidly
and we realise we may have been better off camping in the valley below the
Vermillion Cliffs where it would have been warmer.  Anyway we didn’t and the morning sun makes this a super drive
past the colourful cliffs and also the village of “Cliff Dwellers”.  Pause to check out the two Navajo Bridges
over the Colorado River, the second a wider replica of the original.  Back by Marble Canyon it’s another very
impressive area.  We are now travelling
through the Navajo Tribal lands and roadside stalls abound selling their local
crafts, predominantly turquoise.  We
turn off towards the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and stop at a few more
scenic viewpoints, all of them worth the stop. 
Our final spot for the night is back in the Kaibab National Forest but
this time just outside the eastern entrance to the Grand Canyon National
Park.  Steve goes off for an exploratory
walk and returns with a couple of deer hooves so I guess this is where they
have been hunting recently.



MONDAY 12 NOVEMBER – A short drive brings us
to the park entrance and once again our annual pass saves us the admission of
$25 (£12.50).  We are at the eastern end
of the South Rim and at the area known as Desert View we get our first stunning
view into the canyon and a chance to climb the old watchtower complete with
interesting Indian paintings.  The road
follows the rim with many scenic viewpoints and we stop at them all, as they
are all impressive in their own right and must be what induced the American
term “awesome”.  From Lipan Point we see
the rapids below and find it hard to believe that they are 1 mile long as they
look like nothing.  The old Tusayan
ruins are very basic and Moran Point the lesser of the view points in our
eyes.  At the main visitor area we park
up by the “Shrine of Ages” and after a session of free wi-fi at the library we
are ready for more exploration.  The
park has 3 linking free shuttle buses and we set off to the Canyon View
Information Plaza with interesting displays and a geology talk.  Nearby Mather Point is justifiably one of
the most famous viewpoints within the park and does not disappoint.  On the Kaibab Trail bus I have miss
interpreted the info and we over shoot our stop.  We planned to do part of a walk into the canyon but end up
enjoying the view from Yaki Point.  We
could complete the 30 minute bus loop to do the hike but time is pressing on so
instead we go to Yavapai Observation Station. 
Again we catch a ranger talk enhanced by a superb topographical display
of the canyon and enjoy the other displays in the museum.  Here you get a superb view down to Phantom
Ranch in the bottom of the canyon and the swing bridge that leads to it.  Bus the Hermits Rest Route and walk from
Powell Point to Hopi Point and also get off at Hermits Rest.  We’re actually getting a bit blasé now about
the views and it’s getting late so we return to the van to drive out of the
park.  About 4 miles from the entrance
we turn into another section of the Kaibab National Forest for another nice
free camp.



TUESDAY 13 NOVEMBER – It was so cold in the
night that I got up to put the heating on and made up a hot water bottle and
only then was warm in my track suit and under 2 duvets.  We return to the park and this time get off
at the correct stop to do part of the South Kaibab Trail.  It’s totally different to the one on the
opposite rim as it begins with a steep ascent down a switchback trail.  The heavily used track has warm away to sand
in most parts making the going even harder. 
Again the descent is relatively easy and we soon reach “Ooh Aah Point”.
We continue further down to a ridge where we get views in both directions into
the canyon.  Knowing how difficult the
climb out is we call it a day but interestingly have far less problems climbing
out this time even though there are many more steps.  Has our fitness level increased already or is it a combination of
us starting out from a lower altitude and doing a shorter walk?  It’s early afternoon when we drive out of
the park on the main highway to Williams and then the freeway to
Flagstaff.  Wal-Mart has no overnight
parking signs in abundance so after a quick shop we head off to a free
campground on Willow Springs Road just of the motorway going south.  As I am guiding Steve onto a parking spot I
notice our petrol cap is missing.  
Steve is confident it was on this morning so it looks like it went
walkabouts in Wal-Mart car park.  In our
haste to get away from Flagstaff and camped up for the night we have come on
the wrong road but soon manage to reform a plan to still take in the places we
want to visit and to meet up with Les & Margaret from Yorkshire who are in
the area.



WEDNESDAY 14 NOVEMBER – Continue on I17 then
turn off for Montezuma’s Well.  It’s a
natural sinkhole that is constantly filling with natural spring water.  The “Sinagua” people tapped it off into
channels to irrigate their farms and you can still see the channels in
operation and remains of their dwellings. 
Nearby is Montezuma’s Castle National Monument, $5 (2.50) pp but inc in
pass.  In the cliffs there are signs of
ancient “Sinagua” dwellings the most impressive being known as the Castle.  We’re on Native American land so there is
the ubiquitous casino “Cliff Castle”. 
Les & Margaret are broken down at a garage and having come on the
wrong road yesterday we must now form another new plan if we are to visit
them.  Camp Verde town is small enough
for us to navigate easily and park to do laundry.  Steve tries, but fails, to buy a replacement petrol camp but one
that locks.  The man at the garage says
we are now classed as locals as everyone has them stolen and he suggests we do
the same to replace ours!  The main
street is quiet and pleasant for walking along and on the outskirts of town
there is a modern shopping centre as well. 
Settle back on the casino car park for overnight. 



THURSDAY 15 NOVEMBER – For once we have
enjoyed a warm night and wake up so much more refreshed.  Cutting across country via Oak Valley we are
soon aware of the red rock formations that this area is famous for. Not only
that but also many including “Bell Rock” are also vortexes.  Chapel of the Holy Cross is impressive in
the way that it is built into the rocks but equally impressive is the enormous
Italianate mansion across the road owned by the pioneers of lasik eye
surgery.  Many of the homes in Arizona
are in Mexican adobe style and blend in well with the landscape but this one
certainly doesn’t do that.  Sedona has
become quite an artist’s community and wandering around the mock Spanish style
Tlaquepaque village we are very impressed by the sculptures and glasswork.  The tourist office opposite is also a front
for Hyatt Vacation Club and we are easily persuaded to give up 90 minutes of
our time in exchange for 2 x $95 (£45) scenic helicopter flights – we just have
to pay the taxes. Before we know it we are flying over the rocks and through
the valleys, past ancient cliff dwellings and along Boynton Canyon.  It’s a stunning flight but not quite as
dramatic as others that we have done. 
The pilot points out the more interesting rocks and tells us their names
including one called “The Capitol” that Walt Disney used as a mould for his
Thunder Mountain Railroad ride.  Back in
town the Hyatt presentation is bang on 90 minutes with no high pressure
whatsoever. There’s a free trolley bus through town so we take the loop but
don’t alight.  Just south of Sedona we
find the famous Red Rock loop road rather disappointing and in parts the dirt
road is very bad.  A little further
south we find a forest road where we can free camp for the night. 



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