Week 1 Sequoia NP and Kings Canyon
Landed in LA 6:30am, after a 13.5 hrs. flight. Quick customs and baggage and awful coffee. We found out, at the last minute before we left home, that we were unable to pick up the RV on the same day as arrival in the US, turned out to be a good idea, anyway we booked a motel close to RV depot, walked some shops bought a phone for $30.00, had a decent coffee and rested.
Appointment to pick up RV at 8:30am, took 2hrs. Then to Wal Mart for victualing and headed north with five lanes of traffic all doing 60 to 70mph. Its frightening! and it is not against the law if everyone is doing the same speed.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon NP’s were our first two Parks. Steep, narrow roads, just as frightening, for Frances anyway. We saw a giant Sequoia tree 3000 years old. This is worlds largest living tree, but not the tallest. It weighs 1,240 tons. They are survivors, they never die, they just fall over.
They survive fire and drought and grow between 5000 and 7000 feet in elevation and there are thousands of them and thousands people visit and marvel at their size. There are several species of conifers in the forests.
Kings Canyon was similar but with less trees but more steep sided granite cliffs and mountains. We drove right up the canyon along side the King River, mountains on both sides. This was truly a majestic place. With the weather perfect, as it was, it is hard to imagine a more surreal place than this.
The RV, it is 23ft (7m) long 2.6m wide and 3.65m high, comes with gen set built in, runs the microwave and air con. Three ring cook top and oven, Two door fridge freezer, large. Shower and toilet with plenty of room. Plenty of storage and a large boot outside. No awning. Very comfortable. Petrol varies between $3 and $4 a gallon ie less than a dollar a liter.
My driving has become Americanized, I can handle several lanes of traffic, tight turns in the mountains and the general road rules. All drivers are courteous and mostly driving above the speed limit. Getting the correct exit is important.
We will be in Yellowstone NP tomorrow which will put us back on schedule. Did not go as far north as planned. Oregon has varied from Redwood and Douglas Fir forests through to marshy plains the beautiful Crater Lake and spectacular high dry gorges. We have had no rain, and as most of western USA. Very dry. And its getting colder. We will probably run into snow some time soon. Had our 1st frost already.
All well, except Frances has had a slight fall inside the Van a couple of days ago when we had stopped at a visitor center in Redwood NP. We had to get her specs repaired and her eyebrow stitched up, after an hours drive to the next town. She was a bit shaken up but OK again now. Bounced back as usual.
Yellowstone, Wyoming, is noted for its huge area of volcanic activity. From “Old Faithful” to boiling pools of mud, vents and
steam rising here there and everywhere. Many wild Buffalo, Elk, Mule Deer and a beautiful Red Fox. Native rabbits and Chipmunks. Old Faithful didn’t let us down and after standing around for 1/2 hr in a cold wind, it erupted with 30mts. of steam spurting skywards. Well I guess you had to be there.
We found a free park one night near an old ford on the Yellowstone River, 1/2 k from the road (not strictly legal) but very soon after we
settled in a herd of 30+ buffalo wandered through our camp paying no attention to us what so ever. We had a very heavy frost that night, I would say about -6 deg. We had some light snow the previous few days.
The scenery is still there but the buses and all the people were not. Many of the campgrounds are closed.
We follow on to Grand Teton NP, south from Yellowstone. This is a range of steep snow covered mountains with a lake alongside and the road alongside the lake. Beautiful clear skies, an awesome drive. Life’s tough.
Salt Lake City
We arrived in Salt Lake City this morning after an 80 mile drive due south from a place called Logan in Utah. The highway started off 2 lanes, then 3, then 4, and in parts 5, the max speed was 75 m/h, (120k) and the only ones driving at that speed were in the outside slow lane. We are here for 3 days and no driving. There is a new light rail system, which services all the major attractions, with a station 100mts away.
Catching a free ‘Mormon’ bus to see the sights of Salt Lake City tomorrow. Should be Fun?
S L C is the first big city we are visiting in the US, no real reason except it is on the way and that we should take a look, and there is good public transport. The population is 1,200,000, with a greater urban area stretching 120 miles, making a total population of 2,400,000.
We took a Mormon run free shuttle into the City center to visit Temple Square. The Mormon Temple is here, but we unable to enter, we would have to be baptized first and swear not to drink coffee and, and, well you know the rest. We spent most of the day wandering around, catching an organ recital in the Tabernacle and a tour of the huge conference center. This an amazing building seating 21,000 people, in the auditorium, and not a single pillar obstructing your view of the stage. The roof area is said to cover 3 acres (12000 sq m). On the roof there are granite ‘mountains’ and pathways through forests and deserts and waterfalls depicting the early pioneers who traveled 1300 miles from the east to where they settled here in the 1840’s.
Today we are going back there to hear the world famous Mormon Tabernacle choir performing .
Half of the population are Mormon and attend church every Sunday. We found them all very pleasant, as are all Americans.
We are glad we called in. We are heading for southern Utah next.
Some Animal Pics.
We have been driving in and around and through and down into the canyons of Utah for the last week and they are just amazing. It is hard to imagine they were created with just wind and water, and all so different. One gets that ‘wow’ feeling each time you see a new sight over the rise or around the corner.
Every Caravan Park in the US is called a Campground or an RV Park, but Campground covers both, some only for RV’s and caravans, others include tents, and some have cabins as well.
They range in price from $10.00 to $40+. We paid $41.50 for a site at Bryce Canyon, without a full hook up, but most of the others are around $25 to $30. National Parks are less, generally $24.00. They have the least on site facilities, Usually a secluded, flat sealed site with a raised BBQ and or an in ground fireplace and a table, add a short walk to heated bathrooms with hot showers. Not bad for $24.00.
The state parks are up one grade, adding power (up to 50amps), water and sewage. Some State parks have a private shelter shed with 2 walls, to keep out the wind and a light and a lockup cupboard. A full hookup at commercial Campgrounds includes free WY FY and cable TV.
In bear country all these parks have elaborate bear proof steel rubbish bins and lock up food cupboards on every site.
Our best Park was in Reno, Nevada. 400 sites in 8 neat rows of 50, all with full hookup. Add in a games room, club house, shop and artificial lawn between each site, a shade tree and a table, of course.
The worst park was the next day at a small town called Williams in California. The street frontage and office, which was hard to find, and with no body around, was a most unattractive and uninviting place. However down the back the site turned out to be OK. The caretaker (I think the owner) once found, was a very nice elderly lady who couldn’t do enough for us. Full hookup $18.00, half the price of the previous night in Reno. Not so bad after all.
There are very few free camping sites.
For the last week we have been travelling through Apache, Navajo and Hopi Indian Reservations and their ancient cliff houses built around 400AD, and only occupied for a few hundred years. Tonight we are in the heart of the Navajo Nation. We have met many of them and they are a nice, free living and knowledgeable people, some hawking jewelry and their artwork. The Indian people work and run every business in their towns.
No free camps here though!
These Pics are in Bryce Canyon Utah. I think this is remarkable scenery, and a beautiful day to go with it.
These are called Hoodoos
The Grand Canyon
There is no getting away from it, this Canyon is big, in fact its huge. 446 km long, 1.6 km deep, av. 16 km wide and the Colorado River average width 90 mts, and it is a magnificent sight to see. But it is not the worlds biggest nor the deepest or the widest or the longest, but it is said to be the Grandest Canyon of them all, from the literature I have seen here at least.
Monuments in the Desert
Las Vegas, Hoover Dam
Well been there, done that. All very impressive and out of this world, or at least out of my world, and with apologies to all you Vegas lovers, its just not my scene.
We stayed at Sam,s Town RV park, itself a casino, and took a free shuttle bus 8 klm. into the Strip, booked tickets to a Rod Stewart Concert. 7:30 that night at Caesars Palace. We filled the day in wandering the strip, the big brand shops, expensive coffee bars, with lousy latte’s, restaurants with expensive hamburgers, and lavishly furnished Casino’s and loud.
The Concert was excellent. The whole Caesars Palace complex is out of this world.
There are several short drives around Las Vegas, like to the Hoover Dam, on the Colorado River, which took 5 years to build in the early 1930,s. At the time it was the worlds highest dam wall, Well worth a look.
The Colorado River is a large fast flowing river which drains part of the northern area of the US. Several rivers in the US Rockies drain and form up and become the Colorado. There are two large dams, both producing electricity for the national grid, and with large marinas for boating activities. There several other low level weirs down stream. The river, what is left of it, flows into the sea in Mexico.
I was talking to a lady neighbor in the RV park, as you do, and I asked what she thought of the polluted sky with about 20 jet streams hanging in the air, she looked up and said, no that’s just cloud.
Back in California
We begin week eight back in California, in Death Valley in fact. We have had no more than 10 minutes of rainfall, 2 light snow falls and two strong windy days, a couple of heavy frosts and some very cold nights, the rest of the time the sun has been shining. You cant get much better than that. We have a heater built into the van and it was well used during the colder nights
California is still in serious drought. Most of Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and Nevada are semi arid ‘high’ deserts. 5000-7000 feet in altitude. We have been as high as 10,000 ft. The difference here is that there many large rivers which wined there way through the desert areas, and are providing irrigation and water for the populace.
There are of course, long distances between the tourist sights along the way, but the traveling is worth the trouble. Petrol is around $3.10 a gallon. Work it out – cheap!
We have seen magnificent forests and granite gorges in California, the beautiful blue Crater Lake in Oregon, a huge area of Lava flows at Craters of the Moon in Idaho, Volcanic action and Mountain scenery in Wyoming, and the amazing colors of the canyons in Utah, Arizona, and Nevada.
Now we are looking forward to seeing what Death valley has to offer, and maybe some coastal areas of southern California to round it all off.
I am happy now after the bright lights of Vegas. Back in the bush again, although there is not much bush here in Death Valley, its a desert, not all flat but with dry, stony hills and mountains surrounding the plains which are partly covered with a sage bush and desert shrubs. Today we will be travelling through the lowest elevation in North America. 86m below sea level on the Badwater road at Badwater. I wonder what that will be like?
Well the valley is 160km long and up to 18km wide and flat. It once formed a lake 90m deep. The lake dried up about 10,000 years ago. It had a reprieve 2000 years ago when it filled to 10m, after a period of wet conditions, but that lasted only a short time when it also dried up. The lake had no outlet. The valley has a range of mountains along each side of the valley, average height 1500m, highest Mt Whitney 4416m (the highest point in the lower 48 states) and is only 160km from the lowest point (-86m). The mountains are the reason it is so hot. They act like a huge oven reflecting heat onto the valley floor, the heat rises, and circulates back down. Average rainfall is 5mm per annum. There are a few soaks and springs, but they are and far between.
This is a still, quiet and beautiful place. The mountains are bare, nude, starkers, majestic, haunting, mysterious and their structure and the colors are all there to be seen.
The valley floor colors range from black to greys, cream to mustard yellows and dirty white patches of salt plain. The mountain colors are similar, add in red and pinks to complete all the colors of the rainbow. I didn’t see any blues though.
There is evidence of people visiting the area 4000 years ago. The Timbisha Shoshone People lived here between the years 1500 and 1890, with an intimate knowledge of the valley.
Gold miners came through from the 1850’s. Most were short lived. One group lost a member of their team on the way through and then one of them looked back on leaving and said “Goodbye Death Valley”.
And Goodbye from Me too, at Furnace Creek (pop.50), 33m below sea level, in Death Valley.
LA International Airport.
Big and busy.
Current time 9:00 pm. Flight leaves at 11:05. Flight time 13 hours, arrives 7:00am day after tomorrow. You work it out.
So its goodbye to America and to the Americans who we have met and enjoyed their company. This is a very easy country in which to travel, save the hectic freeways in the cities, its best to keep away from them. We have found the people very friendly and helpful in all respects, thank you for that. May be we will meet again some time.
We are home again and recovering, and all looks very good here, and I must say it is good to be home. But we really did have a great trip.
Frances is having a knee replacement on Dec 1. So we will be taking it easy for a few weeks. We will spend some time at Scrubby Rise when the temperature drops below 30C. Its very dry out there at the moment.
So where are we going next year I hear you ask? Well we have some exciting ideas in the melting pot and some deposits have been paid, but until we see how well Frances recovers after a knee opp, we will all just have to be patient. Have Fun.