06 – Western US 2017

Some years ago Cheryl got a call from her sister Lisa who was having a handful with her daughter Kelly, the kind of things that happen between parents and teenagers, and we were asked to take Kelly for the summer. We agreed, and the experience was good for everyone. We had a good time with Kelly, who was no trouble at all, because we weren’t her parents. Funny how that works. But we had another niece, Erin, daughter of Cheryl’s brother Mark, who felt kind of left out and wanted to do something with us. So in 2016 we planned a trip to visit the western US states, and invited Erin to join us as our guest. We planned to start in Las Vegas, work our way through some of the National Parks, and end up in Denver, where my sister Sheila lives with her family. I owed Sheila a visit, so this trip brought a number of things together.

Our plan was to rent a car in Las Vegas, then drive to a sereis of parks, starting with the Grand Canyon, and ending in Denver with the Rocky Mountain National Park, and of course a visit to Sheila. I booked us rooms in motels along the way, and we would eat in whatever restaurants we could find. Many of the places we would stay would be in small towns because the National Parks tended to be away from major cities. So this would be a simple trip where the end destinations were the attractions.

Saturday 20170909

We had a 9am flight from Detroit to Denver, so it was up early for us. Our flight was 3 hours long, then in Denver we changed to a flight to Las Vegas, where the adventure would begin. We arrived in Las Vegas around 12:30, then Erin arrived about a half-hour later. But allowing for time-zones we crossed, by the time Erin got in it was around 4pm. We all got our luggage and then went to pick up the rental car. I had booked both the airfare and the rental car through Expedia, and it seemed like a reasonable deal. I was to find out later that I got hustled by Avis to the tune of at least $1000 more than I should have spent. I should have stuck with Enterprise, whcih I usually use and which has never abused me the way Avis did. I was tired after the flights and they took advantage to get me to sign up for things I did not intend to sign up for. Lesson learned. I will never do business with Avis again.

We drove the our hotel, then came back into Las Vegas. I had purchasedtickets for us to see The Beatles Love, which combined the music of The Beatles with the acrobatics of the Cirque du Soleil. The show was playing at The Mirage, and we got in early to have dinner at the buffet. The show was fantastic, and for me at least it was a bucket list item. I’m really glad I got to see it. After the show we wandered the strip to see some of the sights. The water show at the Bellagio lived up to expectations. After this, we needed to go back to the hotel and get some sleep.


Sunday 20170910

Up in the morning, then hit the road for our next stop, the Grand Canyon. Cheryl had seen it years ago, but it was new for me. Our plan was to go north through Utah on the way to Colorado, so we headed for the North Rim. This gets less traffic than the South Rim, but is quite spectaular nonetheless. Maybe we’ll get to the South Rim on another trip, but I thought we had a great time here. As we drove from Las Vegas, the landscape of the desert Southwest started to reveal itself, and I knew I had come to a place very different from any place I had previously been. We got to the North Rim, where I had booked us a couple of cabins for one night at the Lodge. We got there mid-afternoon, so after dropping our luggage we got out for our first hike. We came across an area that had been a settlement by the Native Americans. They build houses on top of the cliffs.

We returned to the Lodge and got some dinner. Then we sat out on the terrace to soak in the views. The Grand Canyon is something you just cannot get enough of. Everywhere you look it is amazing. As the Sun went down the light played on the cliffs, bringing out different perspectives. Finally it got dark, and we turned in to get some sleep.


Monday 20170911

We got a nice breakfast in the Lodge, and then did a little more exploring. There was a hiking trail about a ten minute drive away that offered some views worth seeing, so we went for it. We had all morning before we had to check out and leave. This hike turned out to be very strenuous, though part of that was the altitude. The North Rim is over 8000 feet above sea level, so we were breathing a bit heavy to start with, but my FitBit said we had done over 20,000 steps, and these were over broken terrain, downed trees, etc. I’m glad we did the hike, but I was pretty beat when we were done.

Our next stop was Kanab, Utah, which was less than two hours away by car, so we set out. As we were leaving the Grand Canyon we saw a herd of bison and stopped to take a look and snap a few pictures. Of course we stayed well away from the bison; they are wild animals and you don’t want to get too close. Then as we continued we saw areas where the forest had burned. Wild fires are pretty common out west, but usually the forest grows back. These had probably been caused by lightning. Then we drove to Kanab and checked into the Hampton Inn. After the exertion of the hike all we did was eat dinner and then go to bed.


Tuesday 21070912

Kanab is just outside of Zion National Park, which is why we stopped here. We got up early and headed to the park, coming in by the East entrance, which is pretty spectacular by itself. This includes going through a tunnel to get into the park. Once there, we had to park for the rest of the day. Because of traffic issues they do not allow cars in the rest of the park. Instead, they have shuttle buses that take people up and down the central road of the valley. Zion is a canyon formed by a river, and for most of the park you are in the bottom of the valley looking up. We had most of a day here, which was not nearly enough, and I know I would like to go back some day. And it was really hot there. We started by going to The Narrows, which is kind of a narrow slot canyon caused by the Virgin River eroding the rock. There are outfitters that can help you to hike through the river at this point, but we just hiked as far as we could go while staying on dry land. The hike starts at the Temple of Sinawava, which is the name for a rock formation. When you are in the park you are always looking up to see the impressive rock formations.

We then got some lunch, and headed for Weeping Rock. This is an overhand of the rock face on which water trickles down. Then we stopped at a museum. Finally we had to leave. Going back out of the park the same way we came in, we spotted what I think were big horn sheep on the cliffs by the road. When we were out of the park we turned north again to go to Bryce Canyon. We stayed at the Best Western Plus Ruby’s Inn, which had a great deal of western kitsch, but wsas pleasant enough for the night. We dropped our bags and got dinner there before turning in for the night. We had another big day ahead of us tomorrow.


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