After leaving the Grand Canyon, we crossed back into Utah, and (because of the rain) stayed overnight in a motel in Kanab. We were really impressed by the number of veggie options in Kanab restaurants! We were heading for Nevada, but there were a couple of places to visit in Utah first.
First stop next morning was the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. This lived up to its name: the park was not enormous, and the dunes were not the highest, but the sands really were pink!
After our visit there, we drove through Zion National Park. We’d been there twice before, so did not plan to visit this time, but our route gave us the chance to stop at a few viewpoints. Somehow the scenery seemed even more spectacular than we remembered, perhaps because the weather was better this time round.
The park was very busy – we did consider doing one short trail, but there were no parking spaces at the trailhead. However, we discovered something new: there is an area of Zion called Kolob Canyons, which is separate from the main park. It’s virtually adjacent, but there is no link between the two; this means that it is much quieter. We drove there and did a five-mile walk which involved crossing a creek about 50 times (fortunately the streambed was dry in most places). It was a pleasant, attractive walk, and the double arch alcove at the end was very impressive.
Two of the places on Sandie’s ‘must see’ list were across the border in Nevada. First was the Valley of Fire State Park, in the south-east corner of the state. This definitely proved to be a highlight of the trip; we’ve seen so much wonderful scenery, but Valley of Fire ranked among the very best. The red rocks were absolutely amazing. We strongly recommend a visit, but perhaps not in high summer. It was the hottest place on our itinerary, with temperatures reaching 113°F /44°. We did several short walks, but not at midday!
While camping at Valley of Fire, we realised that we were only about 50 miles from Las Vegas – hard to believe, as it seemed a million miles from all the bright lights. Not that we object to the bright lights, of course, but having been to Vegas only last year, it did not seem worth a detour.
Our other Nevada destination was Great Basin National Park, which is many miles north of Valley of Fire. We therefore needed somewhere to stay overnight en route, and (almost by chance) settled on Cathedral Gorge State Park. This was an unexpected bonus; yet more great scenery, with jagged rocks and pinnacles, creamy coloured this time, giving a rather eerie atmosphere especially in the evening light.
By contrast, Great Basin National Parkwas slightly disappointing. We arrived around midday, and immediately ‘bagged’ a campsite, although we didn’t put the tent up straightaway. After a quick lunch, we went on a tour of the Lehman Caves. There were some splendid stalactites and stalagmites, but as we’ve been in so many caves not much was new, except for the ‘shield’ formations which are relatively rare.
After the cave tour, we wanted to do a walk, but the one recommended by a ranger was not very exciting. And while we were walking, the clouds gathered and there was thunder all around. So we abandoned the walk, returned to our campsite and sat in the car for a while debating what to do. Eventually we decided that we did not want to camp in a (possible) thunderstorm, so although we’d paid the camp fee, we abandoned the site and drove down into the tiny town of Baker, where we found a motel room. The irony was that there was no rain – but while we were eating dinner there was a power cut which affected the whole town. So we ended up sitting outside watching the lightning – just as we would have done at our tent!
Next morning the weather improved drastically. We returned to the park, and followed the scenic drive, which takes you up to about 10,000 ft. There we did a loop trail which took us through sub-alpine forests and meadows to a couple of alpine lakes, with good views and reflections of Wheeler Peak. Desert scenery remains our favourite, but it was nice to have a complete change. We much enjoyed the walk, and it left us with a more positive impression of Great Basin!
There was a time, of course, when we would go away and not expect to have any contact with friends or family, but now we are used to emails, cellphones etc, we miss it when they are not available. Most motels and (surprisingly) some campgrounds have wifi, but it is often painfully slow. At one point we went three days without internet access, and for some time our phones had no signal – we felt really cut off!
When camping we do not always have electricity, and as we are limited by battery power as well as time, we have to restrict ourselves to essential things such as writing journals and downloading photos (time consuming, because we take so many). Hence this blog is now several days out of date. And if you are expecting an answer to an email, please forgive us if it has to wait until we are back in Sarasota!