A year ago today, we were boarding a flight to the States for our 3 week USA Road Trip through California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona. I know this, because it managed to sneak its way in to my Facebook “Memories” feed today – so what better way to remember the trip, than to blog about it!
As I sit here trying to jig my brain, I am swarmed by a million memories of the trip – some are good, a LOT are bad. Nothing about America made the bad memories. More so my inclination to over-indulge on the alcohol front in Las Vegas (it happens to the best of us), and manage to lose a days worth of shopping and my wallet/credit cards/passport while partying it up in Sin City. Doesn’t really seem like such a big deal after 90649804313554 frozen margaritas; that is until you have wake up the next morning on the verge of still being drunk but also nursing the mother of all hangovers, whilst having to chase up the Australian Consulate to figure out how to apply for a new passport, while at the same time, trying to think of ways you can check in to your flight in 2 hrs without any photo identification (compulsory, when flying domestic in the States). Ohhhhh the memories. Thanks Las Vegas you evil S.O.B.
I should also preface this post by explaining that if you intend on doing the National Parks like Zion, Bryce, Canyonlands etc – probably allow a little more time, rather than cramming everything in to ONE single day before skipping off to the next. If I were to recommend an amount of time to see these beautiful National Parks I would advise at least 3 days – though, there is a reason people spend weeks dedicated to exploring any single one of these parks! But hey, if you’ve read any of my other travel posts, you will be well acquainted with my well thought out itineraries that easily cram 500-800kms of driving in to most days because you know, Mitch does the driving. And I do the sleeping. From my view point, this works out well! I get to see lots of a country, and I get to be well rested at the same time 😛 ha ha.
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DAY 1: LAX
DAY 2: LAX > Zion National Park (Utah)
DAY 3: Zion National Park > Bryce Canyon (Utah)
DAY 4: Bryce Canyon > MOAB (Utah)
DAY 5: Arches National Park (MOAB, Utah)
DAY 6: Canyonlands National Park (MOAB, Utah)
DAY 7: MOAB > Paige (Arizona)
DAY 8: Paige > Las Vegas (Nevada)
DAY 9/10/11: Las Vegas (Nevada)
DAY 12: Las Vegas > Lake Tahoe (Nevada)
DAY 13: Lake Tahoe (Nevada)
DAY 14: Lake Tahoe > San Francisco (California)
DAY 15/16/17: San Francisco (California)
DAY 18: San Francisco > San Simeon via Highway 1 (California)
DAY 19: San Simeon > LA (California)
DAY 20: LA/Santa Monica (California)
Not much to account for on this day – it was Mitchs’ first 12+hr flight, so he was treated to his first taste of our good old friend “jet lag”. We checked in to Four Points LAX and that is where we remained for the next 24hrs, with the aid of some extensive sleeping & Room Service ordering. Pepperoni Pizza is one of the things that the Americans got OH SO RIGHT! And Pepperoni Pizza is what Nikita eats for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner whilst on vacay in the glorious U.S.of.A.
After a well rested day of sleep, and quick stop off to Walmart to pick up camping essentials, we were on our way to Zion National Park to set up camp for the night. Now, I had originally mapped out this drive to be around 4hrs – but I can’t remember if that was actually how long the drive was mapped for, or whether that was how long I told Mitch the drive was? Either way, it took us more like 7 hrs to get here HAHA Nikitas awesome itinerary planning strikes again! We arrived at Zion right on Sunset, which seemed like such a perfect time to drive through this area. This place was absolutely spectacular! We made our way to Watchmans Campground and set up camp for the night.
We woke up first thing in the morning, to do a quick pack down and to jump on the shuttle to make the Angels Landing track. It’s funny that I was the one to plan a week of hiking and camping in Utah, yet I was also the one who forgot to pack any form of appropriate hiking footwear. I had the option of doing this steep hike in thongs (flip flops, for the non-Australians playing at home), or a set of Dr Marten boots. I chose the boots. I should have chosen the thongs. The Angels Landing hike is marked as “difficult”, but its not so much the condition of the track that makes this hike so difficult. In fact, the track is very well paved/concreted most of the way; however, you are literally climbing 900metres straight up. The incline and the altitude is what makes this track so difficult. It is made even more difficult if you attempt it when you are just coming out of a week from being bed bound from the flu! But I promise you, once you make it to the top, the view is spectacular!
There was no time for rest after this hike, we had to suck it up and drive another 4-5hrs toward Bryce Canyon National Park to set up camp for the night. This is when I started to realise that you should probably allow a couple of days at least for these National Parks.
Mitch is not much of a “camper” par se. In fact, he feels much more at home when he is shacked up in a 5 star motel with all of his creature comforts. So I was proud of the fact that he was giving “camping” a good go. I had done some research before we came over, and came to the realisation that being September the days and nights were still quite warm throughout these parts, so we didn’t purchase any extra blanket wear when we picked up our camping gear from Walmart. I smuggled a bunch of the airline blankets from the flight over to act as our bedding. Which was fine for the first two nights of camping. Not so good for the third. When taking in to consideration that Bryce sits at a much higher elevation to Zion, you should know that makes the temperature considerably cooler at night time. So we found out the hard way. We got ZERO sleep, due to the fact that we were sore and cramped from being huddled up so tightly by trying to steal each others body warmth and the whole inside of our tent was soaking wet from how cold it had gotten overnight. Let this be a valuable lesson that you shan’t forget when planning your Bryce Canyon camping trip!!
As we made our way down to the Canyon, we realised that we were pretty strapped for time, so opted to just do the easy stroll around the rim of the Canyon to check out the vistas. I cannot explain the feeling of approaching this unique landscape. Walking up the path to the Canyon, its just normal Utah bushlands. Nothing very spectacular about the place, and then you come over the rim and are greeted with the most magnificent view that makes you feel like you are on an entirely different planet. I have never seen a landscape quite like this in my life, and I now understand why people travel from all over the world to explore this wonderful place!
Driving through Escalante, Utah
After the freezing cold tent temperatures witnessed the night before, Mitch had finally cracked it, and we made our way to Moab to check in to a hotel for the next two nights! haha
Moab was one of our favourite stops on the trip! And if you’re in to anything outdoors/adventure/hiking/biking/4wding/whatever, you need to hit up this wonderland with all of your mates! Pretty convenient place to base yourself if you intend on doing the Canyonlands and Arches National Parks!
I had seen many photographers post about False Kiva before, and I knew this was definitely a place I wanted to hit up whilst we were adventuring our way through Canyonlands National Park. False Kiva is a Class II Archaeological site, so trying to find directions to this place can be quite the nightmare. I managed to find a place online that described how to get here, which made things quite fun. It was basically trying to solve a riddle in a scavenger hunt in order to even find the path head! About an hour later, we managed to find it, and the only way you knew you were heading in the “general” direction of False Kiva were these stacked rock cairns (pictured below) along the way. It’s basically just following your intuition because many people have been known to stack “decoy” cairns in order to lead people away from the path. We trekked on, and it was only about a 30 minute hike through rocky back-country before we found the site. We had the whole place to ourselves (and you probably will too, if you manage to find it), and there is something so serene and peaceful about this location. Do keep in mind, that this is a Class II Archaeological site, so in order to preserve it it is an unspoken that you be respectful whilst here. Don’t climb over the Kiva or touch, remove any of the rocks that make up the Kiva. Don’t leave rubbish or anything like that – just use common sense. There’s a book up there that you can sign, but just make sure you enjoy this spiritual place, and leave it the way you found it! But definitely look in to visiting this place if ever you are around these parts!
We were going to be in town for Mitchs’ birthday, and being a keen 4WDer, I made sure to book him a 4WD tour with Outlaw Jeep Tours while we were in MOAB to do the Hell’s Revenge track. Jim from Outlaw was our guide, and was awesome fun and very knowledgeable. I would definitely recommend these guys if you’re ever in Moab and looking for adventure!
After that, we had to do another quick dash for the car to make our way to Page, Arizona. Originally I had wanted to come here to do Antelope Canyon, but we had arrived too late for the afternoon tour. I have since found out that for photographers, the morning tours are probably better to get the light beams through the canyons.
We adventured around Page a little bit, but if I’m to be honest, there’s not a whole lot here at all. So we made our way to some bar that was contained within an old Paddle Boat that had been re-furbed to a restaurant. We should have listened to the guy at the bar when he warned us “if you want to eat tonight, I’d probably go somewhere else, because this guy will forget your order”. We had a little chuckle and just assumed he was hitting us with some good banter about his mate behind the bar. But no, this guy was right. The guy behind the bar was so wasted, that he forgot our order. Twice. Which was fine, because he also forgot to charge us for ten beers we each consumed while we were waiting. We actually had a really fun night here. Somehow we ended up in the back car of the young kid who cleaned the dishes at the restaurant, and found ourselves at the local shit dive pool hall that the Page Arizonians called a night club. We partied the night away, and forgot all about Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend, because when we woke up, all we wanted to do was die. But of course, we had to drive to Las Vegas. Good Times.
There is a reason that 4 days worth of entries in Las Vegas are blank. If you can remember what you’re doing here, you’re doing Vegas wrong. As I said in my preface, try not to lose your passport and you will have a good time. Some personal recommendations include: Maggiano’s for epic italian food, The Beetlejuice Slot Machine & Twin Peaks pub, which is conveniently located right next to a Tattoo Shop. Also, we stayed at the Wynn Hotel & Resort. It will cost you a kidney and your first born son, but I CANNOT stress how much it is totally WORTH IT. This place is hands down the BEST place I have stayed, EVER. The bed and linen are like clouds. You will not want to leave your room. And for the sake of your liver, your wallet, and your dignity – by gosh, don’t leave your room.
Thank goodness I found this epic house on Air Bnb before coming to Lake Tahoe. I could lick my wounds in a “homely” environment, and spend the next few days sussing out our route to San Francisco, which is where I had to go to apply for a new passport to be able to fly home! We had a big sleep -in, and then went down to the local CSV (supermarket) in Tahoe City to cook ourselves a delicious feast, after being too hungover to eat anything all day.
I had planned to drive down to Sandy Bay, after having seen pictures of this glorious place on the internet once or twice. I’m not exactly sure where we ended up, but the whole area around Lake Tahoe is so gloriously spectacular that it doesn’t really matter where you go, the view is top notch! Mitch didn’t get in the water because the temperature was just above freezing. But I couldn’t bring myself to leave this place without taking a dip in this pristine water!
We finally made it to San Francisco! Now while most of my time here was organising an Emergency Passport, we still had plenty of time to do the usual touristy things. This was my third time to San Francisco, and its probably the only place in the States where I could happily see myself settling down. It’s such an awesome City full of love and adventure and art… and of course, seals.
Mitch had found out about The Peoples Barber shop in San Francisco online, and after a few weeks of camping in the desert and living like grubs in San Francisco, he decided to go in for a pamper sesh. This place is next level! Well, at least it was before every man and his dog decided to open up a barber shop! These guys have a long list of celebrity clientele, and its no wonder, when they offer delicious donuts and top shelf whiskey as all part of the service. His new beard and cut were pretty good too. I think. I mean, I’m a girl. It looked like it was good?
After receiving my Emergency Passport, we had to do a mad dash back down to LA so we could fly out in a couple days time! We decided to head down the famous California Coastline Highway 1, and if you ever get the chance to do this drive: DO IT! Its one of the worlds prettiest drives, for good reason. But allow yourself time to do it. We spent a couple of hours just sitting on the side of the road, watching a pod of around 40 (AT LEAST) Humpback Whales play and breach only a few hundred metres from the shore.
We thought we would make it back to LA, but we were fast running out of light, so we did a last minute booking at the San Simeon Best Western hotel in a room overlooking the most magnificent sunset, with whales and seals playing about 200 metres from our balcony. Team this with the fact that everything in the mini-bar basically cost $2.50USD, we had a pretty sweet, unexpected afternoon!
I’m not the biggest fan of LA, but I quite enjoy the Santa Monica/Venice Beach area – so with the limited time we had left before our flight home, I decided to take Mitch down to check out the usual tourist sites of the area. Let’s just say, that he wasn’t as big a fan of the area as I was hahaha
This concludes our 3 week road trip through the USA. Plenty of info here, also plenty of info that I’ve missed out because my fingers are cramping. If you have any questions, hit me up!
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Have you done any of these locations before? What is your favourite place to visit? Drop a comment below!