It’s been over a month since posting on here and that’s because we haven’t been sitting around long enough to type this stuff down. Time has now arrived to give it a crack…
We sat in 1024 East for a few days whilst Mark eyeballed dream bikes and mused over cliffs rides and enchiladas (the Moab kind). Reality struck and a plan to at least ride Durango was made. As a warm up, a spin on the Road Apple in Farmington and the Alien Run in Aztec were conducted. Whilst some have blogged that these are just big BMX tracks, I love them for it, and after seeing Durango and Moab (below) I do prefer the fast flowing single track – must be missing the speed as I’d normally have with engine power!
Durango was next: time to get into the hills – well, let’s call them mountains – and do some riding. Surprisingly the 10,000ft elevation was not too difficult though as Murphy’s Law would have it, a flat occurred on the first ride. Turns out the Stan’s ‘no flats goo’ had expired after 3 months! Engineer Mountain trail and Molas section of the Colorado trail were ridden and are amazing. By far the most amazing bit was the Alice in Wonderland flowers that grow above head height with the trail weaving through them.
Moab also had to be tried and after the usual bike choice delays we hit the MOAB trails and then Slickrock. My lasting memory will be the first proper hill at Slickrock that is about 10m high with 40 degree off camber rock, turns out you can just ride down it but a few minutes were spent psyching up for it. The rest of the trail had similar hills to go down and up and is a great experience that all MTBikers need to complete. The other achievement for Moab was getting out to the delicate arch after missing it on my previous 4 tries. Even got some photos of it!
Vegas: The target was to get Lacey out to Zion Canyon and do both Angels Landing and the Narrows. Our hire car was the first experience, a Mercury Grand Marquis, apparently a 2009 model that looked like it was out of the 70’s and had a boot sufficient for at least 2 bodies. Whilst we can bemoan the fuel guzzling V8 power, it makes for a smooth ride and a car that can dispatch speed bumps that way has to be tried to be believed. We only made it to Angels after a travel distance miscalculation, but it did mean we were back in town for a Black Bear Diner feed and some hot tub relaxation.
California: It’s a busy place and needs a different approach as there are no quiet corners. We tried Sequoia Park – it has big trees (as you’d expect). We missed Kings Canyon due to delays and swung through Yosemite again. California has a bear on its flag – I was a bit skeptical about this choice, but whilst taking some photos in Yosemite Valley (where the camp sites and hotel are) a bear and its cub wandered past the bridge we were on and continued on down to the campground! Guess they can justify the flag.
The drive from Vegas west was to meet Lacey in the Napa Valley. She was flying over for Opening the Kimono, an entrepreneurs event held at the Meritage Resort. The resort worked well for me as I could spa, swim and laze around, which was what I needed after 10 weeks on the road. Unfortunately, the Meritage food met Americans standards of quality requiring trips into Napa to eat. Luckily some great food is available in town, look up the tapas on main if you are there. My Napa highlight was hearing a big block again: it has been a few years and there is no better sound than big pistons spewing fuel out truck pipes. See my favourite car of the show below.
Travelling in June/July has distinct advantages – warmer weather, open roads, awake animals and the benefit of the melt: copiously flowing waterfalls and rivers. Then there’s the stuff that water carves in its path – canyons, valleys and other curious rock formations that need to be seen to be believed.
The goosenecks at Dead Horse State Park in Utah were the first insight into what the desert hides. These winding waterways carve a giant snake into the land.
Then there’s the rocks that get left behind, only to slowly weather away in the wind and heat.
Some of the structures are so extraordinary they seem man-made. The Double Arches do not seem like something that could be formed naturally. You can almost imagine a giant holding a chisel, shaping the rock into this spectacular formation.
Yellowstone was a direct contrast to the deserts we travelled – instead of cutting deeper and soaking into the ground, water here shoots up into the sky from the sheer pressure caused by heat.
St Mary Falls is at the end of a short walk in Glacier National Park. Not huge, but the area is so peaceful and so obviously natural that it was a special experience.
Marble Canyon is on the road through the Kootenays and carves a deep groove into the rock. This is the head of the canyon, where the water barely cuts a groove. Further down, the canyon is dozens of metres deep and funnels the water into a raging torrent.
Athabasca Glacier on the Icefields Parkway offers a chance to walk on ice. Buses on giant tyres traverse a 30% gradient (you should have seen Jeneen’s white knuckles on that leg!) to drop you in the middle of the flow. It’s a cold and awe-inspiring experience.
Slightly warmer, much smaller, but just as special was Tangle Creek. The map clearly states ‘Watch out for goats!’ – for once, the maps were right.
The Athabasca Falls are several miles from the Glacier, but the roar was loud enough I reckon it would carry to its origin.
Not sure of the name of this cute little falls, but was so impressed with Adam’s photography I just had to include it…
You can climb to the top of Yosemite Falls, but why would you when you can see the entire cascade from ground level?
And after the magnificence of Grand Canyon, we thought Bryce would be dull. No chance!
Ah, so many incredible sights! We could go on forever… but we won’t 🙂
After a couple of warm-ups (Ouray and Santa Fe) it was time to hit the road on Tuesday 21 June for the Filipich Road Trip. Adam had been planning for weeks, and Mario and Jeneen were relishing the opportunity to see some of the diverse landscape of the States. The map below roughly shows the trip, minus meanderings, mistakes and repeats:
Yep, it was HUGE! Here’s the key stats:
- 6,000+ miles (Google tells me it’s 4750 miles, so we must have done a fair bit of wandering off the track)
- 2 cars (first one broke)
- 2 countries
- 15 states
- 2 land border crossings
- 2 public holidays (Canada Day and Independence Day)
- 16 national parks – Yellowstone, Glacier (USA), Kootenays, Jasper, Banff, Yoho, Yosemite, Grand Canyon… the list goes on
- 25 hotels/motels (or maybe more… they all blend into one another after a while)
- Too many amazing sights to name (or count!)
In fact, there were so many sights we decided to split them up into 4 separate posts that follow this one, be sure to check them out:
- Flora and Fauna
- Lakes and Mountains
- Moving Water
Here’s the stuff that didn’t fit into those posts:
Okay, we’re exhausted just looking at these photos! It was a truly epic adventure. We farewelled Jeneen and Mario on Wednesday, and four hours later welcomed Mark – so there will be more travels to come. We promise to update the blog more promptly next time…
Utah’s south-west has been on the ‘to-do’ list for a while. Even watching the film ‘127 Hours’ didn’t put me off (though it did inspire me to bring my sharp Leatherman with me). It’s a mountain biking / rock climbing paradise, and for those of us less inclined to risky activities that may result in losing a limb, it’s a place to observe (with considerable awe) the effects of water and wind on the earth. Geo’s would get a dry tongue here!
We headed north-east from Farmington, aiming first for Canyonlands. We knew we must be close to the good stuff when we saw a Prius parked on the side of the road and someone (who could only be the owner of the car) above it climbing a vertical face solo at incredible speed. Fortunately, you can see most of the good stuff from your car, so we made a quick American-style tour of the place.
It was impressive, but we were on a mission to see bigger and better things – specifically Arches National Park.
We got to Arches around 7:30pm – at this time of year, there’s sun till around 9pm – and joined the convoy of avid photographers invading the area. There are so many breathtaking sights, it’s hard to know where to stop! We followed the crowds and ended up at the North and South Windows. The setting sun makes the rocks glow, and with the clear blue sky in the background it’s easy to see why the area attracts so many visitors, and of course obligatory plane roosts that shadow the US.
We decided we’d like to see the iconic Delicate Arch, one of the many arches that requires some walking. We got there just in time to appreciate its sheer size (45 feet high, 33 feet wide) before darkness descended. But the excitement didn’t stop there – Adam, armed with his new camera, got the chance to take some pretty impressive night shots at Balancing Rock on our way back to the local brewery.
It’s practically illegal to visit Moab and not mountain bike, so on Sunday morning we headed to a park that promised ‘family grade’ tracks (for me) as well as some more exciting stuff across the slick rock (for Adam). We assembled our bikes – Adam’s decent one and my $200 Walmart one – and hit the dirt. It was pretty good fun, though I can’t pretend I have any skill or stamina and it was hot, over 30C/90F by the time we took off. Not that I’m making excuses, but… my weighty vehicle certainly doesn’t make it easy either. Next time, we’ll hire the $5K bikes everyone else seemed to have.
After a hearty lunch and some delicious gelato, we headed back to Farmington, or so I thought. Adam, ever the keen explorer, decided he’d take another route home. Little did I know we’d be going the much, much longer way. I was drowsy enough that I failed to notice we were heading north instead of south-east until we were nearly at Telluride in Colorado! In a fury, I made him pull over to turn around. Just as I was working my way into a real rage about how late we were going to be and why the hell didn’t he hurry up, he took my by complete surprise by presenting me with a beautiful ring and asking me to marry him(!) Of course, I said yes, and the rest is history. I’m sure we’ll enjoy telling the story to to our children one day 🙂
Another stunning Saturday, another chance to hit the road. This time, Adam had planned out a 300+ mile route which would take us into four states and some spectacular scenery. The first major attraction was the Four Corners – it’s the only place in the US where four states meet at a single point. We queued up for the obligatory shots (see below), bought some very impressive jewellery, and that’s about it for that stop.
Adam had planned the journey well. We wound our way through the mesa (which can get rather repetitive, so I won’t put in another photo). We followed the San Juan River from Farmington through the first part of the journey, and it has created some amazing land formations. Occasionally while driving, we’d spot cavernous canyons and jutting formations that looked like the land had simply been cut in half and one side lifted. This place is a geologist’s wet dream. Nothing was quite as awe-inspiring as the view that awaited at Mulie Point… The San Juan snakes its way through the landscape, creating what’s known as the Goosenecks. From above, they’re beautiful, if hard to understand (where are those geos when you need them to explain something!)
We ate our lunch sitting on the edge of the cliff. The fractures are perfectly straight and quite astounding – there are rocks several tonnes each perching precariously which are the shape of boxes. It seems impossible until you see it.
We made our way down the hill – more switch-backs and sheer drops – to see the Goosenecks up close. Its’ hard to believe a river would take such a long, meandering path (it must be at least three times as long as the distance between it’s start and finish) but the effect is nothing short of stunning.
From there, we headed south towards the Utah/Arizona border, through Monument Valley. We didn’t exactly pick the best direction or time of day (into the sun at around 6pm) but the effect was still incredible. How these formations have remained after millions of years of rain, wind and snow, I have no idea. We drove through the Valley with our jaws hitting the dashboard.
As we turned around to head home, we saw a town called Mexican Hat on the map. We’ve had a lot of entertainment looking at the names of towns in this area – we will definitely be visiting a town in New Mexico called “Truth and Consequences” simply to get a photo of the sign (and hopefully an explanation of the unusual choice of name). We didn’t realise that Mexican Hat has a namesake:
Nine hours in the car altogether, but definitely worth it.