The Wild West
Road Trip time!.. In the land of the great road trip. There are some parts of this area of the US that properly look like another planet. Touring, the way it HAS to be done here – in a bright yellow Camaro, through the states of Colorado, Arizona and Utah.
It all started with a late-evening flight into Denver. We picked up the car, and jumped straight on the freeway heading due south… you know what’s coming here, right? Up early the next morning, as we’ve a long drive ahead, and we’ve got to fit in a little drive up a rather special piece of road. Pikes Peak! Sadly armfuls of opposite lock and smoking tyres are frowned upon when the road is open to the public, but it was still an experience to drive. Rounding the un-protected hairpins high up the mountain, imagining what it would be like to drive it at full-tilt in the 1000bhp monsters really made you think!
Anyway, race-driver dreams aside, we had some continental-US style mileages to cover, so we pressed-on… West to Buena Vista (it really is!), Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP, Montrose, then south to Ouray and Silverton via the ‘Million Dollar Highway’ navigating the occasional rock-slide that had relocated half the road to somewhere at the bottom of the valley!
Out of the mountains we continued south to Durango – home of the best basil lemonade ever! – then west through the desert, passing through the tiniest little part of New Mexico at ‘Four Corners’.
Monument Valley. Monumental! There’s a few places I’ve been that really cause your brain some problems in dealing with the scale of them, and this is one. Bouncing along the sandy tracks at the base of these enormous monuments, staring up in awe, it’s really difficult to get your head around, and even more difficult to take a photo that does it justice. The landscape feels completely not-of-this-world.
Next stop Page, AZ. Kayaking the slot canyons Lake Powell, the infamous Antelope Canyon, and standing at the rim of Horseshoe Bend having my mind blown once again at the size of the canyon. I just about thought I’d got the measure of it, only to see a tiny yellow pin-head spec on the river below… some intrepid rafters. Wow is it massive!
Further west, to Zion NP. This is such a captivating place. A little oasis of life tucked tight into the canyons amongst the otherwise dry dusty desert surrounding it, not to mention what I think is still the most amazing hike I’ve ever done. Not the longest, highest or most strenuous, but if you are EVER in that little corner of the world, you will not regret taking the time to do Angels’ Landing. Absolutely spectacular! Then there’s the Narrows… It’s difficult to do this hike and not feel just a little like Indiana Jones… wading upstream through the river, towering canyon walls to either side, clambering over boulders. Amazing fun! We hired wading trousers, poles and rubber shoes from a local outfitter, but tbh for the time of year, some Keen sandals would’ve done, as the water wasn’t that cold. It is worth getting up early though, to avoid the crowds, as it feels all the more special when you have the canyon to yourself.
Springdale, the little town on the edge of Zion NP is a charming little place too, all little al-fresco restaurants, craft shops, and hummingbirds. We found a great little place serving delicious food and a really nice glass of wine, and sat out on it’s terrace watching the amazing colours change on the canyon walls as the sun set. Very special.
From Zion we headed north to Bryce Canyon. This was a really strange drive. In the space of 2 hours we’d been from 25*C canyon oasis, via barren desert & agricultural plains, to mountain roads still covered in snow! Surreal. As we arrived at Bryce Canyon, we thought we’d have a quick look before checking in to the hotel but as we got out of the car, we realised our Zion-spec shorts & t-shirts weren’t very suitable for the thick sideways blizzard blowing in over the edge of the canyon!
We retreated to the hotel, and were blessed the following day with crystal clear blue skies. Perfect.
From Bryce we headed through Grand Staircase & Capitol Reef, destination Moab. Kingdom of Buggies, Rock-crawling trucks, MX bikes, Mountain bikes, and just about everything else that provides a whole lot of fun on wheels! Oh, and there’s Arches NP, which is just a little bit on the stunning side.
Having partaken of some rock-crawling in a side-by-side ATV (amazing fun!), and hiked to many a stunning rock arch or epic vista, sadly it was time for the return leg… the sat-nav directions are the best here: “turn right, follow road for 312 miles”, which reluctantly we did, dropping our trusty yellow Camaro back at the rental parking lot before boarding our flight home.