Italy – Pisa

No the van didn’t turn into Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and fly me to Europe, I left her in LA at my mates place. I was on a J1 Visa for the summer camp, which only gives you 30 days of travel before you have to leave the country and come back on a different visa. I had a friend who had recently moved to England and I could get some cheap flights to London, about USD$400 return.

Some hot tips for getting cheap flights, join the mailing list at https://scottscheapflights.com/ they uncover some amazing deals and send it right to your email. Being flexible with dates will allow you to get the best deal, I personally use https://www.google.com/flights/ to find the best deals. You can look at a whole month and see the cheapest days to fly or select a location like Europe or America and see the cheapest countries/cities to fly to.

After a brief stop in London (less than 24h) we flew to Pisa to do a bit of a road trip through the Tuscan countryside. We arrived in Pisa the Friday evening, picked up our little black Fiat 500 and headed to our AirBNB.

Fiat 500

After settling in to the place then went for a wander to find some dinner. We had been told by quite a few people that there wasn’t really anything to do in Pisa, except the tower of coarse, after wandering for a little bit into the city centre we realised this was true. The place was dead, only a few people around and overall a not very attractive city. We found a place for dinner and then headed back to get an early night so we could up early in the morning to see the tower.

It was a good choice to get up early to see the tower, we ware able to get in our ‘classic’ leaning tower of Pisa shots in relative peace and quiet.

It didn’t take long till the place was swarming with tourists as bus after bus turned up, but I will admit it was pretty entertaining watching everyone trying to get their ‘perfect’ leaning of tower photo. One thing you may not know is there is actually an amazing and massive church right next to the tower.

With the crowds building we jumped back into our little Fiat and headed to a little town called Lucca.

Los Angeles

I got to the hostel in LA around 8pm, after spending the whole day in Joshua tree. I hadn’t booked into the Hostel but had called ahead to make sure they had bed for me. The hostel I was staying at was called The Anderson Estates and was the cheapest I could find in LA at the time, was about USD$22 a night and had alright reviews.

The Anderson Estates was interesting, it is this massive mansion in the middle of small basic brick houses in a not so fancy area. All the rooms have been filled with bunks, but the strange part is that allot of the original furnishings and paintings and stuff are still in the house. So all the bunks sit about a foot off the wall with these very ornate paintings and mirrors hanging on the walls and statues and things sitting in corners. Overall the it was a pretty nice place, nice big pool in the backyard, a bit of a party hostel though with music pumping out of the stereo into the backyard (I’m not sure how they get away with it as the hostel is surrounded on all sides by houses). It honestly reminded me of a frat house from the movies.

The Anderson Estates
The Front
The Pool

The next morning I got up and after enjoying some free breakfast went off to see some sights. My first stop was Hollywood Boulevard or more importantly the Hollywood walk of disappointment…. I actually don’t understand the hype, the whole thing is trashy, dirty, unorganised and overall pretty unimpressive. I don’t understand why it’s such a big deal to get your star there, but nether the  less I wandered up and down looking for names that I actually knew. I also didn’t realise fictional characters could get a stars.

Next stop was the Griffith Observatory; I enjoyed this stop allot more, great views over LA and the Hollywood hills as well some cool things on display. I wish I could’ve seen a show in the planetarium but was meeting up with an old friend from university later.

Griffith Observatory

 

Downtown LA

After that I met up with my mate from Uni who had just recently moved to Redondo Beach, LA. We went out for dinner and drank way too much so I crashed on his couch, I then canceled my reservation at the hostel, for which I got no money back because they came up with some bul#$% excuse and said it would’ve cost the same for the two nights because the rate would’ve been different, but I didn’t mind because this was the view from my new accom.

The next day I checked out some more of the sites in LA.

Santa Monica, which I quite liked. It was pretty quiet when I was there(I assume it was the  timing of when I was there). I walked down from where I parked the car and came out at the famous Muscle Beach, I spent a bit of time here messing around on the equipment and watching other people messing about, it was quite entertaining.

I then took a wander along the beach to the Santa Monica pier. It was pretty cool and surreal to see up-close.

Santa Monica Pier

Since it was such a nice day I decided to go for a swim. So I took all my stuff back to the car and changed into my boardies. I headed to a spot near the pier cause the small waves were breaking slightly better there and who can resist the backdrop. When I finally got to the water (the beaches are huge here), I notices the lifeguard on duty paddling a Kracka Surf Mal that looked very familiar, kracka is and Australian Board Brand and the board he was paddling used to be one of the guys from my Surf club back home, Half Moon Bay. So I went up and started chatting to him. He then then gave the board to me and grabbed the Lifesaving Mal, we Caught a few shories before he had to go back on duty. It was allot fun getting out on a Surf Mal for again and catching some waves and crazy that halfway around the world I find a board from back home.

Santa Monica Beach

On the way back to Redondo Beach I stopped off at Venice beach…. Similar to Hollywood I don’t understand the hype, The place is littered with tourists, smoke/Vape shops, medical marijuana shops, souvenir shops and whole lot of homeless and people that want to try and make a buck off you. I definitely wouldn’t want to go swimming there, even with just a towel and t-shirt on the beach I would be scared it would go missing if I wen’t into the water.




That concluded my sightseeing in LA overall nothing amazing but still worth seeing in the flesh. Most flights into the states go through LAX so worth a stopover.

Joshua Tree

I got in pretty late to the BLM land just outside of Joshua Tree National Park where I was staying that night. The land is accessed via some quite rutted and bumpy dirt roads, but I managed to navigate my way through (I’m glad there was no rain) and find a spot for the night. The next morning I woke very early, I think it was around 5. I’m not sure if I was woken by thunder or not but it was lucky as not too far off was a massive storm with rain so heavy that the distant houses and hills had completely disappeared. I didn’t think twice, I threw some clothes on and hightailed it out of there, I definitely didn’t want to be there when it hit. I was back on the sealed road and on my way to Starbucks when it hit, and boy did it hit, there were rivers of water running across the road. I now saw what they were talking about when they said not to park in washes (look like dried up river beds) the amount of water was intense.

I sat in Starbucks for a while as the rain came down, so decided to look for some rainy day activities. I found a yoga studio not too far away and really close to the entrance to Joshua Tree with a class on at the right time, so headed there. It was really nice to get on the mat, it had been a while. After the class the rain had eased so I headed into Joshua tree national park.

The park isn’t massive and the main part can easily be done in one day. There are some longer hikes that can take you from one part of the park to another if you were after that sort of thing, but most of the sights are accessible by car with short walks/hikes.

My first stop was hidden valley, a 1.6k loop trough a valley surrounded by amazing massive boulders that the park is famous for. The story is that back in the day, when rain in the are was higher, cattle rustlers used to use it as a hideout to graze cattle. Now-days the pastures are gone, but the valley still houses an eco-system that is slightly different from the rest of the park.

Hidden Valley Joshua tree

Climbing Joshua tree
Hidden Valley is also a popular spot for climbers

Next stop was Barker Dam. The rain had started coming down again when I got there so I made myself some lunch and watched Netflix in the back of the van, while I waited for the rain to subside. Once the rain finally stopped I headed in. There was allot of water around, the path in was a river of water. It was amazing to see how much water was still coming off the boulders and land even after the rain had stopped. The trail wasn’t very hard and had some great views of the landscape as well as some well preserved Petroglyphs left by ancient Puebloan people.

One good thing the rain brought was lots of little friends, like this guy.
The Dam, not the most impressive haha
An old trough that was fed from the dam for the cattle

Next I hit up the keys view, which is a lookout over the other side of the park. It wasn’t too exciting, very barren and with all the rain around it was pretty hazy.

My last stop was to see skull rock, which is pretty self explanatory. It was a rushed visit as the clouds were rolling in again and I didn’t really feel like getting caught in the rain.

Hoover Dam

The first thing that struck me when I got to hoover dam was how much smaller it was than I expected, don’t get me wrong it’s still massive, but it looks allot bigger in the movies.

I did the full dam tour which takes you down into the plant area and then through the inside of the dam through some service tunnels. First stop was one of the massive bypass tunnel originally built to divert the river through while they built the dam. Now they are used as overflow if the river ever gets too high, or the penstock  pipes to feed the generators.

Inside the diversion tunnel
Overflow pipe.

Next stop, the generator room. I was surprised at how clean, clinical and empty the generator room was. All it had in it was the 8 massive generators, their corresponding switchboards a massive crane and that’s about it.

Finally the last part was through the tunnels in the dam itself. Most of the tunnels in the dam are quite ornamental, with hand-made porcelain tiles and bronze doors;  from conception tourism was considered when building the dam and back in the 1930’s things were made allot more ornate. The new section added to cope with the increased numbers is literally a bare cut-out cave with nothing more than some corrugated Perspex roofing thrown up to stop the water seeping through the rock dripping on the guests; Obviously don’t care so much about looks anymore.

One of the ornate tunnels within the dam

Then there were the service tunnels which were used after the dam was built to check for cracks and movement in the concrete. I can’t remember how often or for how long, but every inch of the walls in the tunnel were inspected and recorded for cracks and movement as the dam cured.

Vent tunnel to the side of the dam.
View out.

Overall the tour was really good and it amazes me what they were able achieve in the 1930’s.

That night was interesting. I had planned on staying on some BLM land close by, but there were some massive thunderstorms rolling in bringing with them plenty of rain and when I got to the BLM land it was pretty much a flood plane and I didn’t really want to be stuck there in the middle of torrential rain with a very heavy 2WD Van; so i continued on to Joshua tree.

Las Vegas

Vegas really is Sin City, this is apparent even as you drive in… every billboard is advertising a different lawyer ready to help you with whatever mistakes you make while you’re there haha.
This is the second time I’ve been to Vegas, the first time I was there for work and also solo. It’s not the greatest place to be when you’re solo, unless you enjoy gambling, then I’m sure it doesn’t matter who you’re with. Regardless I had booked two nights at the Westgate, one of the Casinos just off the strip, it was only USD$20 something a night which was cheaper than some of the camp grounds and would be nice to have some creature comforts for a little bit haha.
I checked into my room and had a nice long shower. I don’t gamble so I jumped on my computer to see what shows were on, last time I was here I saw Elton John which was amazing. There were no artists there that really interested me so I decided on a Cirque du Soleil show, I only had one to choose from as the others weren’t playing the nights I was there. The show was called KA, I was a little disappointed with the show as there wasn’t as much acrobatics as I was expecting from a Cirque du Soleil show. I still enjoyed it and the stage was absolutely amazing (I think that’s where all the money went). They had this massive articulating platform on a robotic arm which they used in conjunction with augmented reality to create some cool effects; I geeked out on that a little.
The rest of my time I spent wandering around the strip, checking out Old Las Vegas and enjoying the luxuries of a hotel room… nothing too exciting.

The Venetian
The Venetian

Should be the name for allot of American restaurants haha


The more time I spend in Vegas the weirder the whole concept gets, the Casinos are massive and completely fake (everything is pretty much molded plastic), the whole place only exists for gambling and entertainment and all I can think is why?!?

Zion National Park

I would almost go as far as to say that Zion has been my favorite Park So far. It’s unique geographical formations create a variety of landscapes with amazingly varied colours, it was a truly awe inspiring experience.

I drove in from the east entrance, (which I highly recommend) it takes to through these amazing sandstone mountains that have been carved over time to almost look like sand dunes with these unique patterns, the famous checkerboard, the almost slate like looking rock and then the smoother slick rock.

Zion National Park


Then you get to a tunnel through one of the mountains which goes for just over 1 km, when you get to the other side it opens up into to this enormous canyon surrounded by towering sandstone mountains. There are a few switchbacks that take you down into the valley, on each bend are pullouts where you can pull over and spend some time taking in the incredible view. It was here that I learned the tunnel didn’t cut through a mountain but rather skirted just inside one of the enormous cliffs, you could see the periodic widows into the tunnel cut into the cliff face.

Window into the Tunnel
The Great Arch Zion NP
The Great Arch

I stopped at one of the Visitor centers on the way through to get some information, then continued on to my campsite for the night. I was headed for some more BLM land about 15-20 min past the south entrance just before a small town called La Verkin, there are a few dirt roads the criss-cross one another just off the I9 on the left. I found myself a spot, not to far in and set up camp.

What a spot, in the middle of the desert, surrounded by distant mountains, the sun was setting by this stage and was an absolute spectacular view to cook dinner to.

The next morning I woke had breakfast and headed into the park. During the peak season they run a shuttle system follows the virgin river up and down Zion canyon to reduce the tourist congestion, it actually worked really well and was nice to be able to leaver the van in one spot for the day and not worry about finding parks. The first thing I noticed as we headed up into Zion canyon was how different the landscape was compared to the East entrance, allot more greenery along the river and the cliffs had more white to them.

My first stop was number 4 “Court of the Patriarchs’ here it’s a short walk to a viewing are for the Patriachs, three sandstone cliffs named after biblical figures Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Court of the Patriarchs

From there I jumped back on the shuttle and headed for the next stop 5 Zion lodge. Here you can access the trails to the Upper and Lower Emerald Pools. Another pretty easy hike to the lower emerald pool , it is a little harder going to the Upper Emerald, by no means hard but if your not very confident on your feet there’s allot of large steps and slippery sandy rocks. The Lower Emerald pool is not so much a pool but more an overhang where water spills out from above making little waterfalls and some nice vertical gardens.

The upper emerald pool walk takes you past the top of the overhang and then up to the pool where the water comes out of seep springs in the large cliff above.

Upper Emerald Pool Zion

From here I decided to keep hiking to the next stop “the grotto” the trail follows along the the virgin river and then heads up to angels landing which was my next stop.

Angels Landing
View of Angels Landing from the river

The hike to Angels landing was amazing, it starts off pretty easy, similar to the rest of the trail, that is until you hit the base of the cliffs then it turns into some long winding switchbacks where you start to get some spectacular views down the valley.

You then head in-between two cliffs where it flattens out for a bit before getting to some very short and sharp switchbacks that take you up rather quickly.
At the top you arrive at one side of a ridge, this is where it gets fun. The trail then follows a rather narrow ridge-line with quite sharp drop-offs either side, at this point the trail gets pretty congested. If you’re scared of heights prepare yourself, there’s nothing but some chain handrails and narrow sometimes steep two way trails from here on out with drop-offs on both sides. There were allot of people giving up here and turning around or taking extra time to build up courage, so it was slow going which was Ok because it gave me time to take it all in.

At the top the Views were spectacular 360deg up and down the canyon, well worth the hike.

Zion Canyon

The way back down was surprisingly allot easier that going up, on the way up I had thought it would be harder trying to scale down the slippery rocks.

Next I jumped back on the shuttle and headed to Weeping Rock. Another short walk from the shuttle stop to an overhang where water streams out of a seep spring which allows all different plants to grow on the side of the rocks creating the vertical garden.

Weeping Rock Zion


From there it was time to head to the final stop, the Narrows. I think this is the most visited attraction in the whole park, which was apparent when I got off the shuttle, there was certainly allot more foot traffic going in and out of the trail. The narrows trail starts with a maybe 20min on a made path along the Virgin River. At the end I stopped and changed into my other shoes then headed in. The Narrows is a slot canyon that the Virgin River has calved through the sandstone, about 10m wide with 300m cliffs either side at places.

The trail takes you up through the canyon where you wade through the river and along the banks where possible. It was pretty amazing and I could see why it was so popular, it’s a pretty unique experience.

The Narrows - Zion NP

I’m not sure how far up I went, but I walked for about an 1 to 1.5h before I decided to turn around. By this stage in the day I was pretty tired, I had been hiking all day and my feet were hurting from the terrible shoes (Dunlop volleys, I didn’t want to ruin my runners or hiking boots). The hike up the river isn’t very hard, it’s pretty much flat but scrambling across river rocks and through moving water takes a toll on you.

That was my day done, back to the car and back to the same campsite for the night.

I had noticed earlier that my exhaust was sounding different, I guessed all the bumpy dirt roads had possibly dislodged some corrosion from the pipe leaving hole or something, so once I got back to camp I decided to pop my head under and have a look. To my surprise the muffler had completely separated from the rest of the exhaust, not ideal. The muffler was now only hanging on at one end and could easily fall off and possibly cause some damage on the way through and the exhaust gassed were now unloading under the car where I knew there were holes in the floor pan (where the middle captain’s chairs used to bolt to the floor). So the next morning I pulled into an exhaust shop in La Verkin. The sound wasn’t actually that bad from the exhaust without the muffler so I just wanted the muffler removed and a piece welded in its place. When they got under to have a look, the rest of the exhaust was riddled with holes so I got them to just weld a piece on and bring it out in front of the rear wheel a whole $72 it cost me and now I have a van with side pipes sounding like a Camaro haha. Not going to lie I was pretty happy with the new sound, it really unleashed the 350 and I may have driven with the windows down for the rest of the trip to Vegas haha.

Grand Canyon – North Rim

The grand canyon was an amazing site to see, it almost looked fake standing at the top of the rim and looking around. It was also a complete surprise for me, when I thought grand Canyon I did not think Canadian Forrest. When I thought grand Canyon I thought desert, but driving into the North Rim of the Grand Canyon you drive through grassy fields surrounded Forrest and then not long after you go through the entrance gate you are completely surrounded by it. It was a welcome change in scenery.

Drive in to Grand Canyon North Rim

I headed straight for the information centre, I knew that I had to get a permit to do an overnight hike into the Canyon so I wanted to know about that as I was hoping to hike down to the river the next day and stay the night then hike back. Turns out the permits were organised by the back-country office which I had driven straight passed on the way in and I would be pushed to get back to in time before they shut, so I would have to see them in the morning when they opened. While I was there I checked out the canyon viewing area, a short walk from the Visitor center.

Roaring springs Canyon
Roaring Springs Canyon, which I would be hiking down.
looking across at the south rim

Afterwards I headed back outside of the park to the National Forest to find a campsite for the night (you can camp for free in dispersed camping in a NF) the ranger had given me a map of the National forest dispersed camping. Heading out of the National park when you get an intersection with forest road 22 to left and forest road 611 to the right, you can take either of these and find camping, I took the right as suggested by the ranger and followed 611 to forest road 610 which I followed all the way to the end. I’m not sure if I took a wrong turn somewhere, because I was under the impression that I would come out on the edge of the canyon from what the ranger had said, but the road finished still in the forest. The sun was getting low now so I found myself a park and set up camp, there was a fire-pit set-up from a previous camper and being a little cooler here I decided to start a fire. I collected some branches and logs from around the area then used some pine-cones and a clump of the dry ground coverings as kindling. I was amazed and a little bit alarmed at how well the ground coverings lit and started the fire… I had a nice roaring fire, but now was concerned I might start a wildfire so I sat and watched the fire whilst editing photos till it burned down a bit and I then doused it with water and retired to the warmth of the van, it was too stressful with the fire going.

The next morning I woke had breakfast and headed to the Back-country office. The ranger there was extremely helpful, the hikes were actually allot longer than I had expected. He suggested I do the hike I wanted  over 3 days, on the first day hike to the Cottonwood campsite, then use the next day to hike to the river and back, stay the night again at the cottonwood campsite and then hike back to the top on the third, but I wouldn’t be able to start that until the following day as I couldn’t get a permit for that night. So I considered it for a while, but decided to just do a day hike, stay the night again in the forest then check out the other part of the park tomorrow. The ranger also point me in the right direction for the dispersed camping on the rim.

I headed back up to the North Kiabab Trailhead to begin the hike. The Kiabab trail follows the roaring springs canyon in from the north and I believe you can follow it all the way to the south rim.

The first part of the hike is a bunch of sandy switchbacks in the trees, I didn’t really enjoy this part, I hate hiking in sand and there is an overwhelming stench of Mule droppings. Luckily there were amazing views down the valley to distract you a little.

The next section, i like to call the red section, the switchbacks became shorter and steeper, with very little cover form the sun. There wee quite a few people turning around here, I think the ranger who was warning/discouraging people at the spring earlier had got to them. Not me I had only been hiking for about an hour and hadn’t even broken a sweat (figuratively, not literally it was f’n hot down there haha) .

After that the trail flattens out a little more and winds along the edge of the canyon, there are still odd steep parts.

It took me about 2h to get to the roaring springs rest area, here there was a chemical toilet and tapped spring where you could fill up you bottle, the roaring spring itself was pretty amazing. It was roaring out of somewhere in the rocks above and flowing down the rocks to the valley below. I stayed here for a little bit, filled up with water, ate some food and dipped my legs in the spring for a bit. I then continued on down the trail for a bit longer, but decided to turn around as it was getting into the afternoon and I knew the trip up would take a few hours.

Roaring Springs
Roaring Springs
The trail continuing down into the canyon
Looking up Bright Angel Canyon, Roaring springs Canyon to the left
Not that far back….
Another furry friend

 

I didn’t find the hike back too bad, the first part where your winding along the canyon wall you get plenty of relief from the sun which is nice. Once you hit the Red section though you are completely exposed to the sun and all its glory, there are a few small trees/shrubs that you can get a little bit of relief, but not many and they are usually already occupied. I just put my head down and powered through, taking small sips of water along the way, but I knew that there was shade a few k’s up and the trail. I passed quite a few people, including a group I had gone past on the way down who hadn’t made it much further along the trail at all (it had been a few hours) then a little further up the trail nearly at the first spring of the trail I ran into a couple more guys from that group who recognised me, they told me that they had run out of water so were going to get more for the group ( a bit unnerving). Once I got to the spring I waited in the shade for the guys to get there and chatted to an older lady who’s husband had gone back down to take water to another guy who was struggling. When the two guys arrived a few of us donated some water bottles to them, I had my camlebak so just refilled that and gave them my 3 other half liter backup bottles. The rest of the trail went pretty quick, I ended up finishing with the older couple who I had been chatting, so we talked the rest of the way up. Provided a little bit of a distraction from the damn stench of the Mule droppings.

The hike took about 5.5hours, I think my watch said something like 20ks. I really enjoyed it and didn’t find it too hard, but could see how it would catch people out. For one it’s reverse to most hikes, you start at the top and hike to the bottom then have to work your way back up, you also climb up in altitude at the end which combined with exhaustion wouldn’t be a good mix. It is also mostly a very exposed trail so the heat of the sun can easily get to you.

After I got back to my car I headed to the North Rim Campsite to use the showers and buy a Gatorade to get some fluids and electrolytes back into me, before heading back out of the park to find another campsite for the night. Again I went left along forest road 611 but this time I kept right and stayed on 611, heading for saddle mountain overlook. Along the way I ran into a group of you guys who had gotten a flat, so I pulled over and offered some help (I know what it’s like haha), so I helped them change the tyre and they invited me to stay with them, we were both headed to the same place, so I followed them. Not much further along I see some movement in front of their car then bursting out of the forest onto the road comes a herd of bison, they charged across the road into the forest on the other side, it was pretty amazing to see, I never really thought of bison being in a forest. I had seen signs on the grassy plains to watch for bison but hadn’t thought they would be deep into the forest.


After they had cleared out we continued on to the campsite and what a spit, a little further on the forest opened up and we were in a small clearing on the edge of the canyon. There were a few other cars and RV’s around, the best drive up spot was taken, but I found a spot then went and joined my new friends. I couldn’t get my car into where they had set up camp but it was a pretty damn good spot. We had dinner and then played some cards, but some rain came through and ruined that pretty quickly so we retired to accommodation for the night.

Not a bad place to camp and completely free
New friends

The next day I headed back into the national park to check out the other side. There were a few short little walks to some different viewpoints looking over different parts of the grand canyon.

Looking across at Angels Window
View from Angels Window, Colorado River in the distance
Colorado River
To think this little river is mostly responsible for this massive Canyon
Cape Royal Point
View from Cape Royal Point

 

Next Stop Zion National Park.

Page and Kanab

In the morning I checked out Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell. Unfortunately the lift was broken so I couldn’t go down into the power plant, but it was still amazing to see and learn about. Such an engineering feat considering it was built in the 1950’s. I will also be hitting up Hoover Dam so hopefully I can go down into the power plant then.

Glen Canyon Dam

Lake Powell
Lake Powell

The next stop I planned on hiking into The Wave just out of Kanab in Utah after about an hour of driving on red, wash-boarded dirt roads I arrived at the trail-head. There wasn’t allot of information about the wave trail and it was later in the day so I went and asked a couple who had just come out of the trail. They informed me that you had to enter a ballot to hike to the wave, at this point the Ranger turned up. I had a chat to her for a bit, and apparently only 20 people a day can do the wave hike, 10 passes are allocated online months in advance and the other 10 are drawn the day before at 9am bingo ball style. Oops my research, which involved seeing a photo of the wave and its location and thinking that looks cool ill do that, didn’t tell me this, so I headed into Kanab.

On the road to The Wave
View on the Way back out
This little Coyote ran across the road in front of me

As I had a Skype interview in a couple of days and being the biggest town in the area I stayed two nights, it was also the location of the Wave ticket office, so each morning I put my name down but was unlucky :-(.

On the second day I visited Best Friends Animal Society a massive animal sanctuary just outside of Kanab where they rescue animals, mostly dogs and cats. I was hoping to get a bit of a Dog fix, but on the tour you only got to spend time with one dog. The tour was interesting though and inspiring to see what they were doing. They are working with shelters all over the country to try to help reduce the amount of animals going into shelters, as well as leading a no-kill initiative. After that I headed to the Coral pink sand dunes which were these amazing orange-red dunes, I wandered around there for a while before heading back to kanab.

While I waited for my tour at Best Friends I managed to finally snap a hummingbird in action



After my interview the next day I headed to the Grand canyon.

Moab to Page AZ

What a day, in the morning I got up and headed to the Mill Canyon Dinosaur trails. A short drive out of town on 191 you turn off onto Mill Canyon Rd and follow the signs. It was only a short walk from the Car Park to the viewing area where they’ve installed some boardwalks and information boards that highlight some of the prints and what they belonged to. I was surprised at just how many prints there were, it was amazing and pretty surreal to see footprints from Dinosaurs perfectly preserved in what used to be the bed of a spring, it really felt like I was walking with giants.

Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail

Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail

Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail

Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail

Next up was Monument Valley, I didn’t actually go into Monument Valley National Park but stopped off for lunch. Driving in was pretty amazing seeing the massive sandstone buttes rising up from the desert floor.

Monument Valley

Monument Valley

Finally before heading into Page for the night I visited Horseshoe Bend. Wow, what an amazing sight; you take a short hike from the car park over a hill until you come to the outside rim of a massive canyon where the Colorado river wraps around on its self some 300m below making this massive horseshoe, it was an awesome sight to see.

Horseshoe Bend

Me Horseshoe Bend

I then headed into Page to get some stuff and stayed the night on some Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land just outside of Page. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it yet, but you can camp on BLM land for free, there’s a few rules which you can look up and no facilities, but I’ve stayed on it a few times now and it works well. I’ve been using this website to find most of my camping freecampsites.net.

Moab Day 2 – Off-Roading in the Jeep

This morning I didn’t do too much just hung round the hostel and did some work on my laptop until it was time to meet up with Jeff to go 4x4ing. I met Jeff at the gas station just down the road, jumped in the jeep with him and we headed off to the first trail, Devils Gate or Hell’s Revenge.

The Rig
The Rig

To Begin with you climb up the ridge of a Sandstone fin not allot wider than the car with a sharp rather large drop down either side.

Entrance To Hell's Gate
Entrance To Hell’s Gate

The track twists and turns across the slick-rock, with some rather steep ascents and descents It was so much fun and felt completely comfortable and confident in Jeff’s abilities and completely amazed with the Jeeps abilities. At times I was sure the nose was going to plow straight into the rocks, but the nose never touched, some of the climbs I swear were vertical and the jeep just powered along.

Hell's Gate

One of the Climbs, we followed the track to the left… or should I say wall
At the Top - Hell's Gate
At the Top
View from the top - Hell's Gate
View from the top over the Colorado River
Where we were headed next.
A couple of jeeps from one of the Tour companies, you get to follow in your own jeep if you like.
Hell's Gate
Down into Hell’s Gate
And Back up, we skipped Hell’s Gate because jeff didn’t have a spotter and had only done it a couple of times
Going Down
Going Down, told you they got steep
and Back up
Bathtub - Hell's Revenge
One of the Bathtubs, we skipped these also
and Up… yep it’s just a wall!
View from the top
and back down…

You get the idea haha. Next was the Steel Bender track and guess what…. Jeff let me drive it, well he drove the first bit which was just a dirt trail that crisscrossed a stream for a few k’s. When it got to the fun stuff Jeff got out and let me get behind the wheel!! The hardest part at first was keeping a steady speed, every time I hit bumps and the jeep would start bouncing around, my foot would be bouncing on and off the accelerator pedal. Jeff gave me two fixes, first was to use the brakes control the speed (not very good for me as I’m used to a manual, so I’m not very good with the left foot braking) the other to rest the side of my foot on the  sidewall and lever onto the accelerator pedal from there, which helped allot. I think Jeff was pretty impressed considering it was my first time ever offroading. He  even let me do one of the hardest obstacles at the end, up and down which was awesome!!

Why go round when you can go over haha
Very happy man
It makes it very easy to look at where your wheel is going when you don’t have proper doors

Concentration no time to smile.. I’m surprised my tongues not out..
Remember how I said he let me do that hard obstacle at the end… well this is it
Ready to go
Up we go
and Back down