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$22 a night and had alright reviews.
The Anderson Estates was interesting, it is this massive mansion in the middle of small basic brick houses in a not so fancy area. All the rooms have been filled with bunks, but the strange part is that allot of the original furnishings and paintings and stuff are still in the house. So all the bunks sit about a foot off the wall with these very ornate paintings and mirrors hanging on the walls and statues and things sitting in corners. Overall the it was a pretty nice place, nice big pool in the backyard, a bit of a party hostel though with music pumping out of the stereo into the backyard (I’m not sure how they get away with it as the hostel is surrounded on all sides by houses). It honestly reminded me of a frat house from the movies.
The next morning I got up and after enjoying some free breakfast went off to see some sights. My first stop was Hollywood Boulevard or more importantly the Hollywood walk of disappointment…. I actually don’t understand the hype, the whole thing is trashy, dirty, unorganised and overall pretty unimpressive. I don’t understand why it’s such a big deal to get your star there, but nether the less I wandered up and down looking for names that I actually knew. I also didn’t realise fictional characters could get a stars.
Next stop was the Griffith Observatory; I enjoyed this stop allot more, great views over LA and the Hollywood hills as well some cool things on display. I wish I could’ve seen a show in the planetarium but was meeting up with an old friend from university later.
After that I met up with my mate from Uni who had just recently moved to Redondo Beach, LA. We went out for dinner and drank way too much so I crashed on his couch, I then canceled my reservation at the hostel, for which I got no money back because they came up with some bul#$% 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The drive from Mesa Verde was pretty short only about 2h, I’ve done pretty well this whole trip I think the longest I’ve had to drive in a day is only about 4h.
The landscape was now alot more like I was expecting from a desert and the West haha, red sand with with these amazing red sandstone formations and cliffs rising up out of the ground, cut by water over millions of years. On the way in to town you drive past Wilson’s Arch which is a short stroll from the road so I stopped to have a look, the Arches are pretty amazing.
The campsite I was heading to was just on the other side of Moab. As you’re heading out of Moab towards the arches national park, you turn right down 128 (There is a gondola on the corner) which follows the Rio Grande River through the canyon. Along this road there are a number of self-register first in best dressed campgrounds. The first couple, which are definitely the nicer ones were already full but a bit further down there were some spots free.
These camp grounds were allot more exposed, but you get some shade from the sun in the evenings from the canyon walls. I was still an awesome spot on the river bank with canyon walls soaring above you, was pretty amazing. I set up camp and had some dinner. While I was cooking dinner I could see a few people swimming in the river from the rocks a little downstream. After dinner since it was still pretty damn hot, I decided it might be nice to go for a swim to cool off. So i wandered down and joined them, it was two couples one probably late 40’s the other about my age.We chatted while we swam; Well stood on rocks in the water, the current was quite strong in this section so you couldn’t really swim, but it was still really nice to cool off. We stayed till the light was pretty much gone then headed back out camps while we could still see the way.
The next day I got up and hit Arches national park, again I got in for free, not sure why maybe because they were doing works so a couple of places were shut (usually $25 i think). The only thing I will write about this is I headed straight for the far end of the Park for two reasons; one allot of the people coming in were stopping at the earlier stops and second most of the hiking is at the far end of the park so I wanted to get it out of the way while it was cooler in the morning. Now I’m going to let the pictures do the talking.
After a long hot day in the Park I felt like a refreshing beverage… so I stopped in at the Moab Brewery and had a Beer at the Bar. While I was sitting at the bar a local man came and Sat between myself and another guy, who turned out to be a Kiwi, the Jeff the local guy was amazed that he had sat down between the two of us. So we all got chatting, the Kiwi had shipped his motorbike over from NZ to a place in south america and has been travelling around on it for a few months, Jeff is civil engineer working for KOA campgrounds planning the remodeling and infrastructure of their campgrounds around the stated and in his spare time he goes rock crawling in his modified Jeep. As the night went on and we got chatting more, Jeff offered to take me out 4x4ing in his Jeep if I was around the next day, I was meant to be leaving in the morning but decided to stay as I didn’t want to pass up this great opportunity. That night I actually ended up staying at a Backpackers in town as it was cheaper than camping ($12).