From Mesa Verde to Grand Canyon and Joshua Tree

Trip Start Aug 29, 2012
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Trip End Oct 06, 2012


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Flag of United States  , California
Sunday, September 30, 2012

It is time for some change of scenery. Utah definitely rocked but we feel we need a change. But first we have to go to the post office to pay the fine for speeding. The lady in the post office told us, when she asked what the money-order was for, never to hit the metal with the pedal. A very good advice! So after posting the fine to the Escalantes Justice Court we were on our way again. Leaving the red rocks behind us and going into Colorado. We decided to go to Durango at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. A scenic drive through the mountains, that were already in their autumn colors, brought us to Durango. We found a nice RV park next to the river and after connecting the water and electricity we took the free trolley to downtown Durango. A nice little village with quite some charm. Lots of shops, restaurants and bars / saloons. This attracts tourists but the main attraction is the Durango Steam Train that runs from Durango to Silverton and back. We loved the Happy Hour in the Irish Pub where we had a pint of beer for $2.50! Then for another beer in one of the saloons where it is impossible not to watch one of the many TVs that show either American Football or A Free Fight Game. After that we actually found a restaurant where the service was pretty lousy. Like it was our fault that they brought the first course and the main course at the same time!! Our streaks went under a re-heater and after we finished our first course our mains came back with cold vegetables and a luke warm steak. Time to get the manager. He looked at us like well what's the problem and after we explained the problem he asked so you want a new steak? Hmm well yeah. After a long wait our steaks finally arrived but our mood was running low ;-). No tip this time. We took the Trolley back to the campground and opened a bottle of wine to at least finish the evening in style. Next morning after breakfast we watched the Steam Train run through our Campground! We not only came this way for Durango but also to visit Mesa Verde National Park. Quite a different National Park as this is not about Colorful Rock Formations but about the Cliff Dwellings that the Native Americans (the Ancestral Puebloans) built here. You find these Cliff Dwellings on the whole Colorado Plateau but here at Mesa Verde you get a good impression of these Cliff Dwellings. First you drive up to the top of the Canyon which is a colorful trip as, here also, the autumn colors are plentiful. From the top of the canyon you can see the dwellings under the cliffs. The dwellings were all abandoned around 1300 AD and several theories have been postulated why they were abandoned. We start with a visit to the Spruce Tree House where about 60-80 people lived and ceremonies were held. In order to visit one of the major sites you need to go on a guided tour.  We decided to visit Balcony House. Our Guide Jo had a great sense of humor and the way she explained everything made you want to listen and learn something as well. To get to the Balcony House we first had to descend a 30 meter staircase and then climb upon a 10 meter high wooden ladder to get to the dwelling. Here you get a good impression of how these people lived. There were about 30 - 40 rooms for living, storage and ceremonies, with the cliff as a natural ceiling. They had to climb up onto the top of the canyon where they would grow crops like corn and beans. In order to get out we had to literally crawl on hand and knees through a 20 meter long tunnel that is like 60 cm wide. We just fitted in! These steep ladders and small tunnels made it a good defensive dwelling. Quite an interesting visit and definitely worth the trip. Back in Durango we went to another restaurant (as you can imagine) and had a great meal with a nice cocktail to start, a tasty steak, good wine and great service! This was as far east as we would go on this trip. Next stop is Monument Valley in Arizona, but before we get there we visit the Four Corners Monument. This is the only place in the USA where 4 States (Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico) meet. The road to this monument is a long, barren and desolate road and in the middle of this nothingness there is this tacky place where you have to take a tacky picture with your hands and feet in 4 different states! The drive to Monument Valley is more of these long, long desert roads and then you hit monument valley and get these views of Red rocks that you all know of the movies like all John Wayne westerns, Thelma and Louise and so on. One of the famous stops before we get to Monument Valley itself is the Forest Gump stop. This is where Forest ended his run across America. As Monument Valley is in the Navajo Indian Reserve everything is run by the Navajo.  This is one of the biggest Indian Reserves in the USA. The drive through Monument Valley is not suited for RV’s so we arrange to do a half day tour the next day. On this tour you get to see all the famous red rock monuments like the left and right Mitten, the Buttresses and of course the John Wayne viewpoint. We relax a bit in the afternoon and we even get some rain! First time on this trip that we had some serious clouds and precipitation. The next morning we leave the clouds behinds us when we cross a mountain range and it is blue skies again as we are heading for Grand Canyon. We stop on the way in Cameron Trading Post. You immediately get introduced to the fact that you are going to one of the most popular National Park in the USA. Busloads of people are having a lunch break here and you can buy all sorts of memorabilia in the trading post. We quickly get in the RV again and head to the entrance of the Grand Canyon NP.  You drive over the Colorado Plateau that is covered by pine forests. The first stop in the NP at Desert View and you immediately get this extraordinary view of the Grand Canyon. Especially from the beautifully crafted watchtower the view is overwhelming. There is nothing exaggerated in the name Grand Canyon. Some believe that this was made in 7 days but I’m more of a believer that it took millions of years to shape all this. All of it is shaped by the Colorado River. The river itself is only visible at some points but for the rest you just look at this vast canyon where every layer has its own color. On the way to Grand Canyon Village we stop at some viewpoints and on every stop the views are spectacular. It is hard to describe the Grandness of it all. We find a nice spot on the campground and are met by a family of Elk that decided to have lunch and their afternoon nap at our campsite. The campsites are huge here and you are surrounded by forest. After some relaxing we decide to go for a rim walk. Here they also have these bus services that take you to lookouts and where trails start. So we take the bus that goes along the rim and then walk back along the rim of Grand Canyon back to the main bus stop. From every viewpoint the views are amazing and as the sun is setting the colors are getting more vivid. Just after sunset we arrive at the bus stop and take the bus back to the campground and have a nice cold beer around the campfire. The next morning a family of Mule Deers pass our campsite while we are having breakfast and after breakfast we take the bus to another part of the Grand Canyon for a hike into the Canyon Itself. As it is a reversed mountain hike with first a steep decent and then you hike back up, a lot of people make the mistake of going too far down with not enough water, and as the temperatures are quite high here an average of more than 1 every other day actually dies on these hikes. So as we don’t go on an overnight hike we won’t be able to go all the way down to the Colorado River. But going down into the Canyon is absolutely great. You really get the feeling of the grandness of it all. Totally different than walking along the rim. You really get these 360 degrees vistas of sheer beauty. You can tell that we’ve done quite some hiking the last weeks as going up back to the rim takes as long as going down. Another beautiful day with rewarding views. Next stop is Flagstaff a small town in Arizona. Like Durango quite a nice town but as it has a University you can feel the Student Vibes here. Then on to Sedona.  A beautifully situated village in the hills with colorful red and white rock formations and green valleys. As the hills do have a serene kind of feeling it is not strange that this place is seen as a spiritual center of the world where all energies come together in the so called vortexes. The town is a mix of people that come here to relax, meditate, have their aura picture taken, take spiritual lessons but also a place where the rich and famous have big mansions and tourists like us come to enjoy the landscape. A nice place but we feel that we’ve seen enough red rocks. So on to something completely different. Via Jerome, a nice little town in the mountains where we stop for coffee, we hit the long, bleak desert roads of Arizona again and end up in Lake Havasu City. You might think, Lake Havasu City what is so special about that. Well, it is in the middle of the desert, founded in 1964 when an artificial lake was made here and the Mayor of Lake Havasu wanted something special. As in London the London bridge (not the Tower bridge) was tumbling down and a new London Bridge was needed, the Mayor bought the old London Bridge for $2.5 million, had it shipped in 10.000 pieces and re-erected it here in Lake Havasu City. Quite a weird site in the middle of the desert. As it is again over 40 degrees we decide to stay in an RV camping in Lake Havasu City. Talking about something completely different. At this huge RV park you do not walk to the restrooms or the swimming pool but you take your Quad or car to take you there. In the morning we leave this horrible place as quickly as possible. More desert roads await us with the only excitement on the way are the Dips in the road that feel like a roller coaster. Have to refrain from hitting the metal with the pedal when we go through these Dips ;-). Then we arrive in Joshua Tree National Park and find a secluded spot on a Campsite. Surrounded by Joshua Trees we immediately feel relaxed and this is the perfect place to finish the trip in our RV. We do some hiking in the NP and enjoy these amazingly shaped Joshua Trees.  In the evening we are treated with a full moon rise and that just makes it perfect. Lit by moonlight these Joshua Trees make us even more nostalgic and realize that an end is coming to an amazing 4 weeks in our RV. Sadly we leave our RV behind in Los Angeles. As our hotel is in Hollywood we walk to the walk of fame on Hollywood Boulevard have some drinks and eat some Burritos. In down town LA we visit the Walt Disney Concert Hall designed by Frank Gehry (like the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain). Today we’ll be heading to the beaches of Santa Monica and Venice and then it is back to Amsterdam. I hope you enjoyed the stories and Pictures. We definitely had a great time here in the South West. Until next time.
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erik on

Geweldig wat een mooie foto's en een prachtige reportage. Veel plezier nog.

groeten, erik

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