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Day 232/3, 28Feb/1Mar 09: US parking Part 3: Grand Canyons & Joshua Trees

March 2, 2009 by , 2,622 views 
Filed under Arizona, California, Trip reports, USA

We had a nice breakfast with Fanny & Didier and then finally said goodbye for real (this was the 3rd time), as they would fly back to Switzerland that day.

We went to the edge and viewed down the Grand . It is one of the world’s most famous and visited tourist attractions, with more than 5 million visitors each year (most of them from the US). It is something that many people put on their ‘bucket list’, but after looking down into the void, we both thought the same. ‘Is that it?’

Grand Canyon (6)Don’t get me wrong, it is an amazing place. The gorge (with the Colorado River flowing through) is 1800m/6000ft deep and the other Rim (closed for winter) several miles away.

There are many beautiful rock formations everywhere, and different light creates different colours all the time.

But maybe because of the size we both felt like we were on a mountain looking down and towards another mountain. We both have climbed many –higher- mountains and 1800m drop was maybe therefore not so impressive.

Desert View Watchtower, Grand CanyonMaybe it was just the Grand name of the place, but we both agreed that Bryce canyon and the Horseshoe Bend were far more impressive places.

We headed to the visitor centre and then decided to simply see all the famous spots along the Canyon Rim. The Grand Canyon is most developed on this Southern side and a nice windy road curves along its edge, passing forests where elk roam free.

Photographers waiting for sunset, Grand CanyonWe spent some time in the old Watch tower, headed into the main lodges (where there was free Wi-Fi!) to Skype my mom for her b-day and then went to see the sunset that never really came in the western end of the route, the Hermit’s Rest.

Grand Canyon (2)
Grand Canyon (10)

Grand Canyon (8)
Grand Canyon (1)

Us in Grand CanyonWe decided not to stay another night in the park and took the main road out. It was still off-season, but there was a long row of cars, I can not imagine how busy these roads must be in summer…

After a few hours in the dark I had enough of driving and just off the ‘hysterical Route 66’ we asked the manager in a local Subway shop (we are still in the $5 footlong season :)) where we could pitch our tent. She said that we could drive down a dirt road and pitch our tent ‘anywhere after the 2nd cattle guard’.

Ivana, Grand CanyonWe headed into the dark middle of Nowhere, parked our car and pitched our tent next to the road in a grassy patch. In the middle of the night some cars passed which made us quite comfortable. It was weekend, the cars –all trucks- were doing at least 80 miles per hour and we were in the middle of Redneck country were, according to many people we had talked to, guns were more present than common sense…

1st march 2009: Wonderful desert in Joshua Tree

We made it through the night without any bullet holes, packed our tent and headed further west. Route 95 South was like a miniature rollercoaster, and only 2 lanes wide. We passed a cyclist heading our way, but due to heavy traffic, there was no place we could safely stop –let alone turn- to share some food and water, so we continued through the dry desert.

Joshua TreeWe arrived in a small town with the interesting name ‘Twentynine Palms’ (we spotted more) where we took the detour through Joshua Tree National park.

It basically is a high desert zone, named after the most common plant to be found here, the Yucca Brevifolia, better known as the Joshua Tree. Made famous by Anton Corbijn for the U2 album with the same name, it is an impressive plant. Not 2 are the same and it takes decades, centuries or even millennia to grow full size.

There are concerns about the future of the plant as climate change might make it too hot for the plant to grow, at least in most of the park.

I really enjoyed this place. Ivana liked it as well, but did not find it so special, but I could not get enough of walking around the desert sands, checking the different , scrambling up rocks, and watching rock climbers climbing the bigger ones. Not sure what, but something about the park is very peaceful and much more fulfilling than the Gran Canyon had been…

here is a photographic impression of the small park. As always (if you read this on the website and not in the newsletter): click for an automagically enlarged version on your screen. If you get bored by plants or trees (or photos in general), I suggest you scroll down a bit 😉

Joshua Tree NP (9) Joshua Tree NP (10) Joshua Tree NP (11) Joshua Tree NP (12) Curvy Trees ahead Joshua Tree NP reflectionJoshua Tree NP (2) Climbers in Joshua Tree NP Skull Rock, Joshua Tree Joshua Tree NP Joshua Tree NP (4) Joshua Tree NP (8)Joshua Tree NP (6)

One more night of luxury: Palm Springs

The Springs Hotel, Palm SpringsAs mentioned in a previous post: I had traded some writing and photography for hotel nights, and we still had one ‘left’. We had contacted the Springs hotel and we were all set for a nice night in the hotel in Palm Springs.

once we dropped down across the San Andres fracture -that is actually visible here- into Palm Springs, we were happy to see the desert filled with hundreds if not thousands of wind turbines harvesting the energy of the desert wind.

The place itself was a bit deserted, and many restaurants were closed, but the room was great and the pizza from around the corner tasty and spicy, a perfect ending to a great road trip.

On a bicycle alone we would never have seen all of these natural wonders, though it would make a great bike trip on its own. Hope you enjoyed the images and get to visit these places yourself one day.

Wind power, Palm Springs (2)Wind power, Palm Springs

Next report coming up soon:

Back in LA, time to pack the bikes and head down South again: From Los Angeles to San Diego, getting close to the border with Mexico…

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