Following on from our time in Colorado with the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, we headed out from the Rockies, travelling west towards Las Vegas for the whole reason we were on this trip; The Amazing Meeting 2013.
Crossing The Rockies
We left our campsite early the next morning (Monday 8th July) and drove west along the 70 for a while before deciding we could take a longer route and cross one of the higher passes – so we headed for Independence Pass.
The driving through the mountains was spectacular. Mountains are my favourite environment, and this drive didn’t let me down. Beautiful mist covered mountain lakes, endless vistas of pine trees, snow drifts scattered around the peaks, and rivers winding their way down spectacular valleys.
We crossed Independence Pass (12,095ft) and then headed down towards Aspen. We ate lunch while browsing over the property market (got a few million to spare for a nice house?) and then headed off again into a drastically different landscape.
The mountains fell away, the green faded away in to browns and reds, and suddenly we were in the desert.
National Parks in the Desert
We camped that night in a cheap campsite just outside of Arches National Park. We got up with sunrise the next morning and got in to the park early. It was spectacular. The landscape, the cliffs, the rock formations. Strolling through the formations was incredible.
Sadly, we didn’t have much time. We had to get moving because we needed to make it to Las Vegas by Wednesday afternoon in order to prepare for my TAM presentation, and it was already midday Tuesday… So we got back in the car and kept driving.
We drove through barren wastelands. Past huge mesas. We almost ran out of petrol at one stage, when every exit ramp clearly stated “No Services”. It was HOT. After a whole week above 8000ft (which is higher than the highest peak of Australia btw) in beautiful moderate temperatures, we were now in 40+C/ 100+F temperatures all day.
We drove through Capital Reef National Park on our way down to Escalante National Park. We hoped to do a short canyon (I am an experienced canyoner in Sydney) in Escalante, but we arrived later than intended and the road to the canyon was very rocky; an hour of shaky car vibrations each way was more than Vanessa and I really wanted to sit through after sitting in the car all day already, so we went straight to our camp site in the Escalante Petrified Forest State Park.
The next day we made an early start and got to Bryce Canyon National Park quite early in the morning. This was the highlight of the entire trip for me. Bryce Canyon is out of this world. If you are ever in the USA, you need to find a way to see it. Sadly, again, we were very limited on time though, so we only got to see two of the view points before we had to head off. But those two view points were enough to leave one strong impression. The otherworldy hoodoos which fill your view all the way out to the horizon, spattered with trees, creates a rich colourful experience, with reds, yellows, oranges, whites, greens and browns. All beneath a beautiful blue sky. Amazing.
From there we drove down to and through Zion National Park. Again, we didn’t have time to actually stop and do anything here, but driving through it was still pretty spectacular. Giant sandstone cliffs, rich with colour again, and covered with intricate erosion patterns made for an endless stream of scenery to look at.
After Zion, there was nothing left to do other than get to Las Vegas.
We met an Australian friend who had spent the last 5 months travelling around the USA in her car just outside of Vegas, and drove together down to the South Point Hotel, where TAM has been held each year for a while now. We checked in, had a very necessary shower, and then took care of a few things with my handouts and meeting up with a few people etc.
The rest of the night was just hanging out with friends and mingling with people in the bar before a good nights sleep in the very comfortable South Point bed.
Part 3 will follow tomorrow!