26th April – 15th June 2012
Sent in by Joan & Malcolm, UK
The beginning of the tour was late at night when we arrived at the hotel in Portland, Oregon. Our taxi driver warned us not to walk out in the area at that time of night. The hotel looked tired and not at all like it had appeared on the Internet. We had booked this hotel because it appeared to be fairly close to the RV pick up depot. We learnt a lesson for future travel that is it is wise to book a hotel which is part of a well known chain of hotels.
The next morning we were indeed able to walk along the pavement to reach the RV depot and meet the very pleasant and helpful owners. The van was good and ready for us and after shopping at a local supermarket (but having to go around twice buying everything we needed) we stayed our first night on a parking area belonging to the RV depot.
On Saturday 28th we got up at 6am and set off along the No. 5 Interstate driving about 270 miles to The Valley of the Rogue State Park for the night, we liked the park so much we stayed there again on our return trip.
Our first visit was to Yosemite National Park driving down a picturesque but narrow road to the campsite which was situated in the bottom of the gorge.
It was the beginning of May and was cold and misty for the start of our climb to the base of the Vernal Falls. The mist caused by the falls made the rocks and steps very wet and slippery and was particularly hazardous coming back down to the trail head. We walked more trails over on “Happy Island” and climbed through the rocks and trees to walk to Mirror Lake.
Each day so far had been pleasantly sunny and warm but cold at night.
At this stage we had not realised how we could use the satellite navigator to direct us to both supermarkets and campsites.
Before we left the next campsite we emptied the waste tanks and filled up with fresh water for our trip across Death Valley National Park. At Stove Pipe Wells in Death Valley there was a shop and a hotel apart from the basic campsite. Of course it was extremely hot but we were able to use the showers in the hotel and had access to the pool.
The next day we woke up just after 6am after experiencing difficulty in sleeping due to the very hot and windy night. We drove to Furnace Creek Visitor Centre and “The Painters Palette” and walked up and along the ridges.
We then drove on to the village of Shoshone the ancestral home of the Shoshone Indian Tribe. The village was very interesting but with a Visitor Centre which dealt mainly with the early European settlers. The campsite was a gem of a site, good pitches and a great swimming pool which we had to ourselves in the afternoon before some village children came to use it.
Although it was very close in distance it was about 10 degrees cooler than in Death Valley. It was another windy night but the temperature was about right for sleeping.
We had been told that the temperature in Las Vegas our next stopover was likely to be 90 Degrees. It was indeed very hot but after a light lunch we walked out onto the Strip. The first evening we had dinner at one of the casinos and the second evening we saw a show.
The next day we drove to Seligman on Route 66 stopping at Hackberry to photograph the old cars then on to the Grand Canyon for a three day visit.
We caught the free shuttle to visit Bright Angel and joined the ranger to hear his talk about saving the Condors and walked the trail to Hermit’s Rest
It was another cold wild night but found that it does get warm quickly after 7.30am.
After riding on the free shuttle we walked down the South Kaibab trail head from 7260 feet to Cedar Ridge at 6120 feet where we stopped for lunch.
With frequent stops for water it took us 3.5 hours walking there and back. The trail follows an exposed ridge line along a north facing wall so we were very pleased to have the use of our boots and sticks.
Our next visits were to Canyon de Chelly and Mesa Verde National Parks to view the ancient cliff houses followed by a visit to Canyonlands National Park staying at the primitive “Horse Thief” campsite. We walked the paths and climbed the rocks to see super views of the Colorado and Green Rivers and Canyon Land.
On to the Visitor Centre at Capitol Reef to book three nights on the campsite and visit the old Quaker Homestead and climb the trails and admire the views.
One afternoon a Humming Bird kept flying right into the van and across to the table. It appeared he was attracted by two large wine glasses which were sitting at the back of the table, we wondered if he could see his reflection in them.
The next day the drive to Bryce Canyon National Park was in extremely windy conditions along the spectacular Highway 12. It continued to be cold, windy and wet so we needed to wrap up warmly for our walk along the ridge from Bryce Point to Sunrise point which we completed in bright sunshine. We walked from Bryce Point on the Peek-a-boo trail joining the Navarro trail, exiting at the Sunrise Overlook on the rim.
It had been another cold night only 2 degrees in the van and the City Water pipe had frozen outside. We were on the shuttle Bus for 9.30am and had started walking from Bryce Point on the Peek-a-boo Trail by 10am. We walked down to the Amphitheatre joining the Navarro Trail and exiting at Sunrise Overlook on the rim. It was an amazing trail with superb clear weather giving amazing vistas of the colourful hoodoos below the rim.
After another extremely cold night we set off to drive to Zion National Park; luckily the weather became noticeably warmer as we approached Zion. When we arrived the temperature had risen to 34 Degrees; we drove through the park to Springdale where we had pre-booked a campsite.
We enjoyed a much warmer night and were up early and were in the park by 9am having caught two shuttle buses to get there. We walked along the river path there and back from the Sawara Temple and then we walked quite a way up the path towards Angel Landing and back to the path leading to the lowest of the Emerald Pools. We then walked along a lower path near to the river; it was very soft sand, aptly named Sandy Beach Trail.
It had been a warm night but when we left the campsite at 7.50am it was cool and overcast. So we walked up to Angel landing in the shade about a 1000 feet climb. We did not go up the cliff climb of the last 200 feet using chains in the rock face; leaving that challenge to the youngsters. We bought some hand cream on the way back to the campsite as both our hands were cracking in the extremely dry temperature
Next to Boulder Beach campsite at Lake Mead, where we had to have the air conditioner on all the time as it was 35 degrees in the van! It was a very hot night with people talking outside until 1am. This was unusual as we had found that most Americans went to bed early and got up early.
It was 26 degrees when we got up at 7am so the air conditioning went on immediately.
It was now the beginning of June when we stopped to view the old mining town of Calico a ghost town near to Barstow. It was very interesting but it was extremely hot as of course we were in the desert and walking out of the air conditioning in the van. Our drive continued through the desert at first but as we progressed further into California the land became more fertile with fruit trees and flowers. Our drive to Monterey along Highway 1 was along a narrow winding road adjacent to the beach. It had been a difficult drive in heavy rain along the cliff road which was being repaired in many places.
We walked into the town to visit the Aquarium; at one point we found ourselves on the wrong side of a very busy dual carriageway. As we had noticed previously American drivers are very considerate to pedestrians and when a driver noticed we wanted to go over to the other side he actually stopped to allow us to cross over. We wondered if the drivers thought it was better to allow us to cross in case we might unexpectedly run out in front of them!
It was an amazing aquarium with huge tanks and fish both local and tropical. I particularly liked the Sea Horse Section.
We found after leaving Monterey it was a difficult drive along Highway 1 with many hairpin bends going up and down hills along the cliff road. At the bottom of the hills close to the beach we were interested to see signs saying “Tsunami Risk Area”
Once again there were many road works and it was a difficult drive through San Francisco to the Golden Gate Bridge.
We continued to drive again along Highway 1 to Russian Gulch State Park, a pleasant scenic drive along the coast. After lunch we walked 2.6 miles up to a very pretty waterfall and back to the site. On the last mile up through the woods we were surprised to see a sign warning about the presence of Mountain Lions, I think we would have been lucky to have a sighting.
Another walk was along a Headland which was completely covered with many varieties of wild flowers and also had a bore hole named “The Devil’s Punchbowl” but as it was not rough or high tide it was very quiet.
We continued to travel up Highway 1 deviating to go through the Redwoods National Park travelling through “The Avenue of the Giants”. We were well on our way back to our final destination at the RV depot in Portland, Oregon.
We travelled 4624 miles using 359 gallons of fuel at 12.83 mpg and visited 28 campsites situated in 7 different states; Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado and Utah. The sites were mainly on National Parks, State Parks or KOA sites. We liked all the sites in the main but were disappointed on some occasions because of the lack of facilities. The weather was extremely changeable ranging from 2 Degrees at Bryce Canyon to 40 Degrees at Death Valley. On reflection we considered it was mainly sunny and warm, sometimes hot, often windy but with very little rain. We experienced many cold nights but the temperature soon recovered as soon as the sun rose in the sky. Our clothing was mainly tee shirts and shorts; on occasions we needed our light fleeces, our waterproof jackets and light windproof jackets. We only wore about a third of the clothes we took with us and had very little use of our more dressy clothes. We always wore wide brimmed hats when we walked out in the sunshine to protect ourselves from skin damage. The other thing we both wore were the American neck scarves which absorb and hold water when they have been left in soak for a sufficient length of time. This water then evaporates during the day helping to keep one cool. We did not eat out hardly at all mainly because we were on our own and also because we did not like the food on offer which was unhealthy fast food. Luckily I like cooking and do not find it a chore. The National Parks we visited met our expectations for the amazing scenery and opportunities for exploring and walking. We considered that they were much busier than on our previous visits, with people from all over the world particularly from Japan and China. The State Parks were much less busy and they offered better amenities on their campsites. The American people were very welcoming and helpful to the British visitors. To us it appeared there were now fewer differences between us and them. This could be that we have become more widely travelled since our visits there fourteen and six years ago. The van rented to us by was presented in excellent condition; the staff members were extremely helpful and friendly. For our RV we had chosen to rent a 19 feet compact coach built version thinking it would be easier to drive. But it took great concentration to keep it going in a straight line. Our opinion was that it should have had double wheels at the rear of the vehicle.