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August 09, 2003

South-Western Loop - Bryce Canyon National Park

Saturday - I'm heading up North from Kanab to Bryce Canyon National Park. The rock formations in Bryce are nothing but surreal.

After a very dry week, I'm finally getting in contact with moisture again. Bryce (highest elevation 9115ft - 2778m) is the edge of a high desert plateau, featuring rain showers and thunderstorms.

Hiking the Amphitheatre, I take a half hour break under a rock formation shielding me from the rain. Then, the sun is back up to illuminate the trail.

I spend the afternoon on the road traveling the southern half of the park. The returning thunderstorm makes me feel somewhat uncomfortable on the Bristlecone Loop trail. I assume mine is one of the faster laps that was done here so far...

Back in Kanab, there's Filet Mignon for dinner. The Rocking V Cafe looks unspectacular, but garnishes the exceptional food with an art gallery and live music. A must visit combination.

Posted by Uli at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

August 08, 2003

South-Western Loop - Zion National Park

Zion 2003 Gallery LinkA complete day in Zion, probably the most impressive National Park in the whole southwest.

I woke up with a bad headache, but from there things really started to get better...

My choice for the planned day hike falls on the first part of West Rim Trail leading to Scout Lookout.
Angels Landing, the trail that goes up further from Scout Lookout, seems out of reach. Why? Because of my fear of heights.

Lunch break at Scout Lookout. Time to enjoy the sandwich I brought up from the Zion Lodge. The Castle Dome Cafe is to recommend for a simple meal. Except for the fact that it is closed after season. In that case, you'll have to stick with crackers.

I feel adventurous. The images of the Angels Landing trail I saw at the Visitors Center where somewhat scary, but even more fascinating. I decided to go for it.

The Zion visit ends with the Canyon Overlook Trail and a brief stop at the Checkerboard Mesa.

Reaching the base camp for the weekend in Kanab. If you want mediocre dinner, eat at the cowboy-styled diner at the southern end of Kanab.

Posted by Uli at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

August 07, 2003

South-Western Loop - Las Vegas to Zion

Enough civilisation for now, leaving Las Vegas for Zion National Park.

A slight detour allows for visiting the Hoover Dam, a miracle of modern engineering.

The Shoreline of Lake Mead is the backdrop for getting to Interstate 15, the road to Utah.

Reaching Springdale, UT, the town at the gate of Zion after a 3 hour drive. I take a first little trip through the park after booking a nice room at the Driftwood Lodge. The day ends with a delicious dinner, local rainbow trout.

Posted by Uli at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

August 06, 2003

South-Western Loop - Santa Cruz to Las Vegas

Yesterday was dedicated to more work. I finally wrapped up and hit the road at 8 p.m., reaching Bakersfield after 3.5 hours of driving. Don't try to stop in Bakersfield for anything else than sleeping, you'd waste your time.

Wednesday, August 6 - back in holiday mode, finally.

Heading north towards Death Valley National Park. I stop in Lone Pine at the intersection of Highway 395 and 136 to take a brief look at the highest mountains in the contiguous 48 states. Mt. Whitney is the top of the Sierra Nevada with 14494 feet.

Then Death Valley in the height of the summer, yay! Leaving the car is like holding your head under an industry strength blow dryer. The car industry uses one of the hottest spots on earth to test heat resistance. A camouflaged van with Detroit license plates proves that fact.

I'm reaching the visitor center in the late afternoon. At 5 p.m., the thermometer still shows 114 degrees. This is wild. Before leaving, a hike in Golden Canyon features colorful rocks and dramatic desert views.

Now heading towards Las Vegas, NV. The gambling paradise is well booked this night. No luck at the Luxor. However, after searching for a while, the MGM Grand offers a suite in the newly renovated Grand Tower at $100.

My first night in Vegas, and I don't play a single cent...

Posted by Uli at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

August 03, 2003

South-Western Loop - Highway 1 North

Sunday requires a route change, I need to get back to the office to finish some work. On the bright side, this is the opportunity to finally do the complete trip on Highway 1 from LA to Santa Cruz, something I always wanted to do.

Traffic is great until LA - then, all hell breaks loose. I get caught in one non-stop congestion from downtown LA to Santa Barbara. Yikes. Never do this on a Sunday, OK?

I'm skipping the stop in Santa Barbara to make up for lost time, although the city is reportedly a very nice one. Just northwest of Santa Barbara, that's where Highway 101 is most beautiful. Highway 154 through the mountains is a shortcut that offers the same magnificent views, it requires about the same time. I'm stopping in Pismo Beach to say goodbye to SoCal.

Now on Highway 1, one of the world's prettiest roads. If you can choose the direction, do it from North to South. Otherwise all the turnouts will be on the left side, the reason being that you drive on the cliffs high above the ocean for most of the time.

After 12 hours, I made it back in Santa Cruz for the night. Tomorrow is going to be a holiday break and a normal work day.

Posted by Uli at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

August 02, 2003

South-Western Loop - Joshua Tree National Park

Moving on to the desert, entering Joshua Tree National Park at 29 Palms. Joshua Tree features the cacti that gave the park its name (and many others) in a world of granite rocks.

I'm staying over in Palm Desert close to Palm Springs, where Dinner waits in a nice mexican restaurant. I enjoy the hotel pool afterwards, it is still a whopping 92 degrees outside - several hours after sunset.

Posted by Uli at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

August 01, 2003

South-Western Loop - San Diego

Starting the trip in San Diego. Since it is post-SIGGRAPH, Daryl is still around. We're driving up north on the coastal highway to Del Mar. A day at the races...

Del Mar racing club hosts the Four o' Clock Friday to attract a new crowd. $5 general admission, including a concert. Ziggy Marley enters the stage for a magnificent Reggae session after the horse races. We drive back to San Diego afterwards for a Persian cuisine dinner. Afterwards, I pick up my rental car and spend another night on San Diego's hotel circle.

Posted by Uli at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)