A Travellerspoint blog

USA - Denver & Manitou Springs

overcast 25 °C

We left Yellowstone driving south and spent our first night at a truck stop (!) before driving onto Denver the following day. The truck stops are set up for the long-haul truck drivers, but welcome camper vans. It was well set up with a salad bar, access to toilets, showers and other facilities which made it quite comfortable.

After our night with the truckies, we had to get our car fixed as we’d had a problem with the heater core. It took a lot of phone calls to find somewhere available with the approaching 4th of July holiday weekend! Luckily we found a good mechanic who was able to fix it for us in a day, and we headed into Denver in the late afternoon. There was a lot going on, and it seemed like a cool city to spend some time. We loved the sculpture of the giant blue bear peering into the Colorado Convention Center!

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The following day we drove south to Manitou Springs, a cute touristy spot filled with cafes and shops, which was shrouded in mist during our visit! Nestled in the base of the Southern Rocky Mountains, Manitou Springs has 11 spring water pumps dotted around the streets providing access to the natural spring water under the ground. The town also boasts a red cog train which climbs its way up to 4,300 meters to the summit of Pikes Peak.

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Posted by TheNomadWay.com 01.07.2014 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

USA - Yellowstone National Park

semi-overcast 21 °C

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Just a little higher in Wyoming's north eastern corner is Yellowstone National Park, home to the Yellowstone Canyon, Bears, Wolves, Bison and all sorts of geysers! We camped in the middle of the National Park, and spent our first day exploring the canyon and nature spotting. We really didn't have to try too had, as we drove along the winding road we saw so much wildlife. Many Bison, which are Buffalo-type animals, with hefty bodies and sharp looking horns. Herds of Elk with beautiful antlers were roaming the meadows, and a few small calves. We also spotted some bears and cubs, very close to the roadside - we were very glad to be in the protection of a car! And a range of wolves, coyotes and foxes.

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Yellowstone holds half of the earth's geothermal features and the following day we explored the erupting geysers, hot springs, bubbling mudpots, and steaming fumaroles. We were lucky enough to see some of the large geysers erupt, showering steam up 30-60 meters into the air. Boardwalks wind over the bubbling land, giving great vantage points, where you can hear the hissing and bubbling of the ground below, sending over wafts of sulphur! Yellowstone is a strange and wonderful place, so different from the other national parks we've visited.

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Posted by TheNomadWay.com 29.06.2014 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

USA - Grand Teton National Park

semi-overcast 22 °C

We drove north out of Utah and the scenery started to change from dry red rocks, to lush green hills. The Grand Teton Mountain range protrudes out of lakes and meadows, a beautiful sight.

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The first day the mountains were shrouded in rain clouds, but we returned to see them in sunshine, and what a majestic sight they are. Lakes and rivers wrap themselves around the foothills and make for some beautiful walking in the area. Sitting at higher altitude, the weather was much cooler, a welcome change from the scorching 35° c days we had in southern Utah!

Posted by TheNomadWay.com 26.06.2014 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

USA - Salt Lake City, Utah

Salt Lake City is in Northern Utah nestled next to the Great Salt Lake. Originally founded by The Church of Jesus Christ, Latter Day Saints (Mormans) in 1847, Salt Lake City has a large central plaza called Temple Square that is dedicated to the religion and houses some extravagant buildings. The centerpiece is the Temple and Morman headquarters of the world. Tourists are welcomed to the plaza complex, however are unable to enter The Temple unless members of the Mormon Church, there are however many other parts to visit. The convention center was pretty impressive, with a seating capacity of 22,000 and 3 acres of gardens on the roof! As for their beliefs...interesting but we left feeling a little jaded.

Dinner on our first night was an experience as we went to Lucky 13 Bar and Grill, a place famous for its burgers! Actually world famous, the won the prestigious award of 'Worlds Best Burger' in 2013. We are yet to really experience the USA's famed gigantic foods so when Paul read that they also do a big burger, off we went. The 800 gram 'Big Benny' in the photo below.

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We stayed with a great Airbnb host here, Travis who was very welcoming and down to earth. We drove east to visit the Bonneville Salt Flats, where they race cars and achieve land speed records with all types of vehicles. Although there was no car racing while we were there, as the salt flats were too wet, it was pretty amazing to see the expanse of salt, reminding us of our time at the Bolivian Salt Flats.

Antelope Island sits in the Great Salt Lake, and is 15 miles long and home to a large number of wildlife, including Bison, Elk, Bighorn Sheep and Pronghorn Antelope. Surrounded by the high content of salt creates an interesting environment. Ranches were operating on the island in the 18-1900’s. Fielding Garr Ranch was a sweet old Ranch we were able to learn the way an old American farm was run.

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Posted by TheNomadWay.com 25.06.2014 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

USA - Canyonlands, Utah

sunny 28 °C

Last of the Utah big 5, Canyonlands is unofficially the start of the Grand Canyon. The Colorado and Green Rivers meet in the middle of the National Park, and lead down through Grant Canyon and into The Grand Canyon. There are definitely similarities with Canyonlands boasting crumbly terraced red rock walls on a very large scale. The rivers divide Canyonlands into three sections, we visited the ‘Island In The Sky’ named so because it is the highest section and overlooks the rest of the park.

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‘The Maze’ section is Canyonlands at its wildest, a 30-square mile puzzle of jagged sandstone and one of the most remote parts of the nation, due inaccessibility. And ‘Needles’ the third section of the park, is full of orange rock Hoodos and Arches. We spent our time walking the cliff trails, with great views and after learning about ‘buttes’ ‘mesas’ and ‘fin’ rock formations it was time to hit the road and bid farewell to Utah’s spectacular National Parks.

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Posted by TheNomadWay.com 22.06.2014 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

USA - Arches National Park, Utah

sunny 32 °C

Another scenic drive took us across Utah towards Arches National Park. We stopped off at Kiva Koffeehouse for lunch. Situated in The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument on Hwy 12, it’s a small family run café with panoramic views over the beautiful valley.

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We camped in Moab, just outside of Arches and spent a day exploring the many views and walk on offer in the National Park. There are 2,000 rocky red arches dotted throughout the park, formed by unusual erosion processes, it’s just a matter of finding them! In the 35+ degree celcius temperatures, we decided to skip the ‘Firey Furnace’ a square mile of jagged rocks you can get lost in for hours, guided tour reccomended.

Our favourite arches were north and south Arch, with gorgeous views behind, as well as double arch. Paul was in his element afterwards as he rode his mountain bike off into the sunset on some slickrock trails just outside of Moab. They rate them as the worlds best trails!

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Posted by TheNomadWay.com 22.06.2014 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

USA - Bryce National Park, Utah

sunny 29 °C

A scenic drive east of Zion is Bryce Canyon. In contrast, Bryce is full of ‘Hoodos’ which are stone pillars shooting out of the ground, made from orange and white rock. These Hoodos were originally part of the seabed millions of years ago, and the soft sandstone has now been uplifted and eroded in a certain way, leaving the tentacle appearance. Watching the sunrise over Bryce Canyon really highlighted the orange and red colours, although it was a little bit of a struggle getting up especially with the hour time difference in Utah! We then hiked down into the canyon through the surreal landscape of Hoodos, which were great to see up close.

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Posted by TheNomadWay.com 20.06.2014 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

USA - Zion National Park, Utah

Utah has the 'Big 5 National Parks' dotted throughout the south, the first one we visited was Zion, in southwestern Utah. A highlight of Zion National Park is its Canyon, which is 24 km long and up to 800 m deep. Zion gained it’s name from the early Mormon Settlers, who arrived and proclaimed the land was holy. It's now visited by 4 million people each year.

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Zion Canyon is characterized by waterfalls, pools, narrow canyon passages and dramatic sheer red cliffs, which have been carved out over years by the Virgin River. The guided shuttle bus made the park easy to access, and we loved the weeping wall, where the water pressure builds up inside the rocks and seeps out creating a gentle waterfall we could stand behind!

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Posted by TheNomadWay.com 19.06.2014 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

USA - Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

The landscape between Page and Zion National Park only got more amazing, we felt like we were in the Wild West with red rocky formations protruding out of the desert floor. We stopped off to see ‘The Toadstools’ a short hike into a valley full of odd shaped rocks somehow balancing precariously.

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Then we drove into the southern side of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument where the ghost town of Paria lies. Used as an old set for Country Western movies, it was such a beautiful place to see, with different shades of colour through the rocks ranging from purple, green and red.

After a year of busing through South America, we’re really enjoying the luxury of travelling with a car, being able to stop when and where we want.

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Posted by TheNomadWay.com 17.06.2014 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

USA - Page, Arizona

sunny 34 °C

We left the Grand Canyon and headed northeast towards the Utah border. We have heard great things about the National Parks in Utah and are pretty keen to check them out! The expanse of red desert, rock formations and canyons continued and our next stop was Page on the border of Arizona and Utah.

Page turned out to be a gem of a place to visit with lots nearby to explore! Glen Canyon, which leads into the Grand Canyon, winds its way through the valley here and ‘Horseshoe bend’ gave us great views of the deep canyon chiseled out by the Colorado River below. Glen Canyon Dam further upriver, dams the Colorado River before it enters the Grand Canyon and generates power for the region. This has created Lake Powell, a large lake in amongst the red desert and rock, now a holiday spot for boaters and families!

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The highlight of Page was Antelope Canyon. In order to see the canyon we had to take a guided tour as the area is prone to flash flooding. It was amazing, we spent an hour winding our way along the beautiful red rock canyon, just under the ground, with orange hues with bursts of sunlight pouring through.

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Posted by TheNomadWay.com 17.06.2014 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

USA - The Grand Canyon, Arizona

sunny 25 °C

We drove out of Las Vegas and left the neon lights behind us. Altitude increased as we climbed onto the Colorado Plateau, a large area of land uplifted thousands of years ago which led us into the The Grand Canyon.

The Grand Canyon used to lie under the sea, and plate activity has gradually lifted it up 2,000-3,000 m above sea level. The Colorado river has then sliced it's way through the soft red rock, eventually creating the canyon. Walking up to the edge of the canyon is flat land, you wouldn't even know it existed until arriving at the edge, where the land just dropped away from our feet.

We learnt a lot from the super Park Ranger talks on offer, our favorite program was stargazing on the edge of the Grand Canyon at 10 pm. It was a beautiful sight to see so many stars in the dark sky, and a little scary to learn how much light pollution there is throughout the world.

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The Grand Canyon is a beautiful sight, so large it's difficult to comprehend. The red colour of the rocks came alive during the two sunsets we watched. We did some walks along the rim, which are easy to access and gave great views! A close call after getting charged at by an Elk made sure we stayed to the path and became very cautious!

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Posted by TheNomadWay.com 15.06.2014 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

USA - Las Vegas, Nevada

sunny 37 °C

We waved goodbye to the beautiful West Coast and drove inland towards the desert....

After several hours driving across the desert we crossed into Nevada, the home of giant casinos and the land of gambling (or 'gaming' as it's called here) and we were greeted with a casino on the boarder! We rolled into Las Vegas in the evening, and saw ‘the strip’ lit up in all its neon glory. Vegas really is a mirage in the middle of the desert, a hub that’s risen out of the sand, full of extravagant casino buildings, hotels, shopping strips, resorts. It’s pretty hard to imagine until you’ve been and despite our pre-conceptions we loved it!

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This time of year accommodation with air conditioning (and a pool) is essential. We stayed at a great spot on the north end of 'The Strip' of Casinos. We rested during the hottest part of the day and spent the warm evenings exploring 'The Strip'. There are numerous large casinos each based on a different theme, with extravagant interiors and exteriors, such as The Venetian with canals and Gondolas running through the inside of the Casino! The Mirage, appropriately named as a mirage in the desert, has a light show every half hour in the evening. And the Bellagio has a water show also running frequently during the evening. 'The Strip' also features the Eiffel Tower, Egyptian Pyramid, and New York, New York Casinos (complete with a Statue of Liberty).

We aren't big fans of gambling, but found there was still plenty to see and do. There are large number of shows on offer, high end shopping, resorts and pools galore and being the happy go lucky man he is, Paul won a a suited black jack, scoring a free ride on the High Roller ferris wheel! The nights escaped us and we found ourselves walking home as the sun came up two nights in a row...

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Posted by TheNomadWay.com 14.06.2014 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

USA - Los Angeles, California

sunny 28 °C

California is a pretty interesting state to visit as there is a large Latin American influence and many people speak in Spanish. California was originally colonized by Spain (who also colonized most of Latin America) and built a string of religious Missions along the coast in the 1500's. This was followed by Mexican rule until California became part of America in the mid 1800's. LA is a diverse city comprising of many contrasting suburbs, and it's hard to believe they are all part of the same city.

We stayed in an apartment we booked via Airbnb in West Hollywood, a short stroll away from Hollywood Boulevard and not so far from the infamous hilltop sign. This area has a retro, dated feel, and lots going on. After exploring the Hollywood Walk of Fame we had dinner in a fun 1960’s diner (they even had a veggie burger for Lucy).

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Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive are where the rich and famous live, Paul and I felt a little bit like impostors walking along here! Paul was pretty excited by all the supercars in a three block radius. And a trip to LA wouldn't be complete without going to see the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, we found the mansion but unfortunately Will Smith was out! There are so many extravagant mansions this side of LA, housing the stars of Hollywood.

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Santa Monica Pier situated on the large and popular beach, was a beautiful spot to visit in the evening and a little more down to earth than the Beverly Hills side of town. The warm night air had lots of people out, wandering down and fishing off the pier and almost everyone speaking in Spanish. We almost felt like we were back in South America again. A stroll down third street promenade meant a giant martini was on the cards...strawberry and mango - very delicious!

A visit to Universal Studios was a great day, which comprised of a Studio Tour and theme park entry. The studio tour was great, we even saw some sets we recognised (!) The theme park incorporated recently released movies with state of the art rides and 4D technology. For people who aren't big theme park lovers, we loved it! Disneyland was our final stop in LA, known as the 'happiest place on earth,' after some more rides and beautiful weather, the evening water show and fireworks finished the day nicely!

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Posted by TheNomadWay.com 11.06.2014 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

USA - Monterey Big Sur and the California Coast

overcast 25 °C

After picking up a new battery for the car (yes two jump starts in two weeks wasn't a good sign) we drove back out to the coast we arrived in Monterey, a holiday destination to many San Franciscans, and home to the famous Pebble Beach golf course situated on the edge of the ocean. Along with the golf course there is a scenic 17-mile drive with great views over the coastline and some Sea Lions, Cormorants and Elk along the way.

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Big Sur National Park was our next stop, a beautiful part of the Californian coast, where green hills drop down to cliffs with the open ocean below. We camped in a gorgeous National Campground in Big Sur and then made our way further south. This time of year there is often a haze over the coastline and we were lucky it lifted at times for us to enjoy the view and see the beautiful road we were travelling along. Piedras Blancas is a protected beach for Elephant Seals, which are slowly regaining their numbers after being close to extinction in the 1990’s. They are massive and the males usually grow up to 5 meters long weighing over 2 tonne!

We made our way further down the coast and camped on the beach that evening, it was a peaceful way to fall asleep listening to the waves.

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Posted by TheNomadWay.com 04.06.2014 17:00 Archived in USA Tagged coast california sur big monterey Comments (0)

USA - Yosemite National Park

sunny 27 °C

Yosemite is a beautiful National Park, sitting like an oasis in the middle of dry, central California. Large granite boulders and cliffs characterize the park, which were formed by molten lava trapped beneath the earth’s crust thousands of years ago. During the ice age a glacier carved a deep path and exposed the smooth granite, leaving behind a beautifully sculpted valley.

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We camped for three nights and explored different parts of the National Park. The valley has a river running through the base and one of the hikes involved walking up the valley side, for great views down. The north side of the park sits between 2,500-3,000 meters in altitude and has flat grasslands which has herds of Elk roaming through at sunset. We did a great hike into a place called Clouds Rest, which took us onto a large granite slab jutting out into the middle of the valley with 360 degree views, very rewarding after the tough climb at that altitude.

On the southern side of the park is another great viewpoint called Glacier Point, we took the easy way out and drove up to this one! Then on to Mariposa Grove which has the giant Sequoia trees, an offshoot of the Redwoods of Northern California. The Sequoia tree doesn’t get quite as tall but makes up for it by being even wider, making them the largest living thing on earth!

During our camping we learnt to be very bear cautious, leaving all our food in bear-proof lockers and not in the car as the bear’s sense of smell is so strong they can break into cars, completely ruining them in search of food. Franklin managed to survive the 3 nights, luckily as we were sleeping inside!

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Posted by TheNomadWay.com 01.06.2014 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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