Oh yeah I need my car – the return West and the desert

After a brief return to the East coast, I flew back to Las Vegas where I had ditched my car. I was on the east coast for a few days basically to tell my parents (with my girlfriend…well, fiance at this point in the story) that we were engaged. After just 3 days back on the East Coast, I flew back to Las Vegas to retrieve my vehicle. Luckily I parked Sally in the shade, so the 115 degree Vegas heat wasn’t too hard on her. When I got to the Las Vegas airport, it was 10pm and a chilly 98 degrees.

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Is it really time to go? – One last drive through the Southwest

Waterfall in Orderville Canyon - Zion National Park

After a month and a half of free-spirited travel across the US, through California and the Southwest, I found myself at a crossroads. I could start driving home and hit a few places on “my list” on the road east, or I could take a week to try and squeeze a few more places into the itinerary in the west. There are too many options when it comes to exploring (especially in the US Southwest), so I had to pick a route. I have a friend that grew up in Wyoming (Laramie, not too far from Colorado) and he highly recommended Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s less than 2 hours from Denver, so after I dropped Lily and her parents off at the Denver airport, I decided I had to head west before heading east.

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The return inland – San Francisco to Vegas

Half Dome - Yosemite National Park - 7-31-2019

After almost 3 weeks along the California coast, it was finally time to drive to Vegas. It was a Tuesday and I had to be there Friday morning. No problem! What is on the way to Vegas? Well, Yosemite National Park is on the way (if you take a slightly longer route). Even though I had already visited Yosemite a few weeks earlier, it’s definitely a park where you need to spend more than 1 day. Also I wanted to summit Half Dome; something I was unable to do during my first visit as I did not have a permit (and I didn’t have enough time).

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Let’s keep going – Northern California coast – part 1

Disclaimer

What you are about to read is part 1 of a two-part series. Actually there is so much to write about, I didn’t want you to feel like you were reading a book, so I divided my exploration of “NorCal” into a northbound journey, and the return southbound journey. If you really enjoy this post, and you are thinking to yourself “I just gotta read the second part”, then check out the Northern California Coast – part 2.

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Big trees, mountains, and waterfalls – Central Sierra Nevada

Liberty Cap and Nevada Fall

It seems likes everything is bigger in the Sierra Nevadas. The highest mountain in the lower 48 states is in the Sierras. I think the biggest waterfall in the US is in the Sierras. And the biggest trees (by volume) are in the Sierras. While we were wrapping up our hike in the Hoover Wilderness, I asked the guys if they knew of any place(s) to see nearby after our trip was complete. I think everyone I asked said “Big Trees” at one point. If you haven’t been to the Sierras, you would probably have the same reaction I did: “Big Trees? There are all sorts of big trees.” The Big Trees they spoke of is Big Trees State Park near Murphys, CA. It’s a beautiful park only about an hour or two from where we split off in Twain Harte.

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Cliff notes for Great Basin National Park, the loneliest drive, and the busiest lake

After crossing into Nevada, I stopped at the gas station/hotel/restaurant just over the border. I had about a quarter of a tank of gas left, but the distances around these parts are awfully long. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t stranded in the desert over the next two days. While I was filling up, a bicyclist rolled into the station. I asked where he was coming from and he stated that he was finishing up a 35 mile ride around Baker, his home town. I said that I thought he might be going across the country, although he didn’t have much cargo. He said no way that he would ride on route 50 to Delta (the direction I had just come from). He said that the climbs are long and the ride to Delta is flat and grueling for 40 miles. He had ridden to El Paso before. I’m assuming he did take route 50 to start (it’s basically the only way out of town). It’s funny because once again, this was the route I planned to take via bike. And after the following day driving through Nevada, I can’t imagine biking it.

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Arches National Park, Moab, and crossing Utah in a day

Landscape Arch

I started my day early in an attempt to beat the crowds at Arches National Park. It was still the weekend so I assumed it would be crowded. I drove about 1 1/2 hours from the BLM Westwater campsite to make it to the Arches entry gate around 8:00. I planned on spending only a few hours here. The main attractions are of course the natural sandstone arches, of which there are over 2,000 inside the park boundaries. It’s about a 45 minute drive to get from the park entrance to the far northern end of the park, the location of Devils Garden, which contains a concentration of arches including the iconic Landscape Arch. Of course there are several places to stop along the way to Devils Garden, so it took around 2 hours for me to get there. There are two major offshoots of the main park road. The first offshoot is just past Balanced Rock, the road is about 2 miles long and takes you to The Windows Section where you can see Turret Arch, the North and South Window, and Double Arch. The second offshoot road is a few miles farther down the main road where the primary attraction is the also iconic Delicate Arch.

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Over the Rockies – crossing Colorado through the Mountains (and dunes)

Mount Elbert 6-30-19

The only other time I have visited Colorado was when I changed planes in Denver. Does that count? I only spent about 24 hours in Colorado this time around, but that was enough to make me want to come back very soon. From my Kansas campsite, I took Kansas route 25 to Leoti for some coffee. $1, what a deal! This was one of the few towns on the high plains that actually looked inhabited. Departing Leoti, I turned west on route 96 which parallels the railroad for a good distance.

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The C&O Canal Towpath – biking North in two days

The C&O Towpath (trail) is 184.5 miles long and runs parallel to the Potomac River and the partially-completed Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. It runs from Washington DC to Cumberland MD (it never made it to the Ohio River). I have a history with this trail. On two occasions I have attempted to complete the entire trail from start to finish. Both times I failed due to poor preparation. I was overly prepared this time around.

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