After Vegas it was time for some fresh air so along with another couple we hired an RV to go exploring.
The first stop was Zion National Park, Utah. After a late start we arrived just before sundown giving us a brief opportunity to visit the park and gather information for the next day. As none of us are big hikers (though it is something Justin and I enjoy from time to time), we agreed to complete a few shorts trails before once again hitting the road.
First we walked the Weeping Rock Trail (0.6km), a short paved trail that leads to a rocky alcove with dripping springs. You will get wet standing under the alcove and watch your step! It can be slippery. Next we walked the Archaeology Trail (0.6km) that starts near the visitor centre. This was a rather disappointing trail and we wouldn’t do it again. It leads to a dirt mound that we failed to see the significance of (sorry). The views of the surrounding canyon however are breathtaking so have the camera handy!
Entrance into the park is USD $25 per vehicle OR if you are visiting several National Park Service locations, we recommend the Annual Pass for USD $80. The National Park Service (NPS) in America also provides a newspaper and brochure at the entrance to each of their parks packed full of site specific information such as hiking guides, points of interest, recreation suggestions and so forth.
RV’s are not allowed inside some areas of the park. A free shuttle service is available however to pick you up and drop you off at several walk trail entry points. Using the shuttle also decreases the impact you may have on the environment. We would also suggest spending more time in the park then we did. Our tight schedule really did not allow us to explore the park as we would have liked to have done.
The next stop was the Grand Canyon – North Rim, open only a few months of the year due to snow. To be honest we were expecting something ‘bigger’ perhaps and it didn’t have the life changing effect on us that it could have. This aside, the lodge here is beautifully dangled over the canyon edge with floor to ceiling windows capturing the stunning vistas. There are several trails and photo opportunities and even a pub, so grab a beer and enjoy the view.
Several hundred kilometres later we arrived in Page, Arizona and made camp along the shores of Lake Powell. The evening was spent building our first campfire and roasting GIGANTIC marshmallows on a roasting fork. In the morning, we joined Chief Tsosie’s Antelope Slot Canyon tour, marvelling at the incredible and beautiful colours of the sandstone as we walked within her walls.
Antelope Slot Canyon is a Navajo Tribal Park and is accessible by permit only. Tours can be purchased in Page and range from roughly $30-$80 depending on what time of day you want to go.
Then it was back in the RV as we headed east towards Colorado via Monument Valley. Having seen an opportunity to stand in 4 U.S States at the one time, we also took a slight 10 mile detour to 4 Corners, a monument to the quadripoint where Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico meet. The locals here have seen an opportunity to make ridiculous money charging USD $5.00 per person to enter the area. Unless you really want a photo of the marker, save your pennies, there are more exciting things you can spend your money on!
We set up camp that night in Cortez, Colorado with the plan to stay two nights. It was quite interesting how quickly the weather had changed during our State hopping. The days here were warm but they were damn near freezing in the evening! Luckily for us, Justin carries a sleeping bag so we barely noticed the cold, unless we had to use the bathroom 200 metres away – that got a little bit chilly!
We used Cortez as a base while we explored Mesa Verde National Park and a small portion of the 4000 archaeological sites and cliff dwellings of the Pueblo people that make this UNESCO World Heritage site so very impressive. What we also found impressive was the price. Park entry is $10 per vehicle (we had our annual pass so this was included) and guided tours of Cliff Palace, Balcony House and Long House will set you back only $4.00 each. Some of the sites are self-guided and free to enter.
Balcony House was definitely our highlight. The one hour tour, noted for the adventurous, requires visitors to climb a 32ft ladder just to enter the site and then crawl (or squeeze) through a 12ft long primeval tunnel before climbing 60ft of open rock face to exit. Appropriate foot wear is recommended and if you’re a girl, probably best to leave the skirt at home!
After another night in Cortez, we hit the road bound south-west towards Tucson. This route would take us directly through Gallup, where we were lucky enough to just miss the group beating of a gang-banger in the car park outside Walmart! Besides that small incident, we safely made it to the Petrified Forest & Painted Desert, a large interconnected area of colourful landscapes and petrified trees in Arizona, near the border of New Mexico. Park entry was again covered by our annual pass (best $80.00 we ever spent).
That night we camped out the back of the Oracle Inn Steakhouse, a great place to visit for a meal or a drink. The service is friendly and the prices are great. In the morning, after more dramas with the services aboard the RV, we made the decision to cut the trip short and head to Phoenix to return the RV.
Now at the time, hiring an RV sounded like a fun and logical way of travelling and sight-seeing all in one however it is something neither Justin or myself will ever do again. Here are some reasons why;
1. The cost is ridiculous. The rental alone was more than our entire day’s budget. That was excluding fuel and camp site fees*. Hiring a car, staying in motels and eating out each night would have saved us hundreds of dollars.
2. They are not reliable. One day we would have hot water, the next day the toilet was overflowing and no one was even using it. This meant having to give up free roadside camping for RV parks so we could access their facilities*.
3. There is no absolutely no privacy. We have slept in hostels that provide more privacy than an RV which we didn't think possible.
4. There is also no space. We found this out every night and every morning when we religiously smashed our heads into the roof getting in and out of bed.
Yes there are conveniences to having a bed and kitchen at your beck and call and having the freedom to go most places that a tour bus may not take you, but we both agree that RV touring is not suitable for short term travelling (any period less than one month) and is maybe better suited to families and single couples.
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