The Desert (aka Joshua Tree National Park, California): This is the living desert. We camped on the North Side and hiked to a panoramic ridge; we camped (actually boondocked) on the South Side after a day of walks, riding our bikes on sand roads, and driving to Keys View which overlooks the Palm Springs valley (the dark line in the middle is the San Andreas fault). Temperatures were wonderful during the day, then drop quickly as soon as the sun sets behind the mountains, which at this time of year is about 5:30. Lots and lots of stars at night. The Joshua Trees (which are really Yucca plants) make the desert picturesque.
Boon docking is free camping on US Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands that allow for “dispersed camping.”
Red Rocks (aka Sedona, Arizona): An amazing 6 days of gorgeous views, gruelling bike rides, challenging hikes, and the vortexes (vortices??). Campsites are generally placed outside of townsites where we have relied on our bikes to get us to the hiking trailheads. Of course, Sedona is the centre for metaphysics, all manner of healing arts, UFO sightings, and stargazing (over and above the hiking/biking/jeep tours).
First up was the incredibly steep ride to the town of Jerome (at a mile high) where we cycled from an elevation of 3300 feet to 5300 feet in 10 miles (most of it in the last 5 miles). This on a twisting mountain road with no shoulders and no shade, with traffic whizzing by despite the “share the road” signs. Why is it almost universal that pick-up truck drivers are the worst at buzzing by cyclists as if to run them off the road?? Jerome is known as a ghost town, but was the largest copper mine in Arizona, and is now filled with artists and bikers (as in choppers).
Next up was the hike to the Bell Rock vortex. This involved a hilly 13km ride down the highway, that at least had a marked bike lane, followed by a climb and a rest break to take in the breathtaking views and the energy of the rocks (yes, we both had individual experiences in that regard). We decided to take the “multi-use” trail back for a few miles before getting back on the highway. This was mountain biking and we were both pleased with how well our road bikes did.
Next up was a hike to Devil’s Bridge. Starting with a 14 km ride to another trailhead, also uphill for the most part, followed by a 3.6 mile trek to a natural bridge. We were going to bike part of the “road” to the climb part but it was simply too rough, made more so by the off-road jeeps that transport people as part of the jeep tour industry here. This was more of a “Grouse Grind” type of hike where by the end we were covered in red dust. And a 14 km ride back, again buzzed by pick-up trucks even though we were in the marked bike lane.
Other sights for the high desert of Arizona included:
2. The Arizona Wine Trail and Verde Valley (including Montezuma’s Castle Monument, Montezuma’s Well, and V-V Ranch Petroglyphs – all Hopi culture)
3. Sedona town sights:
A Very Big Hole (aka the Grand Canyon, Arizona): We arrived at the GC in time for the setting sun, which apparently is one of the best times to see the deep, varying hues of the canyon. The next day, we cycled along the rim from the campsite to the South Kaibab trailhead (about 8 miles) before descending the trail. As we started near mid-day, we hiked down for about 2 hours, knowing that coming back up would take twice as long (according to the guides, which it didn’t, but it did take about 50% more time). Many people hike down all the way to the river, but then camp overnight before ascending. It was a spectacular hike, and we were never more ready for showers at the end of that day. Additional viewpoints were taken in the next day, which was cloudy, and therefore, lent a different hue altogether. Photos tend to look like watercolours or pastel drawings. The immensity of the Grand Canyon is beyond belief, especially knowing that we only took in the South Rim section. We might be back soon…
A note about the election: most people we’ve met, when they find out we’re from Canada, make a remark akin to “oh, there’ll be lots of people I know that are going to Canada after the election.” Generally, we haven’t met anyone who gives the election much of their thought – they’re too busy just living their lives. Of course, we are normally only encountering people on vacation, so they’re in a different mindset anyway. Today, post-election, and the mood is no different, at least not in Arizona (where results are not yet tabulated and it’s a possible flip state). Some are surprised at the results, some are pleased, and some just want the government to get out of their way. Time will tell. Another observation however, that is in contrast to Canada, and there were no rallies, no sign-waving or campaigning beyond the local signs to vote for a Sherriff or State Rep or a proposition. All quiet on the western front.