We woke up Wednesday morning excited and ready to go on our adventure!
While we were doing some last minute packing, we found out our flight was delayed leaving New York. This meant we would have missed our connecting flight to Las Vegas. Taylor called Southwest and they were able to change our connector from Atlanta to Denver.
We headed off to the airport, 6 bags and a cooler in tow.
Getting through the airport was fairly smooth, and we had plenty of time to relax before the flight. Unfortunately, we lost our boarding position for Southwest in the flight change, so we boarded the plane last. If you have never flown with Southwest, there is no assigned seating, which can be difficult in trying to sit together. Taylor and I were able to sit on the same side of the plane but in separate rows. It is crazy how people get so attached to their seat and don’t want to switch! Especially when you find out half way through the flight you are sitting in between a married couple whom you assumed were strangers, and who then begin passing their food across your lap. Anyway…on our second flight we were able to sit together. We finally arrived in Las Vegas, and were greeted by slot machines the second we stepped into the terminal. As it was 2AM East Coast time, we drowsily hopped into a taxi.
Taking a taxi in Las Vegas is something we will not do again, as it is insanely expensive and the meter seems to be constantly running. We ended up sitting in traffic for about 25 minutes listening to reggae, and the driver actually had to shut off the meter as it just kept climbing. He dropped us off at our hotel, the Plaza Hotel & Casino. When we planned the trip, we thought it would be fun to stay in a kitschy old Vegas hotel, but we were so tired when we arrived that we barely even noticed our surroundings.
We woke up to a beautiful view of mountains outside our window and quickly grabbed an Uber to the rental car service.
After some keen negotiations by Taylor, we ended up getting a cool Ford Escape, instead of a mini-van. We piled in our luggage and drove through the “strip” on the way out. The hotels are themed quite extravagantly, but don’t look as exciting during the day. Outside of Las Vegas, we stopped at a Walmart to get some camping supplies we could not take on the plane (for example, knives and a hatchet…). We are now ready for the next season of The Walking Dead! We spent a little too much time wandering the food aisles, since we haven’t really been in a “super center” in a few months. But when else will we get to browse a Las Vegas SuperWalmart?
Before we got on the road, we HAD to get lunch. Good thing there was an In-n-Out close by! We have been deprived for so long!
Finally, we headed towards the Grand Canyon. Once we crossed into Arizona, the terrain began to change. Isn’t it incredible that in our country there are so many different types of environments? The desert is so beautiful and has such a variety of colors. The ground is burnt orange as the plateaus and mountains look blue from a distance.
In case you were wondering, our music of choice on road trips are musical soundtracks. Surprise, surprise! This stretch we listened to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat…don’t judge.
We arrived at Grand Canyon National Park around 4pm. We quickly set up our campsite, and as we were doing so, we were joined by an elk (who we named Elkie) and he was casually munching on some grass nearby. He seemed unfazed by our presence.
We walked from our campground (Mather Campground) to the Visitor’s Center, and in doing so, had a horrible realization! We left Travelin’ Tabitha at home! Who, may you ask is this? Well, about two years ago, we bought a “National Parks Passport Book” where you can stamp each park you visit. We bought ours at Great Falls National Park in Maryland during the Peter Pan 360 tour. This is an important book to have on the road trip where we are going to so many national parks! At least we can still stamp pieces of paper and tape them in when we get back home.
Because we didn’t have much time before sunset, we decided to walk along the “Rim Trail” starting at Mather Point, and were blown away by what we saw as we approached the edge. Words cannot describe and pictures cannot portray the awe-inducing sight of the Grand Canyon.
You can see the layers etched in the rock by water erosion and the variety of colors that seem to go on for miles. You feel enveloped by nature and just find yourself staring into the distance.
After spending about an hour walking along the edge of the canyon, we returned to our campsite. By this time, the desert temperatures had dropped into the 30s and Taylor quickly started a fire. As it was getting dark, we made a gourmet meal of hot dogs wrapped in quesadillas (don’t worry…they were turkey dogs) and roasted some marshmallows. Shockingly, we went to bed at 8:30pm, feeling accomplished and exhausted.
We woke up quite easily at the early hour of 5:30AM, when the sun was rising. We packed up our site and were eager to get on the road to Zion National Park. On our drive out, we were able to see the other side of the canyon and the morning sun made the canyon glow.
In the area surrounding Grand Canyon on the way into Utah, there isn’t much development. So when we saw a gas station and Burger King seemingly appear out of nowhere, we stopped for a bathroom break and morning coffee run. Word of warning…do not get iced “coffee” from Burger King. In our deliriousness, we thought this would be a good idea, but it ended up tasting like extremely sugary chocolate milk. Yikes.
As we approached the Utah-Arizona border, we drove over the Colorado River. As I was feeling ambitious, Taylor let…or should I say made…me drive on the hills. As I have spent my driving life in Florida, I have never driven on anything resembling a hill, let alone mountains. Better late than never! Taylor is very patient and he has made me a more confident driver.
We were aiming to get to Zion at 12pm, as we had ambitious plans to hike Angel’s Landing, which is a four hour, 5 mile hike. So, we were confused when it was 11:30am and we still had over an hour left to go near the Utah border. This is when we realized Arizona does not participate in Daylight Savings Time. Meaning our getting up at “5:30AM” really lost us an hour!
Around 1pm, we made it to Zion National Park! The drive to the park through the little town of Springdale had breathtaking views; we didn’t know what was in store for us inside the park!
We found our campsite in Watchman Campground, which is right near the park entrance, and it probably is the coolest campsite we’ve ever experienced. We were surrounded by the majestic peaks and felt truly in the middle of nature.
After a short walk to the Visitor’s Center, we hopped on the shuttle to take us to the trailhead for Angel’s Landing. It was about a 20 minute ride through the canyon, complete with narration by the park rangers! It was really cool to be able to see so much of the park in a short amount of time.
As we reached the trailhead, we saw a sign reading:
Wow, that makes us feel really confident…happy hiking! The beginning of the trail is paved and is quite misleading, as it is a gradual incline up the side of the mountain. But don’t let this fool you!
We began climbing up the gradual switchbacks and arrived at the other side of the mountain, which seemed like a different environment all together. There were many trees and we even saw a raven flying, perhaps looking for it’s next meal. We then conquered what is know as “Walter’s Wiggles”, which is a series of switchbacks that are quite steep. If you don’t know, switchbacks are a way to climb an incline that go back and forth across, gradually going up. Hence the relation to wiggles.
We then made it to the “top”…but it wasn’t really the top! Taylor and I decided to make the narrow and steep trek from Scout’s Landing to the peak of Angel’s Landing. You have to hold on to a chain bolted into the rock to climb the tiny trail.
As we reached the halfway point, crazy and strong winds started to pick up, and it became freezing cold. We turned around to see black clouds moving in quickly.
We continued to struggle along the trail looking at the river down below on the left, and a cliff drop off to the right. Even though we wanted to go all the way to the top of Angel’s Landing, we decided it would be in our safest interest not to be blown off the top.
On our way down, it started to snow! It was the strangest feeling, as on the way up the mountain, we were sweating and quite warm. We still had to descend holding on to the chain, and was very difficult to see. We felt like we were in the movie Everest. Which by the way, is our next feat.
The way down was easier than the way up, and we safely made it back to the shuttle.
As I stopped in the Visitor’s Center to buy us souvenirs, Taylor went to grab our wallet from the campsite. I was wondering why he was gone so long. When he came back, he was out of breath and I inquired as to why. Apparently, our tent had blown away and was halfway to the next campground. Luckily, we recovered it!
Our dinner consisted of steak, beans and roasted carrots, nicely put in our Magnolia mugs (thanks Aunt Debbie!):
We also roasted marshmallows again…although we forgot to buy the chocolate and graham crackers for s’mores! Next grocery run.
Exhausted, we fell asleep before the sun was fully down. To our defense, it didn’t set until almost 9pm! We felt ready to conquer the next part of the adventure.
Stay tuned for Days 4-6 when we travel to Salt Lake City and Yellowstone!