Where you left us last we were in the Canadian Rockies and heading towards beautiful Idaho. We got there and it is beautiful. We came through on the 95 from Kingsgate and if you come this way, you must stop at the fantastic Wild Horse Mercantile in Bonner’s Ferry. It’s a general store, gas station and restuarant just south of the border. We ate very tasty burgers, the likes of which we haven’t had in months, while chatting to the very pleasant owners. I also got a sweet beer koozie made out of a hide by a local lady.
Northern Idaho is absolutely stunning. It was supposedly on fire all over the place, but Highway 95 was lush, green and gorgeous. We wound by a river on twisty, well paved roads and when it came time to camp we thought we found a site in a National Forest. It was a little bit off the main road, up a windy single lane road that was tight enough to keep our speeds under 30mph. When I finally found the campsite it was closed until May 19th. After Chris found me a little while later (maybe someone shouldn’t be in the lead if they don’t know where they’re going… just one side of the story), it was already dark and we had to head back to town and get another unplanned hotel, avoiding tons of deer on the way.
The following day we got into the Boise area and decided to spend the night in the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area. We learned our lesson this time and checked to see if we could camp there. It’s BLM land so dispersed camping is allowed everywhere and anywhere at any time, as it should be! Unfortunately, the ranger I spoke with didn’t inform me that this conservation area is a desert. For some reason, in my mind, I thought it was a forest. Probably because it’s green on the map. However, it is not green in real life. It is brown. And flat. After fifteen miles of driving straight there are two sharp turns and then a few miles later a canyon. We drove down the canyon and onto a dirt road bordering the Snake River. It was actually pretty, although full of flies and gnats from the river. We did see quite a few big birds, but I think they were all vultures. The moon was so big and bright that we could see our shadows in the middle of the night. It was pretty crazy. We found out the next day about the red moon business. Unfortunately, it was cloudy in Salt Lake and it barely got pink for a bit before it disappeared. We are still unclear whether we saw an eclipse or just a lot of clouds.
As you can gather, we left the desert of Southern Idaho and entered the desert of Utah. And that’s the aforementioned bright moon above (not the sun).
Salt Lake was weird, like usual. We went to some reasonable beer bars (Bar X and Avenues Brewery) and stayed in the Avenues Hostel, which was cheap and somewhere between a college jock’s apartment and a motel 6. But at $25 a night for a private room/ shared bath, one can’t complain. We left Salt Lake and headed south to the National Parks that are actually still open.
Bryce Canyon was our first stop. We rolled in a bit late and got the last camp site available. It was a Tuesday at the end of September. Kind of unexpected. But we settled in, right next to the toilets and tried to get some sleep. When we awoke, we went for an aggressive jog down the canyon, not realizing that we were at 8000 feet and the exercise might be a bit challenging. Not to mention running the twelve hundred feet up the canyon. But we did it. Mostly. With some walking. Here’s Chris close to the base of the canyon.
Aside from being rough, it was beautiful. The weird rock formations in the canyon are called hoodoos, which is fun in and of itself. There are also random tunnels that the trail winds through, and various different rock formations like this other one:
After our run we popped into town to find something to repair the heat shield that had formerly been on my pipe, protecting my bag from being burned. Somewhere recently it ran away, snapping the hose clamp that was restraining it. We found an aluminum camp pot holder and three very small hose clamps that we could attach to each other to make them long enough. It is pretty ghetto, but it totally works (for now). While in town we stopped by the ATV Tour Hut and got the low down on local trails. Bordering Bryce Canyon NP is Dixie National Forest, which is full of trails. Most of them are wide forest service roads, but some of them are proper dirt biking trails. We set out and searched through them all to find the good stuff. Sixty miles later, Chris found the only mud puddle in the desert and proceeded to crash into it.
If you’re in the area, first of all, take the 22 south from the 62 towards Bryce. This will turn into the the 63, which is the road that goes into Bryce. The 22 is a beautiful road that goes along a canyon and winds just the right amount to maintain 45-50mph, while still being able to gaze at the scenery. There were quite a lot of cattle grates and cows in the road, so be careful. Then put your knobbiest on and head down 63 towards the park entrance. Before you get to the entrance there’s an empty parking lot on the west side of the street that has seemingly nothing there. There is, however, a dirt road going west out of the lot. Take that road and open it up. The Dave’s Hollow loop is what you will first reach, and that is some of the best stuff. If you cross over East Fork Road, toward the Tropic Reservoir, you’ll hit a lot of the other trails. Trail 9 was the other really good one that we found. Here are some shots from trail 9:
The next morning we woke up super early to watch the sun rise in the canyon. It was pretty cool.
After sunrise we made brekkie sandos for ourselves and our new moto friend Wes, who was parked across from us and had just come back from rafting down the Grand Canyon. Then we headed towards Zion, a short, pretty drive away.
We rocked up to Zion at half eleven and got the last campsite. Again. It’s still the middle of the week at the end of September. Who are all these people? Lots of foreigners seems to be the answer. But we got put in a group campsite with two other couples and chatted with some nice people over the campfire, so that was a good distraction. It was much hotter at Zion than at Bryce, so the following morning we arose far before dawn hoping to beat the heat and the people on the hike up to Angel’s Landing. We did quite well, getting the bus into the park (you’re not allowed to drive in) at 7:15am. Though the bus was fairly full, only a handful of people were doing the same hike as we were, and we got on the trail by 8am. It was still cool and breezy surrounded by the canyon walls, thankfully. The trail was a zig zagging up hill path against the canyon wall for the first two miles, culminating in a very tight switchback section and then a small plateau before you head up the last half mile. This part of the hike is indescribable, but I will attempt it anyhow. The trail stops being a normal path, and just traverses over the rock as it starts to ascend. There are various different sections over the next half mile, but most of it goes steadily up and is entirely rock, with some tree roots here and there, and some steps carved into the rock from the thousands of people who have preceded us. You end up half hiking, half climbing, half scrambling up these giant cliffs (I know that’s too many halves). Throughout most of it there is a handy chain bolted into the rock to grip and prevent death, though most of the time I found the rock itself much more grippy. The chain was very helpful on the way down though, which was a bit more precarious. Below are a bunch of various pictures from the hike, but they don’t do it justice. Not only is the view amazing and all, but the experience is unlike anything we’ve ever done before.
This is one of the sections where you can see the chain guide and the sketchiness of the “trail.” Notice how many people you can see as well. This was on our way down, thankfully, but we still had to take turns on all the narrow bits. From where you can see people, just follow all the plants straight up to the top of the cliff. That’s the path we took. These pics are just an example of how cool the rocks are. They look like (and probably are) what climbing gyms used to design the holds. This is Angel’s Landing from the bottom. We were all the way on top of the red cliff where those tiny little trees are!
As mentioned, upon descending, the crowds coming up were pretty hectic. And it had gotten quite hot as well, so we were very grateful for our early morning efforts. The only downfall of Zion is that it is so crowded. It feels like Disneyland. Even the deer crowd around the campsites, fearless.
Now we are in a tiny town southwest of Zion, getting ready to do some maintenance before we head out towards southern Cali, and Baja (FINALLY!).