Tag Archives: summer

The Last of Utah (for Now): Canyonlands National Park

Damn. What a year! I’m a bit sad that I haven’t progressed on my goal to finish writing about our awesome National Parks Road Trip from the summer of 2013. Since then I’ve been completely side-tracked by grad school, summer jobs, and other adult life-related activities. Note to all the young people out there: Don’t grow up, it’s horrible (I’m only partially kidding).

Anyway, back to the story:

After finishing a pleasant half-day at Arches National Park, we made our way out of Moab and went back west towards our last stop in Utah: Canyonlands. Of course, most people these days know about Canyonlands due to that whole story about a guy that got his arm caught between some rocks…but we definitely aren’t that hardcore.

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Canyonlands can’t be fully appreciated in just a day’s time, although you can certainly experience some great short hikes and amazing vistas (ABOVE). To truly enjoy Canyonlands, you need a 4WD vehicle, a GPS device, plenty of food and water, and a personal guide who really knows how to navigate the land – that’s how you get to see all the really sketchy and amazing stuff. But we weren’t there to visit the Maze section of the park. Nor the Needles for that matter, since we didn’t have much time. Most causal visitors like us take a day trip through the Island in the Sky.

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But before we could begin our trip to Canyonlands, we first had to find a new place to stay for the night. We tried to find a site at the famous Dead Horse Point State Park — however, we soon found that EVERY site had been taken (the place is quite popular by both families and photographers alike). The ranger at the visitor’s booth was really nice however, and gave us directions to a great little campground down the road.

Little did we know that we’d be staying at one of the most gorgeous (and obscure) little campsites in Utah…

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More Best of Utah: Arches National Park

Man, grad school is NO JOKE. UC Berkeley is especially no joke. I thought I would have a little bit more time in between papers and classes to record all our journeys from our best ever 2013 “Left Coast” National Parks Road Trip…but it was not meant to be. The travel journal will have to be finished in the summer of 2014. It’s Friday night and I should be doing homework right now, but fuck it.

Anyway. Back to the story.

Moab campsite

Joy and I woke up just about the same time that the sun started to rise above the rocks and peak into our tents. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this campsite is the BUSINESS…

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Utah Diaries: From Escalante State Park to Burgers in Boulder

We were pretty beat as we drove away from Bryce Canyon National Park. After an all day hike amongst the hoodoos, we had to drive a few hours to our next stop: Escalante. Actually – to be honest – we didn’t really know what our next stop would be. I guess that’s the beauty of going on a road trip! A month ago when we were planning our trip, I saw a picture of some gorgeous slot canyons/land formations in a Utah tourist magazine, and decided that we had to go and check out that area. It was in Escalante, but we really didn’t know what that meant. Escalante National Monument? Escalante State Park and Petrified Forest? Escalante city? We had no idea.

As we drove on, we passed by buffalo farms on the roadsides, and miles and miles of the most beautiful landscape ever. No wonder this highway (Highway 12, I believe?) has been designated as one of the “Top Most Scenic Highways of America”. I honestly thought they were lying at first. But then it just kept getting better and better:

Jumping for joy

Jumping for joy

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Mountains of red and tan rock as far as the eyes can see. Check out the highway on the bottom right.

Unfortunately, when we rolled into the town of Escalante, the visitor center had already closed (it was already past 5 pm). Joy was still sick and pretty tired, so while there were many places we could have camped at, I made an executive decision to stop and stay at Escalante State Park (and Petrified Forest – it was so cute). It also had a lake/reservoir nearby, and it was getting late. Joy likes water. I thought it might be a good match for us…

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Zion National Park: Hiking to Angel’s Landing

So…I really wanted to update this blog on a weekly basis during our month-long National Parks road trip. I REALLY did. And I tried! But there was hardly any interwebs connection wherever we went, thus making it nearly impossible to do any blog updating. Plus we were camping or backpacking the entire time. No wifi there.

After we experienced pretty much THE BEST TRIP EVER, we came back in August and I had to go directly to grad school. Nowadays, I do NOTHING ELSE except read a shit-ton of books and try to not look clueless in class.

OH YEAH. I digress. Back to the main story…

Angel’s Landing. Yeah, it was awesome. I LOVE ZION NATIONAL PARK! Top 5 fer SURE.

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Waking up to this lovely sight of the sun coming up over the mountains from our campsite

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Our campsite at the South campground

The great thing about Zion is that we arrived in the height of camping season and STILL found ourselves a campsite! The South campground is first come first served, while the other one contains reservable sites. Reservations are not needed, however. It seems that most people camp just for a night or so, while other visitors stay at nearby hotels or lodges.

Even at 9 am, the day was already getting hot.  Joy and I took the free shuttle to the beginning of Angel’s Landing, where we began our 2.5 mile ascent to the top of the mountain. NOTE: Bring a lot of water and start the hike before 9 am, when the day is not too hot and the morning is beautiful. We saw way too many people hiking up the trail around 1 pm with a small bottle of water shared between them. You WILL pass out.

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The beginning of our journey to Angel’s Landing

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Our mascot, Rainbow Pony

The hike has a lot of switch backs on the hike up, but it wasn’t too, too bad. There are plenty of places to stop along the trail and take in the view. Plus it’s paved almost all the way up! Never seen that before.

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Rock scrambling pit stop

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Cusco’s cold summer

So when I planned to come to South America this year, I thought that “summer” would equate warm weather. My bad. It’s the rainy season here! And no, it’s hardly ever warm, although the sun does shine through from time to time in the city.

Cusco met me with wet stone streets, dark buildings, and gray rain clouds. In the distance, I could see the sometimes colorful stucco homes scattered all over the hillsides, alongside rows of crops and farmland. And words sometimes, written large on the hills, spelling out the names of universities, Cusco, history, etc.

Cusco at night

Cusco at night

I was supposed to meet up with my friend Penny so that I could do the four day trek to Machu Picchu with her and her friends, but I had no idea how that would coordinate. Good thing she happened to be standing outside the door of my hostel when I first arrived by cab!  That night I got to meet the whole group over a good dinner of traditional Peruvian/Cusqueno food. I had the alpaca; it was pretty damn good.  They had a nice spicy sauce to add to our dishes that didn’t seem to be that hot, but maybe that’s just because I’ve been exposed to so much Southeast Asian spicy food since becoming an AYPAL staff member. Nothing beats that hotness!

My alpaca dinner, Day 1 - Lizzie being cute.

Dinner with the crew, Day 1. Lizzie lookin cute.

The next day we all met up to take a trip to the Ollantaytambo temple. I had missed the previous trip to the Saqsaywaman temple (“Sexy Woman”) the day before because I only had about 6 hours of sleep over the past two days (after 3 flights and 2 layovers from SFO to Cusco) and decided to rest while everyone else went touring.

On the way there, we of course stopped off at a flea market as a part of our tour. I bought some mandatory earrings, and coca leaves – one bag for me, and one for Lizzy, who was hungover/suffering from altitude sickness in the van. I also got to hold a baby llama, which is pretty much my dream come true. We later went to an animal sanctuary, where got to visit with different endangered and hurt animals. Our guide even got a condor fly over our heads as we dodged and took pictures of the spectacle. Condors have always been highly revered animals in Peru and were considered gods during Incan times; yet today they are targeted by poachers who want their feathers – probably to make trinkets for tourists 😦

More photos of fuzzy and cute animals to come…!

Alpaca love

Alpaca love

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Dodging while taking pictures

Ollantaytambo’s temple is incredibly impressive and stunning. The small town is said to not have changed much since Incan times. There’s a lot of history to the area, but as I am a visual learner, and have poor audio memory (unless I take notes!) I don’t remember the details. Basically, the temple’s full purpose remains a mystery. Some say it was a temple to honor the Sun. You can see some amazing stone architecture  around the temple – homes, fountains, terraced gardens, and stone steps and rooms.  And storage buildings built up high on the sides of the mountains. When the Quechua were building the temple, they had to halt construction to fight off Spanish conquistadores, who were warring with the Incas over territory and power. It was never finished.

The mountains and valley around Ollantaytambo

The mountains and valley around Ollantaytambo

The stairs and terraces

The stairs and terraces

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For more information, check out: http://www.machupicchu.com/peru/tour-guide/ollantaytambo

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