From searing desert floors to cool mountain peaks, our South West US Parks Trip covers it all. Hitting the highlights & getting off the beaten track, exploring gulches, rivers & cliff edges, we're exploring God's creation in this part of His world.
  • Day22

    Day 22 - All good things...

    October 2, 2021 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 28 °C

    ... Must come to an end. Sigh.

    We've driven 6,300+ km's, 22 parks, walked a combined ~180,000 steps, covered 4 states, climbed countless hills/switchbacks, drunk dozens of litres of water, rafted 1 river and have been blessed with safety and health the entire time. So thankful for it all.

    Cooking breakfast at Panamint Springs, we soaked in one last mountain view before setting out for Las Vegas. With errands to run, our morning and early afternoon was a picture of efficiency until we were able to relax at one of our all time favourite restaurants: Texas de Brazil.

    Becky kindly shouted our meals here and what a treat this was. The salad bar was unbelievable (and I'd come for the lobster bisque alone) but then servers come around with skewers of scrumptious meats, carving pieces straight onto our plates. My favourite (and Cilla's!) was the leg of lamb and Becky's was lamb chops... seeing a theme? Lamb is expensive in Canada and the Aussies miss Mum's Sunday roast so much. As we were belatedly also celebrating my birthday, our server gave me a free dessert and we shared a Key Lime Pie (after the obligatory candles and singing). It was great, but not as good as Mum's! Suffice it to say, we rolled out of the restaurant and think we'll be full till lunch tomorrow!

    We loved our car fridge so much we decided to bring it home! So we stuffed it full, wrapped it in cardboard and bubble wrap and will check it as Becky's luggage. Bring on car camping with no floating food in melted ice baths!

    Cilla's flight left at 8.20 and ours at midnight. We decided to check all our luggage in at once, but belatedly found out we were leaving from different terminals. While we rushed over to check our luggage, Cilla's boarding time was swiftly approaching so Bek kindly volunteered to finish the process while I hurried back to Terminal 1. So thankful for Olaf, but giant airports and parking are never the easiest to negotiate, so by the time I arrived at Cilla's terminal it was 20 minutes till her boarding time. I've never run so hard through an airport, been so stressed (and empty handed) going through security, or been quite so relieved to see a lil chipmunk Cills waiting on the other side. Suffice it to say, our face masks turned into water boarding instruments.

    Cross-border land travel is looking slightly more likely (but we've heard that story a dozen times before). God willing we will see each other again before another year passes (hopefully 10x less than that!).

    Becky and I had a couple hours, so headed to 'The Strip' (a long street lined with brightly illuminated hotels, stores and the inevitable casinos) to see the Belaggio Fountain show. We were delighted when 'Singing in the Rain' came on, with jets of water dancing to the music. There's nothing like a timeless classic in a modern, glitz-filled city. We'd had quite enough after an hour and were quite happy to head back to the airport.

    It's been such a blessing to spend this time together, exploring God's creation, making new memories, reliving old ones and just being. We're so thankful for this opportunity, and what an adventure it's been!
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    Darryl Pitcher

    It's been a delight, pleasure, privilege, honour, proud- Dad time... to have enjoyed your trip with you all. So grateful for the safety you've been blessed with, the friendships that have been strengthened, the experiences enjoyed... and despite the distance we've loved sharing it with you all. Thankyou for giving us such joy xx God bless xx

    10/3/21Reply
    Nomes Pitcher

    Aw thanks Dad, so glad you 'joined' us on our adventure!! Definitely blessed with all the things xx

    10/4/21Reply
    Cilla Tuckson

    I'm so so glad you could follow along with us Dad, it was so special to share it with you all, and I'm glad you could enjoy our trip vicariously! ❤

    10/4/21Reply
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  • Day21

    Day 21 - Death Valley

    October 1, 2021 in the United States ⋅ 🌙 24 °C

    The sunrise over the mountains was beautiful. Steam from the scattered hot springs rose gently into the crisp air. We packed up camp in our usual efficient manner and headed off towards Death Valley, still several hours away. Seems we should call this the Day of Irony, as we are leaving our coldest location to go to the hottest place in the world.

    On that note, Death Valley holds several records: hottest temperature on earth recorded here in 2021 and the deepest point on the North American continent. For us, it's a personal record - Death Valley is the 16th and final official park/recreation area we visited on our 22 day trip. The most any of us have done in a concentrated amount of time.

    Death Valley possesses an otherworldly beauty, but surprised us with the variety of colours and features there were to explore. The park boasts a waterfall, brightly coloured hills and huge stones that mysteriously 'move' ever so slowly across the desert floor, leaving obvious tracks. While we didn't have time to explore all these we did stop by 'Badwater Basin' - the lowest point in the park and North America (and 8th lowest in the world!). The salt left by evaporating water creates a crystallised crust across the dry lake bed. Becky found the deepest indent in sight so she could say she stood at the bottom of America. Cilla scuttled across the searing saltpan to snap stunning shots of the scintillating scene (couldn't resist 😉). We stopped at Artist's Palette and Natural Bridge and drove many miles of beautifully windy road (unless you're a motion-sick prone Nomes, then beautiful and windy don't belong together :)).

    We were staying at Panamint Springs Resort: an old collection of camp sites, scattered motel rooms, a general store and restaurant. Nestled in the valley, this peaceful and quite location was a perfect spot to spend our last night. Cilla cooked up a scrumptious meal with a random assortment of leftovers (kinda wishing there was a recipe!). We finished off the night and celebrated the repacking of our cases with an equally random pancake recipe, cooked under the stars (also delicious).

    Hard to believe it's our last adventuring day, we've packed so much into every day, going home to routine is going to be a big change.

    - NomesThe sunrise over the mountains was beautiful. Steam from the scattered hot springs rose gently into the crisp air. We packed up camp in our usual efficient manner and headed off towards Death Valley, still several hours away. Seems we should call this the Day of Irony, as we are leaving our coldest location to go to the hottest place in the world.

    On that note, Death Valley holds several records: hottest temperature on earth recorded here in 2021 and the deepest point on the North American continent. For us, it's a personal record - Death Valley is the 16th and final official park/recreation area we visited on our 22 day trip. The most any of us have done in a concentrated amount of time.

    Death Valley possesses an otherworldly beauty, but surprised us with the variety of colours and features there were to explore. The park boasts a waterfall, brightly coloured hills and huge stones that mysteriously 'move' ever so slowly across the desert floor, leaving obvious tracks. While we didn't have time to explore all these we did stop by 'Badwater Basin' - the lowest point in the park and North America (and 8th lowest in the world!). The salt left by evaporating water creates a crystallised crust across the dry lake bed. Becky found the deepest indent in sight so she could say she stood at the bottom of America. Cilla scuttled across the searing saltpan to snap stunning shots of the scintillating scene (couldn't resist 😉). We stopped at Artist's Palette and Natural Bridge and drove many miles of beautifully windy road (unless you're a motion-sick prone Nomes, then beautiful and windy don't belong together :)).

    We were staying at Panamint Springs Resort: an old collection of camp sites, scattered motel rooms, a general store and restaurant. Nestled in the valley, this peaceful and quite location was a perfect spot to spend our last night. Cilla cooked up a scrumptious meal with a random assortment of leftovers (kinda wishing there was a recipe!). We finished off the night and celebrated the repacking of our cases with an equally random pancake recipe, cooked under the stars (also delicious).

    Hard to believe it's our last adventuring day, we've packed so much into every day, going home to routine is going to be a big change.

    - Nomes
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    Darryl Pitcher

    That's pretty special xx

    10/3/21Reply
    Nathan Giordano

    I think they might be mammetus clouds.

    10/4/21Reply
    Julie Pitcher

    Wow that looks like a salt river! Amazing!

    10/4/21Reply
    Cilla Tuckson

    The vastness of it is amazing, I've ever seen anything like it!!

    10/4/21Reply
     
  • Day20

    Day 20 - Mammoth Lakes

    September 30, 2021 in the United States ⋅ 🌙 8 °C

    We have been staying in a hotel near Yosemite and the luxury of a pool and hot tub was embraced by us all this morning. It was a hot day and probably the last time the Canadian residents among us will swim outdoors, so we revelled in it. Becky and I had to go get COVID tested before our flight in 2 days time. It was a streamlined, drive-thru process that allowed us to go back and swim again before packing up and heading out. But due to rising numbers on the US, labs are flat out and we doubt these test results will come in time. So an expedited (and pricey) test in Vegas is going to have to happen.

    We explored the little town of Oakhurst, grabbing local sushi for lunch, perusing some stores and finding wicked deals on gently used quality outdoor clothing/gear! We are headed the direction of Death Valley tonight, and not being sure how far we wanted to go we asked the outdoor store guys. They were a wealth of knowledge and told us of some hot springs near Mammoth Lakes (a few hrs north of Death Valley). We were stoked: off the beaten path recommendations are our favourite. Off we drove, delighted and a little shocked when a bobcat sped across the road right in front of us, his pointy ears and bushy tail a rare sight indeed. Becky's defensive driving saved both us and the bobcat. Beautiful, speedy creature.

    Our three hour drive took us back into Yosemite valley and up the other side, through Tuolumne Meadows (stunning, high alpine meadows with yellow waving grass amidst stunted pines). We were above 9000 feet, but tomorrow will take us to below sea level in Death Valley.

    We arrived at our free campsite as the sun was setting and right next to a hot spring! The weather was cool and it took some encouragement (or fomo...) for Cilla to get into her bathers and join Becky, myself and a few other travellers in this tiny pool someone had created. Only about 7 feet across, the ingenious creation was a concrete and stone 'tub' set in a hollow 15 ft from a natural (and very hot, mud and algae-filled) puddle that was the hot spring. A pipe carried stinking hot water (literally - vague rotten eggs from the sulphur in the water!) into the pool. We met some locals, one of whom was a geologist and, always hungry for geeky info, we picked her brains about the formation of the area. Turns out we were in in a valley filled with calderas (large depressions made after a volcano collapses). Volcanic activity causes these hot springs all over the area and we were very much enjoying that fact! The irony of 'warming up' before sleeping on our last day of camping just as we 'cooled down' before sleeping on our first day of camping was not lost on us!

    Over two hours and many shooting stars later we decided to brave the cold and climbed out to dry off and get some sleep. Despite the gear and clothing we had brought with us, we struggled to stay warm. The temperature dropped to -3C and the summer sleeping bags we'd brought weren't holding up. Cilla (in the winter sleeping bag :)) eventually bailed to the car to defrost her frozen toes. Becky managed some sleep after wrapping her toes in all the clothes, while I barely slept a wink all night (thanks also to the polar bear snores!).

    Tomorrow is our last day! Hard to believe its been 21 days, feels like 210 and 2 at the same time.

    - Nomes & Becky
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  • Day18

    Day 18 & 19 - Yosemite National Park

    September 28, 2021 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    One of the most anticipated parks for me also happened to be the hardest to navigate in and around, although visually stunning. We arrived in Yosemite in the afternoon after a long drive from LA, feeling weary. Even after arriving at the entrance gates it was an hour further to the visitor centre, wending our way up and then back down the precipitous mountain sides. Tunnel View gave us the quintessential Yosemite Valley vista: El Capitan and Half Dome facing each other like duelling giants over a wide carpet of evergreens and the winding Merced River.

    The two days were spent trying to navigate around the park, scenic lookouts, short hikes, a picnic and nap at the base of El Capitan. We drove uo to Glacier Point for a spactacular sunset lookout over the Valley. The sinking sun set the granite monolith that is Half Dome on fire, bathing its impossibly sheer surface in oranges and pinks amd finally blues.

    Day two we hiked a 6 mile round trip through the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias. Their names: Bachelor and 3 Graves, Grizzly Giant, Clothespin Tree, California Tunnel and many more imaginative (and less so) things. The ground and forest was so dry, filling our noses and mouths with a gritty plume every step. Evidence of previous fires were scattered throughout the grove - twisted, blackened stumps interspersed throughout the ponderosa pines and redwoods. Fire seems like the forest's enemy, but much like eucalyptus, giant sequoias rely on 'cool', regular fires to clear ground debris, provide soil nutrients and crack the cones for new growth. It's a beautiful parable of fire as a regenerative tool, much as our Master Crafter purifies and molds us.

    Our hike was surprisingly exhausting, perhaps a combination of the elevation change, higher altitides and nearly 3 weeks of similar stuff. It was this afternoon we spread out our tarps and blankets, strung a hammock and rested in the shade of mighty 'El Cap'. I can't imagine David having rock slabs quite this impressive so how much more do his words of Ps 61 ring true here: "...lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For You have been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy."

    Cilla and Becky walked down to the river to capture some stunning images of the valley walls reflected in the river. Such mind blowing beauty will stay with us forever.

    - Nomes
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    Darryl Pitcher

    Gorgeous xx

    10/2/21Reply
    Julianne Pitcher

    Looks so comfy! What a place to chill 😲glad you "belong"Cill!😅😘

    10/2/21Reply
    Julianne Pitcher

    Love these majestic trees!🤗 Towering above you "little" people as Gods impressive grandeur!

    10/2/21Reply
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  • Day17

    Day 17 - Universal Studios

    September 27, 2021 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

    You can't get a much greater contrast to Sequoia National Park than downtown LA but due to the fires and closures in Sequoia, Universal Studios is our destination today!

    We were a party of 5: us 3, Felicity and her sister-in-law, Jenny. It was so lovely to spend a fun day all together!

    Starting the day off with a 'Studio Tour' we were shown the huge 'sound stages' where filming takes place, life sized replicas/sets of city streets, Western towns, the 'Jaws' locale (complete with the animatronic shark), and then several immersive 3D 'rides'. For these, the whole 5 carriage 'tram' pulls onto a track in a huge warehouse where massive, curved screens stretch the 100+ foot length. There were storylines of Kong fighting a T-Rex, and when the dinosaur's tail whipped around, the whole tram shuddered and shook. Another featured a car chase through city streets in 'Fast and Furious'. The most interesting perhaps was an ungerground subway station that had 'real' effects throughout... Shaking, crumbling building components, arcing electrical systems and a flash flood pouring down the stairs! It was interesting to see how much detail and effort goes in to even the smallest part!

    We couldn't wait to get to Hogsmeade, though... The world of Harry Potter. Complete with the Hogwarts express replica, themed stores and dining, and two rides (a small rollercoaster and a 3D/ride combo through Hogwarts) - Becky, Cilla and I went on these 3 times each! We tried butterbeer (non alcoholic, tasted like liquid butterscotch pudding - sooo good) and ate a delicious and hearty lunch at the 3 Broomsticks.

    We were excited for Jurassic World too, and the ride didn't disappoint. A boat took us through 'Jurassic Park', passed model dinosaurs, until a containment alert, shrieking alarms and claw marks all over the enclosure warned us of an escaped Indominus Rex (a fearful hybrid dinosaur). Here the boat is pulled up a steep slope before the terrifying jaws of the dino opened before us and we dropped 84 ft into a splash pool below.

    The rest of our day was taken up with a combo of 3D immersive rides, indoor rollercoasters, an animal show, a water based show with high divers, pyrotechnics and jetskis and more butterbeer. Exhausted, we piled back into Jenny's car and enjoyed light traffic all the way home.

    Tomorrow morning we head out to Yosemite. It's been beyond lovely seeing Fliss and her family, and we're so thankful for the blessing of this huge worldwide community and family.
    - Nomes
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    Antonia Giordano

    Looks deliciously unbusy.

    9/29/21Reply
    Cilla Tuckson

    It really was! We barely had any wait times for anything!

    9/29/21Reply
    Jill Lunn

    So wonderful to see Fliss

    9/30/21Reply
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  • Day15

    Day 15 & 16 - California Chilling

    September 25, 2021 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C

    These 2 days felt like a mini vacation within a vacation. Picture a stunning ocean-front beach house (read mansion), lovely and hospitable Christadelphian hosts, no set schedule, a piano, paddleboards, coffee machine, family Bible readings, puzzles, palm trees, surf and sand. That's about the sum of it.

    We loved getting to know new people, making new friends and spending time reminiscing with old ones, having God at the centre, going to meeting, spending 3.5 hours doing nothing but puzzling and listening to music and Bible talks (me and Becky) and attending ecclesial mutual improvement classes (Cilla).

    On the Saturday afternoon we donned wetsuits and were kindly shown how to Paddleboard-surf the waves! They felt huge but probably were only 4-5 feet high max. Cilla and I successfully caught a few waves (sitting down) which was fun, and I even managed to stand up briefly and ride one in. The huge boards floated well but were a bit ungainly under newbie control. It was still a blast (despite getting dumped and supplied with a free saltwater sinus rinse a couple times!) Cilla and I decided to embrace our inner Aussie kid and took out some boogey boards (read 'body boards' you North Americans ;)). The waves were a little harder to catch on these (or we were just so out of practice haha), but we had fun anyway.

    Sunday we enjoyed attending meeting, singing hymns so loudly (and harmony with Cills.. The best) and going out for lunch with friends. So nice to catch up and be in a Christadelphian hall 'like old times'. Really thankful for this opportunity and blessing. After lunch we visited the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and museum, complete with an FBI exhibit and Air Force One (Boeing 707!). Incredible how much effort goes into moving one man around the country and world.

    Monday we had planned to go to Sequoia National Park (with the giant redwood trees) but unfortunately the park and surrounding area is on fire and it is closed. Hoping they're able to save the trees and a little sad we can't go as I was really looking forward to that. So instead we're soothing our disappointment by going to the Universal Studios theme park! Stay tuned for the fun in store.

    - Nomes
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    Darryl Pitcher

    What fun!!🏄

    9/29/21Reply
    Darryl Pitcher

    You champion!👍

    9/29/21Reply
    Jill Lunn

    Can imagine the piano had a workover much to the hosts' delight!🎶

    9/30/21Reply
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  • Day14

    Day 14 - Route 66 into California

    September 24, 2021 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 27 °C

    After our spontaneous Route 66 Motel stay in Seligman we felt refreshed and ready to explore this part of 'America's Mother Road'. Brekky was had at the quintessential Roadrunner Cafe, which was also filled with Route 66 emblazoned knick knacks. We were happy to drive out (after blasting 'Life is a Highway' again and the rest of the 'Cars' soundtrack). We cruised Route 66, passing cactus trees, places where the road is often covered by flood waters during spring and many rundown old buildings. We detoured many times along the way, looking for Starbucks cups Cilla is collecting, getting coffee, taking photos... embracing the old/small town America.

    We decided to detour through Oatman, apparently the inspiration for many 'Cars' stories and characters. To get there we took the 'Arizona Sidewinder', a section of route 66 that snakes across steep cliffs, around cacti-studded hills and through dry valleys. It was a pretty speccy road. Not far from Oatman we slowly round a sharp corner and come face-to-bumper with 2 donkeys! Mama and baby have honed the art of begging and they nose their adorable faces right up to the car windows, snuffling expectantly. We find our last apple, take some pictures and enjoy the company of these unexpected furry friends for a good while before continuing.

    Oatman is to Route 66 what Las Vegas is to the US. Gaudy, touristy, packed and commercialised, but with a little more rustic 'charm' (if such words can be used together!) We enjoy slowly cruising down the tiny main street, with its higgledy-piggledy array of 'wild west' themed diners, souvenir stores and museums (oh, and regularly interspersed with donkeys being fed by eager, nervous tourists). Onwards we go.

    We are headed to California today, staying with old friends at their family's beach house. Cilla and I split the 5.5 hour drive, but she shoulders the LA traffic burden. We arrive in Ventura at the Robinson family beach house after supper but still they all came out to greet us. We received the grand tour, soaked in the smell and sounds of the ocean right next to the patio and immediately feel so welcomed and at home. We're looking forward to spending some fellowship and fun time together here for the next few days, GW!

    - Nomes
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    Julie Pitcher

    We’re the donkeys native to that area.? How lovely

    9/27/21Reply
    Cilla Tuckson

    yes they seemed to be! we asked a local who the donkeys belonged to and she replied: "The earth! but we all look out for them!"

    9/28/21Reply
    Darryl Pitcher

    Did you see Luigi's Tyres?🤣

    9/29/21Reply
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  • Day13

    Day 13 - Horseshoe Bend & Grand Canyon

    September 23, 2021 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 19 °C

    We truly have been blessed with great AirBnB experiences! Nomes did a great job hunting down value deals and comfy places. Our Page, AZ stay had lovely & accommodating hosts and a beautiful space for us for the past two days.

    Once we headed out, we realized we were only 10 min from Horseshoe Bend which was a must for Cilla. Another photographer's dream! Just 3km round trip hike for the view point up and a hill (feeling like chump change compared to some we've done), we soaked in the sight of the Colorado River 500 ft below us. It makes a sharp U turn here, creating the eponymous bend. There were many kayaks and boats navigating the river far below and the turquoise water looked so inviting. After numerous photos (and taking others' for them) and some sitting and pondering, we made our way back to the car park.

    Initially we were going to head to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and do a longer hike, but the driving route was way out of our way. We opted for the shorter route via the South Rim, shorter hikes and being able to cut down afterwards to "get our kicks on Route 66".

    The Grand Canyon. Almost a decade ago I did a three day hike with friends down into the canyon at Havasupai Falls and back, avoiding the more touristy places. This timr we hit all the more popular stops along the South Rim but thankfully (with it being later in the afternoon and season) the number of people wasn't oppressive. We even found a lovely little gift shop and market at our first stop at the Desert View Watchtower that no one else seemed to notice!

    Mary Jane Colter designed this tower with much attention to detail to give it an ancient character (her words: 'you wouldn't believe how much it costs to make it look this old'!) Unfortunately we couldn't climb it, but the impressive architecture made a great subject in landscape photos.

    We proceeded to various lookouts along Desert View Drive, and Cilla saw her first Elk on our way to Mather Point. At the point we see the canyon. Truly grand: a mile deep and up to 14 miles wide. The Colorado River has cut through the layers of rock down to the bedrock and apparently can cut no further!

    At Mather Point we witnessed one of the most beautiful sunsets to date on this trip. While the canyon faced away from the setting sun, the plethora of pinks and purples in the clouds were certainly awesome. I scrambled onto some rocks to get the last glimpse of a huge magenta sun sinking below the horizon through the trees (the pink colour was apparently caused by the smoke from CA wildfires). Cilla stayed at the point a while longer to capture the colourful sky while Nomes and I prepared a camp supper in the parking lot. Rehydrated Pad Thai and Kung Pao Chicken, mmm (actually ;))

    We had planned on camping, however when we arrived at the free campsite location, our minds were changed. Broken glass was scattered all over the ground (the nearby highway had been noticeably more littered too which was sad). Our solution was for Cilla and Nomes to sleep on the mattress in the back of Olaf, and I'd sleep in my hammock. Next minute, we see lightning off to the side, Nomes spots a tarantula and we hear coyotes yipping not too far away. Umm, we're going to look for a room with 4 solid walls methinks.

    Cilla and Nomes used their research skills and in less than 10 minutes had found a good value, non-sketchy looking motel in nearby Seligman. Instead of booking online, I figured I'd be able to negotiate an even better price in person. The key is being willing to walk away :) The room was perfect with some characteristic Route 66 memorabilia without being too over the top. Another hugely successful day and we are again thankful to God for the blessing of eyes to see, hearts to appreciate, and safety in our travels.

    Still another week ahead of us!
    - Becky (& Nomes)
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    Julianne Pitcher

    That's gorgeous!😍

    9/27/21Reply
    Julianne Pitcher

    Amazing!😲

    9/27/21Reply
    Julianne Pitcher

    I'm just glad I wasn't there!!🙈🥺& I'm sure she is too! Telling her to come back from the edge & spoiling her photography!!🤭😅that's a great shot Nomes! & I'm sure she'll have a great one on her camera too!!😁😁

    9/27/21Reply
    RJ Elliott

    oh Nomes was doing a good job of telling her plenty to get back from the edge!

    9/28/21Reply
    Nomes Pitcher

    and cilla was doing a good job of ignoring me 😜

    9/28/21Reply
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  • Day12

    Day 12 - Buckskin Gulch

    September 22, 2021 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 15 °C

    Ahh the inexpressible comfort of not having to get up for sunrise, and the irritation of waking up at sunrise anyway. Our AirBnB was super comfy and we pottered around, making brekky, sorting stuff, laundry and generally just not being active.

    Today we are headed to Buckskin Gulch, via Wire Pass. When we arrive after a half hour bumpy gravel road we see two Sherrifs peaking in a van. We learn later that there is a woman who has been missing on the trail since yesterday. Such a warning makes us take preparation even more seriously. We tell a few friends where we are, packing lotsa water, snacks, first aid kits and a Becky. She'll be right, mate.

    The first 25 minutes were through a (currently) dry and entirely sun soaked river bed. Signs of heavy flooding were visible along the river channel and that is not a situation we wanted to find ourselves in. Flash floods in gulches/narrows are the cause of many deaths throughout parks across the states (thankfully there are no clouds, let alone rain anywhere in the upstream areas).

    Soon the sandy river banks turn into dark red sandstone and start to narrow and grow taller. Before long we are squeezing through 40 ft high walls that are as narrow as 3ft across! The sun is painting the the tops of the gulch a brilliant red ochre and the sky above is a ribbon of iridescent cerulean. The acoustics aren't bad (not as great ad Singing Canyon) and we sing a little as we wind our way through the gulch. We can see where the buckskin name came from: the soft gold and tan walls are marked in many places by 'desert varnish' (black and grey coloration caused by leached minerals and bacteria). The air is cool at the bottom of this slot canyon and the smooth, striated walls are incredibly detailed (and begging to be climbed, so I had to oblige!)

    Cilla is in her element, and we obediently trot around corners so she can capture unobstructed views of the canyon's twists and turns. For the next few hours we explore, sing, take pictures, marvel at the soaring height of the canyons and chat with fellow hikers before heading back the way we had come.

    On our last stretch we see a helicopter sweep low over the area, and presume it's looking for the lost hiker. When we approach the parking lot, the helicopter returns and slowly lands in a roped off section, blowing sand and small stones all over. We are relieved to find out that they found the missing woman who had made a wrong turn (easy in this trackless desert) and become lost. She is ok, despite having been out overnight. On our way out, the helicopter once again flies overhead and lands right next to the road! A search and rescue operative tells us they flew all the way from Salt Lake City (2.5 hrs flight). Cilla got pulled into the search amd rescue google rabbit hole and discovered that S&R ops have increased dramatically over COVID as more inexperienced hikers take local vacations.

    Our AirBnB host had recommended a local Mexican Restaurant which we enjoyed dinner at. Boy it was sooooo goood. We had leftovers to the moon and back. Can't wait for lunch tomorrow :)
    - Nomes
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    Jody Èlliott

    Looks amazing! I know you've worked up an appetite but I also know you have leftovers. Haha

    9/24/21Reply
    Nomes Pitcher

    You know us well, all about those leftovers!! 😉

    9/24/21Reply
    Julie Pitcher

    All that money spent on braces paid off. Great smiles! So pleased to see you are having a good time!

    9/25/21Reply
    Nomes Pitcher

    teehee yeah thanks 'rents!

    9/28/21Reply
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  • Day11

    Day 11 - Arches @ Sunrise

    September 21, 2021 in the United States ⋅ 🌙 8 °C

    We were awoken at some crazy time this morning to a wind storm whipping our tent and blowing what felt like a few pounds of sand inside. Nomes got up to move the car to try and create a wind break (and ended up sleeping in the car!) It felt like we'd just fallen back asleep again when the 5.30am alarm went off and we dragged ourselves up and packed up in the dark & wind and headed to Arches National Park for sunrise.

    We'd heard Delicate Arch was one of the best places to see the sunrise, so we headed straight there behind a surprisingly long line of fellow early risers.  The Delicate Arch hike is one the most popular long hikes in Arches National Park ("ANP"). A series of small switchbacks eventually give way to a long steady climb up slick rock (thanks to those who insisted I got proper hiking boots for this trip, they've been worth their weight in gold!) The final stretch of this 3 mile trail skirts a narrow slickrock ledge with a steep drop off to the left. The wind was still pretty brutal at this point (not to mention cold!) but thankfully it pushed you closer to the rock face side of the trail, not the edge! Becky discovered the hidden (and unpopulated!) gem of "Frame Arch" - an aptly named smaller Arch up a steep slick rock slope which gave you a great view of the rising sun and perfectly framed Delicate Arch in the background.

    Despite the early hour, many tourists had made it up to Delicate Arch before us. After sitting in Frame Arch watching the sun rise, we joined the line of tourists taking turns to get a photo within Delicate

    Arch itself. Again everyone seemed so polite and friendly, willing to take photos for each other and strike up easy conversation. We made many friends and exchanged photos and stories. Too often the conversation started with "where are you from?" after hearing my Aussie accent, and was quickly followed by a comment to the tune of "why on earth did you move from Australia to Virginia, of all places!?" Let's just say I love my husband... 😁

    We hadn't eaten breakfast before taking on the hike, so Nomes and Bek headed back down toward the car while I stayed a while longer to get a few more photos (and make more friends!)

    The next (and final) stop in ANP was the Landscape Arch found along the park's longest trail "Devil's Garden" which has spectacular views of eight arches. We stopped for a quick breakfast before setting off. Among the world's longest natural stone spans, Landscape Arch is a spectacular ribbon of rock acessed by an easy hike along a well maintained trail. The trail starts through sandstone fins that stand on end like giant wedges and provide welcome shade and towering walls of various hues of red and yellow. The trail opens out before Landscape Arch providing a panoramic view to distant ridges and a wide open sky.

    You used to be able to hike under the Arch itself, but in 1991 a 60ft slab of rock fell unexpectedly and almost injured nearby hikers, resulting in the closure of that particular trail. Our initial view of Landscape Arch felt a little disappointing, but we hiked closer to it's base and were  able to get a much better view of the azure blue sky through the Arch that spans an impressive 306ft.

    After a quick stop at the visitors centre we headed out of the park and ran a few errands, getting fuel and a few other necessities, before hitting the road for a 4.5 hour trip to Paige, via Monument Valley.

    14,489 steps before noon, now that ain't bad.

    We cruised through the highway leading to monument valley listening to Rascal Flatts' "Life is a Highway" and stopping at the scenic pull-offs to take photos through the sun roof of our Rav 4. The iconic monuments towered from the horizon and reminded us of Pixar's animation "Cars" which is set against this stunning backdrop. We got to the Monument Valley visitor centre, paid for our ticket, and proceeded to sit in line to wait for the scenic drive through the valley (only 15 cars were allowed at a time.) After a 40 minute wait we were super disappointed to be turned around - despite selling us a ticket no one is allowed on the scenic drive past 4.30pm ("due to COVID"). Oh well, more time to drive to our Airbnb. Off we set to Page, Arizona.
    - Cilla
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    Nathan Giordano

    Time lapses make me think of old arcade racing games… https://images.app.goo.gl/KxqJPzLWmnqY2Fz59

    9/22/21Reply
    Nathan Giordano

    Love the arches! Easy to imagine them being created by the flood.

    9/22/21Reply
    Antonia Giordano

    Epic.

    9/23/21Reply
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