This week we truly hit the national parks and the amazing scenery. Last Sunday in Utah we went to the Arches National Park which I cannot recommend more. Absolutely stunning everywhere you look and so many photo opportunities. The park is made up of over 2 thousand arches and is the most beautiful place I have seen. We went into the park late on so we could catch the sunset over the arches. It was a pretty steep hike but the majority of us managed to get all the way to the top and back again after the sunset.
The next day we had a free day to do an activity of choice. I was torn between rafting and climbing and after the majority went for rafting I decided that it could be pretty awesome. We went down to the Colorado river in the morning and got ourselves belted into our life jackets. The rafting wasn’t white water as you imagine although there were a few small rapids, however we had a brilliant day on the raft, throwing buckets of water over other boats and jumping into the Colorado river and drifting downstream with the current. It was amazing to float along the Colorado river surrounded by the mountains and it was definitely a huge highlight so far. That evening, we went into the Canyonlands national park for the sunset and it was just so stunning. It was how I was imagining the Grand Canyon to look, just miles of mountains and valleys and we were all pretty blown away. So again, Canyonlands is a must see.
The next day we had a Navajo jeep tour planned in Monument Valley so took off for Arizona. On the way, we stopped off on the highway that Forrest Gump famously stopped running, ‘I’m pretty tired now.’ As its my favourite film, stopping there for a photo was amazing and again it was the highway you always imagine when you think of the U.S. So we carried on to Monument Valley to get there for a late sunset jeep tour with a Navajo guide. Monument Valley is an Indian reserve and a number of Navajo still live there without electricity or running water, so being shown around the area by a Navajo was pretty special. We were taken to a place to eat surrounded by the mountains and were given gorgeous Navajo tacos with pieces of steak. After tea we were then treated to a small display by the Navajos with authentic dancing and music. They got a number of us to pair up with a guy and dance around the park which was so much fun. Finally we were taken to a quiet area of the park to bed down for the night and watch the stars. I have never seen a night sky like it, just millions of tiny lights and shooting stars and we were literally lying on the ground looking up at them to fall asleep. Unfortunately I didn’t really get to sleep but a 5.30am wake up call meant we got up and went to watch the sunrise from a Mesa in the park before heading back. If you ever go to Monument Valley, definitely do this Navajo tour, it is fantastic!
From there, we set off for the Grand Canyon and tried to sleep on the journey. I was absolutely shattered but still so excited to view the Canyon. We finally got there and our tour leader had bought paper bags for us to wear over our heads. We drew faces on the bags and then lined up near the edge of the canyon. We slowly walked in a conga line to a viewing point and on three we all took the bags off to view the canyon in all of its glory. Pretty spectacular and absolutely beautiful, I was pretty overwhelmed and so happy to finally see the place I’ve always lusted over. After taking lots of pictures and looking in the visitors centre, we headed to the camp site to set up for the evening. My team cooked spaghetti carbonara and then most of us had early nights in prep for the next day.
I had decided I wanted to hike into the Grand Canyon for the sunrise so we had to be up by 3.30am to set off for 4.15. About seven of us made it and made our way onto the trail. We really wanted to make the most of it and ended up going on the long 4-6 hour 6 mile trek down the canyon to look over the river. It was so steep going down and quite a breeze as the heat hadn’t quite come out, nor had the sun. We stopped for the sun rise over the Canyon and then continued down for another 2 hours. The scenery was just spectacular and I can’t really describe how amazing it was to walk through such an amazing place. After some food and drink, we turned around and headed back the way we came. However, going up was about 20x harder than going down and we were literally panting for air and stopping every few minutes to gather strength back. It was so so difficult and the end was never in sight. The heat and sun were rising fast and we still had 3 miles to go, yet we made it back and finished the trail in about 4 hours 20 mins which is brilliant. Can’t tell you how proud I am of myself and to say I have hiked the Grand Canyon is something not many could say. Returning back to the camp after the most expensive McDonalds in America, it was 12pm and the sun would not allow for any sleeping so we had to power through until the evening.
As it was July 4th, we decorated the camp in flags, watched the parade down the road and played drinking games, beer pong and cards all evening before falling into bed absolutely exhausted.
On the Thursday, day 28, we headed back to Utah to Lake Powell to see the Glen Canyon Dam and were going to swim but the clouds meant we headed along to the camp instead. Luckily we all voted for a cabin for the evening and stayed in ‘The Bunkhouse’, a shack fitted with 14 bunk beds for us all. After dropping bags we quickly got our cowboy gear on and headed to the ranch for a horse ride. All of us got saddled up and walked around the mountain side for a few hours before heading back to the kitchens for a home cooked steak and corn meal. So so delicious but far too much cow for my stomach to handle. Later on, we chilled in the saloon bar with music and games of pool before heading to our comfy beds for the evening.
After a pancake breakfast, we got up and headed to Bryce Canyon. I finally managed a phone call to my Mum which really made my morning. I know where I get my happy squeals from now. I decided to do a short and easy walk this time through the canyon to take in the sights and take a few photos before going back to the camp for a chill out before tea. That evening, we went along to a rodeo, and although it was nice to watch something so different and local, it wasn’t really incredible to watch. Small children riding around on sheep was however pretty hilarious.
The next day after a freezing cold night sleep for once, we headed to Zion national park to take in some more beautiful scenery. We headed down the river on a riverbed hike which was a lovely change from warm trainers all the time, yet unfortunately four of us got the meeting place wrong and ended up being back 2 hours late. Anyway after some food, a few of us went to the local Giant Screen Cinema to watch the new Man of Steele movie which I would recommend actually. The screen was huge and it was nice to just chill out for the night. Early nights for all before a late start to Viva Las Vegas!!! Setting off at 11am with a few stops off at a liqueur stores to pick up my new favourite Cruzan Strawberry Rum, we made our way to Vegas for a stop in the Luxor Hotel and our first real hotel room of the month. The hotel was absolutely insane! As large as a mall, with a Starbucks, casino, barbers, restaurants and thousands of rooms stacked inside a pyramid shape. I literally walked around with my mouth open it was just so unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The hotel room was also massive, two double beds, a 50inch tv screen and double shower.
We had 4 hours to get ready, and too right I took every minute to pamper. 4 hours later and wearing a dress, Jeffrey Campbell beige Litas and big curly hair, we headed out for a Vegas night out. Literally the best night out I’ve had. We boarded a party bus that was kitted out with poles and leather sofas, and it drove us to a few sights such as the Bellagio Fountains and Las Vegas sign, before taking us to the club. We also stopped in downtown Las Vegas and got to take in the amazing light show that runs along the roof between the outdoor shops. It was so good I couldn’t keep the smile off my face. The club, Xcess I think it was called, was huge and packed but I couldn’t tell you much about it as to be honest I can’t remember. I went home with a few of the group and had to be almost carried back to my room. But when in Vegas! The next day we chilled by the huge pool, sweating out the hangover before heading out for the some food at Hooters. Only a few days left to go before the half way point.
Hope your summer is going amazing! Follow my path around the U.S Coast on Instagram – @inthefrow and Vine – IntheFrow. For every section of these posts, you can find them in the Travelling Category :)