River deep canyon high: Southwest National Parks

October 4, 2011

Justin: We’re in the Grand Canyon, our last leg of the American national park circuit and it’s been an adventure for sure. This past week has thrown up some memorable moments, vistas, people, places and toilets.

The southwest USA is known for incredible rock formations made all the more interesting by variety of colours due to oxidization. Monument Valley and Grand Canyon as opposed to other national parks have a certain air of eternal stillness that captivates you deeply. You just really feel and touch the sands of time here.

Monument Valley

I absolutely loved Monument Valley, the backdrop for many iconic Westerns – Stagecoach, Back to the Future Part 3, The Searchers. Kat and I bought a two-hour horse ride which took us into the valley and past some buttes and mesas which would be very familiar to most people. Our guide was Tim, a soft and gentle Navajo, builder by trade and participates in Rodeos. Kat and Tim’s horses worked just fine, mine however was impervious to movement. The red dirt at Monument kinda took me back to honeymoon times when Kat and I were at Broome three years ago.

Justin’s horse 30/30, the laziest horse on earth.

Also worth noting were the hoodoos at Bryce Canyon, really amazing formations that go on as far as the eye can see. Kat’s photography I believe has done these sites due justice.

The hoodoos of Bryce Canyon

Zion National Park

We successfully hiked through the Narrows in Zion National Park too, one of the must do hikes before you die, the water chilled my bones big time and the slot canyon provided frequent neck cricking awe and wonder.  At Zion too some really pesky and intrusive Squirrels figured out how to burrow their way into our car’s trunk (or boot if trunk throws you too much) to get into the trail mix stored in Kat’s camera bag. I had to commend their ingenuity and persistence, it reminded me of the great escape done at Alcatraz, but kinda in reverse thought, actually kind of profoundly different and annoying too! 🙂

Americans are inherently hospitable, trusting and helpful people. Kat and I really appreciate this and are learning from it too. It’s made me realise that as a culture Australia is probably a little more guarded and skeptical on general. At Bryce Canyon we met Jesse who used to back up for Alice Cooper on guitar and went on to design golf courses with Arnold Palmer of all people, what a career narrative, and what a man too whose offered to get us free concerts if possible in Nashville, great guy.

At Zion National we met an extended family who liked telling crude jokes to each other long into the night and who generously fed us and gave us stacks of firewood and again provided contacts and hospitality in other areas of states if we needed it. This is what’s it’s all about I say, opening yourself up to the wider world and learning so much about how the world provides and gives back to you as long as our avail yourself to the people and places.

Kat: Yes, squirrels got into our car. We still have to sort it out with the car place when we get back to LA, but judging from my phone call to Hertz I’m sure it’ll be interesting.

Kat: I need to be put through to report an incident. Squirrels have got into our boot.
Hertz guy: Your boot?
Kat: I mean trunk. They ate their way into our trunk.
Hertz guy: You mean squirrels ate your car?!

Fingers crossed we won’t have to pay too much and the insurance/hire care place treats it with as much humor as all the Americans we’ve told.

When we arrived, the Grand Canyon was sheathed in rain

These past few weeks have been a blast, one fantastic national park after another. The southwest is certainly a special place, very gifted geologically with so much history. Today we walked on rocks that are 5 billion years old and counting. We’ve been keeping active, hiking through the hoodoos in Bryce, the Narrows in Zion and the Canyon Rim today at the Grand Canyon. Sadly I don’t feel like I’m getting any fitter, but somehow my fingers are getting tanned.

As Justin’s already mentioned, the Narrows is considered to be one of the most beautiful hikes in the world. It meanders through the canyon river, where the only path is the water beneath your feet. It has to be a highlight for me, walking up the narrow corridors of “Wall Street” and taking photos in the stream. The hike is prone to flash flooding, so we were very lucky in getting the perfect conditions for the hike. The only downfall is the soggy and pruney feet you get afterwards. We also had a good laugh at some of the less prepared hikers; a girl swanning around in a string bikini, someone trying to hike in crocs, the retirees thinking they could hike an eight hour return trip at three in the afternoon. We hired proper canyoning shoes and a walking stick which made the journey a lot easier.

Hiking the Narrows

The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon, aptly named, rises up from the Colorado River in strata that look almost like a painting. I felt like I could reach out and rip a hole in the canvas. Thankfully I didn’t try, although the American Tourist has a lot to answer for; today we saw a guy walking over the edge of the track to get a “cool” photo. Idiot.

We walked the rim trail, a 12 kilometer walk from Bright Angel Lookout to Hermit’s Rest. The Hermit’s cabin was actually quite swish; marble floors, wood panels and a great fireplace. Unfortunately it had been converted into a souvenir shop complete with sandstone coasters and “I hiked the canyon” t-shirts. Most people just caught the courtesy bus…

The Grand Canyon, as viewed from the Rim Trail

But being in these places really reminds me how much we rely on technology, almost too much. It’s great to get away from it all, disconnect and view the great outdoors, because it really is great. Eating breakfast this morning two woodpeckers came up to me while I was eating, as curious about me as I was of them. No one was around, just me and the birds. I haven’t charged my iPod for a week, and the only electronics I’ve needed have been my camera and my kindle (which I consider a book, not a computer!). That said, there’s a time and place to watch Back to the Future in your tent. Kat out xx


Eddie and I really enjoyed meeting you and hearing about your travels! I am so glad to have gotten your website last night before we went home.
I have been totally enjoying your exquisite pictures and text. You are making the best use of todays many technologies that I have seen so far. But I come at it from a different perspective.
Being in my sixties and having traveled at every opportunity, we have shared and can relate to many of your travels. I must admit I was a bit jealous of your making this a journey (not just a week or month but years all at once) at this point in your lives. However, whether taken in one huge dose or over a lifetime is not so important as making time to TAKE the JOURNEY. I have found myself reliving my experiences through yours.
Thank you for sharing and keep them comming.

Hi Ann, it was great to meet you both as well. Yes we are incredibly lucky to travel at our age, we’re continuously told how great it is to do it while you’re young. Our last night in the USA tonight – very sad!
Thanks – Kat

I thought you might enjoy this video of your extended family and yourself in Zion. It was nice meeting the two of you.

Thanks Clay – We enjoyed meeting you too!! Glad to see the video of the “Ossies” 🙂

Love the narrative guys. The photos are breathtaking, Kat! Elise and I are still giggling about the squirrels, hope it all goes well with the car company in the end. I have to agree with your comments about the average American’s willingness to share and help, my journey there was met with utmost generosity and friendliness from every aspect. It’s an experience that teaches you so much about the pitfalls of buying into stereotyping and general uninformed ignorance – so much can be afforded the open minded person.

Well we’re thinking of you and so glad to see you’re having a great time. The photos are really showing the stress of the previous months have been washed away by awe and relaxation 😉

Love you both,

Thankfully Hertz has a sense of humor too! We got the car all sorted out easily, nothing to worry about 🙂

Love Kat and Justin

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