This was our second trip to the US Westcoast and with past experience we knew what to go for: lots of National Parks for unrivaled scenery and hiking, plus a taste of the incredible vastness of Nevada and Utah. This holiday was to leave an everlasting impression in our memories.

So much space... Compared to our densily populated country The Netherlands and the crowdedness of most of Europe, these long, empty roads never tired us and felt relaxing in one way and exciting (we had to check road conditions ahead due to chances of flooding) in the other way. We heard about a campervan being held up and robbed: we had arrived in the Wild West !
While our holidays had started in San Francisco, we felt these parts were our real start of the trip, so let's take it from here....


Roads being flooded, we actually saw thunderstorms approaching and pass... it all meant we were in touch with nature and its ability to complicate our travels or even endanger our safety. While driving through parks and isolated places like these, we took the "flash flood warnings" seriously.
The luxury sedan we had rented was of much better quality than the cars we could afford at home and enabled us to drive the distances we were not accustomed to in Europe; driving never tired us and relaxed us after a serious hike (which we were not used to either !).


I have always been interested in the history of "the Old West" in the United States: the pioneers, early settlers, explorations and travels done by the Mountain Men trapping for beaver pelts (over the years I managed to collect a nice selection of diaries of early trappers), the truth behind "cowboys & indians", etc. Isolated communities such as here in Austin, Nevada (on US 50 between Reno and Ely) made me feel in touch with that history.
We took the diversion from Highway 80 on purpose and enjoyed the solitude and our first visit to a ghost town (at the Ruth Copper Mining Pit); we were to repeat visits to ghost towns for many years.
Newspapers reported "Deadly storms hit California, Nevada again" and we checked roadconditions with the rangerstations; but we were able to continue our itinerary (though part of the road ahead had only been repaired since a few days, after flooding had washed away part of the road).


Again our daily diet revolved mostly around junkfood... This type of food hadn't arrived yet in the Netherlands, not to an extend as it had in the US. Burger King's "whopper" was new to us and we had a fair share of those ! Hamburgers were varied with pizzas, fortunately we had plenty of exercise to walk off some of that fat.
The liquor licenses, however, were a mystery to us: while you could buy beer at some gasstations, a restaurant around the corner couldn't serve wine with dinner... A glass of wine prohibited, for Pete's sake !!


Driving further east we saw these products of an imaginitive mind ! We have driven Beatles at home, never thinking they could be used in this way...
We also visited the Lehman Caves, east of Ely; the subterranean wonderlands were indeed wonderful and we spent almost 2 hours admiring the stalactites and stalagmites in their amazing forms and shapes. Due to the space on this page, I concluded they were not as photogenic as the other photos: choices had to be made...

In 2007 I came across another such 'Work of Art' in Northwest Ontario.


We were on our way to Salt Lake City and while our visit to the great sanddunes at Little Sahara Recreation Area were done in plenty of sunshine, the next day some really nasty weather had caught up with us ! This thunderstorm, on the shores of the Great Salt Lake, brought the biggest hailstorm down on us as I had ever experienced; it made a terrible racket, sitting in the car while we waited for the storm to pass.
The Great Salt Lake is both the largest body of water between the Great Lakes and the Pacific Ocean and the largest salt lake in the western hemisphere. The Great Salt Lake is the major remnant of prehistoric Lake Bonneville, a large freshwater lake of the Pleistocene era (75,000-7,250 B.C.) that once covered 20.000 square miles (51.800 square kilometers).
Great Salt Lake explained.


Click on the photo for a larger image:


This must be one of the prettiest photos I have made during this trip; this is what I mean with "connecting with history", people living off the land in the same way as they did for many generations ago (that tractor gives it away though, if you want to read 19th century in this photo...).

I came across the very same place in 1990, it hadn't changed much though I didn't see any horses then.


Capitol Reef National Park was our first park after having visited Salt Lake City (again, that city was nice but by no means as impressive as Mother Nature in these parts and choices had to be made while selecting the photos for this webpage.) and it did not disappoint us. The rock formations were impressive and warnings for "flash floods" in places such as here, in the "Grand Wash", added to the excitement.



The park was virtually deserted except for us... We hiked for about 2 hours to Cassidy's Arch, under hot and dry conditions. It is good advise to carry water with you in these parts. Famous outlaw Butch Cassisy and his gang had their hideout in these parts, hiding away from the law.
The gray band of rock is a greenish-gray shale that was once volcanic ash.


"Skyline Arch"
The most impressive National Park of our vacation: Arches NP !
One can see the strangest formations in this park and the hikes are very pleasant; the difference between the amount of cars driving around and people taking to the trails was noticable, most Americans don't like to get out of their car much... At one point I thought to take a short cut and moved away from the trail, not a good idea ! I lost my way and had to climb a rock formation to find the trail again.

Arches National Park preserves over 2.000 natural sandstone arches, including the world-famous Delicate Arch, and other unique rock formations.


We stayed in Moab and visited this park for 2 days, taking to the trails and shooting plenty of film. This is an experimental photo, shooting against the sun with a red filter. It translates the heat during noon-time quite well !
Oh, and watch out for those snakes....



We travelled south and took in the scenery of Canyonlands. We did not venture into this vast park as time would not permit it and we did not drive a 4WD. We did visit the arches of Natural Bridges National Monument and from that point moved into the Indian Reservation and Monument Valley. The rock formations here are again fascinating and all have been given names, here we see "Sitting Hen" in the distance.
The scenery is breathtaking ! Oh, I love to go back to these parts one day...


Bryce Canyon, again the most amazing sculptures have been made in the soft sandstone of the Colorado Plateau.
Bryce Canyon is in fact not a canyon at all; a better description would be an amphitheater of Pink Cliffs sculptured by wind, rain, snow and ice over 50-60 million years.
Paiute Indians called the Pink Cliffs: "Red rocks standing like men"; they related a tale of the Legend People, various animals and birds living in a beautiful city built for them by Coyote. The Legend People then began behaving badly toward Coyote, who transformed them all into stone....


 
While the park has an excellent scenic drive with many viewpoints, we felt we needed to see this park on foot too. We changed our minds when we heard of the possibilty of viewing it from the back of a horse (a mule in fact); Ada was allowed on "Charcoal" and I parked my butt on "Michelob"... Both horses were surefooted (I had some misgivings when I heard the name of my horse...).
While photography from the back of a horse is not ideal, it certainly was an impressive experience !


"Elephant Rock" in Valley of Fire State Park, I am sure you can see the resemblance.
After a brief visit to Zion National Park we continued in the direction of Las Vegas for some "rest & recreation". We passed this park and inspite of the heat I took to the trail. Ada preferred to stay in the airconditioned visitor's center. This park treated my camera to some odd rock formations too and I found "Elephant Rock" the most expressive.


Las Vegas ! After driving endless miles through empty countryside, hiking trails with a throat thick of thirst and sleeping in the cheapest motels.. this town treated us to some well-deserved rest and luxury.
 

We did not gamble or loose any money on the slotmachines; for us the attraction was the evening entertainment and we enjoyed various shows. We slept in late, spent hours at the pool, caught up on some books and waited for the show at midnight to begin. We enjoyed dressing up again after having lived in jeans and t-shirts for weeks and were amazed that so many Americans did not bother to dress up for evenings like these. Where is the romance in their lifes ?!
We saw "Bal du Moulin Rouge" (starring Charo) in the Las Vegas Hilton and particularly enjoyed "Dream Street" in the Dunes Hotel. After the show we strolled the Strip and took in all the glamour that is Las Vegas.
We stayed at the same adress we did 3 years ago: The Ambassador Inn.
During these holidays we also stayed sometimes with Motel 6, a relationship that has continued over the years.We stayed in 16 different motels during this vacation and managed to keep the costs of accommodation in the range of usd 20 - 25,- per night. We used Diner's Club and American Express credit cards, but this trip convinced us we were better off next time with VISA and Mastercard (credit cards were not common at that time in our home country).


Another long drive took us to from Las Vegas,NV to Tulare,CA (360 kms) and our destination this time was Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park.
The car we drove was a rental from Avis, a Chrysler E Class and the novelty for us was it "had a voice"... It spoke warnings like: "Your parkingbrake is on", "Do not forget to take your keys" and "A door is ajar". While it was fun for a while, the voice became annoying by the end of the trip and we started talking back ("Yes, I know !") to the darn thing !
Ada is sitting on top of a "Sequoia Gigantea" here, quite pleased we had escaped the heat of the desert and she enjoyed the shades of these gigantic trees.


The Land of Giants !
We saw trees you could drive through, park your car on and we stood in awe admiring these huge, ancient trees. They can survive forest fires and can get very old. The largest tree, "General Sherman", stands at almost 275 feet (82.50 meters). There are trees in this park which are over 2.000 years old, consider for a moment what has changed in the world while these trees grew and grew and ....
This park was quiet too, most people go the the park next door... But the trails are pleasant and the park is definitely worthy of a visit.


The famous Yosemite National Park !

The Valley is the center of this park and we were a bit a shocked by the crowds gathering in this park. But as soon as you get out of the car and hit the trails, things get quiet.
While the Indians knew about this park for ages, the white men first "discovered" this area during the 1850s (miners, following the trail of a wounded bear). A military batallion visited this area a year later and gave it the present name (which stems from the Ahwahneecheee Indian word "Yo-Shay-Ma-Tee", meaning some are killers, referring to the resident Grizzly Bears.


We stayed 2 nights in the tented cabins of Curry Village and walked various trails. Some trails are rewarding in itself, because of the quietness or impressive views, other trails lead to a specific point such as "the Bridalveil Falls".


We always try to follow the advise to remain on the trails and thus not do damage to the environment, but sometimes you cannot resist a little adventure and undertake an outing such as these.... This was on our way to "Mirror Lake".

We left the park by way of the Tioga Pass road, which still had snow next to the road in a few places. This pass can be blocked by snow long into the summer and leads to the eastern entry point of the park. The drive itself gives excellent views.
We backtracked around the park on the north side, heading for San Francisco, as our holidays were almost over.


Being a military aviation enthusiast I had arranged a visit with VAK-308, a unit on Naval Air Station Alameda, flying the impressive EKA-3B "Skywarrior" or "Whale". We enjoyed the hospitality and Ada had an opportunity to try on some cockpit gear.



The Golden Gate Bridge was covered in fog. It was the last photo we took before taking the Martinair flight out of Oakland back to Amsterdam on 10Sep83.
The memories of this journey remain a lasting treasure.


External links of historical interest:
the Old West
Eyewitness to history
Sources:
National Park Service
Arches NP

 

 

 

Created: 3-12-03 Updated: 8-12-03