Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Parks Continue

After saying goodbye to the Zion area, we had a whirlwind adventure hopping from park to park on our way back to the West Coast.
First up was the Great Basin. It was a bit out of our way but were told it was a can't miss park due to it's remoteness and scenic beauty.  And indeed, it was very remote with absolutely nothing to see along the road except for pastures full of cows and sheep.  The park was quite beautiful but the snow levels prevented us from hiking to the summit.  Instead we spent out time exploring the Lehman Caves and then continued on down the road.

On the way to our next park, the Mojave Desert, we stopped at a couple of hot springs I had read up on.  Sadly, they were closed to the general public.
The Mojave Desert park was pretty barren, with not much to see or do except for the Kelso Dunes which we pulled up next to and called home for the night.  In the morning, we headed out to climb the tallest dune which was quite the undertaking.  A sandy trail leading straight up, but causing you to slide backwards at the same time.  It was a struggle but everyone eventually made it to the top and was rewarded with a great view of the desert.

The giant Sequoias were calling and so we continued on down the road leaving the desert in our rear view mirror.  I think I recall seeing some giant trees as a wee lad but am not sure if they were sequoias or redwoods.  Regardless, these trees had me absolutely mesmerized.  The crowds at these two parks were minimal and the trails were abundant.  If time weren't an issue, we could have easily spent quite a few extra days here.

I've always heard great things about Yosemite growing up and never had a chance to visit.  I actually came close to working there for a Summer, even submitting an application and having it approved.  However, for some reason I joined the Navy instead, forever changing my life's direction.  Or did it?
I was disappointed in this park for two reasons.  First, the crowds.  OMG where did all of these people come from?  And its not even peak season yet.  Secondly, no overnight boondocking.  You either had to stay in a campground of leave the park every night.  We met one of the rangers who kindly let us park in front of his house every night during our stay, even allowing us access to his showers and wifi.  Matt, we are greatly appreciative of your generosity!  

Whew, I think that wraps it up for now.  There will be quite a few more National Parks in our immediate future.  I think if I had to pick my favorite so far, it would be Sequoia.  Yosemite would definitely take the top spot if there weren't so many people messing it up for me.

Zion National Park, Utah

We didn't spend near enough time at the Grand Canyon, thinking we had to hurry up to the Zion area for some training runs before race day smacked us upside the head.  However, Vanessa had the start date wrong (yeah, I'll put the blame on her) and we ended up arriving a full month before race day rather than the 2 weeks we had thought.  No worries, Zion is beautiful and there is lots to explore both in and out of the park.
We decided to make our home base at the Bumbleberry Inn since we still had their wifi password and their parking lot was rather large.  From here we were in close proximity to various trailheads, boondocking campsites, and the park itself.  However, the park wasn't our goal since it was full of tourists.  Instead, we make the trails outside the park our playgrounds.
Matt Gunn, the race director for the Zion 100 introduced us to the local running group, the Trailheadz, and Vanessa and I joined them on a run along the GEM Trail which was part of the race.  Beautiful trail that ran along a slot canyon.  The trail was slightly uphill on the out portion and we struggled to keep up with the girls leading the run.
We also scoped out some camping sites that Matt suggested on his FAQ.  There are quite a few very cool sites but we were saddened that a lot of the river sections were closed off to the public.
Inside the park we ran along a few trails, most notably was Angel's Landing which Vanessa loved but my acrophobia prevented me from summiting.  Still, it made for a great training run.
The Zion 100 race didn't go exactly how Vanessa and I envisioned, both of us getting sore knees from running on the slickrock early on.  We struggled with the trails and dropped at mile 52.  Vanessa's race report can be found HERE.  Still, we had a wonderful time out there and would love to attempt this race again.  Especially since Matt mentioned he'd comp us if we should return.