Passing through the border crossing at Carway, Alberta, a rather wildwest US border patrol officer asked us what we planned to be doing, took a look at the bikes and the climbing gear, and asked us with such incredulity in his tone, “Now why would y’all want to be doing that?!” Those words set the tone for our vacation… not the usual… to Zion, Vegas and Moab.
We were heading south with a car loaded full of gear, off to explore the Nevada and Utah deserts to escape the clutches of this l-o-n-g 2018 winter, meet up with friends, and ‘git ourselves a wee bit of adventure.
On the agenda: sport climbing outside of Vegas (with perhaps a taste of trad climbing), and then some hiking, scrambling, mountain biking, and exploring the strange and bizarre desert landscapes of Zion, Red Rocks and Moab. Yup, this trip would definitely be a break from the usual.
The drive down through the upper reaches of Montana was spectacular. We chose the Carway border crossing on purpose, as it would let us travel closer to the rocky mountain range as it extended down into the United States. It took us through some exceptionally remote and extremely vast areas where we were the only car on the road for long periods of time. It was seriously beautiful country with snow-peaked mountains on one side and rolling foothills on the other for much of that journey. We saw tons of eagles and deer.
At one point we saw a small wooden barn, in the middle of nowhere, with no signs of habitation anywhere nearby. On it’s roof, were huge letters made of shingles that said “Not even once” on one side, and “METH” on the other. It was remote. It was desolate. It was heart wrenching. It was fascinating.
It took us two days to travel down to Zion National Park where we planned to hike for a few days before meeting up with the gang. There, the wind blew pecans out of barren trees (really!), raining down yummy snacks all around our car.
The town itself was in a bit of construction chaos, but we enjoyed our time there. The hiking, when you could get away from the crowds, was spectacular.
We stayed on the edge of town where we had this view each day when we came back from our hiking adventures. The bare tree is one of the pecan trees. We’d sit in the Adirondack chairs on the back patio, sip our cold beer and munch away on very fresh nuts. It was a tremendous way to come down each day, rest, relax and connect.
After Spending a few days in Zion, we headed to Las Vegas where we were sharing an Air BnB house with some of our climbing friends. We were greeted with these bill boards on the drive in, which gave us a good chuckle.
The Red Rocks area outside of Las Vegas did not disappoint! With peaks to top and walls to climb there was a lot to do there to take you away from the tourist hordes. And its sandstone formations were incredibly beautiful and bizarre, making for an exceptional playground for scrambling, hiking and climbing. With their dark varnished bits (the black on the red rock), their grippy sandstone slab routes, and their airy approaches to the climbing crags, those massive red, white and pink sandstone clumps were a spectacular place in which to play, hang out and explore. It was easy to search out the sticky, in-shadow walls and escape the blistering heat there, if you used the guide books and did a little research ahead of time. Our group had a diverse range of climbing ability in it, and it was pretty easy to find walls that could keep all of us occupied, challenged and having fun for the entire day.
The beauty of being on the edge of Vegas, was that you could find great restaurants, fancy & on “the strip” or “cheap and cheerful”…
…we had fun searching out the most authentic Mexican tacos, and Vegas did not disappoint! If you’re there, hit up Tacos el Gordo in East Las Vegas, or Frijoles & Frescas.
The town of Blue Diamond, farther down the road from Red Rocks has some seriously spectacular biking. Its single track trails take you swooping with wonderful flow, punching up and down dry gulches and washes, doing slaloms through cacti clumps, and zipping past joshua trees.
From Vegas, we headed on to Moab, Utah, a further 6+ hours of road travel. (Moab stands for “Most Outrageous American Biking,” don’t ‘cha know?) It’s a mountain biking (and jeep) mecca full of outstanding, bike-able sandstone formations and an incredible network of mountain biking trails. The rock is grippy. The riding is technically challenging. The landscape is awe-inspiring. And the down-riding, when you get it, is seriously fast, with lots of drops and just so much fun.
Moab is where we are currently, having a blast on the slickrock. I will write again soon…. in the meantime, I’ve gotta get out there & explore!