I arrived home from the big western trip late on Saturday (7/2) after a long day of driving that began in Albequerque, NM. I was surprised that the Rocky Mountain front is a lot less pronounced on I-40 than in Denver, CO on I-70. So, in fact, most of the day was spent driving the High Plains. Cheapest gas all trip was back in Hays, KS where the price was $2.13/gal.
The last leg of the trip was distinctly hotter than the earlier part of the trip. Sequoia and Kings Canyon NPs were wonderful and cool, because of the higher elevations. Descending into Bakersfield, CA was a bit like a descent into hell (in a thermal sense anyhow). Remarkably though, Lake Kaweah was historically high, flooding some of the shoreline campgrounds and boat launches. After getting gas and an oil change in Bakersfield I made the decision to forgo camping in the Southern Sierras and I forged on for Barstow, CA. Spent the following morning discovering Rainbow Basin State Park – lovely structures! I then powered eastward through Vegas and on to St. George, UT (closing my California loop). What a difference a week and a half can make – the clear skies that I had left on the way west were now obscured by a pall of thick smoke from wildfires in the area – a real bummer for photography. Fortunately in the canyon of the Virgin River in Zion NP the grey horizon was replaced by towering sandstone cliffs and the sky overhead was not overly smoky. Zion, like most of the big parks out west, was wall to wall people – or at least that’s the way it felt when trying to get a parking space at the visitor center. The shuttle system there works very well, though, so once you are parked seeing the rest of the park is quite pleasant. After Zion it was on to a new (to me) stretch of parks. After camping at Coral Pink Sand Dunes, west of Kanab, UT, I proceeded to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. A beautiful drive in along the Kaibab Plateau led to letdown at the canyon rim – fires in the vicinity created a haze so thick it was hard to make out even the South Rim. Bummer. A brief side trip to Page, AZ was a beautiful drive, but the Glen Canyon Dam was a sad reminder of the security situation in our times. I was really hoping to do a cubic QTVR at its base, but the idea was quickly abandoned upon discovering airport style security at the visitor center – no way I was even going to think about asking for special access. After Page, I made my way south to the San Francisco volcanic field. The final geologic stop of the trip was a foray to SP Crater. Climbing the cinder cone during the midday heat proved to be too daunting, but I was able to get some nice photos from the saddle on its west side and some nice fresh samples of the andesite from the east edge of its lava flow. After that, it was eastward ho!
Grand total of photos for the trip: 9303, or roughly 300/day. Might’ve broken 10K if the weather had been clearer on the last leg. Oh well, you can’t win ‘em all.