A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about landscapes

‘Til Death (Valley) do us part

From one extreme to the other

sunny 30 °C
View 2011 - Samoa, NZ, Hawaii, USA on neilthelr's travel map.

After Vegas Death Valley is uber-tame. However, as with the other National Parks we’ve been too, it’s no less spectacular. It’s highest point is 11,049ft and it’s lowest (just 15 miles away) is 282ft below sea-level. It’s lowest temperature ever is -9 degrees Celsius (15 F) at night and it has the 2nd highest air temperature ever recorded on earth at 56 degrees Celsius (134 F). And it’s over 49 degrees Celcius (120 F) for more than 40 days of the year on average. Oddly, the best time to visit is winter because it’s just too hot during summer so we’ve timed it perfectly. From the view point at Dante’s View you can see down in to the valley below, which is just an amazing sight; what looks like it should be a river valley is just a wide, flat, salt filled expanse as far as the eye can see; you can see why not many people have tried farming here. That salt flat is called Bad Water (because animals won’t drink it) and we walked out on to it the following day. It sits at 282 ft below sea level, the lowest point in the western hemisphere and it’s just an amazing sight when you get there. And then we took in some exotically named places such as Natural Bridge, the Devil’s Golf Course and Artists Palette on the way back to base. We headed west out the park today and the thing that’s most astonishing is the elevation change. Our lodge was 230 ft below sea level. We headed towards the western exit and around 35 miles north-west of where we started we passed an elevation sign reading 4956 ft. We then descended and passed an ‘elevation 1000 ft’ sign, then about 10 miles later we passed an ‘elevation 4000 ft’ sign. To say our ears ‘popped’ once or twice would be understating it! You notice the greenery return when you climb a bit as well and that set the scene for a beautiful journey through the lush, green valley along the south of the Sequoia National Forest and on to Bakersfield, our overnight stop before heading to Yosemite where snow features on the forecast for the next 7 days. Best learn how to use those snow chains then.

Posted by neilthelr 22:31 Archived in USA Tagged landscapes Comments (0)

That canyon is truly grand

But some people debate that

all seasons in one day 10 °C
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We’ve skipped a few days of detail in this blog and gone straight to the Grand Canyon for the simple reason that those 2 days can be summed up in on word: Driving. Once out of LA and on the I-40 (which runs parallel with Route 66) it was a case of set the cruise control, overtake lorries (lots) and occasionally stop for a ‘rest’. The overnight in Needles at the ‘Bates Motel’ was uneventful but we had an entertaining conversation with the people at the Thai takeaway. We’ll spare you the details. And so to the Grand Canyon. In summary…wow! We thought Milford Sound was impressive but this place is something else. You have no sense of the scale until you stand on the rim and look at it. We’re staying at the south rim village, which makes the north rim 10 miles away. It looks like a mile at most. It’s not the deepest, longest or widest canyon but it’s had 800 cubic miles of rock moved out of it over the (millions of) years!! And some other stats that make it grand…277 miles long, 10 miles wide (on average), around 5000 feet deep and a river that runs through it (the Colorado) that flowed (according to some old-timers) at a speed of greater than 300,000 cubic feet a second (that’s over 300,000 basketballs flowing past every second) after the spring melt. We’ve star-gazed (Jupiter was visible as well), had a tour covering the geology, taken in the sunset from Pima Point and tracked a few miles down in to the canyon taking the Bright Angel Trail. Just so you have some appreciation of the Bright Angel Trail…it starts at the south rim at an elevation of 6785 ft and heads down in to the base of the canyon to Phantom Ranch (and beyond). Getting there is a full day hike. Getting to the stop before – Indian Garden – is a 6 – 9 hr round trip hike with a descent of 3060 ft in 4.9 miles (and thus an ascent of 3060 ft). We didn’t go that far but did manage a 4.5 hour round trip that got us 1460 ft in to the canyon. The path was various combinations of icy, snowy, slushy, muddy, puddled, dry, rutted and rocky; hard work in other words and you could only walk about 1.5 mph. People have died on this trail so we definitely earned the warm bath at the end and the views along the way were just fantastic. And boy, do the legs ache! Tomorrow we’re off to Monument Valley, which is owned and managed by the Navajo Indians for what should be a warmer and less snowy experience than the Grand Canyon.

Posted by neilthelr 16:38 Archived in USA Tagged landscapes mountains Comments (0)

Why does it always rain on me?

Abel Tasman: One park, two weather systems

semi-overcast 21 °C
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A 6am wakeup for a 1.5hr drive (that only took 1 in the end) and a 9am water taxi from Marahau today heading north in to the National Park. We had a small detour south to begin with to see the Split-Apple Rock, before setting out north in the sun. However, we could see the clouds looming in the north and by the time we got to Totaranui at 10:45 it didn’t look promising and our small boat was riding some decent sized waves making a few people look green around the gills. We headed back to Bark Bay as planned and were dropped off for our 2.5 hour walk along the coast back to Torrent Bay for a pick up and back to base. The walk is a lot of up and down but the views down to the bays along the way were spectacular and, given it was very humid, the odd spot of rain was welcome. We were looking forward to a dip in the sea and catching some rays at the end before our pick up in Torrent Bay, but just after we’d applied sun lotion it started to rain. Not happy. Plus the sea was cold so we didn’t swim either. The journey back was smooth and swift though so we could be thankful at the end of a long day. Well worth the effort.

Posted by neilthelr 02:55 Archived in New Zealand Tagged landscapes trees sea Comments (0)

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