Grand Canyon - Las Vegas 7.04.2002

Since I had a day off for the 4th of July and it was a Thursday, and since Doru and Laura suggested it, we took a trip in the west to visit Las Vegas, Grand Canyon and all what is great to see around those areas. We spent 4 wonderful days together and we had a blast. The trip was only 4 days long but we drove allot - I think about 1500 miles (pour Doru, he drove all the time...) - and we saw fantastic things. Let me tell you about the things we have seen and enjoy the pictures we have taken. If you need any of the pictures at a bigger resolution (they are scale to 640x480) please let me know and I will send it to you.


The beginning

After careful planning of the trip and a short but vivid conversation at the phone trying to find plane tickets, we both, the Raleigh guy (me) and the Detroit guys (Doru and Laura) got plane tickets for planes that arrive in Vegas in the morning of the 4th and at 30 minutes distance. It was really a challenge to find decently cheap plane tickets for planes that leave in the morning and that arrive from Detroit and from Raleigh at about the same time in the morning. ... But we got it! Doru and Laura were scheduled to arrive in Vegas at 9.30 (and they had a little delay) and I was scheduled to arrive in Vegas at 10.30.


Day 1

Since my flight was leaving Raleigh at 7 AM and since the new airport regulations require to get to the airport 2 hours before your scheduled flight, I had to be in the airport at 5, well, 5 ish. I did not had the guts and the cruelty to wake anybody up at 4.30 AM so I decided to park my car at the airport in the long term parking lot (which by the way I HAD to use when I picked up dad from his Chicago flight).

I got up bright and early at 4 - 4.30 grabbed my bags carefully packed the night before and there I went. Got to the airport by 4.50, took the shuttle bus from the parking lot to the terminal and got in line to the luggage check. No problem checking in my luggage although the line was not small. I had a e-ticket so the check-in was easier and the line was smaller. The security check line was LONG and I wad to stay in line for about 20 minutes and I go to the terminal.

The plane was on time and although REALLY small (probably about 40 - 60 places) the flight went well. This is the first time I get on a plane where you have to go down the stairs and walk on the airport ground to get in the plane... Oh well, each day you learn something new and if you don't you just lost a day right?

My connecting flight was from Dallas TX so again after a little wait in Dallas and another check in I got, this time on a decent size, on my final flight to Vegas. The flight was nice and the best part was that the flight corridor was very low altitude before getting to Vegas so I had a great view of the Grand Canyon, or should I call it the Great Canyon? The landing was ... short since the landing strip is VERY short. The pour pilots have to land on a post stamp there and the have to heavily hit the brakes after the landing is complete to not run out of concrete.

I got in the airport and picked up my bag (yes, they didn't lost it strangely enough) and I had the surprise that Doru and Laura were expecting me at the luggage claim.

After brief greetings we went to get the rental car and there we went. The plan was to drive the first day from Vegas to the well known (yeah, right!) huge (probably about 500 inhabitants) city of Tusayan which is right outside of the Grand Canyon national park. It would have been nice to stay in a hotel right in the park but ... Laura had to book a hotel in Tusayan (just kidding, of course we, the boyz, tormented her all the time about this).

Since the drive was long (who cares, Doru drove all the time :-)) but nothing that Doru can't handle, we decided to stop only for a short while at Hoover Dam. It is a big dam Dam. It is about 735 feet tall and it supplies water to Vegas and surroundings. For the Romanians, this is just about like Vidraru but a little bit taller (about 180 ft). I don't think is larger though...

We visited the dam and took a lot of pictures and we also decided to visit it inside since you could go on a tour right inside of the dam and see all the generators and the cool stuff. By the way, that was also the first time we felt how 110 deg. F feel (43 Celsius). It is pretty hot so it felt good to get inside and visit. You can look at the pictures (links at the bottom of the page) to see how cool it looks.

One of the cool things they told us and I remember was that they use the cold water from the bottom of the dam (45F) to cool air which passes through pipes and they shoot this air through the elevator shaft to cool off the visitor center so they don't use any AC. Nice way to lower your power bill. ... Hmmmm, maybe I'll build a dam to when I'll have a house...:-)

The visit was great but we had to get on the road.
From Hoover Dam the roar to Grand Canyon passes through the desert. It is pretty amazing to see that people are living here to. The condition in the desert are really what you would expect ... dry, super hot days just with stones to look at and dust and an occasional bush or cactus ... not even the cactuses are living in some of the parts. The Joshua trees are nice though (those are the cactuses which look like a three - we didn't took pictures of them since when we found them they were in a prison zone and we decided not to stop).
After about an hour or so of driving we stopped in the megalopolis (yes, it is a English word, no I am not going to tell you what does it means) Chloride for some maps and directions at a visitor center. Laura loves those things, Doru to and I have to admit that's the only way to travel knowing what is to be seen on the road.

We got in Tusayan at about 6-7 PM and checked in the hotel. The hotel was nice and it even had a pool. Imagine how much the water costs there...
Since we were here, we decided to go see the sunset on the Grand Canyon so we drove another 10 minutes to the entrance in the park, paid the fee (oh, well, I guess we don't pay enough taxes...) and got to see IT. It is SPECTACULAR!
For all of you who live in US, if you didn't see Grand Canyon yet you have to. For the rest of the world ... well, if yo can make it to US for a visit, the Canyon is a great place to visit. There are tourists everywhere. You can here just about any language of the globe like you would be at the Babel Tower (no that doesn't exist anymore, that's a biblical story).
The sunset was fantastic (again see, the pictures with the links on the bottom of the page), the red shadows were growing on the walls of the canyon and the shapes of the clouds were drawn like by a painter's hand on the bottom of the abyss.
The pictures don' give the right dimensions to this fantastic natural wonder! It is huge. The haze covers all of the distant walls and Colorado river. I don't know the dimensions of the Canyon but I think is about 40 miles across and about 3000 ft deep. You can't even see well at 40 miles. Usually I think good visibility in terms of aviation is when you have 20 miles of visibility (well, where I like to be - underwater - is great if you can see 100 ft ...).
We got something to eat and went to bed decently early to be able to start all over next morning.


Day 2

After the huge buffet dinner we had the previous night, we decided we need to to some walking. We took a map and we decided to drive to Grand Canyon Village and then to take the shuttle bus to Hermit's Rest (you can find all the cool trails on the Grand Canyon page) and to hike back toward the car. The hike was 8 miles so we decided to get on the shuttle bus when we get tired and to ride back.

We started the hike (see pictures) at the Hermit's Rest point after visiting the gift shop and after Laura of course bought some Indian bracelet from the gift shop. The hike was long but very interesting and exhausting. We almost puked our guts out (Laura doesn't want to admit it so, I am sorry, only us the boys were really tired).

What's so bad about an 8 miles hike? Well, 110 F temperature, 5 hour walk with very little rest and some water. No, we didn't had good REI hiking shoes and $100 socks, we didn't had high tech back packs and water synthesizers, we didn't had walking sticks and walking T-shirts. Just plane travel gear. Trust me, it can be done. You don't need all that sh..., uuuuhhh, stuff.

We followed the narrow trail on the rim of the canyon with a great view on our left being separated from the abyss sometime just by 10 - 20 in. of nothing. The points we passed on the maps were:

  • Hermit's rest to Prima Point - nice easy 1.1 miles (1.8 km) hike with allot to see
  • Prima Point to The Abyss - that's nasty 2.9 miles (4.7 km), long, with allot to see but pretty hard. At the Abyss point you can see a 1000 ft drop straight rock wall which is pretty impressive
  • The Abyss to Mohave Point - would have been easy if we wouldn't have been after the previous two distances: 1.1 miles (1.8 km)
  • Mohave Point to Hopi point - 0.8 miles (1.1 km)
  • Hopi Point to Powel point - 0.3 miles (0.8 km)

The rest of the trail went from point to point since the stopping points and the overviews are very close on this end of the trail.
We got to our car exhausted and we had each a bottle of cold refreshing water. The strange thing in this dry heat is that you don't feel you are sweating and you don't need to pee. Trust me, it is still hot and NO it is not better than humid heat or at least I can tell you for a fact that I can take much better 95 F of humid heat that 110 F of dry heat..

We ended the day with a nice dinner (by the way the Texas Stake House restaurant where we ate, had rattle snake in the menu...) and again a sunset walk on the rim of the canyon (I think this time we went toward the east side).
Next day we had to drive all the way back to Vegas through the North Rim so we went to bed and we had a VERY good night sleep (no muscles pain though - nice!!!).


Day 3

We left Tusayan bright and early in the morning (at about 10 AM) since we wanted to visit the north rim and the Zion national park in Utah.
We passed again through the Grand Canyon park and drove toward the north rim, we passed Little Colorado river on the only bridge they have (the history is that before it was a guy who had a ferry to pass the river and once the ferry sunk and he died and after that everybody had to drive 180 miles around the canyon to pass). We stopped for lunch in a small motel/visitor center and we had a great lunch ended with blueberry pie and ice cream for me and I think cherry pie for Doru and pecan pie for Laura.
After miles of nothing with rocks on both sides of the roars and allot of fence (everything there is fenced - I think that's the best business in the desert: build fence-) we passed in Utah and the view changed. Water begun to be a little bit more present, we have seen grass and threes. Imagine how happy we were after half a day of dry pine trees and rocks to see green grass and threes...
We got in the Zion park where is awesome. The rocks are generally lime stone and some other hard rock so the shapes and the colors don't seem real. We have a couple of pictures in the park which you can see and definitely we need to do this again.
Another thing I have seen for the first time was something called "desert glass". I don't know what it is but it looks like glass chunks which they find in the desert. Does it comes from the volcano? Does it comes from the lighting strikes? I don't know I haven't been able to find anything on the web about it. ... I should have bought some!...
We got in Vegas around 8 - 9 PM and "logged-in" the hotel. We stayed at the Stratosphere Hotel in Vegas. Is is impressive? The casinos - NO, definitely not! The architecture - YES. The architecture and Vegas by night are fantastic, but I'll talk more about this on the next day.


Day 4

Last day. All good things ...
Oh well, we still didn't had the time to think about this being our last day since we had a busy schedule today to! Stay in a casino and gamble all day long thinking you will get a fortune? Nah, not us!

We decided to go see the Death Valley, the hottest place in USA.
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil" - no I didn't start going to church.
We left Vegas and after a couple of hours of driving, we got to the Death Valley. This is a valley between mountains, mostly lower than the sea level where is hot like hell. The breeze is burning your skin and your eyes and you can't touch any stones which are in the sun if you don't want a third degree burn... And humans live there to! Why? I wondered that my self to.
We started driving through the valley, armed with allot of water and with the hope that the AC on our car will not go bad (I will light a candle for the guy who invented the AC). The first stop was at a Zabriskie point (hew, I had to look twice to spell it right) and we had a nice view of the start of the desert. ... And a first feel of 45 deg. Celsius... If you want to see maps go to the Death Valley website.

There are two things you can't miss in the valley: Furnace Creek and Bad Water. We decided to see both.

Bad Water is the lowest point on land in the continental US. It is -280 ft so 280 ft. below sea level. I think it is called Bad Water because as you can see in our pictures, there is a little bit of water there but of course is salt water. The cool thing is that Doru brought his GPS and laptop (like I didn't had the laptop with me...) with him and we saw all the maps and landmarks on the computer to. I think the GPs registered even a lower altitude at Bad Water that the one posted. Here we also measured the highest temperature in all out trip: 121 deg. F (50 deg. Celsius). That's right, is not a typo, and I have to tell you it was HOTTTTT!. Now I understand why all the enlightments and seeing of strange things were in the desert. ... One hour in this heat and you will see anything you want!

We left Bad Water to visit the Furnace Creek ranch where it was recorded the highest temperature in USA:56.7 C (134.0 F) on the 10th July, 1913. It was pretty hot.
The ranch has a small gift shop and some restaurants and it is pretty nice since they have some water there so there are a bunch of palm threes like in an oasis ... ohhh, it IS an oasis. Here they also have I think the original wagon used to cross the Death Valley in the old days. The wagon was pulled by 20 pairs of mules and it was towing a huge tank of water to. I think they have pictures on the website and we have some good pictures to.

We left Death Valley to return to Vegas and to see how does Vegas look by night.

After a couple of hours of driving we got back to Vegas and we prepared to go out. We left the room at 7-8 we went on the stratosphere tower, the highest tower in Vegas for some aerial views of Vegas and to do some rides. They have a rolleroaster (pretty small but it takes you out of the tower so it is exciting - well, not according to to Doru-) and some thing they shoot you straight up and then they drop you down and you have the weightless feeling. The rides were OK. The view from the tower was awesome. Check out the pictures.

We left the hotel and got on the trolley that took us on the strip. At this time it was dark and all the lights were on. It was not real. If you imagine all the Christmas trees in the world put together that would be not even half of Vegas. All the hotels (or most of them) have a theme like Caesar's Palace - antique Rome, the Venetian - Venice, New York New York - obviously, New York and so on.

The night pictures came out pretty good. I should have shot more...
I think the words can't describe all we have seen. We have seen a pirate ship and pirates at The Treasure island hotel, we have seen a desert oasis at the Sahara Hotel (the plants in the Oasis were mixed, plastic/real and they were designed so good that you couldn't tell which one is real and which one is not), we have seen the Mirage with its huge aquarium full with tropical fish. You haven't seen in the movies so many tropical fish and stuff like you could see in this aquarium. They had everything from white tip reef sharks and butterfly fish to spotted moray eels and eagle rays. Incredible.
We have seen Merlyn's castle, actually the Excalibur hotel, we have seen Caesar's Palace hotel with Greek sculptures like the Goddess of Fortune (of course, what else in a casino) and David, fantastic indoors painted skies and huge water fountains. We have seen allot.
You need to go to Vegas to see those things. ... To bad those great architectural wonders are spoiled by the ... casinos. ...

We got back in the room at 2 AM and I had to get up on the morning at 4.30 since my flight was living at 7. I had to wake Doru up at 5 to take me to the airport. I should have taken a cab... We found the airport and I got back home after the whole day of flying (3 hours time difference) now with a stop in Cincinnati. Pretty cool since I haven't seen neither Dallas nor Cincinnati so now I can say I have been there to.

I got home just on time on Monday to drive fast to my scuba class.

This is it. We had a great time and we have seen wonderful things. I hope you enjoy the story and the pictures.



Her are the pictures:





Updated July 16, 2002 5:04 PM by Vlad Pambucol