After leaving Yosemite, we drove through Arizona and past some rather odd places including the Area 51 Alien Centre and Brothel (don't ask). The views were desolate, I'd never seen cacti so big before, we really were in the middle of nowhere for a lot of it. Passing through towns with less than 20 people living there, it was worlds away from home.
It was van appreciation day because the drive from Yosemite to Las Vegas was not a short one, but I really loved listening to Tame Impala and Foals on the radio and just gazing at the landscapes passing us by. A lot of it doesn't look real, more like the backdrop to a movie, I think the whole trip felt like that, like being in a movie. On our arrival in Vegas, the sun was glorious and after quickly getting checked in at The Golden Nugget hotel we headed out to check the place out. I was starving so I grabbed a slice (two slices which was a mistake and definitely too much food), it was delicious and a carb loading was needed as the night involved hitting the strip in a party bus. Fairmont was right near our hotel, the place was bright, bold and had some rather scandalous street performers that you couldn't really miss. I found a souvenir patch and headed back to my hotel room to get ready for the night.
What Happens in Vegas
Vegas is an odd place, I don't quite no how else to describe it, the difference between day and nighttime is unbelievable. Our party bus experience took us to the Vegas sign which was quite and emotional stop, as there was a memorial for all the victims of the recent shooting. Underneath the sign were hundreds of cards, flowers and gifts that it made it difficult to not get a little swept up in emotion. Next we drove to the Bellagio to see the fountains, these did not disappoint (the video of them in action is in my Trek Vlog on my Youtube Channel). They were breathtaking, the wealth in this part of Vegas was very clear, it's the location of Oceans Eleven and The Hangover (we did see Ceaser's Palace, not the real one of course) so you can't help but feel like you're surrounded by fame and fortune.
The next day I had plenty lined up, we hit the hotel pool which had a huge shark tank in the centre and a slide that went straight through the middle. After a morning lounging we were picked up in a Humvee to go to Battlefield, a shooting range for a few of us who had opted to try this out. I've never heard gunfire in real life and it was surreal to be surrounded by live ammunition, I couldn't have predicted the way it would make my stomach turn. Firing a Glock/ Pistol just like Lara Croft was something I have always wanted to do, but the reality is so much more powerful. After this we headed out for some food and onto the Stratosphere which overlooks the entire city, there's also a couple of rollercoasters on top of this tower if you're particularly brave (I wasn't). The views were unbelievable and it was a way to take a step back out of the madness of the city and just appreciate the beauty from above.
It Sure is Grand
We headed out of Vegas and towards The Grand Canyon, stopping by the Hoover Dam first to walk across it. This I hadn't been expecting, it was definitely a pleasant surprise (yet again the weather was on top form for us, so we welcomed the chance to stretch our legs). It's a very impressive structure and we walked across the state line from Nevada into Arizona to continue our adventure.
Our arrival into the Grand Canyon was unique, our Tour Leader Andrew made us cover our faces with paper bags to do a grand reveal. Holding onto the person infront, he led us towards the ridge (we half expected to fall of the edge somewhere), lined us up, and filmed us taking the bags off our heads. There had been some controlled fires recently and so the place was covered in smoke which made the whole place so atmospheric. It was definitely how everyone should see it for the very first time!
It's such a strange place, you know its big that's why they call it Grand obviously. However, until i was stood in the presence of the Canyon I could never have quite understood the magnitude of this stunning landscape. I've been in the forest before and mountain climbing, so as I said before Yosemite had this familiarity but not The Grand Canyon, it was unlike anything I had experienced before.
We got two days here, the first was spent walking along the ridge and taking plenty of photographs. We gathered the whole group together to eat pizza whilst watching the sun go down, a bucket list moment I didn't have on my list but it should have been there all along. The pizza was delicious but the view was better. Once the sun had gone down, we climbed back into the van and all spent the night playing Mafia around the campfire.
The next morning we split into two groups to go watch the sunrise, the more adventurous of us decided to hike into the canyon (it's important to note you hike down, so it's coming back that really tests you). At 5am we sleepily climbed out of our tents, threw some bagels into our bags and grabbed a quick campfire brew before getting into the van. This trip required we get a bus to our trail. The second group continued onto another point to sit and watch the sunrise, but our view would be a little bit more intimate. The hike down was very steady, we were so distracted by the views you didn't really notice how steep it would be coming back. One mile in we hit OOH AAH point, this was were we would stop with our breakfast and take it in. I had a hoodie on with the air being quite fresh but as soon as the sun hit the ridges, we all began stripping down our layers.
A couple of poses and after a clamber onto the canyon ledges, we knew it was time to climb back out the way we had come. We stopped briefly to let some cowboys and there herd of mules pass us by, quite a surreal thing to witness, and continued the challenging hike out of the canyon. It was definitely a good way to start our day, wide awake once we hit the ridge again there was a sense of achievement that washed over our little group. Not everyone will get to experience this place and that makes my heart sink because I know people who would have adored the place as much as me, and I hope they get to see it for themselves, one day. Whilst heading back to camp we did come across a couple of Elks, who in the heat were taking a sneaky drink from the water taps pools. I don't think I've ever gotten to be that close to a wild animal before, it was incredible.
Seeing the sunrise over the Grand Canyon after hiking to OOH AAH Point, was a memorable moment that stands out from the trip (it's in the top 3). I found myself enjoying getting lost in these moments, whether in the forest or the desert, being surrounded by natural beauty makes me feel a sense of calm I don't get in day to day life. Time doesn't matter, my problems don't matter, I just breathe and for a little while everything in life is perfect. It was very difficult to leave Arizona but we had to move on towards Route 66 and our final destination, Los Angeles.
🍑 A B Y
Aby, 24. Northerner.