Day 23: Sunday 28th
I set my alarm for 3.50, and woke to find the roommate I vageuely recalled coming in sleeping soundly in the next bed. After fetching my washbag and getting dressed, I packed up the remaining things and left to check out. It was still only 4.10, and I spent some time chatting with the night receptionist, an older man who showed me his tapestry which he does for a hobby. The one he was making was a bald eagle, I think, and looked fine.
The shuttle to the Sea-Tac airport came, and on the trip we (finally!) got some great views of Mt Rainier. The flight down to San Fransisco was in a 737, and as I had a window seat and the skies were for the most part clear I got some great views of the Olympic mountains, the Seattle bay area and the country South. I had hoped to see Mt. St. Helens too, ut I think I was the wrong side of the plane. Sitting next to me was a guy who was returning to San Fran having driven a car and trailer up from San Diego for a friend in two days. That's about 25 hours of driving - quite impressive in my book.
San Franisco itself was covered in cloud, and I didn't see much of the city either landing or taking off again on the flight to London.
Day 24: Monday 29th
Still on the plane...
We arrived at LHR without incident, and thanks to the coach to Cambridge being late arriving even caught the 7.20am (néé 6.45am) coach home.
I definitely enjoyed this trip. As I said to Dean near the end, I had started it stressed out with work, and needing a break, but I am now raring to go again. Well, I write this on the plane 16 hours after waking up, and then only after 6 hours sleep, and I feel really tired, but I never could sleep well on a plane. It will pass. I enjoyed America; there is much I would like to see and do in the places we went to this time, and I would still like to do the Appalachian trip, perhaps with Andrea if we can organise ourselves well enough.
Dean was asking what the high points were. I found it really difficult to answer, as for me there were several. Sequoia NP was wonderful - not only the great trees but the "feeling" of the park inspired awe. I would love to go back and explore more there and in Kings National Park next door. Death Valley was much better than I expected it to be; I understand more now why people go there, and moreover why they stay. It is not the huge barren plain I had expected, but a place of wild, extreme beauty and I am glad to have been there to see for myself. Nevertheless, although I might go back someday it would not be on another must-see list.
Las Vegas is one of those "special" places; not so much because there is something special about the land as special about the culture there. There, money really does seem to grow on trees, and the streets really do seem paved with gold. Of course, the glitter and show are based on gambling, which is all pervasive, but when that much money is available to attract people, it is truly amazing what can and will be done. I think memories of Ceasars Palace and the Luxor will stay with me for some time to come. Again, I am glad I have been there and seen it, but it's not a place I need to visit again.
The Grand Canyon must rank as a strong contender for the best bit. Although I was "prepared" for the size of the canyon in the sense that I have seen the photographs and videos, I don't think anything can truly prepare you for the real thing. The feeling was was simply indescribable, and although I was sorry not to have seen it from the air - for that matter, didn't even get inside it - it was wonderful. As an unexpected bonus, the campsite at Jacobs Lake was one of the best placed we went to, and the scenery of the Kaibab Forest was stunning too. Definitely on the list to go again sometime.
The Canyons - Zion, Bryce, Canyonlands and Arches - I lump all together because they were, while not at all the same experience, somewhat similar. I enjoyed Zion the most; it's magnificient scenery is not just based on the canyons, but on a whole collection of things; Bryce is indeed an interesting place, with it's pinnacles and hidden valleys, but in the end it did little for me. The massive vistas seen at the Canyonlands were impressive, but again I feel no pull to return and explore that dry scenery further. Arches too was dry and dusty, but the arches themselves were majestic; I am glad we got to see them, and the sunset walk I enjoyed immensely. I am now sorry I didn't take my Psion on the walk earlier around the Windows; I wanted to walk around them completely, and didn't only because I wasn't sure I had time although in fact I could have done it easily...
We traveled on from Moab through the Colorado valley and on through Dixie up to Rock Springs. This part of the trip was fairly dull for me, although going through the Colorado valley was good. Dinosaur NM was disappointing; the exhibit was good in itself, but small and not well followed up. Olympic NP was also amazing. I had no idea such scenery existed, let alone what it looked like.