May 23, 2010 GMT
Death Valley To Yosemite And San Francisco
Having taking my fifth option of passes through the Sierra Nevada Mountains as the first four were closed due to snow I rode through Sequoia National Forest and Giant Sequoia National Monument climbing up into the snowline and dropping into warm valleys several times a day.
In The Sequoia National Forest Snow
Finding a campsite on the shores of Lake Kaweah, California in a lower altitude with warm, dry weather I camped for a couple of days. The lake level was rising with the melt water from the snow and ice higher up. Some of the lower camp pitches were flooded and the levels rose sufficiently that the campsite had to close on the day I left. The camp notice board warned of Tarantulas and Western Diamond Backed Rattlesnakes but I didn’t see signs of either.
Flooded Kaweah Lake Campsite
I had an extended lunch with a number of hot and cool drinks at a WiFi café sitting on a balcony overlooking a fast flowing river. At 4pm I was told that the café was closing but if I wanted to, I could stay on the balcony using my laptop and let myself out of a side gate. I was about to pack up and leave anyway but by the time I had put the laptop away the door into the café was locked. Hurrying round to the front via the side gate I told the staff who had just locked up that I hadn’t paid for all the food and drink I had. As they had already locked up I was told I could have the meal on the house which was very nice of them.
Rising Water Closed The Campsite On The Day I Left
I was back into snow by the roadside at Sequoia National Park, the home of General Sherman, the largest tree by volume in the world.
Snowy Sierra Nevada Mountains From Sequoia National Park
I remember seeing pictures of a live tree from Sequoia NP that had a hole cut through the trunk and a road driven through it. Unfortunately this rough treatment eventually killed the tree and it fell down. There is now a road through a tree that had already fallen down in 1934 instead but this road was closed to traffic due to the snow. I walked up the road through 'tunnel log' to the closed Crescent Meadow Campsite. The snow was up to two feet deep on about half the road with other sections clear.
Tunnel Log, You Can Normally Drive Through Here But Snow Had Closed The Road
A car had been trapped at the campground for the winter and had damage to most panels including the roof and the mirrors and wipers were hanging off. A window was smashed but personal possessions were still in the car so presumably all the damage was done by the weight of the snow which must have buried the car through the worst of the winter.
Car Trapped For The Winter Was Severely Damaged By Snow
The General Sherman Giant Sequoia Tree is 275 feet high and has a circumference of 103 feet at the base. Other trees are taller or wider but this one is the largest in the world by volume. It is between 2300 and 2700 years old and still looking good.
General Sherman Giant Sequoia - The Largest Tree In The World
There was a black bear 20 yards from the road as I was leaving Sequoia National Park. Fifty or Sixty tourists were trying to get photographs and several park rangers were stopping them getting too close so I decided not to stop and swell the crowd further.
25 MPH Looks A Bit Optimistic Today
All the campsites at Sequoia NP were in the snowline so I continued to Kings Canyon National Park and camped in the canyon bottom. Unfortunately it rained the day I spent there and I got a few strange looks as I walked the canyon forest wearing a motorcycle oversuit to keep dry.
Kings Canyon National Park, California
The following day I rode towards Yosemite National Park. The Yosemite campsites were all fully booked although one smaller campsite is reserved for ‘first come, first served’ campers without bookings. I stopped at a National Forest campsite a mile from the park boundary intended to get into the park early the next day and try to get a space at the ‘first come, first served’ campsite. The national forest campsite was in the snowline although most of the snow had melted leaving the ground damp. In the morning I had to strap the wet tent from the condensation rising from the ground to the outside of the panniers and get into Yosemite in search of a campsite.
Sierra Nevada Mountains From Kings Canyon NP
Roadworks in the park delayed me with numerous temporary traffic lights. It was nearly lunchtime before I got to the campsite and it was fully booked. I later learnt that people start queuing at 5:30am to get sites being vacated later that morning. I ended up riding 30 miles out of the park to a hostel. I seem to be having more trouble finding accommodation this summer on the west side of the USA than I did last summer in the east. Hopefully things will improve after Memorial Day weekend at the end of May when all the campsites should be open.
The following day on returning to the park there was room at the campsite but I had already decided to move on and had booked accommodation in San Francisco. There was a walk following the river to a waterfall, Vernal Fall which I thought would be a stroll along the river to a viewpoint of the Fall but it turned out to be a steep climb to the top of the waterfall.
Vernal Fall, Yosemite
At two places on the climb the path went through mist and water dripping from overhead rocks from the waterfall. The well prepared hiker had a plastic waterproof with them, others like myself got wet.
Half Dome, Yosemite NP
The 165 mile ride to San Francisco through the foothills and down into agricultural orange groves, walnut and almond plantations was better than expected from studying the map. There was a 45 mile or so section of interstate in the middle then the heavy city traffic built up approaching Oakland and the Bay Bridge leading into San Francisco.
Lunch Stop In Park On Way To San Francisco
Posted by ianmoor at 06:17 AM
May 20, 2010 GMT
May 15, 2010 GMT
Zion And Las Vegas
I entered Zion from the east travelling through a mile long tunnel blasted through the rock in the 1930s. I couldn’t figure out why the GPS still worked with metres of solid rock on all sides when it refuses to work within normal house walls. The GPS correctly logged progress through the tunnel and showed each bend inside the tunnel.
The road and all the Zion facilities are in the bottom of Zion Canyon at a very sensible 4000 feet so temperatures were much warmer than at the Grand Canyon rim. Shorts weather through the day and evening made a nice change.
A Sunny Zion National Park, Utah
The bike was coming up to its 24,000 mile service and the only BMW mechanic and spares I could find within a 500 mile radius was in Las Vegas. I have always said that Las Vegas would be about the last place on earth I would want to visit but I booked the service for the first available date in six days time and opted to spend the time leisurely at Zion with its good weather and catch my breath from the hurried pace since leaving Montana.
Steep Zion Canyon Footpath
It’s strange that in the Grand Canyon where you start at the canyon rim there is an urge to climb to the bottom and at Zion where you start at the bottom there is an urge to climb to the rim.
Zion's Virgin River A Long Way Below
Some of the longer Zion walks are exciting. The top section of the walk to Angels Landing is narrow and rocky with a drop on one side and a chain bolted into the rock to provide handholds on the other. After completing the walk I learned that a number of people fell to their deaths in separate incidents on this section last year.
Angels Landing Footpath, Zion
At a high rocky observation point I saw my first rattlesnake. Having walked four miles and gained 2148 feet I had taken my socks and shoes off and was laid out in the sun prior to hiking back down. As I crept forward to try and get a photograph it was unanimously decided among the half dozen of us there that no one was going to volunteer to suck the poison out of a sweaty toe if I was bitten. I got to within 2.5 feet of it but it ran off or whatever the snake equivalent of running off is as I aimed the camera. The snake was apparently more scared than I was but it was a close run thing. There were lots of chipmonks playing on the rocks and it was nice to see them and the rattlesnake living happily side by side.
Chipmonk Risks Life And Limb At Cliff Edge To Escape Tourist
Zion National Park, Utah
As I was packing to leave Zion for Las Vegas I got chatting to a couple familiar with my route and they suggested I turn off the interstate and take a country road which was more interesting. Taking their advice I found myself on a good quiet road, highway 169 heading towards Hoover Dam which I didn’t know I was near so decided to make the short detour to the dam.
Hoover Dam On The Arizona / Nevada Border
I was staying at the USAHostel on Fremont Street in Las Vegas. Fremont Street is the original downtown area and boasts a pedestrianised section with the largest casino, the Golden Nugget and more neon than you could imagine. It is two miles away from the newer ‘strip’.
Fremont Street, Las Vegas
I rode down ‘The Strip’, Las Vegas Boulevard South on the way to the BMW dealership. From the elegantly sophisticated ‘Say I Do Drive Thru’ Little White Wedding Chapel which boasts hosting the short lived weddings of many a stylish celebrity to the authentic Luxor Las Vegas complete with pyramid and sphinx via the Statue of Liberty, the Eifel Tower, Treasure Island and a host of other reincarnations it was a sight to behold and my idea of hell on earth.
A Glass Of Beer Several Stories High
Up till now I have had the bike serviced by a BMW mechanic, sometimes as in Las Vegas, by the official dealer & sometimes an independent guy. I think that because it has electronic ignition and fuel injection that they use sophisticated electronic diagnostic equipment during the service. I also have a nagging doubt that they don't and I could do the work myself and save a fortune. I’m carrying the tools and expect to do my own servicing when qualified mechanics are no longer available.
Las Vegas Strip
I have now done 18,000 miles in the USA and Canada since arriving at the end of March 2009.
Posted by ianmoor at 11:11 PM
May 12, 2010 GMT
May 01, 2010 GMT
Bits Of Utah, Colorado and Arizona
I feel like a bit of a tourist dashing from one place to another in an ‘if it’s Thursday it must be Arches National Park’ kind of way. We’re all tourists really of course but some of us with illusions of grandeur prefer to think of ourselves as more worldly wise 'travellers'.
Arches National Park, Utah
In order to see everything I want to see in the western USA I have abandoned a couple of my personal travel rules I set myself last summer:
(1) Only ride around 200 miles per day which leaves time to do other things and is
the right distance for me to enjoy the travelling and not get fixated on the
(2) Always stay at least two nights when staying overnight. If you don’t you won’t
see much of the place your staying at.
The third rule of avoiding interstates I try to keep to but will use them on occasion.
Maybe my three travel rules explain why I have been in the USA so long and why the Department of Homeland Security insist that I leave in September!
Delicate Arch, Arches NP, Utah
Following my dash south to warmer weather I based myself in Moab, Utah as it had a hostel, The Lazy Lizard for cheap accommodation and a number of national parks nearby.
Underneath Delicate Arch
Arches national park has a 24 mile long road running through eroded, sculptured rock formations with a number of short footpaths. The arch most people would be familiar with is called ‘Delicate Arch’ and is at the end of a mile long uphill footpath. I returned for a second visit hoping to photograph it in the red light of the setting sun. Cloud cover muted the colours somewhat but it was still well worth climbing the hill a second time.
Arches National Park, Utah
Another arch on the footpath from the end of the road was wider and much more delicate than ‘Delicate Arch’. A 60 tonne section had fallen from the underside resulting in the park authorities closing the footpath that went under the arch. Rather than close the footpath they should erect a warning sign saying something along the lines of: “This Arch May Collapse At Any Time, Have A Nice Day”.
This Arch May Collapse At Any Time, Have A Nice Day
Canyonlands national park is huge with two entrances forty miles apart. I visited the northern section, ‘Island in The Sky’ one day and the southern ’Needles’ section another where I walked 11 miles to the confluence of the Green and Colorado rivers following small cairns marking the footpath. The different coloured waters of the two rivers could be seen slowly intermingling as they flowed downriver.
Two Feet To The Bottom : Colorado/Green River Confluence, Utah
One day I took a 68 mile circular ride following the Colorado river on the scenic highway 128 then climbed up to 11,122 feet in the La Sal Mountains. I reached the snow line before returning to warmer altitudes in Moab.
The Roadsigns Confused Me But Fortunately Garmin Knew The Way
La Sal Mountains, Utah
After a week in Moab I headed for Mesa Verde national park in Colorado via Silverton and the San Juan mountains which I translated as ‘Saint Ian’.
Silverton is a Victorian ex mining town which has retained many of its original buildings. Like a lot of similar places around the world it now makes its money from tourism. A train brings the tourists into town and takes them away again three hours later. One local old timer told me he made sure he kept away as the towns population was temporarily boosted from 500 to 1500.
San Juan (Saint Ian) Mountains, Colorado
Mesa Verde has impressive ancient Pueblo ruins dated from 600 AD to 1200 AD. Many utilise difficult to get to natural alcoves and ledges on the cliff sides so presumably security was their number one priority although the cliffs also provided shelter from the elements.
Mesa Verde, Colorado
The earliest dwellings at Mesa Verde were pit houses built above the cliffs and sunk several feet into the ground. I have seen ruins in the north of Scotland built this way.
Mesa Verde, Colorado
There were more 13th century Pueblo ruins at Hovenweep national monument in Colorado, mainly built on the plateau above the cliffs this time. I saw yet more stone arches at the Natural Bridges national monument in Utah. I was going to camp here but the main campsite was full. A park ranger told me where I could legally wild camp a few miles away but I decided to press on. With hindsight I should have opted to wild camp at Natural Bridges national monument.
Hovenweep, Colorado: They Build UK Houses This Close Now
The 261 road south from Natural Bridges national monument towards Arizona was good, particularly a three mile dirt section which dropped dramatically down a cliff face with numerous hairpin bends (switchbacks for Americans). The wind was picking up and visibility looked bad further ahead. The tumbleweed was rolling across the road reminiscent of the 'Cowboy And Indian' films of my childhood. Soon I was experiencing my first sandstorm which was exciting to say the least. Wind speeds in excess of 50mph were blowing me across the road while half the Arizona desert found its way into my eyes and the other swirled in front of my visor so that I wouldn’t have been able to see even if my eyes weren’t full of Arizona’s finest.
Hwy 261, Utah Disappears Into An Approaching Sandstorm
The sandstorm was still raging when I arrived at Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, the location for many western films. I had hoped to camp here but the wind would have ripped any tent to shreds. The bike never stopped rocking whilst it was parked on its side stand. I fully expected it to blow over but there were no other parking options while I checked on accommodation. Monument Valley hotel cost an arm and a leg so I decided to risk my neck by riding to the nearest town in search of a cheaper place to stay.
Monument Valley, Arizona In Sandstorm
I took some atmospheric pictures from the visitors centre which as it turned out was all I got to see of Monument Valley as I had ridden too far to return the next day.
Monument Valley, Arizona In Sandstorm
Posted by ianmoor at 06:50 PM
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