Hi hi folk, I’m currently resting up in Silverton, Colorado for some essential R&R from the adventure lifestyle, and to get some blog updates and video edits complete. All is well otherwise!
Quickly here’s a quick summary of “The Empire Strikes Brap”
Since my pathetic attempt to setting off last time, I am delighted to announce that I have been on the road now for over a week. My ribs are still sore, my back is a little better and I’m pushing on through.
My successes in hammock camping are getting better and better, bare in mind that it is a new novelty to me, and sleeping while camping has always been an issue. I love the idea of a tent; a small mobile home that packs down to next to nothing. However, the fact you’re laying on a ultra-thin lilo doesn’t quite cut it for me, and given my lower and upper back issues and nerve compressions from said places, I often find camping sleep depriving.
Ever since watching this video on how to hammock I’ve been curious about hammocks being an alternative to sleeping uncomfortably in a tent. It seems that it has panned out well for me so far.
End of digression
From St. George, I rested up a few days, and eventually pure stubbornness and the need to be moving made me set off for Zion National Park, only an hours drive from where I had stayed but at least it was a step in the right direction, I had previously looked on maps and seen that there was somewhere I could camp a few miles before Zion (hooked round a little way north) toward Kolob National Park. I took this route and before I knew it I was hanging my hammock under an idyllic sunset with beautiful surroundings, and a few other free/wild campers nearby.
The following day, I thought that I would be able to head further north into Kolob National Park, however due to road works the road was closed off half way up, however the view was astounding. I had it in mind to do some hiking that day, but still feeling sore, and a little insecure about leaving all my possessions on the bike parked up in a car-park I decided to push on through, after turning around heading into Kolob, I backed my way toward Zion National Park, and bought myself a yearly membership (which allows me into all national parks as many times as I like for the entire year) this cost me $80, compared with the $12 for a single entry… it was pure money sense!
I rode through the beautiful park, longing to stop but didn’t, for reasons stated before. I also felt I needed to make up some mileage after spending so many weeks stationary. I got to Glendale and found a dirt road that lead me through dirt roads along the “Staircase” which after about 30-40 miles later came out in the Kodachrome Basin, It was awe inspiring! From there I headed up to Bryce Canyon, without even hesitating, as I arrived I took a little dirt road, headed into the Dixie National Forest, found a place to camp and soon hung my hammock, I made home there for a couple of nights in the tranquillity of the forest. I could from there, easily ride into Bryce Canyon with just a daysack and hike around the canyon unburdened by the fear of my stuff being stolen or having to carry it with me.
It was great fun, however the nights were rather cold (just below freezing) I struggled to get the hammock temperatures right and had a few configuration changes with my set up… it was good to have these days up alone with consistent weather to get my hammocking right.
From Bryce Canyon I felt the urge to keep moving again, and headed toward Page, Arizona (home of Lake Powell). I rode back the way I came toward Kodachrome Basin, but from here headed south straight for page, through Cottonwood Canyon. My word that place was beautiful, the road was fantastic grade of dirt, and to this moment, I am bitter I did what I did…. I thrashed that road so hard, I gave it my all… it felt like a race track… within an hour I was on the other side and panting with euphoria! On the other side however, it was rather disappointing, it was just desert and the weather was dry…. super dry!
I did 30 miles of highway toward Lake Powell, entered the park, found the camp site booked a pitch, rode to it… and was immediately disappointed. It was over priced, barren and uncomfortable in all ways known to man. I returned to the registration office and demanded a refund. I rode a further few miles into Page, found a campsite in town much cheaper, more friendly and far more connected than the national park camp site.
Word of warning: Arizona is hot and dry!
I had my first night in a camp site, pitched in my tent, however woke up uncomfortably at 3:30 and soon after at 4 the tent beside me decided to whisper-shout as they clambered to catch a sunrise over Horseshoe Bend, I tried to get back to sleep but with back/rib and general aches I eventually got myself up at 5 and headed out to see the horseshoe bend for myself. I captured a murky sunrise time-lapse over the Horseshoe Bend while being eaten alive by midgies.
I made friends with a guy name Elijah, and we chatted for a fair while which was nice. I hadn’t spoken to anyone in a few days so it was nice to just talk. By the time I returned to the camp site, I was exhausted, my hands were shaking and I had zero energy. It was 8am and I was totally spent. I booked myself in for another night in the campsite and found another pitch with two trees in it. I hooked up my hammock and spent the day lounging around. The following day, I rode myself to Monument Valley, however the weather was against me and with constant rain and cloudy skies I didn’t fancy riding wet sand. However, I rode tar for 160 miles, it was very very dull when stuck doing 50mph on straight roads that have no life to them. In Kayenta, I stopped in a diner to get out of the rain (and avoid the lightning further down the road) and met two bikers called Dan and Terry, lovely older bikers who I shared a table with, we chatted at length over lunch (mostly because the service was so slow) and again, it was nice to actually talk to people. They were so nice they even paid for my lunch. I was truly blessed!
Meet Terry and Dan, two gents I shared a table with in a packed dinner, just as I arrived a large gang of #bikers entered and consumed the place, I asked these gents (assuming they were part of the same group) if they minded me sharing the table. We had a great meal, chatting about trips and the like. Was nice to talk to someone for a change. They only went and paid for my good for me! What kind generosity of strangers. They embellished the favour with “enjoy #America!” I was #honoured!
A photo posted by Neil’s in…. (@neilsnaps) on
After lunch I headed on into Monument Valley, and found a great place to camp near Mexican Hat, however after establishing a nice flat spot to pitch a tent (no trees to be seen). It was perfect, facing a gorge in the desert round a bluff from where the road was, it was secluded but not a million miles from getting onto the road. After assessing the area a little while I found myself scaring the willies out of myself seeing a set of Mountain Lion tracks in the ground, they were set in the ground from where it had rained earlier on. These paw prints were about 2 inches wide, very cat like. I’m no expert on Mountain Lions but suffice to say after hearing a scary story from Tyler’s wife, I didn’t like the idea of being so remote with a potential predator I knew nothing about.
I carried on the road, and further away from Monument Valley, I ended up in Bluff, Utah…. after assessing the federal campsite (which was unmanned and had no facilities other than a WC) which expected payment, I chose to camp on the other side of the road which was just as nice if not nicer. However, in the night, some curious creature got to sniffing around my campsite, still filled with paranoia about mountain lions, I lay there tense in my sleeping bag while a little critter sniffed about. I eventually fell asleep and woke up the next morning to a relatively dry day.
The weather did not have plans to stay dry and by the time I had had breakfast it was throwing everything at me…. I carried on into Colorado then hooked a right into New Mexico to visit the Four Corners, in the rain, it was one of those moments you go through the motions of doing something interesting, but with no interest at all. I paid my $5 to see a muddy car park, a bunch of stalls selling gimmickery and a plaque on the ground indicating the Four Corners, it was in short: disappointing. I later found out that the four corners didn’t even converge where they were indicating.
I carried on riding into Colorado, and the rain carried on throwing all it had at me. Before I knew it my bike and luggage was a whole different shade of brown. I ate in a diner called Benny’s in Cortez, got talking to the Mexican matradee he was fascinated although I couldn’t discern if he could understand my Spanish or if he just was waiting for his turn to speak. He was fascinated with my story but at the same time he was selectively listening and half the time responding with his own idea of a reply to what I had said. However, I was pleased just to be out of the foul weather.
I rode on to Mesa Verde, again another disappointing experience of a National Park camp site, they wanted $30 for the night and didn’t accommodate me quite right, however friendly enough to point me in the right direction for a free camping spot, which I took. I camped out facing the mountains of Mesa Verde, it rained bucket loads all night and paranoia set in over the night that perhaps the bike would fall over in the clay like soil. I also was fearful of my items laying under my hammock washing away down the hill where I was hanging. Though the sound of the rain on the fly was soothing the little gremlins in my head stopped me from having a rested night. By morning I woke up, booked myself into a motel in Durango, and marched off to get some videos published.
However, the motel was working out a lot more expensive than I could budget for, so after 2 nights I left and this morning rode into Silverton, Colorado to finish this blog post and finish the video below. 🙂
I had some bad luck with white-outs and so had this happen beforehand: