4 Corners Road Trip, part 1

This recap is seriously overdue, but trying to justifiably capture how special this trip was has been too overwhelming of a task. So, I’ll start small, lean heavily on photos, and wish that I were out somewhere driving through the desert singing along to terrible music at the top of my lungs. How I miss those red rocks and big blue sky.

The genesis of the trip was a visit to Hobbs, New Mexico to see family and my baby cousin graduate. Because the nearest airport is 2+ hours away, and not a popular route from SF/Oakland, the tickets are ridiculously expensive and warrant a car rental regardless. So, I decided to fly somewhere cheaper and extend the car rental to a week, turning it into a proper road trip and allowing for a good amount of exploration and discovery. I flew into Las Vegas ($39!) and flew out of Phoenix ($59!) one week later. As a result of my weird frugality and pickiness about eating bad food, I brought enough to eat for nearly the whole trip and ate out only once. More on that meal below…

My full trip itinerary is documented here and my planning map is here.

I left after work on a Tuesday, meaning the flight left SF right at sunset and arrived in Las Vegas once it was nothing more than a bed of lights in the blackness of desert at night. After picking up my rental, I drove about an hour and a half to the Virgin River Hotel and Casino in Mesquite. $23.59 for the night, total! It was a surprisingly nice room, though checking in did necessitate a long walk through the most depressing casino.

2016-05-17 20.06.34-1 2016-05-18 00.40.39

The next day, I checked out around 8am and headed to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The drive was beautiful; the first part were beautiful landscapes and sprawling skies while the approach into the park took me through dense fog and fire-charred tree trunks.

2016-05-18 09.12.46 2016-05-18 09.57.03

2016-05-18 14.22.02

Despite being prepared for the Grand Canyon to be, well, grand, it still left me speechless. There was such an amazing energy to the area and I was lucky enough to be visiting the day after it had opened for the season (due to being at a higher elevation, the North Rim stays closed into May). Because its exact opening is weather-dependent, most tourists plan their trips for later in the month to ensure their visit will go off without issue, so it was mostly just me and the locals (and a good number of retired couples in RVs). I explored the Bright Angel Point, Cape Final, and Cape Royal Trails and quickly learned that traveling alone ensures you make all sorts of friends along the way. My favorite was the other solo female traveler, who seemed about my age — we passed each other hopping over a barrier to go further out onto one of the cliffs overlooking the canyon. 😉

As I sat on a rock taking in the views, a thunderstorm rolled over the canyon in the distance. A short video from that perch is here.

2016-05-18 12.04.42

2016-05-18 10.57.50 2016-05-18 11.04.27

The start of the Cape Final trail (4mi) was as un-Grand Canyon-esque as you could imagine, but soon enough the red of the canyon peeks through the trees and serves as a subtle reminder of the giant abyss in the earth mere feet away from your walking trail. The whole thing was so much, I could barely contain my excitement and glee about the whole thing. Such a special place and experience! And I passed maybe 6 other hikers in total?

2016-05-18 12.45.35

2016-05-18 12.53.42 2016-05-18 13.14.22

2016-05-18 13.03.59

2016-05-18 13.23.26 2016-05-18 13.23.33 2016-05-18 13.23.41

2016-05-18 13.04.42 2016-05-18 14.53.50

2016-05-18 14.36.18

2016-05-18 14.37.48

2016-05-18 15.06.28

2016-05-18 15.24.30

Around 4pm, I left the park and headed toward Page, AZ; I made my way along 89A through the Vermillion Cliffs and Marble Canyon, stopping at Lees Ferry in Glen Canyon to touch the Colorado River and the Horseshoe Bend overlook to watch the sunset. This was quite possibly my favorite stretch of driving from the whole trip. I spent the night at the Wahweap Campground, pretty much beside myself with how great the first day had been.

2016-05-18 17.23.42

2016-05-18 17.23.50

2016-05-18 17.25.55 2016-05-18 17.33.45

2016-05-18 17.58.58 HDR

2016-05-18 17.45.53 2016-05-18 18.35.03

2016-05-18 18.38.22

2016-05-18 18.54.03

2016-05-18 19.08.37 2016-05-18 19.09.16

2016-05-18 19.19.40