Las Vegas – two hikers, lost in the big city, a real Elvis renewal and not planned hiking miles on the “stripe”!
Las Vegas – after 3 months of nature and little civilization Las Vegas “hits us like a hammer”. Already the drive from the airport to the hotel along the Vegas Boulevard – also called “stripe” – causes a total overstimulation. It is full, bright, hot (who would expect that in the desert?) and loud. Since we are completely unprepared, we follow a recommendation and book the hotel “Circus Circus” for one night, a rather outdated complex that, although on the Stripe, still is situated below the actual “life”. Like all hotels here, there is a private casino, theme parks, restaurants, shops …. If you wanted, you could probably spend all your time at the hotel and not leave. As we notice on the street, almost no one does ;eave their hotels during the day. After the first fast food burger at Wendy’s in America and a short walk, we are beaten by the heat and jet leg and retire to the air-conditioned hotel. We google a new hotel and find one in “old Las Vegas” (that sounds good)!
Last task of the day: throw a few coins into a slot machine, as befits proper tourists. Who thinks that the classic “Slots” in Las Vegas are more interesting, than in run-down pubs in Germany, is wrong. Although it is unbelievably stupid to throw quarters into a machine and then press the button just to find out that you have not won, it exerts a certain inexplicable appeal. The first two times we pull on the lever of the one-armed bandit, but then you switch to the button – easier. We gamble $ 5 and then stop. The number of machines and people who feed them with money is incredible. If only 1% of an evening would go into the coffers for “Hiking4Haiti”, the wells would certainly be funded.
The next day we put on our backpacks and head to the hotel. Always along the stripe. After some time we come to the “right” Las Vegas, as we had imagined. Giant hotels, beautifully landscaped with lakes, water features. Incredible many people. Lightly-dressed ladies, who offer themselves for a photo (of course we took one). The same principle exists with comic heroes. Heiko is annoyed that he took a picture with the girls when he sees “Deadpool”, well …;). With our huge backpacks, we are already an attraction, judging by the looks many passing Chinese asks themselves if we would also be available for photos. Actually not a bad idea to fill the coffers of Hiking4Haiti …,). Surprised, we note the passing sweet-smelling swaths. Funny, seems to be many “stoners” here. The puzzle is solved when we come to a cannabis shop. In Nevada, hashish is actually legal and freely available. Very unfamiliar!
After some time we leave the actual Stripe and continue hiking. Funny, we should have arrived the hotel already. There is a sign in front of us, indicating that it is only a short while until the “Welcome to Las Vegas sign”. Funny, that was at the airport, the hotel is on the other side. Google Maps is consulted and tells us dryly that it is still 3 hours walk to the hotel. What!?! After walking 1400 kilometers, we actually walked 2.5 hours in the wrong direction. Incredible! At least we pass the famous sign. The long queue in front of it scares us off. I do not think it is so important to take a picture standing below the sign. We take the bus and leave the “Stripe” again, this time in the other direction, past the “Circus Circus” and on and on to the “old” Las Vegas, Fremont Street.
Behind the “Circus Circus” the area becomes quieter and poorer. We pass the jail, as evidenced by the fact that there are “bail offices” everywhere who advertise to pay your bail. Oh dear, what have we booked for a hotel again? Even the inmates in the bus do not look so trustworthy any more. Well, we are used to a lot, we will be alright. The last stop is “Downtown Las Vegas,” the old part that seems to be mostly Freemont Street, a covered, long street. There are many tourists and people who want to receive money from the tourists. There is nothing you can imagine what people don’t do here trying to get money. A gentleman of about 80 years is splinter-fiber-bare, except for the American flag, which skilfully conceals its best piece. He advertises that you can take a picture with him. Well, surly not us, thank you very much! One sign gives us both a laugh: “Tip me if your girl is hot”, for this he gets, well deserved, a few dollars! There is a restaurant there which is known to sell the largest portions. If you weigh 350 pounds, you eat for free. That’s the crazy Las Vegas! Our hotel is in the middle of the action, not such a bad choice after all! We enjoy the evening with the many lights both in old Las Vegas, as well as in the “new”. At both places, thousands of people push their way through the streets at night. Everywhere it flashes, it shines, it is dizzying and people, people, people. Heiko stops, turns around grabbing a man’s arm. What’s going on there? Unbelievable, he meets a colleague from Exyte (his former employer). This must be a lucky day, let’s go to the casino !!
What would a real Las Vegas experience be without an Elvis wedding? Count us in!
After (to the day exactly) 13 years of marriage, after 6 years of “weekend marriage” due to work and then 3.5 months 24/7 together, we renew our marriage vows. The almost three months on the trail are certainly among the most extraordinary experiences of our time together. We conquered mountains, crossed rivers, were hungry, thirsty, were annoyed, were blissful, and not one day did I wish for another man by my side. Although the wedding with Elvis is absolutely cheesy, it was a very special moment to again promise our vows.
In Las Vegas everything is for sale, so we could easily – without advance notice, without waiting- borrow a dress and a tuxedo with all the necessary accessories. Looks prettier than to marry in the hiking clothes, I think! Just before it’s our turn (this is a real business, couples are “pounded” by the hour) I experience one of those embarrassing moments: We’re waiting with another couple and I’m trying to make small talk. Actually, I want to ask if they renew their marriage vows or marry for the first time. Ironically, the couple answers me by telling me that it would be his 3rd wedding and the 2nd for her. Mmh, I think, ok, that was a little more information than I wanted, but well, maybe they are very extroverted. The couple is picked up and a new one comes into the waiting area. Again I ask my small talk question, again a similar answer after they look at me a little weird. Ups, probably my rather bad English was the reason they both misunderstood. Well, they’ll think for sure, the Germans are quite direct!
Grand Canyon – two yuppies in a hippie bus, wonderful views and the battle about the air conditioner!
After the many impressions in the big city, we are drawn back to nature. We pick up our campervan. Like all of the cars of this rental company, it is sprayed colorful. Ours looks, as we find, pretty cool! Thank God, the couple after us gets one in pink and yellow sprayed with flowers. Glad that was not ours!
It’s nice to have some kind of “home” for the next 2.5 months. Not to pack and unpack the backpack every day and above all not have to carry everything you buy. Luxury! The car is a bit run down, already has 150000 miles on the clock, but it’s ours!
We head for the Grand Canyon. In the car begins what many may know: the fight about the air conditioning. It’s too cold for me, for Heiko too hot. But we still have plenty of time to define the rules> 😉 <. The roads in USA are as we imagined. Long, dead straight highways. Right and left nothing but desert, in front of us the first mountains. And, there really are as seen in movies, the Harley riders without helmets, heading for the sun on the highway. This is America!
We reach the Grand Canyon and walk along the rim(with many other tourists). The view is phenomenal. No wonder that 6.5 million tourists visit this wonder of the world every year. One feels small and insignificant at sight of this canyon. We have another ½ day the next day and decide on the South Kaibab Trail to Skeleton Point. 800 meters down and then up again, all in all 15km. The lady at the visitor center is very skeptical, because it is a day hike, classified as difficult. But we already know that, the Rangers comments are very careful and can always be summed up in: you are going to die!
After 3h20minutes we reach our starting point after a fantastic hike in the canyon. The view of the Colorado River, the unreal landscape and the enormous Canyon were worth it in any case! In time for lunch we reach the local Rotary Club where we spend a fun lunch. A great club!
Rotary Club Grand Canyon – amazing views, amazing people!
Our itinerary is still a bit unorganized. An invitation from an old school friend takes us in the direction of San Francisco (back to Las Vegas). Our stopover is the Yosemite Park. Well, thank goodness we have a vehicle and do not have to hike. So, let’s go on the highway!
We learn that it is tolerated at the supermarket “walmarket” to camp overnight for free. We have to try that. And in fact, nobody seems to mind that the huge parking lot is used to stay overnight. Great!
Yosemite National Park – THE climbing rock, thundering falls, the fear of the bears and the second time broken shoes!
Shortly after entering the park we get the first view on “El Capitan”, the climbing rock. The so-called “nose” is one of the top routes for top climbers and was even climbed without a rope. If you look at this huge rock, it gets even more impressive and seems impossible! Of course we walk to the “entrance” to this climbing site. We are a bit sad, as we have no climbing gear with us. Moreover, this would be a route that is far beyond our competence even in the best training times. Too bad. But still worth a visit.
Visiting the Visitor Center helps us plan a day trip and then a two-day tour. We also get a bear cannister – we are now in “bearland” and again many comments of the ranger, how dangerous the two-day tour is, how difficult and in general, it would be best to stay in the car. Since we are very unprepared, we have to go shopping in the National Park supermarket – the Swabian heart does not laugh at all. We underestimated the huge size of the National Park and the way to the nearest supermarket, which would be about 2 hours with the car. Well, now it is to late, we’ll learn for the next time. All campsites in the national park are fully booked.
But, we have not only learned that you are allowed to camp on the Walmarkt parking space, in the US you can camp in all the woods (outside the parks) in the car. The Swabian heart laughs again. So we drive the shortest way out of the park and find a way on a remote forest road. Only thing that is not convenient when disperse camping is, that, of course you have no “bear boxes” in which you can store the food. The first night is accordingly marked by fears on my part. Again and again I wake up and look outside to see possible bear attacks in time. If you wondering why I am scared in the “safe” car should go ahead and watch the bear video at the Visitor Center….The morning is coming, no bear has approached – or we have not noticed. Phew! Later we learn, that here in the park the black bear is common. Unlike the grizzly it is typically not aggressive.
The day’s hike leads us to the “Yosemite Falls”, first to the small, then to the big one. In total, we set up 15 kilometers and 800 meters altitude and then back down again. Again, it’s more of a half-day trip than a day trip, but, despite the many hikers, the trip is definitely worth it. The view of the imposing waterfalls is absolutely fantastic. However, the newly purchased shoes find the trip already too exhausting. The sole separates from the front of the shoe. It has to be said that I have bought the cheapest sneakers as transitional shoes, because we have sent us Hiking Boots to America to my former host family in Kansas. I thought the cheap sneakers will do for the few miles. But it does not look that way. Well, let’s hope it works until we are outside the park!
We find again a pretty place for dispersed camping in the middle of nowhere. Strangely, we first see a woman, then two boys walking along the closed street. But according to the map the road ends at a river with nothing there. What are they doing there? When the two guys come back, I ask them what’s out there. Both answer very evasively, do not recommend us to go in the direction. Aha. According to my extensive knowledge, which I gained from the series “Breaking Bad”, the quality of the teeth of the two guys tells me, there could be Chrystal Meth involved. Oops, do not go in that direction ….!
We start our two-day hike, about 30km. At the beginning we use the popular “mist-trail”. “Mist” is also a german word which means “dung”. Mmh, hopefully this name is not program. Let’s see. It goes 600 meters high, to the origin of the first waterfall, Vernal. Hikers we see coming down are wet. Funny, it is a cloudless day, where did they get so wet? Then the puzzle is solved. Name is program in the trail, but not the German meaning, but the English meaning! Soaking wet we arrive at the top. Brrr, cold!!. But with the nice weather and the further ascent we warm up quickly.
At the top of the Nevada Falls, the main tourist route ends and all of a sudden we are alone along a beautiful path along the Merced River. Great! My shoes have undergone another repair, thank goodness we are well equipped with rope! Now they should survive the next few kilometers! The road is less well developed, we even have to cross a few rivers, great, that feels like the Te Araroa again!
We come to a valley, surrounded by monstrous mountains, partly with patches of snow. There was once a forest in the valley, but it fell victim to a fire. It must have been a huge fire that burned all the trees here. With the backdrop of the mountains in the background, the burned-down trees are almost accusingly as far as the eye can see. It’s a goose bumping environment we go through. Many trees have fallen over the path so we move slowly, as we have to climb over the obstacles. Quickly, I look like a chimney sweep, since the slightest touch is enough for the soot to spread to the skin. Heiko still looks clean after the climbing. Must be I’m doing something wrong.
We pass other waterfalls, this time we have them all for ourselves. Often we stop to “soak up” this fantastic environment. Even after all the many miles of hiking we still are amazed by the incredible beauty of the wild nature!
After climbing over a snow avalanche (next purchase, urgently needed: crampons !!!), in my case very very slowly (miserable sole plus loose soles plus snow = not funny at all), we come to a fantastic spot where we pitch our tent , It’s an unbelievably wild place, framed by mountains, the overflowed Merced River – just perfect! Concerning the bear I am a little more relaxed, we borrowed a bear canister and use the “bear triangle”, always 50-100 meters between dining area, sleeping space and food in the canister. We spend a wonderful evening around the campfire and a peaceful night.
The next day we hike back the track, the incredible landscape is still not boring. On to the next adventure!
Silicon Valley – First experience with a “trailer park”, a private twenty year graduation party and no picture of the Golden Gate Bridge!
Let’s go to Silicon Valley! 20 years ago, I graduated from high school together with Julia. While our schoolmates celebrate this anniversary in Augsburg, we indulge in a delicious barbecue, made by Heiko! We enjoy the hospitality of Julia and Till with their two boys (two future heartbreakers, no joke, girls beware!). Thank you two, that was awesome!
Of course, we use the hike-free time to visit the local Rotary Club in Sunnyville. Another wonderful experience. Read about the dedicated club and the spontaneous private donations!
We plan the next step. Mmh, going to San Francisco would be another big detour. Is it worth to see the Golden Gate Bridge? Certainly, but we will not go there anyway. Better to go back to nature. Sorry, no photo!