Zion Nationalpark – Problems with the time zones, a new rotarian friendship and finally a longer hiking trip!

On we go again towards nature. Our next destination is Zion National Park. We drive out of California, again via Nevada to Utah. We still have to work on our travel planning. Attentive observers of our tracker realize that we probably drove “small” bends there. Well, the path is known to be the destination and driving the miles with our little van is at least not as exhausting as walking.

We stop again at the same Walmart at which we camped on our way to San Francisco. We ignore the somewhat funny looks of the staff. I guess our van is quite well recognizable. Well, no worries. No one questions us and so we spend a fun evening. At noon we want to be in Springdale to attend the Rotary Meeting. We are very proud of ourselves, that we remember that we are going to cross a time zone boundary again and so have to get up an hour earlier. We are just “Käppsele” (This is a swabian word which means we are veeeeery intelligent ;)). The Rotary Club Springdale is small and fine, meets weekly at a local restaurant. Springdale is a real tourist town due to its proximity to Zion National Park. We get to know the two Rotarians Pam and Merle, who spontaneously offer to help us, should we need transportation or something similar. How great of them!

After the club visit we head to the visitor center to explore the hiking possibilities. Here we want to make a longer trail again, we miss the seclusion and freedom of remote hiking. We learn from a wonderful trail that goes through the whole national park, 40 miles, wonderful! Problem is that you need a permit. For the next day everything is already fully booked. The Rangers tip is to come very early the next day to get the permission for the day after tomorrow. We will do that!

Thanks to Google, we find a place near the town where dispersed camping is allowed. It is unbelievably beautiful there, but it is not really “wild” because we share the place with many other campers. We set our alarm clock, we want to be the first in the morning, so we still get a wilderness permit. That means, we will have to get up in the dark. Not something I look forward to, but nothing I can do against it! When the alarm rings it is already light. Huh!?! Oh dear, we did not set the ipad for the new time. So much for being a “Käppsele” … We hurry, curse and run to the Visitor Center and have to line up in a queue. Crap !! Thank God we still get permission for our trail, poof! We ask the ranger what difficulties we face on the trail. Unlike the previous ones, he is quite relaxed and says there are only a few river crossings. Aha. He says that the water is brown (so you do not see where you step), has driftwood, the current is very strong and the water is currently waist high. On my cautious questions, if you can cross that then, he says, yes, it works, you just get wet. Hmm. In my world, such river conditions mean that you can not cross. But alright, we will solve the problem when we get there.

We use the day to make a small tour: the “Angels Trail”. This gives a good first insight into the great nature that awaits us. We are looking forward to our tour !!

In the morning we meet at Pam and Merles house. Not only do they allow us to park our van with them for the next 4 days, they also drive us to the trail head (45 minutes). Unbelievable, how selfless and friendly the two are! And then it starts! 40 miles with three nights in the desert wilderness lie ahead of us! One could easily make this trip with two nights, but we are in no hurry and want to be as long as possible in the seclusion.

Ah, how nice to be back alone on a trail with a backpack! We are in the desert, but near the river and the color of nature is incredibly beautiful. Paired with the rock formations and the sandy soil – fantastic! It’s a completely different landscape again and we enjoy feeling the weight of the backpack (maybe there is a little masochist inside of us after all) and hiking. There is a small sidetour to an arch (it is supposed to be one of the biggest freestanding archs in the United States). Of course we will not miss this! Oncoming hikers warn us not to be disappointed. Mmh, let’s see. Unfortunately, the arch is really a little disappointing, you barely see it and it seems not really freestanding to me. Well, at least we saw it. Shortly before reaching our campsite for the night we have to cross the said river. Uh, that’s really brown. I send Heiko to test the depth of the water. Good that I have a tall husband;)! Death daring Heiko goes in the river and …. well, the water only goes to mid calf, the flow is noticeable but not so strong. Alright, the ranger was partly right: you can cross it and you get wet … But, the sun is shining, we even have a rest of wine in our pack! We enjoy the evening in wonderful surroundings!

The next day we have to cross the river again in the morning. Uhi, now it’s freezing !! The day before, we crossed very slowly, also trying ahead with a stick to see if we can step safely. Now, we almost run across because it is so freezing! The water is so icy that the feet hurt even after we get out of the water. BRRRR! A beautiful hiking day with 15 miles is in front of us – great! We walk through a beautiful valley, overcome a few ups and downs and enjoy the beautiful, deserted path. The ranger had given us a tip for camping, but when we arrive it, we are still so motivated that we continue to hike. As soon as we are a few miles farther, the landscape changes and the path leads along a rim. Oops, it will be difficult to camp now. Maybe we should have listened to the ranger. But we have had “to fry our extra sausage” again, so, I guess we have to deal with it now. We come to a place where it flattens a bit, ok, that’s our chance. We make our way through the forest to find a reasonably good spot. What can I say, we already had more comfortable nights. But, it works somehow!

The next day also greets us with bright sunshine. It is going to be a terrific piece of trail, always along the rim. The view is breathtaking, what a vastness, what a nature! The feet are finally dry, so far, there are no rivers to cross! How nice! As we approach the campground, the question comes up: Is there going to be water? Mmh, we say to ourselves that we will surly find some place to fill up. Won`t we? Mmh, somehow it does not look that way. We reach the place we had chosen for camping. Nope, no water. A look at the map shows us that the next drawn water is a good 5 miles further. Sigh. We check what we have left: about ½ a gallon. It has to be enough! If you have to ration like that, you realize how natural it is for us to have potable water available at all times. At these moments I feel confirmed that our project Hiking4Haiti is right. Everyone should have access to clean drinking water! Even if we can only change a little, together we can provide at least three communities (about 300 people) this access!

Of course there is no coffee in the morning …. Nevertheless, we are in a good mood (yes, that’s possible), because the rim and its views distracts us or me from the caffeine withdrawal! We finish the trail at noon and reach Pams and Merle’s house. We are allowed to take a shower (oh, how great !!) and wash our clothes. As our clothes dry, we spend a fun afternoon with our new Rotarian friends! Thank you dear Pam and Merle, that was terrific!

On it goes to the next natural highlight!

Bryce Canyon, Red Canyon, Antilope Canyon and “The great Sanddunes” – now we are “real” tourists!

We stay in Utah for the next destination: Bryce Canyon. This canyon was highly recommended to us by several acquaintances. Let’s go! First, as usual to the Visitor Center. Quick we find again a trail, which we choose as a day trip. The local ranger warns us of a blizzard, which we ignore first. It is spring, where should that come from?! We are getting ready in the van and just want to start hiking when it starts to pour. Suddenly a crazy wind blows and it is bitterly cold. And, indeed, the rain is changing into snow. What the hell is going on!! We look at each other and think the same thing: no, we’re not hiking! The campervan has made us “soft”! We decide to drive -like a real tourist- by bus to a viewpoint and take some pictures.

The canyon is really unreal beautiful! It is a great pity that we are not able to  explore this area by foot. Well, we could actually, but it’s really cold and the wind hits the rain / sleet in our face. We enjoy the unreal view and then flee but quickly back to our cozy home ….

Right behind Bryce Canyon is the Red Canyon, also a very unreal place!

The next day we plan our onward journey to Kinsley. We are invited to a present at the Rotary Club, so we have a fixed date to which we need to be there. Google takes us through Paige – well, than we have to stop at Antelope Canyon, for sure. It is the most photographed slot canyon in the USA. So another tourist program;). To see the Antelope Canyon, you have to book a tour. The canyon is located in an Indian reservation and they have secured their rights here. This is a “money printing machine”! 1000 of tourists are passed through the canyon to get hold of the known photos. We in the middle of it! And it’s really a special canyon! Nice to see something like that, but also a mass spectacle!

We are still a little early to go straight to Kinsley, so, at the request of Heiko (quote: I really want to see that !!), a “little” detour via Colorado to the “Great Sanddunes”. The way there leads us over the Rocky Mountains. To hike it is unfortunately too early, we almost sink in the snow. Brrr! And that, where we have escaped the winter since the start of our journey! We go up and down again, I certainly do not go out in the snow. Um, how is it going to be in Canada where we want to hike? Well lets leave this worries for later …

We reach the “Great Sanddunes”, as the name suggests, large sand dunes. It is a bit unreal as they lie in front of the snow-capped mountains. But it’s just sand dunes. We get out. There is a small hike on the sand dune. Before you reach these, you would have to cross a small river. Heiko hesitates. Right now the shoes are dry again. He looks at the sand dune, looks at me, looks at the river. Turns around and says he saw enough! WHAT?!?! Well, nice trip, that was certainly worth the detour 😉 We have become really soft! We laugh at ourselves and our need of comfort while we go back to the car! This is going to be hard when we walk “seriously” again!

Well, now really to Kinsley! On the way we stop because so many prairie dogs are jumping around. We take the time to watch the funny guys. Nice!

Kinsley und Winfield – Visit of my host families after 23 years!

But now it really goes to the middle of the United States: to Kansas! One may wonder why our route leads through Kansas, but of course that has its background. In 1996/1997, I was a Rotary Exchange student in Kansas. So, this will be a journey into the past, a great opportunity to visit my dear host families. Since there was neither Facebook nor email back then (yes, imagine that!), I had lost all contact until I found them on Facebook again. Of course, I’m excited and happy to see everyone again. Heiko is also happy, he hopes for embarrassing stories that my host parents tell him about me as a teenager. Of course, there are none;) !!

First stop: Kinsley (a town right in the middle between San Francisco and New York) to visit Kent. He is a Rotarian who took me on a trip to visit several clubs back in 1996. It was so amazing to see him again. Just a great person! Together, we visit the local Rotary Club and have fun with old and new friends!

Rotary Club Kinsley – Homecoming after 23 years to “old” and “new” Rotarian friends

Then it goes on to Winfield. Oh, it’s so nice to meet my host families after 23 years. They have chosen a great program, many of the points are joint food events and we spend a wonderful time! The first visit goes to my old high school. Old memories awake! We visit “Cow Town” (an open-air Wild West museum in Wichita), have a feast at Dorothy’s Ranch, a Mexican garden party at Betsy, a picknick at the local winery with Norma and Ned, and countless hours of laughter and stories. To Heiko’s disappointment and my relief no embarrassing stories of me come to light! No surprise, I was an awesome teenager ?! We manage, at least a little, to retaliate, by preparing dinner for my host families and several rotarian friends. Swabian home-made spaetzle and sauce (and of course a good piece of meat). I think I do not have to mention that Heiko was the chef here and that I was rather busy chatting ;)! It’s a wonderful time with amazing people and we enjoy being together immensely!

On the way around Winfield we meet one of the countless turtles that run around here. Heiko wants to save her from the street, the turtle thanks him by leaving water. Unbelievable how much water such a turtle has in it … What fun!

Of course we can present at the Rotary Meeting. How nice to be back on stage after 23 years! Read about the club and its support for our project here!

Rotary Club Winfield – an exciting and wonderful trip to the past visiting my old host club!

And of we go to leave all this wonderful people behind us. But before we hit the road for earnest, we make one last stop in Kansas:

Rotary Club Derby – welcoming, uncomplicated and generous -a great club!