Week 22. Sunday 8th of October does not start well as we discover that our EOS camera stopped working. We tried everything but no results, first we thought the card crashed but it seems that the 15-45mm lens does no longer communicate with the body. Luckily we still have the tele lens and of course the small waterproof D30 camera and the phones.
An excuse to be lazy?
As Franks leg was still swollen we took the opportunity to have a free guided Rainbow tour to the more distant look-out points of Bryce. 3 ½ hour tour which is offered only twice a day and we were lucky to get two seats for the afternoon tour.
Now again you see how important health is and how blessed we have been. The tour took us to the most distant point of Bryce, Rainbow Point and was interesting and informative with only minor walking distances. We hope that this scenic rest day will have a positive impact on Franks leg. If it will not be better in a few days we will have to look for a proper diagnosis. After again a very cold night (towel frozen stiff after 10 minutes out of the shower)
we don’t cook our own breakfast but stop on the way to Glendale. Wind is picking-up and we are buffered up. At one moment we are riding through the most gorgeous, amazing red canyon and guess the name of the canyon? With an own biking path!
Glendale is one of the first Mormon settlements, with beautiful old apple trees. We sleep at the Bauer Family RV campsite in an old apple orchard.
Cold, cold, cold. Wind died down in the evening but started in the morning straight away again. Then it is great to be in an urban area where you can bike to your breakfast. During the day it is less cold!
Zip to Zion and meeting sweethearts
Today we will bike to Zion. One of the obstacles is the 2nd tunnel in HWY 9, going into the park, which you are not allowed to bike as too many accidents have happened with bikers. The tunnels were constructed before there was any biking or major traffic. Big RVS can only ride in the middle of the tunnel and one way traffic is needed as otherwise they would get stuck.
Entering the park, see the change of the colour of the asphalt, the ranger stipulates that we can’t bike the tunnel and that we need to arrange our own mandatory lift through the tunnel. But first an amazing bike ride through the canyons, what a dramatic change in landscape.
The traffic in the tunnel is one way and we stop at the end of a long waiting line to see how to deal with this. What a warm surprise that we even don’t have to look for a lift as Rachel came to us and offered us a ride spontaneously! She and Aaron live and work in Springdale. They are planning to get married and Rachel preferred a bike for their engagement over a ring. They will soon bike to the East Coast, get married and hike back. They are so sweet to help us out and fit the two bikes, luggage and ourselves all in their Honda Van. As we enter the tunnel we understand why biking is prohibited. Even with the one way traffic, it remains a narrow, long, curvy and very dark tunnel. Discussing their lives in Springdale and in the US in general, Rachel and Aaron tell us that there has never been such a split between ethnical and political groups, between politics and society as today.
Bikes are reassembled quickly after the tunnel and the most amazing switchback descent can start. As we descent more than 1.000 m it is getting warmer and there is no wind 😊. We have tried to prearrange lodging but were not able to, since the last few days we had no GSM reception. When we enter Springdale, it is a madhouse, cars all over, lots of no-vacancy signs. At the first campground: no spots, no overflow; only one night available. Luckily we do have GSM reception here and battery so can start calling around to motel/hotels and find a spot in a decent motel in the middle of town.
Pity we can’t camp as now it is warm, but happy to have found good shelter. First evening we treat ourselves on a very good Mexican dinner with carne assada.
As Zion is one long narrow canyon and the National Park Service want to reduce pollution/traffic jam etc, you can only bike or take the shuttle to the start of the different trails. We decide to hike the Angels Landing trail and take the shuttle to the starting point. Uphill and we are not the only ones even if it is still early.
At one moment we come to a very steep, narrow part, where you have to scramble up with the help of chains connected to posts in the rock. As Frank is still not 100% sure of his leg, I continue on my own as I want to reach the top.
It looked more scary than it was and the reward was incredible. Frank was not bored waiting for me as he was entertained by an informative ranger lecture about the Californian Condor, the program to save this bird is working out! 20 years ago only 22 birds remaining, now more than 450, but we have not yet seen any. Primary feathers of a condor are as long as your arm and their wingspan is 3m!
Also watching people of all sorts, ages and outfit is fun. Amazing how busy it is here and as you cannot pass each other in many places, people are waiting for each other to go up or to come down! Although it is an amazing place we still wonder why Zion is so much busier than some of the other parks?
Next stop is “the Narrows”. Here the road ends, first 1,5 mile paved walking path, but then the river fills the whole width of the canyon. We don’t have the wading shoes you can rent in town, but still decide to just hike at least around a few corners of the river, to get the canyoning experience.
Cold, 7°C, but refreshing and fun to do. Back with the bus and making our own great salad for dinner so we can work on the blog and try to arrange horse riding for one of the next days.
Cowboys under attack (not by Indians)
At one of the last villages I found a brochure of a ranch, close to here, which offers real horse riding experience! It is something we always wanted to do when we were in the US, but I don’t want to ride in too big a group or only walk. And lucky us, not tomorrow but on Friday there are places for a full day experience. So we have tomorrow to cover a meagre 20 km to the ranch and hope there will be a camping spot at the camping across the road. If not, Jackson of Jacobs Farm knows a great wild camping spot.
The adventure begins when we are at the RV park: no space and also not allowing us to use the laundry or showers if we don’t stay there. First time we have had rude people who don’t understand that when you are biking, a 20 miles detour is long.
Then trying to get in touch with Jackson as again we don’t have any GSM reception. Finally we are allowed to call locally at the RV Park…and Jackson & Roland come with their pickup to bring us to the best wild camp spot we have had in a very long time. They also ensure we have sufficient wood to light a nice campfire. Red canyons, cottonwood trees with leaves turning yellow, small river with crayfish (which I catch, but put back, later we understand that they are invasive species and we should have eaten them after all 😊) and an amazing starry sky.
At 8:30 next morning we leave our campsite to bike the 5 km to the ranch. Roland and Joshua are waiting for us at the gate. They speed off on their ATV in the direction of the ranch. We follow and I am bit concerned as I had seen from the roadside that there is a big white dog that is barking aggressively. But as we follow Joshua we expect that everything will be safe, NOT…the big dog comes chasing from behind and bites me in my left buttock. Picture says enough. Bite bigger than a hand. The dog was not Joshua’s….. After disinfection we do start with the program of picking our horse, working with her (both mares) so she gets to know you and you get to know her and preparing for the ride. We will ride with western saddles. We are extremely lucky that we are only with the two of us and Joshua. Great attention, good directions and instructions. It is 12:00 when the first part is covered and we are ready for riding. It is a different approach of connecting more with your horse before you do start riding. I have to say that the first hour I still was very shaken from the dog attack but working with Maradith (Mara the Mare) soothes the nerves.
We started straight with a descent of 10 m into a riverbed and up again. Within 30 minutes we are going from walking to trot to canter and into gallop. Bit getting used to the Western saddle but both of us have horses which respond extremely well to the reins and legs.
Joshua is riding on a wild horse, a mustang which has been domesticated only 3 months ago and still needs to learn to be calm and not too forward. Lunch stop is at our wild camping spot (bring your own food), and the second part of the ride is in galop up a high hill, over very small paths with deep cliffs. Fun, scary at some moments and more than enough when we arrive back at the ranch at 16:00. Happy we are staying one more night at the wild camping.
Tired of Tires and some Advice
During preparation of dinner Franks tries to fix his flat tire. Because his dad learned him how to fix a bike he is really fast, after having discover more than 10 holes he decides to change the tube. Only we don’t have a new 29”, only 28”, which we fit, but is actually too small. So we will have to go to Hurricane as they have a bike shop. Is it because we go to Hurricane that we are not woken by the alarm clock but by a very fierce wind? 30-40 km per hour creates quite some dust but at least the tent is dry! It will not be a long trip but a heavy one as most of the time we have headwind. Part we can bike on a parallel dirt road as the wind is so unpredictable and strong it is too scary to bike on the road.
At one moment we can’t avoid the main road any longer and decide to walk the bikes as the wind blows us with unpredictable bursts onto the road in the direction of cars.
One lady is so sweet to drive behind us with her flashers on, so we at least can bike down the pass. Once we have crossed the top, the wind is getting less and we can bike again on our own. Hurricane is a small, spread out Mormon settlement. At the great bike shop they warn us that there is no camping until Fredonia and the only motels are in Hurricane. As there is still a strong wind we decide to find a motel and work on the blog. The bike shop owner also strongly recommends to arrange a lift to Fredonia as the 89A is a terribly dangerous road to ride with the bike. We of course say that we have biked so many different roads that it can’t be so terrible.
Let’s see what happens on Sunday, will we get to Fredonia as it is 70km with quite some ascent. Is the road as dangerous as we were told?