Friday, July 31, 2009

Kodachrome Basin SP

After leaving Bryce Canyon NP, I briefly went to Red Rock Canyon, a place I had missed the day before when I was driving at night. It really looks red...

After that brief detour, I continued traveling West and stopped at Kodachrome Basin State Park. The name is kind of funny... When the first National Geographic photographers went there to "capture" this place, they were amazed for the colorful setting they found. They agreed it was a perfect place for some nice photography and said that place could well be named after their film: Kodachrome film. That idea stayed around people's minds and when it became a State Park, it was named after the legendary film by Kodak.

From far away, the place is composed of striped mountains typical in this part of Utah. Quite impressive if you have never seen this kind of mountains ;)

The first highlight I visited in the park was "Chimney Rock", a nice standing rock in the middle of the desert.

Then I went for an interesting hike amongst huge rock boulders which reminded me of Joshua Tree NP in California. Of course, these were their red rock version ;)

The trail led to a small arch in these red rocks. Nice at that time, nothing after visiting other national parks later on on my trip!

After that hike, I went for another one. The most interesting part of my visit to this state park. The trail was called Angels' Palace and it was really nice. The trail goes up onto a butte and the views are impressive from up there. Plus all the possible scenery you can see in the West. Some photos to prove the several miles hike is well-worth.

In short, a surprisingly beautiful State Park next to Bryce Canyon NP.

NOTE: listening to Dead Kennedys and Los Kung-fu Monkeys while writing this post

Bryce Canyon NP

The first night, I slept at Bryce Canyon NP, just one hour from Cedar Breaks NM. I had read in many places that the sunrise is the best point of this park, so I made the effort and woke up when it was still dark.

The sunrise itself was pretty beautiful...

... but the effect of the changing light on the structures of Bryce Amphitheater were simply amazing. Such a beautiful place!

A close-up at the strange structures that compose Bryce Canyon: the hoodoos. They are called hoodoos because they resembled voodoo dolls to the first explorers, and they thought these pinnacles were bad luck carriers...

A different part of the canyon. Same structures.

Part of the park was burnt at the beginning of July!! and that fire affected the road that connects the first amphitheaters to the rest of the park (a natural bridge, more amphitheaters...). So, it was just closed to visitors! Quite a pity... but nothing that could be done.

On my way out of Bryce Canyon, I stopped at another beautiful viewpoint just outside of the park:

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Cedar Breaks NM

Between Zion NP and Bryce Canyon NP lies a really beautiful place: Cedar Breaks National Monument. I got there for sunset, just when it looks the best!!

I did not really know what to expect from this place. This was my first view of it:

A stupid smile appeared in my face after seeing that!! ;) And it did not disappear until I left Utah... hehe...

Some zoom onto those funny structures housed in the canyon. Compare their size to that of the trees next to them. Quite large, right?

A further North viewpoint:

A photo I specially like. The purple flowers are the rim add some extra colors to an already colorful image!

Zion NP

And now, it is the turn for the real Zion Canyon. Zion NP is located only 2 hours away from Las Vegas and it is one of the most beautiful canyons in the USA. If you like amazing red-rock landscapes, this is the place for you.

The canyon is a really beautiful place of breathtaking views:

I went for a hike to Emerald Pools, and it was really beautiful everywhere. The highlights of that hike are the Upper and Lower Pool. In the upper pool, you get to the base of a complete vertical rock wall.

Have a look how vertical that is!! It can't get more vertical ;)

In the lower pool, there is an amazing passage where the trail gets down the cliff and water falling like a little waterfall... quite impressive!

There were many scenic stops of real beauty. I specially liked the "Three Fathers". So similar mountains, one next to the other!!

Or the central part of the canyon, where it gets more beautiful:

And this is the "Weeping Rock". Water comes out of the rock and feels like raining! A very interesting place:

And some extra panorama just at the edge of the national park, going towards Bryce Canyon.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Zion NP - Kolob Canyon

When you pass Las Vegas on I-15, you find yourself in the middle of the Nevada desert. A really rough desert. But little by little, the ground starts turning reddish and mountains and canyons start appearing. After one hour driving, you get to Mesquite, a legendary road town. From there, you go briefly into Arizona and then permanently into Utah. At that time, the landscape is extremely beautiful. Everything is red around you! Even the concrete used for roads is reddish! (After some days in this land, even your skin starts getting red when you soak the landscape in... ;) )

My first stop was Kolob Canyon, which is part of Zion National Park. It is isolated from the rest of the park, and because of that, I will describe it here independently.

This part of the park consists of a scenic drive in Kolob Canyon of around 5-6 miles. It basically goes up in the mountains so you can get to a nice viewpoint on top. The landscape is beautiful from up there. I leave you now with some photos. This part of the park does not have much more (that I know...).

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Pepsi Shiso

In Japan, some well-known soft drink companies try introducing new exotic flavors in the market. Last year, it was Pepsi Cucumber... yes, cucumber... I do not have a photo for that one, but you can find it here.

This summer, I could try what is by far the strangest Pepsi I have ever tried. Were anybody to ask me what is the most exotic soft drink flavor I have tried, my answer would be Pepsi Shiso. No second thoughts about that!!

Shiso is a common plant in Japan. The wikipedia article in here. It often comes with sushi. That was my only contact with shiso until I drank this...

The result is a refreshing soft drink which has a weird taste, but I could not say it is bad. I think I would try it again!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Back from the road

I am back from THE ROAD TRIP. When I left California last Saturday, somebody asked me when I would be back. My answer was "clear": I did not know. I only knew my way headed West, to Utah. I had heard stories and seen photos of extraordinary beauty and I wanted to see it by myself. Everything was short. Utah is THE PLACE. I doubt there are many regions on Earth which are as beautiful as Southern Utah: 5 National Parks -- Zion / Bryce Canyon/ Capitol Reef / Canyonlands / Arches, plus many National Monuments and State Parks, may sound like a lot... but actually, all the region should be a huge national park!! Driving there is a pleasure. Miles and miles of uninhabited and pristine deserts. Wild nature in pure state. After admiring the geological wonders of Utah, I felt my trip was not over. I wanted to see the first National Park in the world. The place that made human beings started considering we had to protect certain areas in the world, worth preserving for future generations. Such a place must be a nice place -- I thought... The place is the world-famous Yellowstone. Again, the place was much more awe inspiring than I could have possibly ever imagined: wild life (bears, bison, moose...) + brutal nature (geysers, boiling pools...) + beautiful scenery (Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Yellowstone lake...). It simply has it all... and MORE!! Finally, on my way back to California, I stopped by Great Basin NP, an alpine ecosystem in the middle of the Nevada Desert!! with beautiful caves included!

This is my trip on the map:

In total, I drove 3550 miles (yes... 5713 km...), visited 8 National Parks, 3 National Monuments, 2 State Parks, 1 Navajo Nation Monument; slept 4 days in Camp Grounds, 2 days in my car and 1 day in a hostel (my only bed in 8 days!!); took 1600 photos (after deleting many...); and hiked around 5-6 hours every day... NOW, I AM DEAD> But I still have nice images in my retina. ;)

Some nice panoramas to show to you what this blog will be about in the coming days, weeks... Photos of absolute beauty of the American West:

- Canyonlands (Island on the Sky region):

- Driving in Utah:

- Monument Valley:

- Me at Delicate Arch, one of the symbols of Utah:

- Grand Teton NP in Wyoming

- Unnatural colors in Yellowstone pools

- Geysers in action

And strange animals only to be found in North America:

And last but not least, some wonderful caves in the middle of the Nevada desert!

That will be it!! It is going to take a while to describe these places, but I can guarantee you will like them! ;)