L.A. hotel complications…

FINALLY got a hotel booked for Los Angeles… and boy was that complicated!

Here I thought that being a big city we wouldn’t have to worry about finding accommodations, and so no need to book early… Well I was soooooooooo wrong on that account. All the reasonably priced, most desirable lodgings were booked! So we had to scramble to find something that didn’t cost a fortune, or that wasn’t in an unsafe area, or that at least had secure parking… and we wanted to be within walking distance of the beach!

Well it took me some days of searching but, did end up with a fairly OK deal… after searching hotels, motels, chains, small family run places, short term rentals, and even hostels… I ended up going full circle and picking up a Holiday Inn Express in Marina del Rey that other travelers seemed to rate pretty highly in reviews. It meets our needs, and is less expensive than the alternatives…

And so at the end of Route 66 we will come to our Holiday Inn… somehow that seems appropriate when I think back to those childhood vacations where a Holiday Inn was considered a budget-minded family accommodation (boy have things changed! … or else the conception of “budget-minded” has become out of wack)!

Anyway, am glad that is solved and we will have a comfortable and secure end of the Route rest… before picking up the Pacific Coast Highway to start “part 2″ of the journey… our return!!!!

posted by Blue Coyote in Planning and have Comments (2)

Options from Moab to the Big Bend…

Moab to Big BendWe had an interesting discussion yesterday about the need for rest during the journey. Originally it was built into the plan with pickup days between the various travel legs, but as we refined things we have (on paper, anyway) decided to split up some of the drive days, eating into those pickup days. And adding on the Zion Narrows required further reworking the schedule, stealing a bit more from the “rest” time.

This has left us with a segment from Death Valley through Moab which may be a bit of an endurance challenge for the driver (though not exactly, as there is a big difference between driving 12 hours from point A to point B on the highways and doing an off road jeep trail through the canyons and deserts we came to explore…). However, we do always have the option on those off-road trails, of just stopping and staying in place (that is the beauty of the road side camping … we don’t have to have an approved pre-determined campsite) — though for the Death Valley segments I think we just need to be aware of environmental factors, and make sure if we decide to hold up somewhere, we chose a wise location…

So with the discussion of “rest” still in mind, I am looking at the post-Moab segment of the trip… the long ride down to the Big Bend… and seeing how best to approach it…

In the original plan we had Day 33 (our exit from the White Rim) staying in a hotel in Moab (btw, should we go back to the one we had last time? The Big Horn Lodge…), then Day 34 canyoneering, with the option of leaving Moab that evening…

But perhaps we stay that night in the Moab hotel again… (allowing for a good night’s rest before hitting the road again)…

Then the following day we have a couple of options. Basically we have 3 days to get down to the Big Bend (we need to be in the area on the night of Day 37, as we have the river trip starting the morning of Day 38)… And to put it in perspective, the total distance from Moab to Big Bend is just about 100 miles less than Nesconset, NY to Orlando, FL (where we went to Universal Studios park)!

so Option A:

Day 35 – rest in Moab till lunchtime, then drive 2 – 3 hours to cortez colorado, settle in there and  see the indian dancers at 7pm… (overnight in Cortez area)

Day 36 – drive Cortez to Elephant Butte or El Paso (8 – 10 hours drive depending on how far we go)

Day 37 – drive Elephant Butte/El Paso to Big Bend National park (5 – 8 hours depending on start point)

Option B:

Day 35 - depart moab after breakfast and get as far as we can either Aztec or Albuquerque… (it is 6 – 8 hours to Albquerque… if we could get that far, or stop around farmington/aztec NM area which also has a number of lodging options)

Day 36 – drive Aztec to Elephant Butte or El Paso (7 – 9 hour drive)

Day 37 – drive Elephant Butte/El Paso to Big Bend National park (5 – 8 hours depending on start point)

Option C:

Day 35 – early wake up and marathon drive to Elephant Butte (approx. 12 hours)

Day 36 – day off / rest

Day 37 – drive Elephant Butte/El Paso to Big Bend National park (5 – 8 hours depending on start point)

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California, Las Vegas and the Zion Narrows choices…

Picture 9

As we are refining the plan, we should probably think about whether or not we want to include the Zion Narrows hike

It was not originally in our plan, but while researching the route, and looking for stopping points between Las Vegas and Moab, we discovered it… and it seems like it could be really AMAZING…

In early drafts of the plan, we had it as an optional stop along the route… but if we want to do the hike and overnight along the river, we will need to get a backcountry permit soon (there are only 11 campsites along the route)

Estimated time for the hike itself is 12.5 hours walking (based on the estimates of the National Park Service, which says it takes into account allowances for rest stops and slower hikers), and about 60% of the time is walking through the river. So it is definitely a two-day activity.

Timing-wise, the shuttle that takes us to the departure point (Chamberlain’s Ranch), leaves twice a day — at 630am and 930am.

The estimated drive time to the park from Las Vegas is about 3 hours (so calculate based on 4 hours for this segment of the drive). We would have to leave Las Vegas by at least 430 or 5am to make it in time for the 930am shuttle.

Assuming we have a campsite close to 6 hours in, we will have at least 6 hours to walk the next day… there is no way we will want to do the 7 hour drive to Moab the same day! So we will have to overnight somewhere near Zion NP, with the plan of leaving for Moab the following morning…

Then, instead of doing the rapelling the first day in Moab, we should plan to go directly into the white rim that first day… and leave the rapelling for the last day…

Here is how our schedule looks now:

DAY 22 – Leave LA — DRIVE 12 hours along Pacific Coast Highway — ARR San Francisco Hotel

DAY 23 – San Francisco Visit Day – morning free , optional visit to Fishermans’ Wharf in the afternoon, 4pm – cruise to Alcatraz – tour Alcatraz 730 pm arrive back at Fisherman’s Wharf (night in hotel)

DAY 24 – Free Day – (can use as San Francisco Visit Day 2 or to go part way to Death Valley or direct to Death Valley)

DAY 25 – DRIVE to Death Valley (8.5 – 10.5 hours from San Francisco) — ARR Death Valley Wildrose Campground

DAY 26 – Death Valley Day 1

DAY 27 – Death Valley Day 2

DAY 28 – DEP Death Valley — DRIVE 2.5 – 3.5 hours — ARR Las Vegas Hotel

DAY 29 – Las Vegas Visit Day

DAY 30 – DEP Las Vegas — DRIVE 8.5 – 11 hours — ARR Moab hotel (with possible short visit to Zion NP to stretch legs)

DAY 31 – Canyoneering in Moab (hotel)

DAY 32 – Canyonlands – White Rim trail day 1 (backcountry camp)

DAY 33 –  Canyonlands – White Rim trail day 2 (backcountry camp)

DAY 34 – Canyonlands – White Rim trail day 3 (backcountry camp)

DAY 35 – DEP Moab

and here is how we could do it if we want to include the Narrows:

DAY 22 – Leave LA — DRIVE 12 hours along Pacific Coast Highway — ARR San Francisco Hotel

DAY 23 – San Francisco Visit Day – morning free , optional visit to Fishermans’ Wharf in the afternoon, 4pm – cruise to Alcatraz – tour Alcatraz 730 pm arrive back at Fisherman’s Wharf (night in hotel)

DAY 24 – DRIVE to Death Valley (8.5 – 10.5 hours from San Francisco) — ARR Death Valley Wildrose Campground

DAY 25 – Death Valley Day 1

DAY 26 – Death Valley Day 2

DAY 27 – DEP Death Valley — DRIVE 2.5 – 3.5 hours — ARR Las Vegas Hotel
(leave DV early in the morning, arriving by noon in Las Vegas… see the city… do our shooting range… sleep)

DAY 28 – DEP Las Vegas 4:30am — DRIVE 2.5 – 4 hours — ARR Zion NP for 9:30am shuttle to Chamberlain (departure point for the Narrows Hike) — HIKE 6.5 hours — CAMP along river

DAY 29 – HIKE 6.5 hours to exit — shuttle back to parking — hotel or campsite TBD (somewhere in or near Zion NP)

DAY 30 – DEP Zion NP — DRIVE 5.5 – 7.5 hours — ARR Moab hotel (or Canyonlands White Rim first campsite?)
(if we leave early enough, we can potentially make it in time to go directly to the White Rim first campsite — the one we had last time)

DAY 31 – Canyonlands – White Rim trail day 1 or 2 (backcountry camp)

DAY 32 – Canyonlands – White Rim trail day 2 or 3 (backcountry camp)

DAY 33 –  Canyonlands – White Rim trail day 3 or 4 (END at hotel)

DAY 34 – Canyoneering in Moab (hotel)

DAY 35 – DEP Moab

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The Pacific Coast Highway and options…

Looking more closely at the post-Route 66 part of our trip, I am wondering if we should split up the drive from LA to SF on the Pacific Coast Highway, camping somewhere in between the two cities…

According to the mapping program, if we want to take the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1), we are looking at almost 500 miles… or about 9.5 hours of drive time… so 12 hours of travel time. Now in other spots we have tried to split that up so it isn’t so much at once… Although here we will allegedly be somewhat rested, after two full days “off” in LA…

Am thinking it is about as much of a drive as we have the first day of the whole trip (which is a massive drive day)…

Possible alternatives are to cut short the last day in LA and start up the coast a bit (also avoiding paying for another expensive hotel night)… or cutting into San Francisco Day One instead… (again avoiding a costly hotel)…

The argument AGAINST “breaking” the Pacific Coast Highway segment is that after almost 3 weeks of driving, maybe it is good to rest a little and then just plow thru the PCH, with just one or two short stops along the way to stretch our legs and look at the beauty… We will be going from hotel to hotel that way, and so it isn’t really that big a deal if we arrive a bit late in the evening… we (or maybe just me, if you guys rest en route) can go straight to sleep, if need be…

what are your thoughts on this one…

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The Mojave…and the ghost towns…

So moving forward with planning the Route 66 segment from Arizona to California, i think we definitely want to stopover in the Mojave National Preserve and spend a night roadside camping then spend some time on the desert trails. If we don’t linger too long at the Grand Canyon, as i suggested earlier, we should have time to do this. And we will probably be glad for the emptiness of the Mojave in contrast the the crowd at Grand Canyon.

Picture 6

The locations we are likely to choose for camping can be found on the map above (if you click on the map it opens up much bigger). Considering we will be coming from I-40 (at the bottom of the map), am thinking one of these locations might be good:

Granite Pass: 6.1 miles north of I-40 on Kelbaker Road, just north of Granite Pass, then west on one of several access roads. Campsites are located just north of the granite spires. High clearance vehicle recommended; no RVs.

Kelso Dunes Mine: 4 miles west of Kelbaker Road on the unpaved Kelso Dunes Road. One campsite is located south of the road, 1/4 mile past the marked trailhead. Several others are available 3/4 mile beyond, near a clump of trees. Except at these sites, roadside camping is prohibited along Kelso Dunes Road (including at the trailhead).

Black Canyon Road
About 4 miles south of Hole-in-the-Wall Information Center on the east side of Black Canyon Road, above the wash and near a hill with excellent views of the Providence Mountains. Another site is located about 4 miles futher south, also on the east side of Black Canyon Road, near rock piles.

Rainy Day Mine Site
15.2 miles southeast of Baker on Kelbaker Road, then 0.3 miles northeast on the unsigned and very sandy road to the Rainy Day Mine. Four-wheel drive recommended; no RVs.

THEN, while we are there we can do a JEEP TRAIL :-)

There are actually a number of cool 4×4 trails out there. Here is a list of some of them provided by the park service. The Lava Tube sounds fun… (and also “Caruthers Canyon” for possible camp site?)

Actually might also be really fun to try to get up early and catch sunrise at Kelso Dunes…

About 42 miles southeast of Baker (7 miles south of Kelso Depot), then 3 miles west on a graded dirt road, Kelso Dunes were created over the course of 25,000 years by winds carrying sand grains from the dried Soda Lake and Mojave River Sink. Nearly 700 feet high and covering a 45-square-mile area, they are among the tallest and most extensive dune fields in the United States.

The Kelso Dunes produce a “booming” or “singing” sound when sand with the right moisture content slides down the steep slopes. Try it for yourself—run down a dune slope (but don’t trample vegetation!) to initiate the sound.

Kelso Dunes Trailhead: 3 miles west of Kelbaker Road on the well-graded, but unpaved Kelso Dunes Road.
Hikers at sunrise and sunset are treated to both cooler temperatures and the rose-colored glow of the dunes. The roughly 3-mile round-trip hike might take several hours as you slog through the sand, then slide down the slopes. Moving sands sometimes create a “booming” sound—run downhill and get the sand moving to hear the sound.

we will likely to be able to do these activities ONLY if we don’t spend the extra day at Grand Canyon…

THE FOLLOWING DAY, we continue to Barstow. In Barstow area I think it would actually be fun to stay at the Calico Ghost town itself. It is definitely a hokey attraction, but will likely be the last one we do, as after LA the Route 66 segment of the trip is over and the return has more “adventure”-oriented activities. It seems like the town is a state park. Here is the official parks page . And here is the page for the Calico Ghost Town attraction. We have the option of actually reserving a “mini bunkhouse” here, and maybe we should consider that “luxury” now that we are headed back to “civilization.” (afterall we don’t want to show up in LA looking like savages!)

Through researching Route 66 sites, i think there might actually be a better “Old West Ghost Town” experience at OATMAN, AZ, which is before the Mojave (it is the last town on the Arizona side)… There they have wild burros in the streets, and an actual gold mine you can visit, and daily “gunfights” in the street (at 1:30 and 3:30pm). Might be more fun than Calico town? I can’t really tell, but it seems like it might be a tad less crowded… and comparing the two towns’ websites, i feel like Oatman is “less” disney-ified (though that doesn’t necessarily make it the better experience)…

In any case, we will pass through Oatman on the road, even if we don’t spend extra time there, and if we don’t like it, we can always still do Calico town on the way out (or just camp at Calico town)… Or if we have totally had our fill of  wild west recreations by then, we can just pass by Calico…

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Some thoughts on the route in California and beyond…

national_parks_small

So we discussed the possibility of routing the trip home via New Orleans today… and also how much time we might spend in the cities of California (LA and SF) and the various trade-offs involved…

And that made me take another look at the route I had proposed initially…

I’d had the idea that it would be good to go through some of the famous national parks of California on the way back–notably Yosemite and the Giant Sequoia park–but after looking at details on the national parks services sites (see Yosemite details and Seqouia details) I had some other thoughts. Both of those parks will likely be really full and even though they are national parks they seem to be very “RV”-friendly (RVs are those giant campers) and even their tent sites seem to pack campers close together (from what I could see in one photograph on the site). So not sure either park will be a “great experience” as in some of the other locations we will be staying…

This raises some questions:

First, do we want to change the plan to skip these two parks and do a slightly longer drive from San Francisco directly to Death Valley (which is a more remote and “difficult” park and so less full of “recreational campers” — they actually have campgrounds accessible only by 4×4 vehicle – see details) we can likely add one of the “extra” days to either LA or SF, and the other to Death Valley itself so we can spend more actual time in one campground than just moving from park to park.

Second, would we really be missing something “spectacular” if we skip yosemite and giant sequoia? I am not sure… the giant sequoia park has the oldest trees in the country… but is it worth the hassle to make a pilgrimmage to see trees… we will see lots of trees in other places (though not the “oldest”)… the scenery in these parks is supposed to be incredible… but we will have seen so much scenery already… what are your thoughts on this?

Also, (slightly unrelated) while researching the above, I found out that we should definitely plan on “roadside camping” in the Mohave National Preseve when travelling to Barstow, as it is one of the few places where we have the right to do that kind of camping… (see details)

posted by Blue Coyote in Planning and have Comments (2)

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