Greetings sports fans. This post is definitely well overdue, but as you can guess by the title, I was really more focused on the R&R then I was writing a blog post 🙂 One of the best parts about deciding to take a couple months off was the fact that it would give me the chance to do a little bit of traveling. Of course, I promised Deanna I wouldn’t take any really long or exotic trips. The longest I was booked to go anywhere was Las Vegas for 2 weeks. In addition, I booked a week in Nova Scotia to visit and spend time with my dad. This post will give you a little taste of what these trips were all about, and the fun I got up to during the trips. And of course, there will be lots of pictures! Read on if you feel like heading about several national parks in the U.S. and brewery tours, along with great hikes!
First up in my trip itineraries was a weeklong trip out east to enjoy some Maritime hospitality from my dad and his wife in Pictou, NS. Of course, I grew up on the east coast, so heading back that way is always a bit of a blast from the past and a chance to catch up on the gossip and the comings and going of Pictou County. While the primary purpose of this trip was to spend time with my dad, it was obviously not the only thing I did while there. For a few pictures and a little taste of what I got up to, check out these pictures:
Running along in the open air taking in the smells of the ocean was of course one thing I did. In addition, I found out that a new craft brewery had opened up not 5km away from dad’s house. Uncle Leo’s Brewery. I convincedIn dad to join me in some tastings and meeting the owners. Some nice brews, and they keep it simple there, which was nice. I liked their porter best. I also had a chance to borrow a light and fast XC mountain bike and joined an old friend from some mountain biking in an area I never been to. I was pretty impressed with the level of riding that can be found now in the county. I’m sure it didn’t exist when I was growing up. But then again, mountain biking really didn’t exist at all!
One of my only real ‘needs’ of going out east was making at least one day trip to Cape Breton. Rather than do a whole loop of the highlands this time though, I opted to just get dropped off at a trailhead in the Mabou Highlands area, and proceeded to spend a few hours hiking and running in the hills and to the ocean. It was a great getaway. Dad and Nicole spent the time having a bite to eat and touring by car in the area. Once we were all back together, we visited another craft brewery (Big Island Brewing), then drove to a brew pub in Antigonish for supper. All in all, a great day. In addition to those activities, I squeezed in few visits with old friends (including a mini grad class reunion at a pizzeria serving up the famous Pictou County Pizza. Oh yeah, and in that week, I somehow managed to simultaneously sell our current house AND buy our new place in Chelsea! A bit challenging to do all the negotiations while out of the province, but we pulled it off!
LAS VEGAS AND SURROUNDING AREAS
After Nova Scotia, after a tough 4-day adventure race and after the stress of buying and selling a house was done, it was time to really unwind. To do that, what better place to head to than Sin City? Flights are cheap, and I actually have a couple old and dear friends that now live down there, so I had a built in HQ for all the crazy desert adventures I had planned. Vegas itself really wasn’t high on the agenda for this trip. I was really taking advantage of the proximity to the amazing sights including the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, Death Valley, Red Rocks Park, and the Hoover Dam. Yup, there was no shortage of things to do And thanks to Troy being free the whole time, I had someone to share some of the experiences with.
For a few of the days, the focus was on sampling new beers, playing pool and disc golf, and lounging in the pool and hot tub in the hot Vegas sun. Although temperatures up north had already started falling, it was still full ‘summer’ in Vegas! I managed a bit of running in it, and also Troy and I wandered off to the Red Rocks area for a nice little day hike with great views of the city in the desert. Before and after a weeklong trip to the parks, we did find time to hit the strip twice, with a focus on music. We hit the Brooklyn Bowl to catch the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, which was amazing, and also later in the trip a visit to the Las Vegas Country Saloon to see Hank 3, which was certainly interesting, with his split of classic country and in-your-face punk! Obviously though, the highlight would be the road trips out of town.
First up was a day trip with Troy’s car out to Death Valley. We left early in the morning on a weekday and made good time to get there. Skies were pretty grey, so temperatures were nowhere near the highs that they warn you about. We even went on several hikes in the full sun. It was clear that this isn’t a place to be trifled with, but given the lower temps, we were fine. We made our way all around the valley, hitting up Badwater, and the Devil’s Golf Course, as well as visiting the sand dunes. These were all pretty cool. However, our final stop was high above Badwater at a place called Dante’s Peak, which is where a surreal thing happened. It rained! And hailed! Yup, one of the driest and hottest places you can find, and I got caught out on a peak with a crazy storm with lightening, and watched the rain pouring into Death Valley. Good thing we weren’t exploring any slot canyons!
Next up in the adventure was renting a car for a week so we could immerse ourselves in some of the bigger national parks. First up would be the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We had tried to visit Zion first, but it was absolute madness there! Instead we decided to head to the farthest point on our itinerary then make our way back over the week. The North Rim was also pretty busy, so we had to set up our campsite about 12 miles out of the park. No big deal, but man was it COLD in the morning. We had FROST on the tent! We also learned from a ranger that instead of paying for camping, we could just drive on forest service roads and camp for free without permits! Our second night we did that, managing to find a spot RIGHT ON THE RIM OF THE CANYON! Yeah, for free. With a nice fire pit, and amazing views. What a discovery.
In addition to the cool camping spots, we were obviously there for some hiking. Originally, we had planned on making an overnight trek down to the Colorado via a remote route, but discovered all the overnight permits were spoken for. We re-planned the trip, and instead did a nice long out and back hike via the North Kaibab Trail. We also hit the Angel Point trail, as well as another cool trail along the rim at sunset near Imperial Point (highest vertical point in the Canyon). When people say that the views are awe-inspiring, they aren’t lying. I loved every minute of the outdoor adventure in the Canyon, and tried to take pictures that would do it justice. Some were ok, but really, it is best experienced in person.
The second major stop on our mini-tour was Bryce Canyon. Ironically, I hadn’t originally planned on visiting that park, as each park carries with is entrance fees, etc., so I had planned to just visit two parks. However, in the end, Troy picked up an annual parks pass, giving us access to all parks, so we figured what the heck! Plus, armed with our newfound knowledge around ‘free camping’, we got a line on some nearby forest camping we could use. I must say, I’m REALLY glad that we did make the trip here, as Bryce Canyon is an amazing sight, particularly the amphitheatre section. The colours and formations of the sandstone and hoodoos here is nothing short of otherworldly.
My one takeaway from Bryce was that the scenery was probably more spectacular than the Grand Canyon, but from the perspective of hiking trails, Grand Canyon took the cake. That’s not to say that we didn’t hike though. We did in fact spend most of the day hiking all around the canyons, with every twist and turn leading to more gorgeous colours and shapes. It was definite eye candy all the way. After a full day hiking there, we drove off to a nearby national park where we found another amazing campsite with some cool hiking trails around it. We hiked high up a hill yet again over supper to enjoy another amazing sunset. We lit up out third fire in 3 days, enjoyed a couple beers, and turned in for the night.
Thursday took us to the final stop in the tour: Zion National Park. Zion was pretty much my real reason for making this trip. I had seen it on various tv shows, and others had commented on how amazing this park was, so I HAD to visit. I was NOT disappointed. We arrived quite early in the morning, allowing us to nab a camping spot early, and head out on shuttle buses to explore the park. Zion is unique in that visitors can’t drive in, they have to actually take shuttle buses operated by the park to the trails and views. This protects the region, and manages traffic flow. It worked as advertised and in no time we found ourselves at the Angel’s Landing trailhead. I can’t say enough about this hike. It takes you up, up, and up, finally following a knife edge ridge trail that features chains to aid hikers. The views from the top? Well, you can see some images above. I LOVED it. Troy had turned back earlier on account of a bit of vertigo, so I was on my own up there, and for the rest of the day.
After Angel’s Landing, I basically boogied my way to almost every single front-country trail in Zion National Park. This park is pristine and gorgeous. After seeing all the front trails, I realized that I will HAVE to come back and spend more time doing some of the overnight hikes that are available here. In addition to Angel’s Landing, there was another trail that follows the West Rim trail of the park to a place called Sentinel Point. Sadly, it is closed on weekdays due to maintenance. However, I learned that it would be open on Friday! Lucky me, since I’d be there in the morning :-). This was dumb luck, as we’d intended to spend Monday and Tuesday here, when the trail would have been closed. And I must say, of the entire week’s trails, this was probably my favourite. The view from the top pretty much defines for me the quintessential end of a hike. I was the first on the trail in the morning, and the first to summit at this, the highest point in the park. Sadly (or happily), my camera batteries were dead before I even started hiking, so I have no actual pictures. This just means that I’ll have to go back with Deanna to take her to the top to see the sights herself.
All in all, this trip hit all the high points for me in a vacation. I got to spend time with friends. I relaxed in the sun and played my heart out, board games, pool, disc golf, hiking, running, and biking. I saw amazing new sights forged by mother nature, and by mans’ own hands. I left feeling relaxed and ready for anything. Las Vegas may be known as Sin City, but I think from here on out, I will only see it as a jumping point for amazing adventures in the Southwest. There is still so much more for me to experience, and the flight prices are awesome! That’s it for my R&R, so stay tuned for my post on my next race, which was the County Marathon….