Monday, 23rd of February 2015 at 07:27:47 PM

USA2015: Day13+14 Las Vegas

lasvegas2015-1725The last two days I would spend in Las Vegas. I called it the Alpha and Omega. The start and the end of my US trips. Usually its relaxing, shopping, eating, some show, often revisiting Valley of Fire.lasvegas2015-1193

This time too: I drove to Valley of Fire on the first morning. Arriving there it was so cloudy that I decided to return to Vegas for a good breakfast and shopping. Unfortunately it was still to cool  for the pool.lasvegas2015-1704

I bought some T-shirts, visited the Beatles LOVE show in the Mirage. Had Buffet in Bellagio and spent 100 bucks gambling. I always enjoy these 1 or 2 closing days in Las Vegas.lasvegas2015-1775

After sunset I went out with my tripod :-). I like to expand my collection of Neon light photos. This time I collected the RIO, Palace station, Flamingo, and Pucks LUPO in the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino.lasvegas2015-1711





On the morning of Friday Februar 27th I flew back home to Munich. Drive Carefully – come back soon ?


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Saturday, 21st of February 2015 at 09:39:37 PM

USA2015: Day11+12 Sedona-Apache Trail-Tonto-Phoenix

apache-trail-mapSedona would have had plenty of possibilities, for a few short hikes, to fill a day. Unfortunately when waking up the sky was dark and it was raining. Since having had the flat tire I seem to have a streak of bad luck. When would it end? There was no other chance,apachetrail-1533 I left Sedona without a single mile hiked, without a single photo. I drove planless south, in the evening I would meet my friend Alex for barbecue in Phoenix. But what do with this day. I would really have loved hiking Sedona, although it really is very touristy.

I remembered a colleague from Phoenix once had talked enthusiastic from the Superstitious mountains. I checked my map and a plan was born. Driving the complete Apache trail backroad and visiting also the Tonto monument. I set my cars GPS on the target destination Apache Junction. This would become a road tripping day.

I arrived there at 9 am and took the  US88 which leads North East into the Superstitious Mountains.apachetrail-1601 First stop was Canyon Lake, a reservoir formed by the Mormon Flat Dam completed 1925. View miles later I stopped at Tortilla Flat to checkout the souvenir shop. Tortilla Flat is presumed to be Arizona’s smallest official “community” with a population of 6. Its name comes from a nearby butte shaped like a tortilla, nothing todo with John Steinbeck’s novell.

Then the road follows Apache Lake, another reservoir formed by the Horse Mesa Dam. Finally one arrives at the Roosevelt Dam and the Roosevelt Lake. The landscape is dominated from Saguaros, typical for the sonoran desert. apachetrail-1648At the Roosevelt Lake the unpaved road becomes again a regular paved road US188 leading south east. I decided to drive the complete Apache trail circle loop and return to Phoenix through US60, south of the Superstitious Mountains. The whole loop was a 120 miles drive and I arrived 5 pm in the evening back in Phoenix. The following two nights I would stay in Phoenix, visiting Alex.

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Friday, 20th of February 2015 at 09:39:11 PM

USA2015: Day 9+10 Bryce-Page-Cameron-Wutpaki+Sunset Crater-Flagstaff-Sedona

brycecanyon2015-1359My appointment to get the new tire was for 8 am at the Garage opposite Ruby’s Inn. So I would have time for taking morning shots from nearby Bryce Canyons Sunset Point. It was only 15 min drive and somehow funny driving to Bryce Canyon N.P. with the spare tire. I then went back to the Hotel to pack my stuff and drop the car for the Exchange of the flat tire. In the meantime, I had breakfast in the Hotel and checked out. The new tire cost me 200USD. But I was confident to Claim that back from the rental agency. I had reported the damage and they had given me allowance to Change the tire, considering None of their authorised repair Shops were nearby.

The flat tire had changed my plans. Originally after the Reflection Canyon hike I had liked to drive east, to the town of Green River and hike the 5-hole Arch (aka The Collonade). I had lost this one day and needed to continue south, towards Phoenix,Az where I wanted to visit my friend Alex.

I drove towards Page at the Lake Powell, taking US89. In Kanaab I had breakfast at Mc Donalds to check emails. The weather was very clouded  and it was looking for rain. I drove on towards Page, Az where I wanted to stay the night and have dinner at Dam Bar and Grille, a place which had become Tradition for me in the last years. It was early afternoon when I arrived in Page. Meanwhile it was raining. All the plans for some small hike or revisiting Antelope Canyon, thus became obsolete. I went for lunch, got a hair cut and my beard trimmed and then decided to watch a movie in the Page Movie theatre, close to my hotel. Afterwards It was right time for my traditional diner at Page Bar and Grille. This time the Steak was not as good as I remembered it in the past. That fitted well into this misscarried day. When I got to bed, it was still raining and  it was even looking for snow.

flagstaff-1492On the next day indeed a snow storm approached. I understood it would not make sense to stay in Page for desert Hiking. Thus I decided to drive south. I needed to be in Phoenix, Az the next day anyway. US89 south was still closed and I had to take the US89-Temp (formerly Navajo Route 20 – Note:US89 south was reopend Mar 27th 2015).

The day before, I still was considering driving out to Tatahatsu Point today. That would require around 20 miles drive on unpaved road. flagstaff-1477Arriving at the junction of US89-Temp with US89 South a heavy snow storm came up and it snowed. I decided, not to drive into the desert under these circumstances and continued south. After a short stop at historic Cameron trading Post, I drove on south. Having plenty of time now, I took the Deviation through Wutpaki N.M and Sunset Crater and ended up in the early afternoon in Flagstaff. There I stopped for a walk in the historic district, which I had not visited before. meanwhile the sky was again blue.

Where would I stay the next night? I had no plan yet. I needed to be in Phonix next day evening. Sedona was half-way to Phoenix and I thought that would be a nice place to check-out. From Flagstaff I took 89-A through Oak Creek Canyon, a very recomendable route, if there would not be that lots of traffic. I arrived in Sedona, checked in at a Hotel in the south and went for dinner. Later I understood why the Hotel rate was that high: The Sedona Filmfestival had just began, and my Hotel was Close to the main movie theatre. But the rooms in the historic centre where even more expensive.

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Thursday, 19th of February 2015 at 09:37:32 PM

USA2015: Day 7+8 Reflection Canyon Revisited + Flat Tire

reflectioncanyon2015-1193I had hiked to Reflection Canyon 2014. I was very lucky back then, because I had accidently done the hike on the day with lowest Lake Powell water Level in 2014. A low water Level dramatically emphasizes this photo Location. Peter and me hiked comfortably starting at 8 am. We had enough time because we would stay the night. Peter had camped out there before. Me on the other side had done this hike as “same day in-and-out”.reflectioncanyon2015-1287 I hadn’t been too Content with my photos from 2014, cause I had arrived 11:30 am at the Reflection Canyon and it was very bright back-light. This time we would have enough time, to shoot in the evening and perhaps even in the morning. We arrived around 12:30 pm. First we setup our camps, then we inspected the Terrain.

Unfortunately this time the water Level was much higher to my last visit. Furthermore the perfect weather we had the day before, had changed to an overcast afternoon. reflectioncanyon2015-1297We were dissapointed, because this would ruin our plans for the night photos with the star belt. At least it was windstill, and the surface on the lake was smooth and reflecting sky and sandstone. We did 3 sessions of photos in the evening, before sunset, after sunset. The night was fine, not very cold, but after midnight heavy wind came up. reflectioncanyon2015-1330I was happy to have bought a new HQ low weight tent (Wechsel Pathfinder Zero G line) which is especially suited for high wind conditions. In the morning the wind was still strong. and it was not possible to roll up the tent, so I just stuffed it into the backpack. We checked if it would make sense to take photos, but having direct back light  we soon decided to hike back to the car. We arrived around 12:30 pm at the car. We would both head towards east so we planned to have a early Burger Diner in Torrey, where Peter knew some good dining place.

IFAt 1 pm we started our 50 miles drive North on the Hole in the Rock Road. Driving mostly slower than a max. Speed of 35 miles per hour, it took almost two hours when we approached US12. Right 1 mile before US12 my Jeep gave me Low Air pressure Alarm on the Right Rear. I could not believe it, after 2012 in Death Valley, again a Flat Tire. The frustrating was that we were already so Close before reaching the paved road. I had already visualized eating the Burger in Torrey. But plans had to be changed. I gave Peter the horn to stop and we decided to part. I would put on the spare tire and drive to Escalante to go to the Tire store and check what could be done. Peter continued his trip towards East to his home in New Mexico.

At the tire store in Escalante nobody was surprised. Flat Tires seem to be their main Business model here. They checked my tire and due to damaged carcass It could not be patched. I definetly would Need a new tire. Unluckily they did not have my tire size, and called for me the next tire store in Bryce. UT just 45 miles east. It would take me more than an hour to drive there, my spare tire allowed only 40 mph  Speed. The Tire Store in Bryce would be already closed when I arrive, but they could serve me the next morning. I immediately decided to drive to Bryce, where I once had a fantastic Steak at the historic Ruby’s Inn lodge. The lodge was opposite to the Tire Store and thus at 5 pm I checked in there. I took this unexpected spare time for checking with the Garage img_100to Exchange my tire next morning at 8am, washing clothes, cleaning my tent and stuffing it nicely in its protection cover, and finally have a rich Steak based diner with desert and lots of wine.

What bugged me most: I had no plans to return soon to Escalante:  My last memory with this marvelous place, where I have had my best hiking experiences in US hiking would be the flat tire on Hole in the Rock Road (HITRR). Hundreds of miles driven on HITRR,  the “Aorta of Southwest Canyon Hiking” – I would leave it with …. a Flat Tire in my mind.

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Wednesday, 18th of February 2015 at 09:37:05 PM

USA2015: Day 6 Collet top Arch + Hole in the Rock

collettop-1139.jpgIn the morning I checked out of the Rodeway Inn, Caineville. The Hotel was ok, it seemed to have been renovated recently. I had the Impression I was the only guest that night. It had snowed the night but the streets where free of snow. I drove east on US24 towards Torrey and then south on US12 to Escalante. There I wanted to check at the BLM Office for road conditions and also get the Camping Permit for the next night. I arrived in Escalante early and thus refueled, had some coffee and a breakfast. collettop-1108.jpgI also refilled my Food and Drinks. When the BLM Office opened I asked for the Road conditions on Smoky Mountain Road (on which I would drive 70 miles next) and for Hole in the Rock Road (on which I would drive 50 miles in the evening). HITRR was good, but Smoky Mountain road would have some muddy sections in the middle part, cause there was still snow melting up there. I was concerned, because my Jeep G.C. unfortunately had only 2 Wheels drive. Smoky Mountain road is a unpaved  gravel road connecting Escalante,UT with Big Water, AZ. I had some bad memories about getting almost stuck in the mud and therefore was not sure what to do. I had an appointment in the evening with a hiking Partner for a hike together south at Hole in the Rock Road. I did not want to arrive late. collettop-1126.jpgBut the wish to see Collet top Arch was bigger than my fears. I slowly drove up and decided to check myself the road. I could Progress quite well, the road climbed quite steep from 5700 to 7000 feet and  approximately half way indeed there was mud on the road. But only once I had the impression720__IMG_2029.jpg I had almost got stuck , and my heartrate jumped up. But later the road was again dry and I arrived at the place where I had decided to park the car. It was around 40 miles North of Escalante, a remote deserted and lonely place. I walked the remaining 1 mile to Collet Top Arch.  It was Kind of hide-and-seek to find the Arch, but having the GPS coordinates I was sure to find it. I did not know how the sun was Standing regarding the Arch, but was lucky to have the Arch well illuminated at around 10 am in the morning. I took several photos and then rushed back to the car, to drive now 40 miles back in northern direction on Smokey Mountain Road. After lunch in Escalante, I refueled the Jeep, checked the tires and drove towards Hole in the Rock Road, another unpaved gravel road leading 55 miles south and starting 8 miles east of the twon of Escalante. I had an appointment at 8 pm at Dance Hall Rock. It was 3 pm now and so I could take my time and drive slowly south on HITRR.

hitr_devilsgarden2015-1146Having plenty of time I wanted to take some late evening photos in the Devils Garden section. I stoped there and had the nice warm evening sun – but once again on this trip, this was a “Revisited” location and thus not really very exciting for me. I left not too late, cause I did not want to drive in the dark on the unpaved road, knowing road conditions get worse in its southern sections. Finally I arrived at640_IMG_0824 dawn at Dance Hall Rock and prepared my night camp in the back of the Jeep. At 8pm I heared another Jeep approaching and it was Peter Böhringer’s fully equipped Jeep Rubicon 4WD. We decided spontaneously to drive further 15 miles south and night camp at the trail head of the Hike we had planned for tomorrow. It took us almost an 1 hour to drive carefully in the dark, before we reached the trailhead the for Reflection Canyon Hike. But it was a good decision, so we did not Need to drive tomorrow morning, before we start the hike. Thus we would gain this hour for starting early.

It was the new moon night. The crystall clear sky was illuminated by the milky Way. I had never seen such a clear Image of this star belt, it was amazing. The remotness of this area with ist lack of nearby city lights helped of course to get this bright view to the stars. Considering we might take that shoot next night, and being tired, we did not take any pictures. We prepared for the night. Fortunately, it was not that cold here, compared to the higher Utah Canyonlands Needles district, where I had slept three nights in the freezing cold.

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