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Friday 15 August - San Francisco

Landed in San Francisco at 4:30pm and the Green Tortoise bus departed at 9pm that evening. My co-travellers were thirty people from 12 different countries (England, Ireland, France, Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Israel, Japan, Australia, USA, Paraguay and South Africa) aged 14 to 65. It turned out to be an amazing bunch of people. Overnight drive out of California.

Saturday 16 August - Into Nevada

Breakfast at 7am at RYE PATCH RESERVOIR at WELLS, NEVADA, where we had our first swim (and wash). Drove to ELCO, NEVADA for lunch, followed by a hot spring which need a 45 minute walk to get to. On the way back 17 of us hitched a ride in the back of a pick up, accompanied by a dog. Overnight drive into Idaho.

Sunday 17 August - Craters of the Moon National Monument

Arrived at CRATERS OF THE MOON NATIONAL MONUMENT, IDAHO, on the site of an extinct volcano with black volcanic rocks stretching for miles in every direction and there were several caves which we explored. Drove to SALMON where all but two of us went rafting. We camped by the river at MORGAN BAR.

Monday 18 August - Salmon

After breakfast we drove to GOLD BUG HOT SPRINGS, a mile ascent through a scenic trail led us to a small group of pools and waterfalls where we relaxed for a couple of hours. Dinner was a cookout by the Salmon River, then went out to a bar in the town, also called SALMON. Overnight drive through Montana into WYOMING.

Tuesday 19 August - Yellowstone National Park

After breakfast went to a hot spring at BOILING RIVER, where boiling water from the spring meets ice cool water from the river. Then drove to one of the many geyser basins for which Yellowstone is famous. First was NORRIS GEYSER, then along a trail through BISCUIT BASIN and finally to OLD FAITHFUL. Camped at GRANT VILLAGE within the park.

Wednesday 20 August - Yellowstone National Park

Drove to the GRAND CANYON OF YELLOWSTONE, with many bison seen along the way, some were obstructing the traffic and provided us with close up views. A group of us did an alternative hike in what our driver calls 'the other Yellowstone', away from asphalt trails and crowds of tourists. An eight mile hike took us though beautiful scenes of rolling meadows, streams and herds of bison to WRANGLER LAKE, a large lake fringed with water lilies. After the hike we walked a short distance to the river to see Lower Falls. Other people had done rim trails at the canyon. Overnight drive.

Thursday 21 August - Grand Teton National Park

Breakfast at Yellowstone then drove to GRAND TETON national park. Imposing mountains, pine trees and crystal clear lakes provided an idyllic setting. It really was stunning. A group of us hiked part way around JENNY LAKE then took a ferry crossing before climbing up to Inspiration Point for nice views of the surrounding mountings and Jenny Lake. Other people has continued off the beaten track into Cascade Canyon where moose, elk and dear are commonly seen. This was also bear country, though none of our group saw any. That evening, we drove to JACKSON HOLE where all but the veggies among us seized the chance to get some meat (food on the bus was all vegetarian). I was happy to pay $30 for mine and it was one of the best I had ever tasted. Overnight drive into Utah.

Friday 22 August - Into Utah

Arrived at GREEN RIVER state park. Rivers were no longer clear. Now in desert country, muddy brown or grey rivers were the norm. Mud flights followed breakfast and then we drove to our campsite by a section of the Colorado River near the town of Moab. Surrounding us were beautiful rock formations of vivid reds and browns. We went for another swim and then relaxed at the sandy red beach before preparing dinner amidst a brief thunderstorm.

Saturday 23 August - Arches National Park

Drove the short distance to ARCHES national park. This had been my second visit but it was much better than I remembered. A sea of red rock 'fins' covers much of the park and from several of these fins arches were formed. Our destination was Double O arch which some of us climbed for spectacular views. We then drove to Delicate Arch viewpoint and then to North and South Window arches. Camped at the same campsite as the previous night.

Sunday 24 August - Needles Lookout, Valley of the Gods

We drove on through Utah and had a lunch stop at the NEEDLES LOOKOUT over the vastness of Canyonlands national park. With nothing to obstruct the views, we peered out into what looked like hundreds of miles of pure ruggedness. Without doubt one of the best views I've ever seen. Utah is by far my favourite state and, even on my fourth visit, it doesn't fail to amaze me. Just when I thought it couldn't get any better we arrived at our campsite, VALLEY OF THE GODS. Photos can't do justice to this place, let alone words, so I won't bother. There were no facilities here, we were truly in the wilderness. That night the stars were shining brightly and a few of us saw one shooting star that travelled for several seconds across the whole sky.

Monday 25 August - Mexican Hat, Monument Valley

Following a post-breakfast swim at the extremely muddy, chocolate-brown SUAN JUAN RIVER, we drove to the town of Mexican Hat. We then did jeep tours through what must be one of the most scenic places on earth. This is postcard scenery (familiar to most people as the backdrop for many westerns and the Marlboro ads) and driving into the valley, surrounded by these massive red sandstone buttes was an unforgettable experience. Campout tonight.

Tuesday 26 August - Canyon de Chelly

There was a change to the itinerary which meant we would spend today in CANYON de CHELLY, ARIZONA. We were given a guided tour by a local native American who had travelled all round the States and appeared in several films shot in the area. The canyon walls were inhabited by the natives and the sites of their homes could still be seen. This was out longest hike of the trip - 11 miles though a variety of vegetation and impressive rock formations. Bought our own dinner that night and then an overnight drive.

Wednesday 27 August - Grand Canyon National Park, north rim

Arrived at the GRAND CANYON. Although this was my third visit here, it was my first to the north rim. Most of us did the north Kaibab trail, past the Coconino Overlook, through Supai Tunnel then I continued alone to the bridge. It was overcast and the light was bad so the views were not as good as they could be. Also, from this trail the view is obstructed by the canyon walls on either side, so it's hard to appreciate the size of the canyon. About midday, a thunderstorm began. Three heavy spells of rain followed and I was soaked by the time I reached the top. After lunch, it began to brighten up so I headed to Bright Angel Point. The view was amazing, especially when the sun began to shine through, and there was a clear view of Bright Angel canyon meandering towards the south rim. However, I think the views from the south rim give you a better appreciation for the size of the canyon, and its size is its most notable feature and what tends to make peoples' jaw hit the floor. That evening we headed to the small town of Fredonia where we spent a few hours in a bar to kill some time.

Thursday 28 August - Bryce Canyon National Park, Kodachrome Basin

Drove to BRYCE CANYON at Sunset Point. It was my second time here, but again it was much nicer than I had remembered. In the early morning light the 'hoodoos' looked translucent as they glowed bright orange. A few of us did a the Navajo Loop trail into the canyon, but I reckon the views are best from the rim. In the afternoon we drove to our next campsite at the KODACHROME BASIN.

Friday 29 August - Tropic Reservoir, Coral Pink sand dunes

Briefly stopped at Tropic Reservoir before continuing to CORAL PINK SAND DUNES. Stayed here for a couple of hours before heading to our last campsite of the trip, PANDAROSA camp ground.

Saturday 30 August - Zion National Park, Las Vegas

Drove to ZION national park, my third visit to what is one of my favourite parks. I decided to do a less strenuous hike this time so went to the Emerald Pools trail. This took past several small waterfalls to a refreshing pool surrounded by sheer rock faces. The trail back provided us with some excellent views. I also took a short but steep trail for a view of the Court of the Patriarchs. Departed in the early evening for Las Vegas. Neon lights, casinos and themed hotels. That's Vegas, and a night was enough. Left at 3am and an overnight drive back to the bay.

Sunday 31 August - San Francisco

Now back in California, stopped at Buttonwillow for breakfast before continuing to San Francisco. We arrived at 4:30 and most of us checked into the Green Tortoise hostel. That night the hostel hosted a party with free food and beer and live music. A fitting end to an amazing adventure.

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