...Colorado Plateau...

Saturday 26 May A 16:15 flight from heathrow
to Las Vegas.


Business class

As a surprise birthday present Tammay had booked us business class tickets to Las Vegas with BA, but even while standing in the business queue at check-in I still hadn't twigged!


The Paris

After getting through customs, it was only a short taxi ride to the Paris hotel. After checking in, we walked over to the Bellagio hotel to pick up our tickets for Cirque de Soleil and then went for dinner at Switch, the steak restaurant at the Encore. By the time we finished dinner I was totally dead on my feet and half asleep as we walked back to our hotel.


The Venetian

Sunday 27 May We walked up 'The Strip' to the Venetian hotel.


The 'canals' of the Venetian

We had a good wonder around the hotel, the casino and the "canals".


The Venetian

Tammay, just before we hit Banana Republic. I took the opportunity to buy a lot of clothes, making the most of the 40% discount they were offering!


The Paris

We went to the Fashion Mall for lunch and a walk around, then took our purchases back to the hotel. We walked along the strip to New York New York for a few games of blackjack, then back to the Bellagio for some more gambling... I won another $2 on the blackjack machines... last of the high rollers or what?!


The Bellagio

The evening water show in front of the Bellagio. We could even hear the roar of the water from our room across the road at the Paris.

We had dinner at Shibuya at the MGM Grand followed by the 'O' by Cirque de Soleil at the Bellagio. I had another go at blackjack then moved to the roulette wheel. I casually sat at the table and in the words of Wesley Snipes (Passenger 57), "Always bet on black!". I won and simply walked away, making it a successful trip to Vegas!


The Paris

The view of the Paris from the front of the Bellagio.

We strolled around the Paris casino and ended up speaking to a rather energetic and slightly drunk American girl who tried to teach us the rules to craps.


The car

Monday 28 May we had our final breakfast at the Paris and returned to the airport to pick up our car. I decided that an upgrade was in order. Although the Mustang convertible had been fun in Miami, I decided a nice SUV would be much better here. We ended up getting a Chevy Traverse, which basically looked like an Audi Q7. Just what two people need, a 7 seat monster!

We started the long drive to Page, Arizona with a two hour stop at the outlet mall next to the airport. I bought even more clothes! We made the long drive to Arizona with a quick stop in Springdale, Utah (just outside Zion NP), having lunch at the Spotted Dog Cafe. We got into Page after dark, checked into the Days Inn, and went straight to bed.


Canyon X

Tuesday 29 May We woke early for our 7am tour of Canyon X and Upper Antelope Canyon.


Canyon X

Tammay had really done her homework and had booked us on a tour with just two other people (an American couple).


Canyon X

Only 6 tourists are allowed into Canyon X each day, so we were assured of a peaceful visit, and had an opportunity to take our time and get some nice photos.


Canyon X


Canyon X


Canyon X

Tammay at the entrance of Canyon X.


Canyon X


Canyon X


Canyon X

Water running down the sides of the canyon left dark streaks on the rock.


Canyon X


Canyon X

Back into the open air.


Canyon X


Canyon X


Upper Antelope Canyon

Canyon X was just a short drive from Upper Antelope Canyon, out next stop.


Upper Antelope Canyon

We saw quite a contrast. Compared to the deserted Canyon X, Upper Antelope Canyon was 'packed' with about two bus loads of tourists. That said, it was still a great experience and we had an opportunity to see some really interesting features along the way.


Upper Antelope Canyon

We also saw a very disgruntled lady arguing with her tour guide. She had been assured of being in a small group of no more that 10 people, but had ended up in a much larger group. She and her partner had remained in the canyon long after the others had left, keeping the entire tour group waiting on the bus outside.


Upper Antelope Canyon

We walked the length of the canyon then turned around and walked back through the chambers to take photographs of the light beams as they hit the ground.


Upper Antelope Canyon

Sand cascading over the walls of the canyon like water.


Upper Antelope Canyon

A great perspective, looking directly up.


Upper Antelope Canyon

By the time we made our walk back through the canyon, the sun was in the right position to create these wonderful beams of light, illuminating the canyon floor. It was a really spectacular sight!


Upper Antelope Canyon

The various guides worked together to try and allow each group to experience the beams. They would also throw scoops of sand into the air. The dust left hanging in the air reflected the sun light, accentuating the effect.


Upper Antelope Canyon


Upper Antelope Canyon


Upper Antelope Canyon

The person in this photo gives it a sense of scale.


Upper Antelope Canyon


Upper Antelope Canyon


Glen Canyon Dam

Following our tour of Antelope Canyon we were dropped off back at the motel. We jumped into the car and drove to Lake Powell Resort for lunch at the Rainbow Room, overlooking the lake.

After lunch, we stopped off at the Glen Canyon Dam visitor centre.


Glen Canyon Dam Bridge

We took a walk out over the bridge but Tammay soon took a dislike to the huge trucks rumbling past.


Horseshoe Bend

After a short rest back at the motel we made the short drive to Horseshoe Bend.


Horseshoe Bend


Horseshoe Bend

Tammay insisted on waited for the sun to set but I was sure it would be far nicer at sunrise the following morning. Despite my complaints, we stayed until sunset, and I managed to improvise a rather comfortable place to sit from the scattered rocks.


Horseshoe Bend


Horseshoe Bend


Horseshoe Bend


Horseshoe Bend


Horseshoe Bend

We returned to the motel for a 'picnic' in our room.


Horseshoe Bend

Wednesday 30 May We went back to Horseshoe Bend for sunrise, well not exactly sunrise, but soon afterwards!


Horseshoe Bend

Tammay taking in the early morning view.

We returned to the motel, checked out, and started the drive to Monument Valley.


Monument Valley

We arrived at The View Hotel relatively early so our room wasn't ready. We sat in the lobby and had a picnic.


Monument Valley

After a short rest we embarked on the 17 mile loop drive around lower Monument Valley.


Monument Valley


Monument Valley

With huge volumes of dust kicking up from the track I was quite happy to have an SUV over a convertible.


Monument Valley

We returned to the hotel for dinner. The restaurant had this wonderful view of the Mittens. We sat at our table and watched as the shadows crept across the landscape.


Monument Valley

Thursday 31 May I woke early and went out onto our balcony to take a few photos of the sun rising behind the Mittens.


Monument Valley

The first beams of morning light.


Monument Valley

An early start with a 7am pick up for our lower valley back country tour.


The Hogan

We were picked up by Myron, our native American guide. The drive was largely based around the loop drive we had completed the day before but we also visited a number of 'hidden' points of interest that you're not permitted to visit without a guide.

This is known as The Hogan, and we were told it was used in the snake pit scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark.


Moccasin Arch

Moccasin Arch.


Monument Valley


Ear of the Wind

Ear of the Wind.


Eye of the Sun

Eye of the Sun.


The View Hotel

We returned to the hotel for breakfast and a nap before our 7 hour trip to Hunts Mesa with our second guide, Brian.


Monument Valley

Another view of the Mittens from our balcony.


Monument Valley

The hotel's patio, overlooking the Mittens. You can also see a portion of the 17 mile loop drive.


Monument Valley

The Mittens.


Monument Valley

There was lots of crazy off-road driving up steep cliffs and fast over sand dunes, flat out with the engine of the 6.7 litre V10 Chevy Excursion roaring in our ears!


Monument Valley

We watched sunset over the lower valley from the top of the Mesa.


Monument Valley

It was a really chilled out evening. Brian sang a couple of traditional songs for us.


Monument Valley


Monument Valley


Monument Valley


Monument Valley


Monument Valley


Monument Valley


Monument Valley


Monument Valley


Monument Valley


Monument Valley

Friday 1st June We got up for sunrise and took a few photos from the car park. Back to hotel for breakfast before check out.


Monument Valley


Monument Valley


Highway 163

Drove to Moab via the U.S. Highway 163, aka "Forrest Gump" road!!!

Stopped for lunch at Peace Tree Cafe in Moab and checked into the really cute Sunflower Hill Inn.


Delicate Arch hike

We drove to Arches National Park and took the hot steep hike to watch sunset at Delicate Arch. The 100 degree heat was a little much for Tammay's little legs and I ended up carrying everything for the second, more strenuous half of the hike. I felt it necessary to draw Tammay's attention to the pregnant woman and the guy with one leg who seemed to be managing.


Delicate Arch

While at the top we did notice a couple of 'oddballs', including a guy with a digital medium format, who was running around like a man possessed.


Delicate Arch

Along with around 30 other people, we sat, watching the sun make its way to the horizon.

With the sun gone, the hike back down was far more pleasant.


Turret Arch through the North Window

Saturday 2nd June We got up at 04:30 to drive to the North Window & Turret arch for sunrise. We found 4 other dedicated photographers already there when we arrived.


Sand Dune Arch

Sand Dune arch.


Broken Arch

We walked to Broken arch via a short loop trail.


Double Arch

On the way back to the B&B we stopped at Double arch.

Tammay is sat beneath the giant arches, giving them a little perspective.


Moab Rodeo

After an afternoon snooze we walked into town and had lunch at Pasta Jay's and browsed the local shops. Even at 4pm, the heat was intense.

In the evening we went to the local Rodeo! Lots of real life cowboys in hats & boots and bucking broncos!

I felt I had to take a shot of this guy: cowboy boots & hat, check shirt, big moustache and a can of Red Stripe...


Moab Rodeo

They had a few rounds of cowboys lassoing calves...


Moab Rodeo

â€Ĥand riding bucking broncos.


Moab Rodeo


Moab Rodeo


Moab Rodeo

They also had young children riding sheep. Most of them ended like this with a face-plant from child and sheep!


Moab Rodeo


Landscape Arch

Sunday 3 June We had a leisurely start to the day, with a nice breakfast. Then went back to Arches, to the Devil Garden's area, to hike to Landscape Arch and Double O Arch.


Landscape Arch


Landscape Arch


Landscape Arch

In 1991, a tourist happened to be taking a video, just as 180 tons of rock came away from the underside of Landscape Arch.


Double O Arch trail

We continued on the trail towards Double O Arch.


Double O Arch trail


Double O Arch trail

It was a real scramble over slick rock in parts and walking over deep hot sand. As it approached 100 degrees, shade became a luxury!!


Double O Arch

As we neared the end of the trail, Double O Arch came into view to the left of the trail.


Double O Arch

Tammay at Double O Arch.


Double O Arch


Double Arch

On the return drive we took a detour to Double Arch to take some more photos with a blue sunny sky.

On the way back to the B&B we picked up a well earned Starbucks before a nice cool rest.


Mesa Arch

Monday 4 June We woke at 4am in order to reach Mesa Arch (in Canyonlands) in time for sunrise and catch a glimpse of its famed 'glowing arch'. We were worried, on the drive up, that the early wake up was going to be worthless as there was a lot of cloud in the sky. But, our luck turned, and it turned out to be a beautiful sunrise.


Mesa Arch

A handful of other tourists had also turned out for sunrise.


Mesa Arch

Mesa Arch is located just passed the edge of the plateau, 500 feet above the canyon floor.


Upheaval Dome

After spending over an hour photographing the Mesa Arch we drove over to Upheaval Dome, for our breakfast picnic, followed by a walk around the rim. Upheaval Dome had some unusual geological features but I wasn't a fan.


'Mouse' Arch

On the way down we spotted what we decided must have been the area's smallest 'arch'. We named it 'Mouse Arch'.


Green River Overlook

We drove back to Green River Overlook and then Grand View Overlook.


Grand View Overlook


Dead Horse Point

On our way back to Moab, we took a detour to Dead Horse State Park and Dead Horse Point. A pretty overlook where it was reputed that cowboys would corral mustangs into the 'island', take the ones they wanted, and leave the rest to die of thirst!


Park Avenue

We had a nice long nap when we returned (having already been up about 9 hours). After getting refreshed, we had a nice lunch at Peace Tree Cafe and then returned one last time to Arches to stroll through Park Avenue.


The Three Gossips

With the setting sun backlighting this rock, you can really see how it gets its name.


Sheep Rock

Like The Three Gossips, this rock has quite an apt name.


Balanced Rock

Tammay and I enjoying the sunset.


Balanced Rock

It was impressive to see this large rock, precariously balanced atop this column.


Elijah Cutler Behunin Cabin

Tuesday 5 June A relatively leisurely start with our final breakfast at Sunflower Hill Inn. We packed up and drove, Starbucks in hand, to Capitol Reef National Park.

We stopped off at this Cabin in which Elijah Behunin's family of 10 was housed between 1883 and 1884. Even by London standards, it was tiny!


Hickman Bridge

After stopping at the visitor's centre, we competed the short Hickman Bridge Trail and stopped at the top for a slightly windy picnic.


Hickman Bridge


Forest fire outside Torrey

As we approached Torrey I noticed the sky becoming particularly red. By the time we reached town we had realised it was a result of a huge forest fire sweeping across the hillside on the far side of town.


Schoolhouse B&B

We checked into the rather odd and somewhat creepy Schoolhouse B&B in Torrey. We felt like we were in a Stephen King novel and half expected to spot twin girls wondering down a corridor towards us!!


Transit of Venus

We went back into the park to complete a scenic drive through Capitol Reef. At the end of the drive, we stopped to look at the transit of Venus using my camera. I attached my biggest lens and 6 filters to ensure I didn't burn out my retinas!

We ended the day with dinner at the 'famous' Cafe Diablo.


Bryce Canyon

Wednesday 6 June A relatively late start because the B&B only served breakfast at 8:30. We slowly drove through the beautiful Dixie State Forest onto Bryce Canyon.


Bryce Canyon

We had lunch at The Bryce Canyon Lodge and then embarked on the Navajo/Queens Garden Combi trail.


Bryce Canyon

We started from sunset point and made our way down all the switchbacks through Wall Street. From the canyon floor, we walked passed Queen's Garden and back up the switchbacks to Sunrise Point.


Bryce Canyon


Bryce Canyon


Bryce Canyon


Bryce Canyon

After our long hike, we rested in the lobby with our laptops and pizza before an early night in readiness for sunrise.


Bryce Canyon

Thursday 7 June An early wake up to get to Bryce Point for sunrise. It appears that many others had the same idea! It was bitterly cold and strong winds were sweeping across the ledge. I could barely maintain the strength to wait for the first rays of sun to pour over the horizon.


Bryce Canyon

After a futile attempt to take photos at the sub-zero temperatures we went back to our cabin for a nap and a warm up.


Bryce Canyon

We had breakfast at the lodge and then headed to Inspiration Point, which was really beautiful. We spent a lot of time photographing the 'Silent City'.


Bryce Canyon


Bryce Canyon


Bryce Canyon


Bryce Canyon


Bryce Canyon

After getting back to the lodge we had a quick lunch before our afternoon's half day horse trek deep into the canyon.


Bryce Canyon

My horse was called 'Rowdy' and unfortunately Tammay had the one with attitude, 'Ike', who liked to eat grass and get into a gallop now and again. Our cowboy was called Carter. The horse trek gave us the opportunity to gain a different view of the canyon, but we did end up with some very sore knees and bottoms! :-(


Bryce Canyon


Bryce Canyon


Bryce Canyon


Bryce Canyon

A section known as 'The Windows'.


Bryce Canyon


Bryce Canyon


Bryce Canyon

After we collapsed back at the cabin we went for a short drive over to Natural Bridge and Agua Canyon.

That evening I went to a short talk on 'Aliens' then went to the visitors centre for a night sky lesson with telescopes. It was great to see that so many people had been interested but we decided to give the long queues a miss and headed back to the room.


Bryce Canyon

Friday 8 June Woke up early for sunrise shots overlooking Inspiration Point.


Bryce Canyon

Thankfully it wasn't anywhere near as cold as the previous morning!


Bryce Canyon

Back to the hotel for a nap and a late breakfast after which we started out on our drive to Zion National Park.


Checkerboard Mesa

We arrived in Zion National Park and stopped at Checkerboard Mesa.


Virgin River

We headed to the Canyon to complete the short Riverside Walk. Parking is restricted within the park so we had to take the town shuttle bus from our hotel to the visitor's centre, then the park shuttle to the Temple of Siniwava, the last stop on the route.


Virgin River

While taking some photos along the Virgin River, Tammay accidentally fell in! We carried on to the end of the paved path and as she was already wet, Tammay decided to take a look at the first few hundred yards of the more strenuous Narrows Hike.


Weeping Rock Trail

Following the Riverside Walk, we completed the short Weeping Rock Trail, with a beautiful view over a lush green canyon, which could have been taken straight out of a dinosaur movie. We half expected one to walk across the canyon. Sadly, no dinosaurs but we did see a couple of deer.

We took the shuttles back into town and checked into the Desert Pearl Inn and for dinner, returned to the Spotted Dog Cafe.


Narrows Hike

Saturday 9 June Having had a taste of the Narrows Hike, we decided to complete the whole thing. 80% of the hike involves getting up to waist deep (even higher in the restricted permit only areas!) so we had to get some suitable hiking gear (shoes, walking stick and a water-proof bag for food and a camera) from an outfitters in town.

All togged up, we stopped by Cafe Soleil for breakfast and picked up a nice sandwich for lunch. We took the shuttle back to Temple of Sinawava and after the 20 minute Riverside Walk (along a paved path to the 'Gateway to the Narrows'), we waded in.

The first point of interest along the hike was Mystery Canyon Falls.


Narrows Hike

It was quite strenuous, as you head into the Narrows you are basically wading upstream, over stones and rocks, in the rapidly flowing Virgin River. It was amazing to see how many people were doing it in just their trainers or even barefoot!! Although these guys don't necessarily get very far.


Narrows Hike


Narrows Hike


Narrows Hike

From there, we walked on to Orderville Junction and the start of 'Wall Street', so called as a result of the water spanning the full 22 foot width of a canyon 1500 feet deep. We paused here for our lunch. We made it just beyond the end of Wall Street where we stopped for a quick snack and turned around for the return hike.


Narrows Hike


Narrows Hike

By the time we turned around to make our way back, the sun was getting lower in the sky and had started to bathe the walls of the canyon in a really warm light.


Narrows Hike


Narrows Hike


Zion National Park

We picked up our car at the visitor's centre and drove back into town. As the sun set, this was the view from the roadside.


Zion National Park

Sunday 10 June Our last day. We started out with a short, early morning drive to the Zion Human History Museum, where we could see the West Temple, Sundial and Altar of Sacrifice in the morning sunlight. I decided to get there an hour after sunrise so the sunlight had already made it over the surrounding peaks. We had the breakfast buffet at the Spotted Dog Cafe, as recommended on TripAdvisor. It was a good choice.


Kayenta Trail

We checked out of the Desert Pearl Inn, left our car in their car park, and picked up lunch and a coffee at Cafe Soleil and picked up the shuttle into the heart of the park. We completed the short Kayenta Trail to the Middle and Upper Emerald Pools. The day was starting to warm up but thankfully the path wasn't too strenuous.


Kayenta Trail

We found this lovely viewpoint part way along the trail.


Upper Emerald Pools

The pools themselves were nothing special, the Middle Emerald Pool being nothing more than a puddle and the Upper Emerald Pool not being a huge amount better. However, given the time of year we hadn't expected too much.


Upper Emerald Pools


Kayenta Trail

The views on the way back down also made the hike well worth it.

Following the Kayenta Trail we took the shuttle bus to Big Bend


Court of the Patriarchs

One final viewpoint, just a short walk from the road, was the Court of the Patriarchs.

Upon returning to the Desert Pearl Inn we had hoped to have a shower and change but it turned out that the 'pool showers' we had been offered were just that - showers at the side of the hotel pool. We set out on the final drive back to Las Vegas, stopping at Sol Foods to pick up provisions. We had expected we'd need to fill up with fuel somewhere on the way, but, as we chewed through the miles it looked like we might be able to make it. The needle hit empty about 50 miles outside Vegas and the warning light came on after a further 10 miles. At this stage it had become a bit of a (foolish?) challenge. I'd had the car on cruise control at around the speed limit for the whole 160 miles, barely touching the brakes, hoping to maximise fuel efficiency (I think I managed to get a *whole* 20MPG out of it!). As we approached the outskirts of Vegas and entered the heavier traffic I started to get a little nervous, even turning off the air-con, just in case. I breathed a sigh of relief as we rolled into the car rental return garage, wondering to myself how much was actually still left in the tank, and feeling like it was part of some stupid Top Gear challenge. I'll bet there was actually enough left in the tank to get half way back to Zion!

We had a 20:45 flight back to London Heathrow. Once again, I made the most of business class!