Travel: Take a whirlwind tour of America's most famous canyons, Indian lands and the bright lights Las Vegas
Claire Walker goes on a whirlwind tour of America's most famous canyons, Indian lands and the bright lights of Las Vegas
FIRST time in Vegas ma'am?" the taxi driver deduced from my dazed expression.
Despite having seen this neon wonderland in countless movies and television shows, I still wasn’t quite prepared for ‘the strip’ in the flesh, especially after a 12-hour flight from the UK.
Little did I know, however, that over the next week I’d see sights more surreal and incredible than anything Vegas could throw at me – and all of them completely natural.
My Grand American Adventure would begin and end in Sin City, taking in Route 66 and the mighty Grand Canyon; but before that, I’d be hiking my way through two other national parks and traversing one of the most wild and dangerous valleys in the world – well, if you believe the John Wayne version.
After meeting the rest of the tour group: 12 intrepid travellers aged from 28 to 80-something, we boarded our bus and set off for Zion National Park.
Early Mormon settlers considered the canyon their promised land, and as a result most of its towering sandstone cliffs bear names with a religious link: the Three Patriarchs, Cathedral Mountain and the Altar of Sacrifice are all reminders of Zion's early beginnings.
Following the advice of our guide Jeff, we were on the trail by 8.30am to avoid walking in the searing midday sun, but even that couldn’t help me on the last leg of the journey. One look at the people in front scrambling up and down an almost vertical cliff face with nothing more than a single chain rope to guide them and I wimped out, opting instead to walk the West Rim route to a sun-soaked plateau and the perfect picnic spot.
There are walks for all abilities, with the easiest also proving among the prettiest. The 5km Pa'rus Trail traces the Virgin River as it carves its way through the canyon, and seems to capture the tranquillity and integrity of the park perfectly.