Thursday, July 18, 2013

Catching Up On Travel: Las Vegas and Zion National Park

Because the cross-country road trip adventures don't commence for another month, I thought I would update on a few (of the many) trips concocted in the crazy mind of Matt.  I'll start off with a bang on (the most recent and most unbelievable) trip that could have only been planned by a planning master and only been taken by a few brave souls holding on for dear life.

I met Matt's idea to take advantage of the 4th of July weekend (combined with a few days off work) and turn it into a 5 day road trip to Las Vegas, NV and Zion National Park in Utah with disbelief.  I thought I would humor him for a bit and let him spin his wheels trying to find people willing to take this on knowing full well it was highly unlikely to come to fruition.

Lo-and-behold, much to my amazement, he managed to pull together a group of 6, and after work on Wednesday, 2 cars packed to the brim were off. After a brief stop in Tehachapi for a night, we arrived in Vegas the afternoon of the 4th.  The 9 hours of driving was obviously taking a toll:

If only we knew that carrying our bags through 118 degree desert heat and waiting in the check-in line at Planet Hollywood would have amounted to a once-in-a-lifetime room upgrade to a suite, the amount of complaints from me would have been significantly fewer.  Due to the scarcity of rooms and the late booking by us, a $117 standard room booked on Priceline landed us Planet Hollywood's $600+ per night "Forrest Gump Suite." The double-doored, end-of-the-hallway, double-locked entrance that led to a suite complete with actual Forrest Gump memorabilia (uniforms, hats, and the actual box of chocolates signed by Tom Hanks) made the mini-bar, flat screen TVs, jacuzzi tub, and master bathroom and bedroom appear to be just nice added touches. 

The luxuries of the suite made it difficult to leave the room, even for a 21-year old first timer in Vegas.  After some gambling (we broke even), some overpriced pizza, and a relaxing nap in the jacuzzi for Claudia, we were off to Club Surrender.

Unlucky for me, however, my early-to-sleep boyfriend decided that despite being put on a guest list, the hour long wait at the club at 11pm was not going to happen. This was the culmination of all my excitement and preparation for the night.  A not-so-typical Vegas experience, but a very typical experience of Matt .  (Keep reading to find out why I'm not mad)

Zion National Park was 2 and a half hours away from Vegas.  We camped for the night and woke up at 5am to take down camp and catch our ($35) shuttle to the trailhead (an hour and a half away).  My very nervous mom's biggest fear was getting lost (an almost impossible feat in the Zion Narrows, all you have to do is follow the river).  My biggest concern, however, was this:

Yes. Due to the overwhelming number of visitors and the small confinement of the Narrows, Park Management provides you with bags to take care of business. They aren't so bad.  They are double-lined and have kitty litter-like rocks inside.  The problem was designating a person (Nathan was the winner) to carry the trash bag through the overnight hike as the trail is pack-in, pack-out.  Basically you take everything you need with you and bring everything you used back out.

Matt had reserved a spot multiple months before the trip because they book within a day of availibility release.  Here is us at the start of our trip:

The trail was beautiful.  8 miles the first day, with a break overnight in a private campsite on the river.  We had a break to cook food, filter water, and swim in a nearby swimming hole.

The 2nd day was only 6 miles total, but was through extreme narrows with no high ground.  Hiking with your pack on your back through waist high running water in between hundred foot tall walls 10 feet apart was an amazing experience.  Even with the walking sticks we each carried to stabilize ourselves, I lost my footing multiple times which resulted in some bruises.  I would have taken much more time and enjoyed the sights had it not started to rain and thunderstorm (typical of Zion in the summer) and the threat of flash flood caused me to start running in fear to the exit.  Even so, we managed to stop a few times at a swimming hole and waterfall for lunch.

We finished faster than expected so decided to head back to Vegas for a round 2 (and partly so Matt could make it up to me for falling asleep in Round 1).  No special suite this time.  $30 standard rooms (that included a $10 credit for Wings and 2 free drinks) at Hooters turned out to pay for itself once we made $50 at the $3 Blackjack tables.  The 9-hour drive home on Monday was uneventful and filled with sporatic naps, dreams of the weekend that just took place, and wishes that we could turn around and go back forever.

And finally to end on 3 good notes.  Matt managed to stay awake for my first club experience at XS. The sunset as we drove from Zion to Vegas. And Nathan managing to make it out alive (with the help of my deodorant spray) and was very happy to dispose of the trash.

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