Monument Valley, Utah: December 19, 2014

Day 1: Tuba City

Dominic took me around Monument Valley - a very big and amazing place. A lot of the rocks resembled animals and objects, if seen at the right angle. (I don't have any pictures of those though because we were driving fast!)

Ravens are a truly exceptional bird. I have seen them everywhere since Alaska. They endure the frigid temperatures of the Arctic winter and the blazing heat of the southern summers.

Deadhorse riding in the back

After storing the bike I decided to try my luck hitchhiking rather than waiting for tomorrow. 

The first ride only went 20 miles but my rule is "never refuse a ride"

After that I sat for about an hour in the dark since it was too early to camp but I knew that my chances of getting a ride this late were low. Luckily Lisa stopped and took me to Tuba City, right in time for the Christmas parade. Her family offered me a place to stay for the night.

Day 2(6mi hiking): Jacob Lake

Lisa drove the 70 miles to where I had to go and I was off, but not before stocking me up with some homemade bread and a jar of peanut butter.

I felt my dreams and hopes crushed as I saw the ranger car pulling out of the closed road. They do patrol the north side... Luckily he didn't talk to me so I went on.

So the plan is to hike the 50 mile closed highway to the canyon and then another 25 miles across to the south rim.

After 6 tough miles I found a flat spot, melted snow for water and watched one of the most beautiful sunsets I've ever seen.

DAY 3(20mi): Winter Solstice

The Arizona Trail winding beside the highway

Here are the facts: my pack was heavy, 10 days of food, snowshoes, big thermos and go figure: a tripod. I haven't hiked in over 2 months since Canada. My longest hike was 3 days in the summer. And at any time the rangers can swoop in and send me back :(

I got the snowshoes after reading all those stories of people skiing and the snow being deep. The road seemed clear so far. So I just walked. I didn't go on what I later found out was the Arizona trail.

Day 4(12mi): The Walking Dead     

After hiking in the dark last night to hit 20 miles I could barely move. Slowly wandered all day on the highway with 2 cars passing me (luckily not rangers!). Spotted a abnormally large coyote run across the field, I was later told that there was One wolf on the Kaibab Plateau - that must have been it.

After getting my right foot sore, I ended up limping the second half of the day and set up few hundred feet from the road.

Day 5(11mi): The Grand Canyon

I finally limped my way to the north rim. My right foot hasn't done well the last few days. I walked to Bright Angel Point at about lunch time and sat there until the sun set. The only person that came out was an electrician working at the north rim. He's been all around he world, working in Antarctica, Greenland and Alaska.

Day 6(14mi) Into the Canyon

The North Kaibab trail winds down the Bright Angel fault to the Colorado river. A series of icy switchbacks awaited my sore feet but the snow and ice were gone as I descended. In my own way I was experiencing the geology of the Grand Canyon by taking long rests on various types of rocks!

On the way I saw people electrocuting trout in the creek in order to be able to reintroduce the native fish species. They work in 6day shifts, carrying batteries to and from the spot and covering 100m of river bed per day.

I felt like Christopher McCandles, although I was on foot. Making my way across the canyon and trying to avoid the rangers.

Day 7(9mi) Christmas

It was December 25th! All I want for Christmas is not to get caught by the rangers. I need to be inconspicuous. As inconspicuous as the only person carrying snowshoes can be... and limping across the campground...

Imagine a heated chase up the switchbacks, rangers yelling "stop, stop", me running away with a 60lb backpack! Benny Hill music playing in the background.

Isn't this nice!

After crossing the river the swithbacks took me up to the halfway point. It was before noon but the thought of doing the last 3000ft ascent and my sore limbs was not pleasant. While eating lunch, upon hearing that I am cycling a girl offered her extra food. Trinh from Dallas was here on a 3 day hike, seeing the empty campground I figured it wont be a problem to set up here.

As for Christmas, that was it: a gathering at the lookout two hikers from New York, one from Calgary and Northwest Territories (Canada), a physics teacher from Connecticut, Trinh from Dallas and me.

Merry Christmas!

Day 8(5mi): The final climb

Going up was tough, I considered playin dead when the mules passed to see if they would give me a ride. Or hitchhiking, world's first mule hitchhiker! But generally thinking about doing this in the summer heat made me feel better.

Trinh was goin to Flagstaff which was on the way, after a glorious meal we were off our ways. Unable to find a ride in the evening I hiked out at one trail and set up camp. Few hikers, upon hearing about my bike trip have given me the extra food they had. Tonight was feeding frenzy, I managed to eat all of the ready to eat food in just under an hour.

Day 9: Hitch-hiking

Packed up in the morning and went on the highway. While wondering if I should do the thumb up with or without gloves (it was cold!) one of the cars turned around. A mother and daughter from Pensylvannia travelling for the holidays picked me up, they were going a bit off route to visit some landmarks so I decided to join them.

First was Horsheshoe Bend...

Then the Antelope Canyon...

How many tourists can you fit in a narrow canyon?

...But the canyon itself was amazing!

I was hoping to get to my bike today but as it normally turns out plans always change. It was amazing to see the horseshoe bend and antelope canyon and spend the day with Britt and Joyce. They left me at Tuba City where I had a place to stay and my first shower in a week.

Meanwhile the local convinience store had this sign...

Day 10: Rest Day

Day 11: Back on the road

After a relentless struggle with slow internet at Tuba City Library I managed to update the Utah section of the blog.

My friends at Tuba City dropped me off back at Kayenta and I was ready to get back on the road.

Only if it wasn't for those vicious Rotweiler Puppies messing with my gear...

(I'd like to thank Carlon from the Grand Staircase Inn at Cannonville for allowing me to use his computer to post this update)