We leave Yellowstone and Grand Teton N.P. and meet up with Tabea and Werner and their MAN 6×6 expedition vehicle in the Swan Valley. We met briefly in a beer garden in Munich a few years ago and now agreed to explore various off-road routes in Utah together in a few days.
Our next destination is Salt Lake City: First we drive to the lake, visit a historic Pacific Railway location and find a great parking space at the “Spiral Jetty” – an artistically designed stone formation in the shape of a spiral on the shore. Otherwise, the Salt Lake (like almost all the other salt lakes we have seen so far on our trip around the world) is threatened by extreme drying out: climate change and excessive use of the river water that supplies it are the reasons!
Salt Lake City is not only the capital of Utah, but also the world capital of the Mormons. Downtown seems even quieter and more deserted than many other major American cities, somehow without life! Unfortunately, the Mormon Temple cannot be visited; it is undergoing extensive restoration. However, not in the traditional sense, but rather it is made “earthquake-proof” by installing huge vibration dampers under the temple foundation. An extremely technically demanding and, above all, extremely expensive undertaking, but the Mormons are known to have the appropriate resources, as can be seen from the magnificent and huge convention center. As with many other large cities in the USA, this visit ends up in a short visit for us and we look forward to the solitude of the countryside again.
The landscape takes on a desert-like character surprisingly quickly. At Flaming Gorge Dam there are great off-road and mountain biking trails and on the nearby Green River we take out our kayak “Flipper” and fight our way through the rapids. Realizing that Flipper isn’t quite suitable for hard whitewater rafting because it fills up with water in big rapids, we have to empty it on the bank and Karin walks around a rapid because memories of our Zambezi rafting tour come back to her mind 😉. We see this river, which later flows into the Colorado and is deeply cut into rock massifs, again in Dinosaur N.M. with its impressive dinosaur fossils “from above”. The hike to the exposed “Harper’s Corner” viewpoint with a view of the Green River meandering far below is very lonely and truly spectacular – overall a completely unknown and underestimated area.
In Grand Junction we have to replenish our supplies again and pick up a small spare part for Shujaa. But installing it is far more complex than simply ordering/delivering it from MAN 😉, luckily Werner is a very capable “mechanic”. Nearby Colorado N.M. is absolutely worth seeing with its rock formations, deep canyons and cliff edges and gives a foretaste of what awaits us in nearby Utah.
Our expectations for Utah were very high… and yet they got exceeded by far. On the one hand, the loneliness combined with many excellent off-road routes make you almost forget that you are in the U.S.A. outside of the well-visited national parks. We have rarely driven such long and sometimes such challenging off-road tracks on our trip around the world – coupled with uniquely beautiful and remote overnight spaces. Mostly accompanied by Tabea and Werner with their Bliss MAN 6×6, so that we have fun and experiences together on these slopes. On the other hand, the landscapes with their diverse rock formations are simply unique.
Whether it’s the area around Moab with countless, very demanding (of course also explored by yourself) mountain bike and ATV/Offorad trails. Or the Arches N.P. with its countless rock bridges. Or Canyonland N.P. with the two sections “Island of the Sky” as a real island high above an unreal landscape and “Needles” with the rock needles in different colors. Or the Valley of the Gods, which, as a typical Utah landscape, produces reddish-colored rock and clay mountains with the unmistakable shape. Or the Capital Reef N.P. with its gorges and peculiar vegetation among the rocks with orchards. Or the Grand-Staircase Escalante N.P. completely different again thanks to colorful hills, fin-like rock edges and huge stone slabs. Then the famous Bryce N.P. with its thousands of orange turrets. And last but not least, the Zion N.P. with the monstrous rock walls in the deep Canyon. All offer different impressive landscape and nature experiences.
I experience the peak of “intensity” on a one-day rim-to-rim hike through the Grand Canyon: together with Werner we walk from the north to the south edge of the Grand Canyon in 11 hours, 37 km and an altitude difference of over 3,400 meters. A unique experience in terms of nature and physical challenge. We both arrive safely at the southern edge before dark and are welcomed by our wives and a refreshing chili con carne.
After these intense shared experiences, we say good bye to Tabea an Werner and drive to Zion N.P. Afterwards, somewhat exhausted, we take a two-day break in a lonely canyon in a great landscape!