~Paul, Amber ETC
Oh yeah...you heard it here first! The most beautiful sand dunes in the USA exist in Idaho. I know right? Who would of thought? Idaho! (please feel free to debate this sandy claim in the comment section!)
After a quick Columbia River stop in our last post, ETC's epic road trip continues as we travel to Bruneau Dunes State Park. We pulled into our car camp site on a weekday in the summer. There were only about 2 other campers on the grounds that night - perfect - empty campsites are the best.
As Amber relaxed tent-side with the feline, I set off on a golden-hour sand dune hike. I had the whole place to myself - it was epic.
I would highly, highly, highly recommend exploring this area if you live close or are passing through. Sand hiking and sand boarding is encouraged and vehicles on the dunes are a no-no. There is an observatory on the grounds with several telescopes open to the public on various nights. The lack of light pollution and big sky is perfect for stargazing. I'm telling you: Bruneau Dunes State Park the best kept state park secret in the West! The most beautiful dunes in the country!!!
~Paul, Amber ETC
Welcome back road trip followers!!! We've already taken you with us on a road trip warm-up to Zion National Park and Las Vegas…now for the real deal. An epic cross-country adventure from our old home in Seattle to our new home in coastal North Carolina. This 4000 mile-ish trip started earlier this summer, around the beginning of July. Husband, wife, & our horrible cat-daughter in a Toyota compact car (in need of a new clutch…), completely over-flowing with stuff.
We decided to stop early on in the trip because the stress of leaving is, well, stressful. We chose a campsite in Crow Butte Park - an island park on the Columbia River (map below).
We didn't see any rattlesnakes:) We did, however, end up in a really sunny tent site. It's dry and hot here in the summer. We arrived in the heat of the day and got roasted while setting up camp! Many sites had shade…almost all except ours - #18. Avoid campsite #18.
All and all the park is pretty cool - with trails and lots of access to the water.
Our only complaints? Besides the sun (not a huge deal), we noticed a really smelly smell in the morning. Was it the river? A plant? Our neighbors? Who knows! Our only regrets are we didn't have a little more time to explore this section of the river via kayak or hike to a few secret beaches on the island.
Next stop: An amazing campground near some of the largest sand dunes in the country!!!! Check back Monday!!!!
~Paul, Amber, Kali ETC
Crow Butte Park
Reservations can be made here.
Park opens March 15th and closes on October 31st
The 275 acre park is on an island located in the majestic Columbia River at the very southwest section of Benton County in Washington State. It is accessible by motor and river traffic. There are 50 full service camping sites, three boat launches and a boat basin.
Crow Butte Park is primarily a water-sports park with three boat launches and a sheltered bay for temporary moorage. Activities include:
Fancy & Fresh doesn't really sum up Kabuto Edomae Sushi in Las Vegas. Detailed is more like it. Adventurous. Delicious.
Amber has a thing for Japanese food so Vegas was an easy sell. She wasn't that excited about smoke-filled casinos or the busyness of the strip…but so many great restaurants in one town? Great Japanese restaurants? Now we're talking. Kabuto is arguably one of the best sushi restaurants in the country.
The restaurant is small and simple, located in Vegas' China town, miles from the strip. There isn't much signage, no big advertisements. Kabuto is located in a nondescript little strip mall (did I just invent a new word? Nondestrip mall?).
With one entrance, one skinny window, and one portable lantern sign (they even bring it in each night), you almost feel like you've discovered hidden treasure when you walk up to the restaurant and peek inside.
The freshest of the fresh ingredients are flown in from Japan each day. The menu has essentially 3 multi-course dinner options priced from $48 to $120. The food is amazing and the service unbelievable. It's like the sushi chefs are quietly watching your every move. When you finish one course they have the next prepared. We recommend sitting at the bar to get a front row seat at the amazing knife and preparation skills of the chefs. Anytime we're in Vegas (next month!) we're heading back to Kabuto!
~Paul & Amber ETC
It turns out the wifey and I love Vegas. We're not that into gambling or the shows really. I guess it's the vibe. It's the restaurants. It's the cheap flights in and out. It's how close Vegas is to National Parks. It's that most hotel staff say "yes" to almost everything. The security guards are nice. People always talk to you in the hotel elevators. Folks are friendly here.
On this trip we stayed at the Palazzo - a giant casino/hotel/resort connected to the Venetian (which is built where the iconic Sands used to be). It's a gorgeous building with great rooms and right on the strip.
Even if you don't stay at the Venetian or Palazzo, make sure to get your morning coffee and pastries from Thomas Keller's Bouchon (in the Venetian facing the street/sidewalk). It's so good and so affordable (as opposed to the Vegas priced Starbucks across the street).
Also, know that the strip is truly magical from sunrise to about 8:30 am. Most of my outdoor pictures were taken during this window. No pesky advertisers and crowds stopping you on the sidewalks. Strip vehicle traffic isn't actually that bad unless there is construction, so driving is an option if you've got a rent-a-car. Parking in most of the casino garages is free:)
So, try your luck and visit Sin City! Until then: enjoy the slideshow below with more pics from our few days on the strip:)
~Paul, Amber, Sis ETC
As we finally left the Springdale Utah/Zion National Park area for nearby Las Vegas, we couldn't pass up a quick pit stop in St. George. The Dinosaur Discovery site at Johnson Farm houses one of the largest displays of dino tracks the country. Walk through the large warehouse full of giant slabs of sandstone to examine dino tracks close-up. You can even check out the Jurassic Park-like on-site preparation lab to see scientists at work! We were through the museum and gift shop in about an hour - it was totally worth a visit. Next stop: Vegas baby!
~Paul, Amber, Sis
This is our last post from Utah's Zion National Park! It gives you a few more day-trip ideas to sprinkle throughout your visit. All of the stops in this post could almost be done in one long day...so if you've got the time and a car - go for it!
The first part of this trip is a beautiful and steep drive out of Zion on Utah 9. This takes you through the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel, a mile long rock tunnel (it's super-super dark). As you head up the mountain towards the tunnel you'll have a few opportunities to pull off a get a good look at the Great Arch (pictured below left). Although you're not supposed to stop while driving through the tunnel, you'll still see a few windows cut out of the rock (below right).
As you leave the tunnel and head down the mountain you'll pass by the Checkerboard Mesa (above).
Heading just a little out of the way, towards Bryce Canyon on 89, you'll discover some local rock shops (and lots of metal dinosaurs).
We also made a visit to the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary and went on a scheduled free tour. If you have any animal lovers in your party it's a must.
With an amazing visit to Zion National Park behind us we ventured back to Las Vegas for some good times and fancy Japanese food. Check back here Thursday for a quick taste of the Las Vegas strip!
~Paul, Amber, Sis
I hate to break it to you, but Bryce Canyon isn't technically a canyon. Oh well. It's still pretty cool and a nice day-trip from Zion National Park in Utah. It will take you under 2 hours to get to Bryce nearby Zion. There's great trails here and you'll quickly be exploring the hoodoos (rock pillars) and the natural rock features of the park. Where a lot of Zion trails start at the bottom and go up, Bryce's trails start at the top and head down into one of many natural rock amphitheaters. Bring some warm clothes - we visited in April and there was snow on the plateau!
~Paul, Amber, Sis, Dad, Susan
Maybe it was Indiana Jones…or Star Wars…but for some reason I've always loved the desert. The dunes at Pink Coral Sand Dunes State Park, Utah aren't really in a desert, but they are still amazing! This was our first day-trip during our week long exploration of the Zion National Park area of Southern Utah. The dunes aren't exactly in Zion, but they are only a little over an hour away and totally worth the visit. Definitely check it out!!! P.S. - it was April, and it was chilly! Bring warm clothes!
~Paul, Amber, Sis
Finally! I've edited and uploaded a short video from hiking the death-defying Angels Landing trail in Utah's Zion National Park. A few things before you watch:
*It's narrated just for you!
*After review it seems I narrated a few un-truths, mainly, part of the trail is called Scout Lookout (not Scout Landing)…I did it on purpose to keep you on your toes:)
*After further review, it seems that when I watch the video I get nauseous from the shakiness! Oh, well, it's nice to see part of the hike! I'll walk smoother next time!!!:)
Spend a few minutes in the Zion National Park Visitor's Center and you'll hear folks joking around about the Angels Landing hike. Browse the gift store and you'll notice many souvenirs stating: "I survived Angels Landing". Hmmm...I want to survive Angels Landing too!
My sister and I (my wife opted out due to her fear of heights:) picked a day, woke up early, and hit the park. Despite the warm-looking pics, the mid-April temps can get chilly in the morning. We layered clothing and hopped on a park shuttle, getting off at the Grotto stop to start the trail.
Don't say they didn't warn you about the steep & narrow trail, dangerous cliffs, potential death, etc! The trail starts out easy enough but quickly climbs with turns and a few longer switchbacks. The first 2 miles are paved:)
You'll have a moment to rest with some great views of Zion Canyon & the Virgin River below before you head into a smaller valley - a great time to catch your breath before you hit a series of 21 short switchbacks known as Walter's Wiggles…yikes.
If you survive the Wiggles (it's really not that bad), you'll make it to Scout Lookout. This is enough for a lot of hikers - my sister included. The rest of the trail was all me (and Karl Malone - more on that later).
Luckily there was a few poles and a chain between me and sudden death!
I actually made it to here (pic above) and thought it was over…then I realized it keeps going to the end of the ridge…!
Then, I made it to the end of the trail (the top at 5,790 ft)…what a view of Zion Canyon and the Virgin River below.
All and all, the 5 mile roundtrip Angels Landing trail wasn't that bad. It was very steep and stay away if you're afraid of heights. The average time for the hike is 5 hours but I completed it in way less (like 3). There's little shade but the trail is well maintained. Take extra of food & water!
As I rejoined my sister at Scout Lookout we noticed that one of our fellow hikers looked familiar. We hiked down and we heard a voice from another random hiker behind us,
"Hey, guys…do you watch the NBA?"
I mean, I used to, like 10 years ago…
"That was Karl Malone that just passed us!"
Huh. He was right. At first I thought it a bit cliche, I mean, should you see Karl Malone every time you visit Utah? Surely not. But hey, what-do-you-know: Karl and I survived Angels Landing!
~Paul, Sis, the Mailman
P.S. Come back to the blog Thursday for some death-defying Gopro video of the hike:)