As per, I woke well before dawn.
Tossed, turned, and then gave up. Donned a pair of shorts, brewed a coffee, and sat on the balcony, watching the sun rise, from my rocking chair, with a mug of coffee in hand, and occasionally, with camera (on tripod, now held together with elastic hair bands) clicking away.
Tough life, I know, but as they say, someone’s got to do it!
This nights accommodation has been a real highlight for me. I’ve been able to be “in the moment” throughout, no drifting off thinking about other things, just aware and appreciative of the humbling majesty of the nature that surrounds us.
Eventually, Jane and then even more eventually Charlie, woke. By which time I was showered, packed, and bags in car.
Finally we left the room for the last time, dumped the bags in the car and went across to the Lodge for breakfast. More pancakes and maple syrup for Charlie, Eggs Benedict for Jane and a Zion special omelette for me. All of which were huge, as expected. And bearing in mind we’re a captive audience, I think the prices are very reasonable, given none of the above cost more than $11.
From the Lodge we walked straight to the bus pickup and headed to Weeping Rock, Janes favourite place when we last came, as the rock wall beneath the waterfall was covered in butterflies. Off the bus at “Stop 7” and then a short but steep walk to the wall.
You end up standing under an overhang and behind the waterfall. It’s cool, tranquil (even with all the other folk around you) and through the “raindrops”, the views beyond are a superlative-sapping good!
After photos, and some time to soak it all in, it’s back on the bus to “Stop 9”, the Temple of Sinawava, or as we named it m, the Temple to Shinawatra (he did start the Man City revival, after all!).
A much longer hike of just over of 2 miles, but almost flat, as you follow the river back into The Narrows.
And an eventful one as well! Loads and loads of cheeky ground squirrels, who will stand and pose for photos. It’s just a pity that they clearly do this in the knowledge that they may get fed by some moron who ignores all of the warning signs.
We then rounded a rocky outcrop, only to realise that there was a deer stood on it, feeding, not 6ft from the path. It’s clearly very used to these oddball multicoloured bipeds who stop, gather and then squabble to get nearest.
The hike ends at the beginning of another trail, but one with a difference. The Narrows and its features such as Wall Street) are one of Zion’s more iconic images.
However, the main difference is that to hike through the Narrows, you hike along and in the river. Those that do this more frequently were easy to spot, wearing sturdy closed hiking books made of neoprene and neoprene socks. I had lightweight Nike running trainers on.
Having felt the temperature of the river, Jane and Charlie declined to come further, but I couldn’t resist the lure. I thought I’d be crafty, and after removing shoes and socks, traversed the first section of river in bare feet. Shedded soles and strained ankles later (its rocky underfoot and you can’t see anything below the surface), I began to reassess.
When I heard the 5th neoprene-wearer comment that the water levels were much higher on their return trip, and remembered that the sign I just read warned of flash floods being marked by the blowing of whistles, at which point you literally run for your life, the trainers were sacrificed and back on my feet.
This allowed me to carry on into deeper water(!) and further into the Narrows. Sadly, I didn’t have the time, nor the right equipment to reach Wall Street, so turned and headed back.
The water is not that idyllic, crystal clear, burbling stream that would make for great photos, it’s the colour that reminds you Zion is still being formed, with the water carrying huge quantities of silt and flints from its erosive work upstream. Most of which was now in my trainers!
I walked back to jane and Charlie without losing my balance and therefore iPhone and DSLR camera, and we headed back to the bus stop. Jane commented on the water level seeming higher than on our way in. I hope those non-neopreners know what they’re doing!
The bus dropped us off at the Lodge, and after grabbing drinks for the journey, we bid a final farewell to Zion The Beautiful, and began our 3hour drive to Vegas.
During the three hours of driving the Veterans Memorial Highway, we dropped around 5000ft in altitude, went from 22 to 44 degrees C, drove through the Virgin River Gorge, and through a mountain range with no discernible name.
The landscape changes time and time again. You can’t help but be interested in the geology over here! Well, I can’t.
After watching the US Airforce do their Top Gun impressions over north Vegas before landing, and after our first (but not our last) traffic jam, we arrived without incident at the Self-Park car park for the Mirage Hotel. Our home for the next three nights.
“Ugh! 3 nights in Vegas?! What a waste”. Those are some of the comments we received on a Facebook group we’re in for travellers to western USA.
As I’ve just said to friend of mine, it’s true, it’s 100% fake and is borderline tacky. Like Blackpool on steroids.
We’re here for a variety of reasons; it’s break within a holiday (two ‘pool’/retail therapy days), it’s a logical transit stop between Zion and Death Valley, Charlie wanted to come, we’ve been before but never explored to other hotels.
We checked in, and despite my charm, and repeated mention of Janes 50th and our 25th Wedding anniversary, and how special we felt the place was, other than a room with a pool- and strip-view, no free upgrades this time!
A chunky walk through the hotel lobby, casino and then retail area (they’re not daft with their social engineering) to the “elevators” and up to the 19th of 26 floors.
The room is really nice, large, and more than adequate. What isn’t so nice are the electronic sensors on pretty much anything consumable. “Touch it & you shall pay through the nose”. Tbf, the lady at check-in did stress not to touch as it’s such an exorbitant rip-off.
As I write this (at dawn), I just wish there was a coffee machine rather than a $15 box (?) of La Colombo Pacific Blend that I can order as room service. I don’t even like American or African beans – it’s all about the Java/Sumatra/Mandeeling for me!
Having settled into the room, we freshened up went down to experience our first “Vegas Buffet”. The Mirage Buffet is one of the “middle of the road” price and quality-wise.
At $29/head you get a (totally unmanaged) maximum 3 hours of gorging on as much as you can eat from 11 different “stations”. A Station being a food theme; Italian, Eastern, Sushi, American, Latin, Carvery, Seafood, Dessert, Salad, Drinks and one I can’t remember.
The all-inclusive drinks are a variety of soft drinks or Bud Lite, Goose IPA, and a selection of red and white wines. I went with the Goose.
Whilst we did try a few different stations we only left what we tried and didn’t like. The eastern and sushi stations were by far the best, with the beef from the carvery a close third. The fish was over cooked, and the clam chowder not good apparently (Janes opinion). But otherwise good value, especially taking into account my repeated visits for another “Goose, please”!
It has to be said though, it really is shameful the way some folks use this. The lady in the turquoise top that piled her plate up about 5” high with prawns and crab, and then left half. The big American chap who seemed to have all 11 stations on one plate. Gluttony and greed seem to be temples here.
After our meal, we meandered out onto the strip and into the heat, and headed into Ceasars Palace and the shopping mall. All this way and I get dragged around a faux Trafford Centre! It even smells the same – of chlorinated fountain water!
It would be easy to suggest Vegas is a Marmite place – you love it or hate it. I have a different view because I love some of it, and feel really uncomfortable with some aspects as well.
Anyway. We’re here. We’ll experience Vegas for better or for worse, but it will be an experience, that’s for sure.
I just need to find Charlie, who is still somewhere in his king-sized pit!