Day 4: Zion, Valley of Fire, Hoover Dam, Las Vegas, Home!

On the agenda for Day 4? A long drive home! But I had a few stops planned along the way. I didn’t wake up at dawn, but pretty close. Oh well, it was good for getting an early start on the day. Breakfast was included in my Zion Ponderosa room rate. It was fine, but not great. Still, it was paid for and so I ate up.

I wanted to go to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park but the access road was under significant construction. Kind of a bummer, but I hadn’t gone too far out of the way. So, I headed West on Hwy 9, which took me through Zion National Park.

The ride was pretty cool! I stopped at the viewpoint for Checkerboard Mesa. The red rocks bordering the road were super cool. My eyes were peeled for Big Horn goats but alas, I didn’t see any.

The drive took me through the Zion-Mount Carmel tunnel, which was very impressive. It is 1.1 miles and built through the sandstone. There was a lot of blasting involved with completion in 1930.

I stopped at the Zion Visitor Center, parking in a 15 minutes only spot. I was hoping to go on the shuttle to a trailhead, but the main parking lot (which is quite large) was completely full at 9 am. There were a lot of people. The number of people, coupled with the old-fashioned, rounded shuttles, made it feel very Disney theme park like and not in a good way.

So, that idea was a bust but no problem! It was a short time/long driving distances trip and I had certainly seen a lot of the park from an Observation Point distance the day before.

Next up was Valley of Fire State Park. What an awesome place! I was going to say cool, but it was anything but! I met a nice couple at the entrance pay station and we talked about electric cars. They were actually from Kingman, AZ where I had been three days earlier.

I stopped by the visitor center and then headed to the end of Mouse Tank Rd to hike the White Domes trail. It was 1.25 miles, 95 degrees but don’t worry, it was a dry heat! I was pretty well-hydrated and felt cool at the start, so I was pretty confident I’d be ok for the short hike. I took water with me, which was a good idea.

The hike was great. There was a small slot canyon. I found an arch rock that provided some nice shade and a cool vantage point to look out over the valley. I enjoyed the hike mainly because it was my one experience being close to the rock formations on this drive-by trip of the park.

On the way out, I stopped at Atlatl Rock to look at the petroglyphs. They were very easy to access. It’s sort of unbelievable that some assholes carved their names over them in the past, but they’re pretty well-protected now.

After the Valley of Fire, it was time to focus on the drive ahead. I did stop at the Hoover Dam just to enjoy one last experience of low-grade terror at being really high up and far away from the ground.

Technically, I looked at the dam from the Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge pedestrian walkway. Both structures are impressive. And honestly, the railing on the bridge seems like it would be really easy to jump over. But I refrained from Googling how many people had since I was worried it would trigger some crazy surveillance rescue drone that would think I was in trouble. And in case you think I’m a total weirdo, I think living in Coronado and the suicides on that bridge have made me a little morbid in regards to bridges. [Whoa, this entry took a dark turn. Although thinking more on it, I bet it would be a really tempting place for a BASE jumper to launch who, technically, are not suicidal.]

After that, I stopped to charge the Tesla. A French woman scared me out of my wits by tapping on my window to ask a charging question in regards to her Tesla S rental. While I’m quite sure she’s normally very chic and harmless, she was skinny with kind of stringy blond hair and given the hot, blindingly white desert surroundings, I thought she was a member of the Walking Dead. [Ok, it’s official. This post is off the rails.]

I bought a cup of coffee and Dairy Queen Blizzard that was a disappointment since I wanted Choco Brownie Chunk and I instead got lots o’candy Vanilla but hey, win some, lose some. The last charging stop of the trip was in Riverside, where I went to a cool food court. I did not get tacos, but I did get a teriyaki bowl which led to a small lesson that it is easier to use a fork, rather than chopsticks, while driving.

And after two more hours, I was back in San Diego! That meant I had two more days ahead of me to complete clinic, OR, and administrative tasks before my time in the Navy was complete!

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