In Transit: DE -> CH with stopover in Bern, Switzerland

On Monday morning, Dad and I met up for breakfast in the hotel. The buffet was quite good. I love bread, cheese, jam, yogurt, and muesli for breakfast. There was also excellent coffee, which is key for combatting jet lag.

After breakfast, we walked to Tartes Cézanne, a French bakery that Dad swore had the best quiche. We had tried eating lunch there yesterday, but it was closed on Sundays. Today, we had better luck! Initially, I turned down Dad’s offer to buy me a quiche for the road because, honestly, it sounded a little gross. I’ve never thought of quiche as a “travel well” food. Well, chalk another one up for Dad because I did accept his offer and it was delicious! It was so tasty and fresh. I wrote to Dad and said it almost tasted like a health food, which I’m pretty sure quiche is not. I think it’s a “sometimes” food.

I was sad to leave Dad, especially since he was there for another day and our visits are always too short. But, although he would miss me, he encouraged the visit to Wengen since it would otherwise be difficult to experience given my own short timeline. So, away I went!

Eichholz entry point, Aare River

The visit was very smooth. I am going to write a more logistics-focused post (maybe I’ll get more followers!) but once again, Google Maps and its public transport directions option are stellar. I ended up buying a Swiss pass for convenience and the fact that I was traveling pretty far on two of the four days. I don’t think I saved a ton of francs, but I saved a few and again, just getting on the train without the hassle of buying point-to-point was worth it!

My main goal of the trip was to have an extended stopover in Bern and go swimming in the Aare. It was one of the highlights of my last Swiss trip and I definitely wanted to do it again. The train station is pretty close to Freibad Marzili, a complete free pool complex that is fed by the river waters. There is also a path that people walk down to get longer floats in the river. It is awesome, and Swiss taxes are worth it if this is the result!

I ended up floating twice. First, I jumped off the Schönausteg, a bridge known for people jumping off into the river. Second, I walked a bit farther to the Eichholz campground beach (very rocky). It was awesome! In between floats, I stopped for a beer at a riverside bar where about 1/4 of people were in bathing suits, including me. After my second float, I changed at Freibad Marzili and stopped for some gelato at Gelateria di Berna. SMS and I had been there before and it still has delicious gelato and semi-long waits. Worth it!

Then, it was time to get on the road. Even though I love Bern, I knew I’d be back in a couple of days and I didn’t want to get to Wengen too late. I took the train along Interlaken, which is a beautiful train route. Then, I transferred to the train heading for Lauterbrunnen.

Just leaving Lauterbrunnen, heading towards Wengen
Closer to Wengen, view of Lauterbrunnen Valley

The final train was the one to Wengen. I was so excited because I think one of the most beautiful views in the world is from the train window along this route. When SMS and I were here last, I was distracted by getting my ticket out for the conductor so I really wanted to take it all in this time. It was amazing.

Wine and cheese

I checked into my hotel (Bernerhof) and then went to the Hotel Schönegg, where Dad had stayed and recommended it for the view. I had a cheese plate for dinner while the setting sun lit up the mountains. It was a great end to the day.

Tübingen, Germany

Neckar River, the famous boats, and an island in the middle

Tübingen is a beautiful university town in Southern Germany. Dad was there for a few days so I decided to include a visit in my whirlwind European tour. We arrived at 10 pm after our Baden Baden day. I was pretty tired and thought about going to bed. Dad suggested meeting up for a drink, which meant we walked up the hill to one of the main squares where a festival was happening! Stadfest!

We ordered beers from one of the tents, which I found confusing since I was given two tokens instead of two beers. Wait, what does that mean? Dad explained that the tokens for when we turned in the glasses after drinking and got our glass deposit back. Glass and bottle deposits were common in Germany and Switzerland- it’s a great idea to me!

We took our beers and sat down at one of the tables. It was a lot of fun because everyone was in such a good mood! There was a lot of singing along to the music and it felt very happy and carefree. Also, drunk, for sure since everyone else had probably been partying for hours rather than on a never-ending train ride.

We had two beers and left as the party was winding down about 90 minutes later. Dad and I bought the second-most delicious thing I ate on the trip, which was a bratwurst with mustard on a roll from a food tent set up on the street. It was delicious! Late night snacks after drinking, plus a little bit of jetlag-fueled hunger, are best addressed by bad-for-you, tasty-to-eat types of food!

The next day, we walked around historic Tübingen. We went to the Hölderlin Tower, where a famous poet lived for the second half of his life as a boarder renting out the second floor. Some of his translated poetry was very evocative. He really liked rivers, which is fitting since the Neckar flows by right below his window. The back garden was beautiful where there was a statue that had a plaque that said the statue was meant to reflect the emotional state the Hölderlin’s poetry creates, rather than actually looking like Hölderlin. Um, okay. I guess the likeness is pretty poor, then? I thought the statue was nice.

Tübingen, not a fan of the pigeons! This is the pigeon house where the pigeons roost and the city-workers steal the eggs to keep numbers down!

Next, we walked up the steep hill to Hohentübingen Castle, where there’s a great museum overseen by the university. We saw the UNESCO-approved Ice Age mammoth ivory tusk figurines. The most famous one is a little horse (Vogelherd horse), whose legs seem to have fallen off sometime in the last 40,000 years. It’s the first example of figurative art known in modern human existence. Very impressive, especially since 40,000 years later, my own drawing of horses look way worse and less horselike!

Eros, casually riding on a centaur

We also saw other antiquities. It was a really nice museum. The castle itself is on the high ground so once we were done, we went outside and took in the views. Next, we grabbed some lunch from a very limited menu (Sundays), which was two pieces of perfectly toasted toast with cheese. It was okay though because I was saving my appetite for a delicious dinner.

I climbed to the top of the church tower while Dad went back to the hotel. The views were pretty spectacular. Apparently, the bellringer lived up in the loft with his family in olden times. There was a rule that they couldn’t toss their waste from the top of the tower, which, as the sign says, probably means they did it and therefore necessitated the rule being made!

I took a quick nap and then it was time to go to dinner. We walked up the hill again to Restaurant Mauganeschtle. We sat on the terrace on another gorgeous evening. For a started, I had a delicious salad and Dad had a cold soup. For the main, we each ordered a pork dish- mine was with a white wine sauce and his was with a creamy mushroom sauce. Both were excellent! We each had an aperitif to start, followed by a glass of wine. Even though I normally drink reds, I had a riesling since we were in an area known for them. It was very good, very much on the dry side which is what I wanted. I’m not a big fan of sweet rieslings.

After that, we walked back to the hotel. No Stadfest tonight! The next day, I was planning on leaving for Wengen, Switzerland for a two day stay in what I think is the most beautiful place on earth!

Friedrichsbad Spa, Baden Baden, Germany

I flew into Baden Baden to meet up with my Dad, who was spending a few days in Tübingen. RyanAir wasn’t quite as cheap as I was hoping it would be, but I was booking last minute. A convenient airport was Baden Baden (Bath Bath) so there I was.

My first night, I ate dinner and went to bed. The next day, Dad wanted to meet me in Baden Baden to tour the town. It was a three hour train/bus ride for him, so I went to the Friedrichsbad Spa. As the nice check-in woman said, “It is both genders, textile-free.”

The Spa!

So, yes, away I went! No photos so use your imagination (please don’t). I walked into the large locker room where I used my wristband to access. As soon as I went through the turnstile, there was a box that said deposit wristband here. So, even though I thought it was a little weird, I did what I was told. What a dumb bunny! Of course, I should have kept it and deposited it at the end. But now, what could I do? I waited to long so the turnstile locked and now I had no sign that I was even supposed to be there. So, I crawled under the turnstile, went back to the front desk, and got another wristband. By the way, in case you were worried, this entire part took place clothed.

Take two! Off to the locker room and then, to the baths! A person can do any of the baths/steam rooms/saunas they choose, or one can follow the 17-step prescription. I decided to do that, although I really had no idea what I was getting myself into.

So, first you lie down on your towel-sheet on wooden loungers in two progressively hotter dry sauna rooms. There are little signs that tell you the degrees centigrade and recommended duration. There are clocks in almost every room, so it’s pretty regimented rather than a “lose all of sense of time” spa experience.

Next, you go into two progressively hotter steam rooms where there is hot springs water directly piped in and visible on one side of the wall. It is out of reach so no one can directly scald themselves, but the rooms are very hot and humid. The first room felt a little rough (10 min!), but the second felt like an endurance event (5 min!). It didn’t feel great, but I told myself to be tough and follow the orders!

After the steam room, there were three baths of successive cooler water- warm, lukewarm, cold. It was nice to bring the body temp gradually and the cold plunge, while shockingly bracing, felt great.

To my surprise, there were no hot tubs! What!? I totally thought there would be at least one onsen-like hot tub. Wrong.

Then, I deviated from the prescription and repeated the steam room and cold plunge (showering in between- I’m not a sweaty savage!). After that, I applied lotion and then went in the rest room where I wrapped myself up in a blanket that was very cocoon-like. Supposedly, the attendant tucks you but I think I blew that chance when I deviated from the order.

Finally, you end in the reading room where you can lie back and enjoy tea, although I was nervous about spilling the hot liquid. Although maybe that could be a mini-hot tub experience?

So, who was there? Well, it wasn’t too crowded. More men than women, but it was definitely a mixed crowd. Some people were on their own, while others were in pairs. The pairs seemed mostly to be guy friends and man-woman couples. Most people seemed to be in their 30-50s, so not filled with old creepers or young kids (min age is 14). I didn’t make any eye contact because frankly, I don’t love eye contact so I often look away and what if it looked like I was looking down!?!?! Awkward!

Roman Ruins

After my bath, I showered, dressed, and headed out to meet Dad for lunch. We walked around the slightly busy downtown. We considered going to the car show, but we decided to go back to the hotel and eat at the beer garden. Then, we went to the old Roman bath ruins, which were pretty neat. Very hot- I could tell we were near the springs!

Also, FYI, if you’re more into bathing suits, there is another spa next door that allow bathing suits in most (but not all?) areas. And maybe there are hot tubs!?!

Then, we went on a never-ending train ride. The power to Stuttgart and the surrounding tracks had been disrupted +/- striking workers (this was harder to verify) caused several train cancellations. Dad and I ultimately went North a bit, and then headed South through Stuttgart which seemed to be an unaffected direction. All in all, it took just under 6 hours to get to Tübingen which was a lot. But I was glad I was with Dad and, our saving grace, Google Maps and my international data plan!

Idle Hands Mean…A Trip to Europe!

The Great Hall, Natural History Museum, London

After meeting up with my former Williams biology TA and his wife, my wheels started turning. She had mentioned her “new” discovery of Google flights. So I got to thinking… Even though I was enjoying my “Real Housewife of Silicon Valley” rest and relaxation, the thought of a last minute trip became very exciting. Mainly because when else, other than after retirement, will I have this much time that is obligation-free from a scheduling standpoint? I can just pick up and go! And so, I did.

Happy in London!

Yes! I went on Google Flights and found out that a trip to London that was relatively inexpensive. It was still quite a bit, but half the price of anywhere else in Europe. I wasn’t super-flexible with dates since SMS and I have a trip planned for the second half of July so really, I was pretty fixed between 7 July – 15 July. I do recommend Google flights map option where you can look broadly at destinations in a specific month for a one or two week timeframe. A person could really score some deals! After unsuccessfully trying to use a travel credit, I booked with points.

SMS wasn’t able to come and really, didn’t have a ton of interest in a long-haul flight. Before I left, we got the Tesla 3 serviced since the tires were super-worn on the inside (very sneaky!). There’s also a weird wheel squeak that they said they fixed, but they are Pinocchio nose-growing liars since it’s there and actually worse.

That morning, I took the train into San Francisco to meet with another Williams classmate who’s an ortho surgeon at UCSF. He had good information about benefits, so it was nice to meet with him over an Andytown coffee. Then, it was off to SFO to catch my flight to London. Although I thought it would be tight, I had time for a quick lunch in the AMEX lounge- yes!

After a long flight, I got through customs reasonably fast. I had no check-in luggage which was nice. I arrived around 7 am and had a flight to Baden Baden, Germany at 1700. That flight was on RyanAir out of Stansted, so I planned a mini-day in London.

I planned on a day in the Kensington Area, since I had seen a picture of the Natural History Museum’s Hintze Hall, a super grand entrance hall with incredible architecture. First stop though: Breakfast.

I went to Sheila’s Cafe and ordered the English Breakfast plate. I did, however, order coffee. After breakfast, I walked through Kensington Park towards the museum. It was gorgeous and had a pond with vases featuring swans right next to a little rest where a few were hanging out. I wanted to rent a bike, but had difficulty with the program and having an international zip code. So I walked. I did use an awesome app called “Stasher” to store my larger carry-on for the day.

The museum was quite cool. I saw the Dippy the Diplosaurus cast, a lot of fossils, some gems, and the great hall. Off of one of the galleries of the hall was a “Treasures” room where they had beautifully displayed some of the highlights of the collection. It was cool to see things in person that I had only seen in pictures- especially since I didn’t even know where the originals were!

Afterwards, I walked towards the Saatchi Gallery where a special Tiffany’s display is being hosted. It was a very nice part of town- Chelsea, I think. There were lots of good looking people in beautiful clothes living a model life. I didn’t look terrible since I was wearing a dress, but I was impressed with how so many people were so well-turned out. At the gallery, a lot of women were very fashionably dressed. The exhibit was good, but it was sort of like a really drawn out commercial. But hey, I saw the “Beyonce necklace” and some other amazing jewels that I wouldn’t say no to so overall, it was a nice event even if I did end up going through it pretty quickly.

Quick Harrods Food Hall Stop

Then, it was time to head to Stensted. The express train was delayed so the trip took longer than normal- 55 minutes instead of 30 minutes. Hot tip: you need to buy Stensted express tickets rather than just tapping through the turnstile with a normal farecard or RFID card or phone. So, I did that but then they were checking tickets on exit which was causing a LOT of consternation since people were late for their flights and the check was really time-consuming. I saw the huge line and figured there had to be another way out (there’s never just one!) and I was right! There was another shorter check by the lift halfway down the platform so I go through relatively quickly. One other hot tip that I have for people in general is that, if you are not ready to show your card/ticket/pass/whatever, please step to the side rather than block everyone else until your entitled, ill-prepared self is finally sorted out.

So, I took my first RyanAir flight. It is hilariously terrible in a “what do you expect, you get what you pay for” sort of way. Mostly in the form of really brusque customer service. But I got to Baden-Baden without trouble, went through customs, and used my 9 Euro card to take the bus into town! Yes, June-August, the German DB transport system sells month passes for all city and regional travel for just 9 Euros/month. Amazing! That, combined with Google maps public transport routes, made traveling really easy.

I checked into my hotel and at dinner at the attached beer garden. It was a beautiful night and very enjoyable, as well as easy after a long, logistically-intense day.

Rec’ing Ball

I want to start posting more regularly and one way is to have repeating topic-based posts. Now, I have tried this before with no follow-through so no promises that this is going to stick. But I think I have a good idea! This recommendations based post will be for recommendations that I have and recommendations I gather up from other sources (mostly Instagram). Hopefully, it’ll be a good way for me to look back on things that caught my eye for future ideas, mostly related to travel.

Menlo Park Area Eats: SMS and I went to Ben Franks, a drive-thru and walk-up window hot dog shack in Redwood City. The hot dogs and cross-cut fries are delicious! I got a chili dog and SMS went with the classic (classic). Yum!

I also had a Philz iced mint mojito, which was so tasty. I order it “house-style” with cream and milk. The only disappointing thing is that it is very heavy on the ice.

Love a good meme!

Funny memes: Maybe I will look for a weekly meme so I remember when I read them. A little meme timeline? Anyway, here’s last week’s!

Not digging it!

Buying the right thing the first time: I think Caroline-bird has been missing her playground and her friend, Mr. Pinks. I bought a lampshade from Ikea, since the birds really liked to chew on other shades I’ve owned. Nope! Doesn’t like. Don’t worry, a bird playground is on the way!

France Trip Recommendations: SMS had a picture of Gordes, France pop up on his work computer lock screen. It looks very beautiful. Also, a friend of mine recently went to Calanques National Park. A pretty town with oysters: Île de Ré. La Table du Maroc, a restaurant by the river in Saintes, France.

Spain Trips Recommendations: A woman whose IG account that I follow is in Barcelona. I’m not sure when I’ll get an itch to go there but a few cool places include the El Born neighborhood, the Moco Museum, the Aire Ancient Baths (I have either heard of this or there are Aire baths in other European cities?), and the Moirai Market (clothes).

A Cat Named Mausie

SMS is a very kind-hearted person with a particular soft spot for animals. Not animals as his own personal pets (I want a doggie), but just in general. He supports the World Wildlife Fund and generally, just really feels compelled to help protect them (maybe this is why he is against me having a doggie?).

Anyway, SMS and I were walking around the neighborhood, which is a great way to unwind at the end of a day. I am loving these long summer days and extended twilight evenings! All of a sudden, SMS says, “Wait, isn’t that the lost cat?!”

I had no idea what he was talking about, but I did see the cat in the corner lot yard. He said, “No, really, we just passed the sign.” He ran back to get a picture of the sign to prove that it existed, get a picture of the cat, and get the contact information. We looked at the sign, the cat, the sign, the cat and yes, we were looking at the same cat.

I encouraged SMS to call and after a moment of hesitation, he called. That started a pretty hilarious conversation where the owner said that the cat wasn’t lost and SMS saying the reason we were calling is because of the sign. It turns out that earlier in the week, the cat hadn’t come home for three days so the owner was worried. The owner thought he had taken down all the signs but it seemed he missed one. He was appreciative of the call. SMS hung up, we watched the cat for a bit, and went on our way.

Later that night, SMS got a follow-up thank you text. This was the point where I figured out that the cat’s name was Mausie. How awesome is that? I thought it was a pretty funny name for a cat. I’m going to steal it and use it when I name my dog.

Fair Winds and Following Seas

I have spent so much time here and now…I’m done!

My last two days of work went by in a blur. I had a morning clinic, one OR case, file organization, and a lot of admin checkout tasks to complete. And…I mostly did it! I didn’t get everything taken care of on the signout sheet but the great thing about turning in a checkout sheet on Friday afternoon of a three day weekend is that no one really cares.

My presents from the Hail & Farewell

The Hail & Farewell was a really nice event. The stars of the show are the chief residents, but there was a nice section where the departing staff (me and two others) were farewell’d. People said some really nice things about me when passing the paddle. I was worried it would sound vaguely eulogy-like but I think that was avoided!

The residents were also very nice and I got a certificate of appreciation with the call sign of “Funny One.” This references the fact that I tell patients to ask for me, “the funny doctor,” in case they forget my name. What?! It works and they always laugh so I am funny. [I really sound like my Dad here.] So, if you tell people something enough, they will believe it and it will be manifested truth in the universe! [This does not sound like my Dad. This is pure SoCal.]

So, it ended up that I did go into the office that weekend to finish up some computer work so Friday wasn’t really my last day. I took a few more pictures prior to leaving and then? That really was it.

My office. Of course it was always this clean, MOM!!
One more photo for good measure.
Last load, for real! Do you like the Ikea bag for transporting my stuff? One level up from a black lawn plastic trash bag.

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!

Day 3: Bryce Sunrise, Red Canyon, Zion Observation Point

Holding onto the branch like it would save me…

I decided to wake up for another sunrise. It was cold but worth it! After doing some pre-reading, I decided to check out Inspiration Point rather than Sunrise Point. The reason is that Sunrise Point is right next to the campground, so likely more crowded. In addition, Inspiration Point has a broader view over the entire Hoodoo Canyon.

It was chilly though! The temperature was in the 30s and there was a good breeze blowing. There were a lot of people wrapped up in blankets who looked really cold. They booked it as soon as the sun came up. I thought the canyon became more and more beautiful as the sun rose, so I’m glad I had my hoodie jacket even though admittedly, I could have used slightly better layers!

Yes, as the light increased, different areas became illuminated at different times. I think the most beautiful effect was when the lighter colored tops of certain hoodoo clusters lit up. Due to the color gradient, it looked like the rock was transilluminated which I’m pretty sure is an optical trick but still, very beautiful!

I had thought about doing Fairytale Loop but honestly, even though the hoodoos are beautiful, I thought it might feel a little more of the same. I know, so spoiled and sassy! But I had been hiking a lot, still had more to go, and I didn’t want to completely destroy myself given that a lot was going on that week.

So, I went back to the room, slept for another 90 minutes, got breakfast, and hit the road. But I didn’t go far! Just down the road, I stopped at the Red Canyon Visitor Center and did a short hike. The Red Canyon is pretty magical and slightly smaller in scale, which makes it feel more accessible.

I read a historical marker near the road tunnel which talked about the opening ceremony in the early 1900s where they cut the ribbon and proclaimed they were entering fairyland. People dressed as fairies and waved streamers. Seems a little whacky, but who am I to judge? The tunnel is kind of funny though, because it sort of looks like they could have just built the road around the rock but why do that when you could blast through it?

After a short hike, I continued onto Zion. The drive was beautiful and before long, I made it to Zion Ponderosa, a camping/glamping/hotel resort that provides activities just east of Zion National Park. I parked the car and quickly bought a ticket for the shuttle to the trailhead for Observation Point. Since 2019, Observation Point has only been reachable from this Eastern trailhead as rockfall blocks the trail from the valley. The view is incredible and not terribly crowded, unlike the crowds I saw the next day near the Western entrance!

I really enjoyed the hike. It had been billed as a walk through the trees, which it was but I did think there would be more shade. I was hiking midday but still, not a shady hike. Don’t be fooled! It was mostly flat, with a few gentle up and downs closer to the point.

The view was absolutely spectacular. It kind of reminded me of a smaller Yosemite from Tunnel View, where you see both sides of the spectacular rocks rising away from the valley except it is sandstone and volcanic, not granite.

I hiked back the way I came and caught the shuttle van. The road was dry and I could have made it in the Tesla, but the shuttle was $6.75 roundtrip and gave peace of mind. Worth it!

That evening, I treated myself to a delicious burger. After a carb heavy few days of bars, it felt needed! I stayed in a glamping tent which was super comfortable and makes me look forward to our late July glamping trip in Yellowstone. I settled in for a good night’s sleep with no sunrise hike planned. The next day was going to feature the long road trip home to San Diego.

Day 2: Grand Canyon Sunrise, Bryce Sunset

Ohaio gozaimasu!

Oh my gosh! This trip has been amazing and already I’m a day behind so rather than rhapsodize how I’m typing this in Zion under a twilight sky at 9:20 pm (!) waiting for the strawberry moon, I’ll write about yesterday’s awesome adventures!

Ooh Aah Point

So, I spent the night at Maswik Lodge which was very nice but also very NPS-feeling. If you’ve ever stayed at a NPS site, you’ll know what I mean. Honestly, it’s amazing how nice the places are for the amount of people that travel through them. I realize that’s the nature of all hotels and lodging, but outdoor adventures can result in a particular level of grime and stink so to the NPS I say, A+.

So, my alarm went off at 4:25 am. Yuck. But since I don’t think I’ll necessarily be back at the Grand Canyon, as amazing as it it, I made myself get up and seize the day. I packed, went to the ATM for a housekeeping tip, packed the car, and got to the Visitor’s Center by 4:55. I hoped on the shuttle to South Kaibab trail.

Heading down the stairs of South Kaibab trail on the way to Ooh Ahh Point

So, I walked out to Ooh Ahh point. I hate the name for its overly cutesy-ness but at the same time, it is pretty accurate. I got there right before sunrise and it was a great vantage point. The illumination over time of the various rocks was pretty spectacular. For me, I liked it a lot better than sunset, early wakeup notwithstanding.

Cedar Ridge

At Ooh Aah point, I ran into a foursome (two couples) who had taken my picture the night before at Powell Point. By the way, I was not awake enough to put this together. The woman who took the picture remembered me. Probably because my tee-shirt the night before was uniquely ugly. They headed back up while I proceeded another half mile to Cedar Ridge. That was pretty cool because it was the first layer of intra-canyon mesas, so it was neat to progress to the next “level” of geologic history. If I ever go back, I’d like to make it all the way to the Colorado River but the time to do that is not the Summer!

I hiked back up to the top (less fun!) and hoped on the shuttle back to the Visitor Center where I parked my car. Then, I drove out of the park via the East exit. On the way, I stopped at several scenic overlooks that were really cool because I could see the Colorado River as it entered the canyon. My favorite overlook was Navajo point because it was the best angle for looking up the Colorado river canyon as a smaller part of the Grand Canyon. I’m not sure if this makes sense, but at the Visitors’ Center, you can only see the dark gouge of the canyon level, rather than all the way down to the river. That is also cool but honestly, I think the Navajo point was my favorite of the park!

I had thought of going to Sedona that morning and hiking a vortex but there were several reasons not to: 1. It was hot 2. Pinecone fire shut down the direct route via the 89 and 3. the time I would have spent was freed up to spend on various outlooks. So, another trip will have to be planned. My favorite!

So, I went to Horseshoe Bend, which an article called “a quintessential American roadside attraction that someone decides to profit off of.” Weeeelllllll, since it’s the Navajo nation cashing in on its Instagram popularity, I don’t feel I can begrudge them the chance to profit off the Influencer!

It was pretty cool. I took a lot of pictures. I’m sure you can find better under Google Images. But they’re mine, and I like them! I also climbed the rock to the right of the bend which causes an off-centered horseshoe picture, but was a neat mini-scramble. My fear of heights kind of increases in those situations, but it’s worth the adrenaline surge and scaredy-catness!

After the Horseshoe Bend, I charged in Page and went to the Grand Canyon Brewery. They had pretty mild beers, but maybe San Diego has made me super tough! I only had a few tastes since I was driving, but it was fun to hang out at a local brewery.

Then, it was off to Bryce Canyon! Along the way, I drove through Red Canyon on the 12A which was super-cool. I was focused on Bryce but I made a mental note to stop through the next day on my way to Zion.

Through a window (but not the Wall of Windows) while hiking Peek-a-boo Loop

I checked into the hotel and immediately headed to Sunset Point to do the Navajo Loop-Peek-a-boo Loop hike, which is just under 5 miles. The hoodoos and other natural formations are spectacular and the changing light made it extra amazing. The sun went below the canyon about 45 minutes prior to the actual sunset so even though it was still pretty, photographically the light was “dead” as SMS would say.

For the loop, I went clockwise, which was recommended in a guide. I don’t have the CCW to compare to, but it was a great direction and the benefit (I think) is that you have a great view down the Wall of Windows rather than not appreciating the panorama that would be behind you if you walked up CCW. I don’t think you would be wrong either way, though!

Coming through a small tunnel on Peek-a-boo Loop