Jul 24, 2009

Weekend Getaways: Viva Las Vegas

We drove south back towards what I thought would be Las Vegas. Matt was pretty tired from driving so much and as we approached the Vegas exit, he said that he would probably need me to take over driving in another hour. Then he exited the freeway! What a trickster! We were still gross from hiking and being in the car, so we immediately went to our hotel, The Hilton Grand Vacations Club. The hotel was pretty nice and since it was off the beaten path, not too crowded but it was far from most of the action. We got cleaned up and ordered room service. Matt had another surprise for me: chocolate and champagne!

We put on our fancy clothes and headed out for the night. Visited Planet Hollywood (tacky!), Paris (to get tickets to the Eiffel Tower. I found a 2-for-1 coupon in a brochure in the taxi cab. Go me! But I didn't want to go up until it was all lit up at night), Bellagio (to go to the Conservatory), Caesar's Palace (to wander around), and back to Paris (to go up the Eiffel Tower).

Paris fountain

Bellagio Conservatory

Eiffel Tower at night

Unfortunately, the wait to go up was around an hour and forty-five minutes and we had already decided to go to the Wynn Buffet. Matt looked up at least 5 different websites to see which buffet was the best in Vegas. The buffet closed at 11 pm and by the time we were done at the Eiffel Tower we would have had 30 minutes to eat, so we left and got a return pass for the next day. As we drove down the Strip, we enjoyed fireworks from the back seat of our cab. Not exactly as romantic as being on the top of the Tower!

The buffet was nice. It had the usual stuff like prime rib, crabs, desserts galore but there was a lot more meat than I expected.


By the time we finished dinner, the hoochies were out in full force. I was overwhelmed by skintight mini dresses. We visited the Encore which was equally as tacky as Planet Hollywood and then decided to hang out at the Parasol Lounge at the Wynn. Being outside on the patio on a balmy night was actually kind of nice. Little did we know that there was also entertainment on the patio. It was a multimedia extravaganza and also had a dancing and singing frog! It was the perfect ending of a wonderful day!

Important thing I learned during this trip: Matt cannot keep secrets from me.

Jul 17, 2009

Weekend Getaways: Emerald Pools Hike (Zion Natioanl Park)

On Saturday, which happened to be Independence Day, we awoke much later than I was expecting. When we went to Joshua Tree in May, the temperature in the tent was unbearable by 7 am, but for some reason, it was still nice and cool by 9. We had to pack up camp and move out of our site by 11, so we had a nice breakfast of bagels, bananas, and watermelon and were on our way.

We moved our car to the Visitors Center and hopped on the bus to Zion Lodge. Today's hike was going to be to the Emerald Pools. There are three pools along this 3-mile hike. I found it to be more strenuous than the previous day's because there was a bit of elevation gain and direct sun exposure.

To get to the trailhead, you have to cross a short footbridge over the river. Boy am I glad that we did The Narrows on Friday because this is what we would have been wading through after the night's downpour. Matt and I wanted to film a commercial for Hershey's chocolate milk!!

On the footbridge leading to the Emerald Pools trailhead

We wound up finishing the hike very quickly but there were still a ton of people on the trail. I was sort of happy to be leaving. It was still a very beautiful hike but it's difficult to really enjoy when there are bottlenecks of children and slow people. The pools were pretty but the waterfalls were just a trickle.

Upper Emerald Pool

At the Upper Pool

After completing the hike, we left the park and got coffee and breakfast from a cafe in town and then headed to this faux town that we had seen on the way in and promised to stop at on the way out.

Tourist trap


Then we were off to my next surprise!

Jul 10, 2009

Weekend Getaways: The Narrows Hike (Zion National Park)

The next morning, we packed everything up again and had breakfast at the hotel. We definitely knew we were in Utah at this point. Fox News was playing in the dining area, which we both noticed. There was also a family who was sitting near our table. One of the men at the table asked his tablemates, "Do you know any gay people?" Then yelled, "They're sinners!!" Matt looked at me and then said, "Yeah, we gotta go." After we left, I learned that he thought the man had said, "Do you know any gay pornstars?" but then realized that regular pornstars are probably sinners too.

We drove for another hour. By then, I knew we were going to Zion National Park. As we drove down the road leading to the park, he pulled up to a shop that had a sign reading "Canyoneering." Oh dear, I still had no idea what we were doing and asked, "Are you taking me on an adventure?" Finally, I learned that we were going to be doing The Narrows hike at Zion. The Narrows hike is one of the most famous hikes in America. It takes you in the Virgin River, which has carved a remarkable gorge through the sandstone rock. We needed to get some equipment to prepare us for the hike, namely water shoes, booties, a dry bag, and hiking poles.

Drive towards Zion

Entrance to Zion National Park

Once we reached the park, we had to check into our campsite but it was still occupied so we parked in the overflow area and packed up our daybag with lots of water, lunch, and hopped on the Zion bus. During high season, visitors are required to take the shuttle around the park because there would be too many cars in the park otherwise. Ours was the last stop on the route - The Temple of Sinawava. The landmarks around the park were named by the Mormons. They include the Great White Throne, Three Patriarchs, West Temple, East Temple, Angel's Landing, and my favorite The Altar of Sacrifice.

From there, we began the Riverside Walk trail which leads to beginning of The Narrows hike. The walk was a very easy, serene 1 mile walk along the Virgin River with lots of shade and greenery.

Along the Riverside Walk

The Virgin River

We didn't really have a set goal in terms of how far we wanted to go on the hike, plus there was danger of flash flooding that day. So we just decided to go as far as we could and then turn back. Once you reach the River, you are basically hiking or wading in water the entire time. It takes a lot longer to walk in water than on land especially with boulders all along the bottom of the river. I am definitely glad we got the proper equipment. It also didn't help that there were tons and tons of people doing this hike, many with no equipment!! At times, the water would be waist high as you can see below. It was a once in a life time experience. The natural beauty and the knowledge that a river carved all of this amazing landscape that all of us can enjoy!

Along the Narrows hike

From time to time, we talked about stopping to eat lunch but everytime, we just continued on. Finally, we stopped to eat at around 2 pm. We had packed some sandwiches and found a nice, big boulder in the shade to take our break. We noticed these cute, green, fuzzy caterpillars on the boulder and admired them. A couple of them must have found me curious because they kept walking towards me. It wasn't until we were getting up to leave that we realized there were a bunch of them crawling on me and I even had two in my pockets!!

Attack of the caterpillars!

As we continued, we finally passed Orderville Canyon, a goal both of us intended to meet even if we never said so. After Orderville Canyon, the crowds significantly thinned out and we had a few moments to enjoy the canyons alone for the first time. It was getting cooler and when we asked passersby how much longer the hike was before you reached the neck-level water, they said about another hour and twenty minutes. We decided to turn back. It had been over 3 miles since we started. I thought this was the most beautiful section we had been to. The canyon was more narrow so the cliff faces were much more powerful and close.


At around 6 o'clock we were finished with our hike and went to return our equipment. Matt kept mentioning that he thought it was going to rain and pointing at this huge grey cloud. As we went back into the car to return to camp, a large gust of wind swept by and it started raining. We drove back to the campsite anyway and as soon as we did, it was pouring down. We sat in the car trying to decide what to do, thinking it was just a quick thunderstorm and we would be able to set up camp, but then it started hailing and back to raining. Matt had prepared all of this food for the campfire but it looked like our only option was to get some dinner and then decide whether or not to camp or try to find a hotel room.

Everything worked out in the end. We had a terrible Mexican dinner in Springdale and it stopped raining. We went back to Watchman Campgrounds, set up camp, and then had some of Matt's food as an evening snack. He made some delicious bacon-wrapped chicken kabobs with veggies! Yummy. Then we hit the hay!

Jul 8, 2009

Weekend Getaways: Surprise, surprise!!

For the long weekend, we decided to go on a weekend trip. A surprise for my early birthday! During the week leading up to the trip, I tried to figure out where we might be going. Some ideas included the Channel Islands, Catalina, and Red Rock Canyon/Vegas.

Matt sent me an evite with the following packing list:
1) Your swimsuit
2) A sexy going out outfit
3) Sunblock
4) Sunglasses
5) Camera & plenty of batteries ;)
6) 2 sets of Hiking Clothes - shorts and t-shirts preferred
7) You should wear something comfy on Thursday and bring something else comfy for another day.
8) Your "A" Game!

There was a condition with the hiking clothes that one set had to be non-cotton. I had no idea where we were going or what we were doing.

Thursday afternoon - Matt came to pick me up and left the following clues:
Clue #1: He put food in the fridge so that meant he would be making me dinner or breakfast when we got back!
Clue #2: The car was packed. Firewood and large cooler in the backseat = camping. He wouldn't let me scope out the trunk though.
Clue #3: Heading east on the 10 freeway. Channel Islands and Catalina are out! Vegas/Red Rock Canyon still in.

And east we drove...Finally, we made a pit stop in Barstow for dinner at Arby's! Vegas was still on the horizon, but then we kept driving. Past Vegas and into Arizona. I thought we must be going to the Grand Canyon, but then we kept going into Utah. We stopped for the night in St. George, Utah at a hotel. By then it was midnight because of the time change. Hiking was on the agenda for tomorrow (the non-cotton kind of hiking?) I was still clueless...