North America Odyssey - Part 1
We wandered the cliff edge and climbed a short distance down the defile, shaking our heads in wonderment all the time. Then, with nobody around – we had only seen a couple of vehicles all day – we set up camp nearby, our surrounds and view being identical to what those early, hardy and resourceful pioneers had experienced.
In a country roughly the same size as Australia but with a population of over 300 million it's a little harder to get 'remote' than it may be in Australia, but it is still possible. While our Hole-in-the-Rock camp is one example, another far better known spot, on everyone's bucket list, is the Grand Canyon. This incredible place sees over four and half million visitors each year and while the popular viewpoints on the South Rim are crowded much of the time, the North Rim is far less so. Then, if you head either west of east from Grand Canyon Lodge, that is the heart of the North Rim, you will end up on a series of forest trails that take you to the very lip of the canyon. Here, you can find a spot to camp all to yourself on the very edge of the canyon ... near unbelievable, but true!
One of the things we love about touring the West of America is the incredible variety you can witness in just an hour or so drive. One minute we were in raw, red-rock country more akin to our desert country; next we were travelling through verdant pine covered mountains dotted with lakes and cut by cool trickling streams. Again we found a choice of campsites – the Forestry Service providing some fabulous camping areas while, with just a bit more flexibility and effort, we could find a more isolated spot on a pine fringed meadow, all to ourselves.
For the next few days we wandered the back roads, mainly through BLM land, leading to Moab and the mind blowing vistas of Canyonlands NP and the gravity defying rock formations of Arches NP. We had been to both parks previously and while there were always a few people around, these two parks and the surrounding country offer some of the best scenery, walks and four wheel drive trails in all of the US.
From the North Rim head into Utah and check out Zion and Bryce National Parks before heading to one of our favourite towns, Escalante. You can get lost around here in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument for a few days or much longer, before heading over to Moab and its incredible parks and red rock country.From Moab mosey on into southern Colorado - Telluride and the Million Dollar Highway before swinging north to the Great Sand Dune National Park and more. Then swing back west through Utah and Capitol Reef National Park.
Pick up I-50 – 'the loneliest road in America' – and head across Nevada poking around the old deserted mining areas close to Eureka and Austin (both old towns are worth an explore).Back in California you'll cross the Sierra Nevada Mountains through any of a number of high passes, before heading into Yosemite National Park (see: www.nps.gov/yose/index.htm). Hopefully you'll get a campsite in the valley (it pays to book), stay a few days and take in the views and giant Sequoia trees (or head a little north to see the more impressive Redwoods) before heading south to LA and a flight home.
Getting some WheelsHire or buy? For hiring a fully set-up RV start with Cruise America (www.cruiseamerica.com), but there are plenty of others, including Tonto Trails (www.tontotrails.com) who hire fully set up 4WD pick-ups with slide-on campers fitted or fully set-up 4WD Sportsmobile rigs.
If you are planning on touring for longer than couple of months buying a second hand rig is definitely a good choice. You'll be surprised at what you can get for US$10,000 t0 $20,000.
You do need a USA address and the easiest is to use the address of an RV Park you use as a base.
Best Time.Spring (April-May) is good for touring the desert country of the SW and is less crowded than later. Summer comes late in a lot of the high country, so access can be restricted due to deep snow off the main roads & highways, so it's best to be flexible.
The busiest timea, especially for the major national parks, is the summer school holiday break - June/July/August. You may need to book ahead for a camp site, especially if you need power.
VisasAustralians, at the time of writing, are eligible to obtain a Visa Waiver to enter the USA and which will allow you to stay in the USA for 3 months only. This includes any time spent in Canada and Mexico.
If you’d like to spend up to 6 months in North America, then you’ll need to apply for a full visa. Give yourself plenty of time to obtain this. (https://au.usembassy.gov/visas/).
In addition the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) controls nearly 107 million hectares of land in the West and much of this is available for touring and recreation - see: www.blm.gov.
We always buy a state atlas of each new state we visit in the west - with their detail on tracks and reserves it will open up a new world to the US traveller.