Hiking the Hoodoos in Bryce Canyon – Free Wheel Drive

Author: , December 23rd, 2018

Bryce Canyon Hoodoos - Free Wheel Drive

A hop and skip distance away from Zion is Bryce Canyon. Well, just under a two hour drive time. And it’s our second park of the Mighty Five.

A short two hour drive East we find ourselves in a dramatically different landscape. At a much higher elevation the nightly temperatures were well below freezing. Sick and tired of shivering at night and dealing with frozen food we caved in and spent a night in a motel before heading into the park. Only our second time crashing in a motel on our entire trip. After a night of lazy TV watching we made our way to the entrance of Bryce Canyon. Here the landscape is unlike anything we’ve encountered yet.

Bryce Canyon is not even a canyon, but a series of natural amphitheaters that have these crazy looking rock features called Hoodoos. These Hoodoo rock features were created not by a river, but by ice cracking the rocks apart and exposing the colorful sedimentary rocks underneath. Hoodoo type formations can be found all over the world. Another famous area with Hoodoos is in the Cappadocia region of Turkey where people carved houses into the rock formations.

When you arrive in Bryce Canyon you are on top of the Paunsaugunt Plateau looking East where the land descends in a series of steps known as the Grand Staircase. The Grand Staircase steps down through Zion, Vermilion Cliffs, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, and finally The Grand Canyon.

By Laura and Camrin – Full Story at Free Wheel Drive

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Zion National Park – Free Wheel Drive

Author: , December 13th, 2018

Zion National Park - Free Wheel Drive

Starting our Southern Utah tour with the famous Zion National Park. We spent three full days hiking into deep canyons and up the steepest scariest trails we have ever been on. Zion is most well known for its namesake canyon, Zion Canyon. The canyon is 15 miles long and up to 2,640 ft deep! Walls of the canyon are a beautiful reddish color from the layers of Navajo Sandstone. A shuttle system takes visitors up and down the Virgin River/Canyon to several trailheads, museums, and a hotel.

The canyon area was very busy with tourists during our visit, but we found that getting to the park early and hopping on the shuttle right away helped cut down on time spent waiting in line. Once in the heart of the canyon, we never had to wait more than five minutes for a shuttle. Shuttles were implemented in the 1970s as a way to reduce traffic, smog, and noise pollution. Because of the reduced car traffic, wildlife has been able to return to the canyon floor.

A Very Brief History

Zion has a long history of Native Americans thriving along the Virgin River and exploring the nearby slot canyons further up the river. It is estimated that people lived in the area as long as 8,000 years ago. It was the Mormons who were the first white people to settle the area. Mormons petitioned the National Park Service to change the park’s name to Zion. The Latter Day Saints refer to Zion as a utopia for the righteous. Seeing how beautiful the landscape is here, it’s easy to see why people thought it could be a utopia. President Woodrow Wilson made Zion an official national park in 1919.

By Laura and Camrin – Full Story at Free Wheel Drive

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Instagram Almost Ruined Horseshoe Bend – Free Wheel Drove

Author: , November 1st, 2018

Horseshoe Bend

Located outside Page, Arizona on the borders of Coconino and Navajo counties is the awesome landscape feature, Horseshoe Bend. Here the mighty Colorado River continues to cut through the land and has created a near perfect horseshoe shaped bend in the river.

From the parking lot it is only a .75 mile walk to the lookout area. Its a steady climb up and the bend isn’t visible until you reach the overlook’s edge. It’s free to visit and easy to access.

After spending most of the day in the Grand Canyon we didn’t arrive to Horseshoe Bend until nightfall. Laura was pumped for a chance at taking a photo with a good sunset. However, upon approaching the overlook we were met with hundreds of people. The whole area above the bend was crawling with people, wedding couples getting engagement photos, and drones. It was a nightmare. An hour before sunset the best spot for viewing the bend was already packed with people and their tripods. We had to tuck into a small spot off to the side to get a decent photo of the bend at sunset.

For those who don’t have Instagram, you may have never seen a photo or even heard of Horseshoe Bend. Well, thanks to a few popular people and social media this landscape has become a tourist hot spot galore. Several tourist buses stop through out the day and the parking lot is packed from sun up to sundown. There are scantily clad “models” posing like ballerinas on the cliff edges. We saw a wedding party complete with a bride in gown getting their photos taken here. One drone noisily buzzed above the crowd. We kind of knew it was going to be busy, we didn’t think it would be this busy. At least, we planned to stay the night and would be better prepared for sunrise.

The Lake Powell Recreation Area manages the “bend” and they are starting to put in better infrastructure to handle the crowds, including a deck with a railing near the overlook. As long as social media stays popular this place seems like it will remain popular.

By Laura – Full Story at free Wheel Drive

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See the Grand Canyon in Two Days! – Free Wheel Drive

Author: , October 24th, 2018

Grand Canyon - Free Wheel Drive

The Grand Canyon is in Northern Arizona just north of Flagstaff. This park is massive and beautiful and it houses one of the most amazing wonders of the world. We only had two full days to spend at the park, so we packed in as much as we could. The weather was chilly with patches of rain, but we had a blast exploring the Grand Canyon National Park!

We stuck to the South Rim area, the most popular area. The South Rim has the hotels, large visitor center, and a shuttle system to help one get around. We asked around for hiking recommendations and the two trials that had a lot of feed back were The Bright Angle and South Kaibob Trails.With the weather being a little chilly and potential for rain we figured it was a good idea to have places to hang out inside. For it being our first time at the Grand Canyon the South Rim is a great place to start.

When driving North towards the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, you’ll spot Humphrey’s peak over Flagstaff. Arizona’s tallest peak. As we entered the Flagstaff area the barren landscape of shrubs and badlands turns to pine trees and snow.

We first arrived at the park late in the afternoon. This was a chance for us to find our way around, figure out our to do list, and get our first glimpse of the canyon.

By Laura Dierbeck – Full Story at Free Wheel Drive

Arizona Lesbian Travel Resources

 

Exploring the Baja Peninsula – Free Wheel Drive

Author: , October 21st, 2018

Baja, Mexico - Free Wheel Drive

Leaving Tucson we had a few days of easy driving ahead of us to reach Baja California. With no strict timetable, we were free to take in a couple roadside attractions. A gas station had some nice bathrooms and, of course, giant dinosaur sculptures. And you can rent a flying saucer retrieval truck. Who knew?

We decided to cross the Mexican border in Tecate over Tijuana because we heard it’s not as busy and it’s a much nicer city. The internet didn’t lie! Also, it’s home to the Tecate brewery which is a cornerstone of the city’s economy the same way Miller is for Milwaukee. Nothing makes us happier than driving through a beer town.

So we just ended up in Mexico. We took the “nothing to declare” line and it was too easy! Nobody even checked our car or searched us. We had to walk around the block to find the Instituto Nacional de Migración or INM so we could get our FMM or tourist Visas. A lot of people forget this step which can cause you some issues if they ask for it at a Military checkpoint. You’re better off driving in the line for declaring things so you can fill it out in your car. Our Spanish was terrible so we didn’t get any photos in the INM because we were so nervous. The INM officer helping us with our paperwork who was just as bad at English as we were at Spanish offered to sell us some hot sauce which we politely declined. You actually have to walk out of the INM office partway through the process to the banqometer booth so that you can pay for your visa (500 pesos each or about $24) and then bring back the receipt to show the INM officer which gets stapled Now off to drive the Baja Penninsula!

By Camrin La Fond – Full Story at Free Wheel Drive

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Tombstone & the Saguaro National Park – Free Wheel Drive

Author: , October 18th, 2018

Tombstone

After our stay at the Mushroom Farm, we made our way to Tucson which also happens to be next door to Saguaro National Park. The short drive North took us through a very dry landscape. The earth is a dull brown, the horizon is unclear in a haze of dust, and the sky is a bright blue with no clouds in sight. The rolling hills and mountains in the distance break up the monotony of the desert. The highlight of this drive is stopping and seeing the tourist trap, Tombstone.

Tombstone was one of the last frontier towns of the West that boomed when silver was discovered nearby. At the height of the town’s popularity in the late 1800’s about 14,000 people lived here. The Gunfight at the O.K Corral was a shootout between outlaw cowboys and the town’s lawmen. It was a time when the West was a place of lawlessness and wildness. Today the town has a kept up the historic buildings, performs several reenactments, and is overall a trap for tourists.

We only stayed for about an hour. We ate some ice cream. Sadly, we didn’t stay for the reenactments.

By Camrin LaFond – Full Story at Free Wheel Drive

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Petrified Forest National Park – Free Wheel Drive

Author: , August 25th, 2018

Petrified Forest National Park - Free Wheel Drive

After a brief stop in Pheonix where we were able to meet up with our friend, Kirsten, and celebrate St. Patricks day we were off to the lesser known Petrified Forest National Park. The drive to get there was lovely. Through the mountains of the Tonto National Forest, and the high plains of Arizona.

Tucked in the Eastern side of Arizona, between the Navajo and Apache reservations, is the “smallish” park, Petrified Forest NP. At an elevation of 5,000 feet, it is a dramatically different landscape compared to the tall cactus filled Southern portion of Arizona. The landscape here is short sage bushes, prairie grasses, and colorful badland like hill formations.

The two days we visited the weather was chilly and windy, but still, this park is beautiful, colorful, and we learned a ton about geology and what a petrified forest is. Also, we found the park very easy to explore. With two entrances on opposite sides of the park and a 26mile long road connecting the two sides, it is a very easy park to navigate.

Along the drive are several established hiking trails and scenic viewpoints to break up the drive. One to two days is all you really need to see everything. We saw most of everything in less than two days.

By Camrin LaFond – Full Story at Free Wheel Drive

Arizona Gay Travel Resources

New Mexico’s Gila Cliff Dwellings – Free Wheel Drive

Author: , July 19th, 2018

Gila Cliff Dwellings - Free Wheel Drive

While staying up late one night during our stay at White Sands, Laura was peering over our atlas for possible routes and potential fun stuff to see before we had to had to be at our next farm. We didn’t do any research on what to do in Southwest New Mexico, but looking at a map there is a ton of public lands with the possibility of fun. One place intrigued us the most, Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument.

Gila (pronounced Heela) Cliff Dwellings is only 37 miles North of Silver City, Nm, but it takes over an hour and a half to get there. The road up is narrow, winding, and with steep drop-offs inches off the road. The landscape is very different up the mountains of New Mexico. Pine trees, rivers, and the color green. It was actually a welcome sight after being in the desert these last couple of months… minus the colder weather.

By Camrin LaFond – Full Story at Free Wheel Drive

Southwest New Mexico Gay Travel Resources

Dune Sledding at the White Sands National Monument – Free Wheel Drive

Author: , July 7th, 2018

White Sands National Monument

Getting to the White Sands National Monument took two hours of driving west out of Roswell. The journey takes you through beautiful rolling hills and river fed farms to the town of Alamogordo, New Mexico.

The city sits in a “landscape bowl” surrounded by mountains and the Tularosa Basin. It’s also the closest city to White Sands National Monument and Holloman Air Force Base. There is an interesting clash of people here with all the military personnel and tourists around.

Alamogordo is also home to McGinn’s Pistachioland, home of the worlds largest Pistachio.

By Camrin LaFond – Full Story at Free Wheel Drive

Southeastern New Mexico Gay Travel Resources

Joshua Tree National Park – Free Wheel Drive

Author: , June 8th, 2018

Free Wheel Drive

Due to the cold we drove all the way from Yosemite to Joshua Tree National Park in a day. It took us about eight and half hours to get there. This was both our first time being in the Southwest so just about every plant and animal was new to us. We found free camping about 10 minutes outside of the park, which gave us the chance to see a lot of the park.

This park is so cool! It has the famous Joshua Trees and so much more. It’s a hot spot for rock climbers and artists, and the sunsets are absolutely amazing.

Full Story at Free Wheel Drive

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