The trek was undertaken in June of 2012. Due in part to a desire to ignore that it had been and gone, I wasn’t ready to finalise the experience by writing this.
Adventure trek holiday, circular trip: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, San Diego, finishing after 14 days in LA. http://www.trekamerica.co.uk/tours/w2.html
This was my first holiday and as a single traveller I wanted something that didn’t require too much organizing and gave the safety net of being part of a group. For this Trek America fits the bill perfectly, with a few clicks you can find and book yourself a seat on any of a wide variety of trips. The offerings aren’t expensive, a major expense is air travel (though pretty reasonable in its own right), thus the more time you can spend at the destination the better.
Rough guide to costs, as mileage varies all figures rounded appropriately.
- £1,000 14 day trek joining fee
- £600 Airfare
- £400 items bought for the trip, and related misc costs
- £1,000 Hotels, groups food, meals out, snacks, activities (helicopter ride, Vegas show, etc.), souvenirs.
At around £3k this isn’t an especially cheap holiday, around £200 per day. This is a comfortable spend without worrying too much about the money, it could be accomplished on a tighter budget at around £2,250 though this would mean having and making do with pretty much everything (I already had a significant amount of kit), and missing out on most of the optional activities.
One of the highlights of the trek is the Grand Canyon, the photo above is from a visit to view the sunset. The lowering sun accentuates the difference in colours between the lower and upper strata’s, this is the best point to take pictures, when the sun does slip over the horizon the canyon is universally dark.
The photo above is taken from within a helicopter, the use of a circular polarizing filter allows for usable photos that ignore the otherwise large amount of reflected light from the window. The glass was curved and the helicopter moving around, requiring some quick adjustments and a few compromises. The flight was with Maverick Helicopters, a professional outfit that operates a friendly and informative tour of the canyon, the experience is very interesting and feels like only a few minutes but was still good value at $220.
We started in the valley, and following the path aptly named ‘Four Mile Trail’, well almost, it’s actually closer to 5 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Mile_Trail We did this in a few hours as a group, you only really appreciate it when looking down, and yes we walked up! With 1km climb this is rated as 7/10 difficulty. Before we started the trail, the leader failed to check if people had enough/any water, fortunately when I pressed the point everyone seemed to be carrying at least some. Group clothing varied, casual to moderately unsuitable. Fortunately these concerns were reduced by only carrying small day packs for essential gear and the containment of the trail. Our leader asking for frequent position updates (not with us), when we had little reference that he could correlate (nobody knew either the length of the trail or the height gain), didn’t inspire confidence, and was frankly too amateur for a group leader. However it’s a man-made path, which requires little to no navigation skill, this was highlight of the tour from a ‘big scenery’ perspective. I’ve got plenty of fantastic photos, but non of them does is justice.
Vegas as with pretty much everywhere we visited, was spacious, thoughtfully laid out and clean. It would have been a real challenge to find dog muck, puke or litter. Vegas is extremely touristy it has something for everyone. The day is an extremely dry heat, best for very slow walking and lots of indoor activities. The nights were refreshingly cool, suitable for pool parties, clubbing or taking in a show. Tickets for shows are readily available, and highly discounted when bought a few hours before a show. I was fortunate to watch Fantasy at Luxor, a tasteful topless show at a particularly nice hotel for a mere $55. Another great activity in Vegas was ‘The Gun Store’ an indoor range where you can walk in and fire handguns, rifles and machine guns. I got to play with a desert eagle, mp5 and sniper rifle; chosen because these are the items I use a lot in computer games. The .50 desert eagle has a really powerful recoil on a scale I wasn’t prepared for, awesome fun! Pleased my groupings were good (except the mp5 on full auto).
One of the less stand activities was Keough ditch hot springs, off the beaten path we (finally) found a quiet oasis of hot puddly goodness to a sound track of high voltage power lines. In England, that’s a quiet fizzle, but in America everything is bigger and
better (they should have gone with Tesla) – sounds like a bug zapper on turbo. Like everywhere in California, the area was unspoilt by trash, keeping it special for your exploration.
Reading this post back, it’s clear I’ve only mentioned a few of the highlights of the 14 day trek, there really would be too much to write about. For the faults, the trek was amazing and an experience I’d love to repeat. The group dynamic worked well and was mostly hassle free, it’s a great way to meet like minded people and my only regret is that I’d failed to convert more of them to long term friends. Everywhere I visited was very clean, free of crime and not even intimidating. The weather was fantastic and the people friendly. Before the trip I was agonising over tipping, but it’s really quite simple and, the quality of service exceeds our own begrudging politeness. Even though it was two weeks, too many places were visited and so a massive amount of time was spent driving. As a previous governor of California said – I’ll be back.