After getting out of the Grand Canyon, I decided to switch up my long-term plans. I had a while to think about it, because when I returned to Flagstaff, the Subaru had a dead battery. I got a jump and started driving around to charge it, only to have the thing stall on me. After a very nice dude helped me push the car out of the middle of the road, I towed it to a service station. This was a Friday evening. The garage didn't open until Monday. Luckily, it was just an extra-dead battery (drained by my very unusual mistake of leaving the dome light on) rather than something more expensive. But hey, Flagstaff was decent; I got to hang out with Elysha, a new friend from the Grand Canyon, settle into a cool coffee shop, and stay at a hostel with a bunch of other travelers with similar months-long itineraries (almost all from either the UK or Australia).
Originally, I'd thought I'd travel the West in a big, backwards C, like this:
My end point was going to be the Chef's Holiday in Yosemite, a three-day program at the Awahnee hotel that includes chef demonstrations, cooking lessons, and a gala dinner. I was all excited about the idea, but there were a couple of issues. For one thing, it's quite expensive. Additionally, the programs don't start until mid-January. That would mean I would necessarily end up in Yosemite and Sequoia-King's Canyon in mid-winter, when hiking, camping, and lodging options are severely limited (plus it would be cold). It would also mean spending more time away than I think I'll want, now that I really know how long it takes to get from point A to point B.
Plus, once I got off the Colorado River, I found myself craving both long hikes and a changeup from desert scenery. So instead of heading back into Utah as I'd originally planned, I decided to nix the Chef's Holiday and head to the Sierras now. While I'm no longer forming a recognizable letter of the alphabet, I can in fact make a nice hairpin up and down the California parks.
Right now, I'm taking a shower/laundry break in Fresno, California, having just spent a really nice time in Sequoia-King's Canyon National Parks. I'll have updates on them in a little bit.
Given the changeup, here's an updated plan:
Oct 24-Nov 4: Sequoia-King's Canyon (done)
Nov 7-mid-November: Yosemite
Take one of the mountain passes over the Sierras and end up at weird-ass Mono Lake for a day or two.
Mid-Late November: Death Valley
Late November-Early December: Joshua Tree
Break somewhere in there to visit friends in various California locations
After that, I would head to Utah. I imagine I'm going to spend less time in Utah than I have in other places. Water sources are few and far between; there are few places where I can take a shower/civilization break, which I need about every 10-15 days or so; many parks are closing facilities and roads for the winter; and December will be chilly if there's any elevation. I might spend as little as a week in the Utah parks before making a swing down to Tucson to visit friends and wrap up the trip.
After that, I'll drive home. I'm not going to sell the car in Tucson and fly; It's too much of a bother to have to re-package and re-ship all my stuff back to Boston, and I have a suspicion I'll get a nicer price for a rust-free AWD vehicle in New England than I will in Arizona. Plus I named the car. You should never name something if you plan on selling it.
If things go that way, I could very well be back in New England for Christmas, and will almost certainly be home in early January. I miss everyone, and would love to be home for the holidays!