United States of America · 10 Days · 15 Moments · July 2017

End of Summer Road Trip West

5 August 2017

____ miles driven ~50 miles hiked 17 destinations 9 days 8 national parks 4 states 2 showers 1 close encounter with heat stroke No regrets!

4 August 2017

August 4: Climbed High Dune in Great Sand Dunes National Park, then ran back down! 2.5 miles round trip. So glad we brought shoes because the sand was super hot on the way down. There was a low river at the bottom to splash in like children. Drove to the top of Pike's and met Bigfoot! There were some gorgeous sun beams because of a storm, but the view was underwhelming. Then back to Grandma and Grandpa's house. Road trip over! We sure crammed a lot into 9 days.

3 August 2017

August 3: When we woke up, it was 47 degrees outside. We've missed good weather! First stop: Horseshoe Bend. This was my idea, and admittedly just a tourist trap photo op stop. It was a short hike (through sand though...) and beautiful view. Snapped a few photos and moved on. Daniel has been dying to hike a slot canyon all trip, but bad weather yesterday made both lower and upper antelope canyons inaccessible to us since I hadn't made reservations! I panicked a bit. The day was saved when I found an alternative canyon through a smaller tour company. So we hiked Antelope Canyon X instead of the mainstream ones. It turned out to be a good decision; there were fewer people and we got to take as long as we wanted instead of being hurried along by a guide. Probably not as long of a canyon, but still fun to walk through and some great pictures! From there we drove to Monument Valley, skipped Four Corners, and stopped to set up camp just before dark.

2 August 2017

August 2: A full day at the Grand Canyon started at 3:20AM (MT) for a sunrise over the South Rim. We rode the bus / hiked the scenic drive, stopping at every viewpoint to soak it in. We left South Rim before noon and made the 4.5 hour, 10 displaced mile trip all the way around to the North Rim. We hiked Bright Angel Point trail twice, which is where we took in my favorite view of the day from a pointy rock spur. The weather has s perfect on the higher elevation North Rim and there are fewer people. Last minute we decided to squeeze in a hike before sunset. We power hiked to Coconino Overlook on the Kaibab trail (1.2 miles round trip and 800ft elevation) in well under an hour, where Daniel picked me a wildflower bouquet. Then it was off to Point Royal! Sunset and sunrise are very similar, but both beautiful. We didn't wait till the sun disappeared completely because we still needed to find a dispersed campsite for the night!

1 August 2017

August 1: What happens in Vegas... isn't overly interesting. Woke up clean once again and with fresh laundry! Organized the car and hit the road. Our splurge activity: couples massage! ...and an expensive visit to REI. Other than that, we had little interest in seeing Sin City. Driving through, we identified landmark buildings and wondered at all the "mini cultures" (mini NYC, mini Paris, mini Rome, etc.). I did force Daniel to take me to In-N-Out burger... twice. As we drove through the city, we realized Hoover Dam was only a 30 minute detour, so we headed that way. It was 110 degrees outside, so we didn't stay long, but we marveled at the engineering especially considering it's been in operation almost 100 years! Another realization (I guess I didn't do my research?) was that we'd be driving very close to Route 66, so we hopped on for an hour or so, admiring the foothills and antique buildings. Daniel picked up a bottle of "Route Beer" at a cute store on the way.

31 July 2017

July 31: We didn't get to Zion until 10:30AM, and that was a mistake. The place was PACKED! We only got a parking spot inside the park because our car is so small and Daniel is such a good driver. The only way to get around is by bus, so we rode it to the start of the Narrows. Due to rainfall, the river was high and muddy, and it was also super crowded. Not the slot canyon experience we were hoping for. We only hiked ~3 miles round trip. Then Daniel picked a challenging hike that was 5 miles round trip with 1400ft of elevation change! The famous Angel's Landing. The last .5 miles is across a ridge with sheer drops on both sides. You hold a chain to keep from falling! I pushed too hard too long too fast to keep up with Daniel and was on the verge of heat stroke at the top, but Daniel revived me and I enjoyed the view. Extreme exhaustion! We left the park, had dinner, and headed for an Airbnb in Vegas. Got stuck in 45 minutes of standstill traffic and didn't get to bed till 11:30
July 31: We dragged ourselves out of our sleeping bags at 4:30, packed quickly, and drove the 50 minutes to Kanarra River Falls: a 4.8 mile trek to waterfalls and a slot canyon. The upper falls were perfect for a FREEZING cold water slide Daniel called it his favorite hike of the trip!

30 July 2017

July 30: We woke up promptly at 6 at Bryce Canyon and packed up in 12 minutes to catch the sunrise (from Sunset Point, ironically). From there we hiked half of Navaho Loop, Queen's Garden, and Sunrise Point to Sunset point twice (last two pictures are maps) for a total of 3.8 miles. On the way, we found a sign promising a "small reward" from the visitor center if we found 3 such signs. With a treasure hunt like that, we had to keep hiking! We hiked down the other half of Navaho Loop, the connecting trail, and the entire Peek-a-Boo Loop...five more miles. It was one more mile than I was good for, so we had to stop multiple times before the switchbacks to guzzle water and eat all the snacks. I was gassed, and really glad we weren't planning any more hikes for the day. We made a stop at the visitor center for my post cards and then took the scenic drive. A wonderful thing about Bryce: you can buy showers! That clean feeling was priceless after 4 days and over 20 miles of hiking.

29 July 2017

July 29: Next: Grand Wash Trail with Cassidy Arch added on (8.4 miles round trip). Grand Wash is a super easy (but long) path along a rocky riverbed through a canyon. The rocks were, of course, beautiful and colorful and sheer. Cassidy Arch was quite the trek. 1200 feet of elevation in 1.5 miles, in the sun. That's brutal for a newbie like me. It was fun to push myself, though Daniel made us stop near the top because I was exhibiting symptoms of heat exhaustion! The arch itself was alright but not overly special. The high vantage point was great for admiring the surrounding rocks, and a huge plus was getting to walk on top of the arch. You're not allowed to do that anywhere else! After the loooong road back, we made a quick stop at the visitor center, drove the scenic road, took some great pictures, and headed out for Bryce. Daniel has decided it's his favorite of Utah's five parks because of how few people are there. It's special to have such gorgeous places to yourself!
July 29: Capitol Reef is the most recent of Utah's National Parks to be established. It is located halfway between Canyonlands and Bryce Canyon on scenic Highway 12, but few people visit except to drive through, which is such a shame! The park is long and skinny, with only the middle fourth accessible by road. We camped in an actual campground (and had to pay for it!) and spent a peaceful evening prepping for our first big hiking day. Also, SO MANY DEER. First on the agenda: Hickman Bridge (2 miles round trip). While they call it a bridge, it's really an arch. A huge one! We didn't start out till 7AM, but we had the entire trail and the arch to ourselves for over half an hour!!! That is unheard of. For perspective, we shared Delicate Arch with >100 other visitors at 7AM. The lighting was gorgeous so Daniel took some great shots. It was so peaceful; we just sat and admired creation.

28 July 2017

July 28: Canyonlands is Arches' larger, more spread out, and less accessible sister. We spent an hour and a half at a Wendy's for wifi and photo downloads before setting out on the 45 minute drive to the Visitor Center. Our first stop was Mesa Arch. It's a 0.5 mile hike round trip with virtually no elevation change. Easy peasy. We got to the Arch and it was pretty, but nothing terribly special... till we walked to the edge. Every tourist we saw had the same reaction: "Oh, another arch," snaps a picture, steps forward, gasps. The view was breathtaking. So vast and colorful and varied that my eyes kept thinking it was a painting. It also had a sheer drop to be afraid of. The arch didn't look too steady! Mesa Arch ended up being our last stop as well. A brewing storm and raindrops sent us scurrying to the highway.
July 28: Can't say enough good things about Arches. We rolled into the park around 7 (before they opened) to beat most of the morning rush to Delicate Arch. It was a 3 mile hike round trip with a steep slope, but Daniel set a fast pace and we passed a LOT of people. It was a fun hike and a crazy view. The Arch is a marvel, set alone in a natural stadium-like bowl. We waited our turn for a picture, then scrambled to a high point to admire the other views that most of the other people didn't bother to look at. They missed out. Our other stop was a quick visit to Double Arch, which is massive and inspires more of a sense of awe. After the .25 mile hike there, we climbed as high as we could to appreciate God's creation. Pictures obligatory.

27 July 2017

July 27: Telluride is a small ski town nestled in the mountains. We went for the free gondola ride (the only one of its kind in the country), but stayed for the views and laid back small town feel. Everything there is beautiful (and expensive). We happened to meet the mayor in the gondola on his way home from work! We took his recommended for a pizza joint and ate delicious calzones on the second story of Brown Dog Pizza. Too soon we had to say goodbye to the fresh mountain air and return to our car. Since we stayed so long, we didn't get to our dispersed campsite until 11:45PM. Quickly put up our tent and fell straight asleep.
July 27: First stop: Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Very scenic drive and crazy canyon views. Daniel detoured for some rock climbing too. We almost didn't come here and appreciate the recommendation from Uncle Russel. Our first canyon!
July 27: Out-processed from work at 10AM and hopped on 285 heading West! Stopped for Palisade peaches and probably the best burger I've had in my life on the way.