I want to again share my thanks to everyone who is keeping up with this blog. It really means the world to me to see and hear the interest. Know that you are part of a community now of people from all over the world! The data I receive from the visitors of this blog show that readers are spread all across the globe: from the United States, to Argentina, to France, and even China. That is pretty incredible! If you're interested in growing this little community even more, check out my forum and share some of your thoughts with everyone! You can be part of this blog just as much as I am, and in fact I would love you to be <3
For today, I wanted to share another one of my past trips with you!
Around this time last year, I was on a cross country road trip. It was something that I never really thought about doing before then, but almost immediately it had an impact on my dreams for the future (see last post's excerpt about vanlife!). I was invited on a two person trip starting in Albany, NY and ending in San Francisco, CA to move my friend to California. The trip went a little something like this...
Albany - Chicago - Denver - Moab - Zion - Joshua Tree - Monterey Bay - San Francisco
If you have ever crossed the United States, you might look at the first few stops and choke a little. In case you have NOT crossed the US by car, let me tell you something; Ithaca to Chicago is almost 11 hours, and Chicago to Denver is a little over 15 hours. We did both of these drives in back to back days. It was nice for the first few hours. We had audio books to burn through, and the middle of the US was rather peaceful for a while. I got to see A LOT of cows which was great. But 26 hours through corn country is not the most interesting. When we turned onto I-80W the GPS said something like "continue on I-80W for 1,000 miles." UGH. That's a lot of highway to cover. But it was worth it. Of course it was worth it. There was even a little tornado warning somewhere in Nebraska to get our attention back.
The sunset over Nebraskan plains.
Drive through Denver, Colorado
I arrived in Denver feeling more tired than I think I have ever felt. But the next day, we woke up bright and early and drove the next 6 hours to Moab, Utah. Arriving in Utah was like arriving on another planet. I had never been past Colorado before last year, so seeing the south west had me in absolute aw. I took way too many photos from the car.
Our stay in Moab lasted for four days. There are two massive national parks in the area, so it took a few days to get through them all. Arches is one of the parks, and Canyonlands is the other. They sound like themed areas in a theme park, but being there in person was mind blowing. I will try to explain the majesty of the place, but there is no one I can get even close to explaining it fully.
We visited Arches on our first full day, and the drive into the park itself took about an hour. The main road brings you around dozens of twists and turns, and after each turn you're greeted by amazing vistas, stone arches seemingly too large to be real, and flora that is like something from an alien planet. We stopped at every single arch that we passed, wanting to get every drop of experience from the incredible environment we were in.
Arches National Park was one of my favorite parks out of the entire trip.
The next day in Moab was spent in Canyonlands National Park. This park is twice the size, if not more, than Arches. It lives up to its name with hundreds of miles of views of canyons. The scale of this park is truly colossal. Maybe it's just because I never visited national parks like they have in the south west, but it really is difficult to comprehend the scale of some of these land formations. Canyonlands also has much longer and more difficult hiking trails than Arches does. You could easily spend weeks exploring all the trails and hidden treasures of the park. Perhaps because of the scale, Canyonlands is also visited by fewer people (or maybe it just seems like fewer because it is so spread out), so you can really be at one with the environment. It was a very cool stop.
I had another image of a very large canyon, but the photo would not load properly :(
The third, and final, full day started off with a very early hike in Arches Park to watch the sunrise over Delicate Arch. The hike to the arch was kind of difficult in the dark, especially since we tried our best to keep our flashlights turned off in order to really enjoy the night hike. The trail isn't marked very well for hiking in the dark, but it turned out to be a super fun and treacherous puzzle to figure out. And we ended up making it to Delicate Arch with time to spare! Watching the sunrise over a landscape completely empty of people is something that is unmatched by any other experience I have ever had. As far as you can see is just desert. It's absolutely breathtaking.
View from Delicate Arch
After Moab, we made our way to Zion National Park. A very large storm area was covering most of the tri state region, so Zion was especially chilly and wet, but the good thing about that is less people want to be out in it! Because of the rain we decided not to camp near Zion, so as to beat the big storm, but you'll hear shortly how we didn't end up missing it at all. Zion, being primarily in a large canyon, is not too expansive. That being said, there are still many trails to hike and things to see. Plus the plant and animals species of this area thrive in the wet desert condition that the valley creates. The most notable hike in Zion, that I had the pleasure of doing, is by far Angel's Landing. It's about 5 miles round trip, and has over 1500 ft of elevation gain. Basically it's switch-backs all the way up the side of a cliff. But the view from the top is WOW. Once you hike most of the elevation, the cliff juts off into a narrow, rocky path with 1500 ft drops on either side. The adrenaline junky in me was thriving! (The scared-for-my-life part of me on the other hand was not.) At the end of the path, before turning around to go back down the same way you came, is a view of all of Zion, from practically the highest point in the park. Can you say AMAZING?!
Trail head to Angel's Landing hike, with the end of the trail viewpoint shown center-left.
The trail to the final viewpoint continues in the right-hand side of the image. And the vista is in the top right, 1500 ft above the trailhead!
There's really no topping the hike to Angel's Landing, so we left Zion after finishing the hike and headed west to Joshua Tree National Park. This was a last minute decision, as all the other parks we wanted to stop at were showing rain or snow for the next 5 days! But the expedition Joshua Tree was very welcome, and we ended up spending several nights camping there. Before making it to Joshua Tree though, right after getting through Las Vegas, we encountered a storm with rain that made it impossible to see the road right in front of us. So we had to spend the night in sleeping in the front seat of a Mazda hatchback. And since the main purpose of the trip was to move a car full of things to California, there was no room to tilt the seats back or stretch out at all. Needless to say, it was a long and uncomfortable night. Around 4am I woke up and decided I didn't want to sleep anymore, so I drove us out to Joshua Tree. We got there before campers were even beginning to wake up. It was awesome, because we got the actual first pick for our campsite.
As was to be expected, Joshua Tree was also amazing. We spent a lot of time bouldering, hiking, and checking out the crazy wildlife. The little pamphlet we received when we entered the park had a long list of native species, so we did our best to really try to find some of them. Honestly, we found quite a few; even the most elusive animals.
I ended up doing a giant painting of this picture, and it is one of my all-time favs.
Cholla Cactus Garden in Joshua Tree
A Western Chuckwalla Lizard that made me jump three feet into the air when it ran into my path suddenly .
The nights in Joshua Tree marked our last nights of "primitive" living. We had to say goodbye to meals made only from oatmeal or ramen. But we got to say hello to showers! Our final stop before San Francisco was Monterey Bay, California. We stayed in a houseboat for the night, and had one of the most delicious meals ever (or maybe that was my stomach full of ramen talking). We went out into the PACIFIC OCEAN in a SAILBOAT. And I got to STEER for a little while. I was so so so thankful for that opportunity. I have not been in a sailboat at many points in my life, and that trip really topped them all.
The "backyard" of the houseboat we stayed in.
The next day was spent in the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I love aquariums already, but Monterey Bay does it RIGHT. Being on the ocean means that fishing was and is still a huge part of their culture there, so the aquarium was filled to the brim with educational tips on fishing sustainability and wildlife protection.
(Funfact: I wanted to be a veterinarian practically my whole life before deciding on architecture. So, animal care and welfare is always super interesting to me.)
The final stop of the trip was San Francisco. I was able to stay with one of my closest friends from college at her home in SF, and she was our guide for the duration of our stay with her. I've been back to SF now two more times since that trip, so the visits are beginning to blur together a bit, but I guess that just means I enjoyed it enough to return twice more in the next 4 months! San Francisco and the Bay Area will always have a warm place in my heart. The culture of the city seems like a 180 compared to the culture of NYC, a place where I have lived only a few hours from my entire life. It was such a welcome scene, and I still can't wait to go back again!!
Final stop: PACIFIC OCEAN
Land's End Sutro Baths
Lombard Street, San Francisco