A quick summary so years from now, I’ll know where I travelled!
After leaving Vegas (and dropping mom at the airport), I drove solo throughout California, exploring the state of my birth, then visiting Arizona and Colorado before heading towards home. Every national park offered unique and majestic landscapes, animals, and people. I didn’t write much during this time for multiple reasons: (1) after driving, hiking, exploring, and more driving, at the end of the day, I wanted to enjoy the views around me or lose myself in someone else’s words; (2) I felt like I kept using the same words to describe my views: majestic, gorgeous, stunning, amazing, etc.. These parks are all different and my words wouldn’t do justice to the feelings of peace and awe they inspired; and (3) I was feeling extremely lazy.
Travelling solo was surprisingly peaceful. No set time. No plans. I arrived when I arrived. When a view caught my interest, I stopped to sit and stare at the beauty that manifested before me (such as this lake that appeared out of nowhere next to a Coloradan highway!). The best enjoyment (and views) was often found after a hike, on the top of the mountain/cliff/hill I just climbed. Just sitting, breathing in the fresh air, enjoying the view, and letting peace fill my soul.
Travelling suited me. I didn’t even mind setting up my tent and sleeping on an air mattress. It eventually became easier to just sleep in the truck, and even that wasn’t bad (although one night, the temp dropped below freezing, so I woke to frost lining all the door windows and ice lining the entire front windshield...on the inside!
As I scraped my windshield, with the ice spraying all over me, I couldn’t help but laugh at the strangeness. I had to put a towel over my lap and the dashboard so I wouldn't continue to get wet. Plus the faces of all those Coloradans walking by, wondering how I managed to ice the windshield on the inside of my truck!).
Once I decided to sleep in my truck (and no longer had the shared camp space to make small talk in the evenings), the number of interactions with others reduced. I smiled and said hello to other hikers along the trails, occasionally interacted at park museums, shops, and restaurants, but for the most part, I kept my own company. I did make friends one night at a local brewery while watching the Astros (and Aggies) play. First meetings are always more fun when you throw in a friendly rivalry (aka me rooting for the Stros while in Dodgers territory)!
I enjoyed all of the California parks, but my favorites were Kings Canyon and Death Valley. The Kings Canyon Scenic Byway along the river was stunning and the trees? So big. Death Valley was just a fun day: started in the mountains, camped near the valley, walked over salt flats of Badwater Basin, the lowest elevation in North America at 282ft below sea level, enjoyed basking in the beautiful, hot sun and loved when a fighter jet roared past us, flying extremely low in the valley.
Sequoia was neat (hello, General Sherman, world’s largest living tree at 275 feet tall and 35 feet in diameter! Climbing to Moro Rock was exciting, too).
Yosemite was crowded (boo), but I enjoyed the climb to Sentinel Dome and a few waterfalls where you can climb over boulders. The only reason I’d go back, though, is to drive Tioga Pass through the park (it was closed due to weather).
Pinnacles was a hidden gem with hiking and caves.
Channel Islands was a trip you should complete to mark it off your list but may be better in the spring with blooming plants and flowers. Highlight: the adorable little foxes that were everywhere (even though those who saw my fox pictures said the foxes were not cute. Hmm, perhaps that IS a reason to visit?).
Joshua Tree was a climber’s paradise (so, not me these days) but I did love the varying cacti. Made me wonder if Dr. Seuss modeled The Lorax after a cactus he viewed here.
Spent a few days in Phoenix helping A move (perfect timing) and then found my way to Sedona. Ahh, Sedona. What a wonderful town. Hiked to the top of Bell Rock Vortex (which apparently strengthens the masculine side, feminine side, and the balance) and sat on a cliff for a few hours with only a brave bird and chipmunk for company. I built myself a little rock tower, made a wish, then put the rocks back where I found them. I did not feel an influx of energy, but I did feel peace and contentment after my cliff sitting.
The next day found me at Petrified Forest and what a special, magical day. I’m not sure if there’s truth to the power of vortexes, but I believe in energy and that day, I was energized. The sun was shining from one side of the sky and the moon was bright on the other. I skipped over paths, laughing like a loon, full of positive vibes and peace and such joy. Why was I giggling? Was this petrified wood that beautiful? Were the ravens singing to me? Did the vortex infuse me with elevated joy and happy energy? Or was it just a sunny day and the vitamin D made me giddy?
Life update: Colorado may be a potential place of residence in the future. Driving through the southern part of the state, I loved the 360 degree mountains (surrounding me on all sides). So majestic. Like a warm hug of rock.
Mesa Verde showed me the resilience of cliff dwellers (which was
cool...but seemed exhausting!) and the evolution of farming for the Puebloan people. Apparently, the way to my heart is through scenic views or sappy stories, not the history of a people, as this park is definitely on my "least favorite" list (well, if I actually had a least favorite list).
I then made my way to Black Canyon of the Gunnison which was awesome. I loved this park. Please go visit. It was stunning. Being high above the cliffs, looking down at the Gunnison River. I would love to revisit and kayak the Gunnison. Who's in?
Next, I drove to the Great Sand Dunes. I may revisit when I have stronger calves/quads. ha I made it over a few hills (won’t even lie and say halfway), when I decided to plop down and enjoy the moment. Side note: loved how the pictures look like a painting and not like it was taken with my iPhone.
Never posted about Crater Lake: oh, so gorgeous. The sun reflecting on the lake made it sparkle. I'd love to have this beauty in my backyard!
Lastly, Lassen Volcanic was a quick trip as a big storm was coming and they were closing the road. Driving those windy roads with only a few feet of viability due to fog and the sheer drop on one side...not my favorite memory. But we still managed to find the beauty!
In summary: Since quitting work on August 25, I explored 34 of our majestic National Parks and countless state parks and road side attractions. I travelled through 22 states and 2 countries. I visited cousins, explored with friends and family, and was finally able to check off a road trip that began its planning stages in 2008 (with a few added spots thrown in!).
So, what's next? As this trip reiterated that I'm happiest when outside, among nature, I can only tell you that my travels are not complete!
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