national parks

National Park Road Trip - Day Seven

 day seven; black canyon of the gunnison and mesa verde national parks.

we arrived in colorado right after sun down the night before and would already be in new mexico before sunset of day seven. spending less than twenty four hours in such a beautiful state almost seems criminal, but so it goes. the day started in the misty morning dew as we packed up the tent we had hastily set up a mere eight hours ago in the woods of the black canyon of the gunnison national park. 

we spent the morning hiking the rim trails of the canyon, an endless sea of green in front of us as far as the eye could see. a sight that reminded us of our childhood in the woods and mountains of new hampshire. and something that we haven't seen in two years as we've been fully immersed in exploring the dry and arid landscape of texas and the southwest.

driving out of the park was like entering a postcard. surrounded by rolling hills lush with pine trees, snow capped peaks can be seen in the distance and running parallel with our path is a roaring river fueled by the spring sun hitting those peaks that we are headed towards. 

we drive up and down through the hills, the uncompahgre national forest on our right and the san juan national forest on our left. the hours fly by as we take turns behind the wheel so we both get a chance to get lost in the allure of the mountains

before we know it we are already pulling into mesa verde national park. after a brief chat with a ranger we decide which tour we are going to take and make our way over to the ancient cliff dwellings.

by four o'clock we are already back on the road. with the car pointed south we head towards new mexico.

National Park Road Trip - Day Five

day five; capital reef national park and needles district of canyonlands national park.

capitol reef was another park that we initially had no intentions in visiting but, much like how we were drawn to zion, we saw a sign headed in that direction.

we were shocked to see that several of the sights and trails were closed to due fallen rocks and trees, but we were not going to let that stop us from seeing what the park had to offer. we spent the next few hours viewing petrogylphs left behind on the canyon walls, climbing the rock layers surrounding hickman's natural bridge like it was our own private jungle gym and then taking in some scenic views of cathedral valley.  

we ran into another defiant group of travelers on the closed trail who suggested on our way out we take the scenic highway ninety five. and we were off!

the four hour drive along various canyons and over the san juan river led us to the needles entrance into canyonlands national park, where we took advantage of the few hours of daylight we had left by hiking around pothole point and watching the sun set at the grand view overlook. with no plan in mind, except one trail in particular we wanted to be sure to do the next day, we drove an hour out of  the park where we found a rest area to get some sleep. 

National Park Road Trip - Day Four

day four; zion national park and bryce canyon national park.

as we've mentioned before, when we travel we prefer having no plan at all. this trip was initially going to be a trek up to to northern california but we soon felt the desire to explore more of the southwest. the red rocks were calling our name.

we made return visits to a few parks in arizona, but utah was was what we really wanted to explore. when we got back into austin i called my grandmother to tell her about the parks we recently visited and also discuss my urge to make my way up to the northeast to visit family. “you fly, you fly by the seat of your pants!” she said to me. i laughed at the truth in her words. other than a date that we wanted to be home by and a general area we wanted to wander through, most of this trip was decided while we were on the road.

zion national park was not in our minds while driving across the arizona/utah border, but as soon as we saw a sign that read “zion national park…….40miles” we found ourselves headed that direction. it was a good last minute decision to say the least! shortly after entering the park we were greeted by long horned sheep stepping along the horizontal fissures of the checkerboard mesa.

we made our way through the massive park and embarked on a few of the hiking trails including upper emerald pool. as the park began to overcrowd in the weekend sun we found solitude walking along the virgin river, offering both a place to cool off and sweeping views of the surrounding landscape.

the road out of zion led us to original destination for the day, bryce canyon.

we spent the evening hours exploring the rim of the canyon overlooking the endless sea of hoodoos before retiring to our tent in the dixie national forest. 


National Park Road Trip - Day Two

day two; petrified forest national park, walnut canyon national monument and the grand canyon.

the grand canyon is much like stepping into a painting. the contrast between the soft colors and the rugged terrain makes it feel almost unreal. the birds swooping down into the canyon and along the canyon walls prove that it is very much alive and changing all the time. 

this was our third visit to the grand canyon and still we take so much from the experience. what we love most about visiting this dreamy place is that you can easily find a quiet place away from other tourists and there is always a new trail to walk or canyon wall to climb; each offering a new perspective of the canyon more beautiful than the last. 

one of the most inspiring days of our lives was our first visit to the grand canyon, so not only do we take in the constant newness of the scenery (like an elk walking right past us in the woods - yes, this happened!), but it is also a place where we can reflect on the amazing journey we have been on thus far.

"a few things in this beautiful old world are too big to talk about, one can only weep before so supreme a spectacle of glory and of majesty." margaret gehrke, an early visitor to the grand canyon; 1915.

National Park Road Trip - Day One

we are now home after a nine day, thirty five hundred plus mile road trip where we hit fourteen national parks and monuments. i'll periodically be posting photos and words from the trip broken up by day, we simply saw and experienced to many amazing things to narrow it down to a single post.

day one was full of driving, clear across texas and new mexico. we finally made it into arizona well after the sun went down and got some sleep as the real adventure started on day two.