Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Stop 2: Arches National Park

After leaving Monument Valley, we drove north to Moab. Leaving Monument Valley and driving north, gazing out the window at the gorgeous scenery, we came up a small hill and noticed people standing in the middle of the road. At first we were wondering why these people were in such a bad spot. Then David looked in the rear view mirror and said, "Oh, I see why, we're pulling over." 

After standing in the middle of the road and gawking, we continued north. Our first stop was Goosenecks State Park in southern Utah. One of the world's best examples of an entrenched meander, D put together this panoramic to give a better sense of what it was really like.

From Goosenecks we hit the road and went straight to Moab, and Arches National Park. We spent 2 nights in Moab, so we'd have plenty of time to spend in Arches. We drove through the whole park, and did a lot of hikes to visit some of the arches. The first night we did the hike to see see Delicate Arch at sunset. This is something I highly recommend for any visitor. It's quite an experience, people come to watch the sunset on this arch like they'd go to a drive in movie. Just spectacular.

Some other highlights in Arches included Double Arch, Landscape and the ranger guided hike through the Fiery Furnace.

After 2 nights in Moab, and a delicious dinner at the Desert Bistro, we hit the road and drove into Colorado to visit Mesa Verde National Park. More on that later!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Stop 1: Monument Valley

Our road trip through the Four Corners region of the American Southwest was incredible. It was filled with so much natural beauty, our eyes were in overload. We drove through many changing landscapes that our ride was never boring, a road trip was the perfect way to see this part of the country.
After one night in Phoenix, visiting some old friends, we hit the road and drove north to Monument Valley. The drive there was our longest leg of our road trip, but we were so excited that it went by very quickly. We drove out of Phoenix along a highway dotted with saguaros, and then the scenery changed to pines near Flagstaff, and then as we got further north it opened up to beautiful rock formations, such as these Elephant Feet rocks right along the highway.
Driving into Monument Valley was like driving onto a movie set. The iconic scenery, which has appeared in many westerns, just took our breath away. This is why I love travel. You may think you're familiar with some of these things you've seen in photos and movies, but nothing prepares you for seeing it with your own eyes. The sheer scale of Monument Valley blew me away. This was pretty much our first view, just after we pulled into the parking lot of the visitor center.
We spent 2 nights in Monument Valley at The View Hotel, right inside the park. I'm glad we decided for 2 nights since we could be unhurried in seeing everything there. We did the entire drive through the valley on the only road that's open to the public, and we also did a hike around one of the mittens.
We also booked a guided tour which took us into areas that the public can't go to without a guide.
We also had plenty of time to relax on our balcony and gaze at the view. Both nights we watched the sun set and the full moon rise. D set up his camera during the night to take some star shots (which were a challenge because of the full moon, but still interesting).

From Monument Valley we drove north to Moab, with a stop along the way at Goosenecks State Park in southern Utah. More on that tomorrow!

Monday, October 15, 2012

SW Road Trip Journal

It's always hard to know where to begin when I get home from a trip. There's always the feeling of overload, and I never know which amazing thing to talk about first. While I process all the natural beauty and grandeur of nature, I'll just start with my journal. 

My journal worked perfectly for this trip. The pocket the on the back to store things was a good touch, and it was handy to be able to make pockets to store things throughout the journal as I went along. The only negative is that the larger size made it a little cumbersome. I found I wasn't using it as much for jotting things down in places I wanted to be more discreet (like wine notes during dinner). Still, the point of it being larger was to fit all the National Parks maps, and for that it was perfect. In the end, I don't think the size kept me from doing much. This wasn't a fine dining kind of trip anyway. 
One of my favorite details of this journal was that I thought ahead and included travel times between stops. Neither of us have a smart phone, we didn't have a GPS, and we both like to unplug on trips as much as possible. It was great to quickly look up what was ahead of us, a perfect road trip detail.
I'll confess that before I watched the Ken Burns documentary about the National Parks, I didn't know about their passport stamps. Admittedly, I usually am the only adult at the stamp station, but I have to stamp my journal. I just love passports, and I think it's such a great idea to have a serious for the National Park system. 
It's no surprise that D and I are both pretty geeky when it comes to maps and geography. I had fun recording our mileage at the end of each day to see what we drove. This was the total. We hadn't done a road trip like this before, and we loved it. It was a different kind of trip, and the perfect way to see this part of the country. Of course, on our way to the airport we were feeling sad about returning our car, and tossing around ideas of where our next one should be. Yellowstone? California Coast? Too many options...