Well well, lots to update y’all on. I believe I left off as we were about to embark on our national parks excursions through the northern US…which we did! …after a visit from the kidney infection fairy and a quick trip to the urgent care. Not to worry, Delaney made a full recovery after spending a week dying in the bed in the back of the van, ambulance style. Okay so, boxes checked, right? The van had broken down and we had had our obligatory trip to the hospital. We crossed our fingers and hoped that that was the end of our road trip bad luck. Despite the setbacks, we saw everything we had hoped to see in our streak of national parks. I’ll give you the lowdown on each, with pictures to vet.
Yellowstone was just as breathtaking as I had anticipated it to be based on the years of hype emitted from family and friends. We only had one afternoon and evening in the park, which we spent driving the main road through the center of the park and exploring the lower falls of the Yellowstone. This was our first of many parks and therefore did not know what to expect in terms of activities available, etc. We later found out that Yellowstone is often described as a wild life museum; visitors often spend the day driving down the center of Yellowstone slowly, to admire the diverse abundance of wildlife in the park. Last summer, Delaney and I were very upset that we did not see a single Bison driving through South Dakota, but this trip to Yellowstone made up for that factor ten fold. There were Bison as far as the eye could see—some even occupied the middle of the road, making drivers nervous as they slowly passed the wildlife with as far of a distance between the car and them that they could muster. We visited the lower falls (a highly recommended sight at Yellowstone for those who only have one day to explore the park) and caught the sunset on drive back to the west entrance of the park. Because we didn’t arrive early enough to find a camping spot in the park and because there isn’t much BLM land close to the park itself, we spent the night for the first time in a Walmart parking lot. Thank goodness the 3 of us like each other because there was a lot of blanket stealing and knees in backs as we crammed sardine style onto the already-too-short van bed.
Glacier was one of my two favorite national parks that we visited. The variety of views that were so different from anywhere else I had ever been was absolutely mesmerizing. Again, with only one day to explore the park, we arrived early enough to find a camping spot near the east entrance of the park and decided to spend the day driving along the main road and finding areas to pull over to take photos and hike. The main road through Glacier is called the “Going to the Sun” road and its namesake became more and more apparent as we drove up the mountain through narrow passages and hairpin turns, all the while going closer to the sun. Glacier National Park is known for its crystal clear lakes, vast meadows, mountain goats, and of course, the glaciers that call this park their home year round. It was startling to see snow still on the peaks off in the distance. We made our way up the mountain, and on the way down was the first time that our brakes were truly put to the test. About halfway down the mountain, the smell of burning brakes filled the car and the uneven wear on the brakes was creating a lovely back and forth motion in the van as we braked so as not to hit the tiny hatch backs in front of us. We decided to take the highway passage that took us around the park, rather than back through, to get to our campsite. It was this one night in glacier that fate decided that we needed to take a trip to the nearby urgent care. While the dire situation that Delaney was currently in was absolutely not surrounded by any type of humor, the situation that Meredith and I found ourselves in to get poor Del to the urgent care, was absolutely hilarious. There was no internet connection in the park, but there was cell service. After making some calls to friends in other area of the country who could google for us, we were told where the closest urgent care was, and we were off. Meredith and I visited the nearby Costco to fill the gas tank and eat frozen yogurt as we waited while Delaney got a shot of heavily dosed antibiotics to kick off her treatment of a pretty gnarly kidney infection. Glacier National Park will always be associated with the kidney infection prompted makeshift ambulance ride and the hilarity that story presents will stick with us for a long time, without a doubt.
Walking through the Redwood Forest was like being an ant in Jurassic park. There were trees that are easily 10 feet in diameter and the height of sky scrapers. For some, the Redwood Forest is a place of spiritual connection and awakening and this became very apparent when we rounded a corner to find a man laying on his back, face to the sun, with both feet bare and touching the base of one of the largest trees in this area of the park. Little kids were straining their necks to try to see the tops of the trees that created sunbeams on their faces. We followed Coastal Route 1 out of the park and were equally pleased by the oceanfront views right outside of the park. The sun was hitting golden hour and reflecting the prettiest yellows off of the oceans surface on the horizon. That night, we camped in a tiny mountain town known as Willow Creek. We met a woman the next morning at the local coffee shop who said that she had come to Northern California on her travels and fell and love and decided to stay. Her Volkswagen bus had taken her all around the country and she sold it in Utah before making the trek to California where she would spend her following years. She, among so many other travelers we have met on our journeys this year, is the reason that I know, with confidence, that what I am currently doing with my life is the exact thing I should be pursuing.
Yosemite, I had high expectations for. Ansel Adams set a high bar for me during my freshman year in the UA photography program, and I refused to be disappointed. While Yosemite was indeed magical, it surprised me with the unexpected: it was far smaller than I had anticipated. We drove past El Capitan, Half Dome, and Yosemite Falls in one fell swoop and parked to hike into Yosemite Valley. This drive was the first one of this trip that was uncomfortably hot, due to our lack of AC in the van. As we drove through the valley, we could feel the tension increase before the sun started to set and alleviate our overworked sweat glands (haha ew gross— but it’s true). Little did we know, the next month would be fraught with hot days like this. We weren’t even to Southern California yet.
The Grand Canyon is the prized jewel of my home state, yet despite having lived in Arizona for 17 years of my life, this was my first trip to the jaw dropping hole in the ground. I say the latter with only a tinge of sarcasm, as the Grand Canyon is literally just a giant, beautiful, hole in the high desert of Arizona. The day prior, we had been at the creek in Sedona, Arizona, where I had stubbed my pinky toe so badly that I thought it was broken. I had spent the past 24 hours on crutches and decided it was time to simply hobble around the sights of the Grand Canyon, free of metal hinderances. In theory, a great idea. In actuality, the mile and a half round trip to Horseshoe Bend earlier that day was the hardest distance I’ve ever had to walk, and in 100 degree heat with overhead sun as well. Needless to say, I didn’t do a whole lot of hiking at the Grand Canyon, thus, my endearing nickname of “giant beautiful hole” reigns supreme.
Zion National Park was absolutely breathtaking, and most definitely a landmark that I will come back to when I am able to actually participate in the hikes offered in this extensive national park. I spent our trip to Zion riding the shuttle that stops at several popular hiking and camping parks and then promptly returning to the hot car where I napped and let my fever to break because, as luck would have it, I was also fighting a cold in addition to my sprained toe. Something worthy to note about our trip to this particular national park, however, is that I was unable to take as many photos, and boy did I feel guilty about it. I know that most, if not all, photographer’s fall prey to this trap. We find ourselves in this amazing place, and maybe we forgot our camera, our camera runs out of battery, or we’re not mobile enough to get the shots we want and it is one of the most frustrating things that a photographer can go through. I am here to shout to the roof tops and remind you, as well as myself, that IT’S OKAY IF YOU DON’T TAKE PHOTOS. In any case scenario. Sure, if you are receiving payment to shoot a wedding, or fulfill an assignment, then yes, you need to take photos. However, photographers sometimes have a very hard time separating work from passion and we are stuck at this fork in the road that has signs everywhere expressing guilt and self berating notions of “I am failing as a photographer because I forgot my camera and can’t take a photo of this beautiful moment right now.” If you find yourself in this scenario, I repeat, it is okay. Just because you decided to leave your camera at home does not mean that you are failing at the thing you pride yourself at being best at. Stop, and enjoy the roses, without having to take photos of them. (And I fall guilty to this all of the time. I’m trying).
Arches National Park was tied for first place on my list of favorite national parks. I can only best describe it as nature’s playground disguised as Sedona or Red Rocks on crack. Being a desert rat at heart, I often feel claustrophobic when surrounded by mass amounts of trees, often found in forests or jungles. I feel most free when confronted with vast, open landscapes where you can see for miles without trees or other landmarks getting in your way. Free was exactly how I felt when exploring this landscape. At this point, my foot was feeling a little bit better and I was no longer feverish, so I made the walk to the double arch, one of the many famous arches in this national park. As you scaled the red rocks and approach the window of the arch, you are confronted with the most beautiful and surreal landscapes, filled with towering red rock spires and beautiful mountains miles in the distance. Arches, I see you, and you are beautiful— I’ll be back.
And just like that, we had seen 7 of the most beautiful and most famous national parks in the United States. After reflecting on all that we had seen during our road trip, the verdict is in: our time spent in the National Parks and camping in surrounding areas was some of my favorite during this summer. It slapped me in the face and made me realize that I need to spend more time outside. We don’t deserve the beauty that is inherent to the natural parks, but I hope to bask in it and treat it with kindness for as long as Mother Nature will have us.
Till next time,