In the past three weeks, Andrew and I have driven over 5,000 miles. We spent the majority of our time in Texas, Arizona and Utah. Cold nightly temperatures and torrential downpours discouraged us from exploring Colorado and New Mexico so we’ve already started our trip back East. Like most road trips, our plans were much grander than reality. We had all sorts of additional stops we were going to make, but due to weather or general malaise, we knew we needed to head home.
The fall semester of 2002, I studied in Vienna, Austria. We traveled all over Europe seeing historical artifact and museum after historical artifact and museum. I remember that by the time we made it to the Louvre in Paris (arguably the most renowned museum in the world) in late November, I was over it. I went straight to Michelangelo’s ‘The Dying Slave’, had a good stare, and left. Our brains can only process so much beauty.
And boy, did we see some beauty on this trip. The Southwest is one big slab of different land formations, erosion patterns, and red rock. Turns out the rest of the world is aware of this as well. We were sad to leave the relative slow-paced, low-populated haven of Big Bend because once we made it to the Grand Canyon, it started the theme park equivalent of national park visitations. Every one of the locations pictured below are unique treasures, but don’t plan a trip if you don’t want crowds…or go in the winter time, I guess.
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. It was 24* the first night we camped. Uh, brrrr. The beautiful thing was we saw the canyon in snow and sunlight.
Horseshoe Bend, Arizona. We made it to this dramatic and unexpected bend in the Colorado River just at sunset. It was breathtaking–everybody else thought so too.
Lower Antelope Canyon, Arizona. This slot canyon is unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. It is located on Navajo land and you have to go on a guided tour to see it. Some folks complain about it being crowded and overpriced, but this was one of our favorite experiences. It helped that we had an incredible guide, Van. He spent 28 years in the Marine Corps–4 tours in Iraq–and considers taking people through this beautiful canyon a part of his healing process. What a guy.
Zion National Park, Utah. Nine years ago, I came here for an afternoon. There were thunderstorms and flash flood warnings, so plans were altered and Zion was never truly visited. This go around was different. She welcomed us with her gorgeous rock faces, color patterns, and perfect weather. Partly cloudy and 77* allowed us to comfortably read by the river at our campsite, almost lose our lives hiking up to Angel’s Landing, and take a dip in the Narrows. Despite the deranged squirrels that inhabit Zion, it was an absolute highlight of our trip.
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. I love this place. The first time I visited, I stood jaw dropped at this marvel. My one concrete plan during this trip was to do a long day hike down in the hoodoos. Well, turns out it was 34* and snowing when we traveled through, and Rebecca doesn’t do that nonsense. So the hike is still on the hoodoo to-do list (you like what I did there?).
Canyonlands National Park, Utah. One of my lifelong dearest ones, Sheena, came down from Salt Lake City to visit us in Moab. We found shelter during the rain and explored both Canyonlands and Arches over a very busy weekend in Moab. Sharing beautiful places with the people you love takes everything to another level.
Arches National Park, Utah. I still remember being a 23-year-old reading Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire in front of Delicate Arch. I was confounded then; I am confounded now.