Our westbound quest: of all things big and small

“It’s about the journey not the destination” might be a cliche but that’s the principle we apply when it comes to planning our trips. We usually go for the slowest mode of transportation possible to get up close and personal with the lands through which we travel. This year, our road trip took us all the way to Los Angeles to see my new niece, and while walking or biking to California would have been fun, I wanted to see the kid before she started school so driving it was.

Monumnt Valley, Grand Canyon, Zion, Leo Carillo, Bryc Canyon, Capitol Reef

Our three-week trip was about all things big: the bottomless skies of the Plains, giant red sandcastles of Utah, endless expanse of the Pacific, imposing majesty of Monument Valley, and, of course, awe-inspiring grandness of Grand Canyon. But ‎the biggest impression was left by someone barely two feet tall – my seven-month-old niece, the main reason for our westbound quest.

children

Three weeks of travels result in thousands of pictures and stories so it will take a while to sift through them. For now, I  pulled together some of the highlights.

The road

When I shared our travel plans, people often replied that they had no patience for long road travels and would much rather fly. But we love road trips, and cost isn’t the main reason (although air fare for four people is not insignificant). There is something extremely satisfying and exciting in watching the map spring to life, squiggles and lines transform into roads and rivers, lifeless expanses fill with forests, fields and cities.

Granted, endless corn fields of Iowa and Nebraska get monotonous at times but the sky provides lots of entertainment from puffy ‎clouds to sunsets and rainbows. And once the straight lines of the Plains start giving way to ragged outlines of Colorado, it’s hard to tear yourself away from the window.

Sunset on the road somewhere in Nebraska   rainbow

highway 70 in Colorado   driving through Utah

Unexpected detours

Usually we have our entire route planned out before we go, but we also leave space for unexpected detours, like taking the road hugging the southern border of Arches National Park, driving through Valley of the Fire in Nevada or stopping to take in majestic views from lookouts along the way.

highway 128 south of Arches National Park   highway 128 south of Arches National Park

valley of the fire in Nevada

view of Capitol Reef National Park from highway 12

Great hikes

There was no shortage of some incredible hiking during this trip. Up and down, down and up, winding paths, zigzagging trails. Through tunnels, past towering cliffs, down into canyons, up tall mountains. In the end my knees were not happy but we all agreed that those were some spectacular treks, with the Angels Landing Trail in Zion being our all time favourite hike. It’s not every day you climb a narrow ledge with drop-offs on both sides holding onto chains.

Bright Angel Trail in Grand Canyon

Bright Angel Trail at Grand Canyon where going down is optional but going up is mandatory

Bright Angel Trail in Grand Canyon

Bright Angel Trail at Grand Canyon

North Kaibab Trail at Grand Canyon   North Kaibab Trail at Grand Canyon

North Kaibab Trail at Grand Canyon’s north rim

Grand Wash Trail in Capitol Reef   Grand Wash Trail in Capitol Reef

Grand Wash Trail at Capitol Reef – this one was level but oh, so hot

Wall Street, Navajo Loop Trail in Bryce Canyon

Wall Street section of Navajo Loop Trail at Bryce Canyon – not a fan of sticking names of urban landmarks onto million-year old rocks

Wall Street, Navajo Loop Trail in Bryce Canyon   Navajo Loop Trail in Bryce Canyon

Navajo Loop and Queens Garden Trail at Bryce Canyon – some of the most picturesque trails we’ve ever hiked

Angels Landing Trail in Zion

Angels Landing Trail at Zion – yes, we got to walk all those zigzags, twice

Angels Landing Trail in Zion   Angels Landing Trail in Zion

Angels Landing Trail at Zion is so much fun

Breathtaking views

All those trails were a lot of work but they all led to spectacular views. Sometimes the beauty was too much to take in. So with every new sight I felt like my brain had to erase the old information in order to be able to process new views.

Grandview Point in Grand Canyon

Aptly named Grandview Point at Grand Canyon

Bright Angel Point at the north rim of Grand Canoyn

Bright Angel Point at the north rim of Grand Canyon

Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend

View from Angels Landing Trail in Zion

View from Angels Landing Trail at Zion

view from the top a Angels Landing Trail in Zion

View from Angels Landing Trail at Zion (on the other side)

Monument Valley

Three Sisters at Monument Valley

Panorama Point in Capitol Reef

Panorama Point at Capitol Reef

brycecanyon-73

Inspiration Point at Bryce Canyon

Fairviw Point at Bryce Canyon

Fairview Point at Bryce Canyon

view from the Double Arch at Arches National Park

View from the Double Arch at Arches National Park

Following the sun

Making fun of my pursuit of sunsets and sunrises became my family’s favourite pastime. According to my husband, my day is divided into waiting for a sunset, it’s almost sunset, it’s sunset, and I can’t wait for the next sunset. I don’t completely agree with him, there are sunrises somewhere there ‎as well.

sunset at Arches National Park

Sunset at Arches National Park

Sunset from Hopi Point at Grand Canyon

Sunset from Hopi Point at Grand Canyon

sunset from Keys View Point at Joshua Tree

Sunset from Keys View Point at Joshua Tree

Sunset from Pima Point at Grand Canyon

Sunset from Pima Point at Grand Canyon

sunset at Huntington Beach

Sunset at Huntington Beach

sunrise from Mather Point at Grand Canyon

Sunrise from Mather Point at Grand Canyon

Monument Valley

Monument Valley after sunrise

dramatic sunset at Mesa Verde

Dramatic sunset at Mesa Verde

Mighty ocean

‎The power of the ocean is hard to describe. It’s something that has to be experienced. Crushing waves, splashing water. Not to mention hours of fun. And there is no better place to enjoy the ocean and absorb some sun than California.

Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach

Sunset at Santa Monica Beach

Sunset at Santa Monica Beach

Leo Carillo State Park   Leo Carillo State Park

Leo Carillo State Park in California

Leo Carillo State Park

Leo Carillo State Park in California

Playing in the waves

Playing in the waves   Playing in the waves

Geocaching and other adventures

Regular readers of this blog know that our younger son is a big fan of geocaching. So naturally this trip include quite a few geo-stops.

Geocaching near Capitol Reef

Geocaching near Capitol Reef

Geocaching in Los Angeles

Geocaching in Los Angeles

Geocaching was not the only treasure hunt he engaged in. National parks in the United States run Junior Ranger programs, where you can get a special park badge for completing a number of activities about park’s natural and human history, attend programs and visit different spots in the park. A few years ago, he insisted on getting a badge in every park we visited, no mater how short the visit was. This time he limited it to three. I guess he is growing up.

Junior Ranger at Zion   Junior Ranger at Grand Canyon

Junior Ranger at Grand Canyon

Outdoor classroom

Every trip is an opportunity to learn: about geological history and wildlife, about people who have made the area their home for thousands of years, about the wonders of the night sky.

Grand Canyon Visitor Centre

Grand Canyon Visitor Centre

information panel at Grand Canyon

Breaking Ground – Grand Canyon’s north rim

Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles

Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles

petroglyphs at Valley of the Fire

Petroglyphs at Valley of the Fire

Far View Sites at Mesa Verde   Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde

Mesa Verde – Far View Site and Cliff Palace

Discovering new plants and animals, and watching familiar ones against unfamiliar backdrops is another exciting thing about road trips.

elks   elk

Elks at Grand Canyon just wandered around the campground

deer at Capitol Reef

Deer at Capitol Reef

Raven and turkey fighting   turkeys at Capitol Reef

Raven and turkeys at Capitol Reef – that was an epic battle

tarantula

Tarantula at Zion gave us quite a scare

lizard

Lizard at Valley of the Fire – master of disguise

Bighorn Sheep at Valley of the Fire

Bighorn Sheep at Valley of the Fire – that last one almost ended under our car

hummingbird

Ruby-throated hummingbird – there were dozens of them near Griffith Observatory

scrub jay   Scrub jay

Scrub Jay at Grand Canyon followed us for at least half an hour

Kaibab squirrel

Kaibab squirrel at Grand Canyon’s north rim – trying a skunk look

Joshua Tree   Joshua Tree

Joshua Trees look like something straight out of Dr. Seuss’s imagination

prickly pear cactus   Cholla cactus

Prickly pear cactus (it’s prickly but it also has a heart) and cholla cactus (apparently, extremely easy to attach and hard to remove so never get close)

pomegranate   pomegranate

Pomegranate – it was weird to see it on a tree instead of a grocery aisle

california plant   california plant

cactus   california plant

Ficus in bloom, crane flower, beavertail cactus and weirdly shaped acorns the name of which I don’t know and would appreciate help

New cities

We are not really into cities. Occasionally, through, it’s fun to explore new urban places. Old streets of Pasadena, sweeping views of Los Angeles, sea of light at night, both fascinating and incredibly wasteful.

City Hall in Pasadena

City Hall in Pasadena

Pasadena   pasadena

Pasadena’s charm

Pasadena

Memorial Park in Pasadena

Los Angeles   Farmers Market in Los Angeles

The Grove and Farmers Market in Los Angeles

Spirit of Los Angeles   levitated mass in los angeles

The Spirit of Los Angeles and Levitated Mass

Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier

Sunset over Los Angeles

Sunset from Griffith Park in Los Angeles

Los Angeles at night from Griffith Observatory

Los Angeles at night from Griffith Observatory

Spending time with family

Without distractions and schedules, road trips offer lots of uninterrupted time with family. In fact, time is the biggest gift road trips bring. Once you stop measuring it in minutes and hours, time stretches and at the end weeks feel like months, years, eternity.

family

huntington beach       smelling flowers

jumping

brothers   brothers

valley of the fire in nevada

Lo Angeles   Los Angeles

taking a break a Grand Canyon

hiking at Bryce Canyon

view from Angels Landing Trail in Zion

 

14 thoughts on “Our westbound quest: of all things big and small

  1. Wow that’s an amazing trip. Funny, I planned a very similar trip for this past summer to go to Canyonlands, Zion, Grand Canyon and Pacific Coast, until plans changed and I ended up going to Northern Ontario.

    I’m with you on the preference for the long driving trip, the map comes to life in front of you. Also yes driving through Nebraska, is dubiously tedious at best. I can’t wait to see the pics you post as you get through them.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you! Yes, the trip was was amazing. Although I love Northern Ontario too. We’ve been there three times and it conitues to take my breath away. I hope you get to go on your trip to the west coast soon. When you do, make sure to add Bryce Canyon to that list. It was the most unusually beautiful park we visited. Definitely want to go back to Bryce Canyon and Zion, and do a rim to rim hike through Grand Canyon. The biggest regret is not enough time and having to leave things off the list. We didn’t get to go to Canyonlands. We planned to stop there on the way back but then our son saw a brochure for Mesa Verde with all its ancient Pueblo dwellings and hikes that involved climbing ladders and plans changed. But there is always next time. Here is to more adventures!

      Like

    • Thank you for reading and for commenting. And thank you for sharing on Twitter! Yes, road trips are the best. So much time to spend together, see new sights and learn new things. I just wish I had more time. So many places had to be left off the list.

      Liked by 1 person

      • So true. All trips start with the longest list of places and then I start cutting some of them out. And the only way I can make myself leave each place is by promising myself to come back. A few years ago we were camping at Yellowstone. On the last day we went swimming in the Fire River and our younger son refused to get out of the water until we promised we’d come back soon. That’s how I feel every time I am leaving the park. But then, of course, there is a new amazing place waiting.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. O,
    I have been following your blog for quite awhile. Actually it was through reading about and seeing all the wonderful photos of wildlife that we were inspired to try camping for the first time last October. A week from now we will be going on our 4th trip. This time taking my 2 nieces and our dog, along with our 3 kids to Killbear. Previous to that we went to Sleeping Giant, Mew Lake and Brent in Algonquin. I’m now thinking about the East coast, I want to see the ocean. I don’t think my back could take driving all the way to the west coast. Wow! I just want to say that your posts always bring tears to my eyes…you capture nature and family/love so very well. Thank you so much for sharing.
    R.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow! Thank you so much for this inspiring comment! You just brought tears to my eyes. Writing the blog and taking pictures is fun, but knowing that it actually inspires people to get outside more makes it so much more special.
      Isn’t fall a great time to go camping? I can’t wait for my next trip. I am sure you will enjoy Killbear. It is one of our favourite parks. And I hope you get to go east soon. We went to the Maritimes a few years ago and it was so beautiful: the beaches in PEI, the highlands of Cape Breton, the tides in the Bay of Fundy. So many great places to see.
      Best wishes with your adventures and I hope to hear more about them!

      Like

  3. Pingback: Fall magic in Killarney | Gone Camping

  4. What an epic adventure. I can’t imagine a better way to spend a few weeks. I love your description about how time melts away (or rather the hours do but sunset-time is not to be missed, ha). It seems like your trip was really an experience shared with your family and not a more typical vacation. Finally, do NOT get within 5 feet on a teddy bear cholla because those things are evil!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was very special, busy and packed but quite an experience! Just wish we had more time. The hardest thing was to take places off the list and there were so many places where I would have liked to stay longer. Next time, I guess 🙂
      And that deceitfully cuddly-looking cholla, we saw what it can do. A kid got it on his sock, poor guy was screaming with pain. Stay on the trail sign should not be taken lightly!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: The Best of 2016 | Gone Camping

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