The two of us could have stayed in San Diego much longer but we knew it was time to start making our way back east. On our way we stopped in Costa Mesa to meet up with some of my friends for dinner then continued our drive, arriving late in Vegas. Neither Mike nor I are big gamblers so we didn’t stay long in Vegas but we did manage to grab an early breakfast at the Pete Rose Sports Bar and Grill right on the strip and played a few slot. A few hours out of Vegas we arrived at the south rim of the Grand Canyon to catch the sunset. We climbed down some rocks and walked out to a ledge where there were only a couple other people. We made some friends, took some pictures, drank a couple cold ones and enjoyed one hell of a colorful sunset.
Sunset at the south rim
Campers deep in the canyon
Clouds filled in quickly after this shot but still managed to get some stars and sunset
Northern AZ – Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell & Monument Valley
To much surprise Page, AZ being in the middle of nowhere has a lot of things to see in a relatively short drive. The Wave was high on our bucket list but came to find out it’s only accessible with a permit that’s handed out based upon a lottery. Antelope Canyon was another stop we wanted to make but that was only accessible with a tour guide and their schedule didn’t quite match up with what we were able to do. With those two off our list we made our first stop at Horseshoe Bend, a popular tourist spot located right off of route 89. A short 15 min walk from the parking lot and you’ll arrive at the edge of the bend. Despite going there in the middle of a weekday there were still hundreds of tourists. Luckily most of these tourists all hung out at the closest view point so another short 10 min walk/hike off the beaten path we were able to get away from the crowd. Horseshoe Bend has to be one of the best bang-for-your-buck views I’ve encountered in all of the USA in terms of overall experience and accessibility at no cost.
After Horseshoe Bend we grabbed a hotel for the night in Page, waking up bright and early for a hike to see the Hanging Garden at Lake Powell. Just like my experience with Jacob’s Well in Texas, this was one of the more underwhelming stops we made along the way with the garden being so small we walked right past it. Despite the garden not meeting our expectations the hike around Lake Powell was spectacular.
We returned to the car early that afternoon and headed east to Monument Valley. Located on the border of Utah and Arizona, Monument Valley is known for their buttes which is basically an isolated hill with vertical sides and a flat top. We rushed to get there in time for sunset which was a success, but on the downside we were unaware that they actually close the whole valley at sunset, whomp whomp. It wasn’t a complete loss however since there are a lot of buttes on the way to the entrance of the park but I would definitely like to go back and do the full drive next time I’m in the area.
Hand stands at Horseshoe Bend
Lake Powell, AZ
Hard to tell from the picture, but the coastline is actually 100ft above the river
Drive towards Monument Valley
Starry night in Monument Valley
Camping Truth or Consequences and sledding at White Sands, NM
As we were making our way to White Sands we saw a place called Truth or Consequences on the map. Intrigued by the name we checked to see if there were any camp grounds in the area and before we knew it we pitched a tent and set up shop for the night. These are my favorite parts about road trips, the unexpected stops at places you never heard of that leave a lasting impression.
White Sands was an absolute blast! Sight seeing is cool and all but when you can actually do something at a place you visit other than hike/walk/take pictures it will get two thumbs up in my book! If you want to see more about our experience sledding in White Sands you can check out the blog post and video here.
Truth or Consequences sunset
Beautiful night to hang out under the stars
Light smoke from our camp fire rising into the air
Yes, I did work the whole time I was on the road, even when camping at night in the middle of nowhere!
Sunrise was pretty alright this morning
Futuristic picnic area at White Sands
Last but not least was Hawksbill Crag, aka Whitaker Point, aka Upper Buffalo Wilderness (no clue which name is the most commonly used, so we’ll use them all). I’ve never had such difficulty trying to find a destination in my life. Exhausted from driving through the night trying to make it to this point in time for sunrise, we got sent on a wild goose chase for about 7 hours. In the end it was all worth it, but tiring nevertheless. You can read more about this journey here.
I made a trip to Utah for the first time last fall to visit Zion and Brian Head and was completely taken back by the beauty this state has to offer. Dorota told me Moab was every bit as amazing as Zion, if not better and I would have to agree. We spent a couple days there, between Canyonlands and Arches there was so much to see. Oh yeah, camping on the Colorado River was pretty awesome too!
Fishing on the Colorado River in Moab
Morning fog in Moab
Canyonlands NP overlooking the La Sal Mountains
Mesa Verde NP
Mesa Verde was just one of many unexpected stops along this road trip. We never heard of Mesa Verde until we were researching places to go after Moab. Our time here was cut short due to a large storm system moving in that we managed to just sneak out of but it was still well worth the stop.
You start to run out of adjectives when you come across so many (beautiful/pretty/amazing) cities in such a short period of time. If you’ve seen any Coors Light commercials then theres a good chance you’ve seen the mountains around Telluride. Big, steep, jagged, and in between them all sits the town of Telluride, a ski-town in the purest sense of the word.
Some guy kite skiing for miles in an open field
On our way to downtown Telluride
Hanging Lake was great, but lets just say we weren’t prepared for this one. Both Dorota and I do a good amount of hiking and spend a lot of time outdoors so our experience wasn’t exactly the issue, as it was the lack of research we put into this place. Being the middle of winter and in the Rockies there’s obviously going to be snow on the ground, but we weren’t properly equipped for an extremely steep, 1 mile climb. Between the altitude and lack of proper foot gear we had our work cut out for us. Not to mention that the final ascent was by far the most steep and icy with snow levels causing what would be a hip high handrail to be at our feet. As we scaled the last part of this hike with our hands by our feet it was hard not to look over the other side and think about one misstep being your last step. However, just like most adventures that get a little dicey it only makes the final destination that much better.
Frozen waterfall on Hanging Lake
Leisurely walk back to the car after the dicey hike
Boulder and Breckenridge, CO
After a day of snowboarding at Copper Mountain and a night in Frisco we arrived in Boulder where I would post up for the next week. Dorota was leaving at the same time my friend Mike was coming out to join me for the remainder of the trip. We spent our time between Boulder and Denver, meeting up with some friends and doing some light sight seeing. Just a couple days after Mike arrived we had two other friends fly out and meet us in Breckendrige for some boarding. Conditions were great, lots of fresh powder but absolutely frigid temperatures (-35 windchill).
Overlooking downtown boulder
Beautiful night at Bear Lake (Estes Park) in Boulder
-35 windchill at the top of peak 8 (13,000ft)
Apres Ski Breck
Just some backyard canjam somewhere between Breck and Frisco
Not a lot of time was spent in between Breck and San Diego as the weather was pretty crappy along the way. We made the 1,100mi drive in about 16 hours and was now officially able to claim that I had driven cross country! San Diego was just what we needed after long days of snowboarding and the constant snow and rain for the past several weeks. Being off season we were able to get a place for about $100/night from AirBnB right on the water in Carlsbad. We stayed here for a week where we spent a lot of time playing frisbee, surfing, trying out some local beers and meeting up with different friends every night. And as per usual, it was 78 degrees and sunny every day which is one of the main reasons San Diego has become my favorite city.
Going on a cross country road trip has been a dream of mine ever since I could remember. I’ve been fortunate enough to see a good amount of this country throughout my life but never in the way of a 8,200 mi round trip, road trip. As I loaded up my car on a Saturday, it didn’t take long to fill up my trunk and back seat knowing I had to prepare for conditions that would range from -35 windchill in the Colorado Rockies to low 90s in the Arizona desert. Seeing how I would be gone for roughly two months, I stopped by my parents house for some dinner with my family before starting my trip out west later that night.
Continue reading Part 1 – All American cross country road trip – 56 days, 22 states and 8,200mi