The summer of 2012, my aunt, uncle and cousin Sasha invited me on a three-week trip to Colorado and Utah. I was there partially to keep my cousin company on while camping and touring state and national parks. They had made this type of trip before and in fact planned on revisiting some sites, as well as going places they had heard about and maybe some they hadn’t. We would avoid cities, so this wouldn’t be the typical tourist trip.
My aunt picked me up in Cary (central North Carolina) and drove me to Asheville in the North Carolina mountains where they live, and the next day the trip began. They packed their old Isuzu van full of tents, clothes, water, food, and other gear, and we set off.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
That first day we drove all the way across Tennessee to Arkansas. Travelling from North Carolina, Tennessee seems endless. In Arkansas, we explored Blanchard Springs Caverns with a tour group. The caverns were cramped in some places and steep, so we had to wear coveralls and follow a guide. Outside was a hummingbird feeder with dozens of hummingbirds swarming around it. My uncle is a serious birdwatcher, and he commented that in Asheville, the hummingbirds are too territorial and aggressive to share a feeder.
At our Arkansas campground, a creek had been dammed to create a swimming hole. Sasha is a competitive rock climber, so he attempted to climb the rock overhang above the water, but fell back in just as he reached the lip.
We passed through Slapout, Oklahoma, with a sign claiming a population of 8. The land had become completely flat, with fields stretching to the horizon, dotted with inactive wind pumps and partially collapsed farmhouses.
By Trinidad, Colorado, we had tired of eating canned food cooked on a campstove. We ate at Rino’s, an Italian restaurant where the waiters sing, to our surprise.
At Bridges National Monument, we got lost in one of the canyons. My uncle and cousin went ahead while my aunt and I rested. My uncle walked all the way to the park boundary before returning and telling us we had gone down the wrong canyon. After that, it was actually a relatively short walk back to the parking lot.
Next was Bryce Canyon, a major tourist attraction in Utah. It’s a dusty red bowl of rock filled with wind-carved towers called Hoodoos. People speaking every language imaginable were there. At the park restaurant our waiter was a Russian exchange student, and each of the waiters spoke a different language. We got to try buffalo steak, something I had never tasted before.
Bryce Canyon was the farthest we went west. Heading back, we stopped at Rabbit Ears in Colorado, a rock formation on top of a mountain that Sasha had wanted to visit since they had not completed the hike on a previous trip. We accidentally followed the road instead of the trail because of fog and drizzle, but we still had fun. The next morning we took the correct trail and climbed to the top of the stone ears.
By then we could tell we had been 3 weeks without beds or a decent shower. We made a quick stop in St. Louis to tour the arch for my birthday, then drove straight back to Asheville.
It was a difficult trip in some ways, with challenges like mosquitoes, hot weather, long drives, and occasional looming forest fires. But I appreciated the chance to visit these places and spend time with my family, as well as learn more about the world outside my state.
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