I was once told that everyone out there should save a little time, somewhere in their life, for a cross country road trip and that is exactly what I have just experienced. For the month of June, 2012, I set out with my mother and her partner to explore the Western half of the United States. It was a trip I will always remember.
With our trunk loaded to the brim and spilling into the back seat, we began our journey from the small town of Memphis, Missouri among fields of corn and herds of cattle. Our itinerary was a whirlwind. We had plans to explore more than a dozen national and state parks in that four weeks and that is exactly what we did.
Beginning in the rolling hills of Missouri, we made our way across Kansas. Traveling across it was just as everyone had said: long and dry. From Kansas, driving along I-70, we made it to Colorado. Here we experienced Monarch Pass. With the mountains of the Rockies all around us, the state itself was grandly picturesque. Our first National Park was the Black Canyon which completely blew me away. I was out of the door, camera in hand, almost before the car stopped.
Continuing west, we came upon Utah and with it Arches National Park, Natural Bridges, Capitol Reef, Escalante Petrified Forest, Bryce Canyon, and Zion, which we flew through in three days. Every moment was a new discovery. We had late night picnics, barefoot hikes in sandy mountains, and, at Zion, I fell asleep outside, under the stars. It was surreal and peaceful…and extremely fun!
As the first week ended, we spent two nights in Las Vegas- quite a change from the wide open scenery of the rest of Utah. Though it was a crazy, wonderful time, I was glad when we returned to the road and headed toward Sequoia National Park in California. Engulfed in soaring trees, my camera went wild and my heart swelled with joyful wonderment.
We drove to Yosemite after that to experience its beauty for a night, then we were off to explore the Bay Area of California. There, we spent several nights visiting friends and taking in the sights. On day 16, we left the luxury of the indoors and drove to Humbalt Redwoods State Park. These giant trees were something I had been yearning to see my entire life and it was even more awing than I had imagined.
We then traveled up the Pacific coast on interstate 1, getting pristine ocean views filled with crashing waves. When we reached Oregon, we spent our first night in Umpqua State Park were we watched a sunset over the sea. On the 20th, I celebrated my sweet 16 near Eugene, OR, four states away from home. We spent the next five days seeing people in Eugene and Portland, both of which cities I fell in love with.
Two campsites and lots of driving later, we at last made it to Yellowstone National Park in South Dakota, which was possibly the most astounding of all. Countless geysers and colorful springs surrounded us at every turn. We spent two nights there, then were off to the Badlands. Sprawling across South Dakota, this park was also quite a sight and much more grand than I had anticipated.
Eleven states and fifteen parks later, we arrived back in Missouri to our quiet, little town sometime close to 3am, exhausted, yet equally exhilarated by our adventure. With journals packed with writing and thousands of pictures, I will always remember this as the trip of a lifetime.
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