Many summer vacations include relaxing on the beach or lounging in a hammock under a blue sky with warm sun. However, my summer vacation was much less relaxing but surprisingly every bit as enjoyable.
My family and I embarked on a two week road trip to the Western United States, which was completely unfamiliar to me as I have lived in the South my entire life. This trip had many purposes from healing broken familial bonds to exploring what nature had to offer us in various National Parks. We flew from Atlanta to Phoenix and managed to drive 3200 miles in 14 days (which is a lot when you have six people and two weeks’ worth of luggage crammed in a stylish yet small minivan).
We began our odyssey with a college tour in Utah, and then proceeded to Yellowstone National Park. It was incredible to see such a variety of animals living in the wild, virtually undisturbed by human influence. We hiked Mount Washburn on our second day at Yellowstone, leaving us with serious sunburns and a sense of accomplishment that can only come from walking 3,000 feet uphill in the snow.
Next, we drove to Utah for what would be the most important and rewarding part of our trip; we were going to see my great grandfather who had separated himself from our family many years ago due to some familial complications. There were many hard feelings in the family concerning this, and he did not contact anyone in the family for thirty years until he began to make amends with my dad a few years ago. This visit was the first time my dad had seen his grandfather in thirty five years and the first time my sisters and I had ever met him. We had a little apprehension about this long-awaited rendezvous, but it went extremely well and began the healing process for my great grandfather and our family.
As our trip continued, we visited many friends, aunts, uncles, and cousins, and we even managed to fit a family reunion in our trip. On the Fourth of July, my uncles bought some fireworks, one of which tipped over and started two massive fires which all thirty of us rushed to put out with shirts, hoses, buckets, and dirt. That will certainly be a story to remember! In Utah, we visited Arches and Canyonland National Parks and hiked in 117 degree heat to a beautiful view of arches and massive rocks. We continued our trip by visiting Mesa Verde National Park, which provided a unique look at the lives of the peoples who inhabited the North American continent before any of my ancestors. We then made our way to Durango, Colorado; the town where my grandfather grew up. We took an hour scenic train ride from Durango to a small town called Silverton and back, providing a serenely beautiful end to our trip.
Our journey finally closed with one of the most amazing spectacles in the world: the Grand Canyon. What a serenely beautiful way to finish our road trip! Each of the National Parks we visited provided a unique feeling of solitude and simplicity that is not often found in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. From snow to sweltering desert, we were able to experience the incredible variety of climates and people that our breathtaking world has to offer. Our trip allowed us to explore our heritage, strengthen our family, and gain an invaluable perspective on life that can only be attained through exploration and travel.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.