Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Arches, Canyonlands, Four Corners, & Natural Bridges

Road Trip: The End (kind-of)

I loved Utah and my last stops in this great state were Arches, the Southern part of Canyonlands, Natural Bridges, and the Four Corners. 

I arrived in the Canyonlands/Arches area on a Holiday weekend and was planning on staying in one of the campgrounds in those parks. Unfortunately for me Canyonlands has a pretty small campground and Arches was full.  After exploring Canyonlands during the day I camped outside the park and woke up early the next morning to explore Arches. 

The only hike I really had any desire to do was “Delicate Arch.”  I believe it was three miles and the first half of it was all up hill and I felt like I could possibly die… it was real encouraging to see two different set of parents caring their kids on this hike.
Seriously how are you in the much of better shape then me… at this point all I have been doing for weeks is hiking.

Over all Arches was pretty cool and I can now tell you the difference between an Arch and a Natural Bridge… but it wasn’t a two day park.
So I left and headed off to the Southern entrance of Canyonlands.

Canyonlands (again):
Since I only had a partial day I drove around and saw the sites and went on a small hike, which involved lot of climbing on rocks. 
I might be in love with climbing on rocks.  You don’t have to worry about staying on a specific trail because there is no vegetation to ruin (just don’t get lost).

I camped outside of the park at this place that had unestablished campsite you could stay at for free or established campsites you could stay at for $5.00.  I went with the established campsite bc I didn’t trust my car driving any farther down the dirt road.
It was probably my favorite campsite. 

Natural Bridges:
When I was back in cell phone range I knew one thing: I wasn’t ready to leave Utah.  And I was told the Natural Bridges was the best place to view the stars in the country! So I had to go.

the three natural bridges. (I didn't walk down to see the last one)

I decided at the last minute to do a loop hike (Sipapu/Kachina) to see two of the three natural bridges.  It was  6.5 miles and it felt like the longest hike I have ever done and I have no desire to ever do it again.  This story would require its own blogpost and maybe someday I’ll feel up to writing it.
Some scenes from the hike. Those Cairns saved my life and this area was in desperate need for some water.... and did I mention I had to walk up and down lots of ladders.

When I got back to camp I came up with a clever way to wash my clothes and hang them dry using the pointless strings on my tent. 
I was pretty proud that I came up with that.

And let me tell you the stars were amazing. 

Four Corners:
no real description needed.  I had to go and I was a little shocked that it cost money to get into... but I believe it was like $3.00 so not the end of the world. 

Mesa Verde (Colorado):
the last "real stop" on my journey. 
It was amazing to see places in America that are this old and even crazier when you try to figure out how hundreds of individuals lived in these little towns. 
When I got back to camp and I was sitting by my campfire trying to figure out how to make a S'more when I had no sticks and it was against the rules to pick up sticks, I decided that I was done.  
I was ready to get back into the real world... well as real of a world you can get back to when you don't have a job and you were still a 2000+ miles drive home.  
but I was ready for showers and clean clothes again. 
And I knew I had only seen the start of what this country had to offer and know that I'll be back to explore the rest someday.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Bryce Canyons, Capitol Reef, and Canyonlands National Parks

You would think that Blogging and going on a solo cross country road trip would have been easier then it was, but there were a couple of key factors in my way
1) the lack of great cell service
2) the lack of someone else driving when I had great service.
At first I would write out post at restaurants when I stopped to get food, but as a solo traveler and as a solo eater you tend to get your food a lot quicker then when you order in a group. 

Then I transitioned into writing post in my tent at night, but that only lasted a short time because I would either be too tired or want to stare at the amazing stars Utah had to offer.

But if you really think about all of this all you have to say is “Kelsey- stop making excuses you have been back in DC for over a month now and haven’t updated your blog since Zion.”
And instead of boring you all with lots of words here is a quick post of three more National Parks and I promise to update the rest of the trip in the coming days.


Bryce Canyons National Park:
I went on what was called was the "World's Best three mile hike." I enjoyed it but it was definitely one of those times where there was so many people around at the entrance and exit of the hike that it took away from the personal victory I was having for finishing. 

I also went on my first ranger talk at this park.  It was about how transportation has changed the way the parks operate... pretty interesting to think that that the first National Parks opened long before cars were invented.  My simple month long journey would have taken years in the 1920's. 

Capitol Reef National Park:

I stopped here because the guy I meet in Washington told me that they have an orchard where you can pick your own fruit.  Unfortunately I was too late in the season, but it was crazy seeing trees in the middle of the canyon walls. 

I learned a crazy amount about myself on the cliffs at Capitol Reef and even if it wasn't my favorite I loved it.  

Canyonlands National Park:

my friend James use to work here and gave me a handful of hikes to go, but more importantly he would describe this place as "heaven on earth"... it was very easy to see why.

seriously, crazy beautiful! 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Zion was my first Utah national park... And let me start these following post by saying "I love utah."

I entered the park through what I assumed was the least popular entrance but it had windy roads and amazing views. It also had a mile long pitch dark tunnel that my desire to take a picture of was taken away by my irrational fear of tunnels.

After entering the park I had two concerns
1) getting a spot in the campground... I was told it fills up quickly
2) my car's brakes started to make a funny noise.

Unfortunately I didn't take a single picture of the drive to the campsite. I was later told that the entrance I came through has a completely different landscape then the part I would explore.
I also assumed I would exit out the way I came in... Again I was wrong.

A happy ending to this story is I did get one of the last campsites. It wasn't ideal and it was close to the visitor center which meant a lot of foot traffic... But I did get full cell phone service.
The next morning a family of deer scared me to death when they decided to have breakfast behind me and I was unaware until a random fellow camera got out their camera and took a picture.

To explore the majority of Zion they make you take a shuttle around. Shuttles in the parks are pretty common Yellowstone, Yosemite, and the Grand Canyon all had them.
This was my first time taking it and I absolutely loved it. I didn't have to worry about the dreaded parking and it was easy to hop off and explore a section of the park on your own.
Half of the reason I loved this park so much is because the crowds weren't crazy and I didn't feel like I spent more time waiting/driving then exploring.

I heard two older ladies talking about how they hated the shuttle... How it takes too long.
Obviously they have never lived in a city and depended on the bus to get around. The most I ever waited was five minutes (if that).

I hoped off the shuttle four different times. I was planning on just taking it for the loop drive and wasn't planning on hiking so I just wore my regular tennis shoes.

The first stop I immediately regretted the lack of hiking boots because I found a "secret" trail and walked right down a valley in-between two canyons.
I got off again at the turn around point for the shuttle. I wasn't planning on it and actually sat in my seat until the driver turned off his engine. This area was crazy busy and I had no desire to walk down the busy trail... But I did and it ended where the canyon walls meet and with water streaming between them. I decided to join the brave handful of others and take my shoes off and explore the waters path way.

It was AWESOME and one of the perks of my trip. I didn't care that I didn't have water shoes on (if anything this was a point I was happy that I just had my tennis shoes and not my heavy hiking boots).
If I ever go back to Zion I'm going to attempt the 16 mile "narrow" hike that leads you all the way down the water. (I'm pretty sure I'll have to learn to swim before then).

The next stop was a small little hike that lead to "Weeping Rock" a spot where water mets through two rocks and it appears to be "weeping"
Here I also witnessed two foreign men put hairspray in their hair. They were doing this national parks thing all wrong.

The finally stop I decided to explore were the emerald pools. There was three of them and it stated that it was about a mile hike to the first one and .8 miles and .something miles to the last one.. Totally doable.
I got up to the second pool and thought the incline and elevation was going to kill me. But I needed to see the third. And then I had my first hiking fail. I realized the time and that it was past seven and I knew the sun sets around seven and I was at least a mile from the shuttle... The shuttle that stops running at 8:30.

So I immediately turned around. (I never made it to the third pool.. I was probably super close) and not thinking I decide to follow the sign to the "grotto." I had no idea where the grotto was or if it was close to a shuttle. I just knew I recognized the word.
In reflection I should have just retraced my steps and headed back the way I came. But what's the fun in that?

On this hike I accidentally saw the sunset and it was the fastest I have ever walked a mile with elevation change. (Also the one time I did not have a light source on me).
I made it to the shuttle and felt like this hiking fail lead to a mini-hiking victory.

When I got back to my tent and explained my hiking fail/victory to James he encouraged me to go on a five mile hike the following day stating "the kolob canyons is one of my favorite hikes." (he apparently has lots of favorite things to do in the national parks.)

Five miles seemed crazy to me at the time but I finished it with no problem.
At the end of the hike there was a Double Arch Alcove and it was well worth completely the hike to see.
the bright colors were absolutely crazy beautiful.

I think Zion will always be one of my favorite parks because it made me realize the joy of challenging myself when I'm hiking.
Also making me realize I enjoy having little hiking victories. (especially when there isn't anyone else around)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Grand Canyon

I arrived around the area on a Saturday night (always breaking my 4:00 o'clock rule) and the campground was full... But it was also national lands day which meant that the established national forest campsite I decided to camp at was also free!
*technically you can always camp in national forest for free if you care to live without a toilet and don't mind just parking your car on the side of a gravel road and picking an un-established spot. (I do not care to do that... But someday when I go camping not by myself maybe I'll try it)

My campsite had vault toilets, assigned spots, tables, fire pits, and places where you could fill your water bottles up.
I actually had a rookie camping moment here where I wasn't paying attention to where I was going and hit my toe on a rock... I was very concerned about a bear attacking me bc of the blood... But as with everything I'm still alive. (And my sister showed very little concern when I sent them a picture).

The next day I paid way to much for McDonalds breakfast (I figured I deserved it after the toe thing) and headed into the park.
I got a nice camping spot by the east entrance and went off exploring.

The sites were obviously amazing and it is the one place I had memories of learning about in school... But it was crowded and unless you wanted to hike down the canyon there wasn't much else to do.
And I wasn't going to hike... If you hike down you have to hike back up. No. Thank. You.

So I spent some actually time in the visitor center and watched the videos they provide for the first time and after that I decided to do laundry. (Real exciting I know... But it needed to be done)

Then I made dinner and got a spot on the canyon to watch the sunset.
And that was AMAZING! Everyone should see the sunset on the Grand Canyon once in their life. (Preferable not by yourself and without a couple talking behind you)
But even with all of that it was worth it.

varies grand canyon pictures! 


As soon as I entered into Nevada I realized my mistake... There was so much more to Cali that I wanted to see. But I reminded myself what the old man at yellowstone told me "you're young you have plenty of cruises in front of you."
I have the rest of my life to explore Southern California.

I also really just wanted to avoid Death Valley at this point I did not trust my car and had no desire to drive through a place know as "death valley."

After a quick text to my friend James he asked if I was close to two places in Nevada... And I was only close to the one: extraterrestrial highway.
He actually texted me right when I was deciding what route too take. So I decided to drive down the road next to Area 51 where people report all the time of weird stuff happening... Yes I did this by myself knowing that I was probably going to end up on the 5 o'clock news. I even told James that I was going to blame him if my car broke down.

I'm obviously still alive and I saw nothing weird and nothing weird happened to me. (Sad I know).
They had a neat little sign and a box where you could leave letters to the aliens... I only took a pic, sadly I didn't think to write a letter.

Overall the drive was pleasant... No curves, no mountains, no people, etc... The way driving should be.
Well without those darn open range cattle.

After seeing only one camping sign from Yosemite to Las Vegas I decided to stay in a hotel and while I was sitting in the parking lot of a holiday inn on the outskirts of town I decided to check hotel rates on rooms actually in Vegas. I found a cheap one (the cheapest I have paid for a hotel room on this trip) and booked it.

Vegas was great in theory: cheap drinks, live country music, and I made friends with a young couple from Las Vegas and an old man in a cowboy hat... And that is all I want to remember about that place.
Vegas was way too busy for me and all around it is the one regret I have on this trip (well so far).

Also I lost $25.00.. Lame, super lame.
And I didn't eat at a buffet. Double super lame.

The *cough* next day I headed out I see the Hoover Dam. I saw it once when my older sister Kassie got married but wanted to refresh my memory about the place. Sadly all I did was take pictures... The tour cost money and I didn't really care to re go on it. But I should probably re-thanks my aunt and uncle for taking me there the first time.

Sunday, October 14, 2012



I like when you register for a campsite for two nights in a row.. It just leaves you with a feeling of no worries. It will be there when I get back and I don't have to worry about setting it up when I'm done exploring.

I was headed to Yosemite valley first. I drove around the lope they have and snapped one too many photos. No real hiking just short little cement covered paths... But like all national parks it was still beautiful.

This was my first time seeing gigantic rock walls... I'm not sure if that is the correct term, but who cares.
After walking around and spending twenty minutes trying to find a trail that turned out to be a stream ( pause for judgment) I went up to glacier point.

To arrive to this place is a serious of curvy roads that drop of into nothing-ness... (I could once again vent about Yosemite drivers but I won't) and lead you up to one of the most magnificent views ever.
I mean ever.

After the traditional glacier point view I headed on a trail that literally lead up to the top of a big rock... I finally understood the "go climb a rock" bumper stickers.
but more importantly I was beginning to learn the excitement that comes along with pushing yourself to a limit.
I had no idea what would be on top of that rock... All I knew is I wanted to be one of those tiny ant sized humans on the top. Sure it was tough and my body wasn't ready to climb it... But I needed to do it

The view from this rock was absolutely amazing and one of those places you could just sit forever... Everywhere you looked you discovered something new. Awesome.

After that I headed back to my campsite, gathered a bunch of sticks, started a fire, and enjoyed the night.

That night I had no idea where I was headed the next morning... I had been living with out service on my phone and couldn't remember if I planned to head more south or if my next stop was Las Vegas / Hoover dam?
That night I didn't care. I was going to live life in true road trip fashion.

When I woke up for some reason I didn't want to explore California any more and I followed the road out of Yosemite the eastern route to Nevada.

Also I paid the most for gas inside Yosemite park... At a rate of $5.00 a gallon. I only put $20 in and the next time I saw a gas station it was the closest I have ever let my gas tank get to E... Don't tell my dad