Why a National Parks Tour?

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Since my husband and I have returned from our first extended RV road trip traveling from Texas, headed north and west through the northwest states and back, I’ve received the same question over and over. “Why didn’t you go to this, that, or the other place, it’s so fabulous?!” Well. I have only one answer. We needed a place to focus. If we tried to visit all of the places there are to see in a single trip, we would never have returned.

It took us two and a half months to visit all of the national parks in six states, plus a few parks in northern California. We also threw in a few places like the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad Concert Tour, Pike’s Peak, the Royal Gorge, Seattle, Multnomah Falls that aren’t national parks, but we really had to do our best to stay focused on just the national parks as much as we could, or we really would still be out there. Maybe another trip will allow us to spend more time…maybe two or three months in each state…? Now THAT would be fabulous.

If our first pass across the U.S. focuses on the national parks, it should give us a good feel for exactly where we’d like to go back and spend more time. The challenge, then, will be, again, to draw a line somewhere. I know that I’d love to return to every state I’ve ever been in at this point, so how to narrow that down…yikes…maybe we’ll just spend the rest of our lives temporarily living in a never-ending, ever-moving number of places in the U.S. and maybe even abroad. Why not? If the good Lord is willing, anything is, indeed, possible.

Before that decision can be made; however, we’ve visited only 22 of the total 59 national parks in the U.S. A little time does remain to ponder what will come after…

Cheers!

The Things We Collect

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Have you ever known anyone that does not or has never ever collected anything? If you have, I might recommend maintaining a cautious distance, because that is a very unusual person, indeed. Everyone collects something, whether it’s quilts, candles, teddy bears, anything and everything vintage or antique, the list could go on endlessly.

Having recently downsized, my husband and I have seriously limited our collecting activity, but even now, it’s still with us. While he used to pick up any tool or beer stein he ever saw anywhere, now he’s limited himself to things more in line with the amount of space we have available to us, such as his canvas fishing hats. He even picked up one of these in the farthest northwest corner of the U.S. because it was exactly what he likes and he doesn’t ever want to run out.

While I’ve personally pretty much cut out the collecting as well, I did pick up a refrigerator magnet from each national park we visited while we were out and about. And a somewhat unexpected thing took over my brain…go figure…you just never know. During a recent pedicure, I had noticed an option was available to include a hot stone massage along with a glass of wine, and I couldn’t say no. That was the most fabulous pedicure I’ve ever had. So of course this led directly to my collecting the best large, smooth, dark stones from each of the states we recently visited. I picked up one beside a railroad track in Colorado, one beside a river in Wyoming, one beside a lake in Montana, several from the beach in Oregon, and so on and so on. My intent is to add hot stone massage to date night at some point very soon. I’ve been researching hot stone massage techniques. If I can make it worth my husband’s time, maybe, just maybe, he’ll return the favor?

Wish me luck!

Utah’s Mighty Five

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Entering the state of Utah from Nevada’s eastern border, much of the initial landscape remains the same across the border…until it suddenly is not. Utah’s five national parks, referred to as the Mighty Five, spread across southern Utah, highlighting a seemingly never-ending expanse of red rock mountains and canyons. Where rivers and streams run through these red rocks, the water picks up the same red color. When residents use watering sprinklers for their lawns, the water spews in the same red color. If you hike through these red rocks, it won’t be long until a red dust has transferred itself to any clothes and shoes in its path.

This landscape; nonetheless, is breathtaking. Driving through the area, each turn of the road (and there are many!) yields another intake of breath…then another breath held for the unexpected surprise sure to be around the next turn. While all five of the parks contain some version of this red rock backdrop, there are differences highlighted by each. We chose a small town named Escalante as our base camp in Utah, making day trips to each of the parks over the course of six days.

The first park we visited, traveling from West to East, was Zion National Park which gave us our first glimpse into the enormous expanse of red rock canyons and some of the terminology we would become very familiar with as we traveled Utah which is rich in mountains, canyons, buttes, mesas, monoliths, rivers, slot canyons, natural arches, hoodoos, amphitheatres, plateaus.

This led us, next, to Bryce Canyon, which has to be the area that caused my jaw to drop in awe most often in all of our travels. The best way I can think to describe this place is that it’s like seeing a cavern without a roof. If you’ve been to any caverns, you know there are stalactites growing down from the ceiling and stalagmites growing up from the ground. Well, Bryce Canyon is like a place where the stalagmites are made of red rock (or Navajo sandstone) and there is no ceiling. You can openly see the intricacies in the stalagmites, so to speak, and they’re in varying shades of red, white, pink, orange. It looks like canyons and canyons full of intricate and lacy formations made out of rock. It’s absolutely beautiful and special.

Our next visit was to Capitol Reef which is filled with the most amazing and enormous rock formations in all shapes, sizes, and colors. It’s just amazing to me how and why some of the rocks don’t fall right on top of cars as they pass by. They seem to be suspended in space by some unknown force. Pretty unsettling, actually.

The Canyonlands National Park came next which is another enormous collection of red rock canyons and valleys. The main road through the park is named the Island in the Sky Road which makes so much sense after having been there. At one point, you find yourself on the top of a mountain where the canyons have dropped off on both sides and the road curves so dramatically in front and back of you that you can’t immediately see the road either in front of or behind you, so it feels like you’re actually on an island in the sky. Such an amazing feeling of freedom and awe with the beautiful scenery all around.

Finally, the Arches National Park was equally as amazing as the rest. We always tried to sit through the short video the park management had running at the visitor centers in all of the parks we visited so we’d understand what each park had to offer and a little of the history behind them. This one was so interesting as they explained that, depending on when you visit the park, you’ll likely see different landscape because the rain and weather wears arches down until they break, but at the same time, other stones/mountains are being worn down into new arches, so it’s a rotating kind of landscape, very fragile in its makeup.

At the end of the day, although much, if not all, of southern Utah is classified as ‘desert’ territory, it has so much character in the form of its mountains and canyons, I find it hard to think of it as a desert. I stand, as always, in awe, feeling very small and blessed.

NOTE: I did try picking up a rock for my hot stone massage collection in Utah, but ended up throwing it away because no matter how much I scrubbed it, it still colored everything in its path red/orange…just not what I had in mind. Sorry, poor rock.