It's pretty surprising just HOW easy and cheap it is to pack up your car and take off on a road trip through the United States.
No wonder why droves of Europeans fly over here during the summer, rent an RV and just take a tour of all of our National Parks. What is more surprising is that it has taken me over 15 years of wishing to finally just DO IT! I always thought that leaving the country was the only way to have a truly exotic adventure, but oh how wrong I was!
As a destination photographer, it’s rare that I ever have two weeks off in the middle of my busy Summer wedding season. Whenever I have time off my first thought is always,
what country should I go visit?
Instead, I realized that there is so much of my own country that I have never seen before. I never have time off during good weather, so I felt I had a rare opportunity to go see Utah, Wyoming, and Montana in one, long, epic road trip.
With zero hotels or campgrounds booked, no idea of where the road would take me, I brought just my bare essentials to pile into my car: my camping gear, photography equipment, great music, some fun costumes and props, and a great travel companion, Sarah Natasha. It turns out that these are the only things I needed to bring to have an amazing, epic adventure, and the photos to prove it!
We began our trip driving from Los Angeles to Zion National Park. We secured the last campground, googled the best hike to go on and discovered a hidden gem in the Park called "The Narrows." The Narrows is deep within the canyon of Zion National Park and you have to take the shuttle from the visitor's center to get there. The hike itself gets its name because you are hiking along a river and then the two canyon walls get so narrow on either side of you (about 20 feet wide) that for most of the hike you are walking through the river itself.
We wore just bathing suits and had our camera gear in a waterproof backpack and we splashed through the canyon hike for hours, stopping to swim and take hilarious videos and photos. It was the perfect kind of hike to do during the hot afternoon sun. After the refreshing hike, we made it back to our campground, missing the heat of the day and settled in to grill our dinner and camp out.
The next day we took off again to hit the town of Moab, which is the epicenter for visiting Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Petrified Forest National Park, and Deadhorse Point State Park. Not to mention there is every adventure activity to do there from riding ATV's to white water rafting.
Moab is such a cute little town with an actual nightlife and people come from all over to backpack and discover the glorious, unique landscape by day, and drink in the bars by night. We opted to go to the most famous of all, Arches National Park and to drive through Monument Valley on the way there. The landscape of Utah changes so quickly as you are driving. Just as quickly as the desert turned into mountains and rivers in Zion, it turned back into
We opted to go to the most famous of all, Arches National Park and to drive through Monument Valley on the way there. The landscape of Utah changes so quickly as you are driving. Just as quickly as the desert turned into mountains and rivers in Zion, it turned back into desert and then into bizarre rock formations and arches dotting the horizon.
We found out a lot about the geology of that area. That the landscape used to be the bottom of an ocean, then the waters evaporated leaving a huge salt bed, that over millions of years had silt and sediment deposited on top of it from the rivers of the Rocky Mountains.
All of that weight made the salt unstable and it pushed up all of these rock formations, which the wind and sand eroded into the arches you see today. It's quite amazing to even imagine all of this when you are standing in this alien landscape. Sarah and I made sure to do a photo shoot in every national park we came across, even though it was about 110 degrees at Arches while we were there. You could honestly spend a week there and not see everything the Moab area has to offer.
Sarah and I were obsessed with the abandoned train cars that we saw along the way in the desert. We would pull over, scale the barbed wire fences in our costumes, and do a photo shoot every time we came across one.
There is something so lonely about these train cars, sort of a glimpse into the excitement of discovering the wild west in the past. In our own way, we were rediscovering the wild west for ourselves and I realized that there is still SO much land here in the United States. For as crowded as this planet is getting, you can still drive for stretches of 7 hours and not see a living soul.
After Arches, we drove up towards Deer Valley outside of Salt Lake City and decided to camp for the night. The landscape drastically changed again in one afternoon from scorching desert to lush mountains and valleys. A moose, my first sighting of one ever, ran in front of our car and it started to get me excited for the wildlife I was about to witness in Yellowstone National Park the following week.
Sarah and I had a decadent dinner that night by our campfire. We had been able to stop by a Whole Foods near Deer Valley and picked up some gourmet groceries. We grilled zucchini, portabello mushrooms, asparagus, had quinoa and even ate gourmet smores made from oatmeal graham crackers, vanilla bean marshmallows, and dark chocolate...Mmmmmm.
The temperature dropped to a comfortable 70 degrees and the sky was filled with stars. That night may have been one of the best meals of our trip and it was so simplistic, just us two by the campfire under the night sky telling stories. I wondered why I hadn't ever done this earlier.
Let's continue on to Part-2-Wyoming.