Chapter One

National Parks are wicked awesome and I’m determined to see them all. I hope by writing about each visit I’ll never forget the wonderful experiences I had with wonderful people! I also hope that by sharing these experiences road trippers and National Park goers will be able to gain an edge when planning fun, exciting and safe getaways! If nothing else I hope you enjoy the pictures.

One more thing, I promise future posts will not have filtered pictures like this does. I couldn’t find many originals but don’t worry it only gets better. I’m almost happy about that fact knowing I’ll have to return!

So began the inaugural trip…

Circa 2013 – About to graduate knowing I’ll have a month off before I start my first “real” job. So two great friends and I decide to set off on a month long road trip to visit a few of the founding National Parks. I really can’t remember spending much time in National Park’s as a child but each time I step outside I grow more and more curious about our lovely planet. After weeks of research and coordinating we had a blueprint! I can’t say plan or itinerary because we figured out most of it along the way. To say the least we learned a lot.

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Here’s the route which we could have made much more efficiently. Sadly we passed Zion without entering along with other amazing places that at the time were unknown to us.

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We also didn’t pack much, mainly because we had a giant 6 person tent from 1970 that took up half the trunk in the Oldsmobile. Yes, I said Oldsmobile!

We took that Goldsmobile (its gold) and first stopped in Nashville, TN but only for a quick bite as we were staying the night with one of our relatives in St. Louis, MO. That next morning we woke up on Anheuser-Busch campus in an old pool table factory, had a fresh Bud then wandered west. Before we entered our first National Park of the trip we made two more stops. The first being in Tulsa, OK to visit my lovely grandparents and the second in Denver to stay in our last bed before spending weeks on the ground.

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Driving through Estes Park gave me one of the best feelings I’ve ever had. We were finally there but our excitement was stopped short when we discovered there were no available campsites and we were not prepared to camp in the backcountry. Lesson learned, go to recreation.gov and reserve a site before you go. Luckily we found a campground near Estes Park and stayed the night before securing a site in the Rockies on the Fall River for the next few days.

I have to admit these first few trips tend to be your typical National Park affair but we had to start somewhere. I also have trouble remembering exactly which trails and sights we encountered but we were happy to finally test our bush craft skills and enjoyed the challenge. What I do remember in the Rockies was driving up Old Fall River Road (pictured below) and wandering to places like the featured photo but what I remember most is how calm and peaceful I felt like at every moment I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I could have just been because I was still adjusting to the elevation and did everything half speed.

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After 3 nights of catching our breath and playing rock games on the Fall River we were off to this giant hole in the ground we kept hearing about. After a long day on the road we had a rare hankering for booze. Funny thing was we stopped in Tuba City, AZ and found out that in the small Hopi Nation the sale of Alcohol is banned. At least that helped us get the early start we hoped for.

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Whenever I hear someone say that was jaw dropping, the Grand Canyon is the first thing that comes to mind. I could stare for days. We camped at Desert View near the South Rim entrance. This spot was cool because we were close to the rim and could forge our own path to find secluded vantage points and the star spectacle was out of this world. To this day I haven’t seen a better light show. There was more time to relax here but a good portion of our time was spent hiking. We walked around the south rim and first took on the Hermit Trail. We probably made it .25 miles down before returning as this was extremely strenuous and we didn’t know what we were doing. We then moved on to the famous South Kaibab Trail (pictured below). The beginning is covered in Mule poo but you’ll be distracted by one unbelievable view after another. You might even meet new friends on the trail like we did!

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This inverted mountain is so special and so interesting. I’ll be back to hike to Havasu Falls, see the North Rim, go rim to rim and paddle the Colorado.

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Next stop was in Vegas to hike the casinos! Curiosity certainly drove us here and as usual we packed in as much as we could and it was crazy. Unfortunately rules state I can’t tell you about it. Just don’t stay at the Circus Circus and for us two nights was plenty.

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After those two nights we were in need of God’s Country, Wyoming! Our wallets were depleted and the drive was long but we were lucky to have a friend in Jackson, WY to hang with. That friend took us rock climbing in the Grand Tetons and introduced us to some cool and talented people! We camped on Shadow Mountain which is probably the best place I’ve ever camped. It’s free and has access to a few trails where at one point we came within 20 yards of a female moose. We were also happily accompanied by one of our new friends who brought lots of wood which was a huge plus. The view of the Teton Range was breathtaking and almost nothing beats waking up to it!

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There’s just something spectacular about Wyoming that keeps me dreaming of wilderness. You can breathe better and there’s natural beauty in every direction. It’s just perfect and the people are too! I found my happy place but we also had Yellowstone on our minds.

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The world’s first National Park? Sign me up! We only saw a sliver of Yellowstone so I have many reasons to go back but man is it interesting. We walked on top of this super volcano and witnessed bazaar geological features like Old Faithful and the Grand Prismatic Springs. Wildlife was abundant and we wrapped up our grand trip where the original idea for the Parks began. We had a long journey back to Georgia but my future became a bit clearer. My curiosity had turned into a dream!

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