We took an adventure through rolling hills, big sky, towering mountains, jagged rock and valleys of wild animals, the whole world turning to fall all the time.
This adventure was our honeymoon.
We're not the kind of people to jet off to a tropical paradise and sip frozen beverages on the sand for a week or two- not that there's anything wrong with that, it's just that after sitting around for a while we both just get a little bored.
We started getting involved in the outdoors about 3 1/2 years ago. For the first year and half that we dated, we did the usual- went out to movies, got dinner a lot, walked around our neighborhood and spent time at a lot of coffee shops. And it was great! I'll never forget those quiet moments and exploration of our city as got to know Seattle and each other, building a little life for ourselves.But as time went on we decided we wanted to get out there and see the wilderness up close and personal.
After that, there's no turning back.
Jump to today and long story short we moved out to a tiny town snugged up in the middle of the big mountains. We can run our spunky dog every day on the endless trails that start almost at our doorstep, whipping up mountains and topping out at 360 degree views, November to June we can trudge up into the backcountry and ski to our hearts content and May through September we can climb the endless rock that surrounds our little town. Never mind the Alpine lakes and rivers.
Simply put there's an endless amount of stuff to do in the outdoors here year round.
So when the time came for our honeymoon, there was no question that we wanted an adventure. After playing with a couple ideas we settled on the best road trip we could think of and decided to do a big west coast/mid/southwest loop- rock climbing in the country's most classic spots and visiting a boatload of National Parks all the way. It was jam-packed. And it was magnificent. And a great reminder that no matter how much I fantasize and dream about far away places I've never been to, America is a truly one-of-a-kind place. A huge country with states differing sometimes more than neighboring countries do, the culture and country we encountered both mesmerized and surprised me. Once we were there in it I felt it such a necessary part of being an American to see the country like this- see what your a part of. It reminded me of Robert Frank and his book The Americans (my favorite photo book of all time), a compilation of a county-wide road trip that he took, covering every state and taking the most summarizing picture of each one.
Below I organized our trip by the places we went. I decided to let the pictures do the talking because, you've really got to see it to believe it sometimes.
A few things-
Animals we saw
Pronghorn. Buffalo. Elk. Mule Deer. A Wolf. A Tarantula and a whole lot of birds.
Environments we saw
Big Sky Country. Rolling Hills. Mountains. LOTS of Mountains. Thermal Geysers. Mud Pots. Ice Walls. Quaking Aspens. Salt Steps. Rock Features. Canyons. Plateaus. Deserts. Ponderosas. Sequoias. Valleys. Yucca Trees. Cacti. LOTS of Cacti. Sandstone. Granite. Waterfalls. Lakes. Rivers. Plains. And then some.
Cities we went to
Missoula. Jackson Hole. Salt Lake. Kanab. Las Vegas. Mt. Shasta. La Pine and a whole bunch of other cute little towns that we didn't have time to fully explore.
Parks we went to
Yellowstone. Grand Teton. City of Rocks. Zion. Grand Canyon. Red Rocks. Yosemite.
Montana & Yellowstone
I've got a deep love and respect for Montana. If you've ever been there, you know that "Big Sky Country," is no joke. The first time I went to Montana I couldn't fathom the reach of the sky. It was like my eyes grew and I could suddenly see more than I could before. Imagine outer space but turn all that space into sky. That's what it seems like to me.
We started off with a long day and spent the night in Missoula to get up early and head on down to Yellowstone the next day. The drive itself is worth going for and I had a lot of trouble not pulling over every 10 seconds to get out and stare at the mountains we were passing through.
And it just keeps getting better.
We camped in one of the only campgrounds left open in October (as it's getting pretty cold this time of year and about to start dumping snow). We saw every part of the park that was open. Highlights being the wildlife of course (the biggest damn Buffalo I could have ever imagined), and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
It really is something else isn't it?
Of course we had to get up close and see (and smell!), the many Geysers and thermal activity of Yellowstone. And boy does that stuff smell....
The Porcelain Basin.
In the words of my husband Jake "Time to get moving."
A word on Buffalo (and Bison for that matter). Absolutely huge and truly majestic creatures I have a whole new found respect for anyone every bearing the title "Buffalo-Rider." I've seen Buffalo before, but the Yellowstone Buffalo are at least 5 times the size of the ones I'd seen. And mighty aggressive at that. I was so impressed and humbled by the mighty warriors I began to think I'd much rather fight a bear than one of these guys. So I looked it up. Sure enough, hundreds of years ago hunters and explorers considered Buffalo more fierce than bears, topped only by the mighty Grizzly.
By far my favorite thermal feature this bubbling mud pot was Angry! It gurgled and splashed making all sorts of a mess.
Grand Tetons & Wyoming
We knew Yellowstone was going to be amazing but frankly we had no idea about the Tetons. Grand Teton of course is a classic climb, so we headed on over to check it out.
The mighty mountain gods paid special attention to these guys. With fiercely jagged peaks slicing straight up into the sky the prominence of this range is excellent. We decided that of all the mountains in the United States, the Tetons are the only ones that compare to our Washington mountains (we've got a little bit of a bias towards our home state).
Up we climbed into the snowy saddle and up the endless boulder field until we hit a sheer Ice Wall. The views were unbeatable as was the company.
We camped near the second biggest lake I've ever seen (next to Yellowstone Lake), Jackson Lake. So big you can actually sail in it. And of course I struck a yoga pose next to the world's most glorious backdrop.
City of Rocks & Idaho
City of Rocks and Castle Rock are a place hidden in the middle of nowhere Idaho that my dad told us about shortly before we left. We were SO GLAD he did. Literally a kingdom of rock formations bursting from the ground, the amount of climbing in this empire of routes is never-ending. In the fall, right when all of the Quaking Aspens burst into glorious color, it's absolutely empty.
Aspens for miles.
Some of the unique rock features.
Heading up one of the multi-pitch sport routes we climbed.
Taking it all in.
While we were in City of Rocks, 7 days after our wedding and a few days into our honeymoon we landed on our anniversary of being together for 5 years. Climbing under the full moon with this guy- I couldn't think of a better way to spend it.
Jake rounding the corner, about to top out on the multi-pitch sport he was leading.
Zion & Utah
I was SO excited to see the desert. Tarantulas and snakes and cacti! I'd never come close to seeing anything like that. The further south we went, the more surprised and awed I was by the changing landscape, and the amount of plants in the desert! Things live there! Lots of things. I know I know all you desert dwellers are like of course things live there! Well I really had no idea the amount of plants and animals.
Like 99.9% of the rest of these photos, shot out the window of a moving car as we sailed through Utah, just outside of Salt Lake.
If you are ever in Utah or on your way down to the Grand Canyon do yourself a favor and stop at Zion. Jaw-dropping walls of white and red, Zion is impressive to say the least. There's no driving through Zion unless you are headed to the visitor's center. They've got it set up so that you hop on a free tour bus that you can step on or off of at any time. An excellent way to see the park and an awesome solution to the mess of cars they used to have jamming up the road each day.
One day we'll be up there climbing those faces...
Grand Canyon & Arizona
The southernmost point of our trip was the Canyon itself. Mighty, grand and too large for puny humans like us to understand. The layers of rock are a map of history. Catastrophic events and eons of erosion, weathering and change on display in the colors of the walls.
The view from the North Rim. The canyon is 227 miles long, 1 mile deep and up to 18 miles wide. The formations rising up from the canyon and the canyon itself are a result of nearly 2 billion years of the Colorado River carving through the landscape. It's hard to believe that Native American tribes lived here for thousands of years.
A REALLY exciting thing happened when we were driving out of the Grand Canyon! We pulled over at a gas station to get a snack and someone told us they had just spotted a Wolf! Right there on the side of the road. We hopped back in the car and sped up to see if we could catch a glimpse of it. Right there not 200 feet away was a full-grown Wolf prancing around in the grass. Nothing separating him or her from trotting right up to our car or the campground that was right around the corner. We figured he was probably loving the Buffalo preserve he was checking out since Wolfs aren't native to that area. It was a very special moment to be able to see.
Red Rocks & Nevada
From the Grand Canyon, we headed up to Red Rocks. Although we found Arizona charming and delightful, Nevada was a grueling 7 hours of nothingness until we hit Las Vegas. After that long on the road we were out of there faster than you can say "two burritos to go please." The noise, alcohol and overall party was a bit too much for us at the time. We arrived at Red Rocks at dusk, the perfect time to take in the crazy carving of sandstone surrounding the park.
Some of the desert plants I was fascinated with. Wild Burros and Desert Tortoises run free here! Although we didn't get the chance to see any.
We camped in the campground just outside of the climbing and woke up early to hit the rock before it got crowded. Climbing multi-pitch on two-toned Sandstone, we saw a Tarantula! My heart almost jumped out of my chest I was so excited.
Sandstone is a whole lot different than the solid Granite we're used to climbing and we got a kick out of the fine grit of the rock, more sticky and gentler than we're used to
Yosemite & California
Yosemite. Many have said it is the epitome of Nature at it's greatest. Ansel Adams. John Muir. It is the home of the world's finest Rock Climbing and the birthplace of generations of the world's greatest climbers. This was the destination of our trip. The place we were heading to the whole time. When we arrived, we knew we were here. We'd found the place we were meant to be.
I really wish I could explain the awe of Yosemite but it can't be put into words. The drive in was an hour of blissful Sequoias, valleys, lakes and meadows. After being in the park for half an hour, a black bear charged right in front of our car and up the hill on the other side faster than I would have imagined a bear can run with all that weight it's got to carry. By the next morning, we'd seen 5 bears. That first one, another that climbed an apple tree for a little snack at one of the campgrounds, a third who got chased through our campsite by a dog, and two baby cubs wandering around the campground with no mother in sight.
After we set up camp and checked out the Valley, we got straight to climbing.
Trad multi-pitch with Jake leading, we climbed some stellar crack climbs. Hand, finger and foot jams somehow perfectly sized for both of us.
One of the great things about Yosemite is how small it actually is. It puts a cap on the amount of people that can be there at any time and we found it far less crowded than Yellowstone, Zion & The Grand Canyon.
Of course one of the things you have to do in Yosemite is watch the world's greatest climbers climb the world's best rock.
There it is. The best rock climb in the world. El Capitan.
Jake was SO excited to be here and to see all this history and rock that we read and watch so much about. We're coming back for you El Capitan. In not too long, we will be up there sleeping on the portaledges.
We took a day in Yosemite to just hang out. It was the one and only day we had the whole trip where we didn't have to drive or be somewhere or climb something. We just walked around, got a hot meal and saw this waterfall.
So in the end what did we leave with? We'll each other. After all, it was our honeymoon =)