Our route started in San Antonio and headed west, towards the countless state and national parks that line the New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah state borders. The theme of wide open expanses of desert flatness, earmarked by red rock formations jutting towards the sky predominated and I found myself questioning how on earth these geological oddities found there way to the middle of the seemingly never ending vast empty space.
I distinctly remember coming over the last hill before Monument Valley, and seeing in the distance a mighty collection of Mother Nature’s sculptures. Nothing compares to that range of rust colored formations, so pronounced amidst the flat sand and cacti studded surroundings. We bumped along the dirt road, stopping at each turn out to marvel at the rocks. I love Native American imagery, which applied heavily to this area, as each formation is named for its everyday look alike, such as the famous mittens. Traditional turquoise jewelry was sold at each vista, displayed by beautiful Native American women, with their jet-black hair flowing in the wind.
We also stopped in Moab, Utah, the hub between Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. We have returned to these pristine, yet vastly different parks since moving to Utah, as they each offer a unique experience and numerous hiking trails that can’t be done in one weekend. Moab, famous for its Delicate Arch, displays rock formations that seem to defy gravity. Giant boulders poise like ballerinas on narrow column bases, heavy arches whose middles appear too heavy to stay afloat. The power of water is omnipresent in these parks, as the creator and sculptor of the lines and bends of each piece. Canyonlands is very much a mini Grand Canyon, with deep crevasses carved by rivers with seismic drop offs that cause your stomach to drop. The depth of the canyons contrast with the background of rising mountains, snow capped and magnificent.
Bryce Canyon National Park, though formed of the same red rock, juxtaposes the arches of the Moab area with steeple like projections jutting into the air. The tail end of winter capped each point with glistening snow, stark against the rust of the rock below.
Every American should make the classic road trip along Route 66 and visit the great West. Between tails of the Wild West and Native American beliefs, the desert and rocky vistas of southwestern United States leaves tourists bedazzled by nature’s glory, awed by water’s power, and connected to the previous eras of mankind that have roamed the great frontier. Making our way between parks entailed countless hours of deep conversation, reflection on life’s journey, and all out dance parties. The journey itself was just as valuable of an experience as the destinations.
“Now, on this road trip, my mind seemed to uncrinkle, to breathe, to present to itself a cure for a disease it had not, until now, known it had.”
― Elizabeth Berg, The Year of Pleasures
Not pictured above: Carlsbad Caverns, Roswell, Four Corners, Petrified Forest National Park, Painted Desert, Natural Bridges National Monument, Death Valley National Park, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Lake Powell