Categorized | Travel

Canyon Fever

Posted on 22 September 2008

After pitching our tent in a clearing, I fell asleep under the star-filled Arizona sky. The next morning, I spotted a coyote off in the distance. Not thinking too clearly, I grabbed my camera and followed him. As I snapped a picture, the coyote heard the click. Deciding that I was worth a closer look, he began walking towards me. I was far enough from camp that there was no way I’d make it back running. How did I find myself in this position?

Well, a few weeks previous, with my parents‘ car overflowing with clothes, camping gear, and people, I set out on my first cross-country road trip. I had just finished my junior year of college in Boston, and was on my way to a summer internship in Flagstaff, Arizona. Joining me were three college buddies. None of us had ever been on a trip like this before, and we were itching to see the country. Our main goals were to visit the Grand Canyon and Arches National Park. Other than these, and stops in Buffalo and Colorado Springs to visit relatives, we decided to allow spontaneity to dictate our exact route across the country.

If you’re interested in recreating part or all of Bryan’s trip, try some of these routes for fantastic scenery and off-the-beaten path adventure:

Arizona:
Rt. 160
Rt. 89
Rt. 64
Rt. 180

Utah:
I-70
I-80 (Great Salt Lake Desert)
Rt. 163

Colorado:
I-70 (West of Denver)

New Mexico:
Rt. 180

Nevada:
I-80

Wyoming:
Rt. 296 and 212 (heading into Yellowstone National Park)

Leaving Boston, we traveled to Buffalo to spend the first night with my grandparents. On a whim, we took the next morning to swing by Niagara Falls, as the massive amount of water crashing down over the Canadian Falls is always awe-inspiring.

After the Falls, we moved south, and joined up with I-70 through Missouri and Kansas. We marveled at the way the road shot off to the flat horizon in a perfectly straight line. Having navigated the twisted cow paths that are Boston streets, the difference was startling.

After reaching Colorado, we switched to secondary highways to head into Utah and Arches National Park. The stop at Arches had been planned, and despite the fact that it was off the beaten path, it was well worth the drive. The roads are laid out in a way that allows you to see the entire park from the car, with minimal hiking. Given the short time we had to spend there, this was ideal. Driving from one sandstone arch to the next, punctuated by a few short hikes, we were able to see almost all the features of the park, including the famous house-sized boulders balanced high atop amazingly tall, thin spires. I especially recommend visiting the park around sunset, as the sunlight brings out the many shades of orange, gold, and yellow comprising the rocky landscape.
Now nearing the end of our journey, we traveled to our final destination, the Grand Canyon. While we didn’t have time to do any serious hiking inside the canyon, we drove a good deal of the way along the southern rim, stopping often to take pictures. Unfortunately, this approach does not do justice to the true size and beauty of the canyon, as, from the rim, it merely looks like a postcard. To truly appreciate the canyon, you must spend several days hiking down to the bottom and back. The best we could do was to camp for the night in the Kaibab National Forest that surrounds the canyon on the eastern side.

Enter the aforementioned coyote, which on that morning was slowly inching its way toward me – quite an unsettling sight. He came within 10 feet of me, stopped, and sat down, curiously inspecting both my camera and I. Undoubtedly, this coyote had been fed by people before, and was looking for handouts. But my heart was still thumping as I took several more pictures. Eventually he stood up and left, leaving me with the last of many great memories from a terrific road trip.

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