America the Beautiful*

September 13, 2020 571 views
*America is obviously up shits creek right now. This post doesn’t comment on all the heartbreaking social, racial and economical injustice going on in the country.


When we landed in Colorado two months ago it was a gorgeous, sunny 34 degrees. Leaving, we’ve seen the first snow of the season and temperatures plummeted to -3 Celsius.

After 6 weeks of hiding out in the Rockies, my hardest attempts to persuade Remigi to stay in Colorado for the rest of the year had failed. Our time was coming to an end and so we thought we would check out the national parks around us before heading back to the East Coast. Over the last 2 weeks we covered 5,550 miles (8930km) and drove through six states. We put a lot of time and effort into planning out how we could visit these national parks safely – we upgraded our car, purchased a car fridge and a heap of PPE gear and prepared to be fully self sustainable for the next 2 weeks.  

First stop:  Hotchkiss (Colorado) 

Day One took us 3.5 hours West from Silverthorne to Hotchkiss. We drove through fields of fresh fruit farms and arrived at our Farmstay. We woke to chickens and roosters at sunrise and would fall asleep listening to cows mooing in the distance. It was a really quick way to switch off from work and just be immersed back into nature.

Our first stop here was checking out Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and WOW was it a sight to see… and a touch uneasy to view – no other canyon in the world combines the depth, narrowness and sheerness like the Black Canyon does.

Day Two: Telluride

Hiking in Telluride had looked gorgeous so we popped it on our agenda for the day. We were up before the Rooster (he had a sleep in), drove 2 hours south and arrived at the cute town center by mid morning. We had a quick (socially distant) look around and then hit the trails.

Day Three: Ice lakes Trail in San Juan County

We had been told that the –thing– to do in Colorado was to conquer 14ers. Unbeknownst to us; we had already done one, and had another on our agenda! It was going to be our last big hike for the trip so we thought we’d make it a good one.

To get to our trail; we first had to travel through Ouray, apparently America’s mini Switzerland. I asked the very proud Swiss National between us (who had planned this trip) if this was planned or just a very strong coincidence. Swiss National says coincidence. Pallaras says otherwise.  Regardless, the drive was petrifying. The roads were extremely windy and on cliff edges with no railings. I felt absolutely sick I was so scared that I couldn’t really take in the view ? Looking back, I decided to google the route we took. We were on US Route 550, often refered to as “The Million Dollar Highway”. It’s also been listed as one of the worlds most dangerous roads. Ok makes sense now. Here are some photos of the road (from the internet) because I was too busy trying to breath. 

But we made it through Ouray and over to our trailhead which started in the gorgeous Mineral Creek Campground. Let the last 14er, begin!

Ice Lakes Trail Statistics:

  • 15.3km loop
  • rated difficult
  • 949 meters elevation
  • surrounded by awesome mountain peaks
  • amazing blue & green lakes, wildflowers and waterfalls

ZION! (Colorado > Utah)

Next National Park on the list; Zion. This one I had been especially excited about. I remember when we first landed in the USA I was looking at all the national parks. I came across photos of Zion and thought it looked absolutely spectacular but then assumed I’d never make it there.

We Packed the car up and we’re ready to rock and roll. On the way, we saw a sign for MESA VERDE – a stop which was on our original itinerary but we had since removed. As we were in the habit of getting up early, we had some extra time up our sleeves so thought we’d squeeze it in.

Mesa Verde National Park (which is Spanish for Green Table) is an area built by the Ancestral Puebloans who inhabited Mesa Verde for more than 700 years from 500 AD to 1300 AD. There are over 500 sites and 600 cliff dwellings and is the largest archaeological preserve in the United States. The most fascinating part was viewing the homes they had built beneath the overhanging cliffs and the elaborate stone communities in the canyon walls. 

Back on track to Zion

Time to get back on track to the 6 hour drive ahead of us. The drive was fairly pretty and we rolled into the park just as the afternoon sun was turning quite golden. We had a heap of Big Horn Sheep grazing by the road on the way in, and as it turns out they are quite small sheep, just with big horns.

Birthday Celebrations in Zion!

The first of September was a perfect day to have Zion National Park all to ourselves. We got a couple of electric bikes and rode around the whole park and stopped off for a few hikes along the way. It was a gorgeous day & perfect way to celebrate Remi’s 33rd birthday! 

Next stop; Bryce Canyon.

35,800 acres of spectacular national park, named after a Mormon settler who built his home near the Amphitheater. It has some of the darkest night skies in the United States and is spectacular for stargazing. “Hoodoos” (to bewitch) are the tall, skinny rock formations that are found in Bryce and are created when different minerals in the earth erode at different times in conjunction with frost wedging. Stunning. Spectacular. Awesome. All of it. So good.

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