(Written on Thursday, November 7th at 7am)
Total Road Trip Days: 33
Total Road Trip Miles: 8, 025
We have completed our road trip! We finished a few days early, a few dollars poorer, and with a bit more miles under our belt than expected, but we’re already talking about when and where we can fit in more exploration of this amazing country. When we originally planned this trip, we had picked out approximately 10 destinations that we knew we wanted to visit. Interestingly, a few of our favorite places turned out to be ones that we had never heard of before this trip and that we just happened upon while driving from one place to another. If there is one thing we took away from this experience, it is the overwhelming truth that we live in a beautiful, diverse, and scenic country. It would take more than a lifetime to explore it all, but we are happy that we at least got to see this much of it before heading south.
We left Ouray eager to check out the fancy mountain town of Telluride. When I lived in Summit County, Colorado, Telluride was everyone’s favorite destination, and yet I never got the chance to check it out myself. Telluride is most popular for its endless festivals and phenomenal skiing, but it is also home to great mountain biking, fishing, and hiking. It is not the most accessible town, and locals have to be comfortable with little travel elsewhere, especially during the snowy winter months. After a long drive around the San Juan Mountains and down a riverside road, we entered beautiful Telluride, sitting in a green valley with a backdrop of steep, snow-capped mountains. It is clear upon first sight that Telluride is a town that has some money. I think it can best be compared to Aspen, if not a bit more cozy and quaint because of its size and location. We walked around the main streets of town for a while, stopping into shops and indulging in a morning cup of coffee. We certainly could have stayed longer, but we were looking forward to seeing Moab, Utah (only 3 hours away) and not looking forward to spending more of our South America money. After only a couple hours we moved on, certain that we’d return someday for one of their many summer music festivals.
When we first pulled into Moab, we were actually a little disappointed. Of course the desert isn’t our favorite landscape, but we still expected the town to be more “charming” and “accessible.” We drove around like we always do when we enter a new town, stopping into the places where people look helpful, and collecting up visitor’s brochures and pamphlets wherever we find them. Moab seemed much more residential than we expected, and we were surprised when we stopped at a bike shop that there wasn’t more guidance for us tourists. Where would we find the mountain bike trails? Which hikes should we do if we were only visiting for one day? Well, as it turns out, the required research and discovery was more than worth the effort. Once we did begin exploring deeper, we started to fall in love with the town of Moab and its surroundings. The mountain bike trails were all within 10 miles of town and they were more extensive than we could have hoped. There was the Slick Rock Trail, Porcupine Rim, the Moab Brand Trail network, and still so much more. We’re talking hundreds of miles of trail! Our biggest regret was not having mountain bikes with us and not having the money to rent them. We decided to use this trip as a chance to familiarize ourselves with Moab and check out Arches National Park, while building up enough motivation to last us until we could buy ourselves bikes and go back for another visit.
Our first day in town consisted of making plans and exploring Moab’s “downtown.” We ended up staying at the Lazy Lizard Hostel, which was a wonderful experience in and of itself. Don had never been in a hostel before, and this place gave him a perfect idea of what we could expect for much of the coming year. We met some great people from all over the world, traded travel stories, and even went out to breakfast with a few new friends. Since we only had one full day in Moab, we made the most of every minute. On Monday morning we hiked 4 miles on the Hidden Valley Trail, a local’s favorite that takes you behind the red rock wall that looms over one side of Moab. It was a steep climb up and over the rock, but then it was a flat jaunt through a colorful desert valley. From there we drove out to Sand Flats Recreation Area, where we at least wanted to watch mountain bikers take on Slick Rock trail, even if we couldn’t join in ourselves. We hiked the 2-mile “Practice Loop” which turned out to be a challenging and beautiful hike, and gave us a good idea of what the rest of the trail was like. Next we went back to our hostel for some lunch before driving out to Arches National Park for the rest of the day. This was where we were truly blown away, which we’re finding tends to happen with National Parks. It’s like there’s a reason they are protected and treasured areas! Arches is a very accessible park, with one main scenic drive that goes from one end to the other and offers multiple places to pull out and see any number of brilliant rock formations. We stopped at almost every recommended site, hiking up and around many of the arches, and adding another few miles to our day’s exercise. Our favorites were Balanced Rock, Double Arch, Sand Dune Arch, and Landscape Arch, and since it is truly impossible to describe them in words, I won’t even try. Suffice it to say that if you’ve never been, it is definitely worth the visit. The park almost seems man-made, and it is incredible to think that this amount of natural beauty would be there whether we witnessed it or not.
The next day we woke up excited for a 12-hour drive that would bring us to Lake Tahoe, and to the end of our road trip. Tahoe is the closest we have to a “home” right now, and it feels great to spend some time with my mom, stay in one place for more than a couple days, and take care of some last-minute chores before leaving the country for 10 months. We have 9 days total in Tahoe (now 8), and it feels like just the right amount of time for reflection, preparation, and maybe even a little adventuring. Did I mention that we have access to a hot tub? It’d be hard to leave this place if we weren’t so incredibly excited for South America. Thank you again to everyone who played a part in our road trip and to everyone who finds the time to read through my long blogs and support us from afar. Next stop: Buenos Aires, Argentina!
Here’s a fun list! These are the states that Don and I went through while biking across the country last fall, followed by the additional states that we went through on this trip. Might as well make it a goal to visit all 50 as a couple, right? We’re half way there! Looks like a trip to the East Coast is in order…