It’s always great to spend time at my parents’ place in Denver. For almost two weeks I hung out with my family, ate unbeatable mom-cooked food, caught up on photos, and was generally pretty lazy. Then on the Thursday after Labor Day Marie flew out to join me so we could drive back to California together and check out some interesting places along the way.
Our first stop was Moab, Utah, where for a couple of days we explored the two nearby National Parks – Canyonlands and Arches. Marie was a good enough sport to wake up early with me both mornings to catch the sun rising though Mesa Arch in Canyonlands. The first morning, just as we started out on the short trail to the arch, I tripped in the pre-dawn darkness and fell awkwardly. “Will you put that in the blog?” asked Marie.
From Moab we drove southeast to the Bisti Wilderness in northern New Mexico. I’d been impressed with Bisti when I first visited and was excited to show Marie the otherworldly landscape and bizarre rock formations. We arrived in the afternoon, loaded up our packs with everything we needed to camp that night, and hiked out into the trail-less badlands.
Our first goal was to find a group of improbably-shaped rocks called the Stone Wings. My directions were a little off, but we happened to spot the wings while checking out another interesting formation.
Mother Nature provided a dramatic background for photos by sending an isolated thunderstorm to pass just south of us. The storm even offered up some vivid lightning strikes – one of which I managed to capture hand-held – and then left a rainbow in its wake.
Marie picked an ideal spot for our campsite and we set up our tent. Before sunset we made a quick side trip to check out the Bisti arch (which is much smaller than it looks) and the cluster of rocks known as the Cracked Eggs or the Alien Egg Garden.
Early the next morning we packed up our gear and followed a normally-dry wash back to our car. Thanks to the recent rain, however, the wash was saturated with muddy water. At one point I stepped down onto what I thought was solid dirt at the bottom of the wash, only to have my left leg plunge into thick brown mud. “Will you put that in the blog?” asked Marie when she was done laughing.
About seven hours later we arrived at White Sands National Monument, another amazing place I was excited for Marie to see. One of the backcountry campsites was available, and under the hot afternoon sun we hiked into the dunes to set up our tent.
Around midnight a sudden noise woke us up. “What was that?” I asked Marie.
“I think a coyote just took off with our trash bag.” We’d left half a sandwich in a plastic bag, just outside our tent but still under the rain shell, and a bold coyote had crept right up to snatch it. We followed the coyote’s tracks the next morning, hoping to collect our inadvertent litter, but we weren’t able to find any signs of the bag.
Our next stop was Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona. Marie had visited the Painted Desert on a memorable childhood trip and wanted to see it again through adult eyes. We drove the length of the park and hiked the short Blue Mesa trail.
The next day we headed to the south rim of the Grand Canyon, where we were lucky enough to find an open site at the Desert View Campground. That night under the glow of a full moon we cooked hotdogs over our campfire.
Our final stop was Sequoia National Park, where we paid a visit to General Sherman, the largest tree in the world.
We’d covered a lot of ground in just a week! By the time we pulled into Marie’s garage in Mountain View we were both beat and ready to stay in one place for a while. I still hadn’t decided where I wanted to go next and was looking forward to thinking through all the different possibilities.