After almost two months in Africa it felt great to relax at Marie’s place in Mountain View before hitting the road again. I wasn’t sure when I’d make another long overseas expedition, but the rest of my summer would be full of short trips within the U.S.
Marie had been wanting to take her kids to Yellowstone National Park for years, and in early August we finally pulled the trigger. The four of us flew to Denver, where we spent a couple of days at my parents’ place before driving to Yellowstone.
Despite the oppressive crowds, Yellowstone continues to be my very favorite of all 59 U.S. National Parks. The scenery and wildlife are spectacular, the thermal features are otherworldly, and there’s something tragically wonderful about the park’s location atop a massive super-volcano that will eventually erupt and destroy it all.
After Yellowstone Marie and her kids flew back to California. I wanted to spend more time with my parents, and in just a couple of weeks I needed to be in Aspen to meet up with high school friends, so I stayed in Denver.
The city of Denver itself doesn’t do much for me, but there’s a lot of great stuff nearby. Before heading to Aspen I camped at Great Sand Dunes National Park, took my dad on a road trip to Devil’s Tower in Wyoming and Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, and then camped at Rocky Mountain National Park.
For the second year in a row my high school friend Danny was nice enough to invite a big group of us to spend a weekend at his ridiculously nice place in Aspen. I was especially happy that some old friends who couldn’t make it the first time joined this year, along with almost the entire original group, and it was awesome to catch up with everyone.
Early Sunday morning, worn out and with my introvert battery on empty, I started the long drive back to Mountain View. I made one stop along the way, at Zion National Park, to camp for a night and do one of my favorite hikes: the Narrows of the Virgin River.
The nearly-vertical sandstone walls of the Narrows are breathtakingly beautiful, but the crowds that swarm the river on nice summer days can spoil the experience. So the approach I usually take, which has worked well so far, is to take the first shuttle bus of the day into the valley and race immediately to the Narrows. As the first person in the river I hiked completely alone for two hours and loved every minute of it.
And of course no trip to Zion would be complete without a visit to my favorite tree.