I recently came across a meme that said, “My friends don’t ask ‘how are you?’ they ask ‘where are you?’” which could not be more fitting for my life these days. Gone six of the last seven weekends, I’ve been on what seems like a nonstop whirlwind tour of the west. While I can’t wait for the ride to continue, here’s a quick recap of my very excellent adventures so far this summer.
Return to Moab
I’d been mesmerized by Arches National Park before, but this Moab trip offered entirely new surprises. A weekend adventure for my friend’s birthday, we took some fun yoga pics at Canyonlands and found an incredible hidden campground on Kane Creek Road (behind the McDonald’s). On the complete opposite side of town from where everyone else stays, the drive entailed a harrowing canyon road along Moab Rim Trail, almost less scary in the dark since you can’t see just how steep the drop-off is, but the payoff was more than worth it. Along the route there were a few cave retreats built right into the red sandstone, which would make for a unique getaway sometime. In addition to the land activities, this was also the first time I’ve ever gone whitewater rafting with just a group of friends winging it on a boat and no official guide. While it was a lot more chill, our booze cruise was a little stressful as we were crunched for time and didn’t really know how to estimate current speed.
A Taste of New Mexico
When a group of Gociety friends decided to drive eight hours to Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico, I wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity to check a new state off my list. The dense forested drive was rather treacherous at nighttime as animals surprised us at every turn — and we saw everything from cows crossing the road (so many dad jokes…) to porcupine and too many deer to count (I also had my first much too close of an encounter with a rattlesnake on what was supposed to be a lazy afternoon nap…). Regardless, the area is one of the most exceptional concentration of pueblos in the American Southwest, chock full of ruins and petroglyphs. Not much of a history buff, I actually found the dark sky program more fascinating. One of the best places in the world to see the night sky open up under a sea of stars, we attended a free astronomy seminar to scope out the planets and Milky Way. It was cool to get away for a day or two, but I feel like I still need to experience Albuquerque, Taos or Santa Fe to get a real taste of New Mexico.
South Dakota surprised me the most; as it’s a state you don’t hear much about. Despite being two states away, it’s only a five-hour drive from Denver (which is even closer than Moab!). Second, most of the adventures and attractions are conveniently clustered into the southwest part of the state so you can see a lot without a lot of drive time. The verdant Black Hills and Custer area offer plenty of opportunities to play, from traditional outdoor pursuits like rock climbing and mountain biking to more unique activities like cave exploration. The highlight was no doubt the scenic helicopter flight over Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse in a pimped out all-glass chopper that looked like it was straight outta M.A.S.H. I loved it so much I returned a month later to camp out at the Badlands.
There’s something to be said about touristing in your own state, and whenever someone comes to visit, I quite enjoy playing tour guide (especially if they’ve never been to Colorado before). I typically take people down the scenic I-70 mountain drive, but this time, we headed to Colorado Springs to hike Garden of the Gods (big mistake on a holiday weekend) and to raft Royal Gorge, once the highest suspension bridge in the world. While I’d been down this river before, it’s one of the most fun whitewater trips you can take — and seriously raging.
Arizona Heat Wave
I’ve been to Arizona plenty of times, but in the winter. It’s hard to know how to pack when the weather report discloses it’s going to be a sweltering 118 degrees. After a few epic shots at the picturesque red rocks of Chapel of the Holy Cross and a Sedona wedding (complete with chickens, peacocks, yard games, and some serious barbecue), the rest of the weekend was spent chillin’ by the pool because there’s not much else to do in that heat. Hot damn Phoenix.
Have ya’ll been on any summer adventures yet? What do you have in the works?