As a teenager, I got to do a number of hikes (back then, there wasn't a geographical constraint on high adventure activities--we drove from Texas to either Colorado or Utah for high adventure) which ended up being backpacking trips in the mountains and desert. The Uintas, the San Juans, and Coyote Gulch in the Escalante Canyons region of what's now the line between Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. This cemented what was already there--the fact that I love the outdoors, particularly if it's in areas with dramatic and beautiful natural scenery. The final transformation into a hiker was nearly complete--but it had to wait while I did other things (go on a mission, go to college, get married, start having kids, start a career, remember how much I missed hiking and backpacking, start trying to figure out how to re-equip myself and plan some trips, all around an increasingly constrained schedule and budget, etc.)
So, I hope that this trip will sow some of those same seeds that were sown in me as a kid. And if they don't, really, well--at least I'll still enjoy it, and everyone can say that they saw some iconic parts of the country.
Here's the tentative itinerary, as it stands right now. Each item on the list stands in for a day of the trip.
- Leave work early, drive to Wisconsin Dells.
- Noah's Ark waterpark.
- Drive from Wisconsin Dells to Mt. Rushmore (probably arrive too late to see it--it's a 10½ hour drive.)
- See Mt. Rushmore (quick and dirty; not much hiking.) Go a little bit out of our way while heading further west to see Devil's Tower National Monument. Maybe just do a drive-by? Maybe go see it. Depends on the time. Again; go a bit out of our way to drive the Beartooth Highway on the way into the Yellowstone area.
- See Yellowstone Falls and some other TBD Yellowstone things to see.
- See Old Faithful and some other geysers, the Grand Prismatic spring, and other TBD locations in Yellowstone NatPark.
- Drive to Grand Teton National Park (2 hrs.) Take the shuttle boat across Jenny Lake. See Cascade Canyon, Inspiration Point, and a few other locations. I know, I know, it seems like a real shame to breeze through here. But doing a full Teton Crest Trail backcountry hike for 4-5 days or so is on my list to do in the next few years anyway, so I can get away with it now. Take the shuttle back and go see the famous barns and stuff on Mormon Row.
- Take a good 4½ hours or so to drive to Salt Lake City. See Temple square, the Joseph Smith building, and other stuff in downtown SLC. Hit up Mr. Mac's to outfit Spencer for his mission (he should have his call in hand long before this trip starts.)
- Drive to Provo. Hike up to Timp Cave National Monument. Go see Bridal Veil Falls. Wander around BYU campus and the bookstore. Maybe hike up to the Y.
- Go to church with Julie's grandfather and visit with him. Maybe see some other Provo things that have sentimental value. Go do the Mirror Lake scenic drive in the afternoon, if time.
- Drive 3 hours to Goblin Valley State Park. Hike the hoodoos a bit, then go to the Wild Horse and Bell Canyon loops--a nice hike through a great slot canyon. The kids'll eat up the concept of a slot canyon. After this, drive to Moab (1½-2 hours.)
- See some areas near Moab--hike to Fisher Towers, drive to Dead Horse Point, maybe do either (or both, if time) Horseshoe Canyon or the La Sal scenic loop drive.
- Arches National Park. One of the few that you can pretty comprehensively see in a single day if you get going right away.
- Drive 2 hours to Cortez, Colorado. See Mesa Verde National Park. Pick two iconic hikes to two cliff dwelling locations--Cliff Palace and Square Tower House, probably, and then see if there's still time for any more or not.
- Drive 3 hours to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Spend a few hours there. Start driving home (22 hours worth, so day fifteen--however much we can get done, and finish the rest on...
- Finish getting home. It'll probably be really late after a super long driving day, so we may crash completely without even unpacking the car.