Road Trip: Bryce Canyon, UT

As we came up the ridge to the overlook onto Bryce Canyon, I waited for a fire-breathing dragon to swoop up from between the pillars of rock and fly off into the distance. I don't think I've ever had such a strong impression of an alien (in this case, Fantasy) landscape before. Which is probably why I'm so in love with Bryce Canyon. 
Any place that makes me feel like I'm in a fairytale at, I'm a fan of.
Also, can we just talk about how perfectly orange these rocks are? Any place composed primarily of my favorite color, I will also love.
Bryce Canyon keeps hitting the mark for me. 
The brochures claimed that the most popular trail (Navajo/Queen's Garden loop, for those of you interested) is the 'best 3-mile hike in the world'. I rolled my eyes. I think that every national park probably claims to host 'the best' hikes in the world.
Except, Bryce Canyon wasn't bragging. 

No joke, this was the best hike I've ever been on. That's because it was:
-The perfect length. Not so long as to leave you bored and exhausted (especially at that altitude), and not so short to make it feel more like a walk than a hike.
-Always eye-catching and full of viewing pleasures. There was no shortage of cool things to spy.
-Full of things to climb and play on. There were 1489403248932 different little side-paths and boulders and columns and things to explore. And we did. And none of them was disappointing. 
-Easy to get to. Although I appreciate a rugged hike, it's nice to be able to drive just a few minutes inside the park to get to the trailhead. Especially in this heat.

What I'm saying is, Bryce Canyon is my new favorite place we've gone on this trip. Which is good, because you should always end on a high note, sa? This is the last stop on the road trip before our end and retreat back to Washington. I am content.

Have you been to Bryce Canyon before? Were you as smitten with it as I am? 

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Road Trip: Zion, UT

Zion was beautiful, but I feel bad for my inability to fully appreciate it due to my [constant] fear of heights. Most of the hikes required climbing the steep cliff edges - see Angel's Landing - which I wasn't able to manage. We went on a hike through the river canyon, and then a short hike to the canyon overlook. There were a few thunder storms that rolled through the evening, but the morning views were sunny and bright.
Heights and storms aside, it was still beautiful. 

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Road Trip: Grand Canyon, AZ

The Grand Canyon was a last minute addition to the trip. We went. I cried. I plastered myself to a wall. Phil went to the edge. I was terrified [of heights]. He loved it. I cried more. We left. 

Photo documentation of my feelings [of extreme terror - nobody should be that high] at the Grand Canyon. My tears and fears prevented me from getting many pictures, but there was a storm, so it was hard to get good lighting anyways. I appreciate the beauty of the location, but I'm glad it was a side trip. I wouldn't have lasted there much longer. 

PS - it's ok if you laugh at my freak-out. I would too, if I wasn't freaking out. 
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Road Trip: Mesa Verde, CO

So sorry for my lack of communication with you all! I've been without internet for the last week as a result of camping in semi-rural areas. Just know I'm not ignoring your lovely comments, and I'll get back to all of you soon!

So, have I ever expressed my undying love for lost/forgotten cities? Well, the love is real. Maybe it's the sci-fi lover/Indiana Jones/anthropologist in me, but the idea of some long lost city belonging to an ancient civilization being rediscovered is like...the coolest concept ever. I've read too many 'science mystery' novels in which some lost city is rediscovered and some related mystery arises. (Hello, James Rollins). I'm obsessed. [guilty pleasure]
It's been my goal to visit all of the major lost cities in the world at some point in my life. I've made it to Petra (Jordan) and Tikal (Guatemala), but there are [many] left to visit.
Including...one in the United States! Mesa Verde National Park, home of the Anasazi.
I first learned about the Anasazi when I was a child, and have been fascinated by them ever since. The Anasazi were a Native American tribe who lived in these pueblo homes built into the cliff-face of a mesa in southern Colorado. They thrived from 700 AD till 1300 AD when they mysteriously disappeared. They left behind expensive pottery and all sorts of goods, and no trace of where they went or why they left.
A real life mystery.
I like to go the route of alien abduction or some other unrealistic yet highly exciting conclusion. Most likely (as the park rangers told us), it was drought and lack of resources that caused them to leave. My hopes are still high for alien abduction evidence to be found, though...
(PS - you should read 'Phantom' by Dean Koontz for the most entertaining reason I've found behind the Anasazi disappearance). 
Well, Phil and I made it to Mesa Verde, and it did not disappoint. Not one bit. In fact, I'm relatively certain this is my new favorite national park, and I'm on a mission to convince everyone to visit it. 
So, go! Get thyself to Mesa Verde! You will love it. 

Also, we were treated to the absolute loveliest sunrises and sunsets...ever. Top 3 most beautiful. Unfortunately my sunset photography isn't currently up to par (I'll master light metering one day!), so ignore the dark areas and focus on the lovely hues. 

Have you been to any forgotten cities? Which are your favorites?
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Road Trip: Vail, CO (continued)

Oh man, guys. I'm far behind. I've been on like, 5 major adventures since my last post, but I haven't had any internet. 'Tis life. To avoid overwhelming you, I'm just gonna do single posts over the next few days about each of the trips. I'm currently in Utah, on day 28 of the trip (WHOA), but let's backtrack to last weekend and my final adventures in Vail.
As I mentioned last post, Vail is a beautiful mountain town situated in the Rockies, and world-famous for its skiing. Phil went to college in Colorado, specifically so he could be close to Vail for skiing, haha.
I don't ski (yet),  but I'm a huge fan of Vail.
We stayed with Phil's aunt and uncle in their beautiful home, and they were just the loveliest hosts. I had such a good time with them, and have finally met all of his extended family! Woohoo, road trip success! 
Anyways. Last weekend was perfect - we did all the best things, and the weather was lovely. Friday night, we went around Vail Village, which is this European-inspired resort town with adorable boutiques and restaurants. 
Saturday, we woke up, went to a diner (my favorite, of course), wandered around the local weekend market, went on a stunning hike, went to an art festival, and finished off the day by riding quads with Phil's aunt and uncle to the top of a nearby mountain to watch the sunset.
WHEW. I'm exhausted just remembering it all. 
Last weekend was definitely one of my favorite parts of this trip. I can't wait to go back! Although the next time I do, Phil swore to teach me to ski, and I'm more than a bit anxious about that (I have the grace and balance of a gopher). 

Also, possibly the best part of the trip was that on our way back to the house on the quads, a llama on the loose chased us! Hahaha!

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Road Trip: Vail, CO (day 21)

So, for reals. I need to move to Colorado. I'm head over heels in love with this place.
Phil and I are currently in Vail, which is a huge ski area in the Rocky mountains. Phil used to come skiing here all the time when he was in college, and has been raving about it to me since we met.
There's no snow here now, but it's still got approximately 443281538 outdoor activities. Seriously in love. 
We've done lots of things in the area, but today I just want to share photos from the beautiful hike we took. I'm (thankfully) over my altitude sickness - as far as I can tell - so our hike was quite enjoyable and lacked near-fainting spells.
I'm not sure that I really need to describe any of it; I'll just let the pictures do the talking. 

Phil insisted on wearing his cowboy hat from Wyoming. 

If you can't tell, I'm on a bit of a wildflower kick. In love. Have you been to Vail before?
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Road Trip: Boulder, Colorado (Day 19)

Wait...did I miscount? Are we really on Day 19 of our trip? Insanity.
Alas, we have made it nearly a month, and we have about one week left of our trip. It's been crazy and wonderful and I'm so happy we've made it this far. 
We have spent the last three days staying with one of Phil's best college friends in Boulder, Colorado. Phil went to the University of Colorado here (degree in economics, if you were curious), and he's been trying to get me here to show me around for ages. 
We kind of have this joking dynamic, in which we try to 'win' places. Like, who wins the prettiest home town, or who wins the prettiest vacation spot, et cetera. We are just competetive like that. 
So for a while now, Phil has been trying to 'win' best US city, claiming Boulder as his own. I claimed Seattle and Portland, so it's been a back-and-forth joke that this trip would finalize who 'wins'. 
I hate losing, but honestly, I don't mind 'losing' this round. I'm in love with Boulder. I would move here in a heartbeat. 
Everything is so pretty, there are loads of things to do, there is so much sunshine, the Pearl district is perfect for hours of browsing and shopping delights, and everyone is so healthy and in-shape that it makes you want to be healthier too. If I wasn't moving to London, I'd probably be moving to Boulder.

We've spent a lot of time eating out and hanging out with Phil's friends (two of our favorite past-times, ha), but yesterday we attempted to hike the Flat Irons as well.
I say attempted, because it didn't quite work. 
I'm [really] out of shape compared to all the local Bouldarians (Boulderites? Boulderees?), but we hadn't made it very far up the mountain when I could hardly breath and felt like passing  out. I figured...there's no way I'm THIS out of shape. I mean, I workout a decent amount, and we've been on a few other hikes on this trip thus far, and I've never struggled this much. And we were just at the base! 10 more minutes of walking with several breaks later, Phil and his friend realized that I was suffering from altitude sickness. 
Whoops. I forgot that Boulder is already a mile above sea-level, with 15% less oxygen than lower cities. 
We tried pushing on a bit further, but I could hardly walk for 3-minutes without feeling like I couldn't breathe and nearly fainting. Plus, I was close to puking on Phil, which wouldn't have been a cute look for the rest of the way down. 
We decided to turn back and head home, where I slept for the rest of the day to overcome the remaining altitude-related symptoms.
Not the best hike I've ever been on, ha ha. 

This afternoon, we head out for Vail, CO to stay with an Aunt and Uncle of Phil's. It's supposedly even more beautiful than our current setting, so I'm very much looking forward to it. At almost 10,000 feet though, I'm slightly concerned about another bout of altitude sickness. We will see.

Have you been to Colorado? Where are your favorite spots?
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