So ends my road trip, with my final destination of Boulder, CO. I will miss the West. I've enjoyed the coast, the Sierras, the diversity and openness. I have many wonderful memories, but new adventures beckon. And so I head East.
This is a one-way trip, all 3,491 miles of it. Starting in Palo Alto, California, to Seattle, down through Arizona, and out to Boulder, Colorado. From there, I say goodbye to my trusty Tacoma truck, and fly east.
Petrified Forest National Park, AZ
Just north of Payson, Arizona is Natural Bridges, part of the Tonto Forest. I stopped to explore the massive arch and its fresh water pools. A bit further northeast, is the Petrified Forest. Dating back to the Triassic period (250 million years ago), what is now Arizona was located near the equator. Over many, many millennia, the cellulose structures of these fallen trees were replaced with minerals, creating what has now been exposed in the bizarre, arid landscape. The petrified trees are not the only point of interest in the park, for just a few miles up the road is the old Route 66 and the Badlands - a colored landscape of eroded sand and stone.
Haboob and the Desert
As I was leaving Joshua Tree the next morning, the horizon was obfuscated by a massive wall of dust and sand. Called a haboob, these dust storms can achieve massive proportions, stretching for miles. Luckily, this one was relatively small and cleared after half an hour. What was revealed was a desert in bloom. A variety of cacti were flowering, and I stopped to get a closer look (but not too close) at the cholla cactus, also referred to as the jumping cactus.
Spring in Northern California offers green grass and fields of orange poppies. I couldn't help but stop a few times to capture their display. Driving up the 101 through majestic redwoods, I camped overlooking the ocean and got one last view of the Pacific coastline before heading north to explore the towns around Seattle.
Joshua Tree National Park, CA
East of Palm Springs, Joshua Tree rises up out of the landscapes with rounded boulders and trees that could have been imagined by Dr. Seuss. I opted to camp at a spot called Hidden Valley. Popular with rock climbers, I got one of the last remaining spots, as the sun was dropping in the sky. It proved to be a magnificent sunset, and the stars came out to finish the show.
Southern Colorado, Clothing Optional
The deserts of Arizona and New Mexico yielded to ponderosa pines and snowcapped peaks as I crossed the border into Colorado. The road grew narrow and twisted over mountain passes. Sweeping vistas provided dramatic views of open grasslands and grazing elk. Based on the recommendation of a friend, I camped the night at hot springs tucked into the base of the mountains bordering San Luis Valley. Geothermal soaking pools dot the landscape, along with a sauna and pool. As the hot springs are clothing optional, I don't have any pictures to share (cameras are generally frowned upon). However, I did capture one image of the night sky after the slivered moon had set over the horizon.