Continuing with our theme of travel in the United States, which by the way is the second most-visited country in the world, we bring you a post by Liz Froment from Two Weeks to Travel. Photos like this remind us that we really have to get out and see more of the western USA, especially the national parks.
I guess I should be semi embarrassed to admit that I hadn't spent much time in the Western part of America.
Growing up on the East Coast, I'd hit up all the 'hot spots' on the left coast, LA, Vegas, Phoenix (is Phoenix a hot spot?) and beyond the occasional airport layover hadn't seen much else.
So, when I got a email in my inbox from one of those 'members only' sites that offers really great hotels at really great prices and Aspen was on the list, I jumped at the chance.
Since I was heading out to Colorado on a solo trip, I planned to spend some time driving around the state seeing a national park or two. Since I'd always been in awe of the beauty of the amazing National Parks in the west, I knew I had to visit at least one.
On my second day in Aspen as I was lounging around after dinner I decided to figure out what park I could get to. I had Arches stuck in the back of my mind, I knew it was right over the border in Utah, and since I was at least halfway across Colorado, how far could it be?
Uh, yea, far. Another thing about growing up in New England, you forget how tiny your states are. Arches was out of the equation for this trip. But, it was Google Maps to the rescue!
I plugged in Aspen and then zoomed in. Since I am not at all embarrassed to admit I am obsessed with Google Maps, I know that state and national parks are green. Jackpot, I was surrounded, literally: Arapaho National Forest, Gunnison National Forest, Grand Mesa National Forest. And then what was that just off Grand Mesa, something called Colorado National Monument.
And that's where I went.
Next day, I was up early, packed some snacks and took off in the little SUV rental car the woman at the counter made me get when she informed me that from Denver they did not allow economy cars to drive to places like Aspen due to the steep terrain on the drive. Then she told me Aspen was getting 8 inches of snow that night. Ummm upgrade, please.
So we're off, it was about two and a half hours from Aspen to Fruita, Colorado which is right off Route 70 going towards Utah. One of the things I loved about Colorado was the difference in the terrain. When I arrived in Denver, it was pretty flat, I had always assumed it was right in the middle of the mountains. Then as I drove west, it became rolling hills, then steep climbs. The tops of the mountains were covered in snow, and crystal blue lakes dotted the side of the highway. It felt like I pulled off every few miles to take pictures, even the highways are beautiful! Then maybe an hour past Aspen, the mountains stop and the desert begins, dry with red rocks, with the Colorado River running right beside for most of the trip. I was already in love!
Once I got to Colorado National Monument, I took the scenic Rim Rock Drive, which goes around the upper lip of the canyon and is 23 miles long. There are plenty of designated pull offs and signs for information, admiration, and of course, a bit of photography. This trip was my first with my Cannon Rebel T3.
I caused a bit of a traffic jam at first, when I pulled over about 428 feet into the 23 mile drive to start taking pictures, there was no pull off and it was basically straight down! About a mile up the drive I realized that I was already taking pictures of places that the good folks at the National Park Service didn't even think were that noteworthy!
The park itself is amazing. I could not believe that I'd never even heard about it, the place sort of reminded me of a mini Grand Canyon. Later, I read that many likened it to the Moon, and I could sort of see that comparison. The main site to see at the park is what is called Monument Canyon, it's where some of the more spectacular rock formations live, and is just massive, it runs the entire length of the park.
For the most part though, my words can do Colorado National Monument no justice, and it wasn't until I started showing friends and family my pictures that they were all blown away no one had ever heard of it. I loved that it was such a random course of events that led me there, just another great thing about traveling!