Free in the West

“I breathe in, I breathe out,” Kenny Chesney.

W_RMNP!.jpgIt has been almost six months since we left Florida with a rooftop tent as our primary residence. The plan has been to camp, hike and visit friends and family throughout the U.S. and Canada…plus practice yoga – breathe in, breathe out, be grateful for this trip – as well. We’ve happily accomplished that, traveling mostly in the east. Then, roughly four weeks ago, we headed west. We’re in California now.


When we crossed the Mississippi from Minnesota and got to the Badlands in South Dakota it started to really feel “west.” That’s when we slowed down to visit one National Park after another, making sure to hike daily if we could.

W_ArchesMe!.jpg“What ain’t workin’, what’s still hurtin’…”

While driving we have innumerable music choices thanks to Sirius Radio. Often we go to Kenny Chesney’s “No Shoes Radio.” The theme seems to be exactly what we’re doing on this adventure: travel to new places, experience freedom..let go.

“Now and then I let it go, I ride the waves I can’t control…”

Friends ask about what we’ve seen going west. Here’s a review of sorts:

Craziest Enormous Sandstone Formations – Arches National Park.


There are over 2,000 natural sandstone arches here, and you can drive near some of the more amazing ones with names like Delicate Arch in the east, Landscape Arch in Devils Garden to the north, and Balanced Rock towering over the desert landscape in the middle of the park.


And just a few minutes down the road from the entrance to Arches National Park lies Moab, a cool town where you can get all the necessary supplies such as gasoline (remember there are some big, wide open spaces between available fill ups in Utah) and awesome lunches like the one above. We even did our laundry in Moab. While the clothes were in the wash we walked around the corner to the Love Muffin Cafe. I heartily recommend the Rooster Breakfast Burrito featuring eggs, pork, homemade kimchi, cheddar and siracha bbq.

Greatest Mountain Vistas – Rocky Mountain, Canyonlands, Grand Canyon and/or Zion National Parks.


Many people enjoy the views in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park by just driving Trail Ridge Road from Estes Park to Grand Lake. We camped so we could stay and hike within the park. One tremendous hike was up Deer Mountain (below).


We also did the Lulu City (a transient mining town started in 1879 after silver was discovered here) hike in Rocky Mountain. It’s about eight miles roundtrip. We saw big moose – one came running to me but swerved at the last second, which was interesting 🙂 – and elk (below)…


…and bear. In Rocky Mountain National Park our campsite was even provided with a “bear locker” (below). Locking your food and other fragrant stuff in the car won’t stop ’em!


Quietest Campground and Hike – Horsethief Campground and Canyonlands National Park.


In the campground it was so quiet under the full moon at night I felt bad clearing my throat; might wake up someone in a neighboring tent. During the day on our three hour hike we saw only two guys behind us and one young woman at the end. It’s high season during September at the National Parks in Utah, but the tourists weren’t hiking in the Canyonlands, so we had plenty of time to check out the neighborhood (below).


Zion National Park in Southwest Utah may have been the most impressive of all the places we camped (below)…


…or hiked. We were able to walk to the Watchman trail (below) right from our campground.


Zion Canyon’s steep red cliffs are truly impressive!


And of course, the Grand Canyon’s views – especially at dusk – are mind blowing (below).


Most Unique Museum – Spam Museum, Austin, Minnesota


We actually bought some Spam and made a nice dish (below) at the home of great friends Brian and Pam Isetts in Red Wing, Minnesota. Yes, true, I go all out for my friends 🙂


Best View of Mount Rushmore – Don’t go in.

Sure, you can pay to park in the monstrous garage, or just drive to free locales up and away…and hike among refreshing pines to see the presidents.


Best National Park I Never Heard Of – Wind Cave


In South Dakota’s Wind Cave National Park the elk “serenaded” us through the night. And the sunsets weren’t bad either.  Speaking of sunsets…

Best Sunsets – Badlands and Maroon Bells.


Hiking around the Badlands at dusk, one just feels the energy and senses the people who’ve lived here before.

Colorado’s Maroon Bell’s (and the neighboring peaks) outside Aspen are remarkable anytime, but especially just before dark (below).



Easiest National Lakeshore Campground to find a Site with an Awesome View – Lake Granby, Colorado.

Almost 40 years ago I spent a summer in Granby as a YMCA Counselor, taking kids on hikes in the mountains. Yes, they actually trusted me. The place remains as quiet now as it was then. In the morning we descended the ladder from our rooftop tent to watch the sun come up over the Rockies. While having morning coffee we counted a few sailboats gracefully easing their way across the lake.


Speaking of boats, I’ll leave you with Kenny Chesney singing “Better Boat” (below). I hope you are also inspired to breathe in, breathe out, let go…and enjoy!


Love and Peace,






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