This morning I’m taking it easy. The hike I want to do today is only half an hour driving away, so while the sun is coming up I pack my stuff and clean out the campsite. I drive to Sequoia national park, one of my favorites. It’s still early when I arrive and there are only a few cars in the parking place. I’m happy about that and enjoy my breakfast before I start the hike.
After the usual struggle with packing the tent I drive to the nearby town to go online for a moment and post my blog. The sunrise over the nearby lake is beautiful and I text with a friend back home for a while. When he sends me photo of the cloudy weather in the Netherlands I instantly realize how I’m not missing that at all.
As usual, the alarm wakes me up at 5am and it’s about an hour til sunrise. I get dressed and drive about 15 minutes to a good viewing point of the Grand Tetons. Apparently I wasn’t the only one with that idea, because the place is crowded with photographers. People with big cameras, lenses and tripods are positioning themselves to get a good picture of the sunrise.
For today I have another special thing planned. Climbing the Manitou Incline. I had seen pictures of it online several times. It’s a hiking trail in Colorado, the remains of an old railway (thanks Wikipedia). It’s only about 20 minutes from where Wes and Amy live, so I drive there in the morning, park my car and take the shuttle bus to the start of the trail. At the bottom the climb looks very intimidating.
It’s light when I wake up and I press the button on the car keys to open the back door. I enjoy the cold air entering the car and the view of the now familiar mountains. I stay in bed for a while with the door open. I think I’ll just have a relaxed weekend. Where I’m usually quite focussed on seeing as much as I can on road trips, I want to take it a bit slower this time. While I have my breakfast I talk with the campers next to me named Nicky and Jeff. They’re breaking down their tent and travel to a different place. We have a friendly talk and they give me some tips for places to travel to. You can find friendly people practically everywhere in America.
I wake up happy, not being disturbed by anyone about camping here by the road. I drive to the town of Ouray, it’s very small and everything is still closed this early in the day. When I drive out of town there is a fork in the road. I can continue straight to get out of this area or take a left to go back to Telluride. I stop my car and think for a moment. I have a strong feeling to go back to Telluride and turn left.
At Sunday I get up and start driving around 4am again. I don’t feel like leaving here yet, but I want to be at the Grand Canyon before the crowds get there and it’s about two hours driving from Sedona. Just as on any road trip, there are drives to get somewhere and there are drives on which you really enjoy the ride. This morning is one of the latter and I’m really taking in the moments. I’m thankful that I can be here in this beautiful country. I’m driving with some relaxed music on while I enjoy the scenery. Slowly, but steady it gets light outside and when I’m at a perfect spot with a wide view of the mountains the sun comes up. It’s a perfect drive this morning and I think to myself how moments like these make the long workdays of the past year totally worth it.
When I arrive at the Grand Canyon there is still no one at the gates and no lines, so I can continue driving into the park without waiting. Better than last year when there were long lines of cars entering the park. I want to ride a bicycle today at the Grand Canyon, something I haven’t done before. The bike rental place opens at 8am, so I still have enough time for a relaxed breakfast and to apply sunscreen. It promises to be a hot day again. Just before eight o’clock I get my bike and ride to west side of the canyon. The biking path starts easy, but quickly turn into several hills to climb and go down from. It’s a good workout and I’m happy that I’m so early here, because it’s not too hot yet. I stop at several points to be mesmerized by the amazing views of the canyon. Biking here is a new and different experience than just walking along the rim, because it’s easier to go a lot further. It’s a great way to see more. After about three hours I’m back at the center. Even though I have the bike available for two more hours, I decide to return it now, because it gets way too hot outside. I drive to one of the lodges I know from previous trips to get a snack and a cold drink and enjoy some reading time. There are many rocking chairs and two swing benches, a perfect place to relax.
Since it’s about 37° Celsius / 100° Fahrenheit outside, I’m not gonna do many active things anymore and decide to continue driving in the direction of Telluride, Colorado where I’m meeting a travel friend Ana whom I know from a previous road trip. We’re planning to celebrate the 4th of July together. I make a few more stops at viewing points while driving to the east entrance of the park. Of course a visit to the Grand Canyon is not complete for me without sitting at the edge for a moment and I’m lucky that there is another cool guy named Shaun who wants to take some pictures.
After I leave the Grand Canyon, I take a scenic route via Monument Valley, a famous view that can be seen in many western movies. It’s nice to drive in an area that I often see on pictures on social media and stop to take some pictures myself as well.
When I see that I’m getting closer to Colorado I call Ana to ask if it’s okay if I arrive a day earlier and she replies happily that that is fine and tells me that two more friends are coming. The last two hours of the drive the landscape changes dramatically and the red rocks of Arizona are exchanged by the green mountains of Colorado. When I’m close to Telluride the mountain views are very impressive. They call this area the Switzerland of Colorado and indeed it reminds me of the Alps in Europa. Just before it’s dark I arrive at my friend’s house and it’s great to see each other again after five years. She hasn’t changed a bit and even still has the same car in which she lived for many years. Now she has a house to stay at, which is also nice for a change of course. We catch up a bit and then I’m going to sleep, because I’m tired from the long drive. In just four days I’ve already driven 1250 miles / 2000 kilometers and I’m a bit ahead of schedule which I like. Tomorrow Ana has got to work so I might also do some work and discover the town of Telluride by myself. The ride has gone quite fast so far, but I’m making sure to enjoy the moments fully and I’m happy with all the great experiences I’m having.
I wake up to the alarm clock at 4am, get dressed and drive to the hiking trail, about half an hour from the camping spot. It’s still dark and quiet outside. Also in the town of Sedona everything is quiet. When I get close to the trail’s end, there is a big sign saying that the parking lot is full. I doubt that’s true at 4.30am in the morning and indeed it’s still empty. There are just a few other cars. It’s nice and chilly outside and the first light is appearing at the horizon.
This morning I ask Brittany if she’s up for an early hike and that turns out to be a great idea. It’s still cool outside at this time of the day and we drive to a nature area just out of the city.
During the night I wake up a few times. Partially because of the jet lag, but also because it gets very cold in the car. I’m glad that I bought a little more expensive sleeping bag yesterday. It does a good job in keeping me warm. Still I turn on the heating a couple of times in the night to make it a bit more comfortable. Around 3AM I’m fully awake and can’t sleep anymore. I’m happy to remember that the barista of yesterday told me that the local Starbucks opens 4.30AM. When she told me that I was really wondering why that would be, but now I’m happy that they’re open so early. After I have had breakfast in the car, I walk across the street and get a double espresso. It’s an early start of the day, but I think that’s okay, so I can do a long hike this morning.
After I update my blog and check my e-mail, it’s just about the time of sunrise and I drive to a place in the Rocky Mountains that Chris pointed out to me yesterday. Just after seven o’clock in the morning I enter Rocky Mountains National Park.