Zion and Grand Canyon National Park

I went to a work conference in Las Vegas and decided to get a one way ticket to take advantage of some time out west. After the conference, a friend and I planned to drive to the Grand Canyon, then visit my family in Phoenix and fly home.

Last minute we decided to stop at Zion National Park in Utah. We thought it was somewhat on the way and would be a great spot for a picnic lunch. Boy were we wrong.

I didn’t know how magnificent Zion was and we ended up spending all day exploring until the moon was up.

The park offers a hop on/hop off tram which is such a nice way to see the park! We got off at almost every stop and walked around a bit. I loved seeing the Weeping Rock. We also walked as far as we could into the Narrows before we had to turn around before dark. Trekking through ankle-deep water, the Narrows had me in awe at every turn. I absolutely want to make it back to Zion for more hiking and camping.

The three patriarchs at Zion

Weeping rock at Zion

View of water sprinkling down from Weeping Rock

The Narrows

The Narrows

Super moon above Zion on our way out of the park

We grabbed dinner at a restaurant in the small town where we parked the rental and headed toward the Grand Canyon.

We drove through the dark seeing countless deer which was both amazing and stressful.  We made it to our reserved campsite on the North Rim after midnight and set our hammocks up as quietly as possible.

So, we greeted the Canyon in the dark but woke up to its gorgeous sunrise. Knowing we only had the day and would be heading to Phoenix, we drove our car along the trials, stopping a viewpoints or trials as we wanted.

Again, we couldn’t stay away from the beauty of Mother Nature. We stayed later than planned for the sunset and a couple beers at the lodge.

So that was my beautiful, crazy 48 hours at Zion and Grand Canyon. It was worth it but I wish I could spend more time there.

Have you ever been to either park? What other National Parks are must-sees? Tell me in the comments below.


Top 4 Nature Escapes in Dallas

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I haven’t been up to much besides a relaxing yet fun weekend in Texas Hill Country and an afternoon of kayaking on the Trinity River. The latter is what brings me to today’s post.

I love the diversity of activities Dallas offers, but there are times when I need to escape the city for an afternoon. Here are my four favorite spots (at least so far) where you can enjoy some nature without straying far from the Big D:

1. Trinity River
I’ve kayaked down Trinity River twice now, and it’s such a relaxing day trip that you forget you’re in Dallas. The first time I went with a guided tour group hosted by the Trinity River Audubon Center. This was great because the staff pointed out birds and other wildlife – we saw a beaver among other creatures. It was pricier than going on your own, but well worth having the short instructional session beforehand and hearing the knowledge of our guides during the trip. Then a friend and I went on our own after renting two single kayaks for $40 each from Trinity River Kayak Co. The trip was about 2.5 hours long and the staff was very friendly and helpful.

kayak trinity river

Guided river adventure with the Trinity River Audubon Center

2. Cedar Ridge Nature Preserve
I’ve only been once, but Cedar Ridge is probably my favorite nearby escape. It has the best trails from what I’ve experienced in the area. I mean, there are actual climbs and descents on the trail! If I’m remembering the names correctly, I took the Fossil Valley trail and Cattail Pond trail. There was definitely a crowd there, but I didn’t mind at all. It was about a 30 minute drive from my home in the center of Dallas and well worth it. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any photographs.

3. Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve
To be honest, this park in Plano is what started my quest for finding the green parts of Dallas which in turn inspired Road and Air. There are great trails for both biking and hiking – I mostly stuck to the Caddo Trail. It was just at the beginning of spring so the scattered wildflowers  and butterflies were the most colorful sight against gray sky and leafless trees.


4. Oak Cliff Nature Preserve
I hiked the trails here once after a late and delicious lunch at one of my favorite places, The Foundry in Oak Cliff. The nature preserve was a bit out of my way, but I was so glad I went. I MUST come back with a mountain bike though. My friend and I were the only ones exploring on foot and the trails just looked like so much fun on a bicycle. There are miles and miles of trail, but we just took Loop 1 which brought us to the shrine of bicycles, signs and other objects you see below. It was a fun surprise in the middle of wooded Oak Cliff.

I must stress that this is my “at least so far” list. I’ve lived in Dallas for a year and only recently started to embrace what the city has to offer. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some other gems out there I’m missing. So, please, share any in the comments below.

Two Guns, Arizona - Route 66 Ghost Town

Kicks on Route 66: Eastern Arizona

I’ve always appreciated a vacation where I come home feeling smarter and I had some great history and science lessons on my trip to Arizona last weekend. My dad, brother and I took a two day road trip along Historic Route 66 in eastern Arizona.

I let my dad plan the trip and was just happy to tag along, but experienced so much more than expected from hiking along 13th century homes of Native Americans to admiring 225 million year-old fossilized trees. There’s so much I want to share about this trip that this post would be all over the place, so let me present this to you as a road trip guide for amazing sights you won’t see anywhere else.

1. Walnut Canyon National Monument

We left Phoenix early in the morning and headed north for Walnut Canyon where we hiked the Island Trail and Rim Trail. Be sure to take the Island Trail, you’ll trek up and down hundreds of stairs, but the views are worth it. You’ll walk along several canyon homes of the Sinagua people from more than 700 years ago. Plenty are in great shape and let you imagine what life in the canyon was like. It was a hot, sunny day while we were hiking, but you’ll feel how cool the canyon shelters are and see the thick, black carbon stains of many fires that kept the Sinagua warm in the winters hundreds of years ago.

2. Two Guns, Arizona

Two Guns was as tourist stop that flourished and died with Route 66. It’s now a ghost town off I-40 where you can find ruins of a roadside zoo, campsite and gas station. This was an impromptu stop along the road between the canyon and crater, but fun to explore and photograph.

3. Barringer’s Crater

About a mile wide, 570 feet deep and 50,000 years young, this meteorite crater is known to be the best preserved in the world. Explore the museum onsite to learn about the science of meteorites, but be sure to take the 30 minute ranger tour. The ranger will tell you the story behind the discovery of the crater and its namesake which is just as interesting, if not more, than the science that created it in the first place. The largest known fragment of the meteorite is on exhibit for looking AND touching so…  that’s cool!

Barringer's Crater in Meteor City, Arizona

4. Standin’ On the Corner in Winslow, Arizona

This one is self explanatory if you know of a little band called The Eagles. It took some convincing from my dad, but I’m glad we stopped to strike a pose before we hit the road again.


5. Homolovi State Park

We set up camp at Homolovi State Park in Winslow, Arizona and while the campsites are nothing spectacular, the pueblo ruins are worth the stay and give you first-hand look at the history of this land. Homol’ovi is a Hopi word for “place of the little hills,” and there are two excavated sites you can hike around. It gives you a view at how large these communities were, housing around 700 people, and there are shards of pottery dating back to the 13th century everywhere you look. It was amazing to find pieces of pottery scattered about with different textures, colors and designs (please don’t take any home with you, though!). If you take the rocky hike past Homol’ovi site II you can find some great petroglyphs as well.

We also ran into several critters on our hike near dusk. We saw jackrabbits everywhere, a couple bats, a young rattlesnake and a busy beehive.

6. Petrified Forest National Park

The next morning, we made the drive to the long awaited Petrified Forest, giving us a peek into the environment of the Triassic period. There are several different hikes where you can view the magnificent colors, and sometimes crystals, of petrified wood from 225 million years ago when Arizona was a swampy jungle home to giant reptiles and early dinosaurs.

After the Giant Logs trail just outside of the museum, we took the Blue Mesa Trail, a one mile loop which had absolutely breath taking sites – or maybe the loss of breath was just from the steep climb. I left my camera in the car for this hike, but the trail takes you through beautiful, colorful badlands scattered with petrified wood – be sure to take this trail if you visit the park.

After two full days hiking in the sun, we were exhausted and ready to head back to Phoenix. We didn’t make it to the Painted Desert, another site at the national park. Though, this is a park I would visit again and be sure to explore some other trails next time.

This was a short road trip that I’ll remember forever and has given me an itch to travel more of the Historic Route 66 and nearby sites. I definitely recommend the route above, but feel free to change it up or extend the trip if you can – I’d love to hear about it too. Have you been to any of these places or taken a road trip down Route 66? Comment below!