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    South Dakota, Travel, Utah, Wyoming

    From the Desert to the Black Hills: Part 3

    The second half of my road trip consisted mostly of driving with very little sight seeing. There wasn’t much to see on the roads I took through Utah and Wyoming without going hours out of the way and I was desperate to reach Rapid City in good time. The night I spent in Salt Lake City was awful; the hotel wasn’t bad, but my neighbors didn’t understand the concept of quiet hours and were yelling at each other every 30 minutes as well as continuously slamming the door. Not the hotel’s fault, but I unfortunately didn’t get a good night’s rest. I had a long drive ahead of me to Casper and I was taking a detour to see the Spiral Jetty on the north side of the Great Salt Lake.

    I sjupiter copytarted my drive north and on the way to the Spiral Jetty, I  accidentally ended up at the Golden Spike National Historic Site while looking for directions. It wasn’t part of my planned trip, but I decided to stay a little while since the site did have some unique history behind it. Golden Spike NHS was the place where, in 1869, the Union and Pacific Railroads were joined and the last spike was driven into the rails. During the summer, reenactments of the event are held during the summers on the weekends and steam demonstrations of the locomotives No. 119 and Jupiter are held daily. The locomotives are replicas of the original but are almost exactly the same size, shape, coloring and fully functional like the originals. More information on the site can be found at the Golden Spike NHS website.


    I followed the directions to the Spiral Jetty which was easier than what I expected on the mostly dirt roads. The art piece is by Robert Smithson and used over six thousand tons of basalt rocks from the site. I was hoping for the coiled art piece to be slightly submerged in water but the lake was pretty dry and I was able to walk out on the dried salt bed and among the many rocks. Either way, it was pretty cool to see.

    spiral panoramic copy

    saltlake copy

    The drive from the Spiral Jetty to Casper was 8 hours long and I didn’t have any other planned stops. I spent the night there and got a restful night’s sleep before waking up for an early start to Rapid City. I’ll be honest, I started hating the flat-ness of the plains since I was used to seeing mountains, but I had heard so many wonderful things about the Black Hills and the Badlands that I was looking forward to exploring the outdoors in a part of the country I’ve barely visited.

    I have lived in South Dakota for four months and so far it’s been fantastic. The food, the people, and the sites are amazing and I’ve definitely got more road trips planned out for this new year.

    Arizona, Travel, Utah

    From the Desert to the Black Hills: Part 2

    goblin valley panormanic copy

    Day two of my road trip was an especially long day. I drove a lot longer than I really needed, but the sites and park visits were totally worth it. I will say that Utah has some of the best scenic roads that I had seen in a long time, the different shades of red and brown painting the roads less travelled. The fresh-air smell of the wilderness was like a rush, filling my lungs.

    the candle copyThe first thing on the agenda was the tour of Antelope Canyon, which I had seen so many pictures of but never had visited. It would have been lovely to have gone on my own, but the only way to see the canyon is though a guided tour since access to the canyon was limited. I wish that our guide had shared more history and the spiritual significance of the canyon, instead of the best places to take photos, but it is unfortunately a very touristy spot. From my understanding, older generations of the Natives were bitter on how commercialized the canyon had become with tours offered daily by different tour groups.

    Regardless, the canyon is an absolutely beautiful sight. The best times to go are in the mid-late morning and early afternoon, when the sun beams are shining down through the canyon. Because of my long-planned day, I went to one of the earlier tours, and although the canyon was pretty dark, our guide was kind enough to help me find the right adjustment for my camera, resulting in some beautiful photos.

    monument valley morning copy  dragon eye copy  heart2 copy

    Because it was so close-by, I decided to make a quick stop to Horseshoe Bend, just a few miles south of Page. The name comes from the horseshoe-like bend of the Colorado river on the bottom of the canyon. An easy three-quarters of a mile hike from the parking lot leads you right to the rim of the canyon and it was a site to see.

    horseshoebend copy

    I continued to drive east on Arizona State Route 98 and US Route 163 to get to Monument Valley. It had been years since I first saw it while on a family road trip, taking the 17-mile dirt road through the buttes, the dust, red from iron oxide, blanketing the car in a thin layer of dust. I didn’t spend as much time as I wanted to this time around since I still had to drive to Goblin Valley and finally to Salt Lake City, but I made sure to drive through a few miles on that same dirt road.

    monument valley distance copy
    With a car full of stuff being thrown around everywhere, I was glad to have a vehicle that better fit the rugged terrain of the trail as opposed to some of the other vehicles there. Becasue it was a holiday weekend, the trail and visitors center was jam packed with people, all waiting their turn to see the amazing sites.

    Finally, I started my drive toward Goblin Valley State Park. To be honest, the only reason I know about this place (nerd alert) is because of the movie “Galaxy Quest.” What looked like a made-up place was an actual park with unique rock formations called hoodoos, or the infamous goblins. After braving treachurous one-way roads going five miles an hour, seeing maybe one or two other cars in a period of a few hours, I finally found the park. Well…some road that was blocked off. Of course, I started cursing the fact that I may have spent hours on these back roads looking for this park that I had wanted to see for a very long time. But I persisted, continuing my drive, hoping to find another entarance or road that’ll let me enter the park.

    goblin valley copyAnd I found it! Passing through a herd of antelope, I drove up to the park entrance, paid for a pass, and excitedly drove to one of the main hiking and viewing areas of the park. I was greeted by a formation of hoodoos right at the start, called The Three Sisters, prominately displayed by main road. With only a couple hours of sunlight (and still another five hours until I reached Salt Lake City), I parked the Jeep and took in the view, enjoying these unique rock formations and the sheer oddity of them. Grabbing my camera and a bottle of water, along with the map I picked up from the visitor’s center, I attempted hike one of the established ‘trails’ and ended up getting a bit lost among the many hoodoos. As long as I kept a visual on the parking lot, I was fine and continued my way.

    It was quiet. So quiet. The dirt untouched with the exception of a couple footprints by hikers and animals and I didn’t see another soul for at least half an hour. He was heading toward the far end of the park, insisting on seeing a beautiful and perfect sunset. I would have joined him if it wasn’t for my long drive to Salt Lake and wished him on his way.

    goblin valley1 copy

    After hiking for about an hour, I finally decided it was time to finish my drive for the day. The sun was setting and I had lost an hour when I crossed state lines. Other than getting lost about an hour south of Salt Lake City, the drive was relatively uneventful. I was ready for a good night’s rest for the long drive to Casper, WY the next day.