U.S.A., this land is your land
Our readers share tales of their rambles around the world.
Who: Kelly Atkinson (the author) of Fairfax, Va., and her friend Martta Howard of Austin.
Where, when, why: National parks have always been high on my list of travel destinations. In the spring of 2014, I made plans withmy best friend to visit Utah’s section of the Grand Circle, which contains America’s largest concentration of national parks. We
visited Zion, Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef national parks, Bryce Canyon, and the Natural Bridges National Monument, with a stop at the end at the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam. We began and ended the trip in Las Vegas, putting approximately 2,000 miles on our rental car and walking approximately 200,000 steps.
Highlights and high points: All of the parks we visited are along the Grand Staircase, which contains various layers of exposed sedimentary rock that stretch from southern Utah to the Grand Canyon. I was fascinated with the change in landscape as we visited each park— from Zion with its lush canyons carved by the Virgin River, to Bryce with its valley of spired hoodoo rocks, to Canyonlands features, which were carved by the Green and Colorado rivers.
Cultural connection or disconnect: During our visit to Bryce Canyon, I noticed the large number of visitors from both Europe and Asia. I commented on this, andmy friend pointed out that people from foreign countries visit our national parks because they are a uniquely American phenomenon. While Americans are fascinated by cathedrals and castles in Europe, our visitors are fascinated by our expansive and wide landscapes that have remained largely untouched. This gave me a greater appreciation of the parks and a resolve to see more of them while they still remain.
Biggest laugh or cry: The most elusive experience of our trip was the hunt for a slot canyon. On our way to Bryce, we planned to visit Buckskin Gulch, touted as the deepest, longest slot canyon in the Southwest. After walking in the sun for about a mile, we reached an approximately eightfoot drop into the canyon with no guaranteed way to return. Rather than take the plunge, we decided to not push our luck and returned to the car. Our second attempt was a scheduled tour of the Fiery Furnace in Arches National Park. Despite a 15-page itinerary and months of planning, we missed the scheduled tour by one day. There is always next time!
How unexpected: I was most surprised by how few arches actually exist at Arches National Park. Inmy mind, I was picturing miles and miles of arches. Although the park has more than 2,000 arches, we were able to see only a handful. Fondest memento or memory: I came back with a greater appreciation for this country’s national parks, which are truly national treasures. We returned with our friendship intact and a renewed urgency to add a national park to all of our future trips. We have a trip scheduled to Michigan’s Isle Royale next July and to the Mountain West Loop (a 1,777-mile route through six western states that includes Yellowstone and Mount Rushmore) and Montana’s Glacier National Park in the summer of 2017. To tell us about your own trip, go to www.washingtonpost.com/travel and fill out the What a Trip form with your fondest memories, finest moments and favorite photos.
Kelly Atkinson andMartta Howard’s trek included Zion National Park. Above, stunning view of Zion Canyon from the Kayenta Trail.
Martta Howard, left, and Kelly Atkinson saw the eerie hoodoo formations of Bryce Canyon.