This post covers roughly 3,000 miles and six national parks in one week—prepare yourself!
This is where things move into fast-forward a bit. Wanting to optimize my sight-seeing in the short amount of time I had left on the road, I made a lot of quick stops, working mornings but driving afternoons and evenings. After leaving Washington, I started south. On passing back through Oregon, I visited Crater Lake National Park. While snow piled higher than my vehicle lined a lot of the higher elevations, there were still plenty of views of the brilliant blue water of America’s deepest lake situated in the crater of the former Mount Mazama.
Although quick, I put the driving on pause for a few days to stay in a cabin at Lake Tahoe over Memorial Day weekend. Busy but beautiful! Definitely want to houseboat-it-up with some friends here someday!
After Lake Tahoe, I headed farther south, choosing to stay in June Lake, CA—just east of Yosemite—for the night. On the way, I visited Mono Lake, which is riddled with strange formations resulting from high levels of salt that accumulate in the lake.
Yosemite National Park
The next day I was national park-bound! I had purposely avoided this stop during my earlier visit to California because much of the park is snowed shut in the winter months. The roads were clear now, though, and busy with the heavy summer-traffic. I didn’t have many opportunities to stop because it was so incredibly crowded, but I did find one spot that must be over-looked by many, yet provided an expansive view of the famed Half Dome and surrounding wilderness.
King’s Canyon and Sequoia National Parks
From Yosemite, I headed for two more California national parks. While these two are connected, they are quite different in presentation. King’s Canyon is deeply scared from last year’s forest fire, leaving many acres and facilities looking pretty desolate. Quite the harrowing reminder of the after-effects of such an event.
Since I was silly-enough to attempt two national parks in one day, my time in Sequoia was as brief as the intense Generals Highway—narrow, steep grades, and switchbacks for over 32 miles—afforded. Taking the Jeep top off for this one was a must with the red giants looming overhead!
Death Valley National Park
This was my last stop before truly looping back home. I thought I knew what hot felt like, until I stepped out to snap a picture in the 118º degree heat. Needless to say, most of my photo ops were drive-bys out the Jeep window from that point forward. Death Valley is a massive park encompassing some 3 million acres of desolation. It’s also home to the lowest point in the nation, Badwater Basin, at -282 feet below sea level!
From Death Valley, I had plans to pick up my mom at the Las Vegas airport that night. Lucky us, her flight was delayed, and didn’t arrive until the following day at noon! Although this made for a late start, we hit the road quickly, heading back to where this all began—St. George, UT. From there, we journeyed through a great deal of Utah scenery (always rewarding) before calling it a night. The next day, I took her through Rocky Mountain National Park before we stopped for the day at a family-friend’s house from way back (now living in Windsor, CO) for a night of good food and fun!
Sunday, June 5th, marked the final miles on these four months of living life on the road. I’ve covered over 11,000 miles during that time frame. While I’ll be spending the next couple months bouncing between my parent’s house in Yankton, friends’ places all around the state, family events, concerts, and working at the VistaComm Sioux Falls office, I hope to head east sometime in the fall.
Thanks for following along, and I look forward to seeing everyone soon!