7 Days. 13 States. More than 6 000 kilometers of driving.
It was a coast to coast roadtrip. And it was GREAT!
Just a heads up: This post includes A LOT of photographs. Trust me, I did multiple elimination rounds to end up with this bunch of photos. But there were a lot to choose from. That's what happens when photographers go on a road trip. Also, I like sharing photos. They're my experiences, visual presentations of moments I saw and appreciated enough to capture them. And now I want to share them. That's why I am in this field.
Before the trip I had an idea in my head what it would be like. Driving on an empty highway in the middle of the desert on an old classic american car (preferably red and convertible), a few cactuses popping up here and there, maybe some cornfields and tractors, sunglasses smiling faces and listening to all time classics from the radio.
It was all that (except for the car part, we drove a white Subaru) and so much more. I had no idea of the diversity of landscapes and views I would get to see on the road and how much the scenes would change even inside one state. I knew America was big and had a lot of variety in it's nature and climate, but it wasn't until this trip that I understood how huge it is!
I've only been to the big cities in America (New York, Chicago, Boston, D.C. and now LA) so I had hardly ever seen any nature in here before. I was amazed, I have to say. So many breathtakingly beautiful places, unlike anything I'd seen before, and what I saw was only a small fraction of what is out there.
I knew about some of these great National Parks with beautiful nature, like Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Yosemite, but what I didn't no was that the nature is amazing outside these parks as well. When driving through Colorado and Utah for example, I literally was hanging out from the window for the 6-10 hours we drove a day, just because the views were so cool and I didn't want to miss anything.
We started the trip From Brooklyn New York and drove through Pennsylvania and most of West Virginia on the first day. The second day was THE drive of the trip. 12 hours nonstop from West Virginia to Arkansas. (Passing Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri.) This 800 miles (1 300 km) drive gave us time to explore more on the remaining states, without the trip stretching too long.
Kansas is where our trip really "began" as we started stopping and exploring places we discovered on the way.
My favorite from Kansas was definitely The Sunflower field we stopped at. I've seen a few small, tiny ones in my life, but this was in a completely different category. Sunflowers, taller than me, stretching out to every direction, further than I could even see! You were able to go walk freely in the field, between the flowers, and gaze in their beauty and uplifting yellowness. It was like a thousand suns would be smiling at you.
At the end of the day we got lucky, as we were passing these huge beautiful windmills right when the sun was setting. Just a perfect place to catch the sunset. As photographers, we pulled off from the highway and stopped on the side of a hill to capture those sunset frames.
Other new acquaintance in Kansas was these huge fields of red maize, as a nice police officer informed us. (He stopped for us because he thought our car was broken as we had pulled on the side of the highway to photograph these fields...)
We also tried to find this cool rock formation, but google maps betrayed us and led us to this dead end at the end of a very sketchy off-road.
I think Colorado was my personal favorite state on our trip. We took our time and spent almost two days driving through it. (The pace slowed down quite a bit from driving through 4 states in one day to spending almost two whole days to drive through one.)
The nature in the mountains around Colorado Springs area was insanely beautiful. It reminded me a little of the Alps in Europe. The mountains were very green and foresty, with pretty valleys of rivers, lakes and meadows. I think it was the combination of green and diverse vegetation, rocky mountains and different water areas that made such an great impact to me.
We found out about this "Historic gold mining town", Cripple Creek, that was on our path, so we decided to stop and check it out. What we didn't know was that it was now turned into town FULL of casinos and retired people. (Or at least that's what it seemed like...) Literally every building in that town was a casino. It was very cool looking though, so we strolled through it taking pictures, but decided to continue on and find an other place to stay the night.
Finding that other place wasn't quite as easy as we thought it would be. We were in the middle of the mountains in Colorado: there weren't that many "cities" in there. And we didn't have reception on our cellphones up there. Luckily we had a map. After hitting a few tiny two-houses-and-a-cafe-on-the-side-of-the-road kind of towns, we found a decent sized Canon City. (Where we had breakfast for dinner and free pie!)
We didn't care about getting lost, even if we were starving at the time, because of that we got to see some more cool views and small towns, and even some wild deers that we otherwise would have missed.
From Colorado we continued our trip to Utah, which had the kind of landscapes I had never seen before. Those orange/red rock formations and desert like roads I was expecting to see in Arizona and Grand Canyon. We decided to take the scenic route instead of the highway, which meant a few more hours of driving. It was definitely worth it! Such amazing rock formations that rose everywhere around us. And man it was starting to get hot out.
We planned our route to go through Zion Natural Park. I had never heard of it before and I was completely surprised by the beauty of that place! The views were almost surreal. Almost like I'd have entered a different world. I felt like I was in Avatar. Definitely recommend to visit that place if you ever have a chance. I want to go back there and to hike and explore all the places we didn't have the time to go. The multiple waterfalls they have over there, for example.
Although, definitely the most memorable experience in Utah was camping the night in a tent. We literally just pulled of from the main road and went down one side road for a little bit, put up the tent and stayed the night. It was already dark when we got to the spot, so we didn't really even know where we were. Far enough from any city lights anyways, because that night sky was just BEAUTIFUL. Stars everywhere. So bright and clear. I even saw the milky way with my bare eyes.
I still can't decide which was prettier: the twinkling stars at night or the rising sun in the morning. Waking up as the first sunrays climbed over the mountains, revealing the surroundings of our little camp, is something I won't forget.
After Utah we drove to Arizona, Grand Canyon National Park as our destination. What surprised me was that Arizona was way greener than I had expected. In my mind I had imagined it to be all desert, sand, rocks, cactuses and those dry twig balls they always have in cartoons rolling around. Although, we only hit one northern corner of AZ, I was truly amazed to, at one point, to see vegetation that was just like in Finland. Forests and hills full of spruces and birches. For a moment I could imagine myself back in Finland, driving to my summer cottage.
As we got closer to the grand canyon, the scene started transforming more into the direction I had imagined it to be like. I'm a little disappointed that I didn't see any big cactuses, though.
What I did see instead, for the first time, was a forest fire. Luckily it was just a small one that the firemen had under control. It was still a lot of smoke and tiny flames on the ground. Can't lie, I thought it looked very beautiful.
Grand Canyon instead was, well, GRAND. It was huge! Even driving inside the park from one overlook to another was many kilometers. The view was unbelievable. The abrupt drop down to the canyon made me feel so small and respectful of mother nature. An other place I'd love to go back and explore some more! Sunset over the canyon is something that you definitely need to experience in person. Amazing casts of colors in the sky coloring the whole canyon, and the way in which the lights and shadows played with all the overhangs and crumbles of the canyons walls, as the sun sunk over the horizon, was just mesmerizing.
Arizona was our last passage before California and Los Angeles, so I'm going to finish this post here, as I'm sure, you'll be seeing enough pictures from here in the following two years.
Hope you enjoyed this "Long Road(trip) Made Short" -post :)
P.s. A video from the trip is also coming out soon