AUTHOR: CHRIS MASON…
Recently we spent almost a month in the United States. This was our fourth visit to the US since 1988 (with kids/without kids) but nearly all our destinations on this trip were new to us.
I had no expectations, these were places on Stephen’s bucket list. We started off overnight in San Francisco. The next morning we travelled on the ‘Californian Zephyr’. This train goes all the way to Chicago – we travelled a portion of around 6 hours to Truckee, California. After disembarking we found there was nobody home at the car rental office (uh-oh) but managed to get our hands on another car and spent the next 3 days in gorgeous Lake Tahoe – where boatsheds are not just for boats – they’re for entertaining on the lake!
Next stop was Denver, Colorado where we spent 3 days and we welcomed our USA friends. Activities included ziplining (so good) as well as hiking in 10,000ft elevations – making the smallest incline feel very steep indeed. Time to head North to Mount Rushmore, South Dakota. this time with our Aussie friends. This was my foray into driving on the wrong side of the road (I’d avoided it on previous trips). South Dakota is beautiful but in some areas there’s just nothing except flat boring plains with the odd two-horse town.
Mount Rushmore didn’t disappoint, it was awesome to see the fab four Presidents – George, Thomas Theodore and Abraham in all their Granite glory.
Another two more days driving – but so many sights along the way including ‘shooting us some guns’ in Cody, Wyoming (home of Buffalo Bill) – we reached Yellowstone National Park. Our accommodation was just outside of the park in Montana. For those of you who have not been to Yellowstone, it is actually an active volcano with geysers aplenty spewing water and gas high into the air, with hot crystal clear iridescent lakes and pools. I had no idea how amazing this massive park was going to be with its animal residents – Bison, Bears, Bighorn Sheep, Bobcats, Mountain Lions, Mountain Goats, Elk, Moose – the list goes on. In fact, one evening we were caught in a ‘traffic jam’ trying to get out of the park by a herd of Bison simply refusing to move off the road – what fool would argue with them? Then there’s the massive canyons and thundering waterfalls – a surprise around every corner it seemed. This was truly the highlight of the trip thus far.
A few more days driving and we entered Utah where nearly half the population is Mormon and home of the most famous of all Mormons – Donny & Maree. An overnight stay in Salt Lake City and we set the sat nav for Moab, where the landscape turned red and rocky. Moab is the kicking-off point to Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. Over the next few days we explored via Hummer, hiked for hours and cruised up the Colorado River. Again there were so many WOW moments. This was ‘big sky’ country – the biggest I’ve ever encountered and the mercury was soaring.
Time to make our way back to Denver. En-route we spent two nights near Vail, Colorado – the famous ski resort town to the rich and famous. No bargains in the shops here but a very pretty town. We did a two hour horse ride through the Colorado Rockies – the highlight by far being Stephen’s dismount and attempt at walking afterwards (hmm is he in his 50’s or his 80’s?).
So from Denver we flew to Kauai, being the northernmost island of Hawaii and by far the most laid back. Highlights here included a Hawaiian Monk Seal joining us on the beach – virtually us and the seal on a picturesque beach. We hiked the Na Pali coastal track, in very muddy and slippery conditions but well worth it. Then there is the massive Waimea Canyon – the ‘Grand Canyon of the Pacific’ – which made helicopters look the size of mosquitos.
A month on and a total driving distance of around 5,000km, we agreed it was one of our best trips to the amazing US of A, the country that really does have it all.
This article appeared in our October 2017 newsletter.