Heya! I’m writing you from back home, where I’ve hit the couch pretty hard since my return. But, it’s been weighing on my mind to put an update out, to detail the fun stops I made along the way.

With new company bringing along newfound energy, I shot back down Idaho to see some familiar (to me!) sights in Utah and Colorado on my way back East.

It feels so great to bring someone along for the ride, to point at something and say, “See! It looks so much better in person than in photos!!” Because truly, pictures do not do the scale and grandeur of all these sights justice. So, I headed back down to Zion National Park, where they’d recently done away with the shuttle ticketing, thankfully for my impromptu ass.

I found myself in the span of a weekend embarking on hard hikes I’d gasped, “Never again,” on prior. But, heart-warmingly, and surprisingly, I found a strength within myself that I had not had before, and had nurtured along the way on this trip. Dare I say, I ended this trip in better physical shape than I had when I had first ventured out?? (No matter, whatever progress has been quickly abandoned once home.)

That said, we hiked Angel’s landing trail again at Zion, which was still just as exhausting at the switchbacks, and just as harrowing at the hogsback. I declined to complete the whole hogsback and opted to just do a portion, as the sky soon opened up with a torrential rain that made the steep terrain slippery and treacherous.

On this occasion, the Virgin River was absolutely full of muck and silt, leading to less-than-gorgeous views which differed from those I saw prior. But, the squirrels were still out in full force, begging for treats and attacking random passerby.

It was just a short skip over to Bryce Canyon National Park, where we took in the great sights with the setting sun.

We also checked out the nearby Mossy Cave area with headlamps, but found it to be lackluster at best.

We backtracked and headed South, hitting up Belly of the Dragon, a local slot canyon-like cave running under the road, first thing in the morning.

Next we stopped at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes, a State Park boasting — dare I say — orangey? — sand dunes. They were pretty expansive, and the day was already getting pretty hot, so it was a short stop.

We were passing through Kaibab National Forest into Northern Arizona, and my travel partner had never seen the Grand Canyon, and so, despite my opinion of it being lackluster, we stopped at the North Rim to give him a treat to view the much-famed sight. The North Rim is much less developed, so it was easier to get in and out, and a bit less crowded. We hiked the short Bright Angel trail to a viewpoint.

We kept driving East, passing the Vermillion Cliffs again and then passing over the Navajo Bridge, which I swear I’ve been over at least 8 times this year. That said, the river this time, like the Virgin, was also deeply muddied and brown.

We stopped at Horseshoe Bend outside of Page, Arizona, where tourists were bustling about despite torrential rain and harrowing lightning and thunder cracks that made the person selling tickets remind me that they do NOT offer refunds or readmission and that us seeing the sights would be at our own risk. OK. Well, thankfully, it passed through fairly quickly.

Another trip up the familiar roads through Monument Valley and a zip past Goosenecks and Moki Dugway — can you tell where I was headed? Yup, up North again, after a long drive in another thunderstorm, we overnighted in Moab.

Though I’d been to Moab with this friend before, on my first trip there, in fact, three years ago, we had never been to Arches National Park together. I took great pleasure in showing him around, and hiking back to the familiar spots.

We also hit Canyonlands National Park again (of course, how could you not) and did some hikes around the rim.

This was a short stop, and we headed East out of Moab through Castle Valley on the way to Grand Junction, Colorado.

I got some work done and we continued East, and were held up because a large portion of I-70 was closed down. So we had to take a more unconventional path through Colorado, but thankfully so, as this allowed us an impulse stop at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

How freaking cool! Definitely a national park that goes unmentioned often, but certainly worth the stop and some hikes.

A few days of work and a long-ass drive East later (seriously driving through Kansas and Nebraska always feels like it takes several years off my life), we made a next stop in Nebraska. Lincoln Nebraska’s state capitol building is probably one of the coolest I’ve been to, and offers a complimentary guided tour. Best yet, there’s corn hidden in, like, every design in the building. Check it out.

We were on a food tour, grabbing some local Runzas in Nebraska, almost like a baked stromboli with ground beef, onions, and cabbage inside. And then zipped over to Chicago to get some deep dish pizza. We also made a stop and took a dip at Promontory Point.

Continuing East almost relentlessly, we decided to stop at Niagara Falls State Park, somewhere I’ve heard a bunch about, and am close to geographically, and of course never made the trip to. Until now. I suited up in a rain poncho and even so got absolutely soaked on the Maid of the Mist tour. But it was 100% worth it. There are just waterfalls galore there. Absolutely and completely worth the stop and price of admission.

We kept going East, making another stop at the Finger Lakes area in upstate New York. We hiked Watkins Glen State Park and saw some more waterfalls and a bunch of really cool geologic erosion, and then grabbed some wine and ice cream along the way with a short stop at Lake Seneca. We also made sure to make a stop at Ithaca Falls Trail, and an absolutely dope local farmer’s market.

And then…! I returned home! It was an amazing homecoming. I almost couldn’t believe it. I got back and clutched my best friend for dear life. And then unloaded the Prius — amazed at all that I could need to survive for five months was this small amount in this car. Here’s my final organizational setup for your perusal, before I deconstructed it and moved back into my home —

I’m back! And doing well. It’s taken me so long to write. I’ve been extremely busy settling back into work, home life, taking care of my health, and also having a little fun here and there, visiting some local sights and attractions, and also partaking in a locally-treasured music festival.

Rest assured, things are going great. I will post an update soon with the details on my trips as I’ve kept good records of the numbers and all that. So expect a summary soon 🙂

My favorite thing about travelling so extensively is — leaving for this long period of time allows me to miss home, and to enjoy coming back to it. By the end of this trip, I was fantasizing about my couch, my Xbox, showering on demand, spending time with loved ones, and having a certain steady routine for work. Some of that you just can’t get on the road. I love my home life. I’m very glad to be settled back into it. That said, my heart is recovering just enough here to once again desire to venture out. Soon.