Our Road Trip through the US National Parks

IT WAS FINALLY HERE!!! Jeff and I always wanted to take a road trip throughout the US to see places together we haven’t been to as a couple.  Flying is fun, but you miss out on all the ‘in-between’ spots.  Hence we decided to plan a road trip.  At first, we had originally planned to drive all the way to California and down the coast, but soon realized with everything we wanted to see, that added time would be a little too much to jam into 2 weeks of travel.  Sorry Cali, you will be another trip, hopefully soon! 😉

This #chicagomural stop was a must before we headed out on our road trip adventure. Jeff and I learned about #vivianmaier and her street photography years back when her work was displayed at the @chiculturcenter and I immediately became obsessed. If you haven’t heard of her or seen any of her work, take a minute and google her.

Better yet, check out the @netflix documentary #findingvivianmaier ? ~


After moving to #logansquare and finding some of my favorite murals in the city, I learned about this art piece by @kobrastreetart and set out to find it. Vivian’s candid/lifestyle photography is awe inspiring and gets me excited for when I travel myself. What will I find and capture in a new city? ?? ~

10 STATES | 12 DAYS | 4,364 MILES – That was our total and the end when we arrived back in Chicago.

(Although technically after visiting the Four Corners Monument, we stepped in New Mexico…so actually 11 STATES.)
Welp, we went and we SAW!

The #lizandjeffroadtrip of 2017 was AMAZING and now I can’t wait to share with you all some of our favorite moments of the trip…

(Images taken on both iPhones and my Canon camera.)We tried to take a car selfie every time we crossed into a new state. 🙂Welcome to Minnesota, where the Jolly Green Giant lives in Blue Earth, MN.As we wanted to get to our first stops as soon as possible (The Badlands and Mt. Rushmore), we drove straight through to South Dakota where we ended up catching the end of the most amazing sunset…I can’t make up these colors! <3When we woke up the first morning it was a little cooler out and EXTREMELY cloudy.  We didn’t want to rush to the Badlands or Mt. Rushmore if the viewing capabilities were off, so on our way we spotted this 1880’s town and stopped in.

They had a whole movie display of Dances with Wolves and I totally geeked out! LOVE that movie!Flat land as far as the eye could see.  It was peaceful in a way.After traveling back to 2017, we made our way towards the Badlands and thank GOD the sky starting clearing up!Just in time for our arrival, the weather was PERFECT! Blue skies, fluffy clouds, and sunshine.  The cool thing about the Badlands is how you have no idea what is there until you walk up close and look down.

(Jeff was a trooper on this trip for how many sites we visited with great HEIGHTS!)

This was only day 2 and I couldn’t stop smiling these amazing views!Wildlife in the road…of course we were one of those people slowing down to get pictures. 😉You could spend a few days in total walking along all the trails and exploring, but we stayed for just a few hours.This was VERY HIGH UP!  Just Jeff and the Badlands. <3Thanks to all of the nice random people we met along our way who took pictures of us together.  One of the main thing I noticed right away, and then even more so with all of the National Parks, was how peaceful they were.  Even with tourists, it was so quiet.  You could only hear the wind when you stare out into the horizon.  It was a nice break from the busy city life.On our way out we saw lots of little dirt piles in the ground and cars stopping on the side.  Then I saw this little guy! He came right up to us! There were a TON of prairie dogs everywhere just watching us watch them…and hoping they would get food.When you are driving on 90 West, you see a TON of advertisements on billboards for Wall Drug.  So naturally we had to stop in and check it out. We went, we walked through, and we left. Busy tourist little town, but not really a ‘must see’ in my opinion.

Thanks for the bathroom stop! 😉OFF TO MT. RUSHMORE!!!

“The purpose of the memorial is to communicate the founding, expansion, preservation, and unification of the United States with colossal statues of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt.”

Gutzon Borglum

It was a pretty cool site to see! And they had trails all along the foot of the mountain to explore.  Complete with Mountain Goats.Next up : CRAZY HORSE MEMORIALAbove picture of the sculpture = what it will eventually look like

Below picture outside = what it currently looks likeKorczak Ziolkowski started this memorial after he was invited by Chief Henry Standing Bear in 1947, and the first blast was the following year.  Ziolkowski’s entire family (including 10 kids) helped throughout the years to create this great monument, and still work there today.They aren’t sure of when it will be completed, but I’m not sure it will be in our lifetime. Would be cool though!Of to Wyoming to camp and visit Yellowstone for the FIRST TIME EVER!We stopped along the way to Yellowstone a few times with all of the gorgeous scenery we passed.  Driving through the Bighorn National Forest was beyond breathtaking.I was so happy with these views and we hadn’t even made it to Yellowstone yet!WE’RE HERE!!!YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK!!!Driving through to get to our camping location, there are so many trees gone from fires. It was really sad.When you spot a Game of Thrones Raven on your way to camping…good luck?The drive through Yellowstone to get anywhere is pretty long, but at least the views are worth it!Our campsite! (The only thing we reserved ahead of time for this entire trip).As soon as we set up our tent, we headed out to see some of the MANY stops Yellowstone has to offer.

First one : Old Faithful Geyser

We got there right as it was finishing up its most recent blast.  Such a cool site!  We got coffee in the Old Faithful Inn and explored a little before heading back to camp to eat and relax.As soon as we pulled up to the campsite, we saw people gathering nearby and then we saw, who we lovingly called Buffy and Wingy, the buffalo! A kid nearby said one was standing right in front of our tent earlier! YIKES!Our first night camping was…not going to sugar coat it here…FREEZING!!! It got down to 32 degrees and it drizzled a little bit.  But we had a fire, hot soup, WINE, and our warm sleeping bags, so all in all it wasn’t too bad. 😉Good morning from Yellowstone at Bridge Bay!  I am now officially obsessed with coffee made with a percolator! So good!After some warm oatmeal and coffee, we headed out to explore Yellowstone…AND DID WE!This was hilarious! A Buffalo was walking directly in front of the oncoming traffic like he was leading the way.

We were joking like they plan it that way each day…’He Bill, it’s your turn, go annoy those drivers today and walk slowly in front of them for a bit.’

LOL!Geysers and hot springs were EVERYWHERE in Yellowstone.  This one was called Dragon’s Mouth Spring…because if you stood and listened, the water crashing and the hot boiling actually sounded like there was a dragon in the cave breathing.Some of Buffy and Wingy’s friends I suppose.Then we made our way UP to see the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone with it’s breathtaking waterfall.As you have probably noticed and will keep noticing, no picture I take on this road trip does any of the views justice.  You really do just HAVE TO SEE IT IN PERSON!  This view made my jaw drop.  IT was so cool!And then we made our way to the top of the waterfall to see the area where it crashes down.It was so amazing!!! Jeff got this picture of me sitting on the edge watching…making him VERY nervous.  But I would never go too far. 😉We saw a LOT of Buffalo throughout our time at Yellowstone…and LOTS of people stopping to get a closer look. I think it’s a little crazy to go down this close though!A little hike and we found another waterfall : Towers in the Air.

I swear, I need to go hiking more to get in shape! This park was kicking my butt!Next up : Mammoth Hot SpringsIt was a busy town area with lots of tourists. Great lunch stop! Then you walk up and around the boardwalks surrounding the springs.


Grand Prismatic Spring : so many colors! You walk along the boardwalk (don’t fall in!) and get tons of different views of rainbow colors all inside the actual springs. It was chillier the day we went so we got lots of steam coming off them.
These boardwalks made me so nervous when I saw kids running around.  It was pretty narrow and you do NOT want to fall in!Can you spot Jeff? 😉We felt the water before leaving.  It was as warm as bath water!On our way back to the campsite, we stopped for some firewood and enjoyed the forest views as we got closer to sunset.Our 2nd night camping was a lot better than the first.  The sun was out and the temperature was much warmer.  Great way to end our time at Yellowstone.I still can’t believe we drove around the entire Yellowstone map that day!A warm fire, a bottle of wine, and star gazing with my Jeffrey  = PERFECT NIGHT. <3Coffee, Jeffrey, and Buffy the Buffalo. Good morning!“Hey Jeff, let’s go hiking up Elephant Back Mountain before we leave Yellowstone, It will be great!”

– neither one of us checks the trail map –

“Ok, let’s do it!”Almost 2 hours up and back to the car hiking UP and DOWN VERY steep and narrow pathways, and we both were thinking, “WE ARE NUTS!”  Then we got to the top and got this view and it was all worth it. That was EXTREMELY tiring! But hey, it was ELEPHANT back mountain. We HAD to do it, right?! 😉Leaving Yellowstone, we drove through the Grand Teton Mountains.  THESE had both of us in awe!  They were huge and endless.We drove through Idaho pretty quickly before entering into Utah on our way to the Grand Canyon.  Open lands as far as the eye could see.

Thank God we filled up with Gas before leaving Yellowstone!Do we look tired???This is why you take road trips – to see views like this!!! Just a random area in Utah driving through the night and this amazing sunset is to your right. <3

(This is now my current desktop background on my computer!)Just before you enter Arizona from Utah, you drive through Kanab, UT.  I would recommend stopping at the Rocking V Cafe for lunch.  SO SO GOOD!!!Peace out Utah, hello Arizona!!!More open roads, and pretty scenic stops.WE MADE IT!The GRAND CANYON baby!!!Thanks to the couple who got one of the both of us! 🙂So we didn’t exactly PLAN this camping site.

We didn’t exactly reserve anything.

As we weren’t 100% sure what day we would arrive, we decided – THE NIGHT BEFORE – to call and see if any sites were available.  The operator told us there were a few walk-in first come first serve sites so we could most likely try that.  We drove up to the North Rim camping site and I explained we were walk-ups hoping that there might be a site available.  The woman explained that someone had come just 10 minutes prior asking the same and she turned them away because they were full.

BUT THEN SHE CHECKED AGAIN

“Well, would you look at that, they canceled.”   – she said surprisingly.

I yelled for Jeff to come over and she handed us our ticket for 1 night of camping.  I couldn’t believe how lucky we were…and then we drove up to our spot…

It was PERFECT!!! More space and even quieter than our site at Yellowstone.  Talk about luck!After we set up our tent, we drove down the street to the North Rim lodge where I got to witness the unforgettable view of the Grand Canyon for the very first time.

I cried guys! I was so taken back at this view, and if you haven’t been…put this on your list for sure!We spent the evening walking around the edge of the canyon taking it all in and we couldn’t stop smiling. 🙂Welp! We made it!Can you tell I’m excited?!We then got to watch the sun set over the canyon sitting in lounge chairs with a a drink in hand.

This was AMAZING!Before heading back to make dinner at the campsite, we hiked to the edge of the path where people were climbing up EVERYWHERE.  Jeff was extremely nervous but he did great. 🙂No fence guys! NO FENCE! I can’t believe people walk over there at night!But then when we looked up and saw the stars above, we thought…well maybe we SHOULD go over there at night!So we took a flashlight and walked the north rim edge to the lodge to see the milky way!!!!

WHAT?!?!?!?! This was amazing! AND we both saw a shooting star! Come on! Good morning from the Grand Canyon!

How about some coffee and pancakes! 🙂We explored all around the North Rim near Angel’s Window the next day and saw where natives lived down below so many years ago along the Colorado River.Can you see me all the way over there???We saw Vishnu Temple and Wotans Throne…and of course more people with iPads asking to take their picture. 😉

Why an iPad????We finished the day with what I THOUGHT was the least rigorous trail on the map…High hopes we had….high hopes.Not even 5 minutes in and all you smell is poop…and then you see it…EVERYWHERE.  We picked the mule trail where people ride mules up and down the entire mountain to the bottom and back…and that narrow trail we are walking on? Ya that’s full of good ole fresh and big POOP!We saw the mules come up twice past us…which was cool…but soon after we made our way back up and ended this smelly adventure.

HA!

People can hike all the way down to the bottom of the canyon on this trail, but they warn you to allow at least 7 hours to do so.

NOPE!Back to our campsite for hammock swaying and wine!We were once again extremely lucky to get another night of camping because of a last minute cancellation.  I swear, we won the camping site lottery or something!

So for our last night, we hiked over to the lodge, grabbed some dinner, and watched the sunset one last time over the canyon.

<3 <3 <3Before leaving, we decided to make one last stop our way out : Point Imperial, the highest point on the North Rim.

And the morning views did NOT disappoint!Goodbye Grand Canyon!

Off to Antelope Canyon we go!We waited a WHILE to see Ken’s Tours of Antelope Canyon, but it was so worth it!

The funniest part was the time zone switch.  Where Jeff is standing is an hour ahead of where that red truck is parked to the right.

Seriously!

You have to make sure you have your reservation time correct of you could miss it!It got close to 100 degrees that day in the sun!

We followed our group and tour guide to the 5 staircases leading down into the canyons below.As soon as you get down there, everyone is looking up and taking pictures…The colors and views were out of this world!Our tour guide kept asking for my phone to get pictures of the sites he knew about…

The Starry NightThe Colorado MountainsThe SeahorseAnd then he showed us how you do a Panoramic photo with…um…running. HA!This was BEYOND worth it, and if you can make the trip out towards Page, AZ one day, DO IT!!!We got into Colorado pretty late that night…because of our long wait at Antelope…so we woke up the next day and drove over the the Four Corners Monument.

It’s a little out of the way, but hey, when will we ever come back here?

4 states at the same time : New Mexico / Colorado / Utah / ArizonaWe did it! 🙂Off to Boulder for our last big stop to visit my family!We made it to Boulder just in time for the eclipse AND my niece’s 10th birthday! It was on the same day!We spent the whole day reminiscing and relaxing with family. A perfect ending to our long trip.On our way home we binge listened to LOTS of podcasts :

 – LORE

 – The Way I Heard It with Mike Rowe

 – Off The Vine with Kaitlyn Bristowe

 – Real Time with Bill Maher

And we got to see one more epic sunset!“All journeys have sweet destinations of which the traveler is unaware. ” – Martin Buber

I wasn’t sure how I would feel after our trip and being back home in Chicago.  But I can tell you now, we are both better people because of it!  We took in everything and I will forever cherish this time with my Jeffrey.  We are beyond lucky to have had this opportunity and to experience everything we did, together.

Thank YOU my sweet Jeffrey for making this trip one I’ll never forget and always dream about.  I’m forever grateful for you!

<3 <3 <3

Now, WHERE TO NEXT??? 😉

2018 Shoot & Share Contest » Elizabeth Greve Photography - […] ROAD TRIP : “Travel/Landscape” Top 10% – 1 Image – (539/16,373) […]

Pacific Coast Highway Roadtrip » Elizabeth Greve Photography - […] year, we traveled West to the US National Parks.  We wanted to add California to that trip but just couldn’t fit it in.  So this year, we […]

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