14 fantastic days of exploring the true nature of the United States.
Hello to all Globetrotters!
I invite you to get familiar with my impressions from the trip, that me, my wife and kids took in 2019, to one of the most charming places in the United States of America. Shortly about us: a happy family of seven and travel enthusiasts from Offenbach am Main, Germany. We are living proof that you can travel around the world even after having kids. We have been to the USA a couple of times before — East Coast (New York, Washington, Miami), West Coast (Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Fransisco) and Hawaii. But never tasted the true American nature in the famous canyons of Colorado and surrounding states. Luckily enough, we were able to book relatively cheap flight tickets from our local airport to Denver, with no transfer flights! Then, just booking the hotel left, oh and 7-passenger van, and dying of waiting for the holiday to come. Interested in how it was?
DAY 1. Touchdown at Denver.
Early morning wake-up. Quick check if everyone is with us since we do not want the scenes from ‘Home Alone’ to happen to us. Departure from one of the biggest airports in Europe — Frankfurt am Main, to Denver. Long — 10h flight by Lufthansa. Arrival in the afternoon local time (around 5:00 PM). Minivan rental. A short and pleasant evening-ride to the hotel near to the airport — Best Western Plus. Kids and wife fall asleep pretty fast. I stayed up longer with my thoughts about the trip. Overall, I was happy — a night in Denver at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. I mainly associated Denver with the Dynasty series, which was shown on television in the early 90s. I was still pretty young at the time, but I remember well the vicissitudes of the wealthy Carrington family. The action was taking place in Denver, even the name of the company managed by the head of the family, Blake, was called ‘Denver-Carrington’. Anyway, I couldn’t wait for the morning and this journey to finally start!
DAY 2. Exploring Denver and Rocky Mountain National Park.
Morning tour of downtown Denver — the capital of the state of Colorado. Denver was founded in 1858 and was a large gold and silver mining center. Currently, the city has about 600,000 inhabitants, so it is not very large compared to other American metropolises. We arrived at the Capitol, took a little rest there and took pictures of ourselves on the famous stairs. Then drove to the Rocky Mountain National Park (A park attracting the same number of tourists as Yellowstone Park!). Drive on Trail Ridge Road, supposedly the highest road in the USA. Overnight at Fort Collins.
DAY 3. The Indian trail.
A short visit to Cheyenne, the capital of Wyoming. Transfer to Scott Bluff — a natural monument that was once an important signpost on the trail of the conquerors of the ‘Wild West’ and Fort Fortinson — the place of the tragic death of the great Sioux leader ‘Crazy Horse’. Overnight in Hot Springs.
DAY 4. The Indian trail continues.
In the morning, a trip to the fascinating Black Hills mountains, which were the holy land of the local Sioux tribes and the site of numerous Indian wars and the last gold rush in Western history. Peeping bears and other American animals in Bear Country. Admiring Mount Rushmore with the famous heads of four presidents and an even larger, unfinished monument to the ‘Crazy Horse’ — Sioux leader, carved for several decades by the Polish sculptor Korczak Ziółkowski — still being finished by his family. Visiting the fascinating Indian museum founded by Korczak. A visit to one of the largest and most interesting caves in the world — Wind Cave. Overnight in Rapid City.
DAY 5. Rocks and roll.
Transfer to Badlands National Park. Visiting the amazing creation of nature with beautiful multi-colored rocks and canyons. Views so amazing that while making photos, my clumsy self stumbled on a rock and rolled down from an edge and damaged my knees a bit, nothing serious though. The camera also survived the fall. We continued our way through Sturgis — the place of the annual world meeting of Harley Davidson owners and enthusiasts — to Deadwood — one of the most famous settlements of the ‘Wild West’, entirely recognized as a monument. Overnight in Black Hills.
DAY 6. A strong hit of nostalgia.
In the morning, drive to the famous Devil’s Tower — a huge rock 265 m high, unexpectedly growing among forests, lying in the state of Wyoming. After trekking around the rock, we went further west towards ‘the Rockies’. On the way, drive through the beautiful and high Bighorn Mountains. Overnight in the western town of Cody, at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. The famous scout and slayer of Buffalo Bill Indians and bison lived here for many years. I felt like a kid again — immediately recalled how back in the days, we have been watching Westerns with my friends and then played ‘Cowboys and Indians’.
DAY 7. Y like Yellowstone or Y like Yogi.
Visiting the famous Yellowstone National Park lying in the Rocky Mountains. Beautiful high mountains, mountain lakes, geysers, hot mud, bison and bears were the attractions we met there. With a bit of luck you can even come across Yogi bear, traditionally robbing tourists of food. The beautiful canyon and Yellowstone River waterfalls are also impressive, breathtaking I would say. Overnight in Gardiner, Montana.
DAY 8. Another busy day.
Continue exploring the colorful hot springs, muds and geysers in breathtaking Yellowstone. Then drive to the nearby Grand Teton National Park. Admiring the granite peaks of the Rockies with a height of about 4,200 m a.s.l. and beautiful mountain lakes. Couldn’t resist a trip on the water tram on Lake Jenny. Later in the afternoon, we visited Jackson — a typical town of the ‘Wild West’ with wooden walkways and stylish saloons. Then overnight in Idaho Falls, Idaho.
DAY 9. The Mormons and Salt Lake City.
In the morning, we admired the waterfalls on the Snake River, and then drove further to Salt Lake City — the capital of the Mormon state of Utah. We visited the city, including a museum of the intriguing Mormon religion, at the most important Mormon Temple in the world. After a short visit to the Great Salt Lake, we had an overnight in Salt Lake City, which I associate with the 2002 Winter Olympics and a total of 36 medals that German athletes brought back to the country.
DAY 10. The Arches.
In the morning, we left the furthest located on the west place of our trip and started the journey east towards the Arches National Park. After visiting the amazing place of rock arches and many other interesting red creations of nature, we decided on an overnight in Moab, Utah.
DAY 11. Another National Park — but worth seeing!
In the morning, we drove to Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado — undoubtedly the most important US national park in historical and cultural terms. We have found that visiting the old stone buildings of the pre-Columbian Pueblo Indians in this park is a real journey into the past. Overnight in Durango.
DAY 12. The Black Canyon.
In the morning, we drove north towards Silverton — the town where Wyatt Earp dealt cards in the Arlington saloon. Short city tour. A scenic route to the next wild west city of Ouray. Then drove to the Black Canyon National Park of the Gunnison River — one of the most interesting canyons in the USA, which arose as a result of cutting the river into the hard, crystalline ground. As a result of this process, lasting 2 million years, a spectacular Black Canyon was created. In reflection over the power of nature, transfer to accommodation in Lake George.
DAY 13. Sightseeing in American style.
From Lake George we had almost a two hours-ride to Pikes Peak, built of rare pink granite, dominating over Colorado Springs, from where there was an amazing view of the surrounding area. A quick stop in Manitou Springs. Then another purpose of our visit that day, which was ‘The Garden of the Gods’, a nature park near the city of Colorado Springs. It is a real miracle of nature. Rocks soaring into the sky, beautifully formed, scattered across the plains. Just incredibly awesome. However, we felt extremely tired, so we just took some pictures, walked around a few rocks around, then got in the car and ‘In American style’* visited the rest of the park. Then we went to the center of Colorado Springs. There we made a round around the city, mainly by walking on the main streets. It is a regular town in the United States, nothing particularly impressed us there. Sleepover in Colorado Springs
*Visiting ‘In American style’ consists of seeing all of the places from the perspective of sitting in a car. I am devastated by local customs… What a lazy nation, these Americans. They just come to the place and then follow the marked route (road), bypassing the places indicated in the guide without leaving the place.
DAY 14. ‘Don’t look down!’.
After a well-slept night, we woke up a bit late. We started our last day with a typical American breakfast and perfect weather, for visiting the Royal Gorge Bridge in Cañon City. A 320 m deep canyon on the Arkansas River. And here I really need to elaborate… ‘Oh my God!’ as a statistical American citizen would say, seeing the same thing that we saw, for the first time. The view of the huge suspension bridge between the two banks of the canyon, several hundred meters deep, is breathtaking. I sincerely advise against going there to people with the fear of heights. When looking down, you feel a tingling sensation in your feet. According to information boards, it is the highest bridge of this type in the world. We regret one thing — that we did not come here early enough to take the opportunity to take a special cable car to the bottom of the canyon. Probably the view from there would be even more amazing than the one above. Nevertheless, we took advantage of the possibility of getting on a typical cable car to the other side of the canyon, which allowed us to admire the depth of this natural relief and the bridge in all its glory. The best of all is the fact that this bridge was built in a completely unnecessary place. It leads absolutely nowhere. On the other side of the canyon, there is no road to any city or other location. Simply put, this bridge is a local tourist attraction and a place for real performers who feel like playing with life by jumping down the canyon on a bungee or with a parachute. There are even specially-marked places on the bridge from where individual world records were broken.
By the way: again just like in The Garden of Gods, Americans explore the bridge without getting out of the car. It illustrates how lazy this nation is. They buy a ticket that allows them to enter the bridge, cross it to the other side, turn there on a specially prepared road and return. Then they brag to their friends like: ‘Yeah, we’ve been there! We saw it, it was great!’.
Anyway, back on the road again, I already started to sum-up all of these fantastic days we spent there. Especially with this last one, being a ‘cherry on top’. It all passed extremely quickly, too quickly — I thought to myself. As it was getting darker, it was time to go back to the hotel. We put the address into the navigation and talked about our reflections on the whole trip. Driving the highway, we were trying to get excitement from every single detail behind the van windows. Along the way, we even stopped in front of the old, typical American school bus (which was for sale) to check it and take some pictures. Then another stop for a meal at America’s flagship — KFC, to have the last taste of the American lifestyle, during this holiday. We were back in Denver around 9:00 PM. Tired but happy we went to sleep. The next day we were going back home with our heads full of good memories, unforgettable images, and funny stories, that we will recall during family dinners and meetings with friends. Danke Schön Amerika!