It's been a crazy couple weeks since we returned to PA so finishing this blog was put on the back burner. BUT, I believe in finishing what I started, even when I don't feel like it. I plan on writing one more blog post to recap some of the our favorites, least favorites, frequently asked questions and things we learned along the way, but for now, here is the story of the last week of our 33 day journey.
When I last wrote, we were in Zion National Park, Utah. From Zion, we drove a short 2-3 hours to Bryce Canyon. As a bartender in San Francisco told us, Bryce is the "hidden gem" of national parks. He was right. We arrived at Bryce Canyon in the early afternoon and immediately started our first hike, the Navajo/Queens' Garden Loop. You start out on top of the canyon along the rim trail which overlooks and circles the entire park. We looked out at what we discovered were called "hoodoos", or large landmasses that stand straight up in the air. The sight was incredible; it was orange, red and pink everywhere and an endless display of hoodoos, arches and canyons of all shapes and sizes.
We walked down into the canyon through another long switchback similar to Walter's Wiggles in Zion and saw the Queens' Garden comprised of hoodoos that looked like a queens silhouette. The hike was about 5 miles and one of the more popular hikes but it was late in the day when we started so it wasn't too crowded. The next day we did an 8 mile loop called Fairyland loop. We got up super early to avoid the heat and the crowds and it was perfect. This hike was similar to the one the previous day just on the other side of the canyon. We saw a ton more hoodoos, walked through incredible archways, and had a great hike. If I thought Zion was unlike anything I've ever seen, Bryce was Mars. It was breathtaking and beautiful. I'm not going doing Bryce Canyon justice in my description so I'll let the pictures do their job.
Bryce is a small park compared to what we'd been to so in two hikes we got to see about everything we had hoped to see and called it a day. Exhausted from 7 straight days of National Park hiking and 26 days on the road, we finished our Fairyland loop hike in the early afternoon and headed back to our KOA and sat by the pool for a little to rest our legs and cool off. (Yes a lot of the KOA's have pools. Pretty awesome.)
On Monday July 24th, we left Bryce and drove to Denver, Colorado. It was an 8 hour drive and we lost an hour changing time zones so we arrived around 6pm. Greg's high school friend, Kelli, lives in Denver and offered for us to stay at her house so on the first night we went to a cool brewery, Breckenridge Brewery, with her and her boyfriend for dinner.
Again, it was great to talk to people other than each other and we were so grateful for the lodging and the company! By the time we hit Denver Greg and I were beyond tired and it was starting to affect our drive to see and do things. Our first full day in Denver we took the train into the city and walked around a little before going to Greg's uncles for dinner. He lives in Denver so we got a home cooked meal and got to hang out with some family which was a great treat. The next day we went to a nearby lake to go paddle boarding before going a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater. We wanted to see a show at Red Rocks so we bought tickets for the one night we were free- Glass Animals. The amphitheater is amazing but unfortunately we didn't get to see much of the show because as soon as the main act came on it started raining. We tried to wait it out but it eventually was a downpour and by the time we decided to make our way to our uber, the show was being cancelled, the amphitheater was flooding and there was a mass exodus of people fleeing to the parking lot. We were soaked.
We left the next day, Thursday the 27th for the day long drive to Kansas City. Greg made a pit stop for me at the Wizard of Oz museum which happened to be on the same street as the Wizard of Oz winery. We got there just before it closed and I was in heaven. By the time we got to Kansas City it was late so we grabbed dinner, checked into our hotel and passed out.
We got up the next morning for a short 4 hour drive to St. Louis, Missouri. We walked around the city to see the Arch, the old courthouse where the original Dred Scott Case was filed (history nerd alert!), and the Cardinals Baseball Stadium.
We found our way into St. Louis' version of X-finity LIVE in Philly. It was right outside the Cardinals Stadium and was almost an exact replica of X-Finity. There was a game that day so the place was starting to fill up. We then found a rooftop bar that overlooked the stadium and had a great view of the city. Craving some St. Louis BBQ, we walked about 2 miles to a place we found online only to discover it was closed. From there we called an uber to another BBQ place and by the time we got seated we were so hungry that we ordered one of everything on the menu. I wish I was exaggerating.
Finally, on Saturday the 29th we crossed back into Pennsylvania!
Our friends Madeline and Alex live in Pittsburgh so we stopped there for the night to break up the drive. It was a long 9 hours from St. Louis with another hour lost changing time zones and they were kind enough to made us delicious steak tacos for dinner. It was a great night relaxing with our hometown friends. We went for breakfast in Pittsburgh the next morning before hitting the road for the last time. I've never been so happy to see our little house. My parents brought Finny over for us and my sister and her fiance came over to welcome us home. We ate pizza, talked about our adventures and snuggled with Finny.
In all, we spent 33 days on the road and had the adventure of a lifetime. The things we saw and did on this trip are things we will never forget. I feel so lucky to have been able to get such a wonderful and exciting experience, all with my best friend by my side. We loved (almost) every minute of it but, as Dorothy says, "There's no place like home."