Many Miles, Many Smiles! (part 6)

Yosemite! (pronounced Yose-might…because it’s more fun that way)

Yosemite wasn’t really on our “must see” list — but we decided to swing through for the heck of it. I think the park realized it was a third-round draft pick and prettied itself up for us.

All I can say is:  wow, Yosemite — we totally underestimated you.

Yosemite seemed to have a sort of “national park next door” kind of approachable beauty.

(Ok. That giant chunk of rock doesn’t look that approachable — but it’s beautiful. And experienced rock climbers manage to scale this mondo rock, which is pretty darn impressive.)

This was the view! Who wouldn’t want to look at this every. single. day.?!

Even the wildlife love it here! This little critter looked exceptionally happy.

AND — another great thing about Yosemite is the fabulous breakfasts served at the Sugar Pine Cafe in nearby Mariposa, California. I don’t know what they did to their scrambled eggs, but it was definitely a good thing. And, if fabulous eggs, fresh avocado, and homemade biscuits don’t make you want to jump in the car and drive to California, I have two more words — CHEESY GRITS. (be still, my growling stomach…)

If I was a travel agent, I’d basically order everyone to go to Yosemite and eat at the Sugar Pine. (If I was a travel agent, this advice would cost money. Since I’m definitely not a travel agent, this valuable advice is free. However, I do accept payment in the form of cheesy grits.)

Zion National Park!

Utah has some rockin’ national parks. Go, Utah.

Utah also has deserts. Deserts have cacti.

Ron the Prius really liked Utah. Just look at his smile!

We didn’t really spend that much time at Zion National Park, but our brief drive through the park was exceptionally pretty. It’s like a collection of funky desert rocks in various shades of red and orange.

Arches National Park!

Arches National Park was our last vacation destination location. It was highly recommended by a friend who gave excellent travel advice.

Sure, Arches National Park is a big ol’ desert that sucks all the moisture from your body the minute you leave your vehicle. The park is almost eerily quiet at night because very few creatures actually live in the desert — which may cause one to wonder if humans should be camping in such an environment…

The answer — YES! Humans (or at least humans named John and Laura) should definitely camp at Arches! The heat kind of melts off the top layer of skin, and you comfortably marinate in your own sweat. It’s a nice feeling. And I’d bet at least $5 that the stars at night shine bigger and brighter in Utah than deep in the heart of Texas. The night sky was phenomenal.

(By the time we reached Arches, it had been awhile since we’d seen a shower — but who needs a shower when you’re looking at crazy-fabulous desert rocks?!)

(We’re in this picture — we’re just tiny.)

John attempted to build a replica of one of the many rock structures — I think it was a success. Look for his creation on future Arches National Park postcards.

The infamous delicate arch — it’s so famous, it’s on Utah license plates!

After viewing the delicate arch from a distance, we hiked about three miles for a closer look. During the hike, I was convinced we (1) wouldn’t make it back to the car before dark; (2) would die of dehydration due to the extremely small amount of water left in my water bottle; (3) would fall off the steep rocks that surround the delicate arch and die…or get eaten by desert vultures.

I’m proud to say that what really occurred was (4) none of the above. The views from the delicate arch were breathtaking, and we managed to find our way back to Ron Prius.

Perhaps I should visit the attractions on other states’ license plates. Not only did I enjoy Arches National Park — my shadow liked it, too.

*This concludes my epic 30th birthday trip. When I returned to Des Moines, I was smelly (as was my duffel bag….p.u.). But, more important, I was happy. I’ve learned a lot about myself over the past 30 years — this trip taught me that vacations involving many national parks and few showers are good for my 30-year-old soul.

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