It's been a wild month.
I was supposed to be at the 2020 Olympics in Japan, staring at all those awesome athletes doing their things. That obviously didn't happen. The freaking Olympics postponed. Crap. That means everything is cancelled. The. Freaking. OLYMPICS. A symbol of hope and unity for countries. Sports cancelled, although, let's face it, that was never really my thing. But still, I'd like the option to not go ... So, instead, I pivoted to Plan D--there were quite a few places I wanted to visit before Plan D, but they all ended up not working out, because of ... COVID. What is Plan D, you ask? Well I'll tell you. Embarking on a three-week long road trip (I do have a day job, and I was extremely fortunate to get this time off) across the US, visiting ten different National Parks and seven states, most of them states I'd never been to before. It's important to me to experience new things while I am still able to do it. We only have a finite amount of time on this planet, unless you're one of my vampires.
There will always be a risk, even when stepping outside your own door. *Disclaimer here: I respect anyone who has made (is making) the choice to stay home and stay safe and healthy, especially if you're immune-compromised in some way, or know someone who is. I can say, I was extremely careful (still am!) while on my trek. There was a ton of hand washing, physical distancing, and mask wearing going on.* I would love to share some photos I took along the way with you all. I went on the trip with a friend of mine who lives in San Diego. He was a good sport putting up with all my photography, and I hope y'all are too.
Let's start with my number one place I got to visit on my trip: Pando. If you have read the last book in The Blood Dagger trilogy: Tree of Souls, you might have heard of Pando, The Trembling Giant, or Quaking Aspens before. If you do recognize this special place mentioned in my book, I am jumping up and down, ecstatic right now.
Located in Utah at Fishlake National Forest is a clonal colony of quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides), determined to be a single living organism, having one massive underground root system. The trees are located in the Fremont River Ranger District of the western edge of the Colorado Plateau in south-central Utah, United States. Pando occupies 43.6 hectares (108 acres) and is estimated to weigh collectively 6,000,000 kilograms (6,600 short tons). The root system of Pando is estimated to be several thousand years old,placing Pando among the oldest known living organisms. I love the first picture with the sun orb on it. There was something so magical about standing in the same place I wrote the ending scene in one of my books.
What do you think about Pando? Do you like trees as much as I do?
This is quite possibly one of the most magical places on earth. Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park. It looks like you could just slide right on out there on ice skates, but I would not recommend doing that. This is the largest hot spring in the United States, and the third largest in the world, after Frying Pan Lake in New Zealand and Boiling Lake in Dominica. It is located in the Midway Geyser Basin.
Horseshoe Bend is a horseshoe-shaped incised meander of the Colorado River located near the town of Page, Arizona, United States. It is also referred to as the "east rim" of the Grand Canyon. Admission: I had to crawl to get that close to the ledge. Below me in a considerable-sized drop down.
Grand Canyon, folks. This photo looks fake. It's not. I was standing right on that ledge. I can't convey the natural wonders of this place and how it made me feel. North Rim is a populated place in Coconino County, Arizona, United States. It is located adjacent to the Grand Canyon within Grand Canyon National Park. The area includes a Visitor Center, the Grand Canyon Lodge, and a number of hiking trails, including the Bright Angel Point Trail and Transept Trail. We kept choosing places to hike with "Angel" names, and the irony of that fact was not lost on me.
Bryce Canyon National Park, a sprawling reserve in southern Utah. Those tall spiky things that look like something otherworldly pulled straight out of one of my fantasy novels are crimson-colored hoodoos, which are spire-shaped rock formations. The park’s main road leads past the expansive Bryce Amphitheater, a hoodoo-filled depression lying below the Rim Trail hiking path.
Jenny Lake is located in Grand Teton National Park in the U.S. state of Wyoming. The lake was formed approximately 12,000 years ago by glaciers pushing rock debris which carved Cascade Canyon during the last glacial maximum, forming a terminal moraine which now impounds the lake. After a long hike to get to this point, let me tell you, that water felt AMAZING. Don't worry, folks, you can swim safely in this lake.
That black shade is not a shadow.
Craters of the Moon is in south-central Idaho, midway between Boise and Yellowstone National Park. The lava field reaches southeastward from the Pioneer Mountains.
The Craters of the Moon Lava Field spreads across 618 square miles (1,601 km2) and is the largest mostly Holocene-aged basaltic lava field in the contiguous United States. The 60 distinct solidified lava flows that form the Craters of the Moon Lava Field range in age from 15,000 to just 2,000 years. The Kings Bowl and Wapi lava fields, both about 2,200 years old, are part of the National Preserve.
This lava field is the largest of several large beds of lava that erupted from the 53-mile (85 km) south-east to north-west trending Great Rift volcanic zone, a line of weakness in the Earth's crust. Back in the 60s, this is where NASA would train Astronauts.The astronauts came to Craters of the Moon because they were pilots and not geologists. NASA felt that these were men who might someday be walking on the moon. They would also have the rare opportunity to collect samples of different rocks on the moon. Since only a limited amount of material (850 pounds total in 6 moon landings) could be brought back, it was important that they know enough geology to pick up the most scientifically valuable specimens.
Yellowstone Falls consist of two major waterfalls on the Yellowstone River within Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, United States. As the Yellowstone river flows north from Yellowstone Lake, it leaves the Hayden Valley and plunges first over Upper Yellowstone Falls and then a quarter mile (400 m) downstream over Lower Yellowstone Falls, at which point it then enters the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, which is up to 1,000 feet (304 m) deep.
This was taken near Northern California’s coast. Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park is home to Fern Canyon, with its high, plant-covered walls. Roosevelt elk frequent nearby Elk Prairie. Giant redwood clusters include Redwood National Park’s Lady Bird Johnson Grove. These trees are MASSIVE, and extremely impressive. Hiking on these trails was almost a spiritual experience for me. Talk about peaceful ... and also, because of these giant trees and the alien flora, the Endor scenes for the Star Wars: "Return of the Jedi" were filmed near here. And isn't that just the coolest thing ever?
I'd be remiss if I didn't show you at least one person-made structure from my trip. They are just as impressive as the natural wonders of the world. Can you guess where this is?
The Golden Gate Bridge is a suspension bridge spanning the Golden Gate, the one-mile-wide strait connecting San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean.The bridge is one of the most internationally recognized symbols of San Francisco and California, U.S.
That's all, folks. I hoped you liked the photos.