Completing a 50-State Journey

Hiking in the United States

Part of June and July 2011, I traveled to Nevada, Utah, Colorado and Kansas to hike in the canyons of the west and to visit the last of the 50 states I had yet to see. This was a fulfillment of another goal of mine. Each departure is bittersweet, always the lure to see, do and learn new things draws me, yet leaving family, the love of my life is difficult. I am fortunate to have an understanding husband and my lure to be an adventurer began long ago. Not until college graduation had I traveled far beyond my familiar surroundings of Maine. Dreams become reality and with that I learned some valuable lessons: hard work, perseverance, restraints, and values, all make life worthwhile.

To begin my hike out west I flew to Las Vegas and met my guide and we headed to the North Rim of The Grand Canyon. Here we hiked for several days descending down the canyon on the North Kaibab Trail and then returning on the same dusty narrow trail shared by the mule teams. It is a beautiful part of the country. At night it is a grand place to see the stars and constellations. During my hike, we met up with a group of eight astronomers who had set up their telescopes and offered us a look. It was breathtaking to view a Black Hole or a new star just discovered and close up views of the moon and Mars.

After hiking in Colorado we drove to Bryce National Park in Utah and hiked here for several days. We hiked in the Kodachrome Basin with the beautiful multicolored rock formations and the sand pipe rock formations. We hiked in the Round Valley Slot Canyon and down the Escalante-Grand Staircase National Monument and hiked to Grosvenor Arch. We hiked the loop Trail down Wall Street through the Hoo Doos and out a flat trail where I led the group and heard, and then spotted a rattlesnake about a foot off the trail. I learned more about geology here as my guide was so knowledgeable. For instance, the natural phenomenon is the staircase: the bottom of Bryce is the top of Zion and the bottom of Zion is the top of the Grand Canyon. We hiked another day though a long narrow canyon with a stream running along the canyon floor where I walked back and forth crossing it many times. It was a cool and beautiful place to hike and along one wall were petro glyphs from long ago. One morning we got up and hiked before dawn on a trail to the top of a monolith to see the sunrise of Bryce Canyon. It was awesome as you can imagine as the sun hit layer upon layer of these majestic rock formations.

After hiking in Bryce National Park we drove to Zion National Park. Driving is limited here to park buses. We took several short hikes to beautiful and historic sites using the bus to transport us from one trail head and another. One day we hiked Angels Landing, a very steep trail with chains and hand holds from the halfway point to the top. It was hot, high 90’s and a steep climb but absolutely grand views at the top.

After leaving Zion National Park we drove back to Las Vegas. I had planned to see my last state Kansas. I had a car reserved for me and off I drove to Salt Lake City to see the sights and to float in the Great Salt Lake. Within one year I floated in the saltiest lake in the US and the saltiest sea in the world in Jordan. Then I drove on to Kansas with lots of surprises along the way. In Vernal, Utah is the Dinosaur National Monument, a well laid out museum of geology and dinosaurs found nearby. I hiked out to see the places where the dinosaurs are still imbedded in the rocks. I drove on through Colorado to Denver with a stop over to visit the famous historic sites, gold mining, Molly Brown’s home, the capital, the US Mint in Denver, Buffalo Bill’s Museum and the Hard Rock Café’s Music Hall of Fame.

From Colorado I drove on through the open plains watching for the Welcome to Kansas sign and when I saw it I shouted out, “Hurray my 50th state!” I stopped for a road break at Fort Hays and saw the bison grazing there. I took an anticipated stop to the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Museum and Library in Abilene. I stayed overnight in town as there was so much to see at the Presidential home and library. The next day I drove on and stopped at Fort Riley and General Custer’s home, further on was the Oregon Trail and a visit to the nearby Wizard of Oz Museum. I arrived in Kansas City and stayed overnight to continue my visit the next day. I saw The President Harry S. Truman’s Museum and Library. I had traveled from one end of Kansas to the other and that was the 50th state I visited. I drove to the airport and flew home with another goal completed. When I read a newspaper, listen to the news or learn of some happening in an area I can relate better because I have been there. It makes life more interesting and understandable. I gain so much from traveling.