Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Spring Break 2014

So it's almost been a year since the spring break trip I went on during my year abroad and I'm feeling pretty nostalgic about it - I did have this blog then but I was having way too much fun to actually write anything, but my dad told me a quote the other day 'the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the next best time is now' which inspired me to go ahead and write this post about the epic trip we did for spring break last year road tripping from Colorado to California.

On this trip we decided to take the scenic route rather than the quickest route, and check out parts of Utah along the way. We left in the late evening which gave us all day to pack and prepare food for the trip but also meant we couldn't see much on the journey out of Colorado towards Utah, we drove all night and stopped the next morning in Escalante, Utah. I believe here it is acceptable to quote Jack Kerouac, not for the first time on this blog. "As we crossed the Colorado Utah border I saw God in the sky in the form of huge gold sun burning clouds above the desert that seemed to point a finger at me and say 'pass here and go on, you're on the road to heaven'". I don't know about God, but coming from Rocky 'colorful' Colorado into red, arid Utah is quite surreal and highlights quite how beautiful and varied the American landscape can be. Utah looks like what I imagine the planet Mars to look like.

Escalante, Utah


We had a map, and so we hiked into the park roughly along the river and then through a canyon, Utah is famous for its natural rock formations (like in Arches National Park) and distinctive orange-red sandstone. Along the train we kept look out for petroglyphs - ancient Native American art carved into the stone and a reminder of the original inhabitants of this area, but we didn't see any until on our way out the next day.

Escalante, Utah
Escalante, Utah
Escalante, Utah

We set up camp next to the river in a spot that was shaded by rocks, hoping that we wouldn't get the heat of the sun too strong first thing in the morning. Our hiking shoes were really wet so we put them on sticks to try and dry them by the campfire, there was no escaping the red sand though which got stuck to everything! The temperature dropped at night and everyone got really cold except me who had a cosy North Face down lined sleeping bag that I'd borrowed!

Escalante, Utah
Escalante, Utah
The next day we woke up fairly early, removed evidence of our visit and hiked back out to the car again, from here we were going to drive straight to Ventura, California. The route we were on took us through Zion National Park in Utah, an immense place that I need to go back to one day - In fact, there's a lot of beautiful places I still want to go in this vast Mormon state which is not something I would have ever thought I would say before I went to the U.S!

Zion National Park
Zion National Park
Zion National Park
The landscape changed as we left Utah and continued on the road through Arizona and Nevada, until we saw the Las Vegas skyline rising straight out from the flat desert as the sun was going down. I hadn't been to Vegas yet by this point so obviously I was pretty excited, but the trip we had planned was very different from the glam and glitz that you get in Vegas, so we stopped at In-N-Out Burger and continued on our way. It was dark but soon we saw the 'Welcome to California' sign, and late that night we got to Ventura where we spent the night at Alex parent's house, just out of LA. 

The next day we went to hire some kayaks and wetsuits to take to the channel islands which were jimmy rigged to the car to drive to Ventura harbour..


Ventura Harbour
Channel Islands National Park
The Channel Islands National Park is five islands off the coast of mainland California, it's a protected area which has lots of wildlife and plantlife that is unique to these islands. We went to Santa Cruz Island, the biggest of the five. Because of its protected status, you can only camp at designated campsites. It was a cloudy day, and my first impression of the island was that it looked an awful lot like it could be in the U.K... 

Santa Cruz Island, California
For the first night we stayed at Scorpion campsite, which had toilet and running water facilities and felt luxury compared to the camping in Utah! On the downside it was pretty busy with school groups and tourists, so we only stayed for one night before planning on moving to Del Norte campground the next day.

The boys decided they were going to take the 8 mile hike with packs to the next campground, but Taylor and I decided to take the ferry around and take the more manageable 3 mile route. Unfortunately, once we decided this the boys decided to lump us with their packs as well as the two kayaks so they could hike back pack free - we didn't have to carry their stuff far though and dumped it at the bottom of the trail to begin the hike up to the campsite.

Santa Cruz Island, California
Santa Cruz Island, California
Santa Cruz Island, California
It was a hot day, the hike was up hill the whole way and our packs were pretty heavy with food and stuff we needed for the next two nights so we were very glad when we finally made it to the campsite! We lay in the sun and waited for the boys who arrived a few hours after us, and by some stroke of luck the Park Ranger arrived with the boys' packs and the gallon bags of water that we had been dreading having to go and carry up the hill on his truck! 

Santa Cruz Island, California
Santa Cruz Island, California
Santa Cruz Island, California
The next day we hiked back down to the beach, put our wetsuits on and took the kayaks out. We had met up with some other friends who had spear fishing guns so we spent a few hours out on the water, we saw some seals that swam right up to our boat to say hello. 

Santa Cruz Island, California
Santa Cruz Island, California
Santa Cruz Island, California
We spent the rest of the day in the sun slightly in land where it was a bit warmer before getting caught in the rain on our way back to the campsite which created a beautiful rainbow and another stunning sunset!

Santa Cruz Island, California
Santa Cruz Island, California
We spent another night at Alex's in Ventura when we got back to the mainland and visited Malibu Beach before driving to meet some friends in Cardiff, near San Diego.

Malibu Beach
Malibu Beach
Cardiff was the perfect way to end our trip with some hot California sun, surfing and margaritas on the beach! We camped in a campsite next to the beach, in the morning when I woke up I went down to the beach and could see early morning surfers catching some waves with dolphins swimming right next to their boards.

Cardiff-By-Sea, California
Cardiff-By-Sea, California
There was something strangely reminiscent of the U.K in Cardiff too...

Cardiff-By-Sea, California
Cardiff-By-Sea, California
Cardiff-By-Sea, California
Who ever thought to name this beautiful place after Cardiff in Wales was partaking in some very wishful thinking!

Two nights in Cardiff and it was time to get back on the road and make the long drive back to Colorado. When I pictured Spring Break in the U.S before I studied abroad I imagined the kind of Spring Break trip that they show in the movies - Mexico or Florida, huge crowds of college kids getting drunk on the beach and dancing - not the kind of trip where I carried all my food on my back most of the time, only carrying one pair of shorts, a few t shirts and NO make up - but really, looking back now a year after this trip I really couldn't have been happier and more free than I was at this time of my life.
About to head home!


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