riding the carefree highway

 

There’s some things I won’t ever be able to accurately describe.. The freedom of the open road when the speed limit is 80 MPH and you have the whole long road ahead of you to yourself. The way the crickets echo ever so beautifully in the canyons of Utah - how peaceful of a remedy. The happiness that new views bring. The feeling of seeing strangers enjoy a one in a lifetime moment with you. The empowerment of taking a solo roadtrip as a 21 year old girl. And how dang good a shower feels after 4 days. There’s some things I won’t ever be able to accurately describe and I think that’s what most beautiful about life. We’re all chasing those indescribable feelings..


-12:02AM // Right outside Capitol Reef NP at camp for the night


It’s crazy I can remember exactly the way the air smelt that night; the warm humid stormy rain against asphalt that hasn’t seen water in days. I can remember exactly what song I was listening to and what minute and second really hit me in that moment. I can remember exactly how tired and heavy my eyes were as I laid there at 2AM still counting shooting stars from my sunroof after the storm passed. I can remember exactly the way the coyotes and crickets sang me to sleep and the echoes that sang back and forth between the canyon walls. There’s some things I’ll always remember so vividly as if it was a moment on a repeat that doesn’t know how to be turned off. But that doesn’t mean I’ll ever be able to describe it to anybody else. And again, I think that’s the most beautiful thing about life. We each live these little, little moments and they all impact us so differently and create us into this person we are everyday. What could mean the absolute world to me - could mean nothing to the next person. And that, is so wild to me. This trip had a lot of moments honestly. I think it’s because my headspace was different this time around like I’ve talked about before. Last year it felt like I was running away from problems, trying to just shut the door on everything going on in life and escape to the only place I knew: the open road. This year it felt like I was out chasing a feeling instead, chasing back the connection I had lost with myself.

 


10, basically 11 days on the road by myself.. 5173 miles travelled through about 6 different states. It felt too fast. Just a second ago I swear I was at my desk writing about how I’d be leaving for this trip and now here I am again.. back from it already. I never thought that time could fly that fast but lately all of life feels like it’s happening in a blink of an eye.. I remember one of my customers telling me that life moves fast when it’s going good. Man, was he right. Guess it’s a good thing though. So here I am again.. Staring at my laptop, with my journal beside me and all these little scribbles of notes and short feelings I had along the road. Trying to piece it together again and write this journey I just went on as raw and real as possible. It was special. Real special. All of life feels that way lately though and I think it’s because I’m just letting everything create me.. I met a lot of people along the road that are still strangers but I had conversations that were meaningful enough I’m still thinking about them a week later, I visited places that the road took me to and ended up being some of my favorite and got that feeling of being back to myself.

5173 miles travelled basically on the Carefree Highway.

-All photos shot on film.. because it feels more special that way, seeing all the moments worth wasting an exposure on. The one second feelings.



I started my trip in Idaho, usually where the adventure always begins.. This being because when I’m headed south, I feel I can’t just drive through without stopping in. That’s like not calling your grandparents when passing through where they live. It’s just not right. So I drove with the intention of having my first full day on the road be in the smallest town I know: Stanley, ID. Population: 63. Soon to be 64 when I decided to move. This is my favorite, FAVORITE town I’ve ever known. The people are the kindest, most easy going, care free souls I’ve ever met. The city is so old and cute I could walk the historic town for hours and talk with all the people who own stores and cafes/restaurants. It’s also a gateway to the Sawtooth Mountains which hold a very special place in my heart. I could ramble on and on about why I love it so much but nothing will compare to just driving around this area. Every time I finally start to see the highway open up and all the mountains come out I just think to myself “I’m home”. Even if it’s thousands of miles away from WA, this place just feels like a second home. This time I decided to hit the ranger station and ask for a short hike to do since I had only done a couple before and they were mostly to hot springs. But can you be surprised? She pinpointed one on the map that was nearby the lake I was planning to swim at later in the day so it was perfect. I threw on my hiking boots, filled up my hydration pack, and picked one of my point and shoot film cameras to go then was on my way. It was a 6 mile out and back trail and surprisingly I had only seen 3 other groups along the way, it was so quiet and serene I couldn’t help but sit there for an hour taking it all in and coming to the slow realization I was finally on the road. Something that doesn’t sink in usually until I’m a week in or already on the way back home.. The water was so clear, almost as blue as the sky was that morning and all I was thinking about at that point was getting back to my car and then getting into the lake. I made the 3 mile journey back to the car and then got into my swimsuit, before I even knew it I was already at my favorite lake. Again, the whole place basically to myself besides 2 other people who were also alone. I thought to myself how special it was that we were all out there alone just taking time for ourselves at such a beautiful place. It was so quiet all I could hear was the subtle crash of small waves resting up to the shore of the beach. I laid there listening to what sounded like an audio recording for again an hour, just taking the day so slow and knowing I wasn’t in a rush to be in anywhere but here. I swam out to the docks with the beautiful backdrop of Sawtooth Mountains and sat extra long knowing how different of scenery I was about to be in the next day as I made my way to Utah. The lake started to get more busy as it became warmer so I grabbed my things and decided what to do next. 1PM, a whole day to do whatever I want and no plans. So I just drove around, going up some random forest roads, hitting lakes I hadn’t been to and then finding possible camp options for the night. Before I knew it, it was almost time for sunset so I drove to my second favorite lake in the area and knew it would be the best place to watch sunset. Also because I found camping nearby that was beautiful. So I cooked up dinner in the parking lot, wrapped it to go and made my way to the small beach access. Sat down and waited for Mother Nature to put on the most beautiful show yet.. Within 20 minutes the sky painted different colors right before me and it was so surreal to be witnessing all by myself. Not another group of people in the parking lot or anything. Just me and the view, the way I always like it. I wrote down in my journal before I left and it was fully dark, “The road is opening me with big open arms again” and I think that says enough..



Utah was up next on the list.. Moab area to be exact. So the second full day on the road began with me watching the sun rise slowly over the lake I was just at the night before in Idaho. Enjoying the time I had there and in the moment because it was going to be a long 9 hour drive to get to where I wanted to be. I watched as the sun fully rose and then knew it was time to hit the road and begin one of the longer drives I had my trip. I didn’t even change out of my PJ’s until 5PM that day when I finally got into Arches National Park and decided that I would start the day. Kind of a late one but hey better than never. I had no plan and that sort of stressed me out honestly because I knew that sunset was going to be happening in about an hour or two and I didn’t even know the best spot to be. Did I want to hike or just drive somewhere and see what happens or just set up camp for wherever I would call home that night? I had no idea what to do so I did what always just feels right: drive until I get the urge to pull over. I ended up at an overlook spot with not a single soul for as far as the eye could see, even then it was just watching them pass below in cars. It felt so special, finally having the world slow down for a minute and finally knowing the long day of driving was worth it. The sunset was absolutely beautiful because well every sunset in the desert is I feel like. I sat there just watching what felt like a painting come to life with each car passing by and their beaming headlights. It was without a doubt, an amazing night.. After a hard goodbye I made my way just outside the national park to home, a place I was lucky enough to find last year on my first solo trip. Nothing had changed. Fire pit still there, beautiful 360 views, whole place to myself and a gorgeous sunrise the next morning. And I had the same exact thoughts I did last year.. the thought of “Why don’t I just move out here and call this land of free camping my real home for awhile and then move on after the 2 weeks to the next area.” The desert is full of BLM land and well, one day if you don’t hear from me you’ll know where to not find me. I woke up that morning before my alarm to the sun blaring into my windows and a beautiful pink hue surrounding, I stumbled out of my car still half asleep and watched the sun rise there on the hood of my car. Definitely had the best seat in the house. It was so special to have this place to myself 2 years in a row.. Felt like it was really mine.


I didn’t feel like I got enough time at Arches NP the night before so I headed back there for a couple quick hikes before making it to all the beautiful spots my day would consist of. Honestly, it was absolutely surreal walking around trails that weren’t surrounded by mountains or green grass like back home. Instead I had red sand filling my shoes and was in a tank top at 8AM because of the heat. Such a different kind of hiking for me but I slowly started to fall in love with it. The huge red arches are something so surreal to walk under and around it gives you the most isgnificant feel. I sat in what felt like a cave provided by the beautiful red rocks and looked out into views as far as I could see. It was such a belittling feeling, in such a good way. I decided it was time to move on to the next few places in the park and then make my way to a nearby state park I had found on the map. Long story short: This state park was absolutely massive and filled with so much depth I couldn’t even believe my eyes with each view I saw around every corner. And the best part was it wasn’t busy at all. I was able to find a lot of little spots right along the trails that felt like they were at the edge of the world. I explored honestly every trail, every little parking spot and every overlook there was and I have to say it was one of my most favorite places I explored my whole trip. But then again Utah is probably one of my most favorite states now after this trip and realizing how much there is to do all in one day because of how close everything is to one another. So after seeing all that I could in the state park I made my way to Canyonlands NP for my first time. And Guys.. Wow. The layers of desert views upon desert views is insane here, I couldn’t believe my eyes seeing some of these landscapes. The never ending roads down into the canyons, the random depth with every view and then how I always felt like I was on top of the world. I see why they call it Island in the Sky.. My heart was easily left here, I explored around here for a good 2 or 3 hours and then the park started to fill up with way more people than expected. Roads started to come to a complete stop, no parking in trailheads. That was my calling to hit the road. It wasn’t easy to move on but I knew it gave me all the reasons to come back. I also knew that I had seen some of the most insane views I’ve ever witnessed in my life so that gave me all the content in knowing I explored enough. I was on my way to Capitol Reef NP now (I know, so many national parks right next to each other it’s crazy) where I saw a sign to another state park. With how much good luck I had at my first one that morning I said what the heck and took the 30 minute detour. I pulled up to the fee entrance handed $15 and then asked for a map, she said she didn’t have one and I thought how maybe they were just out of them. Nope, turns out it’s because there’s only one viewpoint in the whole park. Wasn’t mad about it though because the trails were endless and views were so vast and different with every way I stood. Plus I was the only car in the whole small park. I couldn’t complain. I spent only an hour here walking around and taking in the silentness. It was so quiet to the point you almost start to hear ringing in your ears, you know what I’m talking about right? Like when even breathing feels too loud. It was a great little break to have.. I ended up getting into Capitol Reef a little bit too late for sunset because of the detour but honestly I was okay with it, I could see a storm rolling in so I used it as an excuse to find camp early and get all cozied up in bed. I was able to cook before the rain and wind came so once the storm rolled in, I was ready for it. It was honestly so peaceful too. Nothing will compare to the sound of rain hitting your car, especially when it’s considered your home for the night. I just laid there. Literally doing nothing besides taking in the moment. Phone down with no service even, lantern off, journal away. Just me with the rain playing a melody on my car. It was beautiful. I thought how the storm was almost better than the sun set, how it’s more of a chaotically beautiful moment and you can’t really capture it so it makes you appreciate it that much more. It was about midnight at this time since I was having a hard time falling asleep. Having a hard time putting reality on pause for a few hours. That night just felt so perfect.. So that’s when I wrote that journal entry I shared above. I laid watching shooting stars through my sunroof, the same one I was just watching lightning through a couple hours before. How crazy of a change it was. Counting the shooting stars until I finally fell asleep.. I woke up the next morning to my alarm I felt I had just set a minute before. But that’s the consequence you get when you want to both enjoy the stars and sunrise. So I climbed into the driver seat from my bed in the back, turned my car on and was ready for the next full day adventure.

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Since I had slept 5 minutes outside the national park I was able to get to a short hike relatively quick and made it just in time to watch the clouds part ways and have the sun shine through. Nobody else was on the road my short drive there, nobody in the parking lot. It was starting to feel like this little area of Utah was mine, I hadn’t seen anybody in what felt like a day now. Sort of a beautiful feeling. I watched the sun rise and sort of thinking in the back of my mind what my day was going to look like. Knowing it was another adventure packed day and I was ready for it. A short hike back to my car and I was ready to hit the scenic drive through Capitol Reef, a 20 mile roundtrip drive and views that are so gorgeous. I decided to take a random gravel road as a turn off, then one thing led to another and I was out hiking between some of the biggest canyons I’ve ever seen. Starting my morning off by feeling so insginficant. I hiked in only a mile because honestly there wasn’t even signs to where I was headed, only footprints to indicate other signs of life were there. I turned around and then made the drive back into the real park, finally seeing other humans for the first time in what felt like years. I was happy to know there wasn’t a zombie apocalypse that happened and I wasn’t the only survivor. I didn’t have service still though so I was unbelivably happy when I realized I had my maps downloaded offline, biggest life saver ever. I looked at my list of places I was trying to see this trip, punched in the next destination on my map and had a few hours of drive time. Whenever I have a long day of driving I literally see how I can cut it in half or something with another place nearby, such as a state park, national monument, cute little town. Whatever it is, I’m trying to make my drive not seem so bad. This time I was able to find another little state park, so I added that as a stop off along the way. Hour or so had passed and then I made it to the cutest little area with some of the most beautiful red rock formations I had seen my couple days in Utah, a little booth to where you can rent horses to ride around, cute shops / laundry mats. I was screaming, literally. It was the CUTEST little state park. I was so happy I had found it along the way and took time here to make some lunch. But my main destination was to Bryce Canyon NP, easily the most underrated national park there is. The orange colors here is something Crayola couldn’t even compare to. The hiking trails are in abundance and with some views that seem too good to be true. I had been here only one another time before this so I knew I needed to spend more time on the trails and other viewpoints I hadn’t seen before. I hiked pretty far into the canyons and also along trails that felt like they were parallel to the edge of the world, something hard to describe but makes sense at this place. It’s easily one of the most interesting landscapes I’ve ever seen. My heart holds a little piece of this place from the first time I stepped foot into the park, there’s just something about it. I was sitting overlooking one of the most beautiful views I had seen all through the park where the thunder and lightning started to roll in again, I sat for a minute and knew I needed to make it back to my car but didn’t want to leave the view yet. The rain came faster than expected so I ran to my car.. I tried to wait out the storm for an hour and a half and it wasn’t budging so I instead made the move to outrun the rain myself.. A hard goodbye but also with a “See you later” I left Bryce Canyon after 4 hours and drove to easily my next favorite place in the Southwest.. Monument Valley. This was a hard decision to make because it was a long drive and I knew that I would have to find camp in the dark but knowing I’d be able to witness sunrise here, I was for it. On the drive there it was still pretty stormy so I just started to accept the fact it would be a rainy couple hours of drive time. It wasn’t until 6:30PM when the clouds finally broke and the sun reappeared. This time though.. It was shining. It was honestly without a doubt the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen in my life. The way the clouds were floursecnt pink but also a deep orange, I couldn’t even believe my eyes. It was the type of sunset that makes you cry. One so beautiful you don’t ever want to get back into your car from because you feel like it’s a disgrace. I was on the side of the highway witnessing it, literally middle of nowhere. Blown away. Standing on the side of the road, jaw to the ground, arms out like what the heck and tears in my eyes. It was such a magical night. One I’ll never forget. The sun set extra slow that night, 2 hours until the pink finally disappeared and turned into the dark.

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My favorite photo I’ve ever taken I think.. puts me in my feels so much

I finally got to where I would camp for the night and it was beautiful you guys.. The back view of famous Monument Valley, something I didn’t even notice until I drove back there after the sun rose. I got in late at night and then left early morning, still dark out at 5AM. But I was not going to even jeapodarize missing sun rise after the long drive I had the night before and knowing how beautiful it is to see the sun come up here. So I drove the 25 minutes from camp to the famous viewpoint and waited another 30 minutes for the sun to finally rise. And let me tell you, there is no place I have ever witnessed that comes more to life than Monument Valley at sunrise. The way the sun peaks through the valley and the beautiful rocks, the color it brings out in the already red desert.. It looks like it could set the whole world on fire. It’s truly so dreamy to witness. I stayed here for 2 hours not wanting to miss a moment. Knowing it would be more of a special morning than some of the others. It’s just a place my heart really longs for every time I leave. So I waited until the sun was fully up and the rest of the world was awake. With the parking lot filling up with people I decided to leave and make it to the famous Forest Gump road scene shot.. Honestly, so overrated but so iconic. I had again been here one another time but wasn't super content with the photos I had taken so I was so blessed this time around with the light and also the fact not a lot of other people were there. I took some of my own shots and then asked the sweetest girl if she could help grab a couple photos of me, not expecting much. BLESS THIS GIRLS HEART. She literally put my camera on burst mode and had a whole photo shoot with me. Needless to say we became bestfriends.. It made me feel so grateful for solo travel. How I’m able to enjoy a moment so much by myself but then also intertwine the experience by meeting a stranger who is so kind. It was just so amazing, also shout out to her for helping me with my photos you’re the best, girlfriend. There’s some places that are really hard to leave and trust me, Monument Valley area is definitely that for me. There’s something about this place that makes me just want to stay for a few days. But this time I had a million other places waiting to be seen, so I made my way to Valley of the Gods, I believe still in Utah. This is where I started to get confused on where I even truly was anymore, Utah and Arizona began to feel like a joint state as I was just going between the borders all day. But wherever Valley of the Gods is situated, it’s worth the drive. One of the best spots I’ve found on Google Maps, not really for just any car since the road is pretty gnarly. I think that’s why I loved it so much - I didn’t see anybody the whole 2 hours I drove through the place, just me alone with the valley. I played my music too loud; mostly the same one song and on repeat too, had the windows down but with the AC on since it was blaring hot outside, pulled out at way too many spots and took hundreds of photos. This place felt really magical for some reason, as if it was almost made for me. I mean it sort of was for the day. I couldn’t help but cry once I started to get closer to the main highway it was like for a couple hours I was just so far away from the rest of the world (I mean I still was, the nearest town only had a gas station in it) but even then it felt like it was just my own piece of land for awhile. The vibes were perfect and honestly every time I look back on my trip I’ll always think back to this road travelled on and “Old Pine” by Ben Howard will start to play.. One of those perfect moments. It was honestly the start to what would be such a dreamy night.. That was because I was making it to the Grand Canyon finally. A place that I thought I would never go to, just because of how touristy it is. I won’t lie, I hate sharing views with too many people. Where you can’t ever find peace and quiet and all you hear is kids yelling and echoing through the whole place. Not my cup of tea. But I was ready to bare all arms and suck it up, because c’mon the Grand Canyon. Gotta see it once in your life. But you guys.. Wow. Just wow. I was absolutely shocked, eyes wide and jaw to the ground shocked when I pulled into the park. Able to drive freely through the park and not be stopped every minute due to traffic, able to walk the rim trail and find places that were one little step off a cliff and able to be alone with the view. I got into the park right as the sun started to set.. Literally all I was able to do to was find a spot on the map I got at the entrance station and head there, not even knowing if it would be worth it. When I tell you it was the dreamiest night I’ve ever been apart of -just believe me. The way the sun dances between the canyon as it fades to night is something no photos will ever capture perfectly. I sat there completely and utterly in awe and in love. In love with Arizona, the Grand Canyon, road life, the edge of the world type feeling and most importantly myself. One thought I kept thinking was how awfully big it felt to be there all alone. I mean the Grand Canyon, obviously it’s huge. But to experience it by just yourself, it really puts things into perspective.. you start to shrink a bit with the feeling of insignificance but also feel even more alive than before. It was honestly one of the most amazing feelings I’ve ever felt; just little ol’ me in the big ol’ Grand Canyon. I felt humbled beyond belief. It was as magical as magic could get. I drove back to my campsite I decided to pay for, for the first time my whole trip - just to be inside the park and close to everything for sunrise. Knowing I was in for another beautiful day.

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I woke up extra early to make sure I would get to somewhere to see the sun fully rise and not miss a second of it. Tired was an understatement but excited is also an understatement.. It’s always that mixed emotion of regret and readiness for sunrise missions. I was able to find a pretty good spot where I sat and waited a good half an hour for the sun to even make an appearance and then after that another hour to be in the sky. Witnessing the whole canyon come back to life after it’s been tucked away by darkness is seriously so beautiful, I had almost forgotten just how vast it was. The morning light makes the whole place a different setting.. I easily became a morning person this trip. After witnessing a beautiful sunrise I decided to head back to where I was for sunset - knowing how long the rim trail is and how much I could explore on it. And okay wow.. It’s crazy honestly how life works sometimes. How fate just happens.. I had finally gotten service when at the visitor center and I sent my brother a quick text just saying “I feel sort of lonely today”. It had been a couple days since I had a real conversation with friends and family, always driving or hiking and also a combination of not having service in the southwest.. So I decided I’d treat myself to coffee from the cute little shop they had in the visitor center area and then start my walk. Now everything I’m about to tell you sounds fake because yeah, I don’t know how life works out in such mysterious ways like this. But I went to order my coffee and the guy behind the counter was older, very sweet and loved his job. He was asking everyone that came up to order where they were traveling from and that right there made me love the man. People that want to hear others stories and want to start a conversation are my kind of people. I got up there ordered my coffee and then he hit me with the question of where I’m from. - WA didn’t feel far for me because well it’s my home and I don’t ever feel like my journeys are that crazy. And he was shocked especially when I told him I was just by myself. He leaned in real close, wanted nobody to hear and goes.. “You know, solo travel is the best.. That’s the most freeing kind of journey to have. It’s magical and it can really change you if you let it. Enjoy every second of it”. It sort of made me choke up. I couldn’t help but feel like I needed to hear that especially that morning as I was starting to feel a bit lonely. I smiled and told him how much I needed that. I grabbed my coffee and then was on my way to walk around more. I grabbed my tripod and was ready to take some photos of me on the edge of the cliffs to scare the shit out of my boss and parents. I set up and was probably there for 20 or 30 minutes without really seeing anybody walk by, maybe one guy did a quick run by but he didn’t even notice I was there. I was just doing my own thing lost in the view and moment. I was taking photos when I heard someone walk up and their shutter on their camera go off, I couldn’t help but feel like I was in her way when I turned around so I asked if she wanted me to move. Her response is something I’ll never forget.. She goes “You’re actually making the whole photo I’d love for you to stay there”. Man it was the sweetest thing in the world. Here I am minding my business and now all the sudden I have a new friend who’s taking photos with and of me. The conversation started out slow, just talking about how she was from Amsterdam and travelled to the states with a group where she ventured off. I told her where I had traveled the days before and where I was headed next.. Then next thing you know we were in some of the deepest conversations I’ve had in awhile. Learning all about someone’s life who was just a complete stranger moments before. Talking about our parents divorces, how she quit her huge job to travel, breakups, you name it - everything you’d talk about with an old friend that you haven’t seen in years. We were spilling our hearts out about it. An hour passed of us sitting in the place we had just met at, still both in disbelief at each others life stories. She couldn’t believe I was all alone and I couldn’t believe she quit her creative director job to travel. It was like this weird fate bringing us into eachothers life to open up this new door in our minds and life. Like we each had something to learn from one another. We packed up our stuff and continued to walk the trail for a couple more hours, getting more into conversations. And not just the conversations you have to kill time it was questions like “What are your biggest dreams?” or “What do you really want out of life?”. Conversations you need to have but usually don’t with people. All I could think the whole time was how I would have never met her had I been with a friend, how I wouldn’t of made a new and amazing friend if I wasn’t alone. Honestly just a moment in time that feels so special. You get into a lot of situations, you go a lot of places, you meet a lot of people and so on.. All of which create you into this person and bring this piece out of you, you didn’t know you had. And that’s what I felt that was. It was such a surreal morning and left me humbled all day. We wrote down our email addresses, promised to stay in touch with sending our film photos we took of each other, hugged and said goodbye. Then just like that, I was back to being by myself. It’s wild how you can have such a whirlwind moment, such a chaotic and beautiful moment and then it leaves you just like that and you’re back to being you. But also with a different mindset. It was just a magic moment. Hard to leave type of moment. But I knew I had more places on the list and less days than I wanted on the road so I had to make a move on. I paid $2.50 for a shower that changed my life and then I was back on the road. Leaving the Grand Canyon - a place that ultimately changed me in ways I can’t and don’t even know how to describe. It was hard.. I got on the road deeper into Arizona.. Making my way to Sedona which was absolutely beautiful but also PACKED. I completely forgot my trip was during Labor Day weekend so the drive on the highway was terrible because there was so many people walking in the middle of it to get to camping, hiking trails or swimming spots. Don’t blame them though.. And then once getting into the town of Sedona it was so crowded they had shut down the traffic signals and were directing their own traffic because of all the cars. I stayed in this area for almost a good hour until I realized I wasn’t going to be able to enjoy myself, so I walked one short trail took some photos and promised to be back. So instead I went more south and down to Phoenix, AZ. aka Hell. It was 100 degrees still at 9PM, not camping weather. So bless my dads heart and soul he actually bought me a hotel this night so I was able to go to bed early and with AC. Definitely needed and appreciated.

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I woke up extra early the next morning and made my way to just a nearby walking trail that was actually situated in the middle of a neighborhood, so I was really exploring deep into Phoenix at this point lol. The trail was honestly beautiful though, mostly because it was still golden hour and there was hot air balloons everywhere, cactuses (which was my first time seeing in real life) and it was already warm out by 7AM. It was a morning that definitely made me fall in love with the desert, I even had a crazy thought like “You know, I could see myself moving here” as I talked to people along the trail, saw the cute houses and realized these were typical walking trails. I spent awhile exploring this area and then hopped in my car to find the “Carefree Highway” a couple told me about. I was talking with them on the trail, asking how they even survived in the heat everyday, the question that had been on my mind for days now - they started to tell me places to see nearby and roads to drive up for overlook views. I thought I didn’t hear them right when they said to turn up the careefree highway, if you know me - you know I’m a fool for little things like that. I instantly knew I would just drive on that and see what happens next because it’s ought to take you somewhere beautiful, right? And it did. Cactuses everywhere, as Southwest as Southwest can get I’m sure. It was a complete different landscape than back home so I loved it. It was so fun just driving on that highway, knowing it was as carefree as I was literally and figuratively. It seemed too good to be true. The day was spent just exploring back roads, random scenic pull offs and short walking trails because well it’s too hot to be out of your car longer than 15 minutes. I decided it was time to move on, I had planed to stay that night somewhere in Arizona but honestly things didn’t feel right. I knew it would be miserable to sleep in that heat so I decided to drive towards California. Making it to one of my favorite areas - Joshua Tree NP. With one stop along the way to make the long drive less miserable.. This cute little town I found on Pinterest - Seligman, AZ. It was based off the Disney movie Cars and it’s so old and vintage, it was fun to explore around here and grab something to eat, live on the set of my favorite childhood movie. I spent an hour here so I could make it to Joshua Tree before dark.. Still in the desert, still hotter than hell and still so beautiful. But closer to home and not as terribly hot, no triple digits. I got to the park just in time for sun to set and it was again a gorgeous one, the way the sun illuminated the backdrop of all the trees. It was something that was worth the long 5 or 6 hour drive there. I sat on the hood of my car on the side of the road taking it all in. Night came quicker than expected, mostly because I had my music playing lightly and nobody around for awhile - the moment felt like it was perfect. Soon before I knew it I was off to find camp for the night, one of my favorite and least favorite things about solo travel. It’s always exciting to see where you end up but also terrifying wondering if it’s even legal to be there or even more, if it’s safe. But I got to where I sort of knew about beforehand and actually had a neighbor. So it started to felt more at ease, they told me about how a storm was going to come in that night and to be careful just because it gets really windy where we are. I was literally looking at the stars above me, seeing the Milky Way with my naked eye. Thinking these people are full of BS. So I went to sleep early that night, windows open - stars above me. It was perfect. What felt like a whole nights sleep passed and I woke up to sideways rain, wind, thunder and lightning happening all at once. My sleeping bag, pillow and everything in my car actually was already damp from the short time it had been raining. I scrambled to get my keys in my car and to roll my windows open, I thought to myself “Okay, wow maybe I’m the dumb one” - I couldn’t believe it though because it was still 90 degrees out but a huge storm was happening. It was honestly miserable.. I couldn’t have my windows down, which meant no air flow and it was beyond humid in my car with the heat still. I just laid there for 3 hours watching this storm happen all around me and also hoping my car wouldn’t blow over from the wind, all while sweating profusely from the desert heat. It wasn’t ideal this time like how it was in Utah - in Utah, I was able to open my windows to get a breeze and the night was surpsingly cooler. This time it was sideways rain so even my windows open a centimeter was too much and letting rain in. But it’s life. So I just laid there and soaked it all in, literally. I watched the storm come and go, by this time it was 3AM and I was able to roll my windows down and go to sleep again. Thinking “Well this will be a nice nap”


My alarm went off 3 hours later and I woke up to what felt like the most quiet place ever after fighting through the storm the night before. I literally was just so happy it was day time and I was able to drive around again and with my AC, it really is the little things while on the road. I started the morning off by driving through the National park again, stopping off at places I hadn’t seen before. Then made my way into the actual town of Joshua Tree - oh my gosh, it’s beyond cute you guys! I had breakfast at a small cafe and caught up with family here for a couple hours, just honestly slowing down time knowing how the next couple days were going to be a lot of driving as I start to make my way back home and to the coast. I started to plan my route more after eating way too much, then I hit the road. Again I was enduring like a 5 or 6 hour drive in order to make it to the coast but I had to be home in 3 days and knew the only way I would want to make the long journey back to WA is if I had views the whole way. I texted an old friend who lives in Malibu and asked if he was around as it had been a year since I’ve seen him last. Next thing you know I actually had a destination for sunset, something I was planning to just see where I wound up. Turner took me to a spot we had been before, but it was different this time. Last year when we were in this area it was during spring so not a lot people were out, but this time around - everyone and their mom was here. It felt special to be on top of the world and watch everyone below us. Counting the cars that drive by and watching the clouds dance with the sea. It felt surreal to witness it all. It was honestly one of the dreamiest sunsets I’ve seen, pastel colors and like I said.. The clouds dancing so beautifully between the hills and intertwining with the sea - to the point you can’t tell the beginning or end to either of them. It was absolutely beautiful. We talked and caught up on life, watching the sun disappear as the moon came out. It was a perfect start to what would be my next couple days along the coast of California and up through Oregon.

Malibu not on film



The next morning I woke up and began a 12 hour drive.. Could I tell you where I was in California at this point? No. But what I can tell you is that I listened to waaaaay too many podcast episodes from Chris Gethard, I played my new favorite song 8 times in a row and I saw some of the most beautiful beaches of my life. I literally had no plan in mind the whole day, honestly the plan was to have no plans - I had two days at this point on the road to get home and a total of 24 hours of drive time. So I knew I couldn’t really stop too much but that was impossible. I stopped off in San Francisco as my first point of the day, it was my first time exploring this cute town and the Golden Gate Bridge. And wow, it was absolutely beautiful. I would go back in a heartbeat to explore the streets more and be able to have a picnic with the bridge in the back. Maybe that’s why I teased myself with a short visit there, to have a reason to come back. Turner also had told me some places to hit along the way so I knew those would be at least a couple more pinpoints of places to stop for a stretch out of the car. Needless to say, there’s a reason he told me about them. One of the spots I limited my time to 45 minutes at but somehow ended up staying for 2 hours - just writing in my journal. I hadn’t had time to really write the last couple days so it was a catch up period, I listened to the waves crash and didn’t witness a single soul cross my path the whole time. It was beyond special. I made a really hard goodbye as I let go and got back on the road. I killed another 6 hours of drive time and found a place right along the coast between the border of California and Oregon.. Listened to the waves crash as they sang me to sleep and before I knew it - it was my last day on the road.

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I woke up and started the day cooking my last breakfast right along the beach, it was a stormy day and somehow that was completely fitting for the day and my mood. I knew it was total driving weather.. I started my day by driving through the Redwoods and it was so fogged in that it was beautiful. The way the green lush trees pair up with the fog, it’s a gorgeous scene. I sadly didn’t get out to take photos or anything because all the stops I did the day before put me at a 14 hour driving day. But was it worth it though? Always. I drove for hours upon hours along the coast, window open and listening to the waves basically the whole day, occasionally stopping off to fill the sand between my toes and take a photo.






I didn’t get to spend as much time running around as I wanted on the coast, that being because I spent my time extra long at other places that felt special. Lost in a lot of other moments. And I can’t blame myself for that. There’s always going to be places and times that feel more remarkable. It gives me all the reasons to come back to those unfinished moments.

I let my heart long for places now, knowing how much better it will be when I revisit..

I got back home at about 10PM, pulled into my driveway after the long 14 hour drive I had.. The last song to play of the trip was "Time is Dancing” by Ben Howard, one of my favorite songs with some of my favorite simply beautiful lyrics.


Hold it in, now let’s go dancing
I do believe we’re only passing through

are my favorite.. I feel it describes a lot of feelings I had on my trip: dancing with the moment of time and opportunity, dancing with life - just passing through and not knowing when I’ll really be back through these special, special places.

Hopefully soon though.. That’s where my heart belongs



Thank you for being Lost in a Dream with me

With lots of love,

Niki







My TripsNiki Herring1 Comment