I had made an itinerary for us to follow as we made this trek across the country. After we figured out our definite stops along the way, I used Google maps to plan it out, knowing that it was going to be a guide, not necessarily something we would always follow. We made no reservations, just knew that we would be staying with friends every few days or so. The itinerary was based on not traveling for more than 6 hours on any given day. It included all of the places that we wanted to see, beyond our set stops. And for the most part, we stuck to it. The only time we really strayed from it was after the Grand Canyon. We had planned to camp that night, somewhere nearby to the canyon but when we finished our hike, it was nearly 6pm. We were all hungry and tired and we decided to start driving north east, heading towards our next destination, Arches National Park. The thing about that was there really was nowhere to stop along our route. It was getting late and we were getting hungrier and more tired with each mile that passed. We finally ended up finding a hotel but there was no vacancy. There was no vacancy at the other hotel nearby either. We had no cell reception and no where to sleep. At this point, it was almost 10pm, we succumbed to our first fast food (McDonald's french fries and salad) and we had a decision to make. We could keep driving, but we were out in the middle of a Native American Reservation and it was pitch black. Blacker than I have ever seen. Or we could head down to Flagstaff, an hour or so back south. This would put us too far from Arches to make it there the next day. We ended up deciding that was the better and more responsible choice. If Max were not with us, we probably would have kept driving. But he was sleeping in the backseat and it didn't feel fair to him, or completely safe to keep going on our intended path. So we backtracked and spent the night in Flagstaff.
It's funny how things work out because those next two days ended up being some of my favorite ones from the trip. Luckily our AZ friends were able to give us some great recommendations of what to do in the area and we camped on top of lava rocks, near a volcano that erupted nearly 1000 years ago. We explored a meteor crater, some cliff dwellings, pueblos, and the awesome landscape of northern Arizona. We saw the Painted Desert, the Teepees and the Petrified Forest. Since we scratched Arches, we had to decide our route to Denver, CO. I had always wanted to go to Santa Fe, NM so we quickly rerouted and made that our next destination. But that is for another time. For now, here are the amazing scenes and landscapes that we fell in love with as a result of our thwarted plans. Sometimes those end up being the best ones.
Sunset Crater Volcano and camping
Painted Desert, Teepees and Petrified National Forest