Last summer, John and I took an epic road trip from Missoula, Montana to Phoenix, Arizona. Five states, roughly 1500 miles by car, three national parks, two state parks, one tribal park… all while five months pregnant with twins. We decided to plan this trip after we got back from Australia in 2013 – we had traveled to the other side of the world and had seen one of the most beautiful countries in the world, and yet we were suddenly struck by the fact that we had never fully explored our own country. Needless to say, we planned this trip before I found out I was pregnant, but decided to go ahead with it despite the fact I was a little more limited in what I could do – white water rafting and long hikes were decidedly out. It was still an amazing trip, but I desperately want to retrace our steps – perhaps with the kids in tow next time – and do all the things I was unable to do the first time around.
We flew to Missoula first because John’s dad lives there. He, his girlfriend, and John’s sister joined us for the first part of our trip through Yellowstone. Our time in Missoula was brief, but we managed to go tubing down the Clark Fork River and walk around town a little bit. I’m hoping we can make it back to Missoula next summer, because I really loved it. Then we set out for Yellowstone – staying at the Canyon Lodge near the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
Yellowstone is an incredible place. It sticks with you. I’ve been thinking about it a lot since we were there – I’ve just never been so overwhelmed by a place. Yellowstone is almost unfathomable in its beauty. We were lucky enough to see buffalo, coyotes, elk, tons of beautiful birds, and most incredible of all – a black bear walking through a field of wild flowers with her twin cubs in tow. (I actually asked my friend Erin, who is an amazing artist, to paint this scene for me to hang in the girls’ room after they were born because it felt like such a good omen when we saw the bear.)
After our time in Yellowstone, we parted ways with our family and headed to Park City, Utah for a few relaxing days. I LOVE Utah. I first visited in 2012 when I had the opportunity to photograph a wedding at the Sundance Resort. I was so happy to be back. We wandered around Park City, explored Antelope Island State Park, ate lots of good food, and lounged at our hotel pool. (We are actually going back to Park City again in December – my first wintertime visit – and I am so excited.) If you haven’t been to Utah, you need to go. It’s the best.
Our next stop was Moab and Arches National Park. Moab is such a cool little town, and one of my biggest regrets is that we didn’t plan enough time here. We stayed at the Red Cliffs Lodge, and our room was just steps from the Colorado River. This was probably my favorite hotel on our trip. Arches is beautiful – the rock formations are stunning. It was also HOT. Around 105 if I recall correctly.
Monument Valley was next after Moab, and I think it was probably our least favorite stop. There was just nothing I could do here as a pregnant lady. It was a beautiful place – and the highlight of our stop here was watching the sunrise over the rock formations. But I was glad we were only here for a day and was excited to move on to the Grand Canyon. We stayed in Williams, Arizona to visit the Grand Canyon. It’s a kitschy little town, and I loved it. On the day we visited, the Grand Canyon was very hazy from all the fires around. I’d like to visit again, but next time I definitely want to go down into it, preferably on a raft.
Finally we ended our trip in Scottsdale, Arizona, for a few days of poolside laziness. It was the perfect, relaxing end to our trip.
I think the biggest thing I got out of our trip is an obsession with our national parks. I always fancied myself a city girl, but I loved being in these wild places. I want to go back to Yellowstone, and plan trips to other parks – particularly Yosemite and Glacier. I have some plans in the works for a long hike next summer out west with friends, which I hope come to fruition.
All the photographs in this post were shot on film – either 35mm or on my Mamiya 645-AFD. To see more photographs from our trip, just search the hashtag #goulahsgowest on Instagram.