Today I am heading home from my “summer” vacation. I took last week off from work and completed an 8 day road trip through Arizona, Nevada and Southern California with someone who I have been dating seriously for the past 8 months. Our goal was to combine hiking in the Grand Canyon + surfing in California, so a road trip seemed like the perfect fit for us! Because we were driving through the desert, we decided to make a few other stops along the way 🙂 Here is how I spent my week:
Leg 1: The mighty Grand Canyon
Originally, we had planned to do an overnight hike down into the Grand Canyon – there is a lodge at the bottom along with an incredible waterfall. Little did I know, vacationers must reserve a room at the lodge almost a year in advance! Considering Chris and I booked this trip only 3 weeks before departure, we resorted to a day hike (7 miles) on the Bright Angel Trail, which did not disappoint. Gazing at this awe-inspiring wonder, it was a simple reminder that we as individuals are a tiny part of something so much bigger and everlasting.
Leg 2: Viva Las Vegas!
In stark comparison to the Grand Canyon (feeling small, awe-struck and insignificant to nature), Vegas actually makes one feel pretty big and important! Every visitor there is living large, staying in luxurious (but very affordable) hotels, dressed to the nines and surrounded by over-indulgence. As someone who has never really dreamed of visiting this city, I was really surprised when I found myself enjoying my time there. Each hotel on the strip is beautifully designed and decorated, and just walking around was a treat for the eyes. Everyone in Vegas is so happy and excited to be there – its contagious!
Leg 3: Palm Springs
After being in Vegas for 36 hours, I was ready to move on to our next stop, Palm Springs, California – home of Coachella. Palm Springs was supposed to be our “day of relaxation,” but after a few hours by the pool, we got bored and drove towards the Palm Spring Art Museum Trailhead (theres a free 2 mile hike up a rocky mountain behind the museum.) This trail was 1 mile up (900 ft gain) and 1 mile down – which is STEEP! If you’re in Palm Springs and looking for a tough 1-2 hour workout, this trail is recommended.
The next morning we woke up early to attempt another hike in Palm Springs, however quickly realized that the hiking destination (a beautiful waterfall on a Native American Reservation) is currently dried up. California is in the middle of a devastating drought, (which Chris and I are both well aware of, so we probably should have foreseen this)! Bummed out and craving some form of swimmable water, we skipped the hike and began the 2 hour drive to La Jolla.
Leg 4: San Diego
Chris had been to San Diego in May, so knew he wanted to take me to Torrey Pines in La Jolla (heads up – after climbing down a steep decent to the beach, you’ll quickly realize that this is a nude beach!) The next few days were spent swimming, sunbathing and surfing with friends who live in Pacific Beach. I am an amateur surfer (living in Boston, I can only go a couple times a year when we finally get waves big enough to ride), so being in San Diego where surf is plentiful was a treat. My favorite experience in SD was observing the sleek seals swim right past my surf board while paddling out – those creatures are not shy!
PS: If you’re visiting this city, head to PB and go to Oscars for lunch. It was hands down the best (and ironically the cheapest) meal of the week! The simple menu consists of fish, shrimp, chicken and beef tacos, creative ceviches with delicious sauces to add on top, and homemade fruit & vegetable juices.
Leg 5: Los Angeles
At this point, we were 6 days in and both tired of driving… however our flight home was out of LAX so we made the traffic-laden trek to Los Angeles. Having previously visited the beach towns surrounding LA quite a bit, I knew I wanted to stay in Santa Monica so that we could be close to Malibu (aka heaven on earth.) After exploring the Palisades Park for a few hours in the morning, we drove up the PCH to Matador Beach and spent the rest of the day relaxing.
Driving in between destinations gave each of us a lot of time to reflect on our experiences, and focus on the upcoming destination (rather than thinking about work and home life.) I loved that :)! I finally got my “road trip fix” after dreaming of this trip for a long time, and will cherish all the photos and memories from this vacation.