For those who have followed my blog--that is, for me basically, and maybe my mom (hi, mom), it shouldn't be any surprise that my idea of a perfect vacation is to escape to a wilderness area somewhere in the great American west and hike around, seeing as few people as possible, and generally absorbing the wilderness ambiance that--not coincidentally--makes up an important part of the DARK•HERITAGE setting. Of course, so would be hanging around the Mediterranean coasts of Spain, France and Italy, as well as exploring Sicily, Sardinia, some of the Moorish architecture of Andalusia, and maybe hanging out in Casablanca or Marrakesh. That's less likely to happen in the near future, but I've made a tentative plan for a late spring ten-day sojourn westward. My wife's not completely on board yet, but I'm thinking me and the boys in my smaller car is a better bet than the whole family in the minivan anyway. Here's the tentative itinerary, just for the curious.
Day 1: Drive from my home in the Detroit area to Lexington, NE--about 15 hours. This is enough to keep me busy all day; that's a lot of hours to drive all by yourself. Of course, my oldest son can take a turn behind the wheel if he comes--but he doesn't have any experience with long-distance driving yet, so I'm not going to have him log all that many hours, I don't think.
Day 2: Drive from Lexington to Grand Junction Colorado, with a small detour to Scott's Bluff National Monument, which shouldn't take more than about three hours and which will give us a nice chance to stretch our legs and get out of the car for a while. The bluff itself is kind of a singular geographic feature, so there's not a lot of hiking to do. Basically, you see the visitors center, spend maybe an hour or two on the few short trails, and take a bunch of pictures of the bluff, and then a bunch of pictures from the top of the bluff. Then you get back in your car and hit the road again.
Day 3: After sleeping in a little bit, we go to Colorado National Monument, register for a campsite (because they're first come first served, although I've been told by the ranger that they rarely ever fill up) go see the visitors center, and do the Rimrock drive. There are a number of short (about half hour or so) hikes that have trailheads along the Rimrock drive, so we'll do those on Day 1. These include the Window Rock Trail, the Canyon Rim Trail, the Alcove Nature Trail and Otto's Trail. Starting this day, we also eat only what we brought with us--six days of backpack lunches and dinners cooked over a camp stove in the evening. We're also in the desert, so everyone drinks three bottles of water every day, plus as much as you want in the morning and evening.
Day 4: Three slightly longer trails, including the Coke Ovens Trail, the CCC Trail, and the Devil's Kitchen Trail.
Day 5: Now we get into more serious, backcountry trails, including Serpents Trail (called the crookedest road in the world) and the Black Ridge Trail, each of which is a good half-day of hiking.
Day 6: Two other 4-5 hour hikes: Monument Canyon Trail and Liberty Cap Trail.
Day 7: Three other backcountry trails: Ute Canyon Trail, Old Gordon Trail, and Corkscrew Trail Loop.
Day 8: The most ambitious of them all, the all-day un-maintained No Thoroughfare Canyon Trail. As the name implies, the last few miles are basically trailless, so we'll probably be bushwhacking. In the evening, we leave the monument, stay in a hotel, eat out, and take showers.
Days 9 and 10: Driving home in two 12 hour stretches.
When we're done, we will have completed pretty much all that those two national monuments have to offer, as well as having done some fairly ambitious hiking. Without going on multiday backcountry hikes, which I'm not ready for, especially if I really do bring my two younger boys along, it's about as ambitious as you can get, especially the No Thoroughfare Canyon hike which is an all-day walk in the desert on a trail that ranges from poor to nonexistent.
Not only that, my budget for a trip like this is fairly small; I can do the whole trip for just a little over $1,000. Bonus.