We set out in February for 15 days on the road, during which we hit four National Parks and a number of other noteworthy sights in the Southwest.
Being away for a two-week span somehow always feels less like a getaway and more like a little taste of nomadic life — especially with so many miles covered and such varied landscapes captured. From the whitest sand to the darkest sky and from the top of Texas to the largest underground limestone chamber in North America, this trip really ran the gamut of superlative experiences!
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– feature film –
See the occasion come alive in these video highlights!
day 1 • 02.19.22
Independence, MO >>> Historic Tower Station >>> Amarillo, TX
We set out with snow on the ground and settled in for the long drive to the Texas panhandle, making one noteworthy stop along the way — at the historic Tower Station along Route 66 in Shamrock, Texas.
We’d driven out of the snow well before we reached this spot an hour and a half east of Amarillo, but we soon found we’d traded one kind of inclement weather for another, in the form of wind. Which definitely foreshadowed what was to come, weather-wise, as we encountered a lot of wind the first week of this trip!
This gas station and café was built in 1936, and if it looks familiar, that may be because it was used as the model for Ramone’s House of Body Art in the “Cars” films. I don’t know that we’ll ever do an official Route 66 road trip, but I like to hit iconic spots along it when we can, and this was definitely a cool one to see.
Back on the road, we had just enough light for reaching our hotel in Amarillo before dark.
day 2 • 02.20.22
Palo Duro Canyon State Park
Known as the Grand Canyon of Texas, Palo Duro Canyon is second only to the Grand Canyon in size — covering 30,000 acres at 800 feet deep and up to 20 miles wide in some spots. This size, along with its multicolored rock layers and steep mesa walls, make it impressive just in general. But what I found especially impressive was that a river somehow formed this wonder in the middle of the Panhandle Plains, half an hour from Amarillo — perhaps the last place you’d expect to encounter a canyon.
Spanish explorers chose the name Palo Duro, or “hard wood,” due to the canyon’s juniper trees. But it’s at least as well known for its hoodoos. The most famous of these rock spires is the Lighthouse formation, which actually is the symbol of the park.
So heading to the Lighthouse Trail right away was an an obvious choice. It’s a 6-mile round-trip hike and relatively easy, other than some scrambling not far from the Lighthouse. And while we lucked out with a really nice day for our visit, temps were in the 30s a few days later and are undoubtedly scorching throughout the summer — both extremes that I’m sure would make the hike much harder!
Other Palo Duro highlights included flying our drone (which felt a little scandalous since we’re normally in National Parks, where drones aren’t allowed). We also were able to see a few longhorns from Texas’ official longhorn herd, as well as some deer that evidently aren’t afraid to steal their food!
We ended the day with a great golden hour at the CCC Overlook — perfect for taking in one last look at the canyon.
day 3 • 02.21.22
Amarillo, TX >>> Seth Ward, TX >>> Roswell, NM >>> Alamogordo, NM
This was another travel day with some fun stops peppered in, including Cadillac Ranch, another iconic Route 66 roadside attraction. This art installation in Amarillo was created in the 1970s and consists of 10 Cadillacs buried nose-down in a field, supposedly at the same angle as the Great Pyramid of Giza.
The cars have now been in the ground as art longer than they were ever on the road, and they’ve been stripped to their frames and covered in layer upon layer of spray paint. This “vandalism” is allowed and even encouraged, with cans of paint sold on-site. But we were able to find a partially used can by the cars for leaving our mark, which saved us from adding spray paint to all the stuff we had packed in our own car!
Having made a stop last year in Erin, Tennessee, we of course had to see Seth Ward, Texas, since it was basically along our route. Being a small, unincorporated community, it didn’t offer much in the way of signage — but we did find this church for Seth to pose at in his namesake “city.”
He also picked up some cotton as a sort of souvenir, as it was scattered all over. And on our way to our next stop, we continued to see a lot of cotton as well as a lot of tumbleweeds. Driving this day truly felt like something out of a video game, with gale-force winds sending tumbleweed after tumbleweed rocketing across the road. I did my best to avoid impact but was not entirely successful … as is evident in images below!
Our final tourist stop of the day was in Roswell, New Mexico, which is famous for being the site of a possible alien landing in 1947. We didn’t encounter any extraterrestrials ourselves but did continue to experience insane wind — so much so it felt like quite a gamble to put our camera on a tripod for capturing ourselves with the Roswell sign!
After the sign, we visited the International UFO Museum and Research Center. I really liked how Roswell leans into its alien-focused fame, right down to the design of its downtown street lights. And the museum itself was also interesting in the way it combines historic information with pieces of pop culture inspired by Roswell’s storied past.
Back on the road to Alamogordo, we had our first taste of mountains this trip … with many more to come!
day 4 • 02.22.22
White Sands National Park
Finally we reached our first National Park of the trip, as well as one of the spots I was most excited to see. So it seemed the perfect place to mark our lifetime’s one “Tuesday” (2/22/22)!
As I alluded earlier, each park we visited contained an extreme of some sort, and White Sands’ obviously was its white sand. It also holds the status of preserving more than half of the world’s largest gypsum dunefield, which covers 275 square miles of the Chihuahuan Desert in southern New Mexico.
Driving through the park on Dunes Drive, it takes a bit of time to adjust to the reality that you’re seeing sand, not snow! Our first stop was the Backcountry Camping Trail, a 2-mile loop through some of the park’s taller dunes. And of course “trail” is a term to use loosely here, as no actual path exists — but there are periodic markers to point you in the right direction.
Next, we walked the 1-mile Dune Life Nature Trail through a flatter part of the dunefield — and although we didn’t see any wildlife, we were wowed by a Rio Grande Cottonwood, with its branches looking as stark and white as the sand against the blue sky. And speaking of color contrast, I must make note of my red jumpsuit, which was a very intentional outfit choice for this location. It was just the pop of color I’d hoped it would be, so please be patient with all the pictures as I let it have the moment for which it was purchased!
We ended the day back at the taller dunes, where we witnessed one of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve ever seen. It was so otherworldly I should probably note that, although I do edit images, I also aim for retaining reality — so the sky showcased in the evening’s final photos isn’t some super-enhancement. It was really that incredibly vibrant, with colors that continually deepened until the sky went dark.
day 5 • 02.23.22
White Sands National Park >>> Carlsbad, NM
Knowing one day at White Sands just wouldn’t be enough, I’d planned for us to spend another partial day there. This one ended up being quite a test of endurance, as the wind was insane and biting, and we were battling it on some steep slopes.
After taking a short stroll on the Interdune Boardwalk — where we found Seth looked identical to the person on the (above) sign, despite being different in both gender and race — we went in search of some tall dunes for sledding.
We’d been pleasantly surprised to find our hotel had sleds and wax on-hand that we could borrow for free, thus saving us about $30 at the park visitor center. But the ease of the experience ended there, thanks to the above-mentioned wind! It turned the grains of sand into tiny stinging weapons, which required covering as much skin as possible.
Despite the struggle with the wind, we had fun sledding for about 45 minutes and then had one more feat of endurance to complete: Taking a photo in our twin KC tees, sans jackets. Seth resisted at first, saying it was too cold — but fortunately ultimately agreed to a few more minutes of discomfort. I love the color scheme in the shot we got:
After leaving White Sands, we made the three-hour drive to Carlsbad (and had to remind ourselves that the white stuff we saw along the way was snow, not sand!).
We’d wanted to find a spot for another great sunset that evening, but with it being cloudy decided that just wasn’t in the cards. So imagine my shock to see a cotton-candy sky through the sudsy windshield at a car wash that evening. It was no White Sands sunset, of course, but it was certainly a nice surprise!
day 6 • 02.24.22
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
We stayed in Carlsbad the next few days for hitting our next two parks: Carlsbad Caverns and Guadalupe Mountains. Although these two are very visually distinct and separated by a state line — with Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico and Guadalupe Mountains in Texas — they were formed by the same geologic event and are divided by just a 30-minute drive.
Having just visited Mammoth Cave National Park last September, we weren’t sure if we’d find Carlsbad Caverns underwhelming. But we definitely didn’t! We spent hours touring the Big Room, a limestone chamber that — at almost 4,000 feet long, 625 feet wide, and 255 feet high at its highest point — is the largest in North America. And its formations were just incredible!
Above are the formations that were my personal favorites. I thought they looked like wizards or gnomes and that it was very fitting they reside near Fairyland (another favorite area). Plus, the formation on the right is named Rock of Ages — and although some research revealed that name supposedly is rooted in the hymn rather than the rock’s resemblance to a fantasy creature, in my mind it all fits!
The Big Room is accessible by elevator or by foot, via the cave’s natural entrance. With a 750-foot elevation change in just more than a mile, it’s a steep trek — and we opted to error on the side of caution by taking the elevator, since we were saving our legs for a big hike the next day. But we did walk over to take a peek at that entrance before leaving the park.
And finally, one of our last views from Carlsbad Caverns was of Guadalupe Peak — the highest point in Texas, which we planned to summit the next day. It was a bit hard to see through the haze but is about a third of the way from the left side of the shot below:
day 7 • 02.25.22
Guadalupe Mountains National Park
The next morning, we had our first up-close look at Guadalupe Peak (centered above). This park seems to be one of the more overlooked, despite being home to the highest natural point in Texas, at 8,751 feet above sea level.
The round-trip hike to reach it is noted to be 8.4 miles with a 3,000-foot elevation gain, although our distance hiked was more than 9 miles (perhaps in part because we lost the trail for a while). Whatever the exact mileage: Having stood on top of that peak at the top of Texas, we can testify that this will always be a very memorable park for us!
A little pointer for anyone else who plans to visit Guadalupe Mountains: Make sure to stop at the visitor center to show your parks pass or pay admission. Although the park doesn’t have entrance stations like most, it does charge a fee and provides a placard.
Based on weeks of watching forecasts, I’d expected to have the worst weather of our trip at this park. But surprisingly — after days of experiencing extreme wind and in spite of this often being a windy location — we actually had our most mild weather thus far. And with it not being all that cold, I was even able to strip off some of my many layers a little ways into it.
Also surprising was that I didn’t find the first 1.5 miles at all difficult, despite many hikers saying this is the most challenging section due to significant elevation gain. I actually found the trail much more challenging near the peak, where it’s necessary to do some scrambling in areas with decent exposure. But ironically, I never read any warning about that … which at least kept me from worrying about it ahead of time!
A funny difference Seth and I have found between us is that sections of trail that come with any risk of a significant fall make him nervous, but they usually don’t bother me. I, however, am much more tentative about loosing my footing in a way that could lead to a smaller injury. So we have to laugh at the vast chasm between our respective points of tentativeness: He’s afraid of falling to his death, and I’m afraid of twisting my ankle.
Pictured at above right: Not Guadalupe Peak. It’s actually a false peak I’m pointing to — which, being the tallest on the horizon at that point, could easily trick you into thinking the end was in sight.
Shown above is El Capitan, which I assume is named for its resemblance to the mountain of the same name in Yosemite National Park. At 8,085 feet, this El Cap is the eighth highest peak in Texas. And having hiked above it, we were definitely getting closer to our destination!
Also near there, we crossed paths with hikers who’d started the trail at the same time we did, but with the help of pack mules … which evidently aided in reaching the summit a little sooner.
We made it! People often can’t stay long at the peak due to cold and wind, especially in the winter. But we continued to luck out with pleasant weather and were able to enjoy our PB&Js with the summit all to ourselves, officially the highest people in the whole state of Texas (in elevation terms, of course!).
The sun finally peeked through on our way down, giving us some nice golden-hour light and a beautiful sunset for ending the hike. And fortunately for me and my fear of ankle-twisting, we were back at our car before dark!
day 8 • 02.26.22
Guadalupe Mountains National Park
This second day in the park felt a lot like a victory lap, and it was so satisfying to again see Guadalupe Peak from ground level — this time knowing that we’d stood on its summit, looking down on El Capitan. Day 2 also gave us time for our requisite sign photos, which we actually were allowed to capture by drone — thereby getting those two important peaks in the shot.
Afterward, we hiked the McKittrick Canyon Nature Trail, a 1-mile loop that was decidedly easier than what we’d done the day before! But we were still rewarded with great views in the form of desert foliage.
We ended the day slightly outside the opposite end of the park from where we’d started, at a spot known for great views of the sun setting behind El Capitan. We were able to fly the drone again, which gave us one last look at Guadalupe Peak from the air. She then made her way into my sideview mirror as we drove back to Carlsbad, allowing for one more farewell photo in the evening’s last light.
day 9 • 02.27.22
Carlsbad, NM >>> Alpine, TX
With almost four hours on the road between Carlsbad and our little cabin outside Big Bend National Park, we had plenty of sights to take in from the car — but one that definitely warranted stopping was Prada Marfa.
This sculptural installation along a barren highway outside the little arts hub of Marfa, Texas, was designed to look like a real Prada store, complete with real Prada merchandise. But it was constructed with biodegradable materials and with the intent it will one day decompose into nature — a statement of sorts about the nature of consumerism.
Having recently visited Roswell and brushed up on alien theories, I was pretty insistent that this object in the sky was a UFO (Never mind that with the aid of a zoom lens, it appeared more like a standard blimp).
We also stopped for a few minutes in Alpine — because I’m nothing if not a fan of murals — before continuing to our cabin (which had an Alpine address but was actually at least half an hour south of the city).
Per Airbnb: Piedra Poco, or “Little Stone,” is an 8×12 structure made entirely from salvaged wood, rocks, metal and other items collected from the local area. The gate sign is an old kick plate from a door in Big Bend National Park, and the cabin’s windows came from a 100-year-old house. Its tin siding previously was part of other dwellings that succumbed to the harsh West Texas winds, and its stones came from scattered locations along desert dirt roads.
The cabin sits on 10 acres, which we had all to ourselves (other than a coyote we saw signs of!). It was a perfect home base for our time in the Big Bend region and also for our first attempt at astrophotography — which of course we had to try, since we were under the darkest sky in the lower 48 states. I’m sure we’ll never forget all those stars, or this special place for seeing them.
day 10 • 02.28.22
Big Bend National Park
Finally we arrived at the last National Park on our itinerary, which felt so far removed from everywhere else. And really, it kind of is — being all the way down on the Rio Grande, just across the border from Mexico.
In addition to the Rio Grande, Big Bend contains the entirety of the Chisos Mountains as well as a large part of the Chihuahuan Desert. And it exceeded all expectations we had for it, even though our expectations weren’t low!
Narrowing down what to do in such a huge park isn’t easy, but the Lost Mine Trail was still a pretty obvious choice — and we felt so lucky to find parking in one of the few spots at the trailhead, even though we didn’t arrive at the crack of dawn.
This 5-mile roundtrip trail rises 1,100 feet, traveling through a woodland-grassland ecosystem to arrive at amazing 360-degree views of the Chisos Mountains. It’s also one of the more likely areas for seeing some of the 30 or so black bears that reside in Big Bend.
Lost Mine Trail gets its name from a legend that a secret ore mine once existed in the area. Supposedly, workers were blindfolded before being brought to the mine to work so as to be unable to disclose its location. The legend also says that, after all the workers were killed by Comanche Indians, the mine was closed to hide its location.
Above: Not a purposefully weird pose but one that was probably a given as soon as I spotted the birds overhead. It was truly magical to see them soaring on the wind as soon as we reached the top of the trail, and it reminded me right away of a dream I had almost half my life ago. This place was the closest I’ve ever been in reality to that beautiful one that’s stayed in my mind, so I can only surmise that somehow, I dreamed up this mountaintop long before setting foot on it.
For the past several years, I’ve made a point to wear my “Desert Dreamin’” shirt whenever we’ve traveled to the Southwest. And although this might be cheesy, it also turned out to be the best possible wardrobe choice for this day — what with this site being literally the stuff of my dreams!
Also impressive: Casa Grande Peak, the mountain at below left that was a prominent feature for a lot of this hike.
We may not have seen bears on this hike, but spotting a well camouflaged roadrunner on our return journey was some consolation.
After finishing our hike, we made our way across the park — stopping at Panther Junction for the shot above before continuing to Rio Grande Village to see the sun set over the river.
We had our first-ever encounter with javelinas at Rio Grand Village, then took its nature trail to an overlook that was even lovelier than anticipated, especially as the sky turned all sorts of colors.
Just when we thought we were done with sights and surprises for the day, we came upon some burros on our drive out of the park. And then we stopped to take in Big Bend’s night sky, complete with shooting stars and the Big Dipper.
day 11 • 03.01.22
Big Bend Ranch State Park
Our big adventure this day was canoeing the Rio Grande in Big Bend Ranch State Park, a neighbor to the National Park. And what an adventure it turned out to be, with our canoe getting lodged between rocks and taking on water almost right away.
In our defense: Our guide told us most people in that situation would have “taken a bath,” and I guess we extricated ourselves from the situation before getting that wet! And of course, I was ready with our GoPro to document the time we almost drowned in the Rio Grande — which I’m sure is how the story will go in future years, after exaggeration sets in.
It really was incredible to know we were floating down the literal border, with the U.S. on one side and Mexico on the other. But “floating” actually isn’t the best description, as we were up against a strong headwind that required near constant paddling. (Obviously, though, I snagged a second here and there for a selfie or some other shot!)
Partway through the trip, we got out on the Mexico side of the river. And while these shots might not seem like anything super special, they actually show a big milestone: Our first time together on international soil. We may have been just the tiniest distance from the U.S., but it was still a big deal to us!
After canoeing, we made a point to get back to our Airbnb while it was still light and warm enough for braving the outdoor shower — another first to add to the day’s collection.
We then watched the sun set and waited for the stars to come out, capturing this unbelievable sky one last time.
day 12 • 03.02.22
Big Bend National Park
After waking up our last morning at our cabin, we set off for our final adventures in Big Bend.
First up on our itinerary was hiking Santa Elena Canyon, which we reached via Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive. Along the way, we stopped to catch a distant view of Emory Peak — the highest point in the park.
Reaching the Santa Elena Canyon trailhead sometimes requires wading through Terlingua Creek, which flows into the Rio Grande between the canyon walls. We happened to have water shoes with us just in case we opted to go off-trail into the river, not realizing how necessary they’d be just to get to the trail! And we evidently weren’t alone in our ignorance, as we saw plenty of people unprepared for crossing the creek.
Below, I was officially back in the Rio Grande — with Texas to my left and Mexico to my right. The 1.7-mile roundtrip hike into the canyon rises 160 feet above the river before descending back to its banks, with up-close views the entire time of the towering 1,500-foot walls.
Once we reached the end of the trail well into the canyon, I really wanted to get out to that rock centered between the walls — because the view from the middle of the river is much better than from the side.
But the section of the Rio Grande here was much muckier than the one we’d canoed the day before, and there seemed to be no end to how deep I’d sink in the mud if I let go of that rock I was wading alongside! So I soon abandoned that plan and settled for a rock much closer to shore, which fortunately also offered a decent angle on the canyon, the river and the canyon reflected in the river.
After the hike, we stopped at Santa Elena Canyon Overlook for one last look, then made our way back along Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive toward the central part of the park. At this point we had a hard decision to make, because we had so much more we wanted to do but only a little daylight left.
We narrowed it down to two options: A 2-mile hike to Balanced Rock, which we knew we’d be able to complete before dark; or a 5.6-mile hike on the Window Trail, which we weren’t sure we could complete before dark but that we’d been told might be our best chance at a bear sighting.
And I’ll just leave you with that, to scroll in suspense for a moment …
We ended up deciding (drumroll, please) to head back to the Chisos Basin to take our chances with the Window Trail! And in the process of searching for that trailhead, we had a moment with Casa Grande perfectly framed in our sunroof (above).
We knew this trail was a gamble, given that we had no guarantee of a bear sighting and would likely have to turn back before reaching the epic view at the end — thus making it a very anticlimactic hike. But we were at a “go big or go home” moment, since we were literally about to leave the park and head toward home. So we set out on this hike as though it were a safari combined with a 10K, running portions of it while also watching for wildlife.
Bringing bear spray was of course the responsible thing to do, but I told Seth that if we carried it, we were probably guaranteed to come nowhere near a bear. On the plus side, however, he ended up with his outfit perfectly matching his “accessories” — both the bear spray and the camera strap — even though this was entirely unplanned!
With no bears in sight, it was nice to at least come across this pretty Mexican Jay. And the hike itself was also very unique by the time we reached the portion that traverses a dry, rocky riverbed through Oak Creek Canyon.
Spotting a red-and-white striped rock (above), I uttered an “Oh my gosh” that immediately had Seth on high alert, thinking I’d seen a bear. No such luck — but at this point, we sensed we were so near the end of this trail we hadn’t expected to complete that our hopes were focused more on that than anything.
And then, all of a sudden there it was: The Window.
I’m so glad we gambled on this hike for saying goodbye to Big Bend, because even without a bear sighting, it was quite an adventure on a trail we had entirely to ourselves. And truly, how often do you arrive at this kind of view on a popular hike without sharing it with anyone else?
Not having really researched this trail ahead of time, I hadn’t seen photos of its endpoint until it was right there in front of me, literally breathtaking. There’s certainly something to be said for going in blind and seeing things for the first time in person, rather than on a computer screen.
On the other side of that coin, though, is the fact that we weren’t as wary of the slickrock leading up to the Window as we may have been with more research. We of course intuitively knew to tread carefully and to stay back from the edge, with a 220-foot drop to the desert floor on the other side. Research after the fact informed me that this endpoint is called the pour-off, due to it formerly being a place where water poured from the canyon and created a super smooth surface over thousands of years.
In the moment, however — while sliding down into that crevice for a better view — we hadn’t considered what a challenge it would be to climb back out, with slickrock being exactly as it sounds. (Imagine an icy incline without anything to grip … although Seth fortunately did manage to stretch and find a handhold.) So just a little advice for anyone who is researching this hike ahead of time: Stop before that last slickrock slope if you want to be on the safe side!
But anyway: All’s well that ends well … And what a view to end on! With us even managing to make it back to our car before dark, this definitely felt like a victorious finale to our time in Big Bend.
day 13 • 03.03.22
Alpine, TX >>> Oklahoma City, OK
This was a driving day, our longest since the first of the trip. After leaving Big Bend the previous evening, we’d traveled over an hour to Alpine — which took care of a little of the trek to Oklahoma City but left over eight hours to go.
On the plus side, though, if you enjoy rural highway and interstate travel, there was plenty of that to take in. And I personally am never at a loss for finding photo subjects:
Checking into our Oklahoma City hotel on this third-to-last day of our trip, Seth and I each noticed that our room number, appropriately, was 321. So the countdown was definitely on — not only in our awareness but also on this wall!
day 14 • 03.04.22
Oklahoma City, OK
Having passed through Oklahoma City numerous times, we decided it was high time to stop and see it. Plus, doing so allowed us to finally mark off Oklahoma on our map of states we’ve visited together — which had been looking a little silly with one of our neighboring states left unseen!
Our first impression upon touring the Capitol grounds was that Oklahoma’s history is strongly rooted in oil and Indians, both of which are featured prominently. We especially liked the Tribal Flag Plaza behind the building, which showcases a flag for each of the state’s 36 Indian tribes.
For taking drone shots of the Capitol and downtown area, we found a spot where we were allowed to fly that happened to be beside another collection of historic oil equipment. So we soaked in some more of this quintessential Oklahoma history before making our way to the Oklahoma City Memorial and Museum.
The memorial for victims of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing was sobering but also interesting in its symbolism. The tall black Gates of Time that flank the memorial, for example, frame the moment of destruction — 9:02 a.m. The 9:01 gate represents the innocence before the attack, while the 9:03 gate symbolizes the moment healing began.
Between the gates is a reflecting pool meant to promote peace and healing, as well as the field of 168 empty chairs, which stand in nine rows where the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was located. The nine rows represent each of the building’s floors, with each chair bearing the name of someone killed on that floor. The chairs are clustered closer together at one end, then gradually space out — which illustrates the severity of damage the building incurred on one end vs. the other.
Across the reflecting pool from the field of empty chairs is the museum, which is housed in a building that withstood the bombing but still shows damage from it.
The Survivor Tree is an American elm that survived the full force of the bombing and still stands as a living symbol of resilience. The circular promontory surrounding it offers a place for gathering and viewing the memorial. Written on its wall are the words: “The spirit of this city and this nation will not be defeated; our deeply rooted faith sustains us.”
After touring the memorial, we went to Myriad Botanical Gardens — only to discover there wasn’t much to see, with the outdoor landscaping not yet in bloom and the conservatory under renovation. But we still enjoyed strolling these grounds and the surrounding city streets on our way to Bricktown.
Downtown Oklahoma City’s Bricktown neighborhood is a revitalized entertainment district, where former industrial factories now house shops and restaurants.
Our last stop in Bricktown was this eclectic candy and ice cream shop, where we found sweet souvenirs for my family (and where I took an unnecessary number of detail shots).
Also sweet was that we ended the day with a much better feel for Oklahoma, so we could leave feeling we were no longer strangers with this longtime neighbor!
day 15 • 03.05.22
Oklahoma City, OK >>> Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve >>> Independence, MO
The main highlight of this last day of our trip was Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in the Kansas Flint Hills. It’s the only unit of the National Park Service dedicated to tallgrass prairie, which once covered 170 million acres of North America. Only 4 percent survives, with this being the world’s largest remaining expanse.
After touring a historic barn at the preserve, we made our way out to its hiking trails in search of bison. A herd of about 100 roam here, but we had to venture quite a ways to find any. And in the midst of that endeavor, we were also contending with insane wind — so this travel experience truly had come full circle!
My “Ad Astra Per Aspera” shirt was so appropriate for this place — not only because it bears the Kansas motto of “to the stars through difficulties” but also because that sentiment was exactly the kind of determination I needed to keep the wind from stealing my hat!
My hat and Seth’s shirt were also appropriate wardrobe choices, with both bearing bison imagery. (Visit enough National Parks, and you’ll inevitably end up with something bison-related for wearing on occasions like this.)
After we’d spent a few hours at the preserve and were more than a little worn and windblown, it was time to call it quits on this adventure — but with many memories behind us and many plans ahead!
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