Eastbound and Down

I arrived in Los Angeles late last October with the idea of spending a few weeks before heading south to Baja for the winter and then working my way back east and home to Virginia. Well, it didn’t quite work out that way. And I’ve been in LA ever since. I’ve yet to change my voting registration and driver’s license but I’ve come to think of this beautiful place as home. For a died-in-the-wool Virginian that’s hard to believe – but it is what it is. Still, there are places back east I need to be in the near future – principally my daughter’s wedding in September – and people scattered between here and there I need to see so next week after dawdling lo these many months in the SoCal sun I begin the long trek eastward.

One of my projects, not that I’m burdened with many, is to visit and photograph each of our National Parks at least once. There are 59 all told and so far I’ve taken in 27. Nine of those by the way are in California, the state which is home to the largest number of national parks. The trip back will consume 37 days primarily because I intend visiting a few more along the way. Eleven in fact. This project gets tougher as the number increases simply because at some point it’s no longer possible to drive to my destination: there are parks in America Samoa, the Virgin Islands and Hawaii. And eight in Alaska!

I’ll figure it out.

For now I thought I’d share the itinerary in word and image:


  1. 10 July                       Depart Los Angeles, CA
  2. 10 – 12                       Mono Lake, CA
  3. 12                               South Lake Tahoe, CA
  4. 13                               Ely, NV – Layover Point
  5. 14                               Great Basin NP, Baker, NV
  6. 14 – 16                        Capitol Reef NP, Torrey, UT
  7. 16                               Natural Bridges National Monument, UT
  8. 16 – 17                        Blanding, UT – Layover Point
  9. 17                               Hovenweep National Monument, UT
  10. 17 – 18                        Mesa Verde NP, Cortez, CO
  11. 18 – 19                        Heron Lake State Park, NM
  12. 19 – 22                        Taos, NM – Summer Writer’s Conference
  13. 22 – 23                        Great Sand Dunes National Park, Alamosa, CO
  14. 23 – 25                        Black Canyon of Gunnison NP, Montrose, CO
  15. 25 – 27                        Rocky Mountain NP, Estes Park, CO
  16. 27 – 28                        Wind Cave NP, Custer, SD
  17. 28                                Badlands NP, SD – Stopover
  18. 28 – 29                        Jamestown, ND – Layover Point
  19. 29 – 31                        Voyageurs NP, International Falls, MN
  20. 31 July – 2 Aug            Isle Royale NP, Grand Portage, MN
  21. 2 – 3                             Ironwood, MI – Layover Point
  22. 3 – 4                             Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, MI
  23. 4 – 5                             Saginaw, MI – Layover Point
  24. 5 – 6                             Parma Heights, OH – Layover
  25. 6 – 7                             Cuyahoga Valley NP, Brecksville, OH
  26. 7 – 12                           Elizabethtown, KY – Layover
  27. 12 – 14                         Great Smoky Mountain NP, Gatlinburg, TN
  28. 14 – 16                         Triad, NC – Layover
  29. 16 – 17                         UVA, Charlottesville, VA
  30. 17 Aug                         Arrive Reston, VA

The trip covers a little over 6,000 miles and will consume about 115 driving hours. I’m won’t get to spend as much time in each of the parks as I’d like but I know I’ll get back to many of them over the next several years.

I’m looking forward to visiting my longtime friends and maybe to making a few new ones along the way. More about the wedding later. For now I’ll just say I’m probably looking forward to it as much as any father does when it comes to his one and only (and favorite) daughter. But I’ve known my future son-in-law now for half a dozen years or more and he’s a wonderful young man. I’m sure AnnaSummer will mold him into something workable. 🙂

And next winter?  Baja, of course.


13 responses to “Eastbound and Down

  1. Hmmm, seems like we should know each other, grew up very close to Parma Heights (Shaker Heights) and have spent much time in Taos and Albuquerque. Anyway, will be looking forward to following your travels, and seeing your pics, and maybe you could then check us out down here once you’ve topped off your itinerary up north! Oh, and let us know about the writer’s convention, a bit jealous here!


    • Well I must admit I’ve never been to either Parma or Shaker Heights. Have a friend who moved there and it’s nearby Cuyahoga Falls NP.

      Writers conference is about 700 miles behind me. My third visit. Thoroughly enjoyed it though I doubt I’ll be a better writer as a result of attending. Cruising Taos felt unusually familiar. Even remembered a couple of shortcuts around the traffic. It’s grown quite a few new businesses since I was last there in 2009. For some reason it didn’t seem as appealing as it did back then. Possibly because I now have many more points of comparison as a result of my travels. Truth is LA is the only place that’s really captured me in the last year. Not sure why that is. But I think of it as NYC with sunshine and a positive attitude.

      One of – actually the top one of – my out of country places to visit is Cuba. If you live in Cozumel and want to travel to Cuba how would you go about it?

      I like your series on accommodations in your town. I just realized I could easily afford a couple of months there. Might edge out Baja this coming winter.


      • guess I didn’t look at the dates close enough, or was just in the wrong month, since moving to a tropical island I often forget about those concepts……..as far as traveling to Cuba, you can fly out of Cancun fairly cheaply, if I’ve understood correctly, haven’t been there yet myself, just going on what I’ve been told, also hear it is absolutely worth the trip, scenic and involves all the senses…….and, as far as coming here, I think you’d enjoy our island, friendly people, beautiful beaches, lots of opportunities to meet and greet, or just be alone, and very affordable………apartments can be rented for as little as $250 usd a month if having an ocean view isn’t necessary…………and, sorry to hear that about Taos, have spent much time there and always enjoyed the ambiance, but it didn’t have that “cluttered” feeling that happens once a place “catches on.” If you have any questions about here, please let me know, or check on local forums such as Cozumel 4 You (fb page) or Cozumel My Cozumel, online forum……….happy hunting…….


  2. My goodness, this sounds like a wonderful adventure, Richard!
    I truly look forward to seeing the images you will make along the way.
    Travel safe, and enjoy every moment.


  3. Take your time it’s 100 degrees here and 85% humidity….rains most days of the week and its too hot to be outside. The older I get the less I can take the humidity.
    Yea, yea I know you guys have had a heat wave but seriously.
    Although the fourth was a clear night, so I’m not entirely negative…..

    Have a safe journey, hope to see you when you make it to NoVa. 🙂


    • Well, actually we don’t seem to have heat waves in LA – only over the hill – in the Valley. But given the trip plan I’m following I’ll get plenty of adjustment time. Especially those first couple weeks. I had been a little concerned about getting a campsite at Hovenveep until I checked the weather there: (almost) on a par with Death Valley. Should be plenty of sites available. Will be in the mid-Atlantic area for much of two months. Will check in with you.


  4. Hi Richard. It looks like you are coming my way. What a glorious trip!! I am just wondering about your route through NC. Are you planning to go east on 40 then up 85/95 out of Raleigh? It is more scenic to take I-26 to I-81 to I-64 to Charlottesville. I’ve done both, and I 40 is an awful road between Asheville and Raleigh. But you may have friends in Raleigh that you are connecting with. Just some friendly advice from one who has been there. Be safe and happy and I look forward to living vicariously through your adventures. 🙂


    • Tery, thanks for the advice! My normal route between Asheville and the Triad is on the 40. I’ve done the routing you suggest and must admit it’s more pleasant but I do indeed have people to visit in the Triad area and in Carey. I doubt I’ll go up the 95 from Carey though. Will double back and take 29 – my favorite route between NC and C’ville.


    • This will be my fourth cross-country in he last three years: i’m running out of variations. 🙂 This would be so much easier if I lived in UK – albeit not as scenic. Put it on your list – you never know. 🙂


      • It is already there, Richard 🙂 But then.. perhaps you don’t know the land I love as well as she deserves. She is, of course, much smaller, but it is nevertheless a jewel in her own right 🙂 If you ever get this way again, I’ll share her with you.


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