I had every intention of not flying to the US in 2014, mostly due to financial concerns, but eventually the desire got the better of me, and in the middle of September I decided to purchase tickets to the US for two weeks later.
My plan for this year was to make an almost all-nature trip, exploring national parks in the states of Washington and Colorado.
Washington & Oregon
On the 2nd of October, I flew from Tel Aviv to Berlin, and from there to Chicago, IL. My flight to Seattle a few hours later was canceled, and I had to spend a few hours in Chicago. As I'd already knew Chicago pretty well from my previous two visits, I used this time to my advantage in order to take the Blue Line train to the city center and buy a local SIM card.
Later that night I flew to Seattle, rented a car (Hyundai Sonata), and drove to an AirBNB apartment I rented in Renton. I spent the next day making some arrangements towards to road trip and visiting Seattle. I went up to the observatory in Columbia Center to view the city from a height.
The next day I left Renton and drove north to North Cascades National Park. My plan was to take the Cascade Pass Trail, but I arrived a bit late, so a park ranger suggested I take the Diablo Lake Trail. I found it a nice warm-up trail, and while most of it was forested, it did offer some nice views of Ross Dam and Diablo Lake. I spent the night in Mt Vernon, and returned to North Cascades the next day, to hike the Cascade Pass Trail, which was wonderful. I slept at a motel in Kent that night.
On October 6 I drove south to Mount Rainier National Park, and hiked the moderately strenuous Rampart Ridge Trail, which gave me a great view of the mountain. While taking in the view at the top of the trail and eating some trail mix, a group of birds started "bothering" me for my food. They were hardly afraid, which showed how used they had probably been to human presence.
After the hike, I drove all the way east through the park, stopping on the way to check out some nice view points, and taking a short hike to some falls, which I can't remember the name of. After leaving the park, I continued southeast to Union Gap, where I stopped for the night.
The next day I continued south and crossed the Columbia River into Oregon. I then drove west for a while on the interstate, with great views of the river and Mount Hood. I wanted to hike in the Columbia River Gorge region. I had two targets in mind, which were very close to one another. The first one was the spectacular Multnomah Falls. I climbed the trail to the top of the falls, which wasn't easy at all. From there I moved to the Angel's Rest Trail, which was pretty hard, but brought me to an amazing viewpoint of the gorge. I spent a long time at the viewpoint, eating some snacks and looking out onto the river. I then drove to Portland, where I decided to spend two nights.
While in Portland, I mostly visited the city's breweries. It was amazing to see how many people frequent the brewpubs so early during the days. I also visited the Oregon Zoo, and some of the quality hand-made stores in the city, such as leather goods stores.
On October 9 I wanted to drive north back into Washington. I didn't want to make a boring drive on the interstate, and instead opted to drive northwest to the Pacific coast. I crossed the Columbia River again, this time from Astoria, and drove for a while near the coast, though I can't really call it a coast. It was more of a swampy coast, and with the high fogginess it looked like the setting for a Sherlock Holmes murder mystery. It was very much different than driving the Pacific Coast Highway from Los Angeles to San Francisco two years ago. Eventually I got tired and "escaped" east. I stopped in the small town Elma, where I slept in a motel.
On my last full day in Washington I drove to Olympic National Park. I was hopping to hit the north region of the park, but it would have added at least four hours driving and I had a flight to Denver early the next day, so I settled with visiting the Staircase region of the park on its southeast. It was almost empty, and not as scenic as most places I visited during the trip, but I made two nice (though easy) trails before driving to Kent. I stayed at an AirBNB apartment, and got up early the next morning to catch the flight.
I landed in Denver a little bit after noon on October 11. I rented a car (the same as in Washington) and immediately felt the difference between driving on the interstates in Washington and on those in Colorado - drivers were much more reckless.
My first target for the road trip was Rocky Mountain National Park. I was contemplating whether to leave the next day, or stay in Denver two nights to see a bit of the city. After a night visiting some of the cities breweries, I reluctantly decided to stay an extra night. Quite frankly, I can hardly remember what it was the I did on that second day in Denver.
I left Denver on October 13, and drove to Rocky Mountain National Park. I was treated with an unusual view of the Moon in the sky before noon. Once in the park, I decided to take a moderate trail that's not at a too high altitude, as I was probably not acclimatized to high altitudes. I chose the Deer Mountain trail, which leads to the top of Deer Mountain, at an elevation of 3052 meters. As soon as I got out of the car and started walking I could feel the effects of the high altitude, and I was breathing heavily. I decided to take it easy and hike slower, drink more water and eat more trail mix than usually. As time passed by I was getting more used to the air and it gotten easier. The weather was excellent, even somewhat warm, but when I finally reached the summit it was very cold and windy. I had great views towards the rest of the park, though the sun was in my face when looking in the best direction and ruined some of my photos. When I got back to the car I drove to Bear Lake, which has a short and easy trail around it. It was bitterly cold at the lake.
I spent that night in Estes Park, a nice little city near the national park, whose streets and buildings kinda reminded me of Aspen. The next morning I drove back to Rocky Mountain, and hiked the Loch Trail, which leads to the Loch, a lake at a 3106 meters elevation. The trail was definitely more difficult than the one I've taken the day before, but it was a magnificent trail, with a waterfall, rivers and a lot of snow on the way. The endpoint of the trail, the Loch lake, was absolutely beautiful. A small part of the lake was frozen, and with the snow capped peaks surrounding it, it was an extremely picturesque setting, and reminded me of Maroon Lake.
When I've finished the trail I left the park and drove all the way to the ski town Breckenridge. The drive to the city was spectacular. Colorado was simply beautiful that time of year, with snowy forests and mountain peaks. Breckenridge was somewhat snowy, and almost deserted, when I arrived. The only place in town that seemed not to suffer from desertion was the local brewery, where I've taken my dinner.
On October 15 I drove to Hoosier Pass, and walked the Hoosier Pass Trail. It was an interesting change, as the trail was snowed completely, and I've never walked in so much snow. Plus, the views were pretty great. From there I drove to the city Gunnison, and slept in a motel.
The next day I drove to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. I picked up a nice hitchhiker on the way, a nice man who was celebrating his 60th birthday with a solo trip across Colorado. With the snow disappearing on the way, and the hot, somewhat desert-like area, it was very different traveling to the Black Canyon. The canyon itself was beautiful. I've taken made the three hiking trails of the park back to back, and drove to some lookout points.
My original plan, back in Israel, was to visit the city Telluride. For some reason, I really can't remember which, I decided to visit Ouray instead. Ouray is a small city originally established by silver and gold miners, and now mostly a tourist attraction. It is located in the San Juan Mountains, and according to the Internet was supposed to be a beautiful place to visit. And indeed it was. I arrived to the town on October 16, and walked around for a little bit. I ate dinner at the local brewery, and went to sleep in a motel room located right on the Uncompahgre River. The following day I drove a short way south of the city, to hike the Bear Creek Trail. It was one of my most enjoyable trails of the trip, though somewhat strenuous. The trail offered great views of Bear Creek, the San Juan mountains, and led to the supposed ruins of some old mines.
I was thinking of driving south to Durango after that, but the weather forecast for the next day was not good, and I wasn't sure I would have enough time anyway, as I had decided a few days earlier to fly to Las Vegas for the last few days of the trip, and I had to drive back to Denver by October 21. So I decided to drive back the way I came, and stopped for the night in Salida, where some deers were walking in the streets, drinking water from puddles.
I wanted to rest from hiking on October 18, so I thought I was just gonna stay in Salida, but eventually I decided to get myself a bit closer to my next target - Great Sand Dunes National Park - so I drove south to Alamosa. It was a nice, straight drive south, with great views of the mountains to the east.
On October 19 I reached Great Sand Dunes National Park, where I hiked up to the dunes. It was very, very difficult hiking on sand, but a refreshing change. A very unique location, and the views to the mountains, fields and forests around the dunes offers an amazing contrast.
After that I drove east and then north to Colorado Springs. I slept at a motel, and the next day drove to Garden of the Gods in the city. I walked some of the trails in the park for a while, and then drove to the Manitou Cliff Dwellings. As I didn't get to visit Mesa Verde National Park as I had planned, I was hoping the cliff dwellings will be some sort of a compensation, but they weren't. I can't say it wasn't a nice place to visit, but it is a very small place, and learning that the dwellings were actually brought over there from their original location and rebuilt there kinda ruined it for me.
After the cliff dwellings, I've taken the Pikes Peak Highway and drove all the way up to the summit of Pikes Peak, at an elevation of 4300 meters. The way to the top was fantastic, with wonderful views and plenty of snow, and I stopped a lot of times on the way to take pictures. When I started the drive down in the city, it was somewhat hot. As I gradually climbed higher, it gotten colder and colder, until I reached the very cold summit.
On the summit I walked around taking in the views and trying my best to breathe. It wasn't easy. Once I got my fill of the views and the cold, I drove back down, and drove to the historic city of Manitou Springs, though there wasn't much to look for there, so after about 30 minutes I drove to the interstate and up to Denver.
Back in Denver, I made another (self-made) tour of the city's breweries. I spent the next day making some arrangements towards my flight, and left the city towards the airport in the afternoon. On the way there I witnessed a great amount of gophers running about near some road in the city. Getting out of my car to take a picture of them, the one closest to me shrieked loudly, causing all the other gophers to quickly scatter into their holes in the ground. Getting back to my car, I managed to take two pictures of one of them who seemed less afraid.
Las Vegas, NV
After a 2-hour flight I arrived in Las Vegas on October 21, and immediately made my way to South Point hotel. The hotel was full of people in cowboy attire, and I learned that the world finals in Professional Bull Riding were taking place in the city those days.
I spent my time in Vegas playing Blackjack, watching movies and shows, etc. I did go to see the rodeo one night, and was treated to something pretty special, and crazy.
On October 24, I flew to Miami, where I was to spend one night before my flight back to Israel at noon on October 25. As I arrived in the evening, I did not have any time to see the city, so I just spent some time in a sports bar. I slept at an AirBNB apartment, and on the next day got on a plane to DÃ¼sseldorf, and looking on Miami Beach from the window, said goodbye to the USA. From DÃ¼sseldorf I've taken another flight, back to Israel, where my parents were waiting to take me back to my apartment.