Saturday, March 27, 2010

Summer-long Road Trip!

Dear Jamie,

My husband and I are planning a 3 month road trip from early June 2010. We are thinking of flying into NY (from London) and transferring across to Seattle to start the Pacific Coast drive down to California. From there we plan to cross over into Arizona and then up the Border to Border route via the National Parks in the Colorado Plateau and Yellowstone. We will end back in Seattle having seen Banff, Jasper, Vancouver and possibly Alaska.

We then plan to get the train from Seattle to Chicago and then make our way back to NY for the return flight back to London.

Do you think this is all achievable in 3 months or should we be scaling down? We do not want to be in the car every day and would like to stop in the National Parks (Olympic/Redwoods/Yosemite/Grand Canyon/Zion/Bryce/Yellowstone etc) for some hiking.

Your thoughts would be much appreciated!



Dear Ros --

Many thanks for writing in to Road Trip USA, and sorry it took me so long to reply. You have a great trip ahead of you -- and it sounds like you'll have plenty of time to enjoy it!

The great thing about the US National Parks (besides the incredible scenery!) is that most of them are home to wonderful old rustic lodges -- mostly built in the early years of the 20th century, when architects mixed a sense of grandeur with a sensitivity to these unique sites. Some of the lodges are famous landmarks (Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone, the Awhawnee in Yosemite, and the many rustic lodges in Glacier National Park (which I'm sure you'l want to see).

The only problems with these lodges are firstly, that they are very popular, and often booked solidly a year in advance (so get planning now!). Secondly, because they are in national parks, they are operated as quasi-governental entities and not always as well-cared-for as they should be. That said, they are definitely worth looking into, and can really make your trip all the more memorable. After a long day hiking, what I want most is to relax with a cold drink in front of a raging fireplace -- something all these old lodges specialize in providing.

There are also many less-famous lodges and hotels along your proposed route -- one of my favorites, the Lake Crescent Lodge, sits at the heart of the Olympic National Park, and set amidst the temperate rainforests just down the coast there's another charmer, the Lake Quinault Lodge. I include all of these places in Road Trip USA (apart from Yosemite, which is off my routes but definitely worth a visit!). In the book I have some nifty images of Glacier National Park and the Going to the Sun road -- one of the world's great drives, passing by trailheads for some of the world's great hikes...

In the Southwestern US, Zion, Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canon (north and south rims!) all have a number of historic lodges, while the rest of the Colorado Plateau regions is pretty much still wilderness -- great for hiking, but more demanding (are you contemplating camping out on your trip ? -- if so, Utah would be the place to do it!)

Continuing on up into Canada, Banff is gorgeous, and home to even more rustic hotels (plusher than their US counterparts, for sure!) -- and the landscapes are spectacular.

OK, there are some thoughts -- hope this helps, and please let me know how your trip shapes up.

Happy Trails,

Jamie Jensen
Road Trip USA

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